He had always sort of known, but being a teenager, it wasn't really the sort of thing he was intrinsically conscious of; he didn't even realise it until five days later.
The Composer raises his eyes up at the baleful sky, only just resisting the screaming urge to cover his ears and block out the ugly music emanating from the city.
Rhyme refuses to talk about the time she was erased.
It sort of really fucking pisses him off for a long time that the first person that totally gets him—the first person he can fucking connect with!—turns out to be the one who shot him in the face for his own amusement, not once, but twice.
Neku remembers the pain that shot through his head back when he could hear everyone's voices at once; it's nice to just kick back and revel in the solitude and tranquil of being alone in his head.
Maybe it's just the way Beat is standing there by the train tracks, maybe it's the way his face is screwed up or the way his eyes aren't really looking at anything; "Shit," thinks Neku.
The text message reads: "Let me know when you're done sulking and having worldly epiphanies, because I have a proposal to make—and don't worry, I know you're the shy, brooding type, so I'll pop the question as long as you get the rings~ d(^_^)"
Hanekoma has a not-so-secret secret: it's not because he loves beans.
Shiki wonders how no one ever notices the ghostly footprints that always form by themselves in the snow.
It absolutely grinds against his better judgment, but it absolutely must be done—he's her big brother, damn it—and so he stomps up to a nearby Support Reaper and loudly demands, "Yo, how do I join you guys?"
The Red Skull pin is spreading like wildfire, and Kitaniji allows the briefest of smiles to grace his lips; all wills will unite and Shibuya will be saved.
Shiki remembers back when they first met, Neku didn't want anything to do with her and he had absolutely nothing compassionate to say; "Sorry that took so long," he says as he returns with two ice cream cones; he pauses and stares at her, head tilted to the side, "What're you thinking about?" Shiki just smiles and waves off his question and apology.
The novelty of being dead and invisible wears off after Beat realises that the only person that can see him waving his junk around is also dead and invisible and his little sister.
Some things don't change: Neku always manages to damage his clothes in public and Shiki always publically humiliates him by forcing him to strip so she can fix them right then and there and "Yes, I mean, right this second—it needs to be done NOW!"
Rhyme now always crosses the Scramble with an air of reverence; she has no idea how many people are fighting for their right to live at any given time, but she quietly wishes them luck on their journeys and whispers them a prayer.
The last thing he hears is Joshua's laughter.
Beat isn't sure which is worse: the fact that he and Rhyme are dead, or the fact that she doesn't remember who the fuck he is.
The text message reads: "u have 10 mins to call me; fail, and face fb friend erasure lol! ~shiki 33"
"It's only in Shibuya," Kariya reflects, "that Reapers are so juvenile that they pass time playing games like Hide-and-Seek and Tag," Uzuki gives him a look and snaps, "Don't try to separate yourself from the rest of us—you're the one always eating lollipops."
"I'm trying to think of new embarrassing things to make the players do to clear areas," Tenho shouts to BJ, "Any ideas?"
Shiki practically shatters Neku's eardrums when Eiji Oji, Prince of Ennui, resident superstar, sees the clothes she and Eri made together and declares, "F this line! F it to high heaven!"
Joshua follows Neku around even after the fact, and while his frequency is set too high for Neku to notice him, Joshua is certain that Neku is aware of his presence on some level; sort of like how one sees things in the corner of one's eyes but never actually perceives them.
"That pact shit really was difficult for me to deal with at first," Neku reminisces, "But in the end it was a good experience, I guess," and Beat leaps back a few paces and boggles at him, sputtering: "Y-you're gay, Phones?!"
"Yeah," Neku says, eyeballing the horde of Jellies that was practically doubling before his eyes; "I don't think so," he snatches Joshua by the wrist and drags him away, shutting up his nonchalantly suicidal (or is he suicidally nonchalant?) partner with a snapped command of "Let's bounce!"
Beat gets a job at a marked Wild Boar and can't help but give certain pairs of customers little discounts on their purchases while (advising) saying "Keep wearin' all that and you'll end up startin' a trend—then who'll be on top?"
Neku does not know anger until he knows the feeling of having his friends snatched away.
Joshua's lips pull upwards and he lets the hand holding the gun droop, wilting at his side; Neku's body crumples in on itself, sagging to the ground, and Joshua wonders if telling Neku: "Because it was something to do" would have made a difference.
It all happens so quickly that Rhyme's not even sure what exactly went through her mind; all she knows was that Beat was in danger and that he absolutely cannot get erased.
The first thing Neku does when he gets back is hug his mother.
He almost has a heart attack the first time he feels a sighing puff of warm air rush past his neck; just before he walks into a nearby wall, he thinks to himself 'It's my imagination, it's my imagination,' then he walks into the wall; that's definitely blood running from his nose, and those peals of irritatingly high-pitched laughter are definitely real.
"Hey, Neku," Joshua says, poking his head out from his changing stall, "can you come in here and help me zip up the back of my dress?"
The prickling sensation in the palm of his hand grows more uncomfortable as time passes, and the closer it gets to the deadline, the more painful the sting becomes; Neku never wants to wait and see what happens when it hits 00:00:00.
None of them use alarm clocks anymore.
Shiki comments on the fact that Rhyme should probably refer to herself as "watashi" or "atashi" instead of "boku," but Rhyme gives her a politely confused smile, telling her quietly that "No, that'd be weird, and Beat would probably freak out."
Neku refuses to rush anywhere anymore, and it drives his teachers insane, but whatever; he spent three weeks running around Shibuya at breakneck speeds and a little laziness is well deserved.
When Shiki wakes up, it's the same day three weeks ago—it's like none of it even happened; she's not sure how she feels about that.
He sits in the middle of Dogenzaka, just staring up in dumb awe at the CAT mural, willing it to suck him in and take him far away from here.
He used to wish that everyone else would just go away.
Hanekoma is just waiting for the day Neku realises that his world has no limits.
"Say, Neku," Joshua says breezily as he takes a sip of his coffee, "have you ever hooked up with a guy?" Neku nearly chokes on his pancakes and hacks out a haggard "NO! What the hell is wrong with you?!" and Joshua replies, "Oh," and then a beat later, "Would you like to?"
That one boy with the shock orange hair unnerves Makoto Miki for two reasons: first, he is nearly 100% positive that the kid is trying to hit on him; and second, that brat looks alarmingly like that kid who was reported on the news to have been killed in Dogenzaka no more than three weeks ago.
"This can't be happening—" Minamimoto gasps, "The probability of your demise was 1!" as he struggles beneath the heap of garbage, Joshua laughs airily, cocking his gun and drawling, "You miscalculated, Sho; Somewhat Obnoxious Happenings Can't Actually Hope To Obviate Authority."
"You really should consider it, Neku dear; I mean, I certainly don't want to see you wasting away in the RG," Joshua says at length, fluttering his fingers as he talks; Neku scowls a little and grunts, "So don't look," which Joshua seems to find extremely funny.
Even Hanekoma is occasionally surprised at the Composer's actions; "Let me get this straight," he says, rubbing at his stubble, "You shot the guy once—" "Twice," Joshua corrects, a tad gleefully.
Beat suddenly sits straight up and the others peer over at him from where they're sprawled across the grass; "I just realised," Beat says, eyes large, "We took out shitloads of freaky monsters and psycho bitches," Shiki raises an eyebrow at him, "So?" Beat gawks at her, "SO, we're pretty fuckin' epic!!"
Unseen, Joshua strolls through Shibuya, humming to himself and smiling at the clear music thrumming in the air; Neku dashes by, yelling greetings to the ragtag group sitting around Hachiko; the music grows to a radiant crescendo around Neku's form and Joshua can't help but chuckle a little; 'Dear, dear partner!'
When she gets back home, she sits in front of her bedroom mirror for over an hour, the blanket she had thrown over it held loosely in her pale fingers as she rakes her eyes over her face, as if acquainting herself with her reflection for the first time; she presses fingers to her cheek and smiles.
The text message reads: "ok fine ill do it, just stop following me around—mom thinks im developing a nervous disorder and i dont need that on top of an invisible stalker."
Kariya gets offered the promotion Uzuki wants, but turns it down; neither of them gets promoted and Kariya spends the night sucking lollipops, watching her get completely plastered, and laughing his ass off as she retches into the toilet while cursing the establishment.
He opens his desk drawer and pulls out an empty matchbox; inside are some photographs, a cracked geode, a few ticket stubs, and a collection of pins; he knew he'd held onto this stuff for a reason; "Well~?" Joshua drawls from behind him and Neku takes the pins out of the box, staring at his once-again partner from over his shoulder; he meets Joshua's expectant gaze with one that appears bored (but really is far from it) and says, beleaguered, "Fine, I'll be your damn Conductor," and before Joshua can celebrate or murder children or whatever it is that he does when he's happy, Neku adds on, "but you're not allowed to off me anymore," and Joshua slings an arm over Neku's shoulders, laughing and saying, "I'll try to suppress the urge, my dear partner!" then, pulling a 180 in the way only he can, smirks and purrs into Neku's shoulder, "But am I allowed to get you off, at least?" Neku just rolls his eyes and smiles.