Author's note: Rating went up with this chapter thanks to some strong language. So beware. Also, this is the last chapter. Hope you enjoy!
From Secret Report 17:
Even if revived, though, Rhyme still lost the Game. Her entry fee is non-refundable. I do not know what the girl's entry fee was, but a life without it – the thing she held most dear – would be filled with grief and hardship.
But is the void in one's heart caused by loss never filled?
I think it can be. It may take time, but something else will come along to fill that empty space – so long as one enjoys the present.
In other words, we needn't mourn the loss of that which we hold dear. If only more people realized this…
The Composer did not impose the entry fee upon players to cause them anguish.
In experiencing life without the thing one most values, Players are forced to reexamine just how crucial those things really are. The hope is that by the close of the Game, Players will be able to take a hard look at themselves, and be able to take on the future with a new outlook on life.
The entry fee exists to force Players to see the truth about themselves. It is a test posed by the Composer to spur Players' self-enlightenment.
Seven Days Later…
Beat wakes up and thinks it was all a dream.
It's when he sees Rhyme that he realises the truth: everything before the Reaper Games was the actual dream. Only now does reality begin.
It is cold and harsh, like a slap to the face.
There is no one to whom Beat can confide.
Rhyme is out of the question, of course. His parents, too. They don't remember him either, and they had never believed in him to begin with. As for Neku and Shiki, he has only known them for a matter of days. He meets them at the Statue of Hachiko and he is happy about it, he really is, but he cannot ruin their euphoria by piling his problems on them. He's an idiot, but not that much of one.
He turns his gaze to Rhyme and she is the one who smiles at him with bubbling content. "We're back, Beat," she says, and her happiness bounces off her like a mirror. "Doesn't it feel so good to be alive?"
And Beat can only say "Yeah." He waits for some acknowledgment of something from his sister.
She only continues to smile at him contentedly.
He wants to embrace her and swear to her that he'll never repeat his mistakes, but what kind of lame-ass brother acts that cheesy?
"You changed, man," he says to Neku when he notices the orange-haired boy walk around without his oversized headphones.
Neku hesitates. "Yeah, I guess so," he says at length, and then shrugs. "Thanks to Shiki and Rhyme, I… learned to accept that everyone in Shibuya is different. I was partnered with my murderer for a week."
"Sounds excrucifying, yo."
"Excruciating," Neku corrects him automatically before sighing. "I wonder why Joshua decided to bring everybody back in the end…"
It is clearly a question that has been bothering Neku for a while.
Beat snorts. He's not a thinker for a reason.
(He wishes he wasn't.)
Beat continues to skateboard every day when he has time. He cannot give up on this manufactured dream of his because Rhyme has fallen so deeply for the charade that Beat does not have the heart to go back on his word.
He skates around all the streets of Shibuya except for Miyashita Park. Miyashita Park has all the best walls and rails for skateboarding stunts, but Beat is sure that going there will be like a punch to the gut.
It is. Cripplingly so.
Beat goes there only because he wants to visit Cat Street. He sees a car hurtling full speed towards him at every corner and he sees himself in his mind's eye throwing his and Rhyme's life away, over and over again for the same pointless, ineffectual reasons.
He hurries on towards Cat Street, even though it is probably just more of the same madness.
The first time he tries to visit the man who saved him, WildKat is closed. Beat tries again another day because the person he is now is angry about giving up.
The second time he visits, Mr. Hanekoma is there at the counter, and he regards Beat with a mixture of surprise and amusement.
"Here to thank me?" he asks. He is wiping one of the plates. Beat remembers from his days as a Noise that this was all that Mr. H ever seemed to do.
Beat is thankful, but… "Screw that," he growls. "I want answers, yo! If you could save me, aintcha smart enough to return Rhyme's memories an' dreams?"
"Only the Composer has that power," Mr. H replies. He is serious now. "Sorry about you and your sister's loss."
Beat slams his fist against the wall. And then he leaves and stands outside fuming, even though it is raining outside.
Rhyme is still – and always will be – his friend.
She tells him about her harrowing experiences in the UG, but she also says, with a gentle smile on her lips: "It's not what happened then that matters now. It's what we choose to do now, don't you think?"
"I don't geddit," Beat mumbles.
"I was aimless when I entered the Game that first time," Rhyme confesses. "I didn't know what I was doing there or what I wanted to do. When you got Erased, I felt so guilty. If I'd only moved quicker, you wouldn't have had to go through what you did. That's what kept me going, Beat. I wanted to save you."
Something twists inside Beat. He wonders if the one who has gone backwards was not her but him.
The third time he visits WildKat, Joshua is there.
Beat squints at him for a moment, remembering what Rhyme said about the Composer looking like a girly boy with white hair.
It takes him less than a second to figure out what he wants to do from here.
He stomps towards Joshua, exclaims, "Yo, Whiteylocks!" waits for the boy to turn his head towards him, and then punches him in the face.
"Much better," says Beat.
"That wasn't very polite of you," says Joshua. He can still be condescending even as he holds his bruised face.
"That was for messin' with my sister!" Beat roars. He brings his hand back again, ready to launch another punch.
Joshua does not even flinch.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Beat growls furiously. "I'm beatin' you up, you bastard!"
Up at the counter, Mr. H puts down his oily rag and lights one of his cigarettes.
Joshua simply shakes his head.
"You're the only one who's sought me out," he says. "Not even Neku did that."
In his own way, he seems just as hurt and raw as Beat is.
Beat punches him again.
"I don't get you!" He is yelling hoarsely now and he does not care if people in the street can hear him. "Whatchu want? Whatchu after? Is playin' with our lives some kinda sick game to you?"
There is a sense of futility to this conversation and Beat can sense it. It serves both to infuriate him and to mellow him. He is choking on his anger and for some reason, he cannot bring himself to punch the Composer again.
It does not occur to him that attempting to punch the Composer in the first place is not a very good idea.
There is silence, and Joshua frowns and turns his head away.
His snort should be pompous and arrogant, but it really isn't.
Beat stares at him.
Joshua speaks up finally. "Tell your sister I said hi." He stands up and he vanishes, just like that, into thin air.
Beat never returns to the café after that.
The next time Beat catches up with Rhyme, he does not tell her what Joshua said. He is not taking orders from Whiteylocks.
What he does do is something he never expected of himself.
He grabs Rhyme's hand and takes her to Miyashita Park. When they get there, he says nothing for a while, simply watches Rhyme as she looks around with puzzled curiosity.
Beat thinks about the sacrifices Rhyme made for him. He thinks about their time in the RG together and their time now, as friends who will always be friends.
He thinks about their time as siblings, when he thought he had all the time in the world.
He thinks about the dreams he has but does not deserve and the dreams Rhyme deserves but does not have.
He thinks about the love she had for him that exists no longer. She once followed him around when he didn't want to be followed. When he was little, little enough to think taking care of his sister was his job and not hers, she used to cling to his leg. Or maybe he'd pretend to be an aeroplane for her. A plane that could go to America.
She'd always wanted to go to America.
(Actually, she liked Canada better, didn't she?)
And Beat cries. He cries, because it is bullshit to pretend that he's not defined by his past and that it will never stop affecting the person who he is.
Rhyme hears him and she is so concerned for him, it is awful. "Beat! Beat!"
He cuts her off before she can say anything more.
"Rhyme, there's somethin' I gotta tell ya," he says. He does not wait. "About you. About us."
He tells her everything, and there is no more wondering about might have been.
Afterword: Thank you for reading this fic all the way to the end! It's not my favourite fic I've written but I really did enjoy writing it a lot. I've always loved the bittersweet siblingship between Beat and Rhyme.
As usual, Frog-kun was experimenting with language in this fic. I tried to use a sparse sort of writing style that tells a story in snippets. Personally, I think it lacks a few vital details, but hopefully, it came together for you readers in the end. (Somewhat.)
Yes, the ending is open-ended. I'm aware I don't explain much about Joshua's involvement in the story. I don't usually leave my plots hanging like this, but the game does kinda use an approach similar to this, so I tried to recreate that aspect of it as best I could. I'm not using these notes to explain all my authorial choices but I will say if any of you readers have any questions about the story, feel free to drop in a review and ask. I won't bite.
Anyway, thank you again for reading this! Not sure when I'm going to write another TWEWY fic, but I'd really love to do it again in the future. Peace!