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It took hours before I could convince Yukio to move. Even then, we didn’t make it very far. He refused to go back into the cottage, not that I could blame him, but I eventually persuaded him to give Haruka a proper burial. That alone was painful.
There was only so much we could use to dig a human-sized hole, but a broken floorboard ended up being just as useful as any shovel. When we finished, it took both of us to move Haruka’s body. Yuki opted to keep him inside the bag, and I agreed.
We paid our respects silently; Yukio remained silent the entire time. Any communication we shared was done without a single word, not that I would force him to speak. Finally, we used separate floorboard to mark the burial. Yukio painted Haruka’s name in the Japanese characters.
Following that, we slowly made our way back to campus, parking a bit farther than we would have liked. We walked to my dorm and made it to my room, locking the door behind us. I took a sheet and covered Lily’s painting as to not allow it to stare at us throughout the night. I offered him the bed, but he was insistent on the floor, with or without sheets. Luckily, I was more insistent, even shoving him down until he stayed put. He didn’t have to be a gentleman for one night.
Reluctantly, he laid down on my bed and began to relax. I wasn’t ready to sleep just yet myself, so I just ran my fingers through his hair, getting tangled every so often. There was a lot going through his mind and I could see him fighting to stay awake. Despite everything, I knew he was exhausted.
At one point, he shifted his eyes over to me, his eyelids heavy. “Saige?” he sighed, his voice deepening with fatigue.
“…thank you…for being here.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Yukio,” I said with genuine insistence that he, in fact, did not need to thank me.
“Yes, I do. Without you…who knows if I would have found Haruka. As much as I wished for something else…at least I have closure. It’s because of you.”
“No, not really,” I said. I could see his eyes closing now, but he wasn’t quite asleep just yet. “I was just being selfish.”
“Maybe that’s not a bad thing, at least for you. I daresay you could benefit to be more selfish more often,” he yawned. He took the hand I was using to stroke his hair and held it, wrapping his fingers between mine. “Thank you, Saige. I wish Haruka had the chance to meet you.”
“Do you think he and I would have been friends, if I had given him the chance?” I asked, genuinely wondering about the answer.
Yukio shrugged. “Maybe, couldn’t say. Haruka was never one to make friends right away. Then again, neither were you.”
“Yet, here we are,” I finished. “I bet I would’ve liked him, if I was just a little less, well, like me.”
“You’re silly,” he said lowly, his exhaustion finally taking over. I leaned down and kissed him gently. Within seconds, I could hear his breath shallowing. He was out. I sighed heavily, not exactly tired myself, but willing to lay down and rest my eyes.
Then, my eyes shifted over to Lily’s covered painting. I shuttered at the thought of entering another painting for the time being. After what I had seen, I knew I couldn’t go through any of that again. It was one thing to see it, though. I couldn’t imagine being a victim. And all the questions went rushing through my head.
Who was doing all of this and why? What did they stand to gain? Who was benefitting from all of this? Moreover, how long had this been going on? At least six years now, but what about before then? Who had been at the school for that long? Montgomery had been going through my mind, closely followed by Dr. Fiennes. There were the other professors, of course. Then, there were the other students.
Levi was somehow involved, maybe Haruka was at some point. Sayu and Mia were victims, as were Nicole and Lily. Well, Levi was a victim also…I really couldn’t get my head around any of it. Who and why?
As my eyes scanned Lily’s painting, part of me wanted to believe that there was an answer somewhere in there. I was tempted to simply get up and see for myself, but I was frozen in place. I was officially using Yukio’s grip on my hand as an excuse to keep me down. But my gaze was still locked on the painting. There was still something I needed to know about it.
Why did Lily attempt to use her last remaining moments to make it? Was it a project I never noticed that she finished before her…incident? And above all, why was it given to me as a gift? I began to stand, admitting my growing my need to figure it out for myself. I mean, I think we already reached a point where anything was free game and any need to know the truth was now an obligation.
I gently removed my hand from Yukio’s. He stirred for only a second or so before settling back down. I began nearing the painting, stretching my hand out to the sheet with intention to remove it. Just as I touched it, I felt a sudden wave of discomfort, fear, and bitter cold. What in the world was going through Lily’s head as she created this?