We didn't try to defy it. We didn't try to break the hold fate had fastened to the dreadful disaster all those years ago and we didn't even attempt to challenge it. In the end there were only two people who could ever have made a difference, but both of them failed before the end. Even though many tried to have hope in a future, it simply wasn't enough. There was far too much dread and even if I, as a complete bystander to all that occurred, had so much as held an ounce of faith, then perhaps it would have been possible. But nay, no such possibility existed. We all simply dreaded. We abandoned all hope. And that was why we – or rather, they – lost. There was no reason this tale should have ended pleasantly.
And yet, there is still this last tale that not I alone, but everyone will reveal to you all at once. There is yet redemption to be found, even this far off the deep end and this deep into the depths of hell. This tale will simply bring about that which the resolution did not. In reality, it is still uncertain if any of this tale even so much as existed. In fact, given the unreliable nature of my old competitor and her equally as unreliable narration, the conclusion that you have seen might have been a complete fabrication in itself.
…So, I suppose I shall endorse this tale, the tale that everyone wishes to share with you, with my own sort of grace. I will confirm that at least part of this tale is true.
But beware, for the uncertainty that has accompanies you thus far will not go quietly. This tale might be the most unreliable of them all, and considering how this is the last tale it is rather fitting. Understand that no matter what perspective the story is told from, it is all unreliable.
In the end I will not bid you all farewell. Simply because this is not going to be the last time that we meet. I will, however, leave you on this note.
Now that you know the user defined truth, is there any real reason to the remainder of this tale?
And if there is – can you figure out what it is?
~ Dr. Saturn Anne
Pivotal Characters (perspective gets the bold)
Just About Everyone
The Unreliable Narrator
A Midday Thousand Year War
She was simply wandering. She was wandering without a destination or even a general direction to wander in. She was doing nothing but moving. That was all she knew how to do. But she was certainly content. After all, it had been so long since she had even been able to do something like this.
It was possible thousands upon thousands of years ago. Her death had been guaranteed, but was slowed down considerably due to the love of her close friends who had managed to lessen the damage with a simple lie. That simple lie helped her to survive for quite a long time afterward, but even the most well crafted lies must fall apart some time. The Maebara Keichi who became Wizard Hunting Wright understood this better than anyone else.
It was during the Festival Chapter. That was the chapter of the Hinamizawa tale in which she met her ultimate doom. But in her death she finally regained her true identity that she had lost millennia ago as a result of her fatal logic error. While her fragmented self existed several places at once – including at the side of the Tohya Hachijo of the User Defined Fragment – she managed to restore herself over time. It had taken ages, but with the help of her precious miko Bernkastel she had finally been restored.
But as she was she was still Hanyuu Furude, the unreliable narrator of the User Defined Fragment. She was significantly older than she had been, now approximating the appearance of an eighteen year old woman, but she could not fully become Featherine Augustus Aurora until she could fully abandon her false demon shell and revive fully as the Witch of Theatergoing. But as it stood that false demon shell was still reality, and the history that came with it was certainly still just as real.
Hanyuu Furude continued to wander that vast and empty space until she realized that she could simply find a fragment to rest in for the time being. She found herself searching for a fragment until she managed to locate one small enough to suit her.
It was essentially a massive graveyard, with swords of all sorts littered about the grounds, with some staked over slabs of stone to serve as the tombstone, while others crowded around the largest tombstone off in the distance. It was a dark and dreary place, with most of the vegetation having died off seemingly long ago and the sky being some strange shade of hazel. It was, however, entirely void of life sans the light vegetation and so a perfect place for her to rest.
Sadly, such rest would never be granted to her. In the end she assumed it was her own fault for not covering her tracks all that well, but she wasn't really considering the possibility that anyone could have managed to track her down this quickly. But then again she was one of the most powerful witches in existence. She could simply will someone's death and they would die.
But then again, she couldn't do that right now, could she?
"Ah, it seems I've finally found you." The man garbed in black with his seemingly signature black hat stood atop the largest of the tombstones, gazing down on her with his malicious grin. He did not need to hide his eyes from her, as they were both on even ground, relatively speaking.
"***********. I wasn't expecting to run into you so soon."
He almost gave her a look of disbelief, but quickly masked with a haughty laugh aimed at her response. It was rather hysterical sounding, but given who this man was it wasn't all that surprising that he'd have a few screws loose.
"Ah, I haven't heard that name in a really long time. You really are her, aren't you?"
"Do you go by something else now?"
"Astaroth seems to be the name that stuck."
But that's not all that accurate a name, is it?"
"It's the one I picked out myself. It's rather ominous sounding, isn't it? I don't give a damn for how accurate it is or isn't. Besides…" Astaroth's seemingly more serious expression was quickly replaced with another lecherous grin. "You said it yourself. I can't go around advertising my power like that. It'd be bad publicity."
"So what are you here for?"
"What the hell do you think I'm here for?"
"I can assume you came because you planned on killing me before I regained most of my power?"
"Not completely true."
Hanyuu's previous expression had mixed with a small tinge of confusion. "Oh? Then what brings you here?"
"It's simple. I'm gonna kill you – that's a given. But first I'm going to beat you into submission, and then I'll fuck your lights out. Then I'm going to kill you."
Hanyuu sighed. "Haven't you violated enough women in your day?"
"You've gotten a bit of an attitude over the years, haven't you?"
"You're a tad more obnoxious than when we last met. You've likely grown weaker as a result."
"Oh really? Wanna find out?"
"Since I don't have anything better to do…"
Hanyuu drew a long katana seemingly out of thin air and stood ready to fight. Astaroth grinned widely.
"Oh, so you've finally got the motivation? Then let's get this shit started."
Without even drawing a weapon, Astaroth broke out into a sprint from the top of the tombstone. Hanyuu made no movement whatsoever, but she knew that whatever attack he was planning on using would be nearly impossible to dodge. Therefore she would simply have to block the attack altogether.
Astaroth seemed to just run straight past her, but Hanyuu was assailed by what seemed to be invisible strikes from an invisible blade that seemed to hang somewhere in front of her. It took her a moment to realize that what she'd been hit with was Astaroth's attack – it had happened so quickly she could only feel the strikes as opposed to seeing them coming. In a matter of moment he did the same thing again. Hanyuu still could not grasp the true form of his attacks. Whatever blade he was using was far too quick for even her to catch a glimpse of.
Astaroth rounded again and made the same sort of attack. This time, Hanyuu managed to catch the blade mid swing and found the only opening she needed. She stabbed him roughly where his heart should have been, causing him to cough up blood before laughing and forcing the blade further into his body until he'd drawn himself as close to her as possible. He made a slash that did nothing but cut open a part of the top of her kimono, revealing the seemingly porcelain skin slightly above her chest underneath.
"Ah, it seems I missed." He was still taunting her, even now. He forced her to release the blade and, pulling it all the way out in a single fluid motion stabbed her in the shoulder with it. He was about to force her to the ground but Hanyuu managed to force him away with a small burst of raw energy she'd built up in a few seconds. Astaroth's other blade found its mark in her side, but it only managed to dig slightly into her skin. He backed away as to avoid the returning blow from the blade Hanyuu had just managed to wrench out of her shoulder.
"Oh come on. This is boring the shit out of me. Are you really so damn weak you can't even see these moves coming?"
"If I'd been allowed to rest as I planned to, then maybe you would've had the fight you were looking for."
"Are you really resorting to complaining? Damn, being a loli for a few centuries made you into a little bitch."
"If you think you've outclassed me altogether you'll find that you're very wrong."
"Then quit talking about it and show me!" Astaroth made a quick turn and seemed to jump straight at her.
With a single swing of the katana, which had done little but block Astaroth's constant blows up to this point, Astaroth was sent flying far off from his target, a spray of blood following him. He crashed into the ground and bounced along the ground much like a rag doll. He rolled over onto his side, exposing the fresh gash that ran from the base of his neck all the way to the other end of his body. But it wasn't a simple gash. The slash had seemingly cleaved most of his body in half; as his arm had gone flying off in a separate direction from the rest of his body.
He was silent for a few moments, but shifted his head so he could see her. Her expression was now far more stern than bored as it had been before – and now her eyes gave off the ominous purple glow that were all the evidence that he needed to know he was fighting his intended opponent.
He let out what seemed to be some sort of a pleased howl.
"Now, there's the woman I wanted to fight."
He attempted his dashing motion again, but this time he was met with a very strong blow from the now bloody red katana that sent him flying in another direction. It hadn't done the same amount of damage, but it had been enough to send him flying again.
He tried again, this time seemingly defying the laws of gravity and shooting himself at her at a speed and with such a spontaneous velocity that he just as entirely defied the laws of motion. He went spiraling towards her, likely trying to use the effect of the spin rather than the tip of his blade to deal substantial damage. By launching himself forward with that much propulsion, he had essentially turned his body into something that wasn't all that different from a bullet.
It didn't stop Hanyuu from completely blocking the strike. A sizable crack formed in the blade, but she had effectively stopped a man-sized bullet with a sword.
He backed away instantly, dropping to the ground and apparently catching his breath.
"Ah, there we go. Now I can start getting serious again."
"Don't even try to insinuate that you weren't fighting with your full strength."
"You don't know a damn thing, do you? I'm very disappointed in you. But in your defense you haven't had a good fight with me in…how many years was it?" He shook his head in disappointment before lifting the hat off of his head for the first time since his arrival.
She stared at him with a semblance of a look of shock. Instead of the face she had expected, she was met with the face of Maebara Keiichi – or more specifically, Maebara Keichi, a figment of the tales she had woven.
"You aren't even…!"
He laughed with a voice that clearly was not Keiichi's, nor was it even Keichi's. "Ah, now that's the look I wanted to see. I don't think I've genuinely surprised you once in the last six thousand years."
He dropped his blade to the ground next to him, stretching his arms out as wide as he could.
A large black cloud of smoke completely enveloped him.
"I am the king of this world…"
In a matter of seconds another black hat appeared atop his head and his eyes gave off the supernatural red glint that had driven many a human being to the edge of insanity. His hair grew significantly longer and overall he appeared to be less of Keichi and more of that man.
"Yet I am the darkness of but one man… I am death and despair incarnate."
He was the one known as Keichi – the false copy of Keiichi that Hanyuu had created to fool the real Keiichi into repenting for crimes that may not have been his fault. But ultimately this was who he was – Keiichi's dark side, who was the true ruler of the user defined fragment. He had encased all those that had died in the Hinamizawa Disaster in Hell – a Hell that he had created and controlled all on his own. Despite having shown compassion by setting them all free, he was still evil incarnate. Because deep down all humans are essentially the same, and this was the form that Keiichi's darkness had taken.
She had created him. She had created him, but she had let him feed on the despair and hatred of humanity and he had grown to something that could easily crush her the way she was.
She readied her sword, but she knew that what was about to come spiraling her way wouldn't be as easily misdirected as his last attack.
Astaroth once again took to that spiral shape – but this item his body seemed to be wrapped in flames – pitch black flames that rolled along the ground around him as he spiraled towards her at ridiculously fast speeds.
The black flames quickly enveloped Hanyuu from all sides and her sword was ripped from her grasp by some strange wind. It was likely the force of the impact that Astaroth made with the ground. He hadn't even fully rammed into her. But before the flames could wrap around her completely she managed to jump away, leaping an incredibly long distance to avoid the attack. The flames didn't follow her for particularly long and so she managed to make it out almost completely unscathed. She was certain her sword would have been destroyed in whatever sort of attack Astaroth had prepared and so she decided against trying to find it. But just when she thought she was in the clear the flames once again came spiraling towards her like a massive wildfire spreading at an alarming rate. The flames danced along the nearly barren terrain as Astaroth apparently redirected his entire body midair towards her new position. All the while Hanyuu heard his sickening laugh – it was as if he were a broken record.
This time around she was forced to face the flames head on. At this point, trying to avoid the attack would do no good – she had to stop him by force. As he drew closer she took a single step forward and despite the wicked flicker of the flames she managed to see through the darkness and caught a glimpse of the red glint in her opponent's eyes. She readied herself and as he was about to collide with her she managed to grab him by the collar and swiftly kicked him in the stomach with the force of a freight train.
He gasped for air, but all the while Hanyuu did not let him go.
"Ah…So you've got enough of your power back that you can pull of that nasty motherfucker of a move, eh?" He tried to taunt her as he breathed heavily.
"I'm afraid so. Only a few more seconds and you will cease to exist. It was almost entertaining. I'll give you that. But I'm afraid we must part."
"You seem so certain that I'm down and out." He smiles.
Hanyuu's stern expression falters slightly, expressing her confusion ever so slightly. But it was certainly there – and that was all the confusion he needed to deliver a deadly counterattack.
"Unholy storm of flames…Ragnarok...!" He chanted.
In that instant Hanyuu released him and tried to leap as far backward as she possibly could. And as she did a massive eruption of black flames poured from Astaroth's body. The thousands of flames scattered themselves throughout the air and suspended themselves midair, appearing to be candle lights without the candles themselves. He began to cackle once again, and in another instant he spread his arms far apart and began to float in the air.
In another moment the thousands of flames grew in size and spontaneously exploded. The explosion spread over the bulk of their battlefield – in the end Hanyuu was forced to abandon her scarf as it caught fire as she tried to escape the range. She was significantly burned by the excess flames but she seemed to avoid the attack with little damage.
Once the dust cleared, a massive crater had formed only a few feet away from her. It seemed he'd missed – but she had a feeling he had missed on purpose.
"I seem to have forgotten how powerful you were made. I've underestimated you. You have my apologies." Hanyuu really had no choice but to admit that he wasn't as much of a pushover as she had graded him before.
"Damn right you're sorry. You're just lucky I still have a heart. Otherwise I might've lost control right there."
Hanyuu knew that wasn't a bluff of any sort. The Unholy Flames of Nihil functioned as essentially an incredibly unstable sort of black magic. In almost all instances the person making use of the flames would not be spared from their destructive power. She recognized the black flames when he had used them initially, but she hadn't taken into account the possibility that he would fire off Ragnarok. She was more amazed that he had survived the usage of that attack.
"I suppose wasting any more time isn't possible." She sighed.
"You've got a point there. I might just kill you if you keep fighting like this…Come on, you can't have forgotten how to call your own sword."
"Are you sure?"
"Am I sure of what? That I want you to use it? Why the hell am I egging you on if I want you to pass up on it?"
"Case in point…Very well."
Hanyuu then summoned her true weapon – the Onigari no Ryuou. The golden blade shimmered into existence, appearing about an arm's length away from her, suspended in the air. She grasped the hilt and the blade shimmered with a faint purple glow.
"I'm sorry." She spoke softly.
But despite the situation he appeared to be in, Astaroth just kept on smiling. "Don't expect to kill me with that weapon."
There had to be a limit to his elitist behavior. But at this point it didn't seem like there was an end to his boasting.
"You can't be serious."
"Oh, but I am. You see, while you were busy being dead and everything, and considering how much of a bookworm the Keiichi from this fragment was, I went ahead and did a little reading – from the Akasha Arts, by the way."
"And what are the Akasha Arts?"
"Have you ever heard of the Sword of Akasha?"
"It's a Nordic weapon – I assume you're familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel?"
"Yes…And what does that weapon have to do with it?"
"This is the weapon version – a weapon built by humans, sealed away by the gods to protect themselves from its wrath."
"And what does it have to do with the Akasha Arts?"
"The Arts contain the magic necessary to summon that weapon…Although being a lesser being I can't do crap with that weapon."
"And so do you have some sort of an alternative?"
He grins. "You might be a bit more familiar with this weapon. It's from your neck of the woods, if you catch my drift."
At his side a small black void seems to fade into existence. As it does so the entire atmosphere of the battlefield seems to change.
In the next moment, the void begins to spin. It was a small black hole, and it was going to tear apart this fragment from the inside out. The swords scattered about were drawn towards the hole, and Hanyuu herself seemed to be drawn in. But before she was dragged anywhere near the hole Astaroth reached in and from within the black hole drew a long black sword, with a hilt shaped like the maw of a dragon. The black hole vanished instantly and all that remained was the sword, which began to glow with a dark haze.
"This is the countersign of that weapon – Demon Slayer Kusanagi."
That was a name Hanyuu was slightly more familiar with. But the sword Kusanagi was nothing like the weapon she saw before her.
"And what part of fiction did you drag that weapon out of?" Hanyuu continued to undermine the power of the weapon despite the fact that it was clearly infused with an immense power.
"Keiichi read a book about Japanese mythology once. He thought it would've been a bit more interesting if medieval dragons were involved. So now this sword is infused with the soul of a just as fictional dragon lord."
"It'll look fascinating, once I run it through your skull."
With that he swung the sword a single time and a massive burst of flame that matched the arc of the swing sped towards her. The air carried the flames along like a sort of wave as if it were a massive gust of wind being sent spiraling toward her. She managed to avoid the first swing, but the second managed to strike her squarely.
Hanyuu recalled the legend of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi. This sword somewhat matched the description. The blade certainly was bending the air to its will – except it seemed to ignite something in the air. Certainly it was due to the supposed dragon soul infused with the blade. It seemed the so called dragon only supplemented the already powerful weapon.
"And the best thing about this weapon? It was especially made to rip you apart."
"I'm honored that someone would make such an absurd weapon with me in mind." She practically spat as she managed to avoid the third and fourth arcs of the sword.
"It's only a matter of time, you know…. You won't be able to keep this up. With each swing I rip off another layer of your shield. Once I eat away at that aura of yours you won't have anything left to defend yourself."
"You act as if I'm going to let you do that."
Hanyuu avoided another wave and tried to rush towards him before he could get off another swing. But before she could he simply pointed his left index finger at her and fired off a red laser of some sort. It was some concentration of raw energy and Hanyuu nearly took the full damage from the shot. She backed away but as she did Astaroth swung Kusanagi once again and this time she was sent flying backward.
With that single swing Hanyuu's barrier shattered completely. Her purple aura dissipated and she was left more or less completely defenseless. She tried to move, but she found the impact had drained her of most of her energy – the sapping effect had left her with barely enough energy to move at a crawl.
"Ah, there we go. Now for the grand finale."
He dropped the sword and began to walk towards her.
"I'm impressed…But I assume that it's my fault that you've become as strong as you are."
"You couldn't be more right about that. Your fragment was so non-specific I could manifest in whoever the hell I felt like."
"So you chose the doctor? Why?" Hanyuu managed to question despite her heavy breathing.
"Simply because he doesn't exist in any other fragment, and because he was so closely connected to Keiichi. I wonder now…Who was he? And why did you create him the way you did."
"You act as if I built that fragment myself from the ground up."
"You made him, at any rate. So tell me. What's the big secret? Why did you throw together such a convoluted man together…? Were you trying to make it possible for me to break out of there?"
"You would have escaped either way. There was no way I could keep you contained. I created the largest lie I could come up with – I had to make him believe. I had to make Keiichi believe that he was a cruel and heartless person so he would be more willing to repent. I needed the burning of the village. Without it I would have been stuck in that limbo for a much longer time."
"And then you realized that by giving Keiichi's dark side a true form you put yourself in danger."
"In retrospect I don't think that creating you was the best idea I ever had. But as long as we didn't fight before I regained all of my power I figured you would be easy to handle."
"Of course. If you were just a tiny bit stronger I would've turned tail and ran. I don't feel like being erased from existence with a snap of a finger. But that wasn't the case."
"No. It wasn't." Hanyuu had essentially admitted defeat.
"But about the doctor. Why create him? What was your true reason?"
"I had no reason. But if you're curious, that man was made in the image of my late husband."
"Ah, Riku Furude, huh?" He nodded his head with understanding.
"Is that satisfactory?"
"Then what do you want to know about him?"
"Did you create him to fulfill your goals? Or did you create him to help me with mine?"
"Why would you think that I'd be looking to help you?"
"Because if you let me hang around that fragment for an even longer period of time, I would just feed off of everything and everyone inside it. So luring me out here before I could become too strong would've been the best course of action. But you didn't expect me to be able to do this so soon, did you?"
Hanyuu does not respond and so he grins again.
"Ah ha… I knew it. You see what your pet project has become? But more importantly, do you see just how powerful humans are?"
"You live in a fictitious world. You were born in a fictitious world. You aren't supposed to exist. You were born fictitiously and so you'll die fictitiously."
"Ah, but you can't exactly deny me, especially considering how I do exist and I am existing. If you're going to rely on something like that you need to understand the truth about what you've created. There is darkness in every heart. And because there are hearts in all fragments there is darkness in all fragments."
"But you aren't as omnipresent as the darkness in human hearts. You are simply the darkness in one man's heart."
He stretches his arms as wide as he could. "But because of that I can die and be reborn. You gave Keiichi Maebara's darkness a face and a name. And so as long as Keiichi Maebara exists, then I too exist!"
"I have a question for you, Astaroth."
"And what might that be?"
Hanyuu's eyes suddenly regained that purple glow from earlier. Astaroth's smile only widened at the sight.
"Why did you hesitate to kill me? You could have beaten me soundly right then and there. You might have been able to have your way with me on top of that. So why let me recover the remainder of my powers?"
"Because I don't want to fight Hainiryun. I want to fight the witch. Not the demon. And you're seriously boring me now. If I were fighting you for real I would've ended this fight a long time ago."
"But don't you know? You can't possibly survive that."
"But didn't I just tell you?" He shakes his head and smiles. "You can't kill me. Not anymore. Unless you can somehow kill every single Keiichi in every single fragment all at the exact same time. But I don't even think you can pull off a stunt like that."
"But you won't be able to kill me either."
"Heh. We'll see about that."
As it was right now, she needed only a short while before she could revive as the Witch of Theatergoing, and by doing so essentially ensure her victory. She needed to stall him until that moment.
But she had a feeling that it wasn't going to be easily.
In an instant Astaroth once again held Kusanagi within his grasp. He took a single swing and this time the blade itself came into contact with Hanyuu's newly restored barrier. As she backs away he takes yet another swing, this one connecting with the Onigari no Ryuou. Hanyuu had managed to block the swing with some effectiveness, although the red wave of energy still tore through her barrier. The purple glow was already starting to fade out, even if only slightly. She blocks a second swing but her barrier is ripped even further.
Astaroth moves in for the kill. Disregarding her counter swing he grabs the Onigari no Ryuou by the hilt and forces it out of her hand. He tosses it to the side and in the single moment of confusion he slashes along Hanyuu's chest. Blood splatters over his coat, thus signifying the mortal wound that she had taken. It would seem that the physical blade itself did more damage than the wave it produced. With only that single strike her aura dissipated.
Grabbing her by the neck he slams her into the ground. He restrains her arms at her sides.
"Hm…I suppose this would be the part where I fuck your lights out."
"Then get it over with." She hisses.
Astaroth forces his mouth against hers, but as he attempts to kiss her she oddly enough doesn't resist. Perhaps she had accepted her fate. He stops suddenly.
"Eh…Raping you isn't any fun. It'd be a lot better if things were the way they were before."
"So you'd prefer it if we legitimately had sex?"
"No shit, that's what I'm saying. Eh, I suppose I'll just settle for killing you."
He stands up and readies his sword – Only to find his sword missing entirely.
Hanyuu raises Kusanagi and squarely stabs him in the chest with it. Her hands nearly burned away from the heavy amount of negative energy that the blade possessed, but she managed to stab him with it before it could do any lasting damage. The blade fully pierces his heart and he howls in pain.
"You bitch!" He growls.
He backs away and continues to writhe in pain. He falls backwards and settles for flailing about on the floor. He was stuck with the sword in his chest – Astaroth could not pull the blade out himself, simply because the deterioration the weapon caused to demons would eat away at the moment of contact. Touching the blade would just cause his hands to melt instantaneously.
"Apologies. But if I allowed this to go on any longer you would've ended up killing me."
"Fuck you…I swear to god…!" He continues to grunt as he slowly bleeds out.
She turns, apparently already prepared to leave.
"I won't finish you off. You can have the pleasure of doing that yourself… But you can't right? You can't pull that weapon out yourself, because you're a demon too, right? It's a powerful sword, but if the owner can be rejected by it so easily it wasn't worth it. But you see, right? If you are simply trapped here, you can't spread yourself across the fragments. You are not omnipresent yet, at any rate."
She walks off ignoring the sounds of his screams and swears.
But as she is about to leave the fragment entirely, his screaming gradually turns into laughter. She turns sharply to see Astaroth still on the ground, although his violent spasms had stopped entirely.
"Just kidding, you dumb bitch!"
In one fluid motion Astaroth ripped the sword out of his chest. He managed to stand up although he nearly stumbled over while doing so. The damage was still more or less permanent and so he was gasping for air, but he was still cackling the entire time.
Hanyuu was prepared to attack again, but she needed to know why he'd been able to do what he did.
"Don't forget that I'm not just a demon anymore."
"…Of course. You're still human to some degree, aren't you?"
"Damn right…This fight isn't over quite just yet."
"You should know by now that your sword won't do you any good. I know all of your tricks at this point. It's no use."
"Heh…You don't know all of my tricks."
Hanyuu stood ready to take on anything. But what was about to come – she never could've expected it. Not in a thousand years.
On the spot, a wall of black flames once again surrounded Astaroth. The flames of Nihil were gathering – but for what Hanyuu couldn't tell. But she heard a low growl that grew into an extremely loud howl, as if there was a wolf nearby.
In another moment she realizes that the howl came from Astaroth.
And the fires dissipate and standing before her is a gargantuan beast with a long glowing blood red mane, a thick coat of jet black fur, and a face shaped somewhat like that of a wolf. The beast's fangs were long black spikes that protruded from its mouth. Most of them were covered in blood to a certain degree, as if it had just eaten something alive. Its feral claws were just as long as the fangs, although they seemed to glow with a strange haze. This beast was a creature from Norse mythology, and was essentially a feral lion with the tail of a snake and the jaws of a shark – the wingless Chimera, the Manticore.
"What is…?" Hanyuu was taken completely off guard by this sudden transformation.
The beast continued to howl, but as she spoke it breaks out into a sickening sound – it was the sound of laughter. The sound of Astaroth's laughter.
"You…Just how much free time do you have on your hands? Coming up with something like this? I'm almost impressed." Hanyuu tried to say something witty, although she was a bit too alarmed by the sudden transformation to really sound unimpressed.
The beast lunged at her with its sharp claws, which apparently were infused with some sort of magic that kept them iron hot, only adding onto the damage the claws would be able to do. It tore through her robe and exposed her now bloodied back which seared from the heat and was burned to a serious degree just from a single strike. Each strike was stronger than the last and each strike left her battered and bruised. At some point during their scuffle the beast crushed the Onigari no Ryuou beneath its feet, thus removing Hanyuu's main form of attack form the equation.
With each strike Hanyuu became more and more desperate for a way to stop him – and then it suddenly hit her, as she avoided another one of the monster's strikes.
The wound – the wound was still there. The wound had not healed, despite his transformation. That would be his singular weak point. Perhaps it was still possible to defeat him if she made use of that.
But as she tries to move in for the attack, the beast grows wise to her plot. Blocking his chest he spews more flames of Nihil from his mouth. Hanyuu is enveloped in the flames and the bulk of her robe from her left shoulder to her arm was burned away. But in the process she managed to close in on it. Avoiding the tail end of the flames she attempts to head straight for the wound – but the Manticore literally tries to take a bite out of her. She is enveloped by the creature's mouth, but before it manages to swallow her she breaks off one of its fangs and stabs the roof of its mouth with it. It spits her out and violently thrashes about. The fang goes flying out of her reach before she could do anything else with it, and so she was forced to retreat.
She managed to back away, but it would seem that retreating wouldn't do her much good anymore. She needed a plan of attack, and she needed it now. But it didn't seem like it would give her any openings.
To add insult to injury, the Manticore leaps into the air and comes crashing down on top of her, refusing to let her escape. Rooting its arms into the ground, it begins to drain the remaining life out of the battlefield to make itself stronger. Hanyuu tries to stop it, but its tail firmly wraps around her and suspends her midair. As it tightens her bones become progressively weaker to the point where she could easily be crushed to death right then and there. She knows that they will snap at any second, but there was nothing she could do about it.
But then she saw it. In a flash of insight she sees it –
She sees her opening. As the tail crushes her and the arms drain the life out of the battlefield, the Manticore leaves its wound defenseless. All she needed to do was somehow make an attempt to attack the wound from where she was. But was that even possible?
Hanyuu knows how to do it. She would ignite the wound, and she would do so with the most simplistic form of magic –simply snapping her fingers together and setting off the flame.
She tries to wiggle two of her fingers as close together as possible and concentrates intently on the wound itself.
She manages to snap them together and the wound ignites. The tail releases her and the beast howls in pain.
Hanyuu manages to back away, but if she stops now she wouldn't have another opportunity to beat him down. She runs as fast as inhumanly possible and grabs a remaining fragment of the fang she had managed to break off. And in a flash she stabs the wound with it.
The beast cries out even louder. Its arms rip out of the ground and in one last ditch effort to kill her it tries to claw at her again. But it falls over, the pain from the wound overriding all of its senses. It sways back and forth in a daze before finally collapsing entirely.
Hanyuu sighs. That fight could have been the end of her. Never had she imagined that Keiichi would have become so capable of these things.
The beast is once again enveloped in the flames of Nihil. In a matter of moments the flames dissipate once again and the tattered body of Astaroth is left on the ground in place of the beast.
"Ah…Dammit…I thought I…" He moaned as he attempted to move.
"It's over. Don't even try to get up and fight me again. It'll just be a waste of time."
"I almost…Had you…Fuck this earth…"
"Indeed…You almost did. I must apologize. I didn't understand just how powerful you could've become, Keiichi."
"Oh, so you're going to call me by that little pussy's name now?" He scoffs. "You'd be willing to piss me off on top of beating the shit out of me?"
Hanyuu walks over towards him and crouches down in front of him.
"You understand, don't you? It's a sign. A sign that I'm no longer going to deny you. You've earned that right."
"The right…To exist, huh? But didn't I tell you…?"
"As long as Keiichi Maebara is human, I will exist. Whenever he lusts after those twins or your precious miko, I will be there guiding him. Whenever he kills for his own sake I will be shoving the blade into that person's chest right along with him. It's as simple as that…And I though you understood that."
"Very well. If you truly will exist forever, then I will simply have to acknowledge it."
"…Answer one last question for me."
"And what might that be?"
"Why…Why did you differentiate? Why Keiichi with a single 'I'?"
"Because Keichi and Keiichi are different people. Keiichi's dark side needed a name, didn't it? And of course ********* wouldn't cut it."
"So then you're saying that…You deceived even him? For your own sake?"
He laughs. His laugh is weak but it is a laugh none the less. "Ah, I'd expect that from you. And he would never know. After all, he's just watching. He isn't reading, is he?"
"That is the case."
He sighs. "Alright…As absurd as that is, I'll accept that…So then, are you done here?"
Hanyuu's face drew closer to his. She whispered into his ear.
"I was looking forward to being violated."
"Well then it wouldn't be violation then, would it?"
Hanyuu mashed her face against his, continuing the kiss from earlier. There was no real reason for it. Perhaps there was still the lingering visage of Riku Furude within him. Perhaps it was pity for Keiichi, who she had deceived more than any other. This time around, Astaroth was far more inclined to actually finish it.
Once she broke away, she simply took to resting at his side, pulling his tattered body into a sort of embrace.
"Ah…I remember this." Astaroth whispered.
"Indeed. This was how things were before."
"Right…Although as I recall, you wanted to forget about all of it."
"I had an affair with you. Why would I want to remember?"
"I understand…Of course. After all, Ouka had already been born at that point, hadn't she?"
"That was the reason…But…"
Hanyuu felt her legs tighten.
"I want to go back to that. The way things were. Even if just for right now."
"And why would you want to do that?"
"Because our child made something of herself. Because Saya managed to live for the sake of someone else. And so the product of my sin had value after all. And so I'd be willing to sin again."
"I see…Very well then. I will foster your desires once more, Hainiryun."
"That is all I want."
In the end it was only a matter of time before she would revive at the Witch of Theatergoing. But for now she decided that she would honor the existence of Saya – an existence formed from a great sin between a god and a demon king.
It was almost symbolic. Not only had the daughter become something of value but the father had as well. For at one time the demon king was simply a demon king. But now, he was something much more real. He was something far more tangible, and perhaps was something much more likely to brave the whims of fate.
And so Hanyuu accepted that. She accepted him for all that he was, just as she had come to accept Saya.
For he had become the darkness in a human heart. And that darkness was eternal. He, at long last, could finally be set free.
Resolution – The Forgotten Brother
There I was. I was simply lying there, almost completely motionless sans the slightly movements of my chest given how I had to breathe. I was almost unsure as to whether or not I was even still alive or if I was just dreaming. But no, it wasn't the dream of death, I was certainly still alive.
Eventually I find the energy – but more important the courage – to move. I don't want to see her the way she is now. I don't want to see her motionless body. I don't want to see her likely already festering corpse. I don't want to accept her death. But it was necessary. She needed to die. She needed to die so others could live.
Hinamizawa is gone. I watched it burn to the ground quite some time ago – was it a day ago? Or was it perhaps longer than that? I have no perception of time now. I'm just sitting here. I'm sitting here and rotting away. I didn't have any desire to get up and continue living. I already tried that. And look where I ended up.
Shion was dead. Everyone I had ever come to know was either out of my reach or just as dead. I was a phantom in the most literal sense. I had no home, not even a figurative one at this point. I had nothing to keep living for. So I figured if I kept rotting away I would eventually just die. But it didn't seem to be working. I thought people could die if they lose the will to live.
Then maybe I hadn't lost the will to live yet. But what the fuck could I possibly want to do with myself now? I have nothing. Nothing in the slightest. I walked down this path because I needed to set things right. But what now? Hinamizawa went up in flames. I don't even have that now. I have nothing left. And so I shouldn't have to live anymore.
Or maybe this is my punishment – to live even though I don't want to?
Wasn't killing someone I loved more than enough of a punishment?
So fuck you, everything. I'm not going to accept that. I'll die whenever I damn well please.
But I suppose that dying here isn't the way I should go.
I stand up. I stand up and the first thing I see is her corpse.
I'm going to kill this for you all right now. She is never going to wake up. She's dead. And that's final. And so I decided that I would have to be the one to bury her.
And so I did. I dug a hole – a hole the size of the hole I buried Rai in. I dug a hole with the same feelings of failure that he had. I tried to do it, after all. I tried to save her. But I couldn't do it. She had to die. But I said I wouldn't accept that. But in the end I had no choice.
I buried her that afternoon with the sun beginning to settle in the west. I buried her and everything that had signified our struggle. I buried it all away, including our weapons. I buried everything, and so I buried away the darkness that had tainted her identity. Shion Sonozaki was finally laid to rest, and she could finally rest in peace.
Did I cry at all during this process? I don't remember. I might have. I probably did. But there's no sense in dwelling on the past anymore. I have to dwell on the present – in other words, how I plan to die. Seppuku is out of the question now since I don't even have a weapon to stab myself with – but more importantly I'm implying that I was ever fit to die that way to begin with.
I decided to wander. I wandered down the hill and across the mostly scorched forest. I had no destination I Mind. In fact, if I could somehow suffer a tragic death out here, everything would work out rather nicely. I continued onward – onward into the burnt remains of the forest.
And all the while I listened to them. The cicadas. Because I could understand them now. I don't know why. Or how for that matter. But I can understand them. I know why they cry. I know for who they cry. And from this point on I'll certainly know when they're about to cry.
They're crying for everyone. Everyone who ever lived. They're crying for the whole damn human race. And I've never considered them anything but annoying. They're crying for us. They feel sympathy for us. At least that's what I got from it all.
I continued into the forest. I kept going, bumping into multiple trees along my path. Each time I secretly hoped that I would get a concussion and somehow die from brain damage. At this point I was just looking for a user-friendly way to die.
But as I stumbled along my path to nowhere in particular, I came across something – or rather, someone.
It took me a few moments to realize that she was there. But she clearly was. One look at her told me all I needed to know.
Her eyes were so vacant- as if she were completely void of all life. They were widened completely and she more or less stared at me like a deer in headlights. She showed no signs of movement but showed no signs of awareness either. She was dressed in that uniform – the St. Lucia's Boarding School uniform. Her hair, her eyes – everything about her told me all that I needed to know. Her blue eyes and her long blond hair – without a doubt. This woman was who I thought she was.
She continued to stare at me. But with a very soft whisper, she spoke.
That was all I needed to hear before I broke completely.
I don't know if I was just holding it in the whole time. I don't know if it was just buildup from the moment I regained my memories or if it was just because I'd killed someone I loved. Regardless of why it happened, tears streaked across my face.
The girl's face was still rather absent of all expression – but I could spot some tract of concern on her face.
This is what Yomi Sumidera was reduced to – a mere shell of a human whose only trace of her past self resides with her memories of her brother.
And I simply couldn't take it.
I couldn't take any more of this.
"Onii-chan…Why are you crying?" She asks me solemnly.
I can't stop shaking. It's too fucking much. I can't stand it anymore. There was no way I could contain any of this any longer. And so I just kept crying. It was a rather weak moment, but fuck if I cared.
"I'm not your brother." I eventually bring myself to say something to her. "But…He sent me here to save you."
I had to do it. I had to lie to her. I had to do it or else even the small shell would crumple away and die. An incredibly small smile creeps across her otherwise empty expression.
"I'm sorry." I continue. "I'm so sorry."
She doesn't respond at first. But then she suddenly asks me a question.
"You killed him, didn't you?"
I stare at her.
She was spot fucking on. She had somehow managed to hit the nail right on the head.
"It's okay." She smiles with slightly more expression. "You've suffered enough."
I don't respond.
"People…came with me. Are they okay?" She asks. Apparently simply having seen me, a replica of her dead brother, revived some aspect of her personality. I didn't know how long it would last, so I hastily nodded my head. Another lie. In truth, we already knew one of them was dead and the two I'd seen were both likely dead at this point as well.
She smiles again.
"That's good… "
I still can't come up with words to form. I'm afraid I'd expose the truth if I said anything.
"Everyone suffered so much…I think I've suffered enough too." She suddenly speaks.
And in that moment, before I can even react to what she had said, she draws a pocketknife out of her skirt and slits her own throat. She bleeds out in seconds and before my brain can even process it she lies dead on the ground.
Might as well add another person to the death count.
For fuck's sake.
I decide that moving would be against all logical thought.
I can't even believe what just happened.
I've betrayed everyone, haven't I? I couldn't even protect his sister. I never should have come back. I should've just curled up in a hole and died. Because that's what I'm going to do now. Only now there are a few more people that are dead because of me.
I stay there, almost completely motionless. I twitch slightly, but if you were to look at me I would appear to be a lifeless statue.
I hear something other than the cicadas. I hear motion – I hear someone moving.
I slowly turn my head off to the side. I see a man in what appears to be a wheelchair moving through the woods towards me. His hair is oddly grey, although physically he doesn't seem to be very old. His eyes are much older, though – one look at him and I could tell that this man has seen just about everything.
He looks at me and the rest of the scene before him and simply smiles. Not the reaction I would've chosen but hey, to each their own.
"It seems I was a bit late."
I don't make any sort of verbal response.
"In truth, I doubt anyone could have done anything about that girl anyhow."
The voice…It sounds familiar.
I suddenly put two and two together.
"K-One." I mutter.
"Indeed. That's me. But I'd rather you call me by my real name."
That name. I know that name. I know that name too damn well.
He simply continues staring at me, never making so much as a single sound.
"You know…I wanted to be just like you, once upon a time."
"Really now?" He looked genuinely surprised to hear that.
"I wanted to be someone like you – someone that stood up for what he believed in and for those who were important to him. So much for that, eh?"
This time he laughed. Actually, it was more of a dejected laugh than anything else.
"Ah, I'm not sure who the Keiichi you're talking about is. But I'd be amazed if I could meet him."
I wasn't entirely sure what he was getting at.
"You see, there's a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and saying that you'll stand up for what you believe in. When it comes down to it, we almost never deliver. That's how we humans are. I'm no different, honestly."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm a poorer soul than you are, you see."
"How is that even possible?"
He laughs. "You at least looked your beloved in the eye when you killed her. I on the other hand…" He laughs even harder. "I didn't even let her die the way she wanted to."
I stare at him as he continues to make that incredibly dejected laugh. This man was Keiichi Maebara? This man was someone I had believed to be respectable at one point?
"It's funny. You're the first person I've told that little tidbit. It's funny –but I suppose only someone who knew her personally should be allowed to know."
"Who are you talking about?"
"You must know. You were chasing after her shadow because you thought she was your sister."
"Rika Furude….?" Several things clicked all at the same time.
"It's the truth…In the end I suppose I just let too many things go by unnoticed. I let her die, simply because I was too afraid for my own life. Am I terrible enough for you?"
"You…With her? A child?"
"Perception of age didn't matter to her. I for one should have done something. But the drink was too strong and I simply desired. Nothing more."
"And what about you killing her? If you loved her then why did you kill her?"
"To be precise I didn't kill her with my own two hands. I let her die. I let her die the one way she didn't want to die – at the hands of one of her closest friends. But alas, I was too much of a coward and she was slaughtered with the rest. I should have joined her, but here I am."
"Then who then? Who killed her?"
"Ryuugu Rena. Or rather the shell of Ryuugu Rena. Forced to kill her friends for the sake of her dying family. I'm fairly certain that she was the only one – the only one who never went insane. She was the only one who could make a difference. But she had to kill us. Because if she didn't then she would lose absolutely everything that had been important to her. But she ended up losing everything regardless of what she did."
"No one was there to protect her – no one was there to help her. In the end she must have cried out to me for help, but I never listened. She had no choice but to go at it alone – she was abandoned by everyone else around her. So she was lost and her only means of survival was to kill. Because she was alone."
I knew that name – Rena. I had several fleeting memories about that girl. From what I knew, she was a simple person – she had a strong attraction to cute things and aside from that one incident she never acted out in any sort of way. She was pure hearted and never made any enemies. She was friendly with everyone around her, and most of the children our age had all definitely taken a shine to her.
Someone like that – brought to kill the very people she cared about?
And this man – Keiichi Maebara – was responsible?
But suddenly something came to me. "The syndrome? The curse?"
He shook his head. "If only that were the case. Like it or not, the truth is that she knew very well what she was doing. In the same way that I did."
"Can…Can I really believe what you're saying?" Even I had a hard time believing that someone like the man standing before me could even exist. How could someone with so much sin on their shoulders possibly be able to bring themselves to get up in the morning?
"You can choose what to believe. But in the end the truth is still the truth."
I remain silent.
"So is it terrifying? Having everything taken from you more than once?"
"Is it terrifying? I don't think you're understanding the scale of it all. At least you still have your own identity intact."
"You're implying that I'm Keiichi Maebara? You'd be wrong there."
"Then who are you, then?"
He once again emits that dejected sort of laughter. "I'm the End Dreamer. I know when and where everything dies. I am a living testament to the reality that all human beings will ultimately face. And I am about as human as they come."
"As usual, I have no idea what you're saying."
"I don't expect you to. You just have to listen. You don't need to act anymore. You're trying to die, aren't you?"
"And I trust you're going to have some part in that? I mean, why else would you of all people be out here?"
"I've been here to see everything end. I was reborn into this world to set things right. And now that I've set Hinamizawa aflame all I must do now is live."
"So you're done repenting? Can you really say that?"
"I will be repenting for as long as I live. I must continue to carry on the will of the people."
"And what exactly does that entail?" I was beginning to lose all interest in whatever it was he was spouting.
"Someone is already going to live for those who died twelve years ago. But there are certain people that I must live for specifically."
"You mean…" I was beginning to understand what he was getting at. Slowly, but I was beginning to get it.
"That's right." He smiles. "I have to live for Shion, for Satoko, for Rena, for Mion, and for Rika. I have to live for my friends, who ultimately died because of my own failures."
I stay silent. I can tell his sentiments are far more serious than I had ever imagined they would be.
"So… I did seek you out, and for a very deliberate reason, at that."
I raise an eyebrow. "And what might that be?"
"You, Satoshi, are free of all sin. You have made amends for the wrongs you have committed."
I laugh. "If only that were true."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Too many people died here because of what I did. I'm guilty of a great many things. My aunt's death being one of the lesser things on my mind." My eyes drift to the dead girl at my feet.
Certainly I was entirely to blame for her death as well. I took her brother from her, just so that I could wander back here. It doesn't matter if he wanted it or not – I didn't really even try to talk him out of it. I could've prevented his death, but no – I let it happen. And in the end I didn't even achieve anything. I never needed to know the truth. I just wanted to, and my curiosity caused all of this to happen. If not for me, Hinamizawa would've just remained a bitter, but still relatively sealed memory. It may be gone now, but in the end the world will just make another one before too much time has passed.
I achieved nothing. I learned the truth at the expense of so many lives. The truth was never worth that price. Never. But that didn't stop me. Because I had nothing to live for but that truth. That, deep down, is the reason why I want to end everything right here.
"Then what do you intend to do? Certainly death cannot be the answer."
"There's nothing more that I'm capable of. I'll just die the way I am now. I don't care if I rot in hell forever or not. There's no meaning to being here."
"So you will simply die with the regrets of so many people hanging around you? I suppose you weren't around for the disaster itself, but what you're trying to do is a bit counterintuitive."
"You don't understand yet? After all you've been through? Regrets were what killed the villagers to begin with. You need to resolve what is left unresolved. Or else like the butterfly effect entails the tragedy will just keep spreading."
From the nature of regrets to apparently butterflies – Keiichi was a man of all sorts of knowledge. I had an idea of what he was saying, although if I tried to make sense of the rest of it I'd probably just confuse myself even further.
But it made sense to a degree. The disaster had happened twelve years ago, and since everything it left behind remained unresolved, even more tragedy occurred twelve years later. If the issues left behind by this incident remained unresolved, more tragedy would happen in the future.
It had to stop now. Everything needed to end, and I realized that I was one of the few people who could make it happen.
"Then what would you have me do?"
"You don't know how to solve the problems of all those that are around you?"
"No, I don't." My self loathing smile dissipated entirely. "If I did, then I wouldn't still be here."
He stretches out his arm. I look at him rather dubiously.
"Then we'll do it together, then."
"We will resolve everything ourselves. Come with me – you and I will make amends with all of those who have died. That way both of us can die without leaving anything behind."
"Why would you help me?"
"Because I must make amends for your sister's death. That is where I begin. I start living now – and this is how I will begin."
It suddenly hit me. He was, to a technical degree, responsible for my sister's death. I didn't fully understand it – Satoko was a distant memory. I didn't feel the attachment to her that the old Satoshi did. But this was true – he had to make amends with the old me, as well.
"What would you have me do? And what are you here to do?" I asked him.
"At this point, I am an incredibly rich man. But that is only because I used blackmail to undermine some fairly powerful people. I need protection, and as it stands I have very little. Defend me, and I will make amends for both your sins and what remains of mine."
He was offering a position that I would doubtlessly be proficient at. I could only kill things – that was my only strength. And by doing this, I could ensure that everything left undone would be resolved. I would pull my own weight, certainly, but abandoning this shell of Keiichi Maebara, or even outright killing him here –
I wonder – would Satoko truly want that? Would any of them truly want that?
I remembered something from just a short while ago – Shion had told me that things weren't his fault and that she was the one to blame for how things went between them.
And even further, even if he was a coward who had let his friends die, I couldn't help but recall the picture that Ikuko showed me so long ago.
That image of all of them – certainly, Keiichi had some merit if he were to be part of a group of such close people. There must have been a reason that they chose him. There must be a reason why he was spared and the others weren't.
"…Very well, I'll accept that."
"But on one condition."
"What might that be?"
"You are still to blame for what happened to them, correct?"
"Yes. I am the one to blame."
"Then you will die the same way that they died. You may live, but the day you die, you won't be allowed to die a peaceful death. I will be the one to do it – I will kill you on your deathbed, if need be. That is my only requirement."
"That sounds fair enough."
His hand did not move. It seemed he still wanted me to grasp it. I complied after much deliberation.
"Then, Keiichi Maebara, from now on I will fight for you."
He nods his head.
"Then let us begin. Our path to ruin awaits us, but first we must make amends for these people."
Resolution – Only a Delusion
Ten days later. I can only recall that because I've been assimilated back into standard society. Or rather, I've taken the first step – in other words, getting a calendar and figuring out what a day actually is and adjusting accordingly.
I can remember that day so clearly – the last day I spent in that village before I was finally rescued. Everything that happened from…
From god knows when to god knows when. Let's just put it that way.
I was rescued. I was rescued and…she wasn't.
I didn't know how I had passed out…she…had already died at that point and I was doing something, although my biological father was already dead and I was…I was panicking, I suppose?
Anyhow, I ended up waking up next to this crazy guy in a lab coat. I almost thought he was Irie for a moment, but eventually I found out that I had been saved. But the other thing apparent from the moment I regained consciousness was the burning village. I didn't hear anything about that during the briefing for the mission. I assumed something else had happened entirely. I didn't question it. Hinamizawa was gone for good, and I figured it was for the best that it ended that way.
Afterward, I was rushed to a hospital. It was one relatively close by. I heard the nurses talking about my condition, but what was a bit odd was that they weren't working on anyone else. I was the only one. It was a bit odd, and so I decided to ask them what had happened.
It turned out that their story and mine were a bit different. Their story was all about my group of friends. Apparently on the record we had been kidnapped and driven out to where Hinamizawa was, and then in a freak forest fire everyone ended up dying, excluding me.
I had to ask if they found any proof that they were all dead. But in the end it turned out that the only body they could find was Harumi's body. I knew that Naoto-senpai was dead because…she…told me, but in a matter of time Yomi would be declared dead and she would doubtlessly go missing forever, along with senpai's body.
I was the only one. I was the only one who had made it out.
I don't remember how long I ended up crying for. It all happened before I could recall what hours and days were.
Eventually my traumatized condition alleviated itself to the point where I was discharged from the hospital. I was returned to my parents, both of which had apparently come all this way just for me.
They were so relieved to see me unharmed. I almost treated them like my parents for one in my life. But then I took one look at my father.
And then I remembered. I remembered what Irie Kyosuke, my real father, had said.
I waited until I was able to talk to him alone, and then the ever stoic Yu Narukami finally caved and told his adopted daughter everything.
I was apparently the product of Irie Kyosuke and some woman whose name my father had never fully ascertained. It had happened many years ago, but long enough before the Hinamizawa Disaster that I didn't get swept up in it. Irie offered me to my father, who apparently could not have children of his own, as he no longer wanted anything to do with me. But it didn't end there – apparently Irie had trouble getting him to take me, and so he then offered him a position in the Tokyo Company, which my father then took with open arms.
He eventually abandoned the Tokyo Company, having figured out that the company was knee deep in debt and had been struggling to survive off of fraud and outright robbery. But he was still stuck with me. Having been tricked, he saw me as a symbol of great humiliation. That was why he never seemed to give a damn about me. Of course I was still at a loss as to why I didn't remember any of this stuff, since I was probably around three when it happened, but in the end I just ended up dismissing it. It only made my head hurt when I tried to think about it.
Of course at this point he was apologizing like crazy. But I didn't care for a single word of it. I decided not to tell him Irie's half of the story, nor did I care for it. He did, however, know more than the general public likely ever would about what had happened in the village, but I doubted he would ever speak of it, for fear of losing control over me entirely. He offered to send me back to St. Lucia's despite all that had happened, and apparently he had managed to sue the school under all sorts of pretenses and so no future 'incident' would happen ever again.
I never told anyone a single word about anything else that happened in that village not about…her… or anything else. Not about Satoshi, not about the bloody ritual that went on – nothing. I said nothing, and I conveniently lied to the investigators to the best of my ability. The so called kidnapping went unresolved, and Hinamizawa itself was never truly linked to the incident. Instead, the incident was linked with the murders of the other set of Highschool students, primarily consisting of Harumi's sister and Satoshi. They assumed the culprit was the same for both, since I suppose Satoshi managed to worm his way out of the picture, and the case went unsolved.
All I knew was that all of my friends were dead and I had a very bleak life to return to. I didn't even have…her… with me at this point. And I never thought that would ever happen. I'm still sort of reeling over from losing…her…Despite everything that has happened since.
And so I returned to St. Lucia's for a final year, disregarding everything and everyone around me. During my first few days back I was given strange looks and whispers. Apparently the entire school was alienating me without even trying. I assumed they all felt sorry for me, but then again that might not even have been the case. I'm fairly certain many of them were more enraged that I had been the one to live and not any of the others.
I returned to that existence, which was now even tenser than it had been in the past. And in the end I was left alone, to fend for myself…without even…her…to…
Then why, if…she…was so important to me…
Then why? Why the hell can't I remember her name?
There's this huge hole…This huge hole in my memory. But it was all so clear before – I could even remember some of the things from when we were kids –
Or perhaps none of that was real? Maybe I had just made it all up?
That wasn't possible. She couldn't just be a delusion. I…I could touch her. I knew she was there. Other people even interacted with her. So then why? Why can't I even remember her name? I can barely remember what she looked like now.
She was my little sister, wasn't she? I loved her. I loved her so much, so then why can't I even remember her name?
Wait, but was it my little sister? Or my little brother?
Why…? Why can't I remember?
Each day, as I struggle to remember, I feel more and more empty inside. That person – that person who I felt so strongly for – were they even real to begin with? Or were they just a dream? Was I out in that forest alone? Did I create a fake person to cope with the solitude?
Even now, I can't understand it. I feel so torn. It's only a matter of time before the stress gets to me.
Night after night I try to remember. I try to remember but I just can't. I never sleep. I just stay awake and I keep trying to remember. I feel sorry for whoever my roommate is, given how I end up talking to myself night after night.
There's this large hole in my memory. I need to fill it. I need to remember. But it's so hard. But I feel so terrible for admitting that.
This has been my pattern, for these ten days.
This morning shouldn't be any different.
But as I head towards my first class, ignoring the awkward stares that I receive now primarily for my very dark and sickly appearance, I'm suddenly stopped by a student.
"Uh, Yoko-senpai, I was just wondering…Um, do you have a boyfriend? With blonde hair?" I wasn't sure why I was being asked such a specific question.
"…No. What gave you that idea?"
"Well, I saw someone around your age in the mailroom. He put something in your mailbox, but before I could ask about it he ran off…I would go check on it if I were you."
I nod my head. I don't even mutter a thank you, and so the student nervously runs off. I decide to put going to the mailroom on hold until I make it back to the dorm that afternoon.
School was uninteresting. Nothing of note happened. So I'm going to skip talking about it.
I ended up heading to the mailroom shortly after lunch. I was allowed to rest for the afternoon until my condition notably improved. Which it wouldn't, at least not anytime soon. The mailroom was just as I had remembered it, although I was more concerned with what could have made its way into my mailbox.
Someone rather suspicious looking with blonde hair had apparently put something inside it.
I only knew one guy who had blonde hair. So I made an assumption that it was Satoshi who had been here. I was curious, but also a bit afraid.
In all honesty, I just wanted all of this Hinamizawa business to be over. But I supposed that whatever it was, I couldn't put it off for very long.
I sighed and opened the box. Inside was a small package that was labeled with nothing but a short message.
'Don't open in public'
I decide to heed that warning and head straight back to the dorm. Whatever was inside was certainly very important.
The dormitory is as empty as it always is. My roommate is apparently still out, and without taking the time to confirm that I open the box. The box was heavily wrapped, and beneath the first layer were several more. Whatever was in here must have been particularly fragile.
After dealing with the seals, I opened the smaller package inside the larger one.
Inside it was something very familiar to me.
It was a…A dagger? A knife? Something shaped like a knife?
I suddenly remembered.
This was what that person pointed at me the moment we met. How could I have hallucinated that? They must have been real. I had some physical proof of that.
But then why couldn't I remember any of it? Did I just hallucinate someone swinging this around after all? Was that even possible?
"Why…? Why can't I…Even with this in front of me…How the hell am I still so unsure…?"
I fall back onto my bed. Only to find out that I had not and instead I had landed on my roommate's bed, which was currently occupied by none other than my roommate.
I squeak slightly, but looking down I am met with a rather dull, but very familiar, expression.
That's right. All this time I was so focused on my lost memories that I neglected to notice that Ange was here.
"…Sorry." I mutter, getting off of her.
"Don't worry about it." She gives a rather typical answer.
I then walk off, but before I can get very far Ange speaks once again.
"Wait. You've been saying things… You aren't getting any sleep. You need to start taking care of yourself." This was rather odd – it was a role reversal. Usually I was the one telling Ange to take care of herself. It seemed that I was more of a wreck than I had realized.
"Oh, that's right. Sorry, I must've kept you awake an awful lot, huh?"
"You're afraid of something?"
"I'm…I'm just afraid I won't ever remember."
"That person who was important to you?"
"Think of it like this." Ange suddenly gets out of bed and walks over to me, taking the dagger like weapon in hand.
I give her a rather strange look, not knowing what she was planning.
"You said that person had this with them, right?"
"Then that's all there is to it. They were real, right?"
"But then why can't I…"
"You're saying that because they weren't real that you forgot about them? But just because you think they were a delusion, that doesn't mean that they were, right?"
I'm slightly dumbfounded. She certainly had a point. She had a rather roundabout way of saying it, but her logic was sound. It was incredibly simple as well – yet I couldn't come to such a basic conclusion because of how scared I was.
I had physical proof that my so called delusions were real. Ange confirmed it all for me. There could be any number of reasons as for why I forgot who that person was. But in the end I knew that they were real, simply because out of the two possibilities this one was the most likely. Even if my memories vanished in a way so akin to a fleeting dream, there was no way to say with certainty that the two were the same.
I just nod my head, accepting her words.
"…I'd do more for you, but sadly I've been excommunicated." She smiles somewhat awkwardly. "But you get it, right?"
Disregarding her first statement, I nod my head. I smile at her.
"Thanks, Ange. I'm sorry for all of the trouble."
"It's not a problem…" She trails off before returning to bed. She apparently had been half asleep through the bulk of that speech of hers, considering how she was out cold in a matter of moments. She did seem slightly out of character there for a moment. Her usual stoic expression was a bit dazed. It was actually sort of funny.
It's strange. The old me never would have thought that way. I would've probably been mad at her over some really obscure thing like how messy her hair was or something like that.
I decide that I should get to sleep while in a good mood. I desperately needed it. And in the end it turned out that Ange had managed to give me all of the relief I needed.
I had to thank her in a much more efficient way. But I could work on that tomorrow. I go to sleep and find myself strangely at ease. I try to put the void in my mind at ease. I knew that person was real. That was good enough for right now. I had to start watching myself, like Ange had said.
It may come to the point when I forget about that person entirely. But as long as that knife was there, and as long as I could still recall what it meant, I would never again doubt that person. In the end that was how things were going to end up. But at least I can rest easily, knowing that person was never a delusion.
I have an incredibly vivid dream of this place I have never seen before. It is some sort of a garden – a large garden coated to the brim with flowers, with no end in sight.
Standing before me is a woman in an incredibly elegant dress. Her flowing blonde hair and radiant blue eyes makes her seem like something out of a painting.
She greeted me with a soft smile.
I have no idea who this woman is, or what to say to her. But she speaks moments before I can even come up with some sort of a reaction.
"It seems you've wandered here, of all places. How curious…"
"Where is this?" Since I didn't have to start the conversation, I immediately threw out my first question.
"Just know that you're safe here. That's all that matters in the end, right?"
"Why am I here?"
"If I had to guess, I would say it's because of your friend."
"Right. By helping you reach the nature of your dilemma and helping you resolve it, she must have let you come here. Separated as she may be, there's no doubt that she's his sister." She smiles once again.
"But…Isn't this just a dream?"
"Make of it what you will, but since you're here, I suppose I could help solve your problem myself."
I wasn't entirely sure what this elegant woman was getting at, but I couldn't detect a single hint of malice.
I suddenly let something slip out of my mouth that I didn't intend to let slip.
"Are you…An angel?"
Her eyes widen slightly, and in another instant she suddenly lets out a loud and seemingly uncharacteristic cackle.
"An angel? I'm the furthest thing from an angel, dear."
I feel a tad bit nervous. Her personality seemed to change so drastically and so quickly.
"Anyhow, enough chatter. I'm going to help you now."
"Wait, what do you mean by that?" I was a bit more concerned now than I was a few moments ago. That cackle changed my entire opinion of this woman.
"It's simple. But first I need you to close your eyes."
I slowly do as she requested, half expecting her to do something to me while my eyes are shut. But she doesn't and so I relax slightly.
"This friend of yours. What can you remember about them?"
So that was what this was about.
What did I remember? All kinds of things.
"I…I remember being around them a lot when I was really young. I was very lonely back then. I never could make friends at my age, and my parents…Well, my real parents, never so much as batted an eyelash at me. I can't really remember much but…Suddenly, that person was there, and I had someone around me for a long time. And then, more recently…We were very close. We survived together. And we promised each other that the other would survive. It was that sort of a bond…"
"Very well then…."
I am unable to see what she was doing, but eventually the silence breaks.
"Come now…Try to remember the form you once had. Even if only your memory remains, memory is all that is necessary…"
The silence continues. But as it does –
"…There. Now, can you tell me? Can you tell me your friend's name?"
My eyes shoot open, and tears streak down both of them.
"Then tell me. What is your friend's name?"
I whisper a name. A name that I've definitely never heard before or said before but just felt so familiar, as if I had said it a thousand times. A name that held a strong value for me.
That name. That name must have been that person's name.
Was I right?
Was that your name?
Resolution – When Only Dark Remains
There was nothing. Nothing as far as the eye could see. There wasn't anything but the endless black void that was my world. There was simply nothing else here. I was alone and it was starting to wear on my mind. I had been here alone for seemingly an eternity. Surely, I must have died, and surely I must have been in some sort of hell.
I couldn't see anything. There was nothing for me to even confirm that I was anywhere at all. I was alone, after all, but in the end I determined that it wasn't the fact that I was alone that she wasn't there with me. Yoko – the only person in the world that hadn't betrayed me. The only person in the world who I ever wanted to be with.
Yoko wasn't here. That was why I was in such agony. And I would never see her again.
I couldn't even understand how it had all happened – but I could remember everything from the moment I saw her. I knew who I was but more importantly who she was. Therefore, I am only one who can detail Yoko's earlier years.
It was all so complicated – Irie had attempted to put more work into crafting me, his perfect test subject. He wanted me to be able to coexist with human beings and understand and be capable of developing human bonds before I would ultimately be used for some deranged purpose – likely as a biological weapon of some sort. In the end I found out exactly what I was long before Irie ever assumed I had.
I would rather have been the first one to tell you this, although I'm sure that isn't the case anymore. I'm simply not real, at least not from a human perspective. I'm a creature that lives outside the realm of cause and effect. There was never anything that explicitly gave birth to me. I simply started existing, and only those who had that vile disease could ascertain my existence. Irie could interact with me, and so by utilizing my existence as something outside of cause and effect he managed to create a scenario where the Hinamizawa Syndrome could be analyzed in detail. I was more or less a flower that gave off that dangerous pollen. I was the source of the syndrome – or at least the more drastic variations of it that similarly had no concept of cause or effect. This is more or less another aspect of that truth – a truth that cannot be ascertained by mortals. A truth that has to be hidden solely for the fact of maintaining the order in existence.
I can't explain it in any other way. Those who are like me simply can't exist. Because if we did then humans wouldn't be able to function in their world the way they do. If angels and demons were to exist for them, humans would be face with a truth that they simply wouldn't be able to handle. Humans suppressed our existence to adjust to their own world. But that is simply how things are.
I grew up that way. I grew up in solitude. In many instances I escaped from the lab and wandered around the village. I lived a life I never wanted to live. I would rather have just died at that point. But apparently, while I kept everything to myself, it seemed that Irie had somehow caught wind of my insecurities and weaknesses.
Then I met her – Yoko was a miracle. She was almost like me, but only in the sense that she could see me without being infected. She was only three or four at the time, but I can clearly remember every single day of the time I spent with her. Yoko gave me some tangibility. But eventually I lost even that. Perhaps it was because she was becoming more and more aware of how her father disliked her. But in the end, her memory seemed to fade away with time – or more precisely she was forced to forget through the wonders of neural science.
That was why she didn't remember me. She was forced to forget. At least that was what I had decided was the truth.
Regardless, the rest of our interaction is history. And in the end I died for her, so perhaps it was all worth something in the end.
But that doesn't change how terrifying it is to exist here, in a world where she doesn't.
I spent an endless amount of time in this empty place. So for continuity's sake I will simply say that I spent roughly two thousand years in that cold and dark abyss before something finally changed.
Out of seemingly nowhere another person appears in the abyss with me. I take one look at her and I can assign her face to a name.
She was Rika Furude. But for some strange reason, she was dressed in an old styled European dress. It seemed to suit her to a certain degree, but I still had no idea why a shrine maiden would be wearing something like that.
At first, having been alone for two thousand years, I assume that she is a hallucination. I have no idea exactly where she came from, but it seemed that she was most certainly there. She didn't do much at first. She just seemed to stare at me for quite some time with her empty purple eyes and with an ever stoic expression. She was apparently analyzing me, although no expression of thought ever flashed across her features.
I almost tried to speak to her, but for some reason no words wanted to come out of my mouth. I was a bit mesmerized – she had appeared so suddenly and didn't seem to be making any sort of movement whatsoever. I almost went back to thinking she was some sort of hallucination.
I move to turn away from her. I figured I would wander off into the distance and come back later once she offered some sort of reaction.
"Hey, where are you going?" She speaks rather suddenly. I turn to face her to find that same look. It was as if she hadn't said anything at all and as if I had just been hearing things.
"…I wasn't really going anywhere."
"Then why did you turn away from me?" This time I saw her mouth move and her face adjust with it. She was certainly speaking to me.
"I…Well I wasn't sure what to make of you."
She then smirks. That stoic expression changed into a rather human looking one.
"You wouldn't be the first, that's for sure." After that, she went back to staring at me.
"So…Um…What do you want?" I asked a few moments later.
"What do I want? That's a bit blunt, coming from the daughter of the most exalted AuAurora, Pro Game Master Witch of Theatergoing and all that other title crap."
"Um…I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
She sighs. "Of course you don't. Otherwise you've gotten out of here on your own."
"What do you mean?"
"This place is like a prison cell with a ring of keys left inside. You can freely leave it whenever you feel like, but unless you know which key opens the door you can't really go anywhere. Only in your situation you've got about five thousand keys to go through. Not my best analogy but you can settle for it. I haven't had a drop of tea in god knows how long."
I didn't really have a response for her.
"Basically, unless you know how to get out of here you simply can't do it. You don't have the capacity to leave a fragment on your own and I doubt you ever will. So get comfortable. You'll be in here for at least another ten thousand years before someone feels sorry for you and lets you out."
"But…Can't you let me out? You got in here, right?"
"I can let you out. I won't, however. I'd find it a lot more entertaining to watch you go insane."
"…You're a tad different from the Rika I've familiarized myself with."
She sighs again. "Ah, right. You don't know a damn thing, do you? Oh well, I suppose it can't be helped." Her head droops in defeat.
"First off, my name isn't Rika. I've got nothing to do with her. Or maybe I do but…Eh, I'm not going to get into it. Second of all…"
She shifts her head up slightly and stares at me with eyes that had an entirely different sort of expression about them.
"I do believe you insulted me just now. That gives me even more reason to screw around with you." The Rika-like person steps toward me, with that same vacant expression on her face. But just as she gets close enough that she becomes too close for comfort her face breaks out into a wicked smile, followed by a deteriorated laugh.
She grabs me by the neck and hoists me into the air. I'm not entirely sure how someone so visually short can manage such a thing, but more importantly it seems like she was planning on choking me to death. Her hand tightens to the point where my breath flow stops completely.
"I wonder. Would you die if I kept holding you like this? Or are you just as immortal as she is?"
She continues choking me but just as suddenly as she had started she eventually lets go. I drop to the ground and gasp for air but as I do so she strikes me across the face.
"You sicken me. Do you know why?"
I don't offer any sort of reaction. She kicks me in the stomach as a result. After I reel back from it I shake my head.
"Of course you don't. Because you don't know a single thing about the world around you. All you seem to care about is that infernal child."
She walks over to me once again and I can almost telegraph her vicious stomp on my head. My face crashes into the faceless ground beneath me, although the pain doesn't even remotely stop there. She continues to bash my face into the ground with the heel of her shoe.
"You know, I'm beginning to wonder. I'm sure you have some higher purpose. But I wonder if it would even matter if I just got rid of you right now. Maybe AuAurora would come running to your side. Perhaps I should test that."
I attempt to make some sort of noise. I refuse to take more of this physical abuse without knowing her reasons. All that comes out is a rather loud grunt.
And in that instant the stomping ceases. I am allowed an extended period of time to catch my breath. "What? Are you confused? Do you need more handholding? I suppose you might, given how useless you are. You wouldn't even make for good furniture, would you?"
"Tell me…" I hoarsely speak. "Who are you…?"
"Your first question is who I am? Perhaps you have better manners than I thought. You can simply call me Bernkastel. Or maybe I should make you call me Bernkastel-sama or something of the like."
"Why are you…here?"
"I came here solely to screw around with you. Because I hate you so much."
"Because one look at you reminds me of something horrible. Maybe if I etch out that pretty face of yours it'll calm me down. Or maybe I need to get rid of the hair instead…? So many options. But funnily enough I have the time to test all of them."
"No….Don't…" I was already at the point where I wanted to beg her to stop. I was far weaker here in this world than I was back in the forest, fighting for my life. It seemed the years I spent in solitude had weakened me in all aspects and regards. It was a horrifying situation to find yourself in, but alas here I was.
"Beg all you like." She then grabs a sizable chunk of my hair, somewhere close to the roots. She plans to pull it – that was about as much I knew. "I'm not going to spare you a single moment of the pain."
She then promptly begins to pull. The pain is tremendous. But then again I figured that this would be far from the worst of it.
"Would you like to know something?" She smiles once again with that wicked smile of hers. "There's something I can tell you…About that girl you care so much about."
She was talking about Yoko. What could she possibly tell me about her? There was no way she could have done anything to her – she was like me, and she was confined to a dimension like this one as well. But I had a strange feeling that whatever she was about to say wouldn't settle well with me.
But what it actually was – I would've rather died at that very moment than have heard what she said.
"I figured I would tell you how she's been doing. Since the moment she left the village she's driven herself insane. And you know why? Because she forgot about you."
"She…Forgot…" She had to be lying.
"She forgot about you. She woke up and she couldn't remember anything – about the time you two spent living and dying in the forest, about how you saved her and she saved you – none of it stuck. Because you aren't real."
Because I wasn't real?
Right. Because I wasn't real. I couldn't exist in a world like that. So while I may exist as I am it's just as possible that I didn't at all. The man on that phone made me realize that rather abruptly.
She forgot about me. She forgot all about me.
"But she didn't forget completely…Actually, she remembers quite a bit."
I didn't understand her words.
"It's just that she can't associate you with anything. She remembers. But she can't remember a single thing about you. What you look like, what your name is, not even your gender. And she drove herself crazy because of it."
"She tried to go back to her normal life. But her memories of you drove her insane. She's been suffering. Because of you."
"Because of…No, that isn't…"
"It's as true as can be…But I must admit that she has since recovered, thanks to a certain factor I hadn't seen coming...But she'll never be able to remember your name or your face. You will always be that hole in her memory. And you know what the kicker is?"
What else could she possibly say that could round out her so called revelation?
She gave one final pull on my hair and whatever she had grabbed onto was uprooted in that instant. She then bent down over me and whispered something sinister into my ear.
"She isn't real either."
I didn't understand. Not at first.
"She's about as fake as you are."
"What do you…"
"What you experienced was the events of a fragment. A temporary world, specifically one created so the witch who created you could recover. Why she even made you is beyond me, but regardless that fragment was a simulation, and nothing but. And I'm afraid that nothing you experienced can ever happen in any other fragment."
I wasn't sure how to register that information.
I was an illusion myself, but according to this Bernkastel person I had some tangibility after all –
But Yoko? She wasn't real? She was a figment of someone's imagination? How was that even possible? It had to be a lie. It had to be some sort of lie crafted by this person.
"Still don't believe me?" Bernkastel sneers as she seemingly reads my mind. "I'm going to show you something; a certain brand of truth – it's called red truth, which in all circumstances is absolutely true. If it isn't true I simply can't say it in red. Do you understand?"
Without even waiting for an answer she continues.
"I'll confirm it for you right here and now. In fact, I'll confirm it all for you, right now. Outside of the User-Defined Fragment, Yoko Narukami does not exist. Yoko Narukami will never remember you. She will never remember what you looked like, what your name was or anything about you. You will never be remembered by anyone inside or outside of –"
She suddenly chokes on her words. A small amount of blood spats from her mouth and onto the transparent floor beneath her.
"Ah… I forgot. You followed me here, didn't you…?" She seemed to be speaking to no one in particular. "And here I thought it would be easy for you. You could just erase her from that disk of yours and be done with it."
She looks toward the sky.
"So what are you waiting for? Show yourself already. You don't want to anger me so soon after we made up, AuAurora."
In that instant a figure of a rather elegant looking woman seemingly appears out of nowhere a few feet above her, suspended in the air. The long pink kimono and the green sash slung over her shoulder gave the woman a rather important sort of look to her.
"I'm a tad disappointed, Bernkastel."
"How so? Oh, right. You feel attached to this thing. What, did getting screwed by this abomination's father make you soft all of a sudden?"
"You should know by now that beating my extension into submission would get you nowhere."
"I don't think I need to explain to you how I don't give a damn."
"But I think you need to explain to her why you don't give a damn. Or perhaps I need to anyway."
"It's your kid. You deal with her. Unless you want to see me beat her up some more."
"That will be unnecessary."
The woman descended from the sky and landed somewhere to my left. Bernkastel continued to gaze at me with disgust of the highest caliber as she stepped a few paces backward. But my focus was on this new woman standing before me. As I looked into her eyes I felt something incredibly strange. It was as if I was
"…Looking into a mirror."
I gasp. The woman laughs ever so quietly. By some sort of magic or something of the like she could both read my mind and
"…Finish my sentences. Which is fairly easy, considering how I'm making them up myself as I go along."
"…Who are you?"
"You still don't have it figured out yet?" Bernkastel scoffed. "You're slow too. Who'd have thought."
"Simply put, you already know who I am." The woman said with a bit of a sigh. I was fairly certain this was that 'AuAurora' person that Bernkastel had mentioned a few moments ago, but I couldn't be entirely sure of what her name was without asking. But it seemed this woman wanted me to come to the right conclusion without asking any questions.
But strangely enough, I had a feeling that there was a bit more to her than that. Her gaze was almost identical to my own, and her facial features seemed something similar to my own. I then came to the most reasonable conclusion.
Bernkastel claps somewhat sarcastically.
"That's about as close as you can get, in human terms." The woman smiles. "It's more accurate to say that you and I are one and the same."
"Were one and the same. But I'm beginning to wonder." Bernkastel interrupted.
"One and the same?"
"Yes. I created you from myself – specifically I made you from the aspects of myself that seemed the most human."
"Because…I've done something terrible. And various people, Bernkastel included, were harmed by what I did. And so I had to prevent myself from ever doing it again. So I removed everything that made me the most human like and you were built from it."
I nervously glanced at Bernkastel who still had her ice cold stare centered entirely on me. I had a slight idea now as to why she hated me so irrationally. It was in fact a completely rational hatred. I was the embodiment of something that had caused her pain.
"I had to recover myself, having nearly died entirely quite some time ago. In the process of recovery I created a small fragment where a unique set of events would unfold. I allowed you to live in such a place, so that you might be able to become something even remotely human while you were there. I succeeded to a large degree, but it would seem that you've become trapped here."
"So then…You created everything that was in that fragment?"
"I allowed the fragment to unfold in its own way. I simply made it so something entirely unique and impossible would occur. You were planted there myself and you grew into something I almost thought wasn't possible. Your time was cut short, but I now acknowledge your worth."
"But then…Everything wasn't real?"
"It was all fake from a certain standpoint. But you were part of that world. So you can accept that world as the truth if you would like to."
"But…I'd be forgotten if I did that." And I already knew it was impossible to expect anything similar in any other world. Bernkastel had confirmed for me that Yoko didn't exist anywhere else. So I was essentially trapped.
"Forgotten or not, you lived, did you not? That was already much more than what you were intended for."
I didn't like that idea. I wanted to believe that I had some serious worth. But in the end it seemed like there was nothing different between me and the dust in the air. I had managed to live and die for the sake of someone else, but apparently that still wasn't enough.
"So am I to be discarded? Much like you already claim to have done?"
"That's what I was thinking." Bernkastel chimes in. "After all, no one could ever want anything to do with an abomination like you."
Bernkastel stretches her left arm as if to grab at something, and then in a single instant a long black scythe appears out of thin air and falls into her grasp. The blade is long and black, and without a doubt if it came anywhere near me I would be finished. Bernkastel steps forward, clearly already prepared to kill me. She was likely prepared to do that since she first arrived here.
She lashes out at me. My arm swings upward in a sort of defensive motion but it is cut open rather quickly and blood spills. My vision becomes incredibly red and I try to back away with a scream.
Another slash. My stomach splits open and some sort of intestine spills out with all of the blood. That's right. I was apparently irrationally afraid of blood at some point. But I've never seen so much blood before in my life. Not even back then…
Another slash and my other arm is completely gone.
There's so much blood. There's so much pain. I can't stand it anymore. I'm going to collapse.
Why, why is there so much blood?
I let out a high pitched scream as I slump over, into the blood of my own blood. I'm about to die and I know it. Blood starts to spew from my mouth and my esophagus becomes completely clogged with the copper tasting material.
The copper taste. That taste that stuck out more than anything else I had ever eaten before. My entire mouth was filled to the brim with it. I would never forget this intense taste. In fact, at this point if I even lived long enough to taste something else it would probably taste like copper.
There was just so much of it. I couldn't stand it anymore. There was no way she could keep torturing me like this. But she could. She was just waiting for me to bleed out. I take one good look at her and all I see is her twisted smile. That was all I cared about.
I kept thrashing about, trying to find some way to breathe.
But then suddenly I'm no longer thrashing about on the floor. I still have the memory and physical memory of what it all felt like, but I no longer had any gashes or missing limbs at all and I'm standing up, just as I had been moments before any of that had happened. Bernkastel shoots the woman next to her a glare. Apparently she had done something that had reversed the entire ordeal. It had never happened, essentially.
"Wait." The woman speaks. A bit late for that, if I do say so myself.
Bernkastel gives her a look of disbelief. "Two hundred thousand years. Two hundred thousand years of that prison are behind you and you're going to let it live? Don't you understand? That thing made you into what you are."
"It's the other way around."
Bernkastel gives her a questioning look.
"I made it into what it is. It's only fair that we let her go."
"It wasn't her fault that I gave into my human weakness. She didn't even exist until after the fact. I don't approve of erasing something from existence for something it hasn't done."
"Did you kill your weakness at all?"
"My weakness is standing right in front of us."
"Then why are you hesitating? Do you want to screw up again? And drag me back into another Logic Error with you?"
"That won't be the case."
"And how do you know? You gave in once. You can certainly do it again. You have to cut all ties with this part of yourself. Kill her. Do it or else I'll…"
"Or else you'll do what?" The woman's face was still resolute. She didn't seem to want to bend to Bernkastel's will in the slightest.
But then Bernkastel takes the scythe – and points the tip towards her own neck. The woman loses a small portion of her composure.
"Which will it be? Her or me? Which one is more important to you?" Her face was completely stoic.
In a matter of seconds the woman had a response.
"You know you're more valuable to me than anything else."
"Then what will you do?"
"…I'll do as you wish and erase her from my memory. But that is all."
Bernkastel lowers the scythe. "…That shall do." She turns to leave, apparently having gotten everything she wanted out of being here in the first place. "…Don't make me ever have to exploit that weakness ever again. Make sure you do it right."
With that response from the woman, Bernkastel disappeared entirely from that place. In the end it seemed all she wanted to do was ensure that I would suffer.
"Saya." The woman turns towards me. "You are being allowed to live. You can roam that fragment for all eternity. But you will never be seen by anyone ever again, you understand?"
"No one. But you will be allowed to roam around. You can even find your dear friend if you want. You can spend every day with her if you so choose. But you will never be acknowledged. You'll simply be invisible. It is either that or you simply stay here and fade away with everything else that once populated this place."
I was being given two choices by my other self. Either stay here and die or live forever at Yoko's side, even if she will never notice me?
One would be simply the end of my existence. I would fade away and never return. But the other would allow me to see the person I care about the most again. But in the end that one was more of a living hell than anything else. But I believed that I could endure it.
"I wish to go, then. I want to stay with her, even if we'll never speak again."
"Are you sure? You have to understand that when the time comes for her passing you will still remain in that fragment. You don't have the capacity to leave it, and you never will. Can you really make that decision, knowing that when her life expires you will be truly alone?"
I think hard about what she says. But in the end I came to realization. In that world there are humans – humans that can think for themselves and come to their own conclusions, whether rational or irrational. As long as that was the case…
"I won't ever be truly alone."
"The world is filled with rational and irrational possibilities. As long as there are humans in the world that can think for themselves there can be potential for something like me to exist."
"But you've already died once. There's no coming back from…" Her voice trails off. "…But are you willing to spent the thousands of years it is going to take to do something like that?"
"It won't take a thousand years. Because there are places like Hinamizawa all over the world. As long as there are places like that I can still somehow exist. And one day I'll revive in that world, and I'll start everything over."
"But you should know by now that all you can do is wreak havoc. Without that girl that is all the purpose you would have left."
"Then I'll wreak havoc. I'm just going to live. Because that's what Yoko ultimately would want for me, even if she didn't even know a single thing about me. That's just the kind of person she is."
The woman sighs. "…I see you are far more resolute than I gave you credit for… I believe you deserve the third option instead. Well, it's more like a fourth or fifth option. But there is in fact a way that the two of you can see each other again. Of course there are a few strings attached but you'll get the idea in time."
My eyes widen. I somehow know that she's telling the truth. "Whatever it is…I'll do it."
She smiles. "You say that now, but I assure you…Well, I suppose that now I've tempted you there's no going back."
She turns around so she is no longer facing me. "I'd like to introduce you to a concept that is rather familiar to me, but I don't believe you've ever heard of it. This will be all the vengeance that Bernkastel will ever need, but it will also be a rather ironic gift that I will be giving you."
I wasn't sure what she meant by an ironic gift.
"It's almost funny. You are the embodiment of the reason why I ended up the way I did, and now I am about to extract revenge by giving you a parting gift. But we'll see how long you last before you're driven off the deep end…That is, assuming you'll ever truly understand what is going to happen to you."
"I thought you were going to leave me here to die alone."
"Indeed I am. But you'll forget about it in due time."
"And when might that be?"
"Oh, about five seconds from now." The woman said with a smile. I suddenly realized something. Bernkastel wasn't the only one who should have despised me. Shouldn't this woman have as well? Wasn't I the embodiment of her weakness? In that moment she vanished –
And I vanished too.
And I was…
I was… I was somewhere. Somewhere dark. Somewhere I don't think I'd ever been.
I wake in a cold sweat, unlike anything I'd ever felt before. It was simply the most frightening feeling in the world. Had I perhaps been dreaming? Was I trapped in a nightmare for that time? Yes, it was certainly a dream, I know it. But what was it about? I would never know, neither on that morning or any other, why I had woken in a cold sweat.
All I knew was that I knew nothing. I had no idea where I was – or who I was, for that matter. All I knew was that I was trapped in some terrible dream until just this moment- for how long I couldn't say. In the end whether or not it was a nightmare or something more was completely irrelevant.
But the place that I was faced with when I woke – my surrounding area – I would have taken the nightmare over what I saw any day.
A dark room, filled with nothing but skeletal remains. Some were still adorned with small amounts of rotting flesh and most of them were still swarming with flies. I could assume that the decay was rather recent, although the fact that I am here and am still alive could be the reason why the flies have swarmed this place.
But as I mull over this seemingly insignificant detail it all suddenly hits me- what I was actually seeing before my eyes. I suppose it was just the effects of my prolonged state of sleep. I scream as loud as I can, simply from finally registering the reality of the situation.
I then began to see things with more detail, and each one causes me to shiver all the more rapidly.
The remains – they were all corpses. They were corpses that littered nearly the entire floor. The corpses themselves are mostly skeletal at this point but several of them are still rotting away, ripped opened and mauled as if they had been chewed apart by a wolf. I try to ignore the more miniscule skeletal remains, telling myself that they were just from small people, perhaps midgets. I try to focus on something else in the room – anything else.
I can now make out dried blood on the walls and ceiling, while the floor was adorned with what could have been the remnants of someone's intestines. Whoever had done this- why would they have done such a thing? Who on earth would do this to another human being- let alone so many?
I suddenly break down. Some of the blood and the intestines seem fresh. The people who had done this were probably close by. What if they returned to kill me? What if I ended up the same as they had? I frantically scan the room for some way to escape. I see something that appears to be an impression in the wall, different from all the other surfaces.
Of course – I know what that is, it's a door. I can open it and escape! My paranoia slips away for even just a moment as I realize I can break free through the door. I stumble to my feet, only to find that the bottom of my left foot was cut. I almost stumble right back over and into some of the blood on the floor, but I manage to fix my balance in time. I focus my eyesight in the direction of the door as the scent of blood fills my nose and my vision begins to swim.
Ah, blood…So much blood, there's way too much why is there so much blood why is there all this blood why why why why why-
Resolution – Decades Later
Morning came. Morning went. Evening came. Evening went.
Morning came. But today was different. Today was remarkably different.
The year was 2036. The location was a relatively well hidden apartment in Shibuya. As far as anyone outside of that apartment knew, there wasn't anything else even remotely remarkable about the place. But then came the residents, who not a single person who lived in the local area even knew the slightest thing about.
The apartment itself was nowhere as unique as the residents, of which there had been only three for about ten of the forty years that they had been occupying that place. Time went by and a fourth member was added to them, but that fourth member eventually grew older and left the place of their own violation.
Today was the third day. The third day of the period of time before that household of three would become a household of two.
It was at long last time. It had been forty long years since that time. Since that time where society nearly was ripped apart at the seams from having been nearly exposed to the hard truth of the world around it. Since that time where two men vowed to repent for their crimes and began their forty year long road to making amends for the damages they had caused.
It had begun with Satoshi's friendly push to Yoko Narukami to start believing in the unrealistic once again. It continued with the sudden reappearance of every single one of the girls that had gone missing on their respective parents' doorsteps, charred or not. It went on into the future, with every possible connection to each individual that had been related to the incident being explored to the most personal degree. It had taken forty years, but further catastrophe had been finally averted, despite how smaller incidents took place along the way.
They were free. They were free of everything, after having dedicated their lives to making amends. There was nothing further that they could do aside from simply living. And now it was time. It was time for Keiichi Maebara to uphold his end of the deal.
Natsumi entered the room from the kitchen, which had been directly connected to Keiichi's current resting place. They had situated a bed in the makeshift living room so he could at least watch television while waiting for his time to come. She gazed upon him, lying face up on the rather flimsy bed. Satoshi sat at his side with his sword at the ready. Only three days ago had they received the news – Keiichi was suffering from some form of terminal cancer, and it seemed that it had developed to the phase where he had less than a week to live.
She had called her child – the daughter that she had with Keiichi, who was now somewhere in her twenties. But it seemed that the daughter was alienated enough from the family that she had no interest in watching her neglectful father die. In truth, Keiichi was never truly neglectful. He simply had to do his job. It was his life's mission to make amends for that disaster, and so he simply never had the opportunity to pay attention to her. Natsumi was a respectable enough mother, given how she was more or less assigned the role of being a mother. Satoshi and Keiichi would carry out their plan, and Natsumi would stay behind and be the mother for her child.
Keiichi never blamed his daughter for despising him. She would never understand the role that he played and there would be no way to truly illustrate for her just what had happened back then, years before she was even born. But he was still distressed over all of it. Natsumi then had to play the role of a makeshift wife to maintain his sanity. At many times over the years he nearly gave up his ambition altogether and believed for a time that he was going insane, but in the end he had enough of a lid on the Hinamizawa syndrome that he could suppress it as he saw fit. He truly believed that all of it was his punishment, and so would be a punishment that he was to take with him to the grave.
It had been a miracle that Keiichi had even lived to that point. Despite his physical weakness, he was still apparently capable of living on an extremely short amount of blood and had managed to do so for many years. But with his survival came the rather apparent threat of Okonogi and the various people he was able to employ to hunt Keiichi down. Satoshi had subdued every last one, but the end result was forced residence in the shoddy apartment that had likely been part of the reason their daughter had left them so early on.
In the end he kept on living to serve that one purpose. And in the end he achieved his goal. Not once did Natsumi question the legitimacy of it all, despite Satoshi's lack of faith fairly early on. But he stuck by him as well, likely determined to get his own vengeance granted to him.
Satoshi looked up at her, his face as stoic as ever. He had at some point reverted his hair to what it once appeared. She didn't quite remember when. Perhaps he had just come home with it like that one day, but it wasn't like she particularly remembered. Satoshi was another story – he never married, never dated anyone, and probably never so much as glanced at a woman over the course of the forty years. It would seem that his heart died with Shion. But he still persevered through the years despite it all.
"…He's asleep." He speaks rather hoarsely. He had caught wind of a disease himself, and apparently it caused his throat to nearly collapse in on itself. His voice was incredibly weak as if he had been smoking all his life despite never having touched a cigarette.
"I noticed." Natsumi, on the other hand, seemingly never aged a day. She was visibly older, but despite being nearly sixty she wasn't particularly old looking. She appeared to be in her twenties even to this day.
"Perhaps we should take care of it now?"
"You're not touching him until after I've gotten to say goodbye to him. You get it?"
"Right…Sorry." Satoshi was getting impatient. Or perhaps he was trying to convince himself that he still wanted to do was he was planning on doing.
At some point Keiichi woke with a coughing fit. One look at him would tell you that he had very little time remaining. As it was his voice was nearly lost. He could only make bits and pieces of sentences at this point. His mind and body were both deteriorating at a rate that it should have been forty years ago. Natsumi and Satoshi both knew that this wasn't really cancer – he was just simply dying. Not from old age, but rather from the whims of fate. It was as if now, that his mission was complete, that he was finally being allowed to rest.
"Morning. Oh, actually it's the afternoon now." Natsumi smiles at him.
Keiichi doesn't smile, simply because he can't efficiently.
"…When…" He only manages to utter a single word.
"You won't be in pain for much longer." Satoshi speaks. "It'll get easier to deal with soon."
It took a few seconds but eventually Natsumi figured out what he was trying to say.
"We're not doing anything yet, okay?" Her voice was somewhat distressed, although only slightly at this point.
"I'm not doing anything to you. Not until your woman says her farewell." He stands. "I suggest you get this over with. It seems he's losing the will to live."
"He's not losing the will. He's just afraid that you won't get your vengeance." Natsumi speaks somewhat coldly. Satoshi does not respond in the slightest and walks off to the side.
Natsumi draws closer to him, lightly touching his face.
"I'm sorry. He's just really impatient…But are you sure?"
Keiichi tries to nod, moving his head somewhat slightly.
Natsumi smiles. "…I had a feeling you'd say something like that. I suppose you…really want to see them, don't you? It has been a long time, so I think I can understand."
Keiichi doesn't make any sort of reaction, and so she took that as a confirmation of what she was saying.
She stared at him, somewhat longingly.
Eventually, due to a series of mixed emotions piling up within her, she finally breaks down.
She whispers to him. "Don't leave me…Not like this…I won't be able to go where you're going, no matter how hard I try. I don't…I don't want to be cut off from you like that. I don't think I could take it."
Keiichi tries to make some sort of movement, but ends up just shaking his free hand. That was a sign that he wanted something to write with. He still had relatively full control of his hands, although his arms were incredibly weak and moved about as rarely as his jaw. Natsumi reached for the pen and pad off to the side that he had already used multiple times.
He starts writing, although the end result is messy. She can still read it, however.
That's not true
I'll wait for you
You won't live alone
So that you can spend forever alone
She had no choice but to trust what he was saying. She tries to smile in affirmation but she can't bring herself to.
"I have a bit of my own unfinished business…You'll have to wait until then."
I'll do it
I'll be waiting there
He doesn't write anything past that point.
"My role is finished. You've done enough living. So now you can go rest. You can go rest with the people you love. So do it…I'll be along one day. But you're the one who deserves the rest you're going to get…I'm okay living in darkness for awhile. You've been living that way for years and years. So I can share some of it. I don't want you to wait for me, okay? I don't want to do that to you. You understand?"
"Good…So you can finally sleep. You've got quite the number of people waiting for you."
Natsumi smiles before gently kissing him. "I love you too."
In that moment she stepped away and Satoshi returned to the room. Natsumi turns away, unable to watch any further. She leaves the room and allows Satoshi to complete his end of the bargain.
"Wait." Satoshi calls out to her. She doesn't turn around but stops moving. Satoshi places what seemed to be a small piece of paper from Keiichi's pad in her open palm. "He wants you to read that."
She brings the paper up to her eyes so she can read it.
Keiichi Maebara will go to Hinamizawa
But The End Dreamer will wait for you
"He's dying." She whispers. "Yet he still finds the time to be poetic."
She leaves the room without another word. She can't allow him to see her in the state she would be in. She wanted his last image of her to be that of her smiling. Not the opposite.
Satoshi stand above him, his sword at his side.
But he does nothing. He simply stands there and looks down at him with his stoic expression.
Keiichi becomes visually distressed. He was doubtlessly confused as to why Satoshi wasn't doing anything.
But Satoshi does not move. Keiichi's vision swims slightly. He is likely down to the wire.
Satoshi unsheathes the blade slightly. The shining steel pokes out only slightly. But he still stands there, unmoving.
And then he smiles. Satoshi smiles.
"My sister and all those who you wronged suffered for mere moments as they died. You have suffered an even worse pain day by day for forty years. I have had my revenge."
"I won't be joining you quite just yet. But I need you to let Shion know that I'll be coming for her one of these days. Just tell her that. Can you do that for me?"
Keiichi gives his confirmation.
"Very well then…You may rest in peace. You've done what you lived to do. I never thought you were capable, but yet here you are. You've earned my respect and my forgiveness. So go. Go to them. Don't keep them waiting."
Satoshi turned away and slowly walked out of the room. Keiichi continued to stare up at the ceiling. He wondered what Satoshi stood by him for if he hadn't intended to kill him. Perhaps he had just been waiting to see if Keiichi would be a man of his word. Perhaps from the very start, many years ago, he was intending on doing this. But regardless Satoshi had let him live, and so he would die a natural death.
But that sort of death didn't suit him. But apparently Satoshi believed that it did.
He could feel everything around him fading away. He had already lost all feeling. He would stop breathing at any moment.
He wasn't proud of his life. But he did what had to be done. He'd accomplished his goal, even if it had taken him forty years. With everything resolved, he believed that all was well.
He stared at the entrance to his little room. Neither Satoshi nor Natsumi would walk through that entrance to greet him ever again. He had seen the last of them both. He secretly hoped one of them would appear before him one last time, but in the end he didn't think it would matter. He would see them again at some point. He was almost certain of that.
He closes his eyes. He finds himself enveloped in a warm white light.
And finds himself in a vast garden. A garden that stretched on for as far as the eye could see. A garden of roses of all colors, complemented by a gazebo surrounded by bright red roses that were different from the others. He had somehow appeared in a beautiful place. He had then decided that he was in heaven. And this was what heaven consisted of.
He finds himself standing amidst this garden, staring at the beauty around him.
Suddenly, he feels a presence nearby. He turns around to find himself face to face with a rather peculiar looking man with bright red hair, arranged in an equally as peculiar way. He was wearing a white suit jacket, equally as white dress pants, and what appeared to be some sort of a black cape with a golden hemming. The man simply smiled at him, making for a rather awkward scenario.
"Welcome." He spoke.
"Where am I?" Keiichi is initially surprised to find that he could speak perfectly normally now. More importantly –
His wheelchair was nowhere in sight. He was standing and walking. It was so odd that he didn't notice immediately, but for that time it was as if walking was perfectly natural for him.
"What, you don't recognize your home?"
"I've never been in a place like this before. I'm not sure what you mean by that."
"Oh, that's right… Hm… How to deal with you…Ah hell, I'm in a good mood so I won't be a prick about it."
The man turns around, his cape swinging with him.
"You see, the Golden Land is big enough that we could accommodate a village or two, so…"
He flicks the cape with his arm, much like a matador would a capote.
And off in the distance he could see it.
And he realized where he was. He was at the road that led to that village off in the distance.
He was in Hinamizawa.
"Go on. You've got quite the crowd waiting for you."
Without another thought he went down the pathway. He found himself traversing the familiar road. Eventually he found his way to the entrance –
And then he saw them. All of them. They were all there, every single one of them standing there, waiting for him.
He was almost instantaneously brought to tears. They were all there. And they were all alive. None of them looked at him with any sort of disdain – they all wanted to welcome him back to Hinamizawa.
Standing the closest to him, only a few feet before him, were Rena and Mion.
They were both standing there, as pleased as could be.
"Kei-chan, are you going to gape at us all day?" Mion speaks with her usual flare.
He didn't seem to want to react. He was simply too awe struck to do anything.
"If you were him you'd be doing the same thing." Rena chimes in with her usual exuberance.
But Keiichi did make some sort of noise.
Mion punches him in the arm.
"If I hear one apology come out of your mouth I'll peel it off."
"Mii-chan…That's a bit scary."
"I don't care! One apology, and I swear…"
"Rena." Keiichi murmured. "…Are you…okay?"
"I'm fine… We're all fine." Their eyes met, and in that instant Keiichi resumed crying his eyes out.
He fell to his knees. This was all too much. And all too sudden. If this was some sort of trick he wasn't sure what he would do.
Suddenly he felt a rather familiar pat on his head. At his side was Rika.
"It's all okay. You're home, Keiichi. That's all that matters."
"Satoshi's a bit late though…" Shion spoke ever so slightly sadly off from where she was standing.
"…He said…He said he'd be here one of these days…" Keiichi tried to speak, given how he had suddenly remembered Satoshi's last request.
"He's going to take is sweet time, isn't he…? Eh, I can wait a bit longer."
A few moments later, Mion, who had been relatively silent for quite some time, knelt down in front of him.
"You see? It's all over. We all made it here. So Hinamizawa finally gets to come back to life. Because without you here, it just wouldn't be any fun."
Keiichi's eyes met hers, and in the moment they did she pulls him close to her and kisses him as fully as she could. She parts her lips slightly, whispers his name, and continues the kiss. In that moment Keiichi could simply feel it. All was forgiven. There was nothing but pure feelings between them now. It was how things should have been. But it was still the way things were now.
"…Right. Right here, Hinamizawa revives…And it won't be like the old one." Keiichi spoke softly when Mion broke away from him.
"Right…So are you ready, Keiichi?" Mion asks him.
Keiichi finally stands. And so he enters that new Hinamizawa with those that are closest to him.
The man with the golden cape looks down upon what has transpired before him. Surely, this man was like him. Surely, he had suffered for years and had finally come to the point in his life where he could be reunited with those important to him. Without a doubt, this was the rest this man deserved. For despite his great sin he lived to the point where all those he wronged could forgive him. There is no greater repentance than that.
Indeed. All was well.
And so ends Case of the End Dreamer. I'll just go ahead and say that despite the tone of this last section that this is actually a really bad ending for everyone involved. You might be able to reason out why. Especially if you're familiarized enough with how Umineko handles this stuff. (Also, yeah, Saya is stuck in a time loop.)
But yeah…I really need to clear some stuff up, don't I?
At this point I'm going to first address the thought process that you were "intended" to take for each of the primary (and really the only solvable) mysteries of the plot.
For the first story chapter, you have some unreliable narration from Rai, who later turns out to be Satoshi. This was actually not reasonable until you determined that End Dreamer was Keiichi. In the first section of the solution chapter you are told explicitly that nothing he ever said about Miyumi/Shion was a lie.
This lets you come to the conclusion that Miyumi was Shion and not Mion, given the bit of hidden major plot point in the non-descriptive sex scene. Furthermore were the side stories that talked about nothing but the twins and Keichi's various affairs with them. The only exception being the Umineko prequel chapter. But there is a line in there about Shion, thus making details about her the most commonly occurring in the stories. So with the stuff in the main chapter and the side stories that play by their own rules you can come to that conclusion. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe.
The second story chapter is a lot less interesting. The only thing you were supposed to get out of that was that Yoko was not attacked by Shion but was instead attacked by multiple people. The only indication of this in the side stories were the appearances of multiple killers. That's it. Really. The second chapter was mainly set up for the third.
The third story chapter is pretty much the most convoluted thing I ever came up with. It was actually a whole lot worse to begin with, but it got better as I rewrote that chapter a million times. Basically you were supposed to associate Saya with Hanyuu because Hanyuu is revealed as the Unreliable Narrator in the story that came with that chapter. She lied without ever really telling you that she was lying. Saya does the same thing – Satoshi actually tells you briefly that he lied once, but Saya doesn't at all. The first Wrap Party was pretty much there to make that clear/slightly less ambiguous. There. There's your connection.
As for the whole rational and irrational impossibilities thing, that was more or less more Umineko pandering (the whole "it's magic but it probably isn't" thing). I tried to tie together the supernatural aspects of the two and ended up going for a mixture of things. The Devil Theory thing is actually entirely symbolic. It's more or less just representation of how dangerous one's fears are and how someone can be brought to act out in extreme ways.
Lastly, about Keiichi. There are three of him in this story: The End Dreamer, The Real One, and Keichi. Keichi being Astaroth, who was Keiichi's dark side. We never hear from the real one ever. Just clearing that up. (For the Type Moon fans, an easier way to describe Astaroth is to consider him like Nanaya Shiki. A fake darker half of the original thing.)
Anyhow, I'd like to thank more or less all of you that read this story and especially to those of you that reviewed. If you didn't review but still liked it then I suppose that's all good in the end. I honestly didn't think I'd even get one consistent reader but it seemed like I had at least several so thanks for that. Seriously.
So, going into the future, I'm probably going to stop writing for a bit and start reading some of the fics on this site. Can you believe it?
But really, I don't think I'm going to dump any more time into this story. The plot line is finished. I might, however unnecessary it might be, add a "what really happened 100% for sure in Hinamizawa" chapter...
B-But I want 30 reviews first…P-Please?
Anyway, so there. Almost a year since I posted it but not quite. I suppose it had a good run. That's all I have to say about that. Now go read something else.