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Moth to Flame

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Himeno Akatsuki was the traitor.

Although it may have been more accurate to call her ‘one of’ the traitors, seeing as both George and Nagi had been eliminated already, their betrayals hadn’t held the same weight as this one, or at least not to Yoko.

After George’s betrayal had taken the group by surprise, she could have read the others, could have assisted Sho in uncovering the next traitor.

Yoko didn’t want to believe that another one amongst them could be on The End’s side.

That’s what she had told everyone, at least, herself included.

“You just don’t want to open yourself up, to get hurt,” Himeno mumbled along with a vague hand gesture.

“E-excuse me?” Yoko sputtered.

“You heard me,” Himeno replied, resting her head back against the vine-covered wall with a sigh, “That’s why you won’t use your power to tell us who it is- you just don’t want to know. You’re like one of those grade school girls who leaves an anonymous letter in the locker of the guy she likes, so that way she doesn't have to worry about getting a response back either way.”

“That’s not true!” Yoko’s attempt to sound indignant was hampered by a twinge in her leg. “Ugh…”

The group that Sho had chosen for this mission had found themselves split apart after they had stepped through the gate. Even so, Himeno had been too brash, rushing ahead before Yoko could perform any sort of buffer on her. She had been overwhelmed, swarmed by enemies, she had gone berserk quickly after that. Everyone had fled from her as far as they could get until she could reclaim herself- everyone but Yoko.

“You know that none of us can be reasoned with once we’ve gone berserk. You should’ve just left me there like the others did.” Himeno took a side-eyed glance at the burn wound on Yoko’s leg.

Although Himeno hadn’t yet apologised for injuring the other girl, Yoko couldn’t help but think that she would find a remorseful phrase or two thrashing about if she were to read Himeno for a second time.

After they had lost Nagi, Yoko had  read everyone, one by one, her anxiety mounting each time she found someone to be innocent, until there was only one teammate remaining.

She didn’t have to read her. No one had taken her aside and asked her to use her power, all relying solely on Sho instead. By process of elimination alone, it was clear who the traitor was.

Yoko was drawn to her, like a moth to her bright flames. Even if they weren’t in this terrible situation, Yoko thought, and they had only met on the street or in a coffee shop by chance, she would still have wanted to read Himeno, to hear what was in the mind of a girl with such a heated presence masked by such a cold exterior.

Himeno Akatsuki, the girl seated beside in her in the damp grass, waiting with her for Sojiro to come and heal them both, was undoubtedly a traitor.

After she received no other response than an uncertain frown on Yoko’s face as the esper continued to poke and occasionally prod at her wound, as if she expected The End himself to swoop down from the sky and congratulate her on her suffering, Himeno continued, “What were you planning to do? Put on a concert for the enemies? Sing them to death? It’s not as if you have any useful offensive gifts…”

So she could burn in more ways than one, Yoko thought, even if it hadn’t been a terribly clever slight, they were both exhausted so she could still give her credit for the effort. “Would you like for me to sing right now?”

Himeno raised a brow. “I thought you were saving that for ~when your feelings could be truly made known~ or some crap.”

Yoko shrugged with a wry smile. “Who knows. Maybe I’m the traitor, and this is my final chance to let someone hear me. The least you could do is humor a woman on death row.”

Himeno closed her eyes, relaxing her shoulders for the first time since they had stepped through the gate. “Go for it.”

Yoko sighed, taking a deep breath as she attempted to reign in her mind, making certain not to transmit any errant thoughts or feelings to Himeno during the song. Even if it were the last song that Himeno was ever going to have a chance a hear, Yoko still wanted it to stand on its own merit. No matter the circumstance, Yoko was absolutely firm on that.

The flames of the end

The fires from the edge

The warmth of you, my friend…”

The song continued on for a minute or two, Yoko’s voice steady enough for someone in pain until, however, she wavered a bit toward the ending, Himeno’s head suddenly resting soundly on her shoulder, giving her more than a little of a surprise. Maybe her cheeks had gotten a little burnt as well, Yoko wondered, suddenly feeling warm.

“…’Till the end.

’Till the end.”

“That much was sadder live than on your CD.”

Yoko jerked, nearly tossing the other girl off of her shoulder. “My CD? But I only sold those in limited quantities on my blog! I only sold fifteen of them!”

Himeno shrugged against her side. “You had to sell them to someone. I’m sorry it couldn’t have been Sho or that cute guy at your favorite coffee shop or whatever…”

Yoko shook her head. “No, no! I’m…I’m really happy. …Wait a minute. What ‘cute guy at the coffee shop’?”

Himeno let free a laugh, quite possibly the first Yoko had heard from her. “You just seem like the kind of girl who would have a favorite coffee shop. You know, you go there every Friday evening and write your songs and sigh over cute guys…or is it cute girls? ...Same difference.”

Yoko rolled her eyes with a snort. “If you say so.”

“Hey,” Himeno continued, lifting her head from Yoko’s shoulder to look her in the eye. “How about once we get out of here- save this damn world you all love so much, God knows why- we go to one of those coffee shops together?”

It was Yoko’s turn to laugh. “Are you asking me out?”

“Whatever floats you boat.”

“Hey! Are you two okay?” It was Sho running toward them. “We beat the floor; the gate’s opened back up. Sojiro can fix you both up back in the hall.”

Sho reached down a hand toward Yoko, before glancing toward Himeno and moving his hand just slightly closer to her instead. He seemed to be hoping that one of them would grab on on their own, saving him from appearing to favor one teammate over the other. After allowing him to suffer for another moment, Himeno finally put him out of his misery by putting an arm under Yoko’s shoulder, helping her up and limping past their leader completely, leaving him fumbling to find something to do with his arm instead, finally settling on rubbing the back of his neck.

How could Himeno be so cruel, Yoko wondered as they returned through the gate. She must know very well that she wouldn’t be able to take Yoko on that date.

However, maybe just for a little while, Yoko thought that she could be more like a moth to a flame- moving toward the beautiful lie before her, keeping the inevitable end far out of mind.

Maybe they both could.