Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. The anime's ending isn't anywhere close to how the VN actually ends (personally, I think the VN's ending is much better). This idea came to me before I knew this and I thought, "Ryukishi wouldn't let his own ending go to pot like that; he must've expanded on it better in the VN to make the characters' actions feel more justified and that just wasn't captured in the anime properly" (this is actually half the case for most of the characters' self-contradictory actions in the anime; the other half of it is that the show's writers/director/whoever gets to call the shots chose the biggest conflicts in the VN, again leading to massive self-contradiction). I got to thinking as to how the anime's ending might've gone if Ryukishi had come up with the original concept, and, well…there you go.

Also, to get the feel of this better, I'd recommend you listen to the following Umineko VN tracks in this order: Worldend Dominator, lie-alaia, goldenslaughterer, corruption, liberated liberator, Scar Sound, dreamenddischarger, Infant Queen Bee, The Executioner, Thank You For Being Born, and Loreley. You'll know when to change from track to track when you see a divider line like the one below—NOT a trail of dots.


The trees….were they green? Were they a green hidden by the shadows? Was the bark light brown or dark brown? Such questions could only be ignored as the Ookami group dashed through the forest in hopes of reaching the dam before another, dangerous individual did.

"Master Nemuru," hissed one of the members, "I work at the dam administration. We must turn left up ahead. We have to hurry, before the entire village is submerged underwater!"

With a nod, Nemuru led the group further forward. But just as they made their left turn…

"A tree?" cried out Isuzu. "But—but—"

"That's right," said Nemuru out loud. "Sakaki must have realized we would come this way. He deliberately blocked this path."

"But…but what if he blocked off any other paths, too?" asked Isuzu. Her face wrenched with worry at the thought of her parents not getting the warning, of not making it to higher ground in time before…

"There is that possibility," nodded Nemuru. "Which is why we must take a shortcut through the forest, as he must have done. Hurry! We have no time to lose!"

Following close behind, Isuzu ran alongside Nemuru and the group, reminded strongly of the close bond the two shared as children…..and could possibly still share today.

….

Hiroshi knew it was all useless. And still, he and Kaname ran through the forest, trying to find their way amidst the dead ends created.

"Hakase-kun," panted Kaname, "how….do you….think….we should…stop…him…..?"

Hiroshi did not answer. His mind had not yet gotten that far. He hadn't thought of how they would stop Sakaki from flooding the village once they reached the dam. He knew it was useless—they were just two teenagers going up against someone significantly bigger and stronger. The chances of a miracle occurring….whether it was reaching the dam in time, or facing Sakaki one on one….were slim to none.

If it hadn't been for his scent…..if only he had never come here…..

But would Sakaki still be doing this if he, and his father and sister, had never arrived at Jougamachi? Would he have found a way to flood the village without seeking his help? No…..he had naively told Sakaki the name of the girl who had killed his fiancée. If he had just kept his mouth shut…if he never even came here at all….

Kaname stopped to catch her breath. Her lungs were ready to burst. "….Ha.…kase….go on….without me….."

"I won't leave you behind, Kaname!" said Hiroshi firmly. "You're my friend! I will never again put my friends in danger because of my selfishness!"

"You…you need to go stop that man from…."

"We will stop him," said Hiroshi firmly. He took Kaname by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. "Together."


"Yes," said Sakaki with a grin, "just where I hid it."

He knelt down by the empty squirrel's nest and pulled out his gun. Long, beautiful, stolen off a police officer who was lazy just as all policemen in this damn city were lazy, allowing the likes of those monsters to get away with murder every day.

All the more reason to get to flooding the village then.

Sakaki looked out at the dam station in the distance. That damned guard whom he had spoken to after seeing him talking with Kasai….it would be his own fault when every guard was knocked unconscious within a matter of seconds by a gas bomb. He really shouldn't have accepted his "gift", claiming it to be a specially marked box of Hassaku to help the guards control their "temptation". And it was a terrible idea for him to honestly believe Sakaki when he told him to not open the box until he arrived safely at the station.

Sakaki began to run down the hill. For a moment, he worried—what if the guard had opened the box too early? What if the box was never opened at all? What if he had thrown it out? Would Sakaki then be greeted by angry guards eager to throw out an "Ochibito" trespasser?

He ran faster, slipping the gun into his pocket. Five bullets. Not even those would be enough to take down so many guards. He stopped suddenly and hesitated. The last remnants of the bomb, if it had gone off when it was supposed to, would be fading out around now.

Sakaki started off running once more until he had reached the steps. He quietly walked up, and forward…

Everywhere Sakaki looked, there was a guard lying over slumped, or on the floor. None of them were dead, but it had been enough to knock them unconscious for several hours. Just enough time to go in, and get the job done.

He walked down the halls further and further, each footstep he made sounding louder than the last…

...

At last, he had reached the entrance. He took one step inside and—


".….!"

Sakaki narrowly dodged the knife thrown right at his head. He noticed the fear-stricken yet stupidly bold guard slowly standing up from behind the chair they hid.

"I had a bad feeling when the boss came in with a box of Hassaku an hour ago," he declared. "I knew it was a trap. And so I hid in a broom closet until the stench….that stench that left me a bit drowsy, the faintest whiff I caught….had gone away. And then, I made my way into this room and I've been waiting…waiting for you to come! I saw you on the security cameras approaching the dam, and I decided to prepare myself for the moment you came."

Sakaki drew out his gun, but in one, swift kick, the guard had it knocked out of his hand, slid across the floor, and right below the control panel. Anticipating this situation, Sakaki drew out his knife and said, "Ready to prove how much you really care for your beloved monster hometown?"

With a cry, the guard lunged at Sakaki, but Sakaki dodged the attack. He took a swipe at the guard, but the guard leaped back by a foot. He tried to knock the knife out of Sakaki's hand using his own foot, but Sakaki, now knowing better, dodged the attack.

"So you are an Ochibito after all!" declared the guard. He swiftly lunged for the kill, his attack being blocked.

"And you are a monster," countered Sakaki. "Just like the rest of them." He let out a cry and plunged for the guard's heart, but the guard dodged the attack once more.

"We are not monsters!" declared the guard as he dodged each of Sakaki's attempted stabs. "We are inflicted with a cursed fate, and we try to live normally for the sake of you, so you can live in peace and—"

"SHUT UUUUUP!" screamed Sakaki. He tried aiming for the guard's eye, but the guard grabbed onto his wrist and struggled to knock the knife out. The two men had their struggle to obtain the knife, fighting with more and more might until….

"Gyah!" cried out Sakaki as he was thrust onto the floor along with the knife. He felt the blade tear through the fabric of his sleeve, the sharp sting as it slid across his flesh and right next to the gun below the control panel. He closed his eyes and waited for the sound of the guard slowly backing away. Once he was certain it was safe to move forward, he opened his eyes and rolled over onto his stomach. Ignoring the bleeding, and the pain in his arm, he slid across the floor and reached out for the gun…

"KYAAAAAAAAAA!" cried out Sakaki as the guard stomped onto his fingers.

"I knew you wouldn't go down that easily," said the guard.

"You're right about that," seethed Sakaki. With the back of his foot, he kicked the guard in the back of the leg, then swept him out from under. In one, quick move, Sakaki grabbed the gun and pointed it at the misfortunate guard.

"We're almost there," declared Nemuru as the group approached the dam closer and closer. "With luck, Sakaki should not be there at all."

Worried, Isuzu said, "I hope."

BANG.

"Was that…?" said one of the followers sharply.

Nemuru's heart sank. "I think so. But we can't stop now, we have to keep going!"

"That was a pain," muttered Sakaki as he used a torn-off piece of the guard's clothing to bandage his wounded arm. He sat and took a look at the control panel. Indeed, it would be a more difficult task than he had thought. He knew opening up the dam wouldn't be as easy as the push of a button.

But if he knew the right buttons to push…

Sakaki pressed a red button. This was the button to divert the flooding channels. Then, he went to work with the other buttons and switches. Eventually, if he had them all turned a certain way, his revenge would be complete….


"We're too late!" cried out Kaname in despair as she and Hiroshi stood above the bridge, observing the dam opening, and the water pouring out at rapid speed.

"Sakaki-san, what have you done?" whispered a horrified Hiroshi.

"Everyone!" declared Nemuru as the group approached the stairs. "Stay away from the rails, and be wary of the water below!"

Isuzu took one look at the pouring waters, and felt an overwhelming seasickness. She closed her eyes and thought, All those homes…all those people…

She forced her eyes to open and, though shaking, followed Nemuru up the stairs.

The shrine maidens observed the calamity from above. They watched waves upon waves of water ruining long-worked for progress, destroying that which had begun to build peaceful ties between the Kamibito and the Ochibito. They could only hope the people themselves had been able to flee to safety.

But as for the person who did this…yes…whatever else they may have done could have been forgiven. They could have sense talked into them. But this…no….this…was unforgiveable.

Sakaki took out his map, and then looked back up at the sight of the flooding village. "And now," he said, "it begins. The destruction, the misery…it all begins."

He lay back in his chair and stared at the ceiling blankly. They, everyone in the town, had ruined his life four years ago. It was thanks to their monstrous habits and barbaric laws that his chance at happiness had been destroyed in utter ruin. How generous it was of him to repay the favour! They all ruined his life, and now he would ruin theirs. They took away everything from him, and he took away everything from them. They took a life important to him, and his actions would lead to important lives being taken away from them.

"It's all even," grinned Sakaki. "I won….aha…hahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!"


"Not so fast, Sakaki-san!"

Sakaki spun around in his chair at the sound of Nemuru Kushinada's voice. Sure enough, Nemuru was standing in the doorway, backed up by those monsters, and her monster friend. On her face, she wore a furious expression.

"I expected you to arrive," said Sakaki, standing up from the chair. "So you're still going to defend this town to your dying breath?"

The Ookami group got into position to fight, but Nemuru extended a hand and said, "This is my battle." She stepped forward, scythe in hand, and then lunged towards Sakaki, who narrowly dodged the blade and laughed, "Not so fast after all, now are you?"

Nemuru realized she was in a position of disadvantage, for Sakaki was standing right in front of the control panel. If she were to strike her scythe down now, whether she missed or not, she would damage the controls and doom the village. But….for all she was born to do, for all she was meant to do….there was no turning back now.

To everyone's surprise, Nemuru tossed the scythe to the ground and, with a ferocious yell, lunged at Sakaki and thrust him to the ground. Sakaki began to stand up, and then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the scythe still lying on the ground. He looked back up at Nemuru and, with a malicious smile, began to slide over to the scythe…

"No you don't!" cried out Isuzu as she kicked Sakaki in the face. Sakaki leaped to his feet and began to lunge at Isuzu, but Nemuru stepped in between and said, "Tsumuhana-san. I told you, this is my battle alone." She looked back at Sakaki and, with a determined glare in her eye, began to do a triple kick, but Sakaki, having learned from his mistakes, was quick to grab her foot and throw her across the room. With a triumphant smirk, he stood in front of the control panel with his arms crossed.

"Go ahead," he said. "Try taking me down. If you do, I'll just take this knife," he pulled the knife out of his pocket, "and smash the panel. Capture me, and I will make sure you have no city jail to take me to. So go on—just try."

"I accept that challenge!" declared Nemuru as she ran towards Sakaki at full force. She slid on the ground and attempted to sweep him out from under his feet, but he grabbed her by the ankle and threw her across the room. She landed on top of the wounded security guard, and as she looked into the ill-fated man's eyes, she thought about how it was her duty to protect the ones she loved….to protect an entire city…and vowed to absolutely not back down now.

Nemuru stood up and ran towards Sakaki. He attempted to block her again, but this time she aimed for his unguarded stomach, and gave him a sharp enough kick to temporarily knock him down. With only less than three seconds to act, Nemuru quickly turned a knob to its proper position. She only had enough time to press another button before Sakaki kicked her away from the panel and she was once more knocked to the ground.

"Master Nemuru!" said a member sharply. "Are you certain you don't want us to handle this man?"

Nemuru shook and stood to her feet. Sakaki laughed, "I'll make sure you don't catch me off-guard this time."

Without warning, an Ookami member suddenly ran across the room, behind Sakaki, and shoved the chair he was in aside. Then, the member pressed a few buttons and pulled a few switches. They were almost there…..it was just one more button to press….and then…..the entire village would be saved…..

Sakaki attempted to pull out his gun, only to be held down by two members. "You'll be waiting with us for a good, long time," one of them declared.

"I'm afraid you underestimated the power of teamwork!" declared Isuzu.

"Shut up," growled a humiliated Sakaki.

Even as the last button was pressed, Sakaki's determination was not smudged in the slightest; he belted the member in the jaw, twisted his arm behind his back, and ran off, the gun and knife still within his hands.

"I have a feeling this won't be the last we'll see of him," said Nemuru grimly.

"Do you want us to go forward and follow him, Master Nemuru?" asked a member. Nemuru nodded and turned to the person who had successfully saved the village. "Stay behind and look after this man," she instructed, but as she looked at the screen, at the images of the ruined houses, and then back over at her scythe, she was struck with guilt. If only she hadn't taken his fiancée away from him…if only the enforcer team had the capacities to find her in time….then maybe this would've never happened.

"Are you coming with us, Nemuru?" asked Isuzu. Nemuru nodded and followed after, the images not leaving her mind.


Sakaki was long gone by the time the group had left the dam. The only clue given of his whereabouts were a few, small drops of blood from his arm, which Isuzu used as a guide. The ground had not been flooded enough to detriment any blood trail, and so they followed the blood drops as far as the foot of the steps leading back up to the forest.

They climbed up the steps, everyone on the lookout for the dangerous man. By this point, they could only assume Sakaki had managed to get his wounds under control, for there was no further sight of the man, nor could they trace him through his Ochibito scent; he was too far gone.

Nemuru gestured for the group to follow her to the left. Isuzu obediently followed, all the while wondering about Nemuru's reaction to the sight on the security cameras. Indeed, it had left Isuzu with a sickening feeling, but Nemuru seemed to have taken it much worse. What had she been thinking about? Had she stopped to realize the consequences of the old laws? Were Sakaki's accusations of her being a monster finally getting to her?

In the midst of Isuzu's thinking, she had not realized the group had taken a different direction without her. Had they gone left? Right? Straight ahead? The trees all looked the same to Isuzu, and she could not find any trace of Nemuru, nor the Ookami members. She wondered if she'd be better off taking her chances and guessing which direction they may have gone in, or staying behind. Either way, she'd be taking a terrible risk of running into—

"Oi."

Startled, Isuzu let out a quick gasp and spun around to find Sakaki facing her, standing right beside a tree. "They must've had fun trying to find me in the middle of the forest," he smirked. "And so, we meet, Isuzu Tsumuhana. You're a monster just like them, are you not?"

"You're wrong!" said Isuzu firmly. "We are not monsters!"

"Ha, I figured you'd say that," scoffed Sakaki. "Tell me…do you think all of them are not monsters, including Nemuru Kushinada? She was the one who killed your brother, was she not?"

"Well…..ah….yes, but…."

"But what? She's still a murderer. Did she have any reason to kill your brother? Was he a dangerous murderer? A threat to society? Somehow, I doubt it. She only killed him because he kissed his girlfriend, and made her a monster just like him. Do you think that's a fair reason?"

"That's not why—"

"Then tell me: What reason did your brother have to die for?"

"Because….he was sick…..very, very sick…" Isuzu tried her best to hold her ground, but was finding it a lot more difficult than she thought.

Sakaki stretched out a hand. "Come with me," he said, "and I just might forget you're a monster after all. Perhaps you could take me back to the dam? Help me destroy the control panel once and for all? Or if not that, perhaps you could help me against just one person in particular—that same person who killed your brother? Are you willing to form an alliance or not?"

Isuzu wondered what this man's reasons were for wanting to form an alliance with her. Didn't he just call her a monster? What if he was planning to kill her once she had served her purpose? And besides, she couldn't just betray her own friends like that. On the other hand…..

Was there even an other hand?

Isuzu closed her eyes to think about Sakaki's offer. At last, she opened her eyes.

"Well?" said Sakaki. "What will it be?"


"No."

"Eh?" Sakaki's eyes narrowed. "What was that?"

"I said no," said Isuzu in a louder voice. "I could never betray my friends like that."

"She killed your brother and you're still calling her your friend?" said Sakaki in disbelief.

"I once felt feelings similar to what you're feeling, too," said Isuzu. "I felt as though I had lost everything precious to me, that after this, nothing would ever be the same again. I felt like my world was beginning to come down, that I could never be free to love in peace again. And you know what? In spite of this, I realized something: That no matter what, Nemuru Kushinada is the same person I met in elementary school. She is still the same girl who sat quietly during art class and made paper cranes. She is the same person who taught me the basics of cooking, even if I sometimes get them all wrong. She is the one who could help me out, the one who listened to me….her role as hunter is not her own doing! Not her fault!"

Isuzu looked Sakaki in the eye and went on: "Beneath the robe, beneath the white hair and the mask, lies my best friend. She has been my most important friend since we were young children. I am aware of her role as hunter, but that has not changed a thing! Beneath it all, Nemuru Kushinada is still a good person! She is not a monster!"

With one last defiant look in her eye, Isuzu declared, "You thought you could lure me in with vengeance, but you overlooked the power of love and friendship! Those two most important elements that save the day, that can overcome anything! My love for Hiro…and my friendship with Nemuru…...nothing you say or do will ever change that! Don't you ever forget about love and friendship, and the power behind those two!"

Isuzu had begun to leave when she heard Sakaki scoff, "Is that so?"

"Eh?" Before she could react…..


BANG

"What was that!" cried out Nemuru, spinning around. "That couldn't be-!"

She and her group raced through the glen towards the sound where the shot had come from. With one, quick glance Nemuru's heart sank as she realized that Isuzu was nowhere to be found. He couldn't have gotten her…could he?

They stopped at the sight of Isuzu lying on the ground, clutching her bleeding knee, and hissing in pain. Above her stood a smirking Sakaki, who now pointed his gun at the group standing before them. "I knew you would come," he scoffed. "At first, I thought about killing her on the spot, but then I decided to use her as the perfect bait to lure you here instead. And it looks like it worked."

Nemuru was unable to reply to Sakaki's words. She could only stand and stare at the sight of her friend in agony. "Tsu—Tsumuhana-san!" she cried out. She tried taking a step forward, but the cock of the gun stopped her. After all, she'd be unable to save her friend if she were dead.

"I'll handle him!" declared a hooded member. As they attempted to dash towards Sakaki, however, they were too slow: A quick shot to the heart stopped the person in their tracks.

"Don't drag innocent people into this!" cried out Nemuru. "I'm the only one who should be the object of your revenge! Just me! Not Tsumuhana-san, not any of these members, and especially not the entire village! Just take my life and go! Kill me and leave my people in peace!"

"And you think I'd listen to a monster like you?" sneered Sakaki. "Why shouldn't you feel the same pain as I? Why shouldn't you be driven to despair as you drove me?"

Nemuru took another look at Isuzu, who grew pale and struggled to keep her eyes open as the puddle of blood grew. With a quick glance, she dashed over to Isuzu and used her cloak to bandage the wound and hopefully stop the bleeding.

"At last," said Sakaki, cocking the gun. "I have you just where I want you…"

Hiroshi and Kaname had heard the gunshot, too, and had taken off in the direction it came from. They ran back through the forest, wondering if they were too late. After all, they had already failed to stop the dam from opeing.

"You don't think that man caught up to Suzu-chan or Nemuru-san, do you?" asked Kaname.

"I hope not," was all Hiroshi could say. He suddenly stopped when he heard a sneer, "And you think I'd listen to a monster like you?"

"Sakaki-san!" Hiroshi hissed. He signalled for Kaname to stop and the two quietly crept between the camouflaging trees. Up ahead, Hiroshi could see Nemuru running up to something lying on the ground.

And then, he saw Sakaki pointing the gun at Nemuru, and heard him sneer, "At last, I have you just where I want you…"


Hiroshi knew then that there was not another second to waste, no time to hesitate. He leaped out and ran between Nemuru and Sakaki. "I won't let you kill one of my friends, Sakaki-san!" he declared.

Kaname stood back in shock, feeling as though she were watching a scene in a TV drama. What could she do if she could do nothing? She took a closer look and noticed Isuzu lying on the ground, clutching her knee, blood soaking Nemuru's cape. Trembling, she leaped out and cried, "I won't let you kill anyone, either!"

Sakaki laughed, "You both have guts. How wonderful. Now I can start with you."

Of course, Sakaki knew better than to waste anymore bullets. He now had Nemuru Kushinada in the perfect spot—he had already attacked one of her friends, and she had so valiantly offered her own life, so why not make it look as though he was going to kill her other friends unless she stepped in?

And yet, she wasn't doing anything. She was still lying by Isuzu's side, gaping at Hiroshi and Kaname. Frowning, Sakaki took a step closer and said, "You thought they were monsters too, you know. You told me you were scared of them. That's what you said!"

He pressed the gun against Hiroshi's forehead, but Hiroshi did not back down, nor did anyone else do anything. "I changed my mind when I realized how the Kamibito are no different from the rest of us. They breathe, they laugh, they live just like the rest of us."

"You expect me to buy that bullshit?" scoffed Sakaki. He began to move the gun back, but Kaname grabbed his arm and shoved him aside. She turned to Nemuru and said, "Quickly, Nemuru-san! Let me take Suzu-chan to a hospital!"

Nemuru lifted up her cloak and, within the space of a few seconds before Sakaki could do anything, Kaname swept Isuzu up in her arms and took off through the forest. Sakaki shot up to his feet and tried to take off in their direction, but Hiroshi dashed across his path and said, "Sakaki-san, if you insist on having a scapegoat, blame me. I was the one who placed this huge burden on Kushinada-san's shoulders and—"

"You didn't kill Mieko!" snapped Sakaki, pointing the gun at Hiroshi once more, causing Hiroshi to stop.

"I'm sorry for what happened to your fiancée," said Hiroshi calmly, not noticing that Nemuru had secretly followed him through the forest. "But what happened was no one's fault—not your fiancée's, not Kushinada-san's. It was just an unfortunate incident."

Hiroshi realized that this was a very foolish thing to say too late; Sakaki's eyes bulged and he screamed, "SHUT UUUUUUUP!" He grabbed Hiroshi by the arm and threw him to the ground with such force that Hiroshi felt the ground scrape against his elbows and face.

The world around him spinning, Hiroshi tried to stand up, but felt Sakaki drag him by the collar and heard him sneer, "Let's see how you like going for a little swim in the river."

Hiroshi continued to argue, "Just listen to me! Kushinada-san is not the monster you think she is!"

The ground became sunnier and Hiroshi realized they were out of the forest. He took a quick look to his right and realized they were also nearing the edge of a cliff.

What will happen to Mana if I die? Hiroshi thought. Who's going to protect her? Who will take care of her?

Despite these fears, he went on: "Don't you understand that Kushinada-san just wants the Kamibito and the Ochibito to live together in peace? Don't you think they deserve another chance?"

"They already had their damn chance years ago," seethed Sakaki. Hiroshi felt the cold metal press against his temple and said, "It's my fault they're suffering. A lot of people died because of me. And I won't allow that to happen ever again!"

"Kuzumi-kun. Sakaki-san."

Sakaki and Hiroshi looked up at the sound of Nemuru's voice. Good, I finally have her right in the palm of my hand, thought Sakaki.

"Kuzumi-kun," spoke up Nemuru, emerging from the dark greens, "thank you for defending me. But this incident has nothing to do with you. There are no excuses for what I did—regardless of the law and what was required, I still killed Sakaki-san's most precious person."

"But-!" gasped Hiroshi.

"Sakaki-san," Nemuru went on, "if all you need to do is take my life, if that is what will give you peace, then I will let you. For the sake of my people, I beg you to take my life and spare the lives of the Kamibito and the Ochibito in turn. I accept that I can never properly apologize for my sins. All I can do is accept my fate."

Sakaki let go of Hiroshi and walked over to Nemuru, gun in hand. Though Hiroshi's palms were covered in dirt, blood, and sweat, he stood up, knees shaking badly.

"All you want is for monsters and humans to live together? Like hell I'll let that happen!" declared Sakaki as he threw Nemuru to the ground and aimed the gun at her head, this time with the intent to shoot.

"That is my only wish and it will remain my only wish even as I die!" declared Nemuru.

"Shut up, brat!" snapped Sakaki. His finger moved to pull the trigger…

"No! Stop!" cried out Hiroshi as he grabbed Sakaki's wrist. The gun went off with a loud bang, startling Hiroshi into falling over backwards. He lay next to Nemuru, turned to her, and said, "It's all right, Kushinada-san. If I go down, I'd rather go with you."

Nemuru turned to Hiroshi, her eyes brimming with tears. "Kuzumi…kun…"


"That's enough."

"Eh?"

Hiroshi, Nemuru, and Sakaki turned their heads to the sound of a soft yet determined voice coming from the forest. This time, a woman in white emerged. She removed her mask, revealing herself to be…

"Kaori-san!" gasped Hiroshi.

"You…" breathed Sakaki. "You can't be…"

"I apologize for not properly explaining why I had to leave," said Kaori calmly, stepping forward. "But now, I must come out with the truth: I am a white wolf deity. It is part of my duty to protect this village. And so I beg of you—take my life instead."

"But…no…that can't be…you're not…you're not a monster…" gasped Sakaki, the gun in his hand shaking. "You're…I…"

"I was chosen," Kaori went on, "because I'm very sick. Us Kamibito have a limited life span in comparison to you Ochibito, but with some, that life span is much shorter than most. I am one of those unfortunate. And because my life is about to come to an end anyway, you must take it."

"Ka…Kao…Mieko…" Sakaki choked out, tears welling up in his eyes.

"I am not Mieko," said Kaori gently. "You must be mistaken."

"R, right, Mieko died on that day, she…" Sakaki could not finish. Through his mind flashed an image of Mieko's bright smile and soothing words. And then…that image was sharply cut off by the glare of a scythe, Mieko's cry for help…and Sakaki being unable to do anything but just watch…

It was because of him that Mieko was dead. It was because of him that he had no reason to be alive other than to take the lives of others…

….what was he doing? What had he done?

"Mi…Mieko," Sakaki sobbed, "I…I…"

He began to lower the gun and bowed his head in shame. "Kuzumi," he said, his voice broken, "you were right. The Kamibito are not monsters. The things I did…..can never be forgiven."

"Sakaki-san," said Nemuru, her tone gentle.

No.

What was he thinking?

It was still her fault.

Regardless of what he had done, he would've never been driven to do it if it hadn't been for her to begin with.

And that was why she had to die.

"You!" sneered Sakaki, whipping his gun towards Nemuru. "You still killed Mieko! I won't forgive you, won't forgive you, won't forgive yooouuu!"

He pulled the trigger…

….

There was a bang.

But Nemuru was fine.

Yet Kaori's leg was stained with blood.

And her hand was around Sakaki's wrist.

Stunned, Sakaki could only mouth, "Kaori…why….."

Kaori wrapped her arms around Sakaki and said, "And so it must all end." She dragged Sakaki further from the two…..further….further….

"No! Stop!" cried out Nemuru, leaping to her feet and running up to the two. "You can't do this! I won't allow you!"

"You know it's too late for me, don't you?" said Sakaki dully. "There's nothing I can do now except…..just….accept this. At least now….I could still be with Mieko….or at least…with Kaori."

And before Nemuru could pull them back, Kaori flung herself and Sakaki over the cliff.

….

"Ah, what an idiot you are! You eat out and yet you complain about being poor?"

"Hey hey, not all of us are master chefs, you know."

"But I can still teach you, if you want."

"Sure, thanks."

"Hey, Mukata-san…did anyone ever tell you have a charming smile?"

"…Farewell…Kaori…."


Nemuru could only stand and watch, blinking back tears. She heard footsteps rush over, but did not move. "Kushi…Nemuru-san."

Nemuru turned to face Hiroshi. "Kuzumi-kun," she strained out. "You…"

"Yeah…..I called you by your first name. Can't believe I did that, huh?" said Hiroshi sheepishly. He looked over the cliff and said, "Nemuru-san."

"Yes?" said Nemuru.

"Is there a way to get to the bottom of this cliff safely?" asked Hiroshi.

"Y…yes," said Nemuru slowly. "There's this path you take. But why…?"

"Because I think Sakaki-san survived."

Sakaki had expected to be graced by merciful oblivion.

He had not expected to instead endure merciless agony.

And for a moment, he thought he was in hell. But when he opened his eyes….he realized he was still alive.

And that just made it hurt all the more.

He tried to move his arms, but couldn't without feeling a searing burn. He moved his head and realized, from the angle they were bent at, that they were likely broken, as were most of the bones in his body.

At least his legs felt okay.

…..No, wait….he couldn't feel his legs at all. Nor could he move them.

It was all too much. Sakaki let out a wail and sobbed, cursing his being alive. To be dead, and in hell, would've been better than living with this pain. And not just the pain of likely being paralyzed, or having his bones broken, or knowing that he would likely be arrested for this if or when he got out of a hospital.

It was the pain of living.

Nemuru and Hiroshi reached the bottom and heard a cry. They walked over slowly to the two figures lying at the bottom, their bodies spread across the sharp rocks gracing the lake. Kaori lay still, though Nemuru couldn't tell if she was dead or unconscious. Sakaki lay next to her, his arms bent horrifically out of shape, his legs likewise bent in the same manner, himself sobbing.

Nemuru felt a compassionate urge overtake her and she walked up to the sobbing man, Hiroshi following behind. She bent down and reached a hand out to him. Sakaki looked up, saw this hand, and forced his hand to move towards the gun just out of reach, though he cried out as he did this. At last, he grabbed a hold of it and pointed it at Nemuru, causing Hiroshi to pull Nemuru back.

"I'll kill you," Sakaki seethed hoarsely, pressing the trigger again and again despite the gun being void of bullets. "I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I'll kill you…."

Hiroshi pulled Nemuru back further when Sakaki tried to roll over on one side and screamed, "I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you…"

"Let's go get an ambulance," said Hiroshi, shaking a bit.

"Y, yes," said Nemuru quietly. As they turned, Sakaki's screams grew quieter and quieter until he sobbed, "I'll…..kill…you..…I…I….."

From that day forward, things changed. The flood caused much damage, but in the three months that have passed since that day, the citizens have united to help re-build it, which I hope is a sign that they're taking one step closer towards living together in peace.

Isuzu-chan recovered from her injury, though she walks with a bit of a limp. She hopes it won't be temporary, but it hasn't stopped her from being her same old bouncy, energetic self. Nemuru-san is working to change the laws slowly, bit by bit, though it will take some time before she can make a complete turnabout.

Sakaki-san also recovered from breaking every bone in his body, but not from his paralysation. When I spoke to him, he said the doctors suspect he'll be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I tried to assure him that my sister lives a happy, fulfilled life despite being wheelchair-bound, but all he said to this was that we never discuss it again. Right now, he's in a mental health ward. He may or may not be fit to stand trial, but at least he's getting help. Kaori-san is still comatose and we don't know how long that will be for, but sometimes, Sakaki-san is allowed to visit her.

I also sometimes go visit Sakaki-san and talk to him. Neither of us know when or if he'll be let out, or what will happen to him when he's let out. I suspect, though, that even if he's seen fit to become a part of a society again, it could still take him years before he can ever find it in his heart to forgive Nemuru-san. I remember at least one occasion where my friends stopped by after one of my visits to pick me up. Nemuru-san tried to look at him, but he just glared at her and turned away.

But still, I think there is hope. As for me, I will continue to hold on to the hope in my heart that the future can change for the better as long as we embrace people who are different.

And most important of all, let us never, ever, forget the power of love and friendship.

The end

A/N: While Sakaki also survived in my OK anime-based story, the good news is that he AVOIDED the rocks at least. And blech, if I were any sappier about the whole "power of love and friendship" deal I'd give myself hyperglycemia, but it just FELT like a line Ryukishi would write.