LLK Act IV.Fin - Fin : Theme of a Moonlit Night

Description: On the eve of what she hopes will be the final necessary battle in this conflict, a severely overworked and stressed Hotaru seeks a moment of quiet and stumbles upon someone she hasn't seen in some time. In the ensuing conversation both she and Frei have a chance to air their thoughts on predestination, the price they've paid to be where they are and, ultimately, the meaning behind the struggle that is life.

Dusk. Considering the state of Southtown at the moment, it's surprisingly tranquil here on the Futaba grounds... perhaps the coming of darkness is a signal to all involved, out in the warzone, that things need to settle down regardless of station. Refugees and crime syndicate goons alike need light to function, after all... and while actions under cover of darkness aren't unheard of, maybe tonight everyone needed a break. Here, in early summer, the only sounds are the occasional breeze moving through plants, and the intermittent but constant 'miin-miin' noise of crickets and other bugs in the warm weather.

Of all the places to be, Frei is seated on the roof of the dojo... while trained fighters don't usually have difficulty getting to high places, it was the dojo's roof that seemed most accessible as a place to sit and look up at the stars. In a weird way, the 'war' has made that a little easier; the typical Southtown night is so full of the dull orange-green-white glow of fluoresence, the hallmark of urban evening, that the light pollution makes stargazing extremely difficult. Now, though, entire blocks without power or with streetlights in disrepair mean a little less of that. The sky, once a dark dome above a hazy glow, is now a properly faraway canvas of deep blue velvet, studded with tiny lights.

He's not a difficult sight to find. It's the newly-white hair; compared to the dark red from before, it stands out against the night sky like some sort of photonegative celestial ink blot thanks to the unruly cut. Compared to the clothing he's wearing, however, it's as if his hair and face are floating in a sea of dark. His normal jeans have been exchanged for black kung-fu pants, and he wears a tight long-sleeved shirt of dark green, with a sleeveless Chinese high-collared jacket of black with silver embroidery over it, the bottom hem of the jacket at chest height. His face is turned entirely toward the sky, however, and his thoughts are appropriately far from the world below.

Shurui's words come back to him again and again: 'you're still strong enough to help people here once your body's mended.' His body IS mended; in fact, physically he feels better than ever, since a week's worth of doing little but recuperating is more time than he's had to himself to heal since this entire affair began. What she did not say, or perhaps felt did not need saying, is that the heart being mended is something else entirely. In THAT regard, Kentou was another angel in disguise, with his straightforward and just view on things. Focus on the now. Where there's life, there's hope. Do what you can. A way of thinking that, in what can only be called his grief, Frei had forgotten about. Kentou gave him... focus. A reason to be honest, a reason to reach inside and draw on the well of resilience that's gotten him this far. Tomorrow is another day. As long as you can get up tomorrow, and face life, there will ALWAYS be something.


He's talking to himself, and in fact is so wrapped up in his own thoughts that his voice carries considerably more than he would have wanted it to, if he knew what he was saying. "No matter how much I stare up at you guys," he says with a sigh, addressing the stars, "you're not going to answer me. And... your little brother," he adds, patting the roof next to him, though to who he's referring is anyone's guess, "isn't talking to me anymore either."

She should be asleep. At around the time the blanket of night began to settle in over the horizon, she had been awake for forty-eight consecutive hours. That was forty minutes ago. An energetic, healthy girl, who lived an active life style the likes not many could keep up, Hotaru had never had trouble sleeping before. But that was back when sleep felt like an appropriate part of every twenty-four hour cycle; back before war came to her city and took her old life hostage.

Now sleep feels like a mistake - if she's asleep, she can't be overseeing the refuge camp, can't be thinking about how to keep everyone safe, can't be trying to figure out whether there are any shopping centers that haven't been looted for supplies yet and whether risking a convoy to them is worth it. All the day she paced, seemingly everywhere at once, giving instructions, comfort, words of hope, an expression of optimisim. They needed to be ready. At sunrise the armored vehicles would be here and the camp would be evacuated to Seijyun.

About ninety minutes ago the last of preparations were finalized. Everything not needed for the night was packed up and ready to go. Only bedding and blankets and tents would need to be taken down in the early pre-dawn hours. Everything was ready. She should be sleeping. She would be going into battle on the morrow with any fighters that could be mustered. Alma would be back from one of his outings soon. Elle, the mercenary helping pull this together said she could find Jiro.

Kentou finally retired, the boy having run himself ragged all around Southtown looking for her and checking after others he knew. There weren't much lights to go around. A generator out behind the back of the house powers a minimal level of 'night lighting' around the property, but otherwise, the entire neighborhood is in the dark. It leaves the refuges inclined to retire early. It had been a long day of preparing and there wasn't anything left to be done as the sun set.

Pacing about the property, hands clasped behind her back, Hotaru happens along the wooden porch surrounding the outside of the family dojo turned hospitality station when Frei voices his thoughts to the celestial bodies above. She pauses, hand resting against the frame of one of the entrances as she gazes across her property. Stolen cars line the fence and a mountain of sandbags block up the crater that was once her drive way. The green lawn has long since been trodden into a dead or dying brown mass and the walls and broken windows of the house show evidence of cannon-fire, gun shots, dirt, and grime. For a moment she half wonders if, should order ever be restored to the city, the poor estate would end up condemned due to its present condition. A soft exhale escapes her lips as the girl turns around, craning her head up, half wondering if Frei would prefer the solitude offered by one of the few locations the rest of the camp can't get to.

But it's late, and she has no one to talk to, and the morning is a long ways away. Taking in a breath, she crouches slightly, springing up, her right hand taking hold of the edge of the roof and allowing her slip up onto the roof softly. She finally changed from the dusty pink blouse she had on throughout the day, opting instead for a sky blue, shorter sleeved shirt that mostly looks white in the dimming light. While her right arm is no longer covered by a sleeve, bandages conceal most of the scabs left over from her ordeal. "Not interrupting a conversation am I?"

She asks, her tone soft, bordering on gentle teasing. Eyes glance over the shock of white hair before shifting to focus on his face. It seems they both have a token of their experience. And what of Ichiro? The lost boy no one had been able to find thus far? What price has he paid? "Quiet," she observes. Even the distant sound of a city alive is missing. The explosions and sounds of gunfire were silenced. The city gathered its breath for the morrow, knowing full well something big was coming. She could feel it.

Preparations... he knew as much as anyone else did: that the people who *can't* defend themselves were being moved somewhere safe, that they needed to pack up and be ready to go. Scared and tired though they are, as a vaguely outside observer, Frei's had the chance to see how what Hotaru feels as nervous energy has in its own weird way given confidence to the people she's taken into her charge. The sense that someone is busy, taking charge, making things happen. It's a skill Frei himself has never mastered, and one he admires in people like Hotaru and Alma... while, at the same time, being able to appreciate the tremendous strain it can put on an individual.

The sound of Hotaru's approach, and the tone of her query, slice through Frei's foggy awareness like a knife, and the suddenness with which his head turns to see where the voice is coming from betrays the feeling of tension that even he, known for his calm demeanor, feels. And of course, what she asks reminds the YFCC instructor that he was speaking aloud. He doesn't seem ashamed -- indeed, it's probable that Frei hasn't felt ashamed of something in his entire life -- but he does give a wan smile that expresses something between sheepishness and ruefulness, or perhaps a little of both. "If you did, it was pretty one-sided," he admits, and that was the truth. Even if the stars DID have some kind of answer, it's not that likely that they'd be sharing it with one tiny mortal on some distant planet, anyhow.

There's a moment while both of these fighters and friends take each other in, a momentary mutual sizing up. So much of the past, particularly the kidnapping by S.I.N., is a blur, that it feels like it's been ages since he saw Hotaru last. The pair working in concert to assault the nearly gutted YFCC to rescue their friends from the clutches of NESTS, fleeing back here... tanks attacking, agents arriving from an organization Frei has finally learned is Shadaloo. Dim images, hazy memories. Hurting people he cared about, and then at last the green and pink flashes of redemption at the hands of Alma and Kentou before the terrible, terrible silence began. And that's just his own memories. What has befallen Hotaru? Where is Ichiro?

The questions roil in Frei's mind, but when he finds his voice, they aren't what leave his lips at last. "You look... good," he says at last, and the space between intent and delivery of that last word, chosen with deliberate neutrality, is palpable. He'd delivered that line looking down into his own lap, but finally the green-eyed fighter looks up and at Hotaru, trying to look... if not serious, then at least calm, or calmer than he really feels. "I mean, as good as can be expected."

His answer is met with a quiet smile, bordering on coming across strained not for lack of trying but a shortage of energy. Taking a few steps forward, she stops closer to Frei, hands once again clasped behind her back as she leans forward and then turns to the side to stare out over the horizon of the city. The Futaba Estate rests at the top of a hill covered in wealthy properties. And from the rooftop, it's possible to see all the way down into the city below. The skyscrapers, normally beacons of a thousand lights, are barely visible, black outlines against the fading light. It's not the first time she's observed the unsettling sight from atop her dojo since the war began.

He says she looks good and Hotaru's expression suggests she feels skeptical about that. "I feel like a zombie." she replies, maintaining that same borderline playful tone mixed with a certain level of grim truth. The first words out of Elle's mouth when they met was 'You look awful.' That was 24 hours ago. She hasn't felt like she's gotten much better since. Taking it upon herself to slump into a seated position next to Frei, Hotaru rests her arms over her knees, "But thanks." She could be worse, after all. She could be dead.

"It got close." she admits. "K' found me before I made it back here. I was very sick." Her sentences are terse, the memories still too fresh, too painful, and not helpful with what she needs to accomplish tomorrow. She shakes her head. They've both been through so much. She's heard about what happened with him. He made it through, but at a painful price. She would have died, but for an impossible rescue by the last person she would have expected it from. "I was dying," she declares suddenly. "Marise... Marise saved me. I don't know why."

Her hand comes up to her face, resting over her eyes as she rubs absently. Too much to think about, too much that doesn't make any sense. It doesn't matter, she keeps telling herself. Nothing needs to be figured out except how she's going to get through tomorrow. How everyone is going to get through tomorrow. "Frei, most people are going to Seiyjun in the morning. Supposedly it's a safe zone. More protected than here, better defenses, more supplies."

She lowers her hand from her face to glance toward him, tired eyes studying him again, "Some of us are going to stay behind though. We're going to fight back. No more waiting for them to attack us. There's a plan..." Hotaru's voice trails off, jaw tensing. It was hard to ask Kentou to go to Seijyun. He wouldn't. It's just as hard to ask Frei if he wants to. "I would understand... I think all of us would... if you want to go with the camp to Seijyun."

Everyone's had their own price to pay. He's not the type to wallow in the 'oh woe is me, no other can appreciate my suffering' state, so Hotaru's description of her own ordeal doesn't necessarily hammer Frei with guilt... which it had the potential to, for certain. He couldn't stop Shadaloo from taking any of them. He couldn't fight off the drug. It wasn't him who found Hotaru, it was K'. Little things. Ichiro's expression -- his ridiculous determination, his sudden brush with the sorrow of loss, and perhaps most potent, the dirt-stained patch over one eye -- bores into his mind's eye. All things that were preventable. Things he was either too weak, or too unlucky, to accomplish himself. But even as Hotaru tells the story of her own suffering, and the events of the past few weeks fly by in Frei's head, he's forced to remember his own words: that was yesterday. What's important is here, and now... not tomorrow, not the past. What you can do, today. If you can adapt, and survive, then the battle's half won.

And yet...

"Maybe she didn't need a reason," the white-haired man offers, halfway on autopilot. He doesn't know a lot about Marise, can barely even place the name to the individual, but he knows enough to understand the import of what Hotaru is saying. But Kentou laid it straight out, even if Frei could argue over the semantics: what you do comes back to you. The *how* is debateable, but the results really aren't. Was it karma that brought the dark Koga woman to save Hotaru's life? Shaking his head, Frei glances at the roof tiles. "In fact, it's almost better if she didn't, isn't it?" Then he turns to look at Hotaru with an inquisitive expression. "An act of pure compassion, from some... internal well or compass. That's infrequent enough to be considered miraculous."

Of course, all that philosophizing he's doing is a distraction from what's REALLY on his mind, and probably what Hotaru REALLY came to say: we know you're in a bind. We know you might not feel up to fighting. We will forgive you if you go to safety and leave it to us. Hotaru's nervous energy is palpable and, for his own part, Frei doesn't blame her. If it were anyone else, she might be expecting something approaching fury at such a statement, or perhaps sudden grief. He doesn't show it, but in truth the statement does reach into the part of him struggling to deal with everything and squeeze, gripping him with a bitter ache he has no words for. For a moment or two, he is silent, eyes shut. 'No more waiting for them to attack us.' Fighting back. Defending what needs to be defended. It was a purpose, a reason, something that Frei lacked for the longest time and which so many of his experiences in Southtown, the last three years plus of his life, have finally given him.

"Spider-Man," Frei says at last, opening his eyes and looking down into the palm of his hand, held out palm up, fingers splayed. A second after that non-sequitur, he turns to Hotaru with a faint smile. "'With great power comes great responsibility', I mean. Shurui said something like it when I came back here. That even... as things are now, I can still do things many people here can't." He pauses, taking a breath. "Which is funny. I don't have great power anymore... well, I don't think I ever did, but even what modest strength I have is mostly gone," he says quietly. "But the *responsibility* is still there." Another pause, before he shrugs. "Maybe the phrase really means that great power awakens us to responsibilities we might otherwise not consider."

The young sage holds Hotaru's gaze a moment, before turning and looking up at the sky, chin tilted up, as he continues. "You knew I'd never go, but... I know asking me if I would must have been difficult." His eyes close a moment, before he ducks his head back down and smiles at Hotaru again. "Thanks for that. But I have to stay here. I don't know what use I'll be, if at all... but I have to do this."

He pauses, then adds, in a quiet tone, "It... might be the last time. I want to make it count. I want to know that

He pauses, then adds, in a quiet tone, "It... might be the last time. I want to make it count. I want to know that everything up until now wasn't for nothing."

Plenty familiar with the problem of not being able to save everyone, solve everything, stop anything. It was accepting that there are limits to what one can do alone that helped give her strength to shun the devil's techniques a year prior. Before it would distress her to not be able to fix everything. But accepting that some things were beyond her ability to solve brought with it a certain calm serenity - one that hasn't been thoroughly shaken since.

Her right hand comes to rest at the side of her head as she ponders Marise's intentions further, "She had a reason." the girl declares with certainty. "But I'm not sure she knew what it was herself." The fel thing had seemed so confused, so coerced. But what or who could have put her up to nearly killing herself to save a girl that had been nothing but a thorn in her side since the day they met? "I felt like I should know... but I can't worry about it right now."

She stays quiet as he answers her question, focused on Frei intensely and not breaking away as he contemplates and eventually looks to the sky. "I knew you would want to fight." she declares, finally looking to her own hands, her arms resting over her knees, "But I had to ask. What we're doing tomorrow..." Her voice fades. Fighting back like this. It's different than before. Wading into the YFCC to rescue those captured was necessary. Their friends depended on it. Fighting back against the forces attacking the refuge camp - also necessary.

Attacking the enemy back at one of their srongholds? That's different. "There's a plan. I've gone over it repeatedly. We'll have help. We're not going alone. But even with all that... I don't know what will happen."

She looks up, gazing back toward the heart of Southtown. "That's why I had to say what I said. If anything happens, I... I can't have people be there because I made them. I'm not some kind of war leader. I can't even pretend to know all the risks. And I can't be responsible for whatever happens. I hope you understand."

She looks to him again, "But for all that... I'm glad that you will be there. Even... even with how things are, you can help. We might fight side by side. We might split up. Depends on what's needed. But wherever you are, that's where you're needed." Her hands clench, the girl sitting up a bit more straight, "This has to work. It has to." Hotaru takes in a deep breath before continuing. "But look... no one needs to go in there to be a martyr. If it gets out of control... if it starts to come to pieces... get out of there. Take whoever you can help, and get out of there." the girl declares firmly.

That said, she reclines, leaning back against the gentle slope of the dojo roof. It feels cool against her back and somehow comforting. Memories of child hood chats carried out in the same location filter through her mind before she dismisses them with a shake of her head.

Until now, Frei had been sitting knees up, facing some random direction, mostly so he wouldn't fall off. He listens to Hotaru as she gives her reasons and voices some of her anxieties and fears. He says nothing, thinking about the same sorts of issues she herself is considering. What is being planned... it represents a line, and a fine one at that. Fighting on the defensive is practically built into the martial arts codes that people like Hotaru have lived their lives by: to protect, to teach, never for the sake of simply inflicting harm. But there's a slippery slope there, too, and it's obvious to Frei that Hotaru sees it, and more to the point, is concerned about sliding down it. After all, aggression in the name of defense has the potential to be the first step down a dangerous road...

The word 'martyr', however, *does* have a sudden and jarring effect on Frei, whose green eyes suddenly blink open wide. For a moment, everything Hotaru had just said is forgotten, and he's struck with a feeling that is, for him, unfamiliar: doubt. WAS he going into this with that intent? To make some sort of heroic sacrifice? It's not that he's afraid to die; more than once Frei has, in the name of engendering trust, put someone else's blade to his own neck. But that was... built on faith. Knowing that, while it COULD happen, he believed it wouldn't. Now... are things so certain?

And death makes dealing with life awfully convenient, which is to say, it makes it unnecessary.

"I don't..." he starts, staring down at the roof, before shaking his head and leaning back. He stretches his legs out, arcing one knee up, and leans back on his palms, pressed behind him into the same cool stone that Hotaru is lying against. Once again, while he addresses Hotaru, he nevertheless finds his gaze drawn upward. "I didn't mean I expected to die, though... I'm not sure I trust myself there, lately." He pauses, then bites his lip before continuing. "You familiar with the Tao? The philosophy of Taoism is that if you adapt to the will of Heaven, then you will have a fruitful life. You know?" He turns to look down at Hotaru as she lays there, watching her expression as he continues. "I mean, that's boiling it down pretty far, but that's the essence. The universe is... a machine, a great clockwork mechanism, and when we struggle against it we only hurt ourselves."

He stops talking for a moment, then shakes his head and looks to the side. "Part of me wonders if this is a sign, you know? That... this chapter of my life is over, and it's time to move on. That I shouldn't struggle against the will of Heaven, but instead find a way to be happy as I am. To accept things as they are." There's a moment as Frei purses his lips, before turning back to Hotaru. "Aren't we in the same position now? I mean... we could hold out here, and do our best, and let things resolve themselves. It's obvious that the people out there... they're stronger than us, at least in terms of... all this. But there's a part of you that's telling you moving out tomorrow and trying to stop it is still worth doing, right? That... that this isn't all pre-determined. That 'adapt to Heaven and live in ease' isn't the same as... being able to live with yourself in the morning."

She isn't looking at him as she speaks the words she felt needed to be said. By the time she's reclined, there's a very heavy pause - time left in which to reflect and think. She lets him take all the time he needs. At first her hands are behind her head, but after a moment she shifts, folding them over her stomach, staring up at the stars. She had tried to lay down and go to sleep last night. But the dialog she had with Elle and the myserious Ryouhara scion kept going through her mind. The deals struck, the bargains made, the risks hinted at but not explored in full detail. All three knew what was being discussed. There was no point belaboring the horrible truths that sat beneath it.

He starts to speak and she doesn't move except to continue breathing, and blinking occasionally, eyelids heavy. She doesn't say anything at all as he says he didn't expect to go in and die in the attempt of making a difference. Judging by the quiet neutrality of her expression, it's hard to say if she thought that's what might be on his mind or if she was simply expressing words she felt any wouldbe 'hero' should be aware of. To survive - isn't that more important? That has been the mantra of her life. Treat others nicely, respect the arts she had learned, challenge herself and grow, but above all else, make it to the next day. It has been that passion for living that had gotten her this far in the face of so many painful trails, so many harrowing experiences. That yern to survive a little longer. To date... that need to live has never been tested against her friendships and concerns for others. She hopes it never will.

He asks about the Tao and her eyes shift toward him but she gives no indication as to the level of her familiarity. Her eyes blink, and they're focused, so she's listening, but she's otherwise quiet. Her brow furrows slightly as he talks about there being a sign, that perhaps he shouldn't struggle against the will of Heaven and that he'll be happier for it. But then he asks of their present circumstances and what lies ahead, and her expression shifts slightly, the girl breathing in then exhaling slowly.

"If things were pre-determined, there'd never be any reason to act. Outcomes would already be certain. No. I don't believe that to be the case." She shakes her head. eyes closing for a moment before opening again. "We paint tomorrow with the blood, sweat, and tears that we shed today. That's the only truth there is to that. If there is a Heaven, and if it has a will, it wills that we act. That we do something." She moves again, hands slipping off her stomach to prop herself up a little by her elbows against the roof.

"Signs? Is every obsticle in our path a sign that we're going the wrong way? Or is it a challenge? A test? An opportunity? Or just the actions of amoral people who care nothing of signs, heaven, or divine will?" She lays herself down flat gain, eyes slipping closed again. "Or is it just the right thing to do? We can make a difference and so we should. It's that responsibility you were talking about. It is within our power. If we do nothing, /that/... that's just giving in. There's a difference with accepting the simple things of life and being willing to lie down and accept whatever other people throw at you."

She lifts one hand from behind her head, waving it vaguely at the world abroad, "What I went through... what any of us have been through..." The girl frowns, dropping her hand back over her stomach, "The only sign I can take away from any of that is to fight back harder and that's what I'm going to do." She breaths in again, then exhales. It feels good out here, on the roof. Cooler than in the non air-conditioned house. She closes her eyes again and this time leaves them closed.

"You don't have to just give up and accept your current circumstances. If... if you want to try and change them, then make that a goal. It's a worthy pursuit. Like most worthy pursuits... it will probably not..." She takes another deep breath. "... come easy. That's how life is."

That's his own belief, too. It was one that Frei tried to describe to Kentou when they talked about karma; the idea that there's some sort of predestined path for everyone. As he put it to the student he and Hotaru share, Frei's vision of karmic retribution was something like that. This is where your path has led you. The chi sage doesn't agree with that, though Kentou argued persuasively for a vision of karma more consistent with his own principles. Freedom -- the ultimate good, in Frei's eyes -- means the freedom to make choices, but also the freedom to accept consequences. It's when one tries to step away from that tide of cause and effect, to shirk the consequences of one's own choices, that problems arise. S.I.N.'s experiments on Hotaru and Frei and Ichiro weren't their own faults, but they were consequences of choices those three people made. Accepting that knowledge is part of life.


"I agree with you," Frei says distractedly, pausing a moment before continuing, taking a deep breath. "But the truth is we can never know. Maybe our choices were determined too? Or maybe not. I choose to believe that the things I do ultimately have meaning because I choose to do them, not because I'm following a script." He shakes his head. Yes. They agree on that, and the white-haired fighter suddenly wonders to himself why he restated it. Maybe to put it in his own words? Or rather, to give voice to the unsaid things behind the truth they've decided to embrace.

"I suppose the truth is that I'm... scared," he says at last, voice quiet, head bowed. Afraid of what? Death? Life without the abilities he's worked to master? Having to give up what he's come to think of as his 'career'? Frei shakes his head. "It might be that I face some fantastic trial and suddenly it'll all come flooding back. But it's equally possible that this is how it's going to be for the rest of my life." Again, he holds out his hand, palm up; it's a gesture Hotaru is likely familiar with, since in the past, Frei's used it quite often to make some point about chi... a little globe of light that would hover there, of whatever color or form.

Clenching his hand shut into a fist, he turns to Hotaru. "I don't buy predetermination. But I think the tao is right in that you should try to be happy with the circumstances of your life. That's worked for me, up until now. I've accepted the things I can't change. But I'm not sure I CAN accept this." He suddenly laughs, shaking his head. "Nataya... the Buddhist. Desire. That's what causes human suffering, you know? The inability to adapt to circumstances beyond your control. Desire's not a problem if you can fulfill your desires without hurting others..."

That sentence dies in the air, and for a second Frei shuts his eyes, thinking about such a careless statement. Both he and Hotaru know the price of power. Eventually his eyes open and he decides to lay down on the roof tiles himself. "But you're right, about worthy pursuits. That's how I know, though," he adds, turning his head, "that we're not heading down too dangerous a path, doing this. Because we know that when the violence gets easy, becomes the easy solution... we've stepped over the line."

She listens again as he speaks of choices and the significance to them. How they have meaning, how they reflect the agency to chose. That's part of being alive in her mind. Choices. All the while her eyes are closed, her mind listening but her thoughts wandering, pondering her own choices and how strange it would be to think that everything she had chosen to do was really predestined. Not just strange. Impossible.

It's when he confesses to being scared that she opens her eyes again and glances sidelong toward him. She can sympathize. She's been scared of a lot of things in life. Scared of failure, scared of losing everyone, scared of being a horrible teacher, scared that she would have give up fighting all together when her pursuit to further her strength seemed destined to take her down a path dangerous to herself and her friends. "It makes sense to be scared." She would be, she knows, facing the same question. "Makes sense to find out though too. Gotta try first."

She breaths in then exhales again, brow furrowed, "But you're more than just the sum of your parts. What's missing... may have been a very important part of you. But it's still just a part." She rubs her eyes again, sitting up, looking toward Frei directly as she does so. "Even without it, there's so much more to you. That's why you matter, Frei. To me, to Kentou, to your other friends." Her smile returns after being absent for so long, "You'll get through it. You have a lot of life ahead. A lot of time to discover new parts to you to develop and explore."

She stretches her arms before planting her hands on her knees, drawing them up in front of her. He lies down, turning his head, and gives her words of comfort in return. No. This is most definitely not easy. They're met with a slight nod of acknowledgement. "Thanks," the girl speaks. "It's a good point." Pressure is applied and tired, protesting limbs are forced back into getting her up to standing. "And maybe just the peace of mind I needed to get some sleep."

One last glance toward the horizon as she steps closer to the edge of the roof before pausing. "Hopefully tomorrow is the last time we have to do something like this. Somehow... I don't think life will be so easy... Good night, Frei."

How many times have these two fighters met like this? It's as if there really is some gravitational force that, in moments when both are facing a philosophical crisis, that draws them back together. For one brief moment, Frei stifles a smile at the thought that it is 'fate'... flying in the face of the previous conversation's tone, that it was no accident that these two people met, and will go on meeting. That it was all for some purpose.

Once again, however, Frei bows to Kentou's less actuarial concept of karma. Whatever's brought Hotaru and Frei to this point is of their own will. That much is certain.

"You know... there is someone I can ask about all this," he finally says, after a probably too-long silence. He glances up at the stars one more time, then back at Hotaru. "Three years ago, it would have been unthinkable, too. Before I came here. Before I met... everyone. But things change... and I'm glad for that. You're right." A beat, and a nod, before he continues. "You're right. That's all. You're right."

Somewhere in that white-haired head, a thousand separate thoughts sleet through, trying to be evaluated, said, dismissed. How much Frei has come to rely on Hotaru, though he rarely expresses that. And not just her, but Kentou too, someone she brought into his life. Not just that he's been helped by these two, and so many others, but how they may have quite literally saved his life. Not with fighting, but simply by being a part of his existence. As he told the student they both share, it was that note of green that brought him back to his senses... and in defiance of the claim that such things tie people down, it was a *reminder* of Frei's earthly bonds. That his life wasn't a mistake.

He wants to say the idea in his head, that predestination forms a pole with... random chance. That all of this happened for no perceivable purpose. And what Hotaru has said, REALLY said, and reminded Frei of, is that reality is somewhere in the middle. That people give individual purpose to existence through their actions and choices. But not just for *themselves*. Alma, Hotaru, Jiro, Kentou, Mizuki, Sakura... his own family... the master long dead to him. *Their* actions gave *Frei* purpose.

He wants to show her, effusively and completely, that complex net of ideas. The physical signs of it are faint and distinct, a slight widening of the eyes, a shift in facial features.

They're gone in an instant, and eventually he simply says: "Thanks... good night."

Log created on 22:42:00 05/24/2009 by Frei, and last modified on 01:41:39 05/26/2009.