Hinamizawa Hell

"The Truth of Fate" Arc: 3

Ch. 18: The Final Revelation: The Truth of Fate

/

"It's too much! I can't bear it…it's over…"

In a world and place where only darkness surrounded them, Rika sat in a chair not in death, but in the place between it and life. She looked on not wounded or hurt, but whole near the woman before her. Getting up from her chair and meeting the woman who fell onto her knees in pain and misery, Rika bent down and put a hand onto her own inner self.

For Bernkastel the Witch of Miracles lay on all fours unable to bear her Fate. She cried for what seemed like years, despair filling her being and dashing out all hope. She was slowly vanishing before Rika, their failure showing it's truest of merits in her dissolved form. With Rika's death in the last world, Bernkastel could no longer go on and exist. If one part of her being, even just Rika, somehow died in all worlds, then that part would be no more, and such Bernkastel and all her other beings would suffer and fade away. It would be like taking away a critical piece of a machine; its function ceasing once that part was gone.

"We did our best, didn't we my friend?" cried Rika, bending down and hugging her other half in sadness. Bernkastel grabbed onto Rika and held her close, finding some comfort in her final moments of life with the only person she ever trusted and cared for so deeply. To be together like this in the final hour of life must have been Fate. Soon, they would not exist, for even Rika was fading away.

In the darkness of the room, a man emerged alone wearing black and white clothing, his eyes not masked anymore by bandages like before. Standing nearby the two women, Reimei Ryuu looked on and tilted his head in curiosity; watching as they slowly faded away.

"It's a shame, really, that you both tried so hard only to fall short in the end. I'm sorry, I truly am, that I couldn't prevent you from experiencing such a fate. If it were up to me, I would never let such misfortune befall you, but in the grand scheme of things that would be counterproductive…" Frowned Reimei, unable to prevent them from fading away.

"Counterproductive? How God lets our souls be tormented ever so? And Hanyuu…I failed her…" spoke Bernkastel, feeling the despair of failing her friend despite all they tried to do for her.

"If God were corrupted with even the smallest amount of Evil, could you blame Him for being powerless? Could you blame God for being everywhere and nowhere all at once, to prevent himself and Evil from having direct influence in this game of theirs? All that has happened has been on the Will of Man and the whisperings of Evil in our ears. Evil has cheated in this game, but God has stayed out of this with faith that mankind will overcome Evil and someday help Him defeat it too. That is but one of many Truths of Fate…" spoke Reimei, sighing at seeing them lose such hope like that.

"But still, we tried. We failed, like the many times before, but we still tried no matter what. That still counts…" spoke Rika, holding onto Bernkastel tighter. Seeing her hands fade away now with Bernkastel's as well became no matter to her. They had met Death, and now they were to blink out of existence, maybe somewhere peaceful with no pain or suffering anymore.

"I am curious, though. Did you solve the riddle, Rika-chan? It would be a shame…even regretful, to have never figured out the truth about the shards. To figure out what kind of Will it would have taken to defeat Evil. To figure out how to save Hanyuu from this dead end? Why give up?"

Rika, knowing her time was near, removed her face from Bernkastel's shoulder and looked up at him. Somehow, she found the Will to stand up despite having her body disappear into nothingness. Looking on at him just as her body was about to go away from the mid waist down, she found interest in this final riddle and tried her best to answer him.

"I don't want to give up, even if this is my Fate! My Will…I don't even need to put it into words! It is undying, and it will never cease or blink out of existence as I soon shall. Even if I go into limbo, I'll find a way to come back…to save Hanyuu! But the shards…I tried…I thought they were magic! They…they…"

Rika's body, up to her chest now, was almost gone. Bernkastel rose beside her, looking on hopefully at Rika's determination. Somehow, Bernkastel was eager for something to occur in Rika; a revelation or a great change; an action she could not accomplish herself. Hugging Rika from behind her, Bernkastel smiled lovingly at Rika and spoke to her before they both met their end.

"Rika-chan…you and I know this answer. Think on it, and ask yourself the right question…"

"Rika-chan…I will help you one last time for this riddle. Listen to my truths and laws…hear me out! In Black: Shards are nothing more than broken pieces of some structure. In White: Piece together similar shards; you will see the bigger picture. In Twilight: memories are like shards. Piece them together, and you will have an image of life! RIKA-CHAN, WHAT ARE THE SHARDS?" As he said these facts and laws, so did the area change between black and white.

Rika looked on with wide eyes, feeling her body going away. Looking on with renewed fire in her soul, she shouted at Reimei for solving this riddle at last.

"The shards…they held our memories! They are pieces…parts of our lives and our other worlds. The shards…I get it now. I UNDERSTAND! THE SHARDS ARE THE KAKERA!"

As their plain shifted from darkness into a world where dark, blue crystals fell all around them onto a starry night, the grains of sand falling beneath the weight of their bodies, they emerged into the world of Kakera; the place where Rika came to thousands of times searching for the right world she and her friends could be happy in. Standing adrift all the Kakera, Rika realized her final answer and began working it out for Reimei; revealing the truth at last.

"Is that all, though? What else?"

"The shards came into our world; they helped us remember our past lives. But how could they have come into the world? And only 5 of them? No, something is wrong here. You said that they fit a bigger structure, so the shards must form something! The shards are part of something greater, the Kakera are part of something greater! I figured it out. The Orb of Fate…the Kakera being our Fates…the shards being our Fates…THEY'RE ALL ONE IN THE SAME! Reimei-san, the Truth of Fate….THIS TRUTH OF FATE: The Kakera and the shards…they're…they're…" Just as Rika was about to disappear, she yelled out one last time to Reimei, and in his delight, he listened on. "…THEY ARE THE ORB OF FATE, IT'S BROKEN PIECES!"

In the blink of an eye, both Bernkastel and Rika reemerged from their dissolving states and this time glowed with a blue aura. Holding each other's hand, they watched as Reimei smiled at them for solving the mystery of this world and all others like it. Before them now, as a spiral of all the shards came forward in a rush like that of a sand storm, they all came together and formed into something that time lost long ago. Forming together as a whole, an orb of magnificent color emerged and became complete. Reimei went forward and took possession of the orb, looking at it and giving it to Rika to own.

"You've done well, Rika-chan. You have exceeded my expectations. You solved this riddle at last, and with that, recovered the Orb of Fate. With this, you have the power to go on and finish this battle once and for all."

"All our worlds…all of them reside in this orb. With this, I can undo Hanyuu's plight at last." Happily, Rika took the orb and held it in her hands; impressed at its light touch and smooth, glassy surface. Looking deeper into the orb, Rika could see happy times and even sad times for her friends; their lives and memories bound for all eternity in the Orb of Fate.

"Rika-chan…remember what Ouka said to you: You must fuse the shards into Hanyuu. There is one shard left, and only Hanyuu possesses that shard in her being. Look, even on the orb…"

As Rika wondered how even Reimei knew she had talked with Ouka, she obeyed and looked at the object, finding a small sliver missing on its surface. One shard remained, but even so, she felt closer to saving her friend. Nodding in response, Rika knew that by fusing the Orb of Fate into Hanyuu that she would reclaim her long lost duty handed down by God and thus reverse her fate at last. But one problem remained:

Rika and her friends were dead in that world. They could not return to it even now.

"But still…how can we save Hanyuu even if we can't go back?"

"Has that ever stopped us before, Rika-chan?"

As Rika turned her head, she found Keiichi walking up to them in the distance, emerging as a shadow and then coming into a solid form before her. Smiling, and now rejoined by the others, Rika was reunited with all her smiling friends even in death.

"You guys, you came back!" she cheered in joy. Rika ran to them and embraced them all; mostly Satoko whom she loved dearly. Coming together now, all were present: Mion, Keiichi, Shion, Satoshi, Satoko, Ryuu, Rena, and even Komoto; walking up to his own counterpart and greeting him like a brother. They shook hands and looked on at the group, watching as a miracle would occur despite the odds against them.

"We'd never leave you, Rika-chan. We're friends, but more so…we're family!" spoke Rena, smiling at how cute they all looked together. Rika cried tears of joy at this reunion, but still, was thankful none the less.

"So what now? How do we finish this?"

Their eyes fell on Rika and then on Reimei, who merely grinned and shifted them back into his own Meta-world. Reemerging in chairs in the 8 sides of the room of light and darkness, Remei remained standing beside Bernkastel and decided to tell them a short story; one from his own life.

"Death is a funny thing, really. You are all taught that when you die, you will go to places like heaven or hell depending on your life's actions and deeds. You all may be dead, but even you should know that such a law in this dimension is impossible. Even I died in my original world, but I chose my own purpose in death and so went on my own journey. I am not called a Traveler for nothing. So why are you all dead, still dead, and not back there? You can go to heaven if you choose, else you could go somewhere you want to be. It's your decision…as it always has been your decision…"

"It's our decision? Is it?" asked Rena with wide eyes.

"It's not like we want to be here. We still want to save Hanyuu-chan!" spoke Shion.

"That's right, we promised her. We have to help her!" spoke Satoshi.

"If we fail Hanyuu-chan, then we don't deserve to go to heaven…" mentioned Mion.

"We have the means to save her, so everyone, lets finish this together! All the cards…all the cards against Fate in this last gamble. What do you say?" yelled Rika, standing up against all the odds and rallying her friends together. They all raised their hands in cheers of agreement, getting up to meet Rika and putting their hands in together like they had did the first time prior to defeating Takano and the "Tokyo" organization.

"Then let's do it! Let's go save Hanyuu!" cheered Keiichi, putting his hand in first and the rest following without hesitation.

Looking behind her back, Rika looked over to both Bernkastel and Reimei, smiling.

"You two as well. We're all in this together or nothing!"

"Rika…if I do, then you have to accept your true fate. If you intend to defy Fate, if you want to save Hanyuu and undo this nightmare, to kill Evil, you will need to become the Witch of Miracles?" asked Bernkastel, walking up to her friend with a serious tone.

"It's your choice, Rika-chan. You must make the call…" spoke Reimei, walking up as well and putting his hand in faith in with the others.

Rika looked deeply into Bernkastel's eyes and chose something for herself. If she was going to accomplish all of this, then she would do it her way.

"I will not only become the Witch of Miracles, but I will live my life from now on the way I want to live. Fate will not rule me anymore. I will be free and obtain my own happiness, and in doing so, I will destroy Evil in all its forms. Even if I have to sacrifice myself, I will do it for love…"

Suddenly, the aura of Rika changed dramatically, and with a smiling Bernkastel in wonder, the Witch of Miracles put her hand in with the other group members and became engulfed in a ball of light. What happened next only a miracle could achieve…

/

"I'VE DONE IT! I'VE KILLED HER! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! THE WORLD…EVERYTHING….I AM GOD OF ALL!" screamed Hanyuu, smiling in utter joy at the clouds of crimson red descending over the planet. Moving away from Rika's body, she watched over Hinamizawa as a torrent of despair emerged from the Dome site; the reckoning of Hell descending on the plains of Earth. Shouting in joy, Hanyuu became oblivious to the events unfolding behind her.

Once a limp arm, a hand slowly filled with life and grasped the blade which impaled her body to the stone table; the handle rising into the air slowly and silently. Pulling the blade out now and rising from the altar, unbeknownst to Hanyuu, someone had returned from death only to be reborn herself.

"Huh? WHAT?"

In Hanyuu's horror, she watched the clouds disappear and leave only a crimson filled night in its wake; the Gates of Hell never opening upon the Earth. Hanyuu frantically watched her plans dissolve before her; never even hearing the footsteps of Rika coming up to her. By the time Hanyuu even thought of looking to the altar, it was too late.

"Hanyuu, have you missed your dear friend?"

Turning around in complete horror, Hanyuu found Rika standing in bloodied clothes with no wound in her chest; her face hidden in the shadows of her hair. Stepping back in complete fear, Hanyuu found no words to choke out in her disbelief.

"H…How…" she trembled in fear.

Suddenly, before her very eyes, the dark gaze of Rika changed dramatically; her body growing taller and more feminine than ever before. Her hair grew longer, her arms and body more adult like, and even her breast size grew to something comparable to Mion and Shion's bust. Even her clothes took shape akin to something that was gothic Lolita; a dress fit for a witch. In mere moments, the Onigari no Ryou in Rika's adult like hands altered as well; the form of a scythe emerging bearing glowing colors of blue and gold in its sharp and deadly blade. Swinging it to her back side, Rika looked up at Hanyuu with confident eyes and smiled; her voice deeper than before. It was as if she had mastered death and became Death herself.

"Before, I was a child. Now bear witness to me, Hanyuu! I am Rika Furude, the Eternal Witch of Miracles!" she smiled in defiance, raising her blade up to Hanyuu.

"You were dead! I killed you! YOU WERE DEAD!" screamed Hanyuu, preparing to rush into Rika despite this turn of events.

"Hanyuu, you tried to change your fate, but with the wrong method. It's over. I said I would save you, now give up!"

"SAVE ME? IT'S YOU WHO WILL NEED SAVING ONCE I…ARGH!"

Looking down at her feet, the moment Hanyuu tried to move, her foot didn't budge one bit. What she found holding her to the spot was something unbelievable.

"But…how!" she mumbled, seeing the hand of some specter emerge from the ground. Slowly rising his head from the earth, Hanyuu perceived the faces of Komoto and Keiichi revealing themselves, and soon after, more and more ghosts of people dead and killed off long before. In a mass gathering of all the game club members and even the souls of those lost that night in the torment and destruction of the village, it seemed like everyone was present to hold down Hanyuu and cease her quest in becoming god of this world.

"Hanyuu-chan, don't worry, we're here for you…"

"It's ok, we will help you…"

"NO NO NO! STOP IT, LEAVE ME BE YOU GHOSTS!" Hanyuu struggled as more and more hands grabbed her and held her down despite her impossible strength. Her friends who had recently died; Keiichi, Rena, Mion…all of them held Hanyuu to the ground; her body unable to escape their grasps. Becoming fearful and restrained, Hanyuu looked over to Rika with maddening eyes, but still, cursed her for it.

"Hanyuu …you have caused much pain for others, but that is no matter. I will deliver to you the happiness you could never reach by yourself…" spoke Rika, moving up to Hanyuu and revealing the Orb of Fate to her now. Hanyuu looked on at Rika, denying that what she held was actually the true orb lost long ago. But upon seeing the colors and its beauty, Hanyuu could not deny what it was. It seemed like a part of her emerged from long ago that was brought out upon witnessing the Orb of Fate before her.

"It…can't be! It's not possible!"

"It is. Hanyuu…you are the card I need. I need all the cards, even you, to win this last game. Let's destroy Evil and survive this nightmare…together."

Hanyuu looked up to Rika, crying tears of blood from her eyes. As if her inner soul was crying as well, she reached out to Rika, as if to accept it; her gaze fixated on both her friend and her long lost duty. Hanyuu's appearance began to shift, the form of the real Hanyuu and the form of Evil conflicting within her existence separating into two beings.

"The Orb….Rika-chan…" spoke the real Hanyuu, smiling in genuine love.

"LIES LIES LIES! It can't be!" screamed the Evil, its eyes void of love and filled with only hate.

"Rika-chan…help me! Please…I can't…" cried Hanyuu, reaching out to Rika.

"NO! FOOL! SHE CAN'T! DON'T!" yelled the Evil in her being.

Smiling, and knowing that Hanyuu's suffering went on long enough, Rika took the Orb and pressed it into Hanyuu's chest, watching as the Evil separated from Hanyuu and allowed her friend to come forward, the form of the real Hanyuu smiling and passing out in Rika's loving arms. No longer like a demon and without horns, Hanyuu was at last free from Evil's grasp on her; the Orb of Fate whole once more and in Hanyuu's existence for all eternity; never to be lost ever again.

What remained behind, held down by the countless souls of Hinamizawa, was the Evil in its truest form. Screaming and unable to form words, Rika hovered over it and looked on at it; disgusted at how pathetic its form really was.

"I think I speak for everyone, Evil, when I say that you may never return to this existence. Be gone, and never return to this equation…OUR HOME!"

Sending down her gold and blue shining scythe, Rika stabbed the demonic Evil and destroyed its entire being; causing light and darkness to fill it and emerge through slivers of light. With a roar of pain and death, the being that was held down disintegrated in a burst of light within its body; never to come back ever again.

As Evil died off in its final moments of life, a wave of darkness and light filled all of Hinamizawa and the world, the crimson night rescinding and, in the distance, two Travelers watching on with delight.

"We did it. It's truly over…" spoke Bernkastel, smiling at what Rika had achieved at last.

"No…they saved it. Their love saved this world, and with that, brought the Requiem of Twilight at last…"

As everything was engulfed in light and dark, the story of this world came to an end, and with that, a new one was created; one that started right before all this came about.

For everything returned to the world and a time where Rika Furude was asleep in her own bed, right next to Satoko in her family's home on a bright, summer morning where the cicadas were crying.

/

"Rika-chan, get up, will you? We have a lot to do this morning. We still need to get dressed!" called Satoko from another room. The smell of cooked eggs and bacon emanated from the kitchen, Satoko herself slaving away at a fire stove in her craft and art. As the smell greeted Rika's nostrils, her eyes fluttered open and soon after she shot out of bed to look around her surroundings. Jumping from her bed, she rushed over to a nearby window and then to the kitchen, finding everything was normal. No crimson red darkness lit up the day, and no bloodshed or signs of chaos roamed the land. If anything, the warmth of the sun was kinder, and no inclination of Evil lay in her sight. Rika looked on in disbelief at Satoko when she came into the kitchen to find her beloved friend cooking their morning breakfast; as if the whole night of madness and Evil was nothing more than a dream.

"Satoko?" murmured Rika. Satoko finished spooning out their food onto their plates and looked over at Rika, confused as to why Rika was looking at her oddly.

"Hmm? Something wrong?"

Rika went up to her friend and, surprisingly, kissed her on the cheek; nudging her face into hers with no reason or cause. Satoko merely looked on blushing like crazy, unable to get at why Rika was acting like that.

"R..R..Rika! What are you doing? Stop, that tickles!"

"Nipah! Nothing's wrong Satoko!" Rika smiled in utter delight, hugging her friend and spinning her around in her arms laughing. Satoko, dazed and confused, was left with just a smile on her face; probably from realizing that she had in fact liked being kissed by her friend. When Rika settled down at last, she sat down and ate Satoko's food, enjoying the taste of it in what felt like years.

"Mmmm! Delicious! Nipah!"

"Man, you are energetic today. We have to hurry and get ready. Everyone is meeting at noon at the festival…"

Suddenly, Rika dropped her fork and looked on at Satoko in fear; her eyes going wide. Sputtering out a bit of food, Rika asked what she hoped would not be her greatest fear.

"You mean…the Crimson Lotus Festival?" asked Rika with hesitance.

"The Golden Lotus Festival you mean. Where did you get crimson from?" asked Satoko, confused. Rika let these words sink in for a moment, breathed a sigh of relief and then fell back into her chair. All Satoko could do was look on at her and tilt her head in confusion at her odd friend.

Later on, while Satoko was getting ready in her room, Rika went over to a mirror and noticed that her appearance had changed somewhat. Her blue hair was longer now, and even her body had grown a bit taller too. Even her breasts were showing slightly; her age taking shape at last. Giggling and holding herself, it seemed like one of Rika's own wishes came true.

*THIS IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE! I REALLY HAVE THEM!* she thought, prancing around the room and squeezing her chest in delight.

"Keiichi-san and the others are meeting us at the stage. We've got 20 minutes, ok?" called Satoko. Rika came out of her celebration and went over to her drawers, quickly putting her ceremonial attire on for the festival ahead.

Walking to the festival grounds together, Rika could see why the Golden Lotus Festival had its name. Lotuses blooming around them took on a slightly golden color; no trace of crimson on their petals. Even going up to one, Rika found them to hold quite an elegant fragrance; a sweet aroma even. Leaving it behind, they traversed down the stone paths to the temple; the crowds gathering by the hundreds and soon after thousands in attendance.

As they got to the festival grounds' stage area, Rika and Satoko met up with their friends at the designated spot, but this time something occurred to her that, in her happiness, she forgot to realize. As she came up to them, Rika looked from side to side and searched for several people who usually appeared around this time. While Keiichi and Mion argued over who would be the champion of the booth games after the ceremony was complete, Rika looked over to her friends and asked about the others.

"Oh! This place is jam packed! I can't believe so many people, even from outside the village, showed up!" Stated Ryuu, hoping that they wouldn't get squashed by the large number of crowds coming into the main festival ground area.

"Auau! Ryuu-kun, look at all the games and prizes! They all look so cute! I want to take them home with me! AUAUAU!" Rena, going into Kawaii mode too early, seemed like she would steal away all the cute things in that festival ground today.

"O ho ho ho! If there are games this year, then that means penalty games as well! Keiichi-san will be going down in no time flat!"

"Come on Satoko-chan, we didn't have a chance at the last festival to play. What makes you think my skills haven't improved, huh?"

"Ne…if that's the case, then Satoshi-kun and I are willing to go all the way! It can be a battle of 9 Evils this year."

"Muu…I'm not sure about the games guys. There's so many people around that it'll be hard to go through all the games before the main performance occurs…we should probably do them after." Satoshi wondered how they would stack up against each other, seeing as how it may very well be a couple's match of sorts.

"That won't stop any of us. It'll be like old times, right guys?" stated Mion, invigorating the others for the games after the ceremony was finished.

"You bet! I'll beat you in Mion Sonozaki! You won't last this time at the target range!"

"You think one triumph will let you win, Keiichi Maebarra? So what if I don't beat your odd luck in that game. All the others are mine for the taking anyway! I can't wait to make you wear that new maid dress I got for you!" spoke Mion, grinning at the idea of putting her lover in a dress. Playfully, Mion hugged Keiichi and let the idea sink into his head; some embarrassment showing on his face. The others only laughed in response, but Rika interrupted for a second and asked the question weighing on her mind.

"Um…does anyone know where…"

"HEY! You guys! Over here!"

In the distance, Rika and the others noticed several adults coming forward amidst the crowds. Appearing in front of them now, Komoto and Mizuho along with Takano and Tomitake appeared; sporting clothing much similar to Keiichi and Mion's. For them, they were wearing special black yukatas and kimonos with a golden sash at their waists. It was the "announcement of intentions" attire for the stage later on; the time when couples would come together and announce to all present their marriage plans. What shocked Rika the most was that Komoto was present despite his illness.

"Komoto-senpai? But weren't you in the hospital? I thought your heart was having trouble?" asked Rika, poking his chest despite how odd it seemed. Komoto looked down to Rika and put a hand to his hair, confused.

"What are you talking about, Rika-chan? I mean, I did have food poisoning a few weeks ago, but that was because Mizu-chan is eating me out of house and home, and I was so hungry that night that the 3 day old lobster dumplings looked enticing so…"

"You calling me fat?"

At his comments, Mizuho slammed her fist hard into his head, causing a large bump to appear. Cringing in pain, Komoto fell to the ground while Mizuho smiled to Rika and explained the situation so she could understand.

"He just vomited it up, and Dr. Irie kept him for a night. It was nothing life threatening. That was a little while ago, remember? Right after we watched the Dam demolish?" Mizuho patted Rika's hair, causing her to just smile in response.

*So Komoto-senpai doesn't have any heart problems? And the festival isn't related to the Crimson Lotuses. So, if that's true, then…there was no Dome found probably, which means…*

Rika, looking over her ceremonial shrine attire and realized that one other person should have been in attendance with her and Satoko. They were still to perform the cleansing ritual, but if that were the case then, for the ceremony, three people were needed to do the event. Looking up to the others, Rika asked frantically about someone she had fought Hell itself for.

"Where's Hanyuu? Has anyone seen her? She's supposed to be with us…"

For a moment, Rika looked on at her friend's confusion, but suddenly felt a body grab her from behind and nuzzle her face into Rika's. Turning around, Rika found a woman her own age with light purple hair and the same ceremonial attire hugging her now; a woman she was meeting for the first time.

"Rika-chan, are you excited for today? Are you?" asked the young girl. She acted quite friendly to Rika, as if they were somehow related in a sense. Looking on at the girl and realizing who this was, Rika muttered out the only name that came to mind.

"Ouka-chan?"

"Yup yup! Did I surprise you, cousin?" cheered the girl. Ouka was dressed in the same ceremonial attire as Rika and Satoko; cheerfully smiling at her cousin and excited for the day's upcoming events.

"Ouka-chan, what did I tell you before? I almost lost you back there…"

A man with black hair came up into the group; his face a little unshaven but never the less characteristic of his personality. This man stopped short of Rika and looked down to her, himself wearing a black yukata with a gold sash.

"Papa…you're too slow!" smirked Ouka, patting her panting father on his head. He just sighed and looked over the group members; shaking hands with Komoto.

"Ah, Riku-kun! Are you nervous about today too? I bet your soon-to-be wife is just as eager, right?" Komoto smirked and caused Riku to laugh a bit; himself acting as if he knew the man like an old friend.

"Well, not so much nervous, but glad I'm finally announcing my marriage to everyone. I think Ouka-chan would agree with me and say that it's been a very overdue arrangement…." Riku laughed nervously, but Ouka cut in on her father.

"If Papa hadn't been so nervous about asking his folks for permission, then he would have been married long ago!" Ouka looked sideways, casting her eyes away from her father in shame just to toy with him. Like feeling he was being stabbed through the heart, Riku bent down to her and tried to reconcile with Ouka.

"Oh, don't treat your papa like that dear. You know how tough your grandparents could be. Please?" he joked. Ouka merely turned around and hugged him, causing both to giggle and laugh.

Rika stood on watching Ouka act like she did. Seeing such happiness was too good to be true. Moving to Mion and pulling her down to her height, Rika asked her something quickly before the others realized what she was doing.

"Um…Mi-chan, are you wearing the necklace Keiichi got you during the whole…you know…Inner Oni event? That one necklace with the blue shard in it?" she asked, trying to be calm about asking such a question to Mion when even she had bore the brunt of that dreadful time. Mion looked down to Rika, became somewhat hesitant, and then nodded.

"Um, yeah, I still have it, but it's too old to wear, so I left it in my family's safe back home. And you know it has just a small diamond on it too, remember? Why do you ask? You don't think my Inner Oni did something to it, did you?" Mion became frantic for a second, but in the next moment Rika made her forget about it.

"Oh no no no! I was just saying because, well, Keiichi went to such great lengths to get it and all, so…"

"Oh ok! That was all, huh? Don't worry about it, this old man doesn't need to always upstage the other woman, heheheh! Jewels don't make a beautiful woman more beautiful, you know?" laughed Mion. Rika sighed in relief and thought deeply on her confirmation.

*So if Mion's Inner Oni existed, then some things are still similar in this world. So I can also assume the Dark Spector incident occurred. The jewel isn't a piece of the Orb of Fate, and that the Hinamizawa Syndrome is…"

"Ah, Dr. Irie, nice to see you! I thought you were on call today?"

As Rika shifted her gaze to Takano and Dr. Irie, she quickly overheard a conversation of great importance that instantly caught her attention amid all the buzzing questions in her head.

"You won't believe it! I was running some tests and…"

"Sensei…please calm down! Why are you so excited?"

Pulling Takano and Tomitake aside, Dr. Irie spoke silently to them, as Rika listened on with great intent.

"I was pulling the next batch samples for the syndrome and I can't find any trace of it in anyone's blood. I was so confused that I gathered as many villagers as possible into my clinic for test runs under the pretense of a free blood test screening for preventing summer colds, and I can't find a single pathogen of the syndrome in anyone! It's like it disappeared! It's completely gone!" Dr. Irie was smiling happily as if this was a phenomenon unlike any before. Takano gasped in disbelief and pulled out her trusty notes, scribbling some things down and immediately turning to Tomitake.

"Jiro-san! We need to go to the clinic and run some tests! I won't believe it until I see it myself!" Takano began pulling Tomitake by the sleeve, despite his protests. However, once he reminded his future wife about why they were at the festival did she think otherwise.

"But Miyo-chan, the marriage announcement! Our name is on the list to be on stage!"

"Oh…wait, that's true. Ahem…um, then the testing can wait!"

In the next second, Takano cheerfully remembered her marriage announcement with the other couples and threw the whole testing mission out of her mind. Ceasing to pull Tomitake away, she blushed and cooed at the thought of the idea.

"I'm going to run some tests at the clinic again until I can confirm it! Plus, um…Chie-sensei is actually technically on a date with me now, so I need to go back and help her make curry for tonight's dinner and…um…bye!"

Just like that, Dr. Irie laughed and remembered he had something to do for that afternoon before he was to meet back at the festival grounds later that night. Rushing back in the direction of the clinic, Takano and Tomitake were left to decipher the possibilities of what was happening to the syndrome. Smiling, Rika sighed in relief and accepted one truth of this world:

The Hinamizawa Syndrome ceased to exist. If that was correct, then she was no longer a queen carrier, and the cycle of Fate was long gone from this dimension. No words could describe how utterly pleasing this mere fact alone was.

"Rika-chan!"

Turning her head and seeing time slow down; Rika looked up to an older woman with long, light purple hair wearing a black kimono and a golden sash about her waist. Going up to the woman, Rika couldn't believe who she was seeing that moment. Hanyuu stood before her as an adult; holding hands with Riku and kissing him on the lips quickly before she herself went up to Rika. Time froze around the two for a moment, and all activity ceased; sound, motion, and sight all at once. Everything but the two women turned grey, and to them it was as if they became ghosts in another world.

"Hello, Rika-chan…" smiled Hanyuu, though looking shamed for some reason.

Rika closed her eyes and opened them again, but this time, not as her younger self but the Eternal Witch of Miracles, looking on emotionlessly at her friend. They stood as adults, and they stood as friends, but none the less the air was filled with a sense of awkwardness about it.

"Hanyuu-chan…" she spoke.

Suddenly, Rika rushed into her friend and hugged her tightly, crying into her shoulder and unable to bear the emotion any longer. Hanyuu remained stunned for a moment before smiling and holding her friend to her body even closer, taken off guard none the less.

"Rika-chan?"

"I'm sorry Hanyuu! I'm sorry you were alone for so long! I'm so sorry…forgive me!" Rika cried, letting out all of her emotions at once. By this point in time Hanyuu also cried, hugging her friend like she would lose her the next moment.

"It was my fault Rika-chan! Evil had planted a seed in me the moment I gazed upon the Crimson Lotus in my original world. But…you saved me. All of you guys saved me and kept your promise! I can't thank you enough, but I'm…I'm so sorry for what I did. I didn't want to! The voices in my head…every day I grew weaker by listening to them. I couldn't control it in the last world…forgive me! "

"You have nothing to be sorry about, Hanyuu. It's all over, and we are happy at last. The Evil in Hinamizawa is gone forever, and you and I are here standing in the aftermath with everyone else. I…thought I lost you forever when I didn't see you sleeping next to me in our home…"

Hanyuu pulled away for a moment and smiled at Rika. In the next moment, all would become clear to her once more.

"When you infused the Orb of Fate into me, it became part of my existence and could never be lost or corrupted by Evil ever again. Time, Fate, and all that it encompasses rewrote our world to some degree. It's true, that our pasts couldn't change, but the present is still the same. There is no more Hinamizawa Syndrome, there is no more Crimson Lotus, and…my family…we were given another chance to live a life we never had! It's all thanks to you Rika-chan…"

Rika looked on with tears of joy and smiled, but still remained confused. How did Hanyuu and her family fit in to all of this.

"Wait…when my parents died…I remember! Riku and my mother were distant relatives, and along with you and Ouka, took care of me. You were my only family left…and so we all moved in to my family's main house when they passed away, and we've been together ever since." Rika spoke, pulling the new memories to her mind now.

"That is so. We later took in Satoko-chan after the Dark Spector incident, and later on we fought Mion's Inner Oni. Everything is still the same, but only as I am now. History is still there, but changed slightly…Riku-kun and Ouka-chan were not in some events, but still, they have their memories intact."

"So…the others don't remember?"

Hanyuu smiled weakly and then nodded, shaking her head and sighing.

"The worlds of the past, present and future are at rest now. Our friends will eventually remember in time, but slowly. They still remember their sins of the past worlds, but are at peace with it. For the future worlds, though, they may never need to know. For now, let's not ruin this happiness, ok?"

"I understand. It's for the better, then. But Hanyuu…so much may have changed, and I have so many questions left, but I don't know where to begin." Rika seemed a little overwhelmed and lost, but in the next moment was reassured by Hanyuu's loving grasp of her hand.

"So what if we don't know all the answers. In time, they will come to both you and I, and we will be happy. Everything…really….Everything is as it should be, I promise! Nipah! Besides…today I announce my intent to marry Riku and become his wife!"

Rika smiled at Hanyuu, standing not only as friends, but, for once in her life, as a family. Becoming a normal, young woman again and grasping onto Hanyuu and Ouka's hands in the real world, Rika smiled and greeted them as if for the first time in her life. Smiling and letting their hands go, Rika nodded and reminded the others of why they were here that day.

"Auntie Hanyuu, I'm glad you all came! We need to prepare for the ceremony, right? Only our family can do it!" Rika grinned at a blushing Hanyuu, and then looked over to Satoko, smiled and took her hand in hers to lead what was her new family towards the preparation room for the hour before the main ceremony. As Ouka cheered and played tag with Rika and Satoko whilst Hanyuu and Riku went up to the main stage in their trail, it seemed like this was all truly a perfect world: a perfect world created through love.

/

The main ceremony was beautiful, to say the least, with Riku acting as the head priest and Rika as the head shrine maiden. Hanyuu, Ouka and Satoko provided aid at their sides, and soon after all the prayers and blessings were recited, the ceremony was complete and a newfound feeling of relief for the village was felt all around. It seemed like the slate was wiped clean, and that all death and misery in the past would be healed and forgotten. As the main ceremony finished without any problems or throat slitting on anyone's part, the game club members reassembled together for the next part of their day. Though it was a battle of 9 evils this time, Ouka surprisingly remained the victor as she defeated everyone else in most of the games that night. As penalties followed in pursuit, just to get a good laugh in, Ouka made all the men dress like maids and had them service their girlfriends in any way they desired. Though not really a punishment, she found it fitting to end a very good day of fun and excitement. For Ouka, having a real chance at a childhood seemed like it was all too good to be true.

As the night drew on, dozens of couples lined up on the stage and came forward one by one, announcing their marriage proposals. Crowds watching nearby laughed and cheered for the couples, throwing golden lotus petals over their heads when the announcement was finished. In time, Komoto and Mizuho, and Tomitake and Takano had their turns and spoke of their intentions. As the game club members cheered them on with smiles, the last two couples to come up on stage truly made the talk of the village in the coming days.

"Everyone, the last two couples tonight must be heard for everyone living in the village. Tonight, members of the Sonozaki and Furude clans will become betrothed to their significant others. I am sure this is a day that many elders have been excited to announce to all of Hinamizawa. First, may the head of the Sonozaki family, Mion Sonozaki, please come forward."

Mion came out from the back stage, dressed as elegantly as she could, and waited in the spot she was told to. Surprisingly, she was now wearing the necklace that Keiichi had obtained for her; her mother having rushed back to get it for her to wear. What Mion said before was true, but none the less, the necklace did add something stunning to her appearance. Blushing, she waited for her love to join her as they would announce their future marriage plans to the others.

"And now, would Keiichi Maebarra come forward."

Like Mion, Keiichi came forward looking somewhat nervous at being on stage in front of so many people, but when he saw Mion all his fears washed away. Standing next to her and holding her hand, they looked on confidently at those in attendance surprised at such an announcement. For most of the time since Mion's Inner Oni incident, no one but her parents and the game club members knew of the marriage intentions.

"And now, Akane Sonozaki, if you would please…"

The announcer stepped back and suddenly, from behind the curtains, came forward Mion and Shion's mother dressed in a black kimono and wearing her katana at her side in due part of having helped with security for the event. Taking the microphone, Akane addressed the crowd and then her daughter and future son in law for the occasion.

"Thank you everyone for being present today. I know our village has come a long way since we have opened the doors for outsiders to join our community, and I cannot be more proud of that fact. Likewise, I am happy in seeing this apparent with my own daughter and her boyfriend; whom himself has come to live with his family in Hinamizawa only several years past. Getting to the point of the matter, they are proof that Hinamizawa can become stronger as long as we are open to those around us. Now, my daughter, please step forward…" As Akane reached out to a blushing Mion, she stepped forward and went to her mother's side, lightly touching the necklace just above her breasts. "…Our family has a long held tradition when the marriage of the family heir comes to pass. Those seeking to marry the heiress of the Sonozaki family must go out and obtain a family heirloom that is hidden beyond Hinamizawa; a journey that may take weeks to accomplish, only to come up short handed. Many have failed to reach the place, and those in our family's past have even failed to find it at times. Only those worthy of returning the item…this necklace which is now worn by my daughter, will have the right to marry the Sonozaki heir. Keiichi Maebarra, having overcome every obstacle in his path, has completed that task despite the risking his life, all for the love of my daughter and to make her happy despite never being so much as selfish himself. They are truly made for each other, and Keiichi has proven himself of that. For this, it is his right to marry her. That is why, in front of the village, 5 years on a summer day from now will take place the marriage of Mion Sonozaki and Keiichi Maebarra. Let us congratulate them!"

Before both Keiichi and Mion, the entire audience cheered for them and made a deafening roar of approval. Stunned and blushing shyly, Mion and Keiichi nodded in response and waved to everyone; soon after the cheers becoming silent making their way off stage with hearts pounding like never before. Rejoining their friends in the crowd and receiving congratulatory remarks from all around, they watched on as the last couple to come forward on the stage emerged together as the crowds became silent for Akane once more.

"Last but never least; I have one major announcement to reveal to everyone. As many of you have known, this last couple has dealt with many affairs in this village's past; in good times and bad times. Though they produced a child even when not married, and though that child's mother was an outsider to our neighboring village, she became one of the most respected villagers of our time even during the Hinamizawa Dam Construction Project, which this village has so strived to overthrow. With her help, we succeeded and moved on from the village's dark history and have been brought back into one where light will always be present. Not only that, but she took into her family Rika Furude, her future husband's distant relative and our remaining Furude family head, amidst the tragic loss of her parents. For this, I want to announce the marriage proposal and unification of her family today. Would both Riku and Hanyuu step forward…"

Blushing and nervously stepping forward, but hand in hand with a smiling and confident Riku, Hanyuu came forward to where Akane was and greeted her. Standing before the village as if she had just entered it for the first time long ago when on those shrine steps with Riku and her daughter, Hanyuu was amazed to see so much smiling and laughter greeting her eyes. For her, to be welcomed so even when she was an outsider, seemed like this was truly the perfect world.

"…and so, Riku Furude will marry Hanyuu Ishimura this coming winter and thus strengthen the Furude family once more. From here on out, I am sure their family will flourish and watch over Hinamizawa as its protectors and shrine keepers of the village. Congratulations!"

Thousands cheered to another deafening roar for Hanyuu and Riku, now accompanied by Ouka, on the stage before everyone. Bowing respectfully and exiting the stage, thus marking the end of the marriage intentions event, music began to outpour from instruments and players all around; the start of the festival now commencing for real. Bon fires nearby the river were set alight and dancing and feasting all around occurred. Men and women were drinking and laughing, children were busy running around together and playing games, and all around it could be seen that this truly was the way Hinamizawa was meant to be. Amidst all the talk and merrymaking, the game club members assembled together with one another, preparing to dance in a circle nearby the main tower where several players were beating drums to various instruments.

Joining together in circling around a massive fire, dancing in a traditional fashion, Keiichi took hold of Mion followed by the order of Shion, Satoko, Satoshi, Rena, Ryuu, Komoto, Mizuho, Rika, Ouka, Hanyuu and finally Riku; laughing and smiling like never before, in a night they would never forget as the cicadas silently sang under the white moon in the sky. As sparks of fire flew into the night, no inclination of Evil remained and no longer did Fate toy with the village of Hinamizawa ever again.

/

*5 years later…*

And so, 5 years have come and gone for those residing in the now lively village of Hinamizawa. As its economy grew with each passing year and the village becoming more of a commercial center for businesses, the village became somewhat akin to Okonomiya in the coming years, but in all senses still remained the village it always was. As many families moved to the new home owner plots of land on the ever growing village, its population soon surpassed two and even three thousand people. At current estimate, the village has at least 6 thousand residents and counting. As businesses and families flourished, so did the once quant school of Hinamizawa and soon after becoming a normal annexed elementary, middle and high school. With the construction of the new school buildings, so did more teachers and children come to attend the school together. Even to this day, the legend of the first game club of Hinamizawa School was heard and known, and even for the club, continued on in many years to follow with the use of the old games in Mion's game locker and the new ones added on by her over time.

As for the game club members, after having overcome hell itself their paths in life eventually reached times of peace and prosperity. In the time following the Golden Lotus Festival, Mion and Keiichi, along with Shion's help from time to time, took care to the Sonozaki family's affairs and dealings, but none the less remained strong. After college and obtaining a business degree, Mion remained tomboyish in her lifestyle and pursued running her uncle's toy and game shop once he retired. Opening up chain stores in various other cities, "Sonozaki Game Productions" soon hit off and even Mion was concocting new games to sell in her shops along with outside independent contractors from time to time. The love of her life, Keiichi, finished college with a degree in sociology and soon after opened up the first municipal police department in Hinamizawa; heading a force of 20 respected members in their community that dealt with social problems and the betterment of the village overall. Though he had from time to time had a run in with criminals, the overall criminality rate in Hinamizawa was low by standard compared to any other city in Japan. Quite frankly, Keiichi, due to being a master negotiator, was called into other cities to aid in their problems; the result usually better for the other city in the end of things.

Shion, like her sister, pursued a business degree as well as a fashion design minor and eventually opened up her own clothing store. Becoming successful and loving the study of fashion, Shion's dress and clothing apparel became very successful and soon after branched out into other city retail stores. Satoshi, working under the close eye of Dr. Irie, went off to the same college as Shion and took courses in medical study. Just finishing graduate school now, Satoshi would soon be starting his new job at the Irie Clinic, which itself was expanding with the oncoming population increase in Hinamizawa. They still live in the same house given to them by Rika; enjoying their days in happiness with one another.

Rena moved out of her father's home eventually and found an apartment with Ryuu that was in Hinamizawa. Thanks to her father, Rena was able to attend a community college and pursue a degree in creative writing. In the past year, despite how much time she spent collecting all the cute things she could ever get her hands on, Rena had finished writing her first book; apparently, a story about a young woman who had to endure the trials and tribulations of an unforgiving cycle of fate. With Rika's permission, Rena was able to write the book and is eagerly awaiting its approval by publishers at the moment. Ryuu, on the other hand, stood by her side throughout the years and worked within his original construction company; rising to a high level manager position on construction sites. Though it paid well, Ryuu was able to make serious money in the coming years of Hinamizawa's growth; having no end to building contracts in sight.

Komoto and Mizuho, in the coming months after their marriage, had welcomed into their family their first child. A healthy girl, they named her Miko, stemming the first part of each of their names together. Miko was a lively young girl of 5 now who attended Hinamizawa School and made many friends there including the daughter of Dr. Irie and Chie-sensei, and even the son of Takano and Tomitake whom she had a fond likeness for surprisingly. Even under the careful watch of her parents, Miko found a love for guns and weapons; waiting for the day when she was old enough that her parents would teach her how to use them. For Mizuho, with the expansion of the school and the flood of more teachers, she was constantly busy mentoring and teaching all the kids in her class over the years. Komoto, on the other hand, still maintained the Okonomiya firing range and did some contract work from time to time, leaving for a few weeks here and there with Mizuho alongside him. It seemed that even after all they been through, a lot of work was still present that required their skills to settle. But often, Komoto tried his best to remain home with his family; even going so far as to work with Keiichi at the Hinamizawa Police Department for some assignments.

Satoko, after finishing her studies at Hinamizawa School, started attending college along with Rika and Ouka. Being around the same age and taking some similar general study courses together, they were never seen without the other on campus. Satoko decided to pursue an engineering degree, though still with hopes of becoming the greatest trap master in all of history and time. She is still able to get the better of Keiichi and Ryuu from time to time; always testing her newest inventions on them when the opportunity shows itself. As for Ouka, for the love of writing she is pursuing a degree in creative writing with a focus in poetry.

Over the years and after maintaining her family's shrine, Rika found it only fit to take up studies in peace, philosophy and religion when she entered college. Despite all that she went through, she remained childlike at her young age and, for once, matured normally with each passing year. At her age now, Rika was living a carefree lifestyle leaving all the events that transpired in the past, but never forgetting them. As for her love life, she eventually confessed her true feelings to Satoko, and in response, had found her exact feelings returned. Keeping their relationship a secret only from the villagers but not their friends, they maintained a healthy relationship with plans for marriage in the future at some point. Living with her newfound family, Rika, Satoko, Hanyuu, Riku and Ouka all lived together under the Furude estate and spent each year maintaining the shrine and festival events for the village. This time of year, Hanyuu is happily pregnant with her second child much to the pleasure of everyone else. She, like Rika, is living in peace without regret or sorrow, but happiness.

Everyone in Hinamizawa is living in a time of prosperity, but events from the past are never to remain forgotten; much so for Rika. It is on this day, when Keiichi and Mion are to be married at last, she would come to remember all that she strove to achieve, and with that, all that she would strive to protect in the coming future.

At the Sonozaki estate, among all the congratulations and feasting in the main ceremony hall, Mion and Keiichi sat at the forefront with their parents and respective best man, Ryuu, and bridesmaid, Shion, next to them. Hearing the toasts from their friends and loved ones, they sat hand in hand with rings on their fingers on their special day. Dressed traditionally before but now in more comfortable attire, Mion and Keiichi felt like they were on top of the world. Married and with plans for a shining future, they couldn't help but wait to begin their lives not only as best friends and lovers, but as husband and wife.

Inside the hall, the game club members were having a blast eating and enjoying themselves amongst all the yakuza looking members of the Sonozaki family, ironically. As the party went on inside, however, outside Rika sat dressed in a white dress holding three glasses next to her side. In her other hand was a bottle of her favorite wine, Berknastel, ironically. Listening to the peacefulness of the night, the cicadas in the distance singing to her, Rika opened her eyes and peered off into the distance as she sat on the outside porch alone. Finding some time to be by herself, she called out into the distance and, as an older woman, called for two people in particular.

"I've felt your presence the moment I came here. Why not join me for a drink, my friends, for tonight is full of merrymaking and wishful hopes. Will you not come?" she spoke, wise in tone but friendly none the less.

After her words were spoken, in the distance a woman emerged bearing similar traits to Rika, but still, remaining young in appearance. Coming up to Rika now, Bernkastel hugged her inner self and sat down next to her as if two friends had come together to hang out.

"I'm glad to have come, but it would seem our other guest is rather shy right now, is he not?" spoke Bernkastel, pouring herself a wine and Rika's as well. They touched glasses and sipped on the wine, enjoying the sweet taste together. Taking the third glass from behind them, Reimei Ryuu out of nowhere bent down and surprised both women, nearly giving them heart attacks.

"I'll take one for myself, if you don't mind. I've always wondered what this tastes like, though I prefer plum wine above all else…" spoke Reimei.

"Ah, you've come as well. I'm happy to see you, Reimei-san…" spoke Rika, touching her glass to his as well. He sat down in the shadows on Rika's side, though peeked into the room with one quick glance to see Komoto patting Riku on the back for hearing of Hanyuu's pregnancy. Seeing his other half, but not being able to greet him, felt somewhat awkward; even in the real world.

"You want to see him, don't you?" asked Bernkastel, nudging him in the arm. Reimei sighed and sipped his wine, acting like it didn't matter.

"Maybe, but it's better not to. He worked hard like the rest of you to achieve a happy world, so I'd rather he enjoy it. I may see him later, but for now I'll let him be…" he spoke, sipping more wine.

"Speaking of which, you never did say why you helped us, Reimei-san. Seeing as how I'm still trying to find all the answers, would you please tell us why?" asked Rika solemnly. Reimei looked at her with his dark eyes and smirked, sighing and giving in to her wishes.

"As the monk Lin-Chi once said, 'I eat when I am hungry and I sleep when I am tired'. I helped you all because I wanted to; that, and to help destroy another part of Evil in this dimension. I will never reach my goal alone, but there will come a day when I and many others will achieve that dream. So I reached into the darkness of this world, and helped you overcome your sufferings not for my personal gain but as a friend in a similar plight…" he spoke, sipping his wine some more before setting it down and finishing it.

"Then I thank you, both of you, for helping me. Now all that is left is the future and the unknown path before me…." Spoke Rika, smiling.

"Rika, you are the Eternal Witch of Miracles now. You have the power to do anything your heart desires. What will you do?" asked Bernkastel. "I will go on to test Battler's resolve in the other dimension and intervene when I feel that he too has solved the riddle in his world. As well, I will still fight on against Lambdadelta until the day she is unable to harm anyone else. That is my goal, so what is yours?"

Rika got up from where she sat and looked on at the others, smiling.

"I've been traveling, actually, between the Kakera with Hanyuu's help, and have revisited several instances of the past so as to give happiness to those other worlds. If I told you that, truly, only the past and present exist, but the future does not, what would you say?"

"It's possible, but what are you getting at?" Reimei spoke curiously.

"I don't think it was your doing that the shards came into our world and existed throughout time. Somehow…I think the past is not yet settled enough to remain stable. So many have died in the past worlds, and there is still a lot of hate written down in its history. The here and now may be the present, but to prevent any crossover with the past and to create a shining future, I've gone back to places like the day when Takano's parents were supposed to die in a horrible car accident and when Hanyuu first encountered the Crimson Lotus as a child, so that certain events never came into being. I owe it to those in the past to help them with the power I have now. Even if I come across as a scary and mean witch, I am kind to them none the less…" Rika set aside her own glass of wine and looked back on the others. "You said you wanted to destroy Evil, Reimei-san, so why not allow me and Bernkastel to help you out? All the cards, remember?"

Rika extended her hand out in friendship to Reimei, who stared blankly at it and then began laughing. Taking it in kind, he shook her hand and smiled in return.

"Thank you Rika-chan. No words can express my gratitude…but I can safely say I will be able to uphold my promise to that person I made it with long ago thanks to you…"

Getting up and brushing himself off, Reimei shook hands with Bernkastel and looked out into the night. Smiling again, he sighed and turned to Rika.

"It's getting late in my home world. Even whilst I dream there, here my presence is limited as well. Take care, both of you, and I will see you again I'm sure. Good luck…."

"Wait…what did you mean by a "promise to that person"?" Rika looked on with her own curiosity, but Reimei only smiled and looked on out into the night.

"Someone I love deeply. Someone who had saved my soul, and likewise, someone I hope to return in kind someday. She's my other half and the one who helps me make Twilight possible." With those last words and a grin on his face, Reimei disappeared into the night; leaving the festivities to those attending to themselves.

Disappearing without another word, Reimei left Rika and Bernkastel with new questions in their minds, but none the less could not understand.

"Though mysterious as he is, I have no doubt of his intentions. Rika, I must leave you to your world now and return to my own. Take care in your world, and remember who you are."

"Thank you, my friend. Take care, and one day, we will be together again to find your own happiness. I promise you that…" Content with that promise, Bernkastel smiled and, leaving with renewed vigor in her eyes, returned to a world where a man constantly tempted Fate in order to achieve his own happiness against the demons of hell and even a golden witch who hand an unusual interest in him. Maybe, someday, she would find her own happiness as well.

Hearing her friends calling inside, Rika sighed in happiness and turned her back on the forest, walking back inside to where her friends waited together.

This was her happiness. This was her family. But most importantly, this was her home…

And so, Rika lived her life alongside her friends and loved ones, every day and every minute of it to the fullest, even on those happy summer days when the cicadas cry…

The End

/

Author's Note:

You have seen a glimpse of a world, only to think it was a dream.

And in that dream, you saw their lives, their hopes, and their futures.

But was it your dream you saw? Or was it another world that dreamt of you?

For even when you found sadness, happiness came on the horizon.

Greeted were you by them,

And unto you, they held out their hands,

Hoping for the day you would meet them.

Grasp it as you might, you wake up before you could.

So who really dreamt? Was it you, or they?

Even when you went to that world, you knew in your heart, your mind and soul:

It was real.

Thank you for reading "Hinamizawa Hell" throughout all these years. Though it has been through many trials and tribulations, I still want to thank all of you for your continued support and critique of this story.

I am happy that the game club members have achieved a perfect ending where Evil will not tread ever again. And in that, I am content to say that this is a world where happiness is in their grasp.

I know you sit there after reading this that, even if this was an anime series, you feel it's that and nothing more.

But what I have written in here are pieces of dreams, accounts of their world that exists in my own memories. Even when writing this, I was in nothing more than a trance hastily typing away at the keyboard, seeing the story in my mind as it unfolded into words and then this story's telling.

This is the truth of this story, and this is what is means to me.

What you decide from it is left up to you.

Thank you again for reading and enjoy.