The day was like any. The weather was fairly pleasant; the sun rays out, but not glaring so harshly thanks to the many white clouds filtering the light, not one showing a the tiniest shade of grey to forewarn a shower of any kind. Such a fabulous weather was one to be enjoyed. As such, the sidewalks and stores where filled with bustling people going through and fro.
A teen walking amongst them, however, was not happy. Such a heavy traffic served not only to hinder his movements as he quietly tried to make his way to his destination, but it also hindered his companion's movements, often putting him in risk of being separated from him. That didn't sound much, but his friend wasn't like a normal person who could easily care for themselves upon getting lost. The teen feared all the sorts of things that could happen to him if lost him. Even if it would be for a moment, plenty of things could happen to him in that time. He didn't want to take any chances.
"Stay close, understand?" he said to his friend. There wasn't a reply, but he knew he heard. The teen let out a deep sigh, going into a deep thought about how to continue the story.
A group of teens his age walked by. His friend, being how he was, continued walking through anyway, accidentally bumping one of them, a normal looking high-schooler, before continuing on without a look back.
"Hey, what's your deal, kid? Not even going to apologise?" the one he bumped into snapped, annoyed at the boy's lack of response.
He nearly gave a chase when the teen turned back with a glare, stopping the high-schooler nervously.
"Aichi." he quietly called, stopping his friend who had continued walking in front of him. "Come here."
Aichi turned and returned to his friend's side at the word. The high-schooler was clearly surprised and puzzled by Aichi's mechanical movements.
"You bumped into this person. Tell him you're sorry." the teen said. Aichi turned to the high-schooler who was hesitant now for the apology, but remained nonetheless. Aichi bowed to him, his expression still the same and unmoving. The teen then tipped his to the high-schooler.
"Sorry, this is the best he can do." he explained. The high-schooler shook his head as he waved his hands.
"N-no. Forget about it, seriously." he said, somewhat unnerved by what he had just seen. He hurried away to his friends who also looked more than frazzled by Aichi's odd, unnatural mannerisms as most people felt upon seeing Aichi for the apparent first time. It angered the teen to see the unscrupulous stares of these people who treated Aichi like a freak oddity without getting to know him further.
The teen grumbled, turning as pushed Aichi's arm. "Come on, Aichi, follow me. Shouldn't keep the rest waiting."
In the shop, the Card Capital, was a small group of children quietly playing. On a beautiful day like this, most of the other children were off spending time with their families who felt it'd be better to spend it together.
The teen entered entered with his friend to be greeted by two others.
"Yo, Kai! You're finally here!" first greeted the blonde boy from one of the tables behind who sported a long, white, hooded jacket with a red streak behind each of the two sleeves and two small red squares at the right, upper end of the top close of the jacket with the lower part of the jacket remaining loose and unbuttoned too keep from getting too hot, comfortable turkish coloured cargo pants, and blue, ankle-high rubber shoes. He was particularly, but friendly and amiable, and was clearly happy to see his friend.
Beside Kai was their friend Misaki Tokura, the girl behind the counter with the shoulder-length cut of silver hair behind the counter wearing a simple collared shirt with the first two buttons unbuttoned loosely and the sleeves rolled up with a red apron; a standard part of her uniform, welcomed them last.
"Welcome, Kai." she said to the older teen, short but polite before looking to Aichi, her eyes filled slightly with a particular warmth and longing. "And Aichi."
"Aichi, greet her and Miwa back." Kai said. Aichi bowed silently to the two, not caring for Miwa's saddened blink and Misaki's frown. Kai's own exhausted tone did not escape them.
"Go sit down next to Miwa." Kai said. Aichi walked over to Miwa, pulling a chair next to him before sitting. The situation wasn't so much as awkward. Rather, it was depressing, and it seemed to grow more tiring each day.
"So nothing, huh?" Miwa asked as Kai took a seat in front of him, shaking his head.
"You look tired." he said. "Another bad night?"
Kai simply nodded.
Knowing him the best, nothing ever went unnoticed by Miwa, not if had to do with his friend, whom he could do nothing for, but cheer him up and console him while lending him his ear and shoulder. He smiled at him, but in a way that was sympathetic.
"You should really stop torturing yourself like this. You know, if you want, he can stay with me for a couple days." Miwa offered. "It's not like he doesn't listen to me, right, Aichi?"
Aichi didn't reply, not that Miwa expected one.
Kai shook his head again to his friend. "No. He stays with me."
Miwa scowled at him.
"Kai, you're practically killing yourself by doing this." Miwa said. "I know it's eating you. It's all over your face."
"So?" Kai asked bluntly.
"So, I can't stand to see you like this!" he finally said. "Stop shouldering everything, will you? We're here too! We already offered to take turns taking care of Aichi so it wouldn't be too much for you! Why do you still insist on being so stubborn? Do you think this is heroic or something?"
"Heroism has nothing to do with this." Kai answered with a twitch and glare in his eye. "He's my friend. I'm taking care of him because I want to."
"And we don't?" Miwa asked. "You live in an apartment good for only one person on an income for only one person and you're sleeping on the floor. Manager and Ren already offered to take Aichi in until Leon returns. You have to admit, in comparison to you, they both have better resources to take care of Aichi than you."
Kai didn't object to Miwa's statements as he knew well enough that they were true. Manager, Misaki's uncle and owner of the Card Capital, Shin Nitta, was an optimistic, at times rather childish and goofy man who was taking care of Misaki. Despite his flaws, he has supported them and helped them on many occasions. Added to his experience taking care of Misaki, Aichi might be better off living with him, especially with Misaki to take lend an extra hand. Aichi could even work in the Card Capital so long as they were precise in their instructions to Aichi. On the other hand, since he was already taking of Misaki. Could he handle taking in another person to cloth, feed, and shelter while taking care his other needs too?
Ren, on the other hand, was already heavily wealthy and well known with his business. No doubt, he could easily support Aichi for a long time and given the number of members, there would be more than enough hands to take care of Aichi, not that Kai ever felt he wanted to leave him there considering the things Ren might try to do to Aichi, one of the few main reasons he was apprehensive on leaving him with the eccentric teen.
Leon Soryuu had wealth, a large living space, and unlike Ren, he was trustworthy. His friends, the twins Sharlene and Jillian, weren't far from that either. In comparison, Kai, along with the rest, felt Aichi would be the safest in his hands. That was why, upon returning to Earth after their final battle against Void, and after much thought and debate, they elected to leave Aichi with him and for the last four months, that was where Aichi was until a week ago.
Leon approached them, saying there was something he had to check on and had to leave his island. For it, he needed the twins' help, but he couldn't risk taking Aichi along. Shin and Ren both offered to give him a temporary home, but Kai's obstinance for Aichi to stay with him won over.
Still, only one week, and the psychological toll could already be seen. All the same, Kai didn't want to leave Aichi alone. Not after everything he had done.
"My answer remains, Aichi will stay with me." Kai said.
"For how long?!" Miwa snapped, slamming his hands on the table, unable to understand why Kai was breaking himself like this. He couldn't bear to see his friend this way and certainly not for another few more months! "We don't even know when Leon will return! You can't keep taking care of him by yourself!"
"Miwa, I gave you my answer. Why won't you leave me be?!" Kai said, growing annoyed with his friend's badgering.
"I've told you why already! And you know as well why!" Miwa answered angrily.
Having enough, Misaki stood up, snapping at the two. "Enough! The both of you!" she said, effectively stopping the two boys briefly, distracting them with her words for the moment. "Look, you're scaring the customers."
She pointed over to the quaking children behind them, no doubt intimidated and confused by their arguing. She sighed, not knowing what to do with them.
"If you're going to fight, at least do it with Vanguard. This is a Vanguard shop, not a wrestling area." Misaki said.
Miwa glanced at Kai for the moment before bowing to her as a sign of apology. "Sorry, Misaki. You're right." he said, taking out his deck. "Kai, fight me now. If we're going to settle this, we might as well do it like the old times."
Kai took one look at his cards and cringed angrily. "You know I don't play Vanguard anymore."
"So?" Miwa asked. "You were the one who said that anything can be settled with Vanguard! Well, I'm tired of being nice if it's not going to help you! You saved me with Vanguard and now it's time I return the favour so battle me now, Kai Toshiki!"
Miwa was determined. Kai could see it in his eyes. He could hardly believe that behind them was the same friend who happily teased him and slapped his back everyday, always so free of any worries or anger. Instinctively, Kai's hand reached his back pocket where he usually kept his cards. But the game… It was too much.
Kai shook his head and turned. "We're leaving, Aichi."
Aichi turned to follow his friend as told, leaving Miwa in shock.
"What?! So you're just going to run like that?!" Miwa yelled, going after him. "Kai!"
Kai darted out of the shop with Aichi hand in his so he wouldn't be left behind. Miwa chased after them, leaving Misaki who watched them on with the most wretched expression on her face. The blonde ran after the two, desperately trying to keep up with them, but after running several blocks, he turned at a corner to see a sea of people who came by in and out of the building beside him. He screamed and cursed in his head, having lost them. "Kai! You…!"
Kai walked as fast as he could, weaving through passersby with Aichi's hand in his. Despite his own retaliation, Kai knew better that he was right. Caring for Aichi was more the strenuous than he expected. Once he was far enough, arriving to a nearby playground teetering with happy children playing as their parents watched carefully, some mingling with others, the weight of their conversation suddenly bore down on Kai.
He stared for a moment towards the young, lively children before turning to Aichi who stood still and cold. A perfect mirror to a corpse. Absolutely lifeless.
"Come on, Aichi. We're going home." he said. He took Aichi's hand turned, leaving to return to his apartment. "First time I talk to him in a while and this happens…Oh right, I'm going to finish the story tonight, okay, Aichi?"
Kai turned to Aichi who remained silent. Kai managed another exhausted smile before leading Aichi to his home. He tugged Aichi's hand like it was a leash, prompting the boy to follow.
"First thing's first, let's stop by the grocery to buy what I need for dinner." Kai said. "Um, we, I mean."
Sad as it was, there were times he would forget that in some senses, Aichi was still alive, though it was harder to remember since he never spoke a word or changed expressions from his neutral face.
The two went into a nearby store, one that Kai liked to go to because of the cheap prices for excellent quality produce. He searched through crates of laid out vegetables that almost look like they had been separated by colour, showing an array of choices to pick from.
"Carrots, garlic, ginger…" Kai muttered. "Spring onions too. And later, we'll get some chicken thighs."
"Mom, they have a sale on yams! Can we buy some for tomorrow?"
The voice was small and high, ever sweet as it was familiar. Kai wondered why it seemed that the day was purposely antagonising him. He turned his head to make sure he was only hearing things, but he was wrong.
Beside him, looking through crates of purple and brown roots was a small, elementary student. A young girl still in her Miyaji uniform; a black winter sailor fuku design with a white ribbon, with orange hair that curled slightly to her petite neck. Her eyes, however, were a deep shade of blue, matching the eyes of her mother standing by her with her long, blue hair that was tied to a neat pony tail, wearing a simple, loose, white short-sleeved blouse that tightened slightly below the chest with a red band, the collarless top showing off the simple necklace around her neck, and simple, long purple skirt that hung until her knees, just over her white shoes.
Put Aichi by her, and one could say that they were mother and son with how closely they resembled each other; their hair and eye colour a perfect match and even appearance bore much similarity. Kai gave Aichi a quiet glance.
"Kai?!" a shout behind him. "And brother Aichi!"
He turned, but Kamui was quick, tackling Aichi with a big hug.
"Brother Aichi, I haven't seen you in a long time! Give your junior Kamui a hug!" he said.
Aichi bent down to give the young boy a hug.
"Kamui? Why're you hugging that kid?" Emi asked from behind them. Kamui, the young man who was visibly Emi's age with his long, wild and spiky hair whilst wearing a long-sleeved red shirt with an open, orange hooded-jacket with short sleeves with black lines on the sides and edges of his short sleeves with a long coat tail extending just above his knees that were covered by his long blue jeans held up by his belt, and brown ankle boots, flustered a bit, no doubt due to his one-sided crush on the girl. Shizuka Sendou giggled teasingly behind her.
"Oh, Emi! This is, uh," Kamui said, giving Aichi a side glance before continuing on. "This is the first time you've met, right? This is brother Aichi."
"Brother? I didn't know you had a brother, Kamui." Emi said, surprised. Kai saw Kamui give Aichi another apologetic bow.
"He's not really my brother. Figuratively speaking, that's all." Kamui said. "He may not look like it, but he's a really strong Cardfighter!"
"Ooh! So he plays Vanguard like us?" Emi asked, excited. "What deck does he use?"
"Well, uh," Kamui stuttered.
"He doesn't play anymore." Kai bluntly interrupted, avoiding Emi's eyes as he stared to the floor. "As you can see, he's…handicapped."
Kamui couldn't help but dart an offended glare to Kai. Still, he knew that handicap was a lighter way to describe how his believed brother truly was. Kai gestured to Aichi lifeless eyes for Emi and her mother to see.
"He got involved in something some time back." Kai explained, avoiding any exact details. "Since then, he's been like this. He can't even do something unless told like smile for instance."
As a mother, Shizuka's smile disappeared, and she stared sorrily towards Aichi.
"My, how long?" she asked.
"A couple of months." Kai replied. Kamui nodded hesitantly to agree.
Emi lowered her head to the two boys, quietly apologising as she did. "Ah, I'm sorry to ask such an inconsiderate question. But he'll get better soon, right?"
There was a stiff silence.
"Of course he'll get better, Emi! He is the strongest Cardfighter after all!" Kamui cheered. Emi beamed again, smiling to Aichi. Shizuka smiled herself. She patted Emi's head.
"It nearly dinner time, Emi. Unless you don't want me to cook hamburger tonight, we ought to leave now." she said.
"Oh, yes! Of course, Ms. Sendou!" Kamui said. He then turned to Aichi, looking as though he was going to give him another hug with his eyes slightly teared up. Instead though, he simply smiled and bowed his head. "See you later, brother Aichi!"
Kai watched the three leave, waving to them off. He then looked to Aichi, his expression ever the same. There was no joy or frustration. For a boy without a mind nor sentiment, how could he even feel such strong emotions when he could not even see, let alone recognise the woman who so lovingly raised him for the sixteen years of life and his caring little sister whom he had a once unshakable bond with.
Kai didn't know whether to find the situation pitiable or sad.
"Aichi, let's find what we need and go." Kai said quietly. He then thought back to Kamui's bow. Kai wondered if it was his way of showing to the blue haired boy that he was keeping his promise.
"What am I doing, Aichi…? "
Kai looked back to Aichi. He was tired. Exhausted. But he had to go on.
He extended his hand to Aichi, saying quietly, "Take it, Aichi."
Aichi extended his hand to Kai's, grasping it weakly like a small child. Kai held it tightly like he was holding a precious but fragile crystal, his grip firm but not crushing, letting his hand be slightly loose to keep from hurting the young boy's delicate hands.
"I activate Georgette's LIMIT BREAK!" Kai said.
"Guard!" Aichi cried in retaliation. Kai grit his own teeth.
"I attack with Blockade!"
"I check Twin Drive!" Kai said, drawing another card. "I activate a trigger to add power to Blockade! Attack!"
At last, the mummied dragon fired to Aichi's units, exploding on contact. Aichi instinctively covered himself as he felt the power of the blast. Still, the hit was no victory for Kai. He had only managed to deal only one damage in his turn, failing to lay the final sixth damage.
"Five damages. That was close." Aichi said, smiling to Kai cockily. "Your turn is over, Kai. You should have taken my proposal."
Kai said nothing to him. He couldn't say anything to him. All he could do was wonder how he could have failed when it counted most. How could he have let Void beat him for the second time?
"Kai, I can sense your regrets all the way from here." Aichi taunted meekly. "No matter. Now, to the void with you! Die knowing that if it hadn't before for your hopeless obsession for this boy, the world wouldn't be dead!"
Kai clenched his fists, shutting his eyes upon the final blow to finish him.
"Star-vader, Garnet Star, att-ah!"
Kai jolted from the sudden cry. He looked up to see Aichi shaking. "n-No…wHAt…? Ah…!"
Aichi bent over to the Vanguard stand in front of him, leaning to it for support. Kai had no idea what was happening.
"I…No-?! aaAUgH!" Aichi moaned. "I…s-skip…I skip…my…turn…"
Kai froze. He was sure now that it was a trick. If he attacked, no doubt Void with counter. But even if it was, this was his chance to seal away Void!
"K…Kai…" Aichi feebly managed, gaining a brief pause from Kai. "…a-attack…now…please…!"
Everything suddenly clicked together and a flood of relief hit Kai. "Aichi!? Is that you?!" he yelled, but Aichi did not reply.
"P-Ple…please…!" he weakly said. Kai knew something was wrong. His smile faded, remembering the situation and he faltered for a moment, his worries about his friend coming to mind, but it was clear still what Aichi was begging of him and there wasn't much time left. Any questions and amends could be saved for later.
Wasting no more time, Kai drew a card, promising silently to Aichi he was going to end the fight soon.
"Georgette, attack!" Kai ordered.
In the most pained voice, the tone scratching against his voice, he muttered, "…no…guard…"
The dragon struck Aichi's Star-vader, Garnet Star, landing the final sixth damage.
"I win." Kai said. Their units and the battle field around them vanished in a blink. Without his support, Aichi collapsed on the cold floor.
"Aichi!" Kai yelled. He rushed quickly to his side but before he could, a black pitch of energy burst from Aichi throughout the room, throwing Kai into the air and landing hard on the floor. He cried out from the pain, but got up quickly to see what was happening, and there he saw Aichi, hovering slightly as he surrounded by two familiar red rings and a a thick cloud of scathing smoke. Each breathe was choking. Kai had never felt so much evil before in his life.
"haHAhA! AhAHAhaHa!" A disembodied laugh erupted through the room. "FiNaLLy! I HAvE BeeN wAiTinG So lONg fOR tHis! tHaNK YoU! yOU hAvE fREed mE FrOm tHiS CuMBeRsoMe PieCE Of fLesH!"
It tossed Aichi's body away so callously as if it was tossing garbage.
"Aichi!" Kai yelled. He turned to Void with a seething anger that he never knew he could feel.
"anGrY? ThEn RemEMbeR it WELL!" It said said. "It FeeLs LiKE an etErnITY sInCE I'Ve BeEn TraPped By tHaT bOY! ThANks To yOU unReVerSINg HiM! I aM nOW FrEE wiTHoUT rEStRainTS!"
Then a powerful pressure. It felt like blocks of concrete smashing on him and crushing him and with him, the entire sanctuary as it began to crumble from the force.
"NoW, KAI tOsHIkI! fOr YoUR rEwARD! tO THe AbySS wiTH yOU!" It yelled.
A dark portal opened before him. The air sucked in everything it could. He clenched the ground and his cards as tightly as he could, but on such a smooth floor, he found himself sliding closer. He turned to Aichi to see him drawing closer smoothly to the portal with little hinderance or resistance. No doubt, Aichi was unconscious. All Kai could think of was getting to him before he was sucked into the abyss.
When he finally came close enough, jumped quickly to Aichi's side, holding him firmly as he grasped the floor.
"HahAhAHa!" it distortedly laugh. "Ah-?! wHAt?! N-nO! HoW?!"
The darkness aura twisted itself, distorting and shifting colours from black to red to blue in flashes. Then, suddenly, a blue light enveloped the room. It faded gradually, the heavy evil in the air dissipating with the rest of a something warm and comforting. A blue light fills the room.
Kai's eyes widened in shock at the voice. "A-Aichi…?" he hesitantly asked. He looked towards the blue light where the kind voice emanated from.
"Kai…thank you…" the Aichi said. "And forgive me…this was the only I could end things…"
"End things? What are you talking about?" Kai asked.
"Void…Link Joker…All of it." Aichi answered. "So long as Void exists, our world and Cray will never truly be safe…But, Void can't be destroyed. The only other way was to seal it…"
"So what will happen now?" Kai asked, holding Aichi's body tightly. The blue light wavered a little.
"…to seal it reacquires the power only Link Joker could have possessed." Aichi explained. "Now…I've come to accept it. Link Joker's power, as you did. And I will use that now to make sure that they will never hurt anyone else again."
All the warmth in the room could not have eased his shock. "Wh-what do you mean?!" Kai asked.
"Nothing more than what I've said." Aichi apologetically said. "But it's not enough…Void and Link Joker's power alone are not enough. That is why I will use Psy Qualia to strengthen the hold to keep them in the abyss. And finally…I will keep them in. So long as my soul keeps the abyss together they will never again escape."
"But what will happen to you, Aichi?!" Kai called, panicked, shaken, and confused. Then the light seemed to have bowed to him.
"I am…so…so sorry I couldn't keep my promise." Aichi said, his tone shaking as though he was uttering them while holding back tears. "But…I'm happy. So happy…to have met you…Misaki…Miwa…Kamui…Naoki…Kourin…all of you. I wish I could stay a little longer, but…it's time for me to go."
Then the blue light burst, filling every tiny gap of the sanctuary with light, reaching to the other cardfighters housing its cavities and embracing them into the blinding light.
"Aargh! What the heck?!" Naoki yelled, turning around to Neve, his opponent. "What sort of trick ya guys trying to pull now?!"
"I trust you, this not one of ours!" Gaillard yelled angrily. "And we're not so dishonourable as to pull something like this!"
"Wha-Aichi?! Is that you, Aichi?!" Naoki called, trying to look around for him within the light.
"The cardfight club…how is it?"
"The club? It's doing horribly without a captain!" Naoki said in the cheeriest tone. "Don't you think you can skip out on us so easily!"
"…Naoki...If anything, I just…I can't believe how strong you've gotten."
"Heh, of course! What would expect from me?" Naoki said proudly. Then light seemed to nod at him.
"…yes…I shouldn't have expect any less…from Miyaji's Newest Captain of the Vanguard Club…"
Naoki froze, shocked. Before he could say anything more, the light quickly vanished.
"Master Aichi?!" Gaillard said in shock, looking around for him.
"…you were always there to keep me company…thank you…but, you know…there's more to life than strength…I hope you'll find it soon…"
Then the light disappeared.
"Ugh!" Misaki said. "What is this?!"
"How should I know?!" Cera snapped.
"Aichi?! So Kai-!" Misaki said. The light flickered.
"…you've always looked after me and Emi…I can't thank you enough for those times…"
"Geez. What are you saying, Aichi?" Misaki said, barely holding back tears of joy. "There'll be more time to talk about this later back at the Card Capital."
"…unfortunately, no…Misaki…you're not alone…don't be afraid to rely on them…"
"Wha-?! Aichi? What do you mean no?!" Misaki yelled, but the light slowly began to leave.
"…Cera…why do you insist on always fighting…?"
"Aichi?" Cera asked. "Hmph, you already know the reason. How many times do I have to say it? I fight to stay alive. To keep what I have."
"…yes…do you plan to continue on…?"
"Heh, what other choice do I have?" Cera asked.
"…what else but what you always done…? …you've always fought for what you have…now…fight to change things…"
"To change things?" Cera scoffed. "You think I can go against my own family?"
"…no…not alone…but, Cera…do you believe you're still fighting alone now…? …I wish you the best of luck…"
The light vanished, leaving Misaki confused as Cera stared away to his feet. "Alone, huh…"
"This light-!" Kamui yelled. "Is this some sort of trick, you big lug?!"
"Sorry, kid. But I don't know what this is either!" Neve yelled.
"You think I'd believe that?!" Kamui yelled.
"…to think…it's been only a year…you've grown a lot…"
"Brother Aichi?!" Kamui yelled in shock. "Well, of course I've grown! I am the Great Kamui Katsuragi and member of Q4! We trained together and became National Champions and Champions of the VF Circuit so you should know that!"
"…heh, you're right…I should have realised sooner…you know, I feel really safe now…knowing Emi would be in your hands…"
"Wh-wh-wh-wh-WHAAAAAT?!" Kamui screamed, his face turning bright with beet red. "I've no idea what you're talking about…!"
"…I mean it Kamui…so…please…look after her in my stead…will you...Kamui…?"
The weight in the voice broke any embarrassment Kamui was feeling. He could tell he was serious.
"W-wait…! You can't! You're her brother! Isn't that your job?!" Kamui yelled, but then the light slowly lifted.
"…Neve…I'll miss your jokes…thank you for keeping me company all this time…"
"Hm, Aichi?" Neve asked.
"…and also…look after Gaillard…if you can…"
The light disappeared. As Kamui was left speechless from their exchange, Neve broke into a laughter.
"Like I need you to tell me that!"
"Ah!" Miwa yelled. "What is this?"
"Why're you asking me?!" Ratie said.
"You people live here!" he said.
"So what?! This has never happened before!" She yelled back.
"…Miwa…you've done so much…thank you…"
"Oh, is that you, Aichi?" Miwa asked, feeling relieved. "Finally, it took that idiot long enough!"
"…Miwa…you've always cheered me up whenever I was down…I'm truly grateful…"
"Haha, keep the praises coming, Aichi." Miwa proudly said.
"…yes…you've been a great, Miwa…I fear in the days ahead, it will be hard for everyone…please…support Kai the best you can…I'm counting on you…"
"Huh, hold up!" Miwa said right before the light weakened.
"…Ratie…your company was was great…it was like having Emi with me…"
"Emi, who's that?" Ratie asked. "And why're you here? Shouldn't you be back behind the seal?"
"…Ratie…what do you think of me? …of Gaillard…Neve…and Cera…?"
"That's easy! They're all really strong! Not as strong as you though, Aichi!" Ratie said. "And I'm strong too! Just wait! I'm going to beat this guy soon!"
"…there's no need for that anymore, Ratie…you've done well…now…it's time you go back home…to your friends and family…"
"What? But I'm part of the Quatre Knight! I'm supposed to stay here and protect you so Cray will be safe!" she said.
The light flickered warmly, as if to ease and comfort her.
"…you needn't worry…Cray and our home are safe…neither worlds will ever fear Void or Link Joker again…that includes you, Ratie…I hope…you'll still remain close with the other knights after this…with your friends…"
Ratie was confused, not understanding what was happening. She trusted Aichi's word so she knew that her beloved Cray was definitely safe, but something didn't feel right. Aichi sounded sad. Before she could ask what was wrong, the light faded quietly away, leaving the two alone in the room.
"I wonder how they're doing…" Kourin quietly mumbled.
"Are you worried about them?" the ghostly figure of Takuto asked. "Whatever happens happens. We need to believe in Sendou and Kai."
The two stopped and looked up. "Aichi?!" Kourin yelled.
"Sorry…I can't come down and see you myself…but…thank you…for everything you've done…"
His voice sounded weak and faint, yet every word was somehow clear to her.
"W-what happened?!" she yelled. Takuto looked up to him quietly.
"So this was what you planned from the very beginning, Sendou." he said with a far-off look.
"…sorry…but it was going to fail from the very beginning…it was in Ren's vision…there was no other choice…"
"Don't worry. If anything, I'm proud of you. You're come a long since we first met." he said. "…we will meet again, Sendou."
Aichi didn't finish that time. Takuto closed his eyes as he felt a quiet force bowing to him before retreating.
"Aichi…!" Kai screamed as the light retreated into the abyss.
"Kai…stay strong…I know you can…"
"What?! Aichi!" Kai yelled. Then the light shined brightly for only a a mere moment. As fast as everything happened, it disappeared along with the abyss, leaving Kai alone with Aichi's body. Kai said nothing, trying process exactly what had happened. Just then, the sanctuary began to tremble viciously. The pillars began to crumble as the sanctuary fell apart.
"Kai!" Naoki yelled, breaking into the room. "Where's Aichi?! I heard him and he vanished!"
"Uh, he…" Kai stuttered. Naoki spotted Aichi's body within Kai's hand and he felt ecstatic.
"You found him!" he said when another shockwave struck the sanctuary and slowly tilted.
"Ack! Let's save the reunion talk! We hafta get out of this place!" Naoki yelled. Without much time to think over what he had seen, Kai brought up Aichi's body and the two ran for their lives. They barely had made it, along with the other cardfighters, including the Quatre Knights and Kourin.
They ran to the Vanguard circle and were transported quickly back to the Earth. Kai, his friends, the Quatre Knight, and Kourin were all enveloped in the circle's light and vanished, leaving the crumbling sanctuary and any remaining trace of it left.
Kai groaned, turning over. He opened his eyes to stare up into a brick wall. He got up, finding himself on a familiar bed. It took him only a moment to realise that he was back in Leon Soryuu's castle. Against his better knowledge, Kai got up to find Aichi and his other mates.
He walked out into the hall where he heard voice talking. He made his way there, heading to the kitchen. Upon entering, he saw Jillian, Sharlene, and Miwa. Soryuu was not with them.
"Kai?!" Miwa yelled, shocked but happily ran over to hug him tight.
"Geez, you had us worried!" Miwa said. Kai got grunted a little on impact.
"Hey, Miwa…" Kai greeted. "Ugh, what happened?"
"You've been out for three days." Miwa said. "I only woke up yesterday."
"Kourin's awake too, but the others are still asleep." Jillian said. "Don't worry, they're alright. Just drained an tired."
"And Aichi…?" he asked. Their faces crumpled.
"We don't know~" Sharlene hummed sadly. "After you all showed up suddenly on our island, Leon took Aichi as Takuto said, and they've been alone together since~"
"What?!" Kai asked.
"Sorry, but they shouldn't be interrupted." Jillian said. "For now, rest."
Kai didn't say much. He was weak. And more so, he already had a feeling he knew Aichi was. He nodded quietly.
"Let me help you back." Miwa said, carrying Kai.
The two entered his room, and Miwa helped him down. "Alright, what's up?"
"What do you mean?" Kai asked.
"You took the news rather quietly." Miwa said. "Mind filling me in?"
"…I saw Aichi disappear." Kai said. "I don't know what I took back, but I don't think it's him."
"Wha…" Miwa uttered but then he looked down. "Oddly…I believe you. I heard Aichi talk to me right before the sanctuary collapsed. It sounded like he was saying his last words."
Kai turned down to his bed.
"Should we tell the others?" Miwa asked. Kai looked away.
"I want to see Takuto first." Kai said. "I want to make sure first my speculation is true."
Miwa nods in understanding. "You're going to head there now, aren't you?" he asked.
Kai gives him a quick look and he nods in understanding.
"I'm going with you. I won't be able to shake this bad feeling until I get answers." he replied. He went to help Kai up again, but he silently declined with a raise of his hand, getting up himself.
"Alright, it's a short trip before we get there." Miwa warned. "They're all the way at the other side of the castle."
Kai nodded, allowing Miwa to lead the way.
"You've returned." Takuto said. "How did it go?"
"I couldn't find anything." Leon answered to the spirit, closing the door of the room behind him.
"I see." Takuto said. "Where is Kourin and Aichi?"
"She's still searching the library for a lead." Leon replied. "She firmly believes that there's something down there to remedy the situation."
"And you don't?" Takuto asked, noticing the grimness in his tone. He hook his head.
"I'm not sure. The other units that were sealed by Void previously in the same fashion have returned, but this is a person who's been sealed this moreover. Moreover, even if we did find a way to save Sendou, we would be setting Void loose once more. Such a danger is something I won't risk the world for again."
"Yes. It's taken this much to end Void's reign of terror." Takuto said. "I fear with releasing Sendou, we won't be able to seal to him again and it will surely set to destroy our world and Cray with a vengeance."
"No matter how you look at it. The best thing to do now is to leave him be." Leon quietly said.
Takuto said nothing more to Leon, turning his attention to the door.
"Kai, how long will you be there?" Takuto asked. Leon didn't seem surprised by Takuto's word.
Kai and Miwa quietly entered. Leon turned to greet them.
"I take it you're here to see Sendou?" Leon asked. "He's not here at the moment. He's with Kourin at the library. Do you have the strength to continue, Kai?"
Kai nodded simply.
"All right. I'll take you there then." Leon said.
Kourin sat on an old, oak desk that was now filled with books. Beside her was friend, Aichi, though he made no attempt to help her as she searched through the pages of the old tomes, not because he didn't want to but because he couldn't.
"Nothing here. Could you please return these to the second bookshelf to the left of the entrance in the second row from the bottom and arrange them in an alphabetical order?"
Aichi got up, quietly picking up the the stack of books and went to the shelf he was instructed to go to. He had about eight books in hand and walked over to the shelf when the door in front of them opened.
"Aichi!" Kai yelled. Kourin was startled by the sudden call and got up to see Kai, Miwa, Leon, and Takuto. Miwa was stunned and grinned happily to see Aichi standing in front them, though he ignored them and bent down to organise the books.
Kai went to over to talk to him, until he noticed he noticed his eyes.
"I thought we asked you to keep away from Aichi, Miwa." Kourin scolded to Miwa, though he smiled, unable to stop grinning.
"Haha! Sorry but we couldn't stop ourselves any longer!" Miwa said gladly. "Yo, Aichi! We were worried about you, you know?" He approached Aichi, though he gave no response to Miwa's slight annoyance.
"Hey, don't ignore me! Sheesh!" he said. Aichi stopped to look through a book's cover but then returned to returning. Miwa now sensed that something was wrong.
"Aichi?" he asked. He went closer, shaking him a little. Then he noticed his eyes. They were dull, soulless, utterly drained of life and was as deep and endless like the ocean…or an endless pit. "Hey, come on, Aichi. Answer me." Miwa said. Amongst the crumpled faces in the room, Leon shook his head from behind.
"Don't bother trying." Leon said. "He's been like this upon returning. He won't respond to any questions nor reply to anything we say. He does follow whatever we ask without question, but even then, it's clear he lacks any will or thought for himself."
"What?" Miwa said. Aichi got up, having finished his task and went to return to Kourin's side.
"Nothing less than what he's said." Kourin answered. "Why don't you two take care of him for a while? I need some silence while going through the books. Leon, you stay and help me."
"All right." Leon said while Takuto nodded.
"I'll accompany you two." he said. The two nodded to him.
"Come on, Aichi." Kai said. The two left with Aichi following them quietly from behind.
"So what should we do?" Miwa asked, looking behind at Aichi. They stopped and so did Aichi. Looking back, Kai, thought a bit.
"I haven't eaten yet." he said.
"Seriously." Miwa said before giving him a glance.
"I wonder…what became of the Quatre Knights?" Kai said. Hearing this, Miwa answered him.
"They returned here like here like you did." Takuto answered.
"But they left on the first day to return to their homes." Miwa continued.
"So they went home just like that?" Kai asked.
"Well, Gaillard didn't leave so easily." Miwa said. "I can still remember how he was yelling about Aichi before he left. Guess I can understand why now." Takuto looked at them quietly as Kai turned back to Aichi, thinking of something.
"How do we tell this to his family?"
"Erk!" Miwa said. "I didn't think about that. If she sees Aichi like this…"
"No, she won't." Takuto said. "When Aichi's soul turned into a seal, he casted a spell that erased all proof of his existence, including any memory of him."
"Aichi did that?!" Miwa said. Takuto nodded.
"I did give him a portion of my power. When he accepted Link Joker, it grew further." Takuto said. "I'm afraid in my state, I don't think I can overwrite it. I'm sorry."
Kai then shook his head.
"It's fine." he said rather grimly.
"So what do we do with him now? He can't do anything." Miwa said. Kai turned angrily towards him. Miwa was quick to go back, standing by Aichi's side.
"Hey, hey! I didn't mean it that way!" he said. "I just…you know? Where he is going to say? What's he going to do? He can't do anything so…he can't work in business and stuff."
Kai grumbled angrily, but he knew what Miwa was saying.
"Actually," Takuto interrupted. "Leon has offered to take him in."
"What?" Miwa asked.
"Leon's castle and island is more than big enough to house a group of people. He can easily support and care for Aichi." Takuto said.
"Seriously?! I mean, is it okay?" Miwa asked. Takuto shook his head.
"None at all. It was he who offered, but he decided that the final decision should be by all of you." Takuto explained. "If Aichi stays here, he will be apart from you all. Ren has also offered to take him in, in case you want him to be closer."
"Well…I definitely trust Leon more with Aichi than Ren." Miwa answered. "Kai?"
"…I need some time." Kai replied.
"There is no need to rush, Kai." Takuto said.
"Thanks." Kai said before quietly leaving to his room. All he could think of was everything he had just overheard and everything that had happened before.
"So long as my soul keeps the abyss together they will never again escape."
"Heh…so that was what you meant." Kai muttered, laughing silently as he close the door to his room upon arrival. He didn't want anyone to see him this way. "Sacrificing yourself for everyone…now what are we going to do? DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT? YOU IDIOT!"
He screamed every word to the ceiling, as if they would reach to wherever Aichi had shut himself and prompt him to come home. But no. He was still there alone by himself. Aichi was truly gone this time.
He laughed. It was all so funny. Everything he and his mates have done only achieved a scenario far worse than they could imagine. He leaned against the wall, warm tears flowing out of his eyes for the first time in ages. Aichi was better off dead than this.
"…and that's what happened, plain and simple. Aichi, the hero who saved the world, took it a step further. To rid this world permanently of Void, he sacrificed himself. His life, his very being…he gave it all up for this world. And though nothing remains of him, because of him, the world is now forever at peace, and it will never need to fear the terror of Void anymore. Those who he loved: his mother and sister, friends, acquaintances, and anyone who had ever heard of him have all forgotten him.
In sacrificing himself, he gave up his existence. To this world he protected, he never existed. No one even knew he was ever here, save for only a few; the few who witnessed his sacrifice with their own eyes. Though he may be gone, his wishes and ideals haven't. So long as they breathed, his friends decided, they would make sure nothing like this would ever have to happen again. They would protect the world he loved so no one would have to be sacrificed like him."
The leather book closed, shutting away the inked letters inside by a strong, robust hand. Gently, the very same hand was tenderly rested unto the young man's head, not for anything but as a simple show of affection. The young didn't smile, however, to the warmth being shown to him.
With a tired smile, the older teen asked, "Did you like the story?" with an exhausted expectation to just hear something from him. Anything. Even a disapproval of the story would have been good enough. Heck, he could simply nod or shake his head and he would rejoice.
But nothing. As always, never smiling, crying, laughing, or frowning. Always staring blankly at nothing, like a doll or a machine, whatever was closer.
The teenager got up, pulling up the covers to tuck the young man in right before he closed his eyes and turned the other way to sleep as always.
"Goodnight, Aichi." he weakly uttered. To himself or Aichi, he didn't know anymore.
He turned quietly to sleep on the floor, setting the leather-bound book on the desk next to the bed that now felt heavier for him than before.
He lied on the bed, curling his aching body up. Ignoring the cold air that made him shiver, he kept his eyes open, looking up tiredly.
He would think, but he was so sick of it. He would wonder, but he had no hope. He would wish, but he knew it would be pointless.
It would be an hour before sleep finally came to him, the boy who inspired the hero before he became one. The boy who pushed him to go beyond his limits. The boy saved him when he fell to despair. The boy who encouraged him to move forward. The boy who grew envious when he realised how far he had gone without him. The boy who fell to greed for power. The boy who was saved by the boy he had inspired. The boy who searched to save him when he disappeared, only to end him in their last battle. The boy now living in an empty pit of a hollow, gruelling cycle, dreaming of nightmares before awaking to one far worse everyday.
His name is Toshiki Kai, a pitiable boy now living a pitiable life: as the finals words inscribed at the very last page of the leather-bound book.