Chapter 28: A Tomorrow Worth Smiling Towards

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A girl with red hair sat by the boy in the bed. She let him sleep, hiding her worry and anxiety behind relief and love. She loved him dearly. She loved him more than anybody else in the world, for sure. She loved him more than Dad, and Ali, too. They both loved him lots. But not as much as her. No. She loved him the most.

And she waited for him to wake up.

So she could tell him that.

She wanted him to know just how much she loved him, because she never did it anymore. At some point, she stopped telling him that she loved him. For some reason, she never said it anymore. For some reason, she treated him like just another person.

But he did. He never forgot to tell her how much he loved her. He would hug her, and tickle her, and tell her he loved her. He loved her so much he just had to make her smile no matter what.

He made her feel so happy.

Her dearest brother, Kazuki Yuki.

She wanted to tell him how much she loved him.

That's why Rosa waited by his side. Because...

"...that's how much I care."

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His eyes twitched.

Rosa's eyes jerked up as the boy stirred at last. His eyelids moved, and twitched, and moved again. Slowly, they opened, and she finally looked directly into his coal-black eyes with her own.

As his eyes adjusted to the light, Kazu shifted around until he was sitting up against the head of the bed. He turned his head, absorbing every detail of his surroundings. Sunlight wrapped around him from through the window, both masking the contents of the room and cradling the precious peace that had been absent for so long. His eyes rested on the girl by his side. She had long, red hair and a beautiful face. The girl was kneeling on the ground, staring right back at him.

"Kaze..."

Her voice was like a dewdrop slipping from the last blade of grass in a world gone dry. In her eyes twinkled fresh dewdrops, threatening to fall and bring moisture back into the lifeless soil. Kazu closed his eyes, taking a deep breath of the gentle air around him, allowing his body to reawaken one part at a time. He felt his fingers, his hands, his toes, his legs, his body. When feeling returned to his face, he felt hours of inactivity strain his muscles, but there was something he had to do, before anything else.

Kazu looked directly at the girl, smiled with all his strength, and spoke.

"Hey, Rosa."

His voice was rough and strange, but it was his own. His emotions fueled his words. He could be proud of what he said.

Yes, this was him talking.

Rosa gasped as she heard his voice, and closed her eyes, wiping the dewdrops away.

"Guess you're finally awake, sleepyhead. You should really take a shower. No girl's gonna want to go out with you like that!"

Did he stink? He realized that was probably so, assuming nobody cleaned him while he was out. "Heh, sorry about that. Guess I should, huh? But later. Right now, I'm just... just so..." Whatever he was about to say got cut off by a loud yawn.

Rosa burst out laughing. "Why... of all the times to... AHAHAHAHA!"

"Hey, what's so funny?"

She shook her head, taking deep breaths to stifle the remnants of her giggling. "No, it's not that. I guess I'm just... happy that you're back, for real. You finally look like my big bro again, after a bunch of years! Ali told me what happened during the field trip, and I guess... I..." her voice trailed off as she saw Kazu's face darken. Memories began to flood through him.

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