Chapter 28: A Tomorrow Worth Smiling Towards

Start from the beginning

Of the cliff.

Of his outburst.

Of his childhood.

Of Alison.

The smile disappeared from his face as he remembered everything.

But Rosa was prepared.

Rosa jumped to her feet, reaching into her pocket. She pulled out a red ruby and smiled, handing it to him. As the cool gemstone made contact with his palm, he seized it with both hands, holding it to his chest instinctively.

"..."

Why did he do that? Why did he want to treasure that gem so badly? What was so special abo-

An image of Alison flashed in his mind, radiating warmth.

He looked down at the ruby. It was the exact same shape as the one in the center of Alison's chestpiece. A bit smaller, though. He remembered everything Alison had said to him on that cliff, and the warmth began to creep into his heart. Kazu wasn't sure how to describe it, but it felt good.

"Ali got that for you. She said it would help you if your face ever went all dark and scary. Looks like she was right."

It was true. He felt that warmth spread throughout his body, easing his tension and relaxing his muscles. She had told him so much. He had acted so terribly, and she had stuck by his side. She showed him that there were people who cared about him unconditionally.

She had done so much for him.

But he had no idea what to do in return.

"Hey, Rosa?" His eyes were closed, still clutching the ruby that connected him to the world of the living. He felt that he could lose everything if he let it go. "What do I do? I've caused so much trouble for everyone, and I've hurt a lot of my friends, too."

She sat against a wall, leaning her head back to stare at the ceiling.

"Hm... hm hm hm... hm hm hm hm hm... I got it!" She stood up suddenly, hopping over to Kazu. She opened her mouth wide...

...and gave him a massive smile. "Hahah! See? Just smile, nice and big! If you feel bad about making them sad, then smile and make them happy! Isn't that the obvious thing to do?"

He felt a smile creep onto his face, and he turned away, chuckling. Just seeing her smile was enough to make him smile.

So couldn't he do the same?

Maybe it was just by smiling that he could make up for being so awful. Maybe they'd actually be okay with that.

He turned back to his little sister, and returned her smile wholeheartedly.

"See? Smiles make everyone happy!" She jumped up, cheering.

And he laughed.

He laughed at how dense he'd been. He laughed at how gloomy he'd acted. He laughed at at how boring he'd become. He laughed, and felt all the sadness drain away. It wasn't gone, of course. The sadness and regret he felt wouldn't simply disappear. But that was okay. As long as he could smile about the good parts, he realized it was okay for that sadness to linger.

At that moment, Kazuki Yuki realized what he had to do. He knew what he wanted to be.

"Hey, Rosa."

"M'yea?"

"Where... are we right now? Another hospital?"

She started to giggle again, pointing around the two of them. As his eyes followed her finger around a familiar setting, he felt heat rise to his cheeks.

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