Hello, Láquesis writing in. I apologize for skipping the intro when first publishing this piece. The following writing has descriptions of death and the explicit death of an infant (non graphic). That would be all. Thank you for your time, enjoy. — L.

now

Cemeteries are weird spaces, if one thinks about it enough.

There are endless yards of stone and marble, sometimes with the occasional crypt that guards with its decaying walls the souls of a family long forgotten.

Cemeteries are weird, even in summer they’re cold, even in spring flowers look about to wither. It’s a space heavy with tension, feelings left lingering and words that were never given a voice, with bodies slowly rotting away, in their best attire and make up, now ruined due to time.

Bury your dead, pay them respects.

How? Succumbing their bodies to decay? Burying them so deep down on sturdy earth so that one can go and leave flowers? Talk to the soil and imagine someone might talk back?

Bury your dead and pay them respects.

A soul is not tied to a body, once the body isn’t functional enough. Praying to rotting flesh sounds like a concept right out of a horror cultist film. Yamamoto Ryu has never understood the need to bury your dead, to keep them on earth, rather in earth, in hopes of bringing their souls “peace” when their souls have already departed, fled this wretched place in search for sacred haven.

Ryu stands there, in the middle of spring, in front of a tombstone, and the churning feeling in his stomach is still there.

He stands alone and silent, not moving ever since he planted his feet there, listening to the wind whisper to him, feeling the sun try to give him solace, try and give him warmth that has been lost for forever, now.

Ryu blinks once, twice.

“Yamamoto Aika”

“2008 — 2016”

How can he find peace in any of it? It sounds like madness, looking at the grave of his sister, knowing she’s 6 feet under and probably only bones are left in her place, with a beautiful denim overall she used to wear everywhere, and cherry red hair clips now laying flat on polished wood. He can’t understand how burying his dead in any way pays them respect.

His sister should be with the wind, forever running in the wild, travelling places he’s never seen, touching the endless skies with her whimsical fingers and giggling at the feel of clouds and the tree leaves against them. His sister should be out there, thriving on an afterlife of excitement and beautiful views for the soul. His sister should be anywhere, really, everywhere but here.

Ryu looks at the carvings of her name and wills tears to disappear from his eyes, forces himself to not cry to stone and bone and rotten flesh, to worms and dirt and mud. He doesn’t want to cry for something so destroyed and forgotten, he should cry with a picture of her, with the memory of her. He should cry in front of the door of her room, a place in the house that’s been completely wiped out of any trace of her, as if she was never there in the first place while boxes upon boxes of her things— her things!— are being carried away for charity or to throw away.

How, oh Almighty, how is burying and forgetting about one's dead paying them respects?

She was just a child, she had done no harm to anyone. She was pure hearted and adventurous, with eyes up to the brim with curiosity for the world and what it could offer to her, even despite their awful circumstances.

His sister was the only ray of sunshine in the grey scaled pantone his life had.

She’s gone now, and to the act of forgetting her and forcing her physical body to remain on earth he’s supposed to call respect? In what head does it make sense?

He remembers her so well, like a permanent mark on his life.

then

He’d watched her grow, helped her on her small unsteady feet and grabbed her tiny hands, watching carefully as she walked with him, as she tried not to fall, as he tried not to let her fall.

Maybe he understands now, the thing they say about how kids grow fast, so fast you don't even notice it until they suddenly have their first day at school, their first friend, their first kids party. How you get to see them walk hesitantly towards you, their big eyes looking at the floor as if to make sure it's still steady, then at their feet, to make sure they are resting them correctly above the surface, and then, towards you, to know you're still there at the end of the road, waiting with open arms to wrap them in a warm embrace, smiling and giggling because they were able to get to you.

How you wake up everyday knowing they'll be a room away from you, ready to run into your room and jump onto your bed, just to tell you you should be waking up.

How they start mumbling gibberish and nonsensical syllables, trying to get to talk to you and understand you just how you seem to understand others. They try to tell you something, and their curious eyes seek for yours, as if they have the power to make their words come out from their mouth. They part their lips as they think of how to even pronounce a single word. And you wait expectantly while they seem focused on their task at hand.

And they say it.

"R-Rweoo"

And you feel your tears start to fall.

You watch them as they explore the world around them, slowly familiarise themselves with it, finding the most creative ways to find out how everything works under their little understanding.

"No, Ai, that's a square, it cannot enter the- how did you make it go through the circle hole?"

Ryu understands, maybe, perhaps, that sometimes kids are a wonder, a wonder that lives in constant awe at their surroundings, a wonder that looks at the sky with shiny eyes and looks back at you, as if they can't believe it's real, as if they need you to know it's there, to know it exists.

They need you.

What amazes one, though, as you cling onto them making them laugh so bubbly and lightly it can make the grey areas of the world bleed the brightest of colours, is just how much more you need them.

How can a tiny, little human, a ball of pure nonsensical babbling, be the source of one's strength?

No one knows, no one understands. But Yamamoto Ryu remembers being ten, and looking at his younger sister through the empty spaces of the wooden bars of her cradle, and right then thought he did.

Just a ten year old boy, looking at his three year old sister’s smile at him behind her short eyelashes and brown eyes, with a cute little pyjama set he chose because he somehow figured she liked sheeps and the colour green.

Their mother could not— still cannot— be home most of the time, and their father is someone none of them want back in their lives. But when things were dark and blue, Ryu thought that a look at her sister would give him the energy he needed to get through it all.

And it does.

It did, back then.

then

"What is that Rweo?"

He chuckled, her sister never really grasping the pronunciation of his name, but it's alright, she doesn't have to. Her tiny hand pointing at the instrument Ryu’s holding, electric black covering almost all of its form. Ryu fiddles with the chords, trying to play a note without breaking his fingers.

Just how on earth does one get around Fa, HOW.

"It's my new guitar, my cherry blossom"

Ah, how he called her.

Aika, his cherry blossom, growing with beautiful intricate roots, giving life to wondrous tandems of flowers, covering Japan with a pale swirling kiss when time was due.

"Why a guitar?" Her brown eyes looked at the strings, and Ryu moves his hand and signals to his sister so she could try it.

Her small hand passed through the chords, a soft, raw jiggle of them was heard. Her eyes glittered with joy.

"My friends and I wanna do a band in highschool" he explains simply.

Because that’s all he had to worry about.

School, friends, and his sister.

The future was uncertain for both of them, but if Ryu played his cards right, he could give his sister the life she deserved. If he could be paid to do someone’s homework, if a few coins would come by helping an old neighbour with the groceries, if he could just earn something small to buy her sister small sweets and pretty hair pins that their mother never would, then he’d do it. If he could avoid her sister from being alone, if he could teach her things with care and fondness instead of leaving her to figure things out on her own, if he could play and talk to her, if he could make her feel loved, cherished, valued.

If he could give her more than he was given, he was going to do so until he drew his last breath, because this kid, this little girl with sparkly eyes and a road ahead of her to do whatever she pleases without having to feel guilty about it, was worth it.

Aika was worth all of it.

Cherry blossoms grow sturdy, as they have to survive through it all before blooming tenderly during spring, only to wither shortly after.

"Mom says band boys are bad boys" and her frown makes Ryu want to smooth the wrinkles with his fingers, gently.

And he does, his thumb caressing the space between her eyebrows until she’s smiling again.

"Mom isn't always right" he says,

"No, I know, but you don't fit the bad boy vibe Rweo"

Ryu pulls his guitar away from her with a fake outraged gasp, his brows knitting together as he sticks his tongue out when Aika looks offended for not having the guitar chords near her.

"I can play bad boy very well, mind you"

"You can play it, but you'll never be it"

"Well of course not. I'm a charmer, cherry" He smirks, chuckling at how his little sister starts laughing at that.

He loved his little sister, his little cherry blossom, waiting for spring to come and bloom into the most beautiful flower the world has ever seen.

Aika looked at the guitar again.

"Don't bad- band- bad band boys have marks on their guitars?" She asks, signalling to a poster hanging on one of the walls.

"Oh yeah, but I don't know what to write here to be fair…" he inspects the instrument.

At the back, there's a small wooden name tag carefully attached to the guitar. It has "Yamamoto" written on it. In golden kanji.

"Well, besides that" Ryu comments on the tag.

He's not being corny, he's just… it's for identifiability, nothing else.

"Can I leave a mark of my own?" The little girl asks, looking at her brother for approval and at the guitar to find a spot to mark in case he says yes, her hands withdrawn waiting for the same thing.

"Of course" he cheers, and the girl goes to find her coloured pencils, even if the colour doesn't exactly matter.

"I promise not to do childish scribbles!" She says as she grabs a handful of her pencils. Ryu notes how she carefully chose dark and red tones, not wanting to ruin the aesthetic of the guitar. He can't help but smile at her.

And so, the little girl drew on the back of the guitar, some flames, skulls, and little lightnings here and there.

Those marks would be so hard to erase due to how hard she was pressing her pencils. But Ryu let her, even if his insides twisted and his hands itched to take the instrument away from his sister.

His little cherry blossom seemed happy. Who was he to stray that away from him?

then, winter came

Cherry blossoms always wither at night. It's like ripping a band-aid off, you wake up to crumpled, dry petals, you don't have to watch them fall, you don't have to watch them wither.

You don't have to watch it die slowly while you slumber.

The morning afterwards, Aika didn't wake up.

Ryu remembers it, and it still makes him recoil from the pain and panic. They had school, they had lives, they had routines.

They had each other.

“Cherry” She didn’t move “Cherry, wake up” He was gently shoving her toothbrush against her back, hoping she’d turn around with a grunt and whine at him from waking her up from a dream about endless fields and soft sheep scattered around.

“We’ll be late for school” Nothing “You still…”

He stopped his motions quietly, as he noticed just how… cold the room was. A seed of fear was planted on his heart.

"....Aika?" He walked around the bed, trying to see her more clearly, silently praying to any deity that might hear that her brown eyes would be open with mischief and glee.

They were closed, unmoving, dark.

She was pale, so pale and unmoving. Her chest wasn’t rising and falling, her small pillow wasn’t safely tucked between her arms.

Aika wasn’t moving, and when he touched her arm, it wasn’t warm.

Not cold, but not warm either. It was like nothing, as if he was touching something instead of someone.

His pulse sped up.

"Aika" He shook her by the shoulders once, then twice "Aika!" His eyes itched.

His sister didn't move an inch. She didn't move at all.

And one can't even fathom it, can't even grasp the concept. He held her closer and held her tight, and pushed away the unthinkable.

Ryu held his little cherry blossom, even if there were no petals left on the now hollow trunk.

"Mom! Mom, please help me!" He croaked out, looking at his baby sister as his tears fell over her and his trembling hands cleaned them away gently. "Aika please…" he whispered once again "Please, don't leave me" he couldn't even make out her features, blurred out by the water pooling in his eyes.

He couldn't hear the rushed steps, and hurried words below his whimpers and cries. And didn't realise how he guarded his sister's body from being taken away from him.

Ryu's head hurt so much, it rang so loud.

Ryu could not understand.

When he came back to be, the sickening sight of clinic white greeted him. His feet unmoving, planted on the floor, his lips so dry it hurt to move them. His head still hurt mildly.

His mother sat in front of him, defeated, colourless and emotionless, with an untouched cup of cold coffee in front of her. Staring at the floor with eyes so dark they seemed hollow.

She looked up at Ryu.

Ryu understood.

now

There was an empty room in his house that will never be occupied again, and a place at the dinner table that sometimes he forgot not to set. There was silence in a house that sometime before was so loud from laughter and music.

There were scratches on the back of a guitar, so deeply scarved, that would never fade away.

There will be a hollow cherry blossom, once so beautiful, that had withered away one winter night, giving no one a chance to say goodbye.

And there will be a boy, now nineteen, visiting a tomb nobody else visits, with a hole in his heart no one will ever be able to stitch back together.