Many people all over the world are crying in celebration, with the tears of joy, of victory, of hope. But ironically, he, the one that the people would call their hero, the one that the people would call him their hope, was standing like a statue, gazing at a transparent coffin with bitter tears that filled with regret and emptiness.
Over thirty years, over three decades that mankind continued to fight a losing battle, that all came to an end the moment he Shirogane Takeru pulled the trigger and destroyed the Primary Unit. That feat undoubtedly made him a hero besides being the sole survivor of the legendary unit with the highest death toll within the UN army.
But ironically, the hero's face brimmed with tears and he was not in the mood to share the joy with everyone else, not in the mood to celebrate over his victory and his mighty achievement. His loss was unmeasurable, too big for him to accept it.
As a soldier, he has sworn to accept that as a part of his life and his duty. He has accepted that death was unavoidable for him and his friends a long time ago. Yet here he was, standing, crying, unable to believe that he was the sole survivor of that costly suicidal mission.
The moment that he headed into the hell hole that was the Original Hive, searching for a narrow victory, praying a miracle to the fate of mankind, he has accepted that death was unavoidable. Yet, within his heart, he could not. He has secretly hoped that he would eventually return with everyone, smiling, laughing like usual once they finished the mission victoriously. But, reality told him otherwise.
The shape of the transparent coffin distorted along with the figure of Sumika's lifeless body within his blurry vision that brimmed with hot tears. The wooden Usa san that he carved, giving to Sumika as her Christmas present was held tightly within Sumika's pale fingers as though it was the most precious thing in her entire life.
It's hurt. It's hurt so bad that Takeru thought he might have died a hundred time over and over again, gazing at Sumika's lifeless figure. It's so much worse comparing to that moment when he decided to erase his very own existence to protect her.
He would not waver, never again he would, he definitely sworn that upon the moment he confronted against the death of Marimo chan. Yet here he was, muffling his sob within his vocal cord, swallowing his tears, deluding himself that he would never regret making those decisions.
Words themselves are deceiving and vows themselves can be very self-deceivable. Only the heart spoke the truth, only the heart never lied. And the hero's heart told him that he has gone against his life time vow. He was regretting of his very decision.
If there was anybody who could accept the way that his friends deceived him, faking their death so that they would ensure his survival and the success of the mission, that person would definitely has a heart of steel and ice or rather do not possess a soul. The moment that the Primary unit flaunted Tama's lifeless body in front of him, questioning the proof that she was once a living body would forever haunted him for eternally. And definitely, Takeru could never forget about her, the girl who confessed her feeling to him only to command him to shoot her in the end, making sure that he would return alive and victorious.
How could he not regret making those decisions? How could he not regret, being the sole survivors at the cost of his friends' lives? But, Takeru could not bear the thought that his very own regret was the only thing that defiled the death of his companions, he could not. That's why he could only delude himself that he didn't regret for even a slightest.
Was this really the ending that he has searched after travelling, wandering for eons?
Was that his fate was to forget about them, their death and the time that he spent with them?
The hero clenched his fist, finalizing his decision yet again.
Twice he has abandoned his cause, twice he has betrayed his own resolution, twice he has forsaken himself for who he was. This would be the last time, a mere wish, a mere heretical piece within him that called selfishness, a mere selfishness that would change his fate yet again.
With his eyes that still casting down at the lifeless figure inside the transparent coffin, Shirogane Takeru muttered his resolve, the resolve to betray, the resolve to trampling over everything, over the joy that people all over the world share at the moment, over the title of a hero that people gave him, over the honour and the peace that his friends had in their deaths. Shirogane Takeru will trample over them all and will betray them all, this time, not for anyone else but him Shirogane Takeru's sake.
If by living his life, bearing the death of his friends on his heart and moving on was what people defined as courage, what would they call when Takeru would go as far as to trample down everything that he has once stood for, betraying everyone's expectation, hope and everyone's wish, so that his wish would surface from the top. Was it madness? Was it cowardice? Was it selfish? Be it whatever people labelled it, Shirogane Takeru has made his decision once again, with the resolve to bear the weight of his crime and his sense of remorse to hell.
Even if the world that he saved would be razed to the ground once again by the flame of war, he will risk it. Even if he has to betray his core personality and his original goal, he would not hesitate. Even if he was to wander the deepest level of hell yet again for another eon, he would never regret this day that he made this decision, he would not rue it, as long as he can save them all.
Wasn't this the reason that he was cursed with the curse namely "Casualty Conductor" in the first place? Wasn't that the reason he was trapped alone in this prison of eternal looping time? Wasn't that the reason he stood alone by himself, fighting and witnessing the fall of mankind for many years? Wasn't that the reason that he has once chosen to stay and fought in this war torn world instead of returning to his original one? Mankind's victory and the lives of his companions, the decision was the same and yet different, like the two faces of a coin.
For the first time in his life, Shirogane Takeru was secretly gladded that he was a cursed existence than a normal human being. For the first time in his life, he was happy that he was an illegal existence, a quantum odity. If this very curse that he once hated and despised can saved his friends from their death, he would gladly wage on it, accepting it once again.
"Shirogane san, your fight in this world is over. You are not a Casualty Conductor anymore," as though he was splashed by a cold bucket of water, Takeru nearly lost his footing. He turned. Yashiro Kasumi was her name, or perhaps alias since her heritage wasn't that of a Japanese. And considering the fact that she was a top secret among the mad scientist Kouzuki Yuuko's plan, an alias like that wasn't strange at all, being a child from the Third Plan and a psychic, a mind-reader at birth.
What remained unsaid was delivered, Takeru's thought was without being said, being read by Kasumi at the moment.
"W…wha…what do you mean Kasumi?"
Turning around, looking at the owner of the voice, Takeru asked unbelievably. At the edge of his blurry vision, standing a snow fairy, frail and small she was, with silvery hair and pale white skin, extremely befitting the description of the old Lorelei in fairy tales.
"It's Sumika san who made you into a Casualty Conductor… So this world will never loop because of you again. Now the cause has been destroyed, so was the effect…"
The silver hair girl painfully struggle to reply to Takeru's question.
"How could it possibly end like this…It was Sumika who make me a Casualty Conductor?"
Takeru clenched his fists tightly, so tight that his nails even dug deep into his flesh. Strangely, he didn't seem all that disbelieved as he should. It's more like he has actually guessed such thing even without being told. Still, a part within him kept refusing that ghastly thought.
"Yes… So your fight in this world is already over. But now, you'll finally able to leave this world. You won't have to suffer anymore."
The girl's voice maybe unfeeling and cold, but her expression wasn't. Just as Takeru, Kasumi, too was struggled believing in that, he understood that. She wouldn't lie about that, she has no reason to. This girl was the closest person to Sumika and the mad scientist Yuuko, after Takeru, it wouldn't be weird if she knew this kind of secret that he didn't. Kasumi was suffering, just as much as Takeru.
Needless to explain, a part within him has already guessed it, the connection between Yuuko's silence when confronting his curse and the reason behind's Sumika's tears from back then. And Shirogane Takeru would not question 'how' at the Kasumi, for 'how' was the last thing that he wanted to ask at the moment.
"N…not now, please."
The hero's knees gave away, dropping heavily to the ground. He doesn't care how cruel the curse named casualty conductor is anymore. This is the moment that he desperately needs it more than anything else. Yet, that curse betrayed him yet for the last time just as it always did, haunting him for eons.
"Everyone die without me…everyone from my unit. If I ceased to be a Casualty Conductor and head back to my world, who will remember them? They gave their life to me… I am their living legacy, their proof of existence, the lasts of the Valkyries. There is no way that I could run away after this."
Takeru buckled on his knee, crying and slamming his fists on the floor.
"You can't Shirogane san. You are not from this world. There is nothing we could do to stop the effect now that the cause has eliminated."
Kasumi shrugged her head painfully, explaining while enduring her tears.
"Still… I will never accept this."
Takeru could now sense his existence is fading as every second pass, pounding his fist on the dried concrete. He felt it a while ago but only came to a realization the moment Kasumi mentioned it. He was being rewritten. It was the exact phenomenon when he experienced transferring between worlds.
A creepy laughing sound escaped from Takeru's mouth startled Kasumi.
"So even this world is rejecting me now after all of this? So am I just a normal human now? You will just rewrite me and erase my existence here? So I am not needed anymore, you would just send me back to where I came from?"
Takeru stared blankly at Sumika lifeless body again. Tears streamed from the corner of his eyes non-stop. He knelt beside the transparent coffin, whispering tenderly to Sumika knowing that she won't able to listen to him.
"Are you listening to me now, Sumika? I used to hate the fact that I am a Casualty Conductor, I have to be involved in this war torn world, have to live and fight against my own destiny. With or without my intention, I continually looped over and over again in this world. There were times that I ran away from my reality and blame this curse of mine for everything. But, why now? Of all the time, I could not loop when I need this curse of mine the most. Right when I need the power of this curse to save you and everyone else. Such an irony, such a twisted fate. To withstand this inconceivable pain, yet this hand of mine hold nothing. Not a single soul was saved"
Takeru closed his eyes and held his hand together tightly, continuing to speak with himself "Thus, I can only pray. Please, make me a Casualty Conductor once again. This is the only way. I will never regret it, for this power will bestow me the miracle to save everything that I hold dear. This is the correct path. Please give me the power to fight again, for you, for this world, for everyone in the unit and for my own selfishness."
A waste of effort…
Even if Takeru understood that it was the result of his last tenancy, he can't help but pray for a miracle to happen.
His existence is slowly sipping away. His lower body is gradually turning transparent. He was fading as he spoke. Takeru knew it well in fact, he is only fooling himself. Such miracle could never happen. Despite that, he still kept his eyes closed tightly as if waiting for an answer from the lifeless body of Sumika. His sincere prayer was however answered only by the sound of silence.
The whipping wind from the hill was ceaseless, as though nipping at his fading existence. Still, Shirogane Takeru cried bitterly within his throat, closing his eyes and offering his last resistance against his fate.
"Takeru…chan…" However, just as Takeru thought the curtain of silence will remain forever, a faint voice was heard, ringing within his consciousness.
Takeru opened his eyes in surprise. He doubted his ears. Sumika lifelessly remains lying in her transparent coffin as if she is in deep sleep. His ears could only register the sound of the whipping wind and the rustling of the Sakura petals, not any voice. Despite that, Kasumi, who has been casting her emotionless eyes downward and avoided Takeru's eyes from the beginning, had a bewildered expression on her face, staring back and forth between Takeru and Sumika's corpse.
He could still hear her voice echoing in the deepest corner of his mind. To say he heard it would sound strange since Takeru could definitely hear nothing with his ears. But then, to describe it as such wasn't wrong either, Takeru has definitely heard it, Sumika's voice.
"You don't have to torture yourself like this any further. Nobody would want to see you doing this to yourself. You can go back to the world you belong now."
Takeru wondered if this is truly a miracle or he has gone mad… for even his hands are slowly turning transparent like crystal now. He even doubted at his sanity now. Unknowingly, he whispered a prayer to the girl's lifeless figure.
"Please, Sumika, I can't end things like this. Not until this world head toward a future where all of us, me, you, Meiya, Class Rep, Tama, Ayamine, Mikoto and everyone else still living and laughing with each other. Please make this miracle happen"
Sumika ghastly voice is heard once again in Takeru mind
"…If this is what you wished, I will do my best. However… I do not think that I could make you a Casualty Conductor this time with my remained power."
Kasumi's voice trailed off and dispersing within the scattered wind " Sumika san…".
"… Please Sumika, anything will do. As long as I have the power to rewrite this fate, anything will do"
" Takeru, I'm sorry. The best I can do right now is trick this world into believe that you are its citizen, cutting you off from the pipeline of information and send you back in time. However…you will never able to go back to your world if it was to happen."
"That will do Sumika. I have become a citizen of this world long time ago. I could not stand forgetting about every memories belong to it now. This is my home as long as you and everyone else a part of it."
Without a sliver of doubt, Takeru answered
"…I only hope that your wish and feeling won't go unrewarded."
Sumika's hesitant answer transmitted into Takeru's mind.
"It won't." Takeru smiled with tears of relief streamed down on his cheeks. Then, he turned his disappearing body toward Kasumi again.
"So miracle really do exist heh? Look like I will be in your care once again Kasumi."
"Now you won't able to go back to your world anymore… You are stupid Takeru san. I guess I will have to give you a farewell gift," Kasumi let out an unknowingly smile with tears welled up in both corners of her eyes.
Takeru was wondering what the farewell gift was and immediately found himself squirmed on the ground, holding at his head to endure the pain. It was like someone forcefully drilled a hole through his skull, into his brain and then filled the hole with unworldly material. Sights, voices, thoughts, a vast amount of information was pooled into Takeru's head against his will, prying open a space within his head and then carved themselves within the lane of his memory. It was all but an instance the moment Takeru felt that tremendous pain assaulted his head.
"Thank you Kasumi."
Takeru said the moment the pain faded.
"You are truly an idiot Takeru san. I hope you will find that gift of mine useful. Until we meet again, Takeru san, please takes care."
Kasumi let out a smile while wiping her tears away.
"Yes, thank you Kasumi. See you later"
Takeru vision finally has completely gone white as he finished saying his farewell to the silver hair snow fairy girl.
"I am sorry Takeru chan," somehow he could still hear Sumika's voice in this world of white "I am truly sorry for everything"
"Stupid girl. You have done nothing to apologize for. I have to thank you instead. Now that I could save everyone else with this chance you give. Thank you, Sumika," snickered Takeru before his mind enter a white oblivion
"Thank you," was the last words Takeru managed to say before he was completely rewritten.