Disclaimer: I do not own The Promised Neverland. It is property of Posuka Demizu and Kaiu Shirai.


Act 22


(Ray POV)

"B-Back on the wall… you almost called her…" I trailed off, feeling thrown off kilter and Anna nodded silently to me. I sighed, putting my face in my hands, trying to recollect myself.

It all sounds so utterly ridiculous to me. Reincarnation. The existence of different, parallel universes. The fact that to her, we were all…

I gulped, not liking the ideas springing up in my head, and moved my hands away from my face to look at her. My heart was throbbing in my chest at the very idea of it, but I pushed it aside.

Me being Mama's real kid. That's something that, in that house, only Mama and I would've known, unless you had a special outside source of information. And there's no reason someone would have just told her that Mama and I were blood related…

So, there's really no other way to explain how she'd know that, unless she had learnt it from reading the 'story' of our world, as unbelievable as it sounds.

This isn't Anna's first life. After being murdered, she was sent here where if things hadn't gone as well as they did, she'd have been murdered a second time. Whatever sent her here… is too cruel, too twisted… but I can't help but be glad for it at the same time. If she hadn't been placed here, what kind of bond would the 'original' Anna and I have had? Would I have gone through with my original plan and sacrificed myself…? The way Emma was talking last night made it sound like I did.

I let out a breath, and stepped forward, grabbing her and pulling her in to hold her.

"I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it all. The idea of reincarnation and parallel universes defies all logic. And yet, this is a world where demons exist and we humans are farmed to feed them. That's the world you were born into alongside us. I'm sorry." I told her.

She flinched in my hold, and I felt her shake her head, "N-No, no, that's not your fault, Ray! It's not anybody here's fault…!" Anna said.

"I'm sorry that I'm so happy you were born here, even though you could've ended up dead all over again." I clarified for her and pulled back to check her reaction.

When I saw it, I tried to keep a straight face but I felt a smile slip out regardless.

Her face was so red!

"I still have some reservations about it all, but there's no other way to explain the knowledge you have, so I'll accept it. I want to talk about it more one day, though. If you're willing," I added.

Anna nodded, letting out a shaky breath, "That's fair. Okay. Anyone of you guys can talk to me about it, anytime. And I'll be honest with you guys. No more secrets," she agreed, and I nodded in acceptance.

"Then we'll move on from that. You said that we might encounter some demons that don't eat people? Could you tell us more? And why can you be so sure they'll cooperate?" I pushed the conversation forward.

If she has information that can benefit us, we need to hear it before we move forward. At least a little bit of it. We can't be sure how far behind us our pursuers from the HQ are, so we'll need to start moving again. And fast. Since we've eaten, we should probably get moving within 10 minutes if we want to widen the distance between us.

Anna nodded, "These two demons are called Mujika and Sonju. Mujika is a small demon with long purple hair and blue skin, wearing a mask with two horns. She's about the size of Emma and Ray. Sonju is way taller, about 100 centimeters taller than Ray, as a guess. He has red hair with two bangs braided at the front and it's shorter and shaggy at the back. He has purple skin. He's wearing a mask with one horn and carries a spear," Anna began by giving a description of the two demons for us and we all took in the details to keep an eye out for them, if we did decide to seek them out;

"Sonju and Mujika are demons that don't need to consume humans in order to retain their form and intelligence, which is considered irregular for demons. They're considered 'Evil Blooded' and are seen as pariahs amongst regular demons. They'll say it's due to their religion that they don't consume human flesh, so even if we encounter them, they won't attack us on sight, so we'll be able to plead out case to them and ask for their assistance. Originally, we'd meet them when our pursuers are about to catch us and Emma had passed out from an infection in her ear. Sonju would rescue Ray who was distracting the pursuers and slay them, and Mujika would guide the rest of us to a safe, hidden area. And they'd sooner feed us and teach us to survive out here, rather than eat us," Anna explained.

Gilda spoke, "They sound kind… it's kind of hard to imagine." She said softly, dipping her head.

Emma nodded, and touched her wrapped ear gingerly, glancing to her side, "But this time, you've already cleaned, disinfected and wrapped mine and Ray's ears ahead of time. I don't think I'll be passing out, this time around. Can we still get them to help us if we don't have that?" she questioned.

I hummed, seeing Emma's point. And on top of that, I'd originally used myself as a distraction for our pursuers? It's a solid plan, if things get that bad.

"There's also the chance that we won't reach the right part of this forest to meet Mujika and Sonju, right? And when did we encounter them?" I asked her.

Anna ducked her head, looking guilty, "I don't know… it was at night time, but I don't know if it's today, or tomorrow that we'd meet them. I'm sorry…! The story was never specific on when things happened." She said, and bit her lip.

I shook my head, "This is the problem with knowing only a set timeline of events, I guess." It was frustrating, but it's something we'd have to work around. "We can only keep moving in the same direction we would have, had you not told us anything just now, and hope that it leads us where we need to go. We might not be able to meet these two demons right now. If that's the case, we'll have to work without their assistance." I said.

"And… isn't it a bit relieving that there are some demons that won't immediately see us as a meal, right? You said it's like their religion, so maybe there are other demons apart from them that won't eat us, too. We might be able to make more allies—" Don began and I cut him off.

"But we can't rely on that! If we hesitate on the idea that a demon might not eat us, we could end up being eaten when we could have escaped." I pointed out and Don flinched; he must've seen my point. "For now, we should trust only the demons who match Anna's description, and nobody else."

Everyone looked hesitant, but nodded. The looks on their faces said it was a lot to take in, which was obviously going to happen, but they also looked like they were trying to process it. They wanted to believe in Anna, as much as I did, and because of that they were trying to come to terms with it and accept this new reality.

Anna was reincarnated. She knew us all, before she even met us. She's been holding back, knowing how much danger everyone was in, all this time, to try and protect everyone's happiness, until it wasn't safe to keep it to herself anymore. And now, she's promised to be candid. Any question we need to ask, she'll answer it.

But we need to be careful about what we ask her. If our future changes too drastically, we'll lose the advantage of her intel…

"H-Hey… guys?" Thoma suddenly spoke up, sounding panicked.

We all turned to look at him; he'd scrambled up to his feet and was looking around wildly.

"Thoma, what's wrong?" Emma asked, looking concerned.

His eyes flicked around anxiously, "I-I can't see Lani anywhere… I-I think he went to use the bathroom on his own…!" Thoma told us and I almost cursed out loud.

"Damn it! I told him not to wander off on his own…!" Don cried. Before Anna started telling us her story… yeah, I remember Lannion did talk about needing the toilet. But to think he'd go off on his own, like that.

Wait, did this happen in the original story…?!

I spun around to look at Anna for confirmation. She'd already jumped to her feet, looking as though she already knew what was going on.

"I know where he might be, but we need to hurry. Look around nearby for roots that are formed like a lattice along the floor. It's actually hollow underneath. If I'm right, Lani should have fallen through into a cavern bellow, but there's a specific type of demon living in there." She told us as she fished out a book from her bag.

Ugo's Adventures.

"We can rescue Lani and escape this demon's den using a story from this book. It's actually full of hints on how to survive out in this demon's world, hidden in the story like with my notes' code!" she added and Emma nodded, taking it seriously.

"Alright. Let's not waste any time, then! We'll save Lani, if he's really down there!" she said, getting up and hoisting her backpack onto her shoulders.

Everyone else followed suit, and set off in the direction behind where Thoma and Lannion had been sitting, to begin searching for him.


(Anna's POV)

"Hey, Lani! Stop messing around and come out!" Don called out for Lani.

"Lani! Answer if you can hear me!" Emma added, joining in.

"No answer… Did Lani fall unconscious after he fell? These roots look like what Anna described, but… I can't see an open—" Ray was speaking, when Gilda called over, cutting him off.

"Over here!" Gilda cried, and we all ran to join her by some tangled roots. This has got to be it. It definitely looks familiar, at least.

"Did you find Lani? Or a way in?" Emma asked Gilda.

The bespectacled girl nodded, and pointed, "Yeah, look. There's a sizable hole here. And you can see scuff marks where Lani must have tripped and slid in. I'm positive this is the right spot." She explained.

"It's completely black in there. We don't know how deep down it goes…" Ray said with a frown, kneeling down to try and peer inside, but it was nothing but inky darkness, apart from a slightly lighter patch because of the light seeping in from our location.

"Lani! Can you hear us?! Are you down there!" Emma knelt down and called down.

"…"

"No respon—"

At first it was silent, until we finally heard a faint response.

"H…lp Ca… s…ee…!" It was Lani's voice.

"…!" Everyone widened their eyes, surprised, but relieved.

"That's Lani! Anna was right!" Emma beamed.

"Are you hurt?!" Ray called down to Lani, who we still couldn't see in that darkness.

"My bu… …rts…! Wher…ar…guys…!?" Was Lani's response.

…We're not getting anywhere like this. But this'll be the perfect chance to prove my sincerity and the validity of my information to them. I got down on the ground and got ready to slip my legs through first.

"It's too hard to make out what he's saying. What now?" Ray was saying, but then he noticed what I was doing and grabbed my shoulder to pull me back, "…! Anna what are you doing!?" he looked at me incredulously.

"I'm going in first…!" I looked at him and gave him my best determined face.

But Ray wasn't having any of it, it seems, and he pulled me a little further way, eyes darting down at the hole, "Stop, you idiot! We didn't hear what Lani said. For all we know, he could've broken his legs!" he pointed out.

I shook my head; "No, it's alright. I remember we all came out of this fall with no broken bones. A-And if I'm going to get you guys to trust my story, I have to have faith in my own memories, too. This'll be the first step to proving it!" I gave him a soft smile, nodding, "I'll be fine, Ray. Really. So please let go." I tried to convince him.

"No way! I'm not letting you jump into danger like that." It seemed like Ray wasn't going to budge on this.

I pouted, "But, Ray, I need to take some risks if I'm gonna prove my information is trustworthy to you guys." I said, feeling my shoulders droop. Really… How am I supposed to prove myself, if you won't let me try?

Ray shook his head firmly, "You've just healed from having a broken leg, Anna." He told me…. Well, he did make a good point there… breaking the same bone several times will lead to permanent damage… Like an anime character I remembered from my past life who had a penchant for blowing up his limbs in every big fight.

Ray continued, patting my head gently, "Move out of the way… I'll go in first," he said, getting ready to take my place, "Lani! Stay put! I'm coming down first!" he called down before I could say anything.

I just sighed out, my shoulders sagging further as Ray slid down the hole and disappeared into the darkness. A few moments later we head the impact of him hitting the ground and rolling, grunting as he did. Well, that was that.

It didn't look like I could talk Ray out of it. He's made up his mind.

"Anna? You alright?" Emma asked me, patting my shoulder.

I shrugged, "Yeah, it's just… well, Ray…" I mumbled uncertainly.

Emma grinned knowingly, "Heheh… Surprised he already trusts your word that much?" she asked and I widened my eyes, looking at her.

'Is that it…?' I thought in wonder, looking back down at the hole again. It's because… Ray trusts me? Even with how crazy all of this must sound to him?

I nodded, still a little dazed, "…Kinda, yeah. He never seemed like the type to believe in this kind of stuff." I replied.

Emma nodded, still grinning, "I think there's a lot of unbelievable stuff he'd be willing to accept…when it comes to you, that is." She said with a cheery tone; she turned her attention back to the hole next, "Ray, is everything okay down there? Did you find Lani?" she called down to Ray.

After a moment, Ray responded though his voice was distant, "Yea…! He's a…ight, just brui…d!" A light appeared from the lantern and we could finally seem him at least a little bit. Lani was right next to him by the looks of it. "It's sa..e to ..ump down! We'll c…tch …ou!" he added, waving the lantern around incase we didn't actually hear him. The movement would be a signal that it was okay to come.

"Okay!" Emma called back, then turned to me, "So, should we all go down, Anna? Or should we keep a group top-side and send a few down?" she asked me.

"Uhh… Before that…!" Don interrupted before I'd said anything and we turned to him. We almost instantly saw the problem Don was bringing to our attention.

"Don? What's wro…ng? Huh?" Emma blinked, surprised.

There were quite a few of the kids missing, including Gilda and Nat.

"At least half of us aren't here anymore, but I swear they were all here a second ago…! Gilda was literally right next to me!" Don was waving his arms around wildly as he talked, concern for our siblings clear in his brown eyes, "Anna did this happen in the story, too? They're okay, right?!" he asked me worriedly.

I nodded my head, "I-It did happen in the story, even though we were more split up in that version because we didn't know what to look for. This must be the epicenter of the pitfall trap." I told them.

Emma quickly leaned down to the hole again to call for Ray, "Raaaay! Are there more of us already down there with you guys?!" she asked him.

Ray's voice responded quickly, "Yea..! I ca… …ee Gi…da… …emima and Mark, so…ar! …ear more! …ink you sh…ome dow…!"

Emma nodded, and turned to Don and I, "Alright… Looks like we're all going down, then. You wanna go first, Anna?" she asked me and I quickly nodded my head; Emma smiled and nodded, "Ray! Anna's coming down first!" she told him.

"Right!"


"Alright, that's everyone!" Emma said once everybody had arrived at the bottom. A few of were preparing to light our lanterns to ease everyone's concerns about the dark, unfamiliar place.

"It's dark!" "Scary.. I'm scared!"

The six-year-olds were especially scared. Conny was clinging to my skirt for dear life… that's right. Conny is afraid of the dark….

"It's alright everyone! Is everyone alright? Stick close everyone." I told everyone, and Emma nodded, echoing my words.

The kids replied with varying versions of 'yes, I'm okay' and that a part of their body was sore.

Once Emma and Don had lit two extra sets of lanterns, they and Ray took up position at different parts of our conga line of kids, and we began walking, looking for another route out. Because of course, we weren't about to fly back up to the entrance.

And it was safer to stick together, down underground where we had a method of staying safe and later escaping thanks to my knowledge, rather than staying up above where a pursuer might be. That's why I decided we should all be down here for a little bit. Plus, it's warmer down here.


(Ray's POV)

"Hey, look!"

"What is this place?"

"Look at the size of that root!"

"It's like a cave made out of tree roots."

"I feel like we're under the ocean."

"Ugh, stay away from me!"

The bugs and plants of this world are like nothing I've ever seen before. Even more so, down here. Is it just that I don't know about them? Or did the ecosystem rapidly change because of the demons?

Either way, there's too much discrepancy compared to the knowledge I gained at the House. And there's also the fact that Anna conveniently forgot to mention the abnormal flora and fauna we'd encounter… Although, if she thinks she has a way to get us out of here unscathed, I guess she wouldn't find it necessary information.

Anyway… What happened? What is going on in the world right now?"

"First, we need to figure out how to get out of here," I pointed out.

"Right!" Emma nodded in agreement.

"But… none of these roots are strong enough to climb up." Gilda mentioned, looking around cautiously.

I nodded in agreement, "And it looks difficult to get to the ground above from here. Maybe we should keep exploring?" I added.

Emma smiled at the kids who were enjoying the new environment, "Well, either way, it looks like now that there's a bit of light, they're having fun, huh?" she said.

I shook my head, "They're forgetting how tired they are. And it's warmer down here. If Anna hadn't said otherwise, I'd think it'd be better to be down here because we can cover our tracks from the pursuers," I told Emma.

"Yeah, but thanks to Anna, we know it's not as safe down here as it appears at the moment," she hummed in agreement.

"Hang on, guys. This is the spot." Anna, who was heading up the group since she knew the most about this place, said.

The place she had managed to guide us to was considerably brighter than the rest of this underground cavern. It was illuminated by what looked like glowing flowers, and at the center of this dome-like open space was a twisted mass of roots climbing upwards to the ceiling of the dome like a tree trunk.

"Oooh! It's a field of flowers!"

"Wow!"

"How pretty! They're glowing!"

"And they smell nice!"

The younger kids looked even more excited about this sight. It did look pretty, but looks can be deceiving. After all, even Anna had more to her than it first seemed… but this place could be more a danger than a boon to our group.

Don walked up to the centre of the room, stopping at the twisting trunk of roots, "This is the spot? Well, this big root looks climbable, for sure! Great work, Anna! I'm going to try-agh!" Anna, having followed closely behind Don, yanked him back by the collar roughly, and he choked. "Argh, what gives, Anna? That hurt!" he complained and the look on his face was comical.

I covered my mouth to hide my snort.

Anna frowned at him disapprovingly, hands on hips, "Don't touch it yet! I need to go over the clues first before you do that." She said, and took off her rucksack. Fishing around in it, she brought out Ugo's Adventures.

"Is the root dangerous…?" Don looked pale as it must've dawned on him. Emma, a few of the others and I walked over to join the two of them.

"I don't remember it clearly, but it's better to be safe than sorry." Anna replied as she leafed through the pages, searching.

"Is the solution to getting out of here really in a children's adventure story book?" I asked, peering over her shoulder curiously.

Anna hummed and replied, "If this were an ordinary children's book, no. But look at the plate, here." She kept her place in the book with some fingers and flipped to the front of the book to show us.

At the top centre of the page, was the same Owl stamp we'd seen in so many other books from the library back at the house. The ones that held the secret message about the truth of the house, in Morse code.

"That's William Minerva's seal…! You knew about that, too, Anna?" I asked her. She hadn't been there when we were looking over those books. She'd gone after Don and Gilda at the time. Well… I suppose that must've have been included in the 'story', too.

"AAARRGGHH!" Suddenly, Nat brought our attention away from Anna by screaming.

"Nat! What's wrong!?" Emma asked, alarmed.

"Th-that…! U-Up there!" Nat said, shakily pointing upwards. We all redirected our attention where he'd pointed and froze. The ceiling… it wasn't just a ceiling. It was alive…!

What are those? Animals? They're dried up. No…

"This is bad… This place… this forest is…" I was saying, but Anna jumped into action, standing up with the book open at a particular page in Ugo's Adventures already.

"Everyone needs to get away from the flowers, and the walls! Group together and don't touch anything!" she told us and I reacted, grabbing a few of the kids closer to our group.

"Hey, the way we came through disappeared…!" Lani pointed out, looking afraid.

Anna was pale, but was fighting to keep her composure, "It's… It's okay! We already have a way to survive this. Here! These are the same snakes that appear on this part of Ugo's Adventures. The snakes of Alvapinera!" she showed us the pages she had the book open to.

{The cave in the ocean, Alvapinera, was a nest of terrifying poisonous snakes. Countless snakes that looked like an intertwined bundle of roots acted as if they were one creature spread across the walls. The brilliance of the jewels by my feet were frighteningly beautiful. Were the snakes protecting the treasure? Or was it bait to lure prey like us here?}

'Ugo's Adventures, Chapter Three… The answer really was in that book.' After skimming through the pages, I couldn't hold back a gasp when I realised it.

"That's true! A cave... The jewels could mean these flowers… are these roots are the snakes themselves! Ugo's Adventures was referencing this tree! That means, outside of Anna's knowledge, we also have this novel as a manual for surviving in the outside world!" Emma cried out, looking as though any doubt she had in her mind had completely dissolved, spontaneously.

"Yeah, exactly," Anna nodded, looking relieved as she smiled through a cold sweat.

Huh…

"If that's the case, then they react to touch. Let's test it out to confirm yours and Anna's theories." I said, taking out a mug from my backpack and turning towards the writhing mass of roots. I tossed the mug towards them to watch their reaction to it.

As soon as the mug made contact with one of those roots, it immediately attacked, smashing it to pieces.

"Theory confirmed…!" I found myself smirking. Anna was right. This only gives more weight to her claims… extinguishing the majority of my doubts, too.

So, thhese roots are the Snakes of Alvapinera from that Adventure Book… and they react to contact. Not heat, sound or the vibration of the ground. When the prey touches the tip of the root, the tree learns its location and attacks.

And the way the roots move… If I look carefully, I can tell how those animals got caught by these roots. And how we can escape from this situation. Thanks to Anna pointing me in the right direction, I can see that the way to handle the unknown is the same as what we've been doing.

Observe. Analyse. And read the enemy's strategy. That's right. Ugo was constantly watching his enemies.

I glanced to Anna, to see she was watching me carefully, but she didn't make a move to further instruct us. As if she was waiting to see what we'd do.

She must want us draw our own conclusions, so we can learn and push through just like she said we would. And then, we'd trust that she was right all along.

It's a good move.

Well… I'll have to do my best to not disappoint…!

I turned my attention back to our enemy.

Observe. Think. Create a way. If we don't know something, we just need to learn. It's what we humans are best at.

"H-Hey what do we do? The roots keep growing and getting closer!" Mark said, trembling as he hid behind my legs.

"Ray." Emma said, getting my attention. I moved my eyes to look at her, and smirked when I could tell she had the same idea.

"Yeah." I nodded.

"Did you get it?" I heard Anna ask us from behind.

"Of course, we did." Emma and I nodded, and started walking forward.

"Emma?! Ray?!" Don gasped, alarmed, but we kept walking until we were inches away from the squirming roots.

Once we arrived, we turned back to look at everyone.

"Look. It's okay." Emma told everyone, smiling.

"What…?" Gilda looked surprised.

Emma continued, "Avoid touching them and we're fine. The attacks only come from the roots on the walls. But look. If you don't touch them, they don't attack. No matter how close we get, if we don't touch the tips of the roots, see? They don't move faster," she said and smiling gently, "It's not scary. Let's calm down." She finished.

I nodded, pushing forward with my plan, "Listen carefully. We're going to climb up the trunk in the centre of the room to escape, just like Don was going to do originally. Anna was worried because she couldn't remember all the details, and that's to be expected seen as though she hasn't read over this world's 'story' in ten years, now. So, she was just being cautious. But touching the tree itself isn't dangerous. Therefore, before the roots catch up to us, we'll climb up and escape from there." I explained to everyone.

Anna looked sheepish as I finished, and turned to Don, looking up at him, "Sorry, Don, I was too rough on you back there." She told him.

At that, Don rubbed the back of his head, smiling down at her, "Ah… Don't worry about it. If it turned out to be dangerous, you'd have been saving my life." He replied.

Huh… Why do I feel annoyed right now…

"Did I get it right, Anna?" I spoke up, drawing her attention back at me.

Anna smiled and nodded, "Yeah… Though my memory is hazy on this part of the story, this feels right," she agreed and I smirked.

Nodding, I continued as Emma and I moved back to join everyone, "We'll probably have to rely on gut feeling from now on, too. At a certain point, maybe your information will become less accurate if we end up changing things," I pointed out.

"That's true…" she nodded, looking down. For some reason knowing that made her look sad.

When I reached her, I patted her head, "Don't worry, even if that does happen, it won't lessen your value to us." I added, and her cheeks flushed.

Meanwhile, Emma had rounded the kids up to quickly set about climbing that root pillar. She was looking at everyone, speaking encouraging words; "You guys can do it. Tree climbing was a part of our training, right?" she smiled.

Gilda hummd, looking up the tree worriedly, "Can we get out? As long as we climb to the top can we go through the ceiling and get out? To get above ground again with everyone? Anna?" she turned to look at Anna, and it was only then that she snapped out of that daze she was in. Pfft.

"Yeah. We'll definitely be able to escape this place." She nodded, her cheeks still rosy.

Gilda nodded, and turns to everyone, "Then, let's go everyone! And let's get out of here!" she smiled, looking surer of herself.

"Yeah!" Everyone cheered and we all started climbing up and out of this place.


(Anna's POV)

"Whoa! It's cold!"

"They really stopped moving when the cold air got in…!"

"That must mean… that the roots are weak against the cold, right?" Conny asked, looking unsure.

Alicia nodded her head in agreement, followed by Chris, "Yeah. That must be why they stopped moving the closer we got to the surface."

The children continued to talk about how cold it was, as Don came up to me

"Hey, can I take a look at the part of the book that talked about those roots?" he asked me and I nodded easily, handing the book to him.

"Oh, sure." I told him as I opened it to the right page for him to see.

Nat and Gilda joined us, too.

"So then…. As long as we're on this cold ground where there's no sunlight, we have no fear of getting attacked by those roots and falling underground?" Gilda hummed as she read the pages.

"Probably." Emma agreed, approaching us.

"Well, then!" Don said, sounding relieved, "I'm glad it's winter! Or we would have been eaten!" he said with a grin and I sighed.

"Actually," Nat, who must've noticed it, piped up, "Seems like the hole doesn't open up unless it's winter. The book says that Alvapinera is a legendary cave that one can only enter in Winter," he informed Don, who paled.

"Maybe we shouldn't have escaped during Winter…." He mumbled.

"Well, it couldn't be helped, if we wanted to save Ray." I laughed breathily, patting his shoulder.

"That's right. And besides, thanks to that, we found out just how unpredictable the outside is. And it's all thanks to Anna for pointing it out. Now we know what Ugo's Adventures really means." Emma explained, smiling at me. Everyone listening to us nodded, looking at me in some sort of wonder.

It made my skin tingle at the attention, and I don't think that was just because it was cold out.

"A guide book on how to survive the outside world, huh?" Ray's voice and the puffs of air next to my ear startled me, and I blushed, jumping away.

I was quick to deny it, "N-No, no! You guys are all really smart and you've read this book, too! You definitely would have figured it out, even if I hadn't said anything…!" I was sure to tell everyone. I didn't want to get more praise than was necessary. After all, I'd been lying and hiding things from them for practically my whole second life here…! Is it really this easy to get their trust? I'm still finding it hard to believe….

"B-But…!" Emma looked thrown off, blinking at me.

I heard Ray sigh, before he bonked me on the head lightly, "Just take the compliment, already," he told me, looking exasperated but not annoyed, "And besides, this was a good first move for getting everyone to believe in you," he added.

"Yeah! Everyone believes in Anna a little bit more now, right?!" Emma called to the other kids, who smiled and nodded, just happy to have made it out of the roots alive.

"They'll feel a bit less nervous about the prospect of those demons you were talking about, too. Though, I'm still having trouble imagining demons that don't eat humans in the first place." Gilda said with a soft smile.

"Yeah, but that's understandable…" Don furrowed his brows.

"Well, seeing is believing, right? We'll just have to hope for the best if we run into them!" Emma grinned, light-heartedly.

"We should still be cautious, though," Ray said pragmatically, then turned to look at me, "Anyway, earlier you were eyeing up that weird plant. That must be something that Ugo's Adventures talks about, too, right?" he asked me.

I nodded, letting out a breath. Maybe I should just accept that I'd been building up the problem too much over the past nine years…?

"Yeah. They contain fresh, drinkable water, so I thought we should collect it if we see it." I answered Ray, and he nodded.

"That's definitely useful. I think I saw some more of them, just over there. This time, I'll help you collect it." Ray grabbed my hand and pulled me along, "We'll be right back. We should start moving again soon, too." He told the others as he guided me away.

"Okay!" Emma waved us off with a wide smile, and a few kids echoed her, waving as well.


After we arrived at the anemone's, we quickly set about collecting the drinking water from them in silence. A few minutes into our collecting process, Ray spoke up quietly, "Hey… Anna?" he asked, his voice soft.

"Hm? Yes, Ray?" I looked to him curiously.

His expression was serious, and something about it made me feel… strangely uneasy, so I paid closer attention.

He continued, keeping his eyes on his work, "Something's been bugging me since you told us about you being reborn…and the fact that we were all part of a story you read before that. But I didn't know if I should ask…. I don't know what I'd do if you answered a certain way… But everyone else doesn't seem to have considered this angle, and I wanted to leave them ignorant to that idea, so I wanted to ask you away from the others." He explained, and I gulped, that uneasy feeling building up even more.

"W-What is it…?" I asked him, furrowing my brows.

Ray finally turned to face me, looking conflicted, then he spoke.

"If this world, us, and everything that's been happening to us is all a story you read in your past life… does that make us just characters in a story to you? Do you even consider us to be real?"

…!

My mouth fell open in shock at his question.

'Of course, Ray's always thinking of every angle… but I didn't think the outcome of telling everyone would cause them to doubt our bonds…!'

But… I should be honest with him.

I gulped, my mouth feeling really dry all of a sudden as I gazed at the jar of collected water in my hands, sloshing around as I shifted; After preparing myself, I drew in a breath and spoke;

"At the very start… until I was about four years old… And I want to be honest with you about this. I-I did still think of you guys like that, a bit. And I was originally trying to get close to you, Emma and Norman because you three were uh… the main characters. But after a while, I started forgetting that you guys used to be characters. I think it was a little before Conny arrived. I finally settled in. And I accepted that this was really my reality now even though my memories of what you used to be, lingered… B-But I… started looking at this world, and everyone in it, as real people," I said, and flicked my eyes over to check Ray's response.

He watched me evenly, and didn't avert his gaze, waiting for me to continue as he sensed I had more to say, which was true.

I licked my dry lips anxiously, and continued,

"So… to make a long story short… I used to still see you guys as characters in a story, but along the way you became real. And… I-I really love you guys. Each and everyone of you are s-so precious to me." I told him, feeling my cheeks become warm, and my eyes, wet; "That's why I just was so terrified to letting anyone know my truth. I thought you'd push me away because of my lies, and of how I viewed everyone at the start. And that's the honest truth" I told him, turning to face him fully, putting my hand on his knee,

"I really care about you, Ray, and Emma, and Norman, Don, Gilda, Conny… Nat, and everyone else too…! Please, I hope you can believe—" Ray suddenly lifted his hand and reached towards my face. I flinched, surprised as he wiped away a tear.

He let out a soft sigh, looking kind of relieved, "I believe you... You're precious to me, a-and everyone else, too. I'm glad, that we're 'real' to you, now." He pulled me into a hug.

We sat together in silence for what felt longer than what it probably was.

After a while, Ray awkwardly pulled away, scratching his cheek. "A-Anyway, we managed to collect the water from these anemone's… So, we should get back to the others, quickly." He said, hoisting himself up to his feet.

After stashing away the jars he'd collected, he held out his hand for me.

I quickly wiped away the tears in my heads and smiled, grabbing his hand, "Right!" I agreed, my relief at his acceptance immense.


"Whoa… is this…?" Nat peered at the jar Ray produced, to show to the others.

"Water." Ray nodded to me, a cue for me to open the Ugo's Adventures to the illustration of the plant that matched what we collected water from moments before; "These anemones appear in Ugo's Adventures but can also be found out here in the wild. Anna and I were able to collect drinkable water from it. With this, we don't have to go all the way to the river." He explained;

"In an unknown environment, our biggest concern is obtaining food and water. We don't know what's edible and what's poisonous. So, it's great that we can get information on those things." Ray concluded, and Emma nodded in agreement.

She stepped forward and turned around to face us all, taking up a team leader role, "The outside does indeed have a lot of dangers. We don't know much. There are many enemies. More than we imagined. But we'll be okay. We have Anna's foresight. And not only that, but we're not alone. We have each other. And we have more allies. As well as those two demons Anna mentioned, Mujika and Sonju, let's go see Mr Minerva!" Emma proposed, "We'll survive! First, we need to get through this forest. Come on! We can do it! Let's keep going!" Emma pumped up the smaller kids, who all cheered 'Yeah!' excitedly.

The first obstacle of the world outside of Grace Field House had finally been cleared, and not only that, but I'd gotten steps closer to earning my siblings' faith, even with my truth out in the air…

Although there were a few more things I wanted to get off my chest, now was not the time for it. First, we needed to be somewhere undeniably safe, so I'd have time to explain. Maybe… when we found the Bunker.

But before that, hopefully, we can meet and befriend those two, Mujika and Sonju. The demons who do not eat humans.


Onigiriri: Hi, writing is hard, lol. Sorry it took so long to update once again, but I'm thinking I've improved from the multiple-month-gap to a 1-month and a bit gap. x'D A lot of things have been on my mind and distracting me so I think it's justified. I don't know if I let you guys know on here, but my dad was diagnosed with Cancer a month or two ago and has been undergoing chemotherapy. But, good news is that just before Halloween he completed his treatment and is Cancer-free! He's still very weak from the treatment, but he's on the mend, now! Such a relief! ;_;

In other, better news, someone is translating Samsara into Chinese! You may have seen it on FF . net if you searched for new TPN series on here, but she's also posting it on AO3 under 'DPie'. If you read Chinese, please support her. ^_^ It's honestly still unreal and a bit of an honour, to have one of my fanfics translated, lol. Thank you again.

Please leave a review here, and let me know what you thought. We're in manga-only territory now, as the Snakes of Alvapinera didn't appear in the anime and we're going to be following the manga exclusively from now on. xxx :)