Epilogue: Another Promise.
“Are you really okay with this?” asked Maihime.
Hotaru nodded. She was sitting in a chair in the old park near the ocean they used to go when they were children while Maihime was standing right behind her, getting close enough that their shadows were intertwined as one.
“Okay then, here I go!” said Maihime. She nervously raised a pair of scissors up to Hotaru’s bangs.
Now that she had some recreational time, Hotaru wanted to have her hair cut in the perfect place she could think of. Twenty nine years ago, she made a promise with Maihime at this very park. She couldn’t help but stare out into the ocean as Maihime cut her hair.
The view never changed, and probably never will.
“You know, I heard Mari woke up yesterday night,” said Maihime.
Hotaru stayed silent for a few moments before replying with, “I see… and the Administration Bureau?”
Hotaru sighed. Luckily, Maihime had gotten the gist of her question, so she didn’t need to explain further.
“In any case,” said Hotaru. “I’m no longer with them, so I’m gonna stay here. What about you?”
“Same. I really don’t feel like going inland… I stayed here to wait for you, but now I have a whole city to protect.”
“I see…” Hotaru replied yet again, but this time in a faint whisper. “It’s hard to believe that Marika didn’t get any punishment yet from them, even with everything she’d done.”
“Which makes it all the more possible that she could get into an ‘accident’ and die there if we sent her to them.”
Maihime nodded in agreement. “Hey Hotaru, can I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“What if we had just let her die yesterday?”
Hotaru didn’t answer right off the bat because the same thought had also crossed her mind. As Marika said herself, it wouldn’t have been unusual for students to be killed by the [Unknown]. With her gone, the Bureau loses yet another important agent in Kanagawa to threaten them.
“What do you think, Hime? She might come for you again.”
“Yeah, that’d be troublesome… but in the end I guess I didn’t want her to die. We’re all survivors of this war, after all.”
“You really are strong, Hime.”
“No I’m not!” laughed Maihime.
She continued to clip Hotaru’s hair bit by bit as the two enjoyed the scenery around them. If they didn’t know any better, they might as well still have been in the past before everything began. After all, ever since they had awoken from their slumber, Maihime had been protecting this very place in hopes that Hotaru would come back.
“I’m sorry, Hime,” said Hotaru. She knew the huge burden Maihime had carried on her little shoulders.
“Huh? For what?”
“I made you wait all this time…”
“It’s okay! I promised, right?”
Maihime smiled the brightest she had ever smiled. Seeing her in that carefree state made Hotaru smile as well.
After about an hour, Maihime finally finished.
“Alright, done!” she exclaimed, putting the finishing touches on Hotaru’s hair.
Hotaru stood up, turned around, and said, “So, how do I look?”
“Perfect! It fits you so well… You’ve become more like Hotaru, if that makes any sense.”
“It doesn’t…” Hotaru tried to keep a straight face but couldn’t help cracking up, which caused Maihime to do the same.
“Welcome back, Hotaru.”
“Glad to be back.”
They continued to savor the moment by staring at each other for a while longer.
“You know, it still feels really weird,” said Hotaru. “We met each other almost a month ago…”
Hotaru paused for a brief moment to compose herself before continuing. “Hey Hime…”
“What is it?”
“I have another promise to make.”
“I promise to become your right hand woman forever. I’ll come to your aid whenever necessary, and stay by your side forever and ever.”
“Hotaru, you don’t have to do that…” replied Maihime, but Hotaru stuck out her pinky anyway.
With a timid laugh of her own, Maihime completed their new pinky promise.
Marika had already been thrown in Kanagawa’s detention facility before the day was even over. It wasn’t the exact same room as the one Kurisu had been detained in, but the room was similar enough in that it had nothing but a toilet in it. She had just been in here for a bit, but she was beginning to understand the boredom Kurisu had been complaining about.
However, Marika couldn’t stop thinking about Hotaru… and Maihime. Even now, she still loved Hotaru. That fact hadn’t changed ever since she assumed her identity ten years ago and she never regretted it one bit. She couldn’t help but remember fondly on all the missions they did together until she couldn’t hide her secret any more.
Shino returned to being Hotaru, and as a result, she returned to being Marika. Even worse, Hotaru bluntly stated that she hated her and somehow she ended up being saved by Maihime.
She wondered why Maihime would do such a thing… even after all the things she had done to her, Maihime still chose to forgive. In any case, she no longer wanted her to die. Perhaps it was a sense of awe and wonder at Maihime’s actions that caused her sudden change of emotion. Perhaps not. Regardless of what she did, Marika still hated her guts. Or did she? She couldn’t tell anymore.
There was one thing she knew for certain, though. No matter what she did, she could never get in between Maihime and Hotaru. She remembered the beautiful smile Hotaru gave to Maihime on the battlefield.
“Ugh….” She plopped down on her bed. “She didn’t even show me that once in the past ten years…”
She frowned, but the suddenly click of the steel door unlocking soon caught her attention.
“Huh? The Administration’s here for me already?” she said grumpily. “That’s faster than I thought…”
Well, now that she thought about it, it wasn’t too strange. Yes, she was being disposed faster than Kurisu was, but she was an agent of the Bureau. By now, her boss Kanaya was probably freed from her [World], so the Bureau probably wanted to take care of her as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary leaks.
Marika didn’t really want to think about how they would kill her. Still, no one seemed to come in even with the door open. Marika eyed it suspiciously as she got up from her bed. She couldn’t see anyone outside.
“Hey!” someone suddenly shouted right in her ear.
“Woah!” Marika jumped back in shock.
“Ahahaha!” said Kurisu, appearing out of nowhere. “That was a pretty cute squeal you just did.”
“Sup, Hotaru… wait, no. Marika?” she replied jokingly.
Marika patted her chest in an effort to calm herself down before continuing. “Why are you here…” she said. “Weren’t you caught too?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. How could they catch me when I can go invisible in the midst of all those unconscious students, [Unknowns], and god-knows-what that were out there at that park?”
She wasn’t wrong. Even Maihime would have a hard time catching her if she turned invisible and ran away.
“So if you’re so great, why did you come visit the lowly me? I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now, you know…”
“Hey don’t take it out on me just cuz you had your heart broken.”
Marika glared back at her, but Kurisu wasn’t necessarily wrong so she couldn’t say anything back at her.
Kurisu shrugged. “I just came to return a favor. You probably weren’t doing it for my sake, but you did bust me out once before, so I thought I’d do the same to you and let you go free.”
“What about you? What are you planning to do?”
“Me? Hmm… I obviously can’t stay here or go back to Tokyo for that matter, so maybe I’ll head to Chiba. Who knows? I might end up in a completely different place altogether. There’s a lot more cities in this country, right?” she said and then grinned. “Wait. You don’t want to come with me, do you? I’m cool with it actually. You don’t seem to have any friends, so I’ll be your first one. We are fellow Maihime rejects, after all.”
She ended by reaching out her hand for a handshake, but Marika just eyed her suspiciously.
“Why me?” she asked.
“With your [World] by my side, I could live wherever I want however I want,” replied Kurisu.
“Wow you sure are blatant about that…” Marika paused for a few seconds before busting out a laugh. “But I guess you’re right. It would be pretty fun to have your [World] at my disposal, too.”
Marika went for the handshake until Kurisu quickly withdrew her hand.
“What was that for?”
“No, it’s just that I remembered it’d be bad if you touched me… you know.”
Marika sighed. “You’re awfully careful for someone who wanted to be my friend just now…”
“That’s a separate matter. This is different.”
“Fine. Just know that I’ll be able to touch you all I want in your sleep, then.”
“That’s kinda hot actually… But hey, all I have to do is turn invisible first before I sleep, right?”
“You sure do.”
The two left the room together while still eyeing each other suspiciously.
Now that they were finished, Hotaru and Maihime started to walk back to the city.
“By the way, Hime…”
“What is it?”
“This blade,” said Hotaru, taking out her black katana and showing it to her. “You said you made it, so did you give it a name?”
“Oh, I haven’t told you yet! I certainly did,” she replied. In an exaggerated fashion she puffed her chest out and struck a pose. “That blade is like the brightest star in the night sky, the one that strikes fear in all enemies alike: The Shining Blade of The Red Star and Maihime!”
“The Shining Blade of the Red Star… and Maihime?”
“That is correct. All sword names need to have the person who made it, right? But including everyone from that department is a bit… Well, I’m the one who made it! They were really helpful, though… Still, it’s okay, right?”
Hotaru couldn’t help but crack a laugh.
“Is that… a no?”
“No, no, definitely not,” replied Hotaru. “It’s just a huge weight to carry when you stick your name on it like that. How could I ever face you again if I lost and disgraced your name?”
“You’re thinking to much into it…” chuckled Maihime.
As they continued to walk, they suddenly saw Ginko, Zakuro, and Aoi coming from the opposite side.
“Hey!” Ginko called out to them.
Zakuro followed up with her own greetings. “How’s it going Maihime and Shino wait no Hotaru.”
Unlike the other two, Aoi was incredibly flustered. “Finally! I was looking for you guys!”
“What’s going on, Aoi?”
“It’s bad! Marika escaped! She’s gone!”
“Say what?” Hotaru.
“It seems like Kurisu helped her escape. I also got a report of a missing vehicle… so they probably used that after they got out!”
Hotaru and Maihime instinctively turned to look at each other and both burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny you two?” asked Zakuro.
“A-Ah, it’s nothing. Sorry,” said Maihime.
“Yeah, my bad. I just thought it was kind of funny.”
Their responses just made the others even more confused, but Ginko cut straight to the chase.
“In any case,” she said, “this is serious! Let’s get—”
Her words were cut short by the all too familiar siren that indicated [Unknowns] were coming.
“Why now of all times?!?!” she finished in frustration.
“Hurry, we’ve got to get ready!” shouted Aoi.
“Calm down, everyone,” said Maihime, clapping her hands once to get their attention. “You all know what to do. Go, this isn’t anything new!”
“Yes, ma’am!” they said with a salute. They were gone in an instant, leaving Hotaru and Maihime behind.
“Should we go too, Hime?”
“Yes, let’s do it,” nodded Maihime. Her lips slowly curled up into a smile before she said one last thing.
Let’s go save the world one more time.