Chapter 52/Epilogue: Our Reality

...

Monika's chest slowly rose and fell, her head resting on my lap, her eyes closed. Blankets had been placed over her body to keep her warm, and near or around her were Natsuki, Sayori, and Yuri. They didn't want to leave her tonight, and I don't really blame them.

After her rescue we had moved her out of the room and made her some food, doing whatever we could to make sure she was comfortable. Monika was shaken up by what had happened, and even if she was finally able to relax it would take her a while to move past it. However, at least for today, it turned into a sort of party, all of us celebrating our reunion and just loving the fact that Monika had returned to us.

The others had tired themselves out quickly, Monika falling asleep like this and the others following soon after. I was too worked up to sleep, really, so I remained awake, softly stroking my wife's chestnut brown hair. Mizu had also remained awake, as he went and checked on the computer. It was maybe an hour since Yuri had finally started sleeping that he returned, finding an unoccupied space in a chair and sitting in it with some soda in hand.

"... So, you were looking at the game's files I take it?" I ask, and he nods.
"I was. I wanted to know what happened." He murmured, sipping his drink.
"Did you find anything?" I ask, and he once again nods.
"The game is gone. Deleted. You try to run it and it closes itself." He says, and my thoughts go back to how the game originally played out; how, after you beat it, the game would delete itself. Mizu noticed the look on my face and he sipped his drink.
"Yeah, just like the game." He said, determining what I'd been mulling over.

"... Any idea why any of this happened?" I ask, and he shook his head.
"On my downtime I've taken to surfing forums and sites, poking around. As far as I've seen, no one has really posted about this, except as a story idea or as a joke." I frown a bit more, stroking Monika's locks. Mizu sips his soda, looking to the clock on the wall.

"What also puzzles me is the time; you were in the game for a solid month or two, but you said the time hadn't moved forwards much when we got out." He said and I nod a bit.
"I entered the game, as far as I know, on a Friday. When we escaped to this world, it was the Wednesday of the next week." At this, Mizu frowns.
"Does that mean Monika was in there for longer than we thought?" The question hangs in the air for a minute as I consider it.
"... Possibly. The whole world sort of collapsed though, so I'm not sure if time even applied at that point, or if it was noticeable. If she had been there for longer, she might have been starving but she didn't seem terribly famished when I found her."

"... Do you think we will… you know, return?" He posed a question that had been lurking around in my mind, and I shrugged.

"I can't tell you. I barely know much about it myself. But… I think if you were going to return, you would have already. The game is technically over, you five would have been deleted and reset by now."

A tension I just noticed in Mizu eased, and the icy blues of his flick to me, then to Sayori as he offers a soft smile.

"... Let's hope for the best then. And I guess, at the end of the day, so long as we got out and don't have to return not knowing the cause can be let go." I smile a little at him as he adjusts positions, finishing his drink and laying down.

"... We're gonna need a bigger place; it's starting to get cramped in here." He said.
"Yeah, but that is a tomorrow talk. For now, I'd just like to enjoy the peace." I answer and he chuckles quietly.
"You got it. Goodnight, Monty. And… thank you." He turned on his side away from me, and ended the conversation.

I sighed and smiled a bit, stroking Moni's hair one last time before I moved carefully, attempting to pull away from her. I used a pillow to substitute my lap and for a second it worked as I got up, freshening myself up and then turning the lights down. I went to find an empty spot on the couch since I didn't want to wake her.

"Monty?"

Oops. I look over and I can make out her form sitting up in the darkness, and I gingerly step over the sleeping Natsuki.
"Hey hun, did I wake you?" I ask, but she just tiredly reaches for me, groping in the darkness. I move closer and she latches onto me, pulling me back onto the couch and now laying on top.

"Don't… don't leave me." She mumbles tiredly, and I feel my heart twinge as I stroke her cheek to calm her down. She leans into my touch a bit, her eyes closing as her head rests on my chest.
"I won't, love. I promise." I reassure her, and she snuggled into my chest and smiles in content. I play with her hair for a little longer before I finally feel sleep catch up with me.

It's the best sleep I've ever had.

...

"Monty, can you help me with these boxes?" I heard Natsuki call and I turn and start walking over.
"Yeah, these ones right here?" I ask and she nods as I lift them up.
"Thanks." She said and I smile.
"Not a problem~," I say as I heft them out to the large moving truck sitting in the driveway.
"Can we get pizza for lunch after this? Moving these boxes is making me hungry." Sayori asks and Mizu helps her lift a slightly large piece of furniture up into the back of the truck.
"I don't see why not, I could go for a nice four-cheese right now." Monika chimes in as she brings more boxes in.

The truck is about halfway full at this point, with the heaviest stuff loaded already. There isn't much more left in this apartment; the five didn't have a lot to their names yet, just some clothes and personal effects, but that won't be the case for long.

"I'm just glad we have some time for summer before classes, I'm not gonna lie, really not looking forwards to school again." Mizu grimaced and made Natsuki and Sayori make a similar face. But I just chuckle and shrug.
"Well, think of it this way; we've just hit the beginning of summer vacation for normal high school students, meaning we have a huge block of time before classes do start up again. So, we can enjoy these halcyon days as much as we'd like, since we've still got plenty of cash. After we get all this stuff moved into the new house, that is."
"You mean your stuff." Natsuki jabbed and I just shrug.
"Hey, I'm pretty much the only one with furniture and stuff, but we'll get you guys beds and proper stuff soon."
"Oh good, the couch has been quite uncomfortable on my back," Yuri admitted, and Monika pats her shoulder and gives her a sympathetic look.

As I place the last big box, I look over everything and then turn to the group.
"Is that everything?" I ask them and Sayori nods.
"Everything- well, almost everything. I think your computer is still packed in your room." I smiled and nodded, making my way past them.
"I'll grab it, you guys just get in the cars and get ready. Mizu, you sure you've got this? I have a friend who could drive this." I ask and the former MC smirks.
"I mean I drove a car in the other world, plus you've been giving me lessons, how hard could it be?"
"That… that doesn't make me any more confident, you know." I joke and he scowls at me while Sayori giggles and nudges him, meanwhile I disappear into my home once again.

As I take my steps inside the apartment, it sort of hits me that this is it; this is the last time I'll ever be here. I look over and notice a small calendar still hung up; guess we missed that. It's been a month and a half or so since we rescued Monika and about 3 and a half- or four months since I entered the game. Time flies, doesn't it? I smile a little and pass the calendar, noting the memories of this place and my life with those five as I do.

Yuri attempting to flambe some crepes. Natsuki and I baking some sugar cookies, which Mizu and Sayori devoured. Monika and Mizu getting overly competitive with SSB Ultimate.

As I reach my bedroom, I see my computer in a box against the wall, nicely packed and ready to move. The more fragile stuff I had taken in already, this was just the monitor and the tower. As I approached and leaned over to pick it up, I paused, and instead opened the case. I looked at the neatly-packed pieces of equipment, and I smiled a bit.

It was through them that everything had happened. It was through them that I found myself in their world, and I did my best to beat the odds and help give them a life they deserved. I smiled a bit to myself, and I placed a hand gently on the tower.

"... I don't know who, or how, or why. But thank you." I whisper and close the box up again before lifting it.

As I turn around, for a second my room looks unpacked. I see myself sitting on the bed, a smile on my face.

"... You did well."

I pause and blink, but it's all gone. Like it never happened.

I don't know why, but there is this feeling of emptiness, of sadness that wells up in myself. But I smile nonetheless.

"... See you later."

With that, I take the box out of the apartment, closing the truck up and then locking the place up. I get into the cab of the truck, Monika by my side as we pull away and onto the street, heading for our new home with the others following behind.

...

The water gently lapped at our feet, the sun slowly descending. A beautiful sunset would be here soon.

Our home, now fully stocked with furniture and stuff for the five, was fully unpacked and now felt like home. I had taken on the role of guardian legally for the five so that we could sign them up into a high school nearby. I was still going to college, and the drive over was longer but it was worth it to have them happy.

After setting up, Monika had proposed a beach day to let us all take a break from it, and we agreed. I actually ended up suggesting a weekend stay, and for Friday and Saturday, it has been absolutely wonderful. The beach, the food, the fun; just what you would expect from a perfect beach vacation.

Sayori and Mizu had gone out on their own for a date; they decided to take a stroll around the town and just enjoy the walk with each other, maybe catch a movie too. Honestly, I was glad; they have been doing a lot better together, and ever since Monika was rescued it feels like Sayori has been overall happier.

Natsuki and Yuri were out by themselves. I think Yuri had noticed a cool cafe with sweets which Natsuki would like, and the two went over to chat, have food, and enjoy their current stories. As far as I know, Yuri's really been digging the Higurashi series, and Natsuki's been reading the Spice and Wolf light novels.

And that just left Monika and I. Since everyone else found things to do, we decided to try and have a redo on the original beach day date. We spent the whole afternoon traveling the boardwalk, enjoying the water, and just laughing and having a good time. It was beginning to turn into a beautiful sunset by the time we arrived at a pier, sitting at the end of it.

I remembered the last time this happened, but Monika's hand intertwined with mine before any worries could take root. She stroked the back of my hand with her thumb and gave me a soft smile.
"Don't worry honey. I'm still me." She said, and I replied the smile with a kiss on her cheek.
"Good, because the last time things happened I had the power of the games healing factor on my side; I don't think I have that anymore." I joke and she looks down a bit from that. I scoot closer and kiss her cheek again.

"Hey now, it's over honey. I promise I won't ever do something like that ever again." She looks at me, her eyes almost glowing from the light.
"I know, it's just… I still have a hard time grasping it. Grasping the fact that it is over. That we are free." She looks out to the ocean, the suns dying rays hitting it perfectly and making it shine like one of the most beautiful gems in the world.

"Come on, talk to me." I gently urge and she glances over, before back out to the sea.
"I mean, I always wanted this. This freedom, this reality. I am here now, with no strings to pull me like a puppet, no code to control me. And I love it, but… I guess I just get nervous thinking about it. Because there is no way to predict the future, no pre-planned routes for our lives to take. And it is a bit scary to consider." I nod a bit, and look out to the ocean.

"I mean, you aren't wrong; the future is very scary. And before I really met you guys, it petrified me sometimes. But… that's what life is about too. Life is about continuing on through the fear, into the future. But what's the point of having that life, that freedom, if you don't use it, and you just worry about what-if's?" I look over and smile at her.

"... That sounds like some cliche from a book or movie honey." She deadpans and I just shrug.
"So what if it is? It doesn't make it wrong." I counter, and she sighs, before smiling.
"... Thanks, Monty. And did you enjoy our redone date?" She asked, and I grin.
"No problem, Monika. And of course; I'm with the most amazing woman in the world, why wouldn't I enjoy the date?" I muse and she giggles, before leaning her head against my shoulder.

We sit there in silence for a few minutes, watching the sun disappear, before I feel her head lift off of my shoulder and her hand going to my cheek. I can feel it trying to guide me, so I go along with it. I am met with her beautiful greens, a wonderful smile, and a cute little red on her cheeks from the sun she got earlier today.

Absolutely. Perfect.

"Monty?"
"Yes, Moni?"
"I love you."
"I love you too."

I close the distance, our eyes close and the kiss is perfect. The sun dips down and disappears, the stars beginning to show.

We pull away, cheeks flushed, our hearts aflutter. I look at her and I can picture it; picture the happiness before us. For all of us, this time. For a moment longer we stay there, before she gets up.

"How about we finish this up with a nice dinner? My treat~" She giggles and offers a hand. I take it and smirk.
"Alright then, Moni, what do you have in mind?"
"Didn't you just earlier say to live life and experience it?" I chuckle a bit as she uses my own words against me.
"Ever the sly one, huh darling?" She just smiles proudly.

"Ahaha, would you have it any other way? Come on, follow me~" She sang and moved down the pier, taking a familiar pose as her hands were behind her back and she leaned forwards a little.

"Are you coming~?"

I smile and start walking over to her, offering my arm.

"Yeah, I wouldn't miss this for the world."

She loops her arm through mine, and together we walk down the boardwalk, the ocean waves slowly fading into the backdrop.

The End.

Author's Note:

Hello everyone, Crimson here. Well… here we are. The conclusion of a story I started Christmas Eve, 2018. LOVE . chr.

As I sit here, writing this, a lot of emotions are coming to me. This is my first, wholly complete story. I've written plenty of one-shots, plenty of partially-started fanfics, but in my life I have never taken the time to fully write out something like this. Mind you, I always wanted to; I wanted so badly to write out stories for my original characters and OC's, and I want to eventually be an author (before you point out my grammar, yes I know I made plenty of typos in the earlier chapters). But I was always just… scared. Scared I would lose interest and stop writing the story, or that I would never get it finished.

But DDLC, and Monika in particular, changed that. See… I fell in love with Monika the same way I wrote it out in the story; I watched a Youtube video, and I saw Monika's confession, her deletion, and then… her apology, her redemption. And to me, while I didn't agree with her actions I understood them. She was just desperate and lonely. And that burned me, it burned me hard.

I got invested into Doki Doki Literature Club after that; I played the game, watched Youtuber's run it, I learned as much as I could. But I couldn't shake this feeling of despair, of wanting to help Monika out of me.

So, in my desire to give her, and them all, a happy ending, I began LOVE . chr.

It was a pipe dream at first; could I really write this all out? Could I really complete this massive fic which I wanted to write? And I was nervous about it for a while. But as I wrote, I shared it with you all and shared it with my friends… and I got so much support, so much appreciation. I was floored.

I was so nervous when I first started this, but everyone around me kept me going. And soon, I found the first arc done, and then the second, and the third. I started going slower in the Monika arc due to laziness and life, and a bit of depression here and there, but I never forgot; I never forgot the story, or her.

And, almost a year and a half later, we are here. It's done; the final chapter of LOVE . chr. By the way, it is supposed to be LOVE . chr (minus the spacing between) and not LOVEchr, but FF is silly and won't let you have periods in the title like that. IDK man, this site can be weird sometimes, heh.

And I guess I just wanted to say, to everyone out there who cared enough to read my story; thank you, thank you so much. Your support helped push me on, writing this story. I wrote it for myself, and I wrote it for you guys who wanted to see it end properly, just like me. I am forever grateful for you taking the time to join me on this journey, this experience. I feel myself going to cry just as I write this. You guys and your support means the world to me, and I hope you enjoyed the ending. I won't lie, I was thinking of ATLA and that soft ending while writing this, so I think it'll hit home perfectly.

But yeah, that about wraps it up for me. This story is done, finished, and happily completed.

I won't say that this is the last time you'll Monty, Mizu + the gang though. I had an idea for a few one-shot stories I could write between the characters, some slice-of-life wholesomeness that you could enjoy. I don't know if I'll ever write them, but if I do I will post them here. I have no idea what I'd title the collection, though.

But that's tomorrow's thoughts. I'm gonna sign off here and enjoy some rest. Once again, thank you for reading; I hope you enjoyed the ride.

-Crimson