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Missing Promises [Higurashi SOTSU spoilers]

Thread Description
A personal ending to the show that takes place after the last episode.


Be warned, this story involves the ending to the SOTSU arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, so if you plan on watching it or are watching it and don't want to be spoiled, don't read until you've finished it! Part 2 outline done, will work on it in the coming weeks.

Pixiv Links
Pt 1 - https://www.pixiv.net/novel/show.php?id=16221801
Pt 2 - https://www.pixiv.net/novel/show.php?id=16231449
Pt 3 - https://www.pixiv.net/novel/show.php?id=16390635

Chapter 1 - Return

The cries of cicadas filled the warm June air. The crunch of gravel underfoot drowned out. Villagers ambling about, greeting each other like old friends.
Rika Furude took in a deep breath. Tasted just like it did before she left, she thought. Her home, Hinamizawa, hadn't changed at all. Even three years away from it all, Rika saw everything was exactly as it was.
Passing through the center of town, many familiar faces greeted Rika, amazed at her beauty.
"You look absolutely lovely, Rika-chan!"
"Bet the local boys hounded you all the time, heh!"
"You're looking more and more like your mother."

Rika grinned and returned each greeting with courtesy, as expected from her. The faces she remembered had changed, ever so slightly. Complexions fading, wrinkles forming. Her quaint, quiet home had changed, just a little.

The pleasantries continued as Rika strode towards her destination. A tinge of uneasiness formed a knot in her stomach. 'Will she still be there?', the young woman pondered. 'Will she even want to see me after all this time?'

A feeling of tears started to well up, but was shaken off. No crying. Not yet anyways, Rika told herself. She was simply visiting her best friend, to celebrate graduating from St. Lucia, but a whisper in her mind repeatedly stabbed fear and anguish into her thoughts. After everything that led her to this very moment, could she even fathom returning to the old life in Hinamizawa?

To donning a shrine maiden outfit for the Wataganashi Festival?

To the peaceful days of her childhood?

To Sa-

Rika snapped out of her stupor, realizing her body went on autopilot to her destination. She knew the village inside and out, and could navigate it blindfolded. A sign hung by a door in front of her, reading 'Hojo'. The once decrepit building looked new, having residents living there after being so long abandoned. Rika raised her lightly trembling hand to knock, before the door swung open wildly. A tall, blonde, tanned man stood in front of her, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth. Rika was met with a gaze of confusion, then anger, before the man spoke.

"Who the hell ar-...wait a second." The man blinked, before pulling a pair of glasses from the pocket of his shirt, hastily adjusting them. "R-Rika, is that really you?"

Rika beamed, the familiar face pushing some fear away. "Nipah~! Hello Hojo. It's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Please, call me Teppei. And 'scuse me for a sec." Rika trotted back, the suitcase in her hands bouncing off her knees from the force, as Teppei stepped outside, closing the door behind him. "Sorry, don't wanna smoke inside the house." He lifted a lighter to the cigarette in his lips, a spark lighting its end. "So, what brings you back to the boonies?"

"I graduated from St. Lucia Academy and wanted to come home to celebrate." Rika eyed longingly at the door, hoping she would still be here. "Is Sa-"

"Bwahaha, well congratulations, lil' lady." Teppei took a long drag from the cigarette, Rika watching the embers fall off the end. "I already know who you're here for, but she's not here anymore."

A lump formed in Rika's throat as time seemed to freeze. "N-not here anymore?? Teppei, what do you-"

"Ah, my bad, my bad. Meant she doesn't live here anymore. Moved back into that old storage building a few months ago. She's been keepin' that place in tip top shape since last October, said you'd be needin' a place to stay if you came back." Rika let out the breath she unknowingly held. "Didn't mean ta scare ya, lil' Rika. Nothin's changed at all, even the old Sonozaki hag is still kickin', bwahaha!" Another long drag. "I know what yer here for and won't keep ya waitin'."

"Thank you, Teppei." Rika bowed gently, before giving the old man another smile. "We'll come by and catch up later!" Turning on her heels, Rika began to walk away, waving behind her, only to be met with a hearty laugh.

"Good luck, lil' Rika."

A sigh of relief escaped Rika's lips, the shade of the trees above protecting her from the sun. "I surely didn't miss the heat here." She wiped the sweat from her brow with a hand cloth, admiring the old pathway leading to her old home. The amount of times she traveled to and from on this path measured in the hundreds, Rika thought, between the countless loops and actually living in Hinamizawa. A melancholic air surrounded her as the memory of the loops came to the forfront of her mind. The repeat of June 1983, watching her friends fall to madness and die, over and over, only to be met with death as well. Just to awaken and relive it all again. Rika shivered, as a chill rolled down her spine.

'That's all in the past, Furude. You're no longer a little girl. No need to remember that hell.'

Looking up through the branches to the fractured blue sky, Rika took a deep breath, slowly exhaling, to bring her wandering mind to a halt. 'It's been over a year since you've had one, you're perfectly fine.'

The cacophony of the forest helped Rika clear her mind. It was a familiar sound, but different than she remembered, helping her mind plant itself firmly in the present instead of dwelling on the past. With a self assuring nod, Rika pressed forward, intent on arriving at the storage shed turned home while the sun was still high.

As she cleared a turn on the path, the two story home of her past came into view. Another knot formed in her stomach as she approached the home, it being much stronger. This was her destination. Where she wanted to be. But would she be allowed? Rika felt the color drain from her face and saliva pool under her tongue as a wave of nausea swept through her. With a heavily trembling hand, she lightly knocked against the wooden door. Despite it being her old home, it would be extremely rude to waltz right in, she thought, letting out a light chuckle at such a thought.

Ten seconds pass, no answer. Rika tried again, the shakiness in her hand alleviating only a bit, rapping against the door with more force than intended. A moment passed.

"Be there in a sec!"

A voice came from inside, upstairs, causing Rika's heart skipped a beat, recognizing the voice of her old friend.

The thumps of descending the stairs. Her heart pounded against her chest, drowning out the noises of the forest.

Jingling of a chain latch and turn latch. Shallow, hasty breaths left her barely opened mouth.

The creaking of the doorknob and hinges. The cry of the forest ceased.

"Yeah, what do you wa-"

Rika stood stiff, staring into the rose colored eyes of her best friend, just to be met in kind. She tried to give a proper greeting, but only a single word left her lips.


The dam holding everything began to crack, as a torrent of long locked feelings rushed foward. Thoughts rushed through her mind, barely registered as the tears she held back started to form.


Then it broke.


Rika lept forward, the weight of her emotions becoming too much to bear. Dropping her suitcase, tears streaming down her face, she grabbed her best friend, wrapping her arms around Satoko's neck. She felt a pair of arms slide around her waist, gripping her tight. Rika wanted to speak but nothing more than bittersweet sobs came, burying her face into Satoko's shoulder.

"It's okay Rika. It-It's okay." The trembling, tear-ridden voice in Rika's ear was like a knife to her already aching heart. "I was afraid you...afraid you wouldn't come back."

Through quivering lips, Rika managed to eek out only a few words. "I'm-I'm sorry."

The arms holding her slid back, along with the blonde hair that tickled her nose. "Sorry for what? You did nothin' wrong."

Rika looked up at the tear stained face of Satako, eyes bloodshot from their reunion, not unlike her own. "I-I didn't write to you, even after getting your second letter. I was so-so wrapped up in my schoolwork and appeasing my so called 'friends', I completely forgot about you. About Hinamizawa. About my life here." Rika lowered her head in immense shame and guilt. "I'm sorry." Rika then became silent, waiting for retribution. But received a pat on her head, not unlike how she would do others years ago.

"Ya did nothing wrong, and shouldn't feel guilty." The hand on her head slid to her cheek, making her look back up at Satoko. "Lets get inside and dry our tears, okay? And get somethin' to drink, it's way too hot outside!"

Rika chuckled, seeing that her friend still had a no nonsense attitude, and followed Satoko into the place she once called home, led by the same hand that held her cheek.

"I only have raspberry tea, is that okay?"

Despite the years, Rika mused, the little shack had barely changed. "Oh, that's fine, Satoko." She admired the effort it took to keep it livable after being vacant for so long, and let her eyes fall onto a small, shrine-like area. There, sat her old elementary school backpack, the wear and tear visible, sitting next to the one Satoko used, with a framed photo of them as children precariously balanced between the two packs. "Wow, you kept those after all this time?"

"Oh, the backpacks?" Satoko called from the kitchen. "Y-yeah...they're some of the things I kept, in case...in case you never came back." A pang of guilt shot through Rika's heart, but faded as soon as Satoko stepped into the living room with a drink filled tray, and was handed a damp cloth. "For your face."

"Thank you, Satoko." The cloth felt cool and refreshing as she wiped the dried streaks. "For not forgetting about me."

Satoko sat down across from Rika, placing the tray onto the table, trying to hide a somber smirk. "If it makes you feel any better, I almost did."

Rika gave Satoko a puzzled look and took a sip of her tea. "How so?" She returned the smirk with a heartwarming smile. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but-"

"It's fine, you spilled your heart out to me, it's only fair." Satoko took a drink before continuing. "It was a boy I met in high school, last year. He was nice, and I fell for him, but when he went to kiss me, you came to my mind for some reason." Rika looked at Satoko with an even more puzzled but slightly sullen expression. "I-I can't explain why though!" Satoko babbled, raising her hands up defensively. "I pushed him away before he could do it, and...came back to fix this place up." Satoko gestured to the 'shrine'. "I found that photo sitting on a shelf here, as if it was waiting for me. Decided then and there to believe you would come back, and wanted your old home to be your new home." She lowered her head in shame. "That little setup was made to keep reminding me why I was waiting and doing this."

Rika sat silently, staring straight into Satoko's eyes. She began to understand the turmoil that had been plaguing her since coming back. To understand the shower of emotions that hit her upon seeing Satoko. To understand the feelings that had grown over the decades of her loops. Rika scooted to Satoko's side, clasping her friends hand. "We're friends, right Satoko?" Never looking away, Rika saw it. A small, but strong, hint of dejection. That was all Rika needed.

"Y-yeah, we're friends. Just friends..."

Rika slowly closed her eyes, and let go of Satoko's hand, bringing her own to hold Satoko's cheek. "Oyashiro-sama, I ask for your forgiveness for causing this young woman so much pain."

"Wh-what are you talking about, Rika?"

She opened her eyes, a determination shining from them that even Satoko could feel.

"I should've done this before I left Hinamizawa."

Without another word, Rika slowly leaned forward, kissing a bewildered Satoko. She could taste the tea Satoko had, being sweeter than her own. Stroking the cheek held in her hand, she pulled back, and simply waited, determination still in her eyes.


Rika suddenly found herself against the floor, a mess of blonde hair and rose eyes in her face. Rose eyes that showed fear, anger, anticipation, joy, and love. A softness pressed itself against her lips as Satoko grew closer. Without another thought, Rika let herself indulge in these desires, pulling Satoko close as she could.

But pricking her ear came a light 'auauauau' from the corner.
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I've written quite a bit for 'chapter 2' and it had gotten so big, I'm splitting it into 3 chapters total. Chapter 1 is roughly 12.3k characters long, meanwhile this will be almost 20k! Here's the aforementioned chapter 2, and chapter 3 will be coming soon, since I only have a few scenes left to write (but they're all gonna be hefty with a lot of punch behind them). Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2 - Reunite

The few words Rika were able to mumble out, as her tongue danced alongside Satoko's, managed to reach her friend's ears. A small pause in their courting passed as Rika felt the soft, sweetened lips she had been tasting leave her own, before feeling them peck her cheek, her jaw, and slowly making their way down her neck. Was this about to happen? Is this when all their pent up desires and tensions will finally be released? The thoughts passed through Rika's mind before a shock of painful pleasure rippled through her as a pair of teeth nibbled on her neck.
"Ahhnn, Satoko~."

As though on queue, Satoko sat up in a flash, flustered and embarrassed, apologizing profusely. "I-I'm so sorry, Rika! I don't know what came over me!" She held her hands up, waving them frantically. "Something in me told me to ki-...er, do that and I just went with it. I'm sorry!" Satoko placed her hands together, repeating her apology over and over.

Rika simply stared up at the repentance on display, a smile growing wider with each utterance of 'I'm sorry'. She reached up, grabbing Satoko by the shoulder and pulled her back down, letting her arms slide around Satoko's neck. "There's nothing to apologize for, Satoko." Rika rustled the back of Satoko's head, letting her fingers flow through the soft, blonde hair as she pressed Satoko's forehead to hers. "I was the one who instigated it to begin with, you just...took the more aggressive route." Staring into the beautiful rose colored eyes again, Rika felt her heartbeat quicken, her breaths becoming heavier. "So as long as you're ready to take responsibility~..."


*BRNG BRNG* The sharp ringing of the telephone halts them in their tracks, startling them. Rika, with a disappointed sigh, nods to the still ringing phone. "You should probably answer that." Satoko nods before standing up and hastily walking to the phone. Rika stayed down, trying to keep her emotions and hormones in check. 'What if no one called?', she thought. 'Would Satoko have...gone even further?' She sat up, shaking her head. 'Stop, you managed to calm yourself down, no need to get worked up again so quickly.' Glancing over at the still talking Satoko, Rika stands up and flattens out her skirt before listening in.

"Oh, yeah, she's here with me. Wanna talk to her?" Satoko turned around, reaching out the receiver to Rika. "Someone wants to say hi!"

"Who is it?" Rika mumbled to herself, walking over and placing the receiver to her ear, curiosity overpowering any tension. "Hello? Who am I speaking with?"

"RIIIIIIKAAAAAA-CHAAAAAANNNN!" That ear piercing scream could only belong to one person, Rika thought, pulling the phone away before her ears started to bleed. "Why didn't you tell us you were back in Hinamizawa!?"

"I'm sorry, Mion. I planned on it later today, but I wanted to see Satoko first." Her eyes darted to Satoko, who was simply idling by with her hands in her pockets. "I really missed her and she was my priority to see." Rika swapped the phone to her other hear, hiding the tiny smirk she had as Satoko lightly blushed. But something seemed off; she thought Satoko looked sad for a moment, before the frown turned into a smile as their eyes met again.

"I see, I see. I hope Teppei didn't give you much trouble."

"I actually ran into Teppei before coming here! He as actually pretty nice!"

"Well, as long as things work out for you, I'll be rooting for ya. Oh yeah, Satoko-chan will probably ask you, I asked her before swapping to you but, I wanted to get the club back together for a night! Keiichi is already fine with it, and he's trying to get a hold of Rena-san and Nee-san."

Rika took in a light gasp. Seeing Satoko again was enough to make her happy, but seeing all her friends again so soon after? A wide smile that no amount of phone receiver could hide grew as she became visibly excited. "Yes! That'd be wonderful! What time and where?"

"Ahhh, no confirmation yet, but be at the old schoolhouse around 5PM. We're trying to get everyone there no later than 6, but I know Keiichi and I will be there around 5."

"Sounds perfect. Satoko and I will be there! Bye Mion!" Receiving the news and a farewell, Rika hung the phone back up and beamed a smile at Satoko. Noticing the hint of sadness on her face, Rika grabbed Satoko's hands and pressed them between her own. "Why do you look sad, Satoko?" Rika leaned forward with a sly grin, with a hushed, risque voice, "Did you want to continue~?"

Satoko let out a nervous laugh, shaking her head. "N-no, just...something's just on my mind, that's all."

Rika pulled back, still holding Satoko's hand and a more serious expression replacing the sly one. "Did you want to talk about it? Does it have to do with your uncle?" She knew Satoko well enough to know if it wasn't serious, Satoko would be more than willing to divulge. But nothing. "Satoko, please."

"I'll...talk to you later about it, okay?" A forced smile. "I promise."

"It's a promise then." Rika gave Satoko another heart warming smile, trying to bring the girl into a better mood. "Speaking of, I told Teppei we'd stop by. Did you want to see him before we meet up with the others? Though I'll probably want to change into something more comfortable." She looked down at her school uniform, unbuttoning the jacket with one hand. "It's cute, but it's not something I can wear all day."

"Sounds like a good idea, I've kinda been lazing around in these clothes since yesterday. And I want a bath."

The Hojo house roared with laughter, its occupants sitting around the living room table with smiles and tears in their eyes. Rika breathed a sigh of relief from the stuffiness of her uniform, now clad in a green sundress, not unlike the one she wore as a child. She looked over at the outfit Satoko chose, and laughed in her mind, seeing as Satoko copied her 'child outfit' rendition, wearing a tightly fit, red sleevless shirt, and a pair of denim shorts that looked every so slightly too small. 'Satoko has really grown up.' Rika thought to herself, eyes darting between Satoko's chest and her own. 'Especially there. I'm a little jealous, honestly.' Her inner discussion was cut short by the loud lauhgter of Teppei.

"Bwahahaha, and then get this, girls. After nearly running the son of a bitch over, he actually got worried I was blind!" Teppei slapped his thigh, Rika giggling at the course, but honest language. "He kept pointing to stuff to see if I could make it out, and after he pointed to himself, I realized all I saw was a blurry, blobby mess!"

"And you took me to Angel Mort being blind as a bat!" Satoko laughed at her own brush with death, berating her uncle. "Now you have to look like a nerd in order to see anyone up close or drive anywhere."

"Yeah, and this nerd saved your ass how many times when you were fixing up that shed?" Teppei puffed his chest out with pride. "Rika-chan, you won't believe this, but once fell off the shed roof twice in five minutes. Thankfully, I was there to catch her the first time."

Rika chuckled at her friends clumsiness, getting a light elbow jab from Satoko. "The girl who could walk on stilts and ride a unicycle can't even stay on a roof." She playfully poked back at Satoko's ribs as a fluttery feeling welled up in her heart. "At least you didn't get seriously hurt." Rika takes Satoko's hand, now realizing how rough and callused it was as she examined it. She ran her fingers over Satoko's palm, a sense of sadness filling her. "Be more careful next time, okay?" Looking up to stare Satoko in the eyes, a not-so-subtle cough caught Rika's attention. Teppei was staring at them, with an expression of curiosity that made Rika worry. She quickly let go of Satoko's hand, her cheeks blushing a light red.

"Now I don't want to be rude, but..." Teppei sighed, causing Rika to tense up. Did he see through to their budding relationship? "Are you two..."

He did, Rika thought. She internally cursed herself before standing fast, deciding to go on the offensive. She glanced over at Satoko, who was just down at the floor, defeat all over her face. Rika looked back at Teppei, a fire now lit within. "Yes." Never looking away, the image of Hanyuu blocking Takano all that time ago flashed before her. This must be what it felt like to Hanyuu, to defy a doomed destiny. "Teppei, sir, I have loved Satoko for many, many years. Much more and much longer than you can fathom. It took being 3 years away from her to fully understand what I was feeling. And I won't let-"

Rika stood firm, unwilling to break her stance, never breaking eye contact with Teppei. "Yeah, yeah, I hear ya, Rika-chan. Gimme a moment, I need to get my words together." The hint of defeat in his voice was all she needed to hear before sitting back down. Rika slid a hand over to Satoko as Satoko did the same, their fingers lightly embracing. "I think I know what to say." Teppei stood up, looking to Satoko, then locking eyes back with Rika. "I...I may not agree with that lifestyle..."

"But-" Rika flinched.

"Hear me out. I may not agree with it, but I know when it comes to Satoko, I have no right to judge her or her choices, considerin' the things I've done." Rika felt Satoko tense up, her fingers being embraced harder. "I think I've always known that you two would be together, since I came back. How you would always be at each others sides, for the most part." A prick of pain fell onto Rika's heart as she noticed the tears welling up in Teppei's eyes. "I've done as much as I can to make up for my sins against Satoko...and I'm not about to lose the love I managed to earn back by tellin' her she can't love you, Rika-chan."

Before Rika could utter a word, she watched Satoko jump up and over to her uncle, embracing him and sobbing uncontrollably. She stayed sitting, dumbfounded at the turn of events. "Teppei..." Rika simply watched as the uncle and niece hugged and cried, happy that they were tears of acceptance.

"My lil' Satoko can love whoever the hell she wants, I'll support her all the way." He pulled Satoko away and looked her in the eyes. "And if any of these villagers give you shit for it, tell me, so I can go beat their ass!"

The tears that were flowing were suddenly stopped and replaced with laughter, the rediculousness of Teppei's last words making Rika and Satoko double over in a fit. "Uncle Teppei, you don't know how happy it is to hear you say that. And you certainly haven't gotten rid of that mean streak." Satoko wiped her eyes with the collar of her shirt before looking at Rika and then back at Teppei. "Thank you."

"Anythin' for Satoko."

Rika stood up as Teppei motioned for her to join them, and was pulled into the embrace. "Thank you, Teppei. For taking care of her while I was gone."

"No, I should be thankin' you, Rika-chan." Rika's heart skipped a beat, looking up at Teppei. "You helped take care of her in my absense. Your whole club helped. And no amount of thanks could ever match what you all did for me."

"Oh yeah!" Rika perked up, the mention of the club reminding her of their evening plans. "We're actually meeting up with them later!" Pulling away, she glanced to the nearby clock, hoping they hadn't lost track of time. Rika let out a sigh of relief, seeing that it was nearing 4PM.

"Well, if you girls got plans with your friends, may as well let you get goin'." Teppei released Satoko from their embrace and gave her a light pat on the head. "But I meant what I said; anyone troubles you two for being...together...I'll set them right."

Satoko gave her uncle a light smile and nodded, turning to Rika. "Let's get goin' then. We can grab somethin' to eat on our way!"

A warmth filled Rika's heart as she watched Satoko's interactions with Teppei. 'Though looping was absolute hell, there can still be good things to come of it.' She smiled, taking Satoko's hand and made for the front door, bidding Teppei farewell. As the door closed behind them with a 'have fun kiddos', Rika couldn't help but pull herself closer to Satoko, resting her head on the others shoulder. She expected a reaction, even a small one, but Satoko did nothing. Rika looked up from her leaned position, seeing the same pained expression on Satoko's face from earlier. She parted her lips to speak, but Satoko beat her to the punch.

"Listen, Rika. I'm not...ready yet. I don't know when I'll be, honestly. But we'll talk about it when I am." Satoko looked down to Rika, the latter able to see the immense pain in the formers eyes. Rika squeezed the hand held in hers and rubbed her forehead gently against Satoko's shoulder.

"You did promise me earlier, so I'll keep you to it."

The sun had started its slow descent towards descent to the horizon as Rika and Satoko approached, hand in hand, the old village schoolhouse. The building looked as she remembered, Rika thought, with fresh planted flowers and paint giving it a like-new look. Getting closer, Rika let go of Satoko's hand, running in excitement up to the window that held their old classroom. She peered inside, the classroom being empty of any desks or chairs, barren save for a light coating of dust on the lockers. Rika turned back to Satoko, frowning. "What happened? Is Hinamizawa losing its school?"

Satoko nodded, making Rika's frown even bigger. "Yeah, the village agreed to stop using it as a school. Next year, there would be less than 10 students, and the upkeep wouldn't be worth it." Satoko walked up next to Rika, peering in herself. "But we're not losing the building itself. The head families agreed to turn it into a museum. Remember the tool shed behind your family shrine?" Rika nodded, looking back inside. "Well, the Sonozaki family convinced the other heads to be more open about the villages distant past instead of hiding it. It's kinda secret for now, they plan on announcing it after the Wataganashi Festival."

"How do you know about it then?"

Satoko started to speak before the sound of a vehicle approaching grabbed their attention. She pointed to the driver of the blue sedan, "That's how I know.", and started waving. As it came to a stop by the gate, the two girls rushed over to greet the occupants exiting.

"Riiiikaaaaaa, Satokooooooooo!"

Rika felt a pair of arms pull her and Satoko forward in a flash, pressed against a soft pair of breasts. The 'hau hau hau' breathing told Rika exactly who it was as her and Satoko returned the hug. "We've missed you too, Rena."

"Hau, if Mii-chan wasn't my ride, I'd take you both home and never let go!" Rena gave them one more big squeeze before letting go, the kyute mode subsiding. "It's so nice to see you both again, especially you, Rika-chan!"

Rika began to speak, only to get 2 more sets of arms around herself and Satoko. The silky, mint green hair rubbing her nose was a dead giveaway for one, and the other was obvious. "Mion, Keiichi, it's been way too long!"

Mion gave one more squeeze before she let go, beaming at the two girls. "Looks like we nearly got everyone here. Keiichi, mind grabbing the bag from the back?"

"Yeah, yeah." The disgruntled Keiichi let go of his old underclassman and headed towards the back of their car, Rika watching with a puzzled look.

"Who else are we waiting on?" Turning back to Mion, Rika's eyes lit up as the deciding factor dawned on her. "More importantly, what are we gonna be playing?"

"Well, I figured since we're all adults here, or close enough to it," Mion reached out, patting Rika and Satoko on the head, "we could play something fitting instead of the old kid level stuff, ya know?" The crunch of gravel caught their attention again as another vehicle approached, a sleek, black sedan that the entire group recognized instantly. "And the second guest of honor arrives!"

Rika waited with bated breath as two figures exited out of the back, one being the spitting image of Mion and the other a tall, short haired blonde man. She eagerly waved as Mion's twin walked up to the drivers window, shared some words, and locked arms with the man as they started approaching. A flash of blonde hair rushed by Rika with a kick up of dirt as she watched Satoko run towards them. With whatever's been bothering Satoko, Rika thought, seeing her brother should alleviate some of her sadness.

After breaking out of Satoko's bear hug, the 3 of them walked over to the rest of the group, the Mion doppleganger snatching up Rika and pinned her to her rather impressive breasts. "Rikaaaaa-chan, it's so good to see you! How'd you like St. Lucia?"

Rika tried to speak, only managing muffles underneath the voluptuous chest. "Nice to see you too, Shion." She pulled away, jokingly gasping for air. "I see maturity has helped you out." Rika gave Shion a pouty look, patting her own lackluster chest. A bit of playful jealousy between friends.

Shion smiled before turning to her companion, waving for him to come over. "Ya not gonna say hi, Satoshi?" The blonde man, Satoshi, trotted over, Satoko latched tightly to his arm. "And Satoko-chan! Just like me, maturity has been nice to you too!"

Satoshi chuckled at the friendly banter before patting Rika on her head. "Hello Rika-chan. It's been...quite a while, hasn't it?"

"Yeah. It's been, about 8 years since you 'disappeared', hasn't it?" Rika eyed him up and down, feeling daggers aimed at her from both Shion and Satoko. She decided it would be best to play it safe and not upset them. "You've grown into a handsome young man."

Satoshi blushed lightly as Shion clamped his other available arm. "Ahaha, thank you Rika-chan. You've become a lovely woman as well!" Rika watched as Shion jerked the arm she was attached to around playfully at his comment, Satoko following suit. "H-hey, what're you guys doing??"

"Don't flirt with another girl when your girlfriend is right here!"
"Don't flirt with my friend right in front of me, Nii-Nii!"

Rika laughed to herself, getting one over on the big breasted Shion and Satoko. Having others jealous of you was nice, she thought, even if it was simply playful jealousy. Rika stared off, her eyes unfocused. Something about today felt nostalgic, as if...as if she was back in 1983. A sudden wave of fear pierced through her mind, bringing her eyes back into focus. Her arms reached out, instinctly pulling Satoko to her, and buried her face into the breasts she was jealous of only earlier.

Satoko looked down in surprise, reciprocating Rika's abrupt embrace. "What's wrong, Rika? Don't tell me you're jealous of my Nii-Nii, are you?"

"No, it's..." Rika trailed off with a slight sigh. "I just need this for a moment, okay?"

The no nonsense voice of Keiichi snapped Rika out of her moment. "Let's head inside guys, don't think the villagers want to see young couples all lovey dovey out in the open." Rika peeked out from her grounding totem that was Satoko's breasts, glaring knives into him. "H-hey, what's that look for??"

Mion intervened before anyone else could speak. "Kei-chan is right, we're burning sunlight, people! Tonight, the Hinamizawa Game Club is at 140% power!"


Well I hadn't stopped by here because I just hadn't seen Sotsu yet, but I just finished watching it today so I'll take my time to read this.


It's finished! First post will be edited with the Pixiv links if you want to read them there.


"So! The game we are playing this evening is..." Mion reached into the satchel Keiichi had grabbed, a noticeable sound of clinking glass coming from within, and pulled out a fresh deck of playing cards, to everyones surprise. "...Poker! We'll be using a fresh deck, since in this game, it's about how well you can lie! And knowing what the cards are wouldn't fit Poker anyways." She sat down on the floor, joining the others in the clubs circle. "I'll explain the rules and then the fun can begin."

Rika listened half intently, her mind drawn more to Satoko. She glanced over to her, studying her expression and eyes. Whatever pain she showed earlier was gone, maybe seeing her brother and friends was the issue? No, if that was it, Satoko would've told her outright. Turning back to Mion, Rika decided to ask the burning question before the club president could finish. "You didn't mention the penalty game, what is it?"

Mion laughed, grabbing the satchel again. She pulled out a bottle of clear liquid along with an equally sized bottle of a dark, translucent liquid. "The penalty is two fold! If you lose your hand, you must take a shot of one of these!" A stack of 3 small glasses appeared from the satchel, Mion setting them down in front of her. "These are called [shot glasses], and you have to 'take a shot'. Either of this [whiskey] or [vodka]." She jubilantly held the two bottles up, letting the group admire them. "And before you protest, Rika-chan and Satoko-chan are almost old enough to drink, so it shouldn't be a problem with friends. Any objections?" Silence. "Very good. And part two of your penalty is, whoever wins the hand gets to choose someone and they MUST reveal a secret!"

With no objections, Mion dealt the cards and the game began. Rika looked at the hand she was dealt and chuckled. The loops she suffered pale in comparison to the cards she held, the irony not lost on her. She put 4 cards down and was dealt another 4, hoping for better luck, but was met with an equally bad hand. Her disgruntled expression was clear to everyone. "I think I'm out this round."

"Rikaaaaa-chan, you have to lie! You can't give up if your hand is bad!"

Another chuckle. The irony was even heavier now, unbeknownst to Mion. "Ah well, there's always the next hand, right? Now lemme take my penalty." Mion slid over one of the shot glasses, silently pointing to both Satoko and Rika. "Let's go with the clear stuff. That should be easier, right?" Rika narrowed her eyes as Mion let out an evil giggle, and poured the vodka into the shot glass. Rika raised the glass to the group, and gulped down the vodka in one swift motion. "Not bad, thought it-ack! Keugh!" A fiery sensation engulfed her throat, causing Rika to cough. "Wh-what the hell, Mion!? Was that rubbing alcohol!?"

"Nope. It's 150 proof [vodka]. I imported it from Russia a while back, just for this occasion." Mion lightly shook the bottle with a massive grin. "You better be glad I didn't somehow get some [moonshine] from America. Now THAT stuff will knock you on your ass, flat!"

As time passed and the hands dropped, Satoko was the first winner. "Mion-san, reveal your secret!"

"Ahaha, well, starting next year, I'll be taking over Angel Mort from my uncle! The new owner and manager of that location, and I already have plans to spread it across Japan!"

A small round of applause was given, though something was on Rika's mind. "What about your family. Weren't you supposed to be the new head?"

"Yeeeeaaahhhh, but after some talks, everyone agreed. It took a while, but...it's worth it."

Another hand dealt, more shots thrown back, with Rika coming out on top. A warmth washed over her body as a fuzziness started to blur her vision. Through the blobs in front of her, Rika pointed to Rena. "I choose you, Rena!"

"Um, I'm going to be a teacher next year. I haven't decided between teaching a high school English class, or teaching elementary students."

Rika was surprised. English? Teaching? Rena didn't seem to be the type. "What made you choose teaching?"

"Chie-sensei inspired me. I met up with her a while back and we got talking about her time here. And here I am, wanting to follow in her footsteps!"

Another small applause given.

The next few hands came and went too fast for Rika to remember as the alcohol started to take its toll. But every new secret surprised her; Keiichi wants to follow his father in becoming an artist, Shion will be taking over as the Sonozaki head once their grandmother passes, and while not a secret in the same sense, Satoshi embarrassingly admitted that in his 5 year coma, he remembered dreaming about Satoko and Shion often. And then the next winner, Keiichi, picked Rika, putting her on the spot. "With Rika-chan in a drunken state, she will reveal her greatest secret!"

"Bhwa...why meeeee?"

"Because Satoko hasn't touched the stuff and you're already three sheets to the wind."

Rika turned to Satoko, a bit hurt. She pouted and leaned in close. "Whyyyyy Satokoooooo?"

"Because someone will need to help your drunk ass back home, and we have the longest trek back." Satoko turned to face Rika, not with frustration, but with a smile. "You deserve this. Enjoy it, for me."

Rika stayed put, never looking away from Satoko's eyes. "My secret? Satoko-chan is going to be my wife!" Rika fell towards Satoko, letting her head fall into the latters lap. "Fuck the law, we're gonna get married!" She felt her eyelids become heavy, the warmth radiating from Satoko's thigh lulling her more into the darkness as she felt the world spin. Rika closed her eyes tight, the dizzyness abating. "If that's good enough, everything is spinning, so I'm gonna just close my eyes for a bit...yeah..." The others rambled on, Rika paying them little mind.

"Rika-chan, I said to tell us a secret, not something painfully obvious."

"Well, it's news to me at least, Keiichi-san. Satoko, when were you gonna tell me about this? And does *he* know?"

"It's fine, Nii-Nii. Uncle Teppei is perfectly fine with it, and I guess Rika and I knew for a long time what our feelings were, but we were too afraid to say anything to each other till today. So it's been building for a while, and that dam finally broke. Heh, ironic."

"Well, as I said before, Satoko-chan, I'll root for ya and smack down anyone that tries to stop ya."

A bright light. Clamoring up steps. The rustling of clothes and the soft sensation of a pillow was all Rika felt on her way back to the shack. The world was spinning, and Rika could barely watch Satoko get changed, only getting salvation from the immense dizziness after fully rolling onto her side and facing the wall. Satoko was soon in front of her, with yet another pained expression. "Satoookoooo, why do you look so sad? We had fun, didn't weeeeee?"

"Yeah. We did..."

Rika felt a hand slide around her back as Satoko scooted closer and rested her head against Rika's small chest. Something was off, Rika thought, making her sober up a little bit. "Are you thinking about what's been bothering you all day?" She caressed Satoko's head in her hands, letting her fingers flow over and over through the golden blonde strands. Unable to help herself, Rika pressed her lips against Satoko's head, giving it multiple kisses. "You ready to talk about it?"

Satoko shook her head. "No...you're drunk, and it's late. And I need to just, get my head and thoughts straightened out first."

Rika sighed, rubbing her face into the mass of gold in her hands. Her eyes felt heavy as their shared warmth enveloped her. With a final, tender kiss to Satoko, Rika let the rest her body desired overtake her as the darkness of sleep blanketed her.

Floating through the void of unconsciousness, Rika felt a sudden pull, causing her to fall. The abruptness of it snapped her awake as she bolted upright with a gasp. As her breathing began to slow and her heart stopped pounding against her chest, Rika let out a long, much needed sigh. "It was just a dream. It was just a-"

Rika froze. Her voice wasn't her own. It sounded like...a childs voice. A chill ran down her spine as she looked at her surroundings. A futon on the floor was all she was laying on, with a separate one next to her. Her breathing quickened alongside her heartbeat, as she turned her head towards a familiar spot. Dread gripped her soul and her blood ran cold as she walked to the calander she wished wasn't there. Rika simply stared at the date. June 12, 1983.

No, no, that can't be right. Something's wrong. Nononononono! Why now!? Why? WHY!?

"GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK!" Rika howled in anger and fear. She grabbed her head, trembling, trying to wrap her mind around how it happened. Where was Hanyuu? What killed her? She was sleeping next to Satoko and...she didn't want to finish that thought. "GOD DAMMIT!" Rearing her head back, Rika slammed it into the calendar dictating her worst fear. A light throbbing pulsed from her forehead as tears started streaming down her face. 'This can't be happening...where did I go wrong??'

"Rika! Are you okay?"

Rika turned to see Satoko, now a child again, looking at her worriedly. She said nothing as Satoko walked over and wiped the tears from her face, shaking her trembling body.

"You gotta wake up."

"Huh?" Rika stared at Satoko, puzzled. "Wh-what do you mean?"

"Wake up, Rika!"

Satoko began shaking Rika violently, frightening her to the core. "Satoko, please stop, what's going on??"

"Rika, you gotta wake up, please!"

A violent flash of light blinded Rika, pain searing through her eyes, before a jolt forced them open. In front of her was a worried and crying Satoko, the matured one Rika had been sleeping next to. "Oh thank goodness you woke up. You scared me to death!"

"Wha...what happened?" Rika felt weary, slowly pulling herself up alongside Satoko. A familiar pulse of pain echoed in her head, causing her to wince. "Ah, what the hell?"

"You were having a nightmare, I think." Satoko said, wiping the tears from her eyes. "You were tossing and turning, and wound up headbutting me. When that didn't wake you, I got scared and kept trying to shake you awake."

Rika stared at Satoko, intent on giving thanks, but an eruption of emotions caused her to break into sobs as she embraced her friend. She couldn't find any words to say, feeling Satoko's hands running up and down her back, only sobbing harder into Satoko's shoulder.

"It's okay, Rika. It's...okay, you were just having a bad dream, okay? It wasn't real."

Rika gripped Satoko tighter, feeling the pain of those words in her heart. "You don't understand." She halted her sobbing to merely hiccups, trying to say what was running through her mind. "I was back there again. In 1983." Silence. Rika expected Satoko to respond with words, but was met with an equal mount of sobbing. "It felt so real and I thought I was done with these nightmares!"

"...talk to me Rika."

Rika took a long, deep breath, calming her nerves and slowing her tears. The pain and fear she was about to recount weighed heavily on her mind. "You...you remember those letters you sent me, right?"


"...for a while, I'd have that same exact nightmare. Waking up back in 1983." A sullen mood overcame Rika, her true voice coming out as she recollected. "I would live through days, weeks, even entire months in these nightmares, watching everyone die over and over again before waking up, only to repeat again the next night."

"...I'm sorry..."

"I can't even remember when it started, but those letters, they helped me from having them."

Rika felt Satoko tense up, gripping her friend tighter. "...h-how did they help?"

"I'd read them, every night before I went to sleep. Your words...they helped at keeping me grounded. I'd wind up dreaming about you a lot, and one day, the nightmares...just never came back. Even after I stopped reading them due to studies."

"You didn't get mad that I...stopped writing to you?"

"I was, at first, but since I never got around to writing you back, I can't blame you."

"What about the fancy friends I told you about?"

Rika shook her head and pulled back to stare Satoko in the eyes. Bloodshot and tear stained, she reverted back to her normal voice to ease the mood. "That didn't last as long as I expected. Turns out they don't want to know the whole you, only the side accepted as 'high society'. Even after being trapped here for over a century, a small part of me missed the simpleness of it all, I guess. Those girls didn't like that." Rika let out another sigh, her nerves finally settled. "I guess my emotions went haywire while I was sleeping and whatever defenses I had broke down."

"...I'm so sorry, Rika."

Rika simply gave Satoko a warm smile, bringing her forehead against her friends. "For what?" A twinge of pain nailed her heart as she stared into Satoko's eyes. Whatever suffering Satoko was feeling was palpable, and the pain inside herself only grew the longer she stared at her friend.

"For...for bringing you back into the loops."

"...it's okay, Satoko. I'd forgiven you long ago. It's-"

Rika gasped as she was pushed away, the waterworks starting up again for Satoko. "I-I did terrible things! Ripped you from your dream, caused so many deaths, and k-killed you more times than I can count! For what?! My own stupid, selfish desires!"

"Satoko...I forgive you, okay? It's in the past."

"That's not it, at all! I've been feeling this-this sense of guilt for the past two years! And no matter what I do, it won't go away!"

Another knife of pain to the heart. Rika crawled over to Satoko, who'd curled up with her arms around her knees. Rika whispered gently, embracing her friend again and rested her forehead on Satoko's head. "Let it all out, Satoko. You've been suffering in your own head all day, so please, let it all out."

"I don't deserve to live. Or you." Rika couldn't help but sharing in Satoko's sobs, overcome with the agony her friend was letting free. "I wanted to die, Rika. Any time I thought of you, my heart ached and I wanted to end it. I remember each of those loops clear as day, and the fear in your eyes...as you would die." Satoko brought her head up, meeting Rika's pain filled stare. "I was gonna shoot myself, and be reborn into a world where you didn't exist. It's what I deserve, but I guess..." A pained chuckle escaped her lips. "...I guess the courage to pull the trigger on others is easier than pulling it on yourself permanently. I can still feel my hands trembling, holding the barrel in my mouth. My mind screaming 'do it do it DO IT' over and over..."

Rika said nothing, only gripping Satoko tighter.

"But I thought of you for some reason. Your smile. Your laugh. The warmth of your hand in mine, and...I wanted to see you one more time. I knew if I didn't, it would just hurt you."

"And you think killing yourself wouldn't have hurt even more??"

"No, but I-...I don't know how to deal with this guilt anymore, Rika! I hate it, and I hate myself for it!"

Rika stared down at her friend, mentally stabbing herself in her soul for what she was about to do. Raising her hand, Rika slapped Satoko across the face with a sharp SMACK, her expression warping into a mix of anger and sadness. "You live with it, and you forgive yourself." Leaning back away from Satoko, Rika wiped her eyes, and took Satoko's hands into her own. "You've forgiven your uncle for the pain and suffering he put you through, right? After him wanting to turn his life around?"

"But," Satoko stuttered, "but that only came about because of the loops effected him! It's not the same!"

"Did. You. Forgive. Him?" Satoko silently nodded before Rika continued. "No matter how it happened, Teppei wanted to turn his life around, and try and fix what he's done. You don't think he had to deal with the guilt of hurting you and Satoshi? It still weighs on his mind, since Satoshi hasn't quite accepted it, but you giving him a chance was more than enough for him to do better. He still has to live with those actions, and he does everything he can to not let those actions push him down again. Teppei proved that earlier today, you know?" Rika reached out, caressing and stroking the cheek she had slapped, making Satoko wince. "I don't want you to hurt yourself over all this, we both have been through enough suffering. Even if it takes you years to forgive yourself, I would rather see you here crying, than not have you at all." She pressed her head against her friends and let out a deep breath, nearly choking on her words. "I...I would rather relive 1983 again, deal with all of this again, than to be in a world without you."

They sat in silence for a moment before Satoko pulled Rika into her arms. "I'm so sorry Rika...I don't know what to do..."

"We can figure that out in the morning, okay?" Rika ran her fingers through Satoko's hair, gently caressing her head. "We're tired, and sleep will do us good, okay?"


Pulling Satoko down onto the pillows, Rika slid down and nestled her head against Satoko's chest. She felt the beating heart underneath, and let out a yawn. "Can I...can I hold you like this?"

"I'd love that. Goodnight, Rika."

"Goodnight, Satoko."

A ray of moonlight and the sing-song of birds woke the sleeping Rika, who stayed still with eyes shut tight as consciousness came forward. The gentle heartbeat resounding in her head gave her the courage to open her eyes, a sigh of relief escaping her lips. She was still in the present, wrapped in the arms of Satoko. She gently slipped out of that warm embrace, saddened to leave it so early, but something in her needed to go to a familiar place. Rika put on some slippers and realized she was in her pajamas, when last she remembered before waking in the night, she was in a green floral dress. She blushed at the thought of Satoko helping her drunk self undress and redress, but pushed those thoughts out for later. With a determined breath, Rika slipped on a light jacket and quietly left the shack, then started towards the Furude Shrine.

Walking up the familiar path with the moonlight on her back, memories of the past, of the hundreds of deaths she suffered, of the small bits of happiness she gained in each loop, ran through her mind. Multiple lifetimes of memories that felt so far away, but still haunted her. Rika shook her head as she passed over the last few steps and entered the shrine grounds proper. It looked pristine, even with the years of natural damage. She let herself smile for a moment, before calling out a name she hadn't spoken or thought of in years. "Hanyuu, are you here?"

Silence, but before long, an apparition appeared before her. Donned in a red and white shrine maiden dress with pink sleeves, long, lavender, straight hair, and a set of small black horns, the apparition floated to the ground in front of Rika. "Hello, Rika. It's been some time, hasn't it?"

"Hanyuu, why were you spying on me yesterday?"

"Auuauu, straight to the point, huh?" The spirit, Hanyuu, covered her face with her hands to hide her blushed face. "I-I didn't mean to, I felt you were back in the village but you were with Satoko and I didn't want to disturb you. How did you know I was there?"

"I heard you. You may have been invisible, but I have ears." Frustrated, Rika crossed her arms and glared at the spirit. "I'm going to assume you left after things got intimate?"

"Yes. I came back here, though with you being so close again, I was able to uh, feel everything you felt..."

Rika's face flushed red. She forgot about her spiritual connection with Hanyuu, cursing at herself internally. "...everything?"

Hanyuu covered her face with her sleeves again, her face becoming redder than Rika's. "Y-yes...what you and Satoko share is special, so I'm glad my plan wor-eep!"

"Plan?" Rika cocked her head to the side, glaring a hole through what opaqueness the spirit had, her embarrassment replaced with anger. "Hanyuu, what kind of scheme did you pull?"

"It-it was just a small thing but...it was necessary. Please, believe me, I meant no ill will, but if I didn't do something, Satoko would have...died."

Her heart skipped a beat. Satoko would have died? Was this about the things Satoko said? "Hanyuu." Rika's eyes softened, bringing her focus onto the dark violet eyes of the spirit. "If you're completely honest with me, I won't punish you. Satoko and I had a...lengthy talk in the middle of the night, and something has been bothering me about what she said."

"Only if you promise." Rika nodded as Hanyuu brought herself a mere few inches away. "Very well...it was late summer, last year. I've been watching over Satoko, just in case something happened. It was fine for a while, seeing her reunite with Satoshi was heartwarming for me. But over time, Satoko started to falter. And last summer was her breaking point I guess." Hanyuu lowered her head. "She was going to kill herself, Rika. I couldn't understand why, but I knew if she died, it would break you." She raised her head back up, staring Rika in the eyes. "So, as the guardian deity of this village, of its people and as y-...mmm, I intervened."

"...I won't say I'm not grateful, but you meddled in human affairs again."

"It was to save someone you love."

"And you couldn't somehow do that in any of the other loops? At all?"

"We didn't know what to do or who to trust, Rika."

Rika peered deep into Hanyuu's eyes. It was strange; anger should have filled her, but all she felt was relief. Hanyuu had only ever changed things 2 other times, and each time it changed things for the better, in the end. Maybe this time will be like that as well? Rika dropped her arms to her sides, and gave the spirit a smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I shouldn't be angry with you, you saved someone special to me." Rika chuckled as the stoic Hanyuu seemed to relax. "And I want to thank you."

"In a way, I couldn't have done it without you." Rika cocked her head again, with curiosity instead of anger. "I didn't know what to do, and I feared how you would react, and it hit me; have her remember *you*."

"Memories? But Satoko told me she would feel...terrible whenever she thought of me."

"Memories are different than thoughts, Rika. I remember nearly everything we've gone through, and I know many things that you simply can't. So, I found every single happy memory I had of you two, even ones she never experienced, and just shoved them into her mind. I didn't know if it would work, but it was all I could think of...but it did."

Rika wiped away the tears that had formed in her eyes. A faint warmth filled her chest, knowing her smile saved her best friend. "I guess I can't get upset with you, can I?" She reached out and 'patted' Hanyuu on the head, despite being unable to touch her. "Thank you, Hanyuu. I'll get some of those cream puffs you like so much, okay?"

"Only if that's what you desire, Rika. I simply did what I needed to, to keep my daughter happy."

A feeling of pride swelled within in her, nearly causing Rika to break into tears again. She opened her mouth to talk, but was interrupted by Hanyuu fading away and a voice from nearby.

"There you are Rika! You had me worried!" A distraught Satoko trotted over to Rika, breathing heavily, and placed a hand on Rika's shoulder. "Damn, I knew I wasn't in the best shape, but a little jog from the house shouldn't wind me this much!"

"I'm sorry, Satoko. I didn't want to wake you, but I wanted to...get some fresh air this morning." Rika stayed silent for a moment, feeling for Hanyuu's presence, but felt nothing. They were alone. "Are you...feeling any better?"

The ragged Satoko let out one more deep breath, before letting go of Rika and standing straight. "...I think I am. Not sure how I'll feel after you leave though."

This made Rika wince. She hadn't said anything to Satoko about how long she'd be staying, and it seemed Satoko believed Rika would be leaving very soon. "Come here, I want us to see something." Rika grabbed Satoko's hand and began to walk her up a nearby hill, leading to an overlook that peered over the entirety of Hinamizawa.

"Rika, this place..." Satoko pulled her hand away, and walked to the railing lining the cliffs edge. "What did you want to see here?"

Rika followed suit, and leaned against the railing. She jiggled the railing back and forth, testing the sturdiness, and found it acceptable. "I wanted to watch the sunrise with you. We're both already awake, and the sun should be up soon." She turned her head to Satoko, curious. "Did you want to go back to sleep or something?"

"No, it's...it brings back awful feelings." Satoko went silent, and Rika stayed silent with her for a few moments. But as Rika went to speak, Satoko started before her. "We had come here and I told you my worries about St. Lucia, you know? Well, I guess it was but wasn't you at the same time. And even after telling you my honest feelings, you insisted I go with you, and you even promised me. You promised you wouldn't leave me all by myself. That you'd help me whenever I needed it..."

"And I didn't keep that promise, did I?" A lump formed in Rika's throat as she held back tears. She turned to Satoko, who was letting hers flow. "I didn't think of your feelings, at all, and hurt you." Rika reached over and took Satoko's trembling hand in her own. "I know I can't change what has happened, but I want to fix it, if I can."

"But you'll be leaving soon, won't you?"

"What made you think that?" Rika pulled Satoko closer, grabbing her other hand, and held them close together. "I'm staying here till March, dummy! After everything I dealt with at school, I need a break, and coming home after so long will do be come good." She stroked the rough, scarred fingers that she held, tracing the scars over and over. "There's so, SO much I want to talk to you about, and by uh, last nights talk, you have a lot you need to talk to me about..."

Satoko stared down at the hands caressing her own and said nothing.

"We've been best friends for many, many years. I know we've hurt each other. And there's a lot of things that need to be said between us. Even if you feel like you don't deserve it, I want us to find a way to work things out." Rika stepped close, laying her head against Satoko's shoulder. "Even if we disagree or fight, or anything that comes our way, I want us to work together to find a way through it. And I..." She stopped herself, realizing what words were about to be said, and pulled back, still holding Satoko's hands in hers. She looked into the eyes of her best friend, silently praying she's saying the right things. "Satoko?"

Satoko brought her head back up, and returned Rika's gaze. "Will you promise me? And keep to it?"

"I promise you, Satoko, that we'll work through everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. And if I break that promise..." Rika inhaled deeply, letting out a long breath before choosing her words. "Get angry with me. Tell me I broke this promise. Slap some sense into me if you have to." She raised a hand, placing it against Satoko's cheek, with Satoko holding her hand in place. "No more do overs, no more loops. We make the best of THIS life, come what may, okay?"

Satoko nodded, nuzzling against the hand holding her cheek. "Okay...I hope you know I'm gonna be stubborn a lot of the time, so if you're ready for that, I think we can work things out."

"There's one more...thing I want to say, Satoko." Rika felt nervous as a sense of nausea overtook her. She brought her hand, still clasped with Satoko's, back down beside her other. The red-orange glow of the sun peeked itself over the nearby mountaintops, basking the early morning sky in an array of colors. "That kiss yesterday, it...it meant more than you might think." Rika watched as Satoko turned beet red, with herself following as well.

"Wh-what do you mean?"

Rika took in another deep breath, and closed her eyes. Hanyuu gave her this chance, and she knew she couldn't let it go. "Thank you, Hanyuu." Opening her eyes, Rika steeled herself, and let her words flow. "I love you, Satoko. I've loved you and been in love with you for years, decades even. Through all the loops before...before we made mistakes that hurt each other...you were my anchor. The one thing that kept me grounded, through the countless fragments I had to go through. I knew I cared about you, but yesterday, it made me realize just how much." Rika fell silent, wanting and waiting for a response. Satoko just stared back with a nervous expression. "If you don't know what to say, I can-"

"No, no, just-" Rika could tell Satoko was struggling, her lips quivering from trying to speak those words Rika wanted to hear. "I...I've loved you for years too. I wanted to tell you before you left for Lucia, but a part of me couldn't say it. I love you, Rika, and I just wish-"

"You don't need to say anymore than that, Satoko." Rika lightly squeezed the hands she held, giving the woman before her a bright smile. "Let's just enjoy this, okay? It's like an immense weight left my shoulders."

Satoko let out her held breath, returning Rika's smile. "Yeah, I feel that way too...and thank you, Rika."

"For what?"

"I'm not gonna say. Not yet. But still, thank you."

Rika continued to gaze into the rose orbs in front of her. Her old dream of Satoko joining her at St. Lucia wasn't fulfilled, but it led her to this point. She internally chuckled; maybe you don't need to fulfill all of your dreams to be happy? she thought. The sun continued to rise over the horizon, basking her and Satoko in its warm, golden glow. Satoko looked even more beautiful in the light, Rika thought. This moment, it was worth it. She gave another gentle squeeze, softening her gaze, and said the words she had so much trouble saying, but now, it felt natural. It was meant to be.

"I love you, Satoko Hojo."

"I love you too, Rika Furude."