Part 77: Self ReflectionPart 77 - Self Reflection
I braced myself, thinking they were going to denigrate me and sneer at me and expose me to humiliation again, like they had before.
The trauma from back then made my knees go weak.
Well-wisher A: "Keep it up."
Well-wisher B: "We're rooting for you."
Well-wisher C: "Do your best, Nishijou-kun."
Well-wisher D: "Go out with a bang."
Well-wisher E: "You're so brave for your age."
Well-wisher F: "We won't forget you."
Well-wisher G: "We'll watch over you to the very end."
Well-wisher H: "So show us what a man you are."
The spectators' reactions were utterly different from last time. Everyone spoke to me kindly and encouragingly.
Which was why I blinked countless times, feeling like I'd gotten taken in by some kind of trickster spirit.
They were going to cheer me on....?
"That's what the fiesta's for."
"Everyone was waiting for you, Takkii."
Before me was a pathway created by people lining up on either side. They went so far as to create an overhead arch with their hands, and they were waiting for me to pass through. It was practically like an elementary school graduation ceremony.
The words they tossed at me grew warmer still.
SFX: Everything's quiet now that Takumi is in O-Front. The real party is outside.
Bravery rose steadily within me. Bravery in the face of death.
The bitter experiences I'd been through the last time I came here revived in me, making me briefly hesitant to keep going forward.
Even though I'd mustered my courage and everything. I became aware of my own neverending uselessness.
"I had faith that you would surely return."
SFX: Squeak, Squeak
The sound of a wheelchair's wheels creaking.
On top of that, "Shogun" wasn't the only one here.
"We'll fly together with you."
"Soooo, there's nothing to be scared of."
Was this a reenactment of the "group diving"?
The mass of people who had been watching us protectively from below,
with bated breath, burst into simultaneous applause. As though to
bless us. As though to praise us.
"Farewell. I shan't forget you."
Shogun waved his thin hand. Kozu-pii and Ayase pulled me along.
As though they were frolicking. As though they were dancing. While smiling tenderly.
As a result, I didn't feel even the tiniest scrap of fear.
SFX: The mood has changed from before. Where everyone was yelling and hollering, now they are mumbling. Where there was a festive feeling before, now it's become a dangerous feeling.
But when you got down to it, that too was a delusion.
A pathway of lined-up people had certainly opened its maw before me, as though to guide me forward. But no one was making an arch with their hands.
Everyone was watching me. But their eyes were cold and sharp. The emotion they flung at me bordered on the urge to kill.
Everyone was savage. No one had been awaiting me. They didn't bless me.
Today I couldn't see a speck of the mirth they'd shown before, when I shamed myself at O-Front.
Apparently they wouldn't let me die pleasantly. Well, that's just how things are, I thought. But I was okay with it.
As long as they were going to kill me. I smirked and began advancing down the path made by the parting of the crowd.
When I looked up, all four of the massive jumbotrons depicted me walking through the crowd.
The death of me, a mere delusionary existence. The death of me, one who had zero value.
You guys wanna see it? How simplistic of you.
But I don't especially mind. If you're going to kill me, then watch as much as you like.
I stood before the firing line of cameras and microphones.
A dazzling light blinked at me.
Narrowing my eyes, I tolerated the brilliance of it.
The first to speak was an aging reporter I'd seen on TV news shows and stuff.
Aging Reporter: "Nishijou-kun. What kind of performance will you show us this time?"
Aging Reporter: "On a side note, the truth is, some say that the suspect arrested this afternoon for the 'staking' case was actually nothing more than the direct perpetrator, and that someone else has been controlling everything from the shadows. What do you think?"
Why was this old fogey acting so overfriendly with me?
Anyway, what was "What do you think?" supposed to mean? Was he seeking my opinion?
Well, stuff like the kind of comments you usually saw coming from professors of criminal psychology were always the same standard stuff, no interesting content to speak of, so sure, an amateur like me could probably fill their shoes.
That said, I didn't care about such things now.
I'd lost all interest in New-Gen. I'd come here in order to get someone to kill me, and not to answer the media's questions. Nor did I have the energy to answer them.
My mutter passed through the jumbotron speakers and was transmitted all through Shibuya. An uproar broke out.
SFX: As might be expected, the crowd has become much more hostile after Takumi's seeming admission. They seem content to throw harsh words at him, for now....
The agitation of the people gathered here made the air accelerate faster and faster toward becoming something brutal.
"I don't care...."
Hurry up and kill me.... I want to hurry up and be at ease. Don't make me do anything aggravating.
Though that was what I wished for, several more mics pressed in on me. There was such force behind them that they were practically being pushed against my mouth.
As if the floodgates had broken, the other reporters began hurling questions at me.
Female Reporter: "May we take this as acknowledgement of the fact that you're connected to the cases?"
Male Reporter: "Have you ever found yourself unable to distinguish between reality and games?"
Female Reporter: "Tell us about the relationship between you and Komaeda, the suspect under detainment!"
Male Reporter: "Could it be that you felt like you were playing a game as you committed murder?"
In a certain sense, I'm much like a game character. Somebody, reset me. Get me to Game Over, be quick about it....
At my words. The mass of people, whose tension had reached its zenith, erupted.
Ill-Wisher A: "Die!"
Ill-Wisher B: "You aren't human!"
Ill-Wisher C: "You brute!"
Ill-Wisher D: "I'll kill you!"
Ill-Wisher E: "Go to Hell!"
Ill-Wisher F: "Execute him!"
Ill-Wisher G: "Beat him to death!"
Ill-Wisher H: "Murderer!"
SFX: Everyone in the crowd has thrown their restraint away. The sounds of people rushing around and yelling are everywhere. Glass is broken and punches are thrown.... but it doesn't seem to be directed solely at Takumi?
They shoved me, crushed me, jostled me.
With people pushing at me from every direction, my body went buoyant. The soles of my feet separated from the earth.
No matter how I struggled, nothing came of it. They hit me in the head, socked me in the arm.
But it wasn't enough pain to make me think I would die from it. I didn't fight back against my difficulty breathing, which threatened to suffocate me, either.
When I gave my body over to this chaotic situation, the pressure on me abruptly went away. I toppled down in place.
Numerous legs sprouted there, as close as the trees in a forest, writhing, and my wife rolled into the gap between them. No matter how desperately I stretched out my hand, I couldn't reach her.
The countenance that had borne such a dazzling smile, the smile that had healed me-- someone's leather shoe trod on it.
"Takkii! It hurts, help me! Takkii--!"
It continued further, as someone kicked her body, and she tumbled, and a woman's red high heel stepped on her torso with a crunch, crushing it.
I called to her, but no answer returned.
My sole ally was gone.
My chest seemed about to cave in with sorrow. With this, any meaning there had been to my life in this world had completely vanished.
When I looked up. Even the night sky was blocked from my view by the wall of people surrounding me.
No one noticed that I was crouching here.
Even though I'm here. Even though I'm asking you to please kill me.
Why does everyone ignore me....!
SFX: The sound seems to drain away, though still faintly audible.
I felt it at the back of my neck.
A kind of prickle--
A voice resonated
"Mustn't die here."
Inside my head.
I drank in a breath,
"Attain your Di-Sword."
And bit my back molars together tightly.
SFX: Now nothing can be heard. Takumi's sole focus is finding Shogun.
I looked for that wheelchair among the tight-packed herd of legs. I looked for the bastard dressed up as Darth Spider.
Are you the host of this "festival," after all? Are you going to put on some stupid costume and threaten me again? Are you trying to reenact the same thing as before?
Death is what I desire. No way do I want to be made into a living exhibition....
That's exactly what I don't give a crap about.... Whatever, just kill me, get to it faster....
"They're on the move."
"This place will become even more chaotic than it is now."
"The ones manipulating everything from behind the scenes. Those who brought about this disorder. Those who use disorder as a means to advance their own interests."
I pushed myself up.
Angry shouts went on spiraling above my head.
No one gave me a second glance. The spectators and the media were jumbled together. Grabbing at each other, slandering each other, punching each other.
Why were these people--
"A silent weapon...."
"'Noah II' has already been activated."
"The number one aim behind the scheme of this disorder is--"
"An indiscriminate human experiment."
Something hard struck me on the head.
Acute pain shot through me. Enough to make me think my skull would break. Unable to withstand it, I cradled my head.
When I looked over, teary-eyed, a stone about the size of a fist had fallen nearby. A little bit of blood clung to it.
That stone, which someone had hurled at me, seemed to have landed a direct hit.
Splitting pain. When I put my hand to it, my fingers touched something damp. There was blood stuck to my fingertips. My blood.
SFX: BANG BANG
From far away came a dry, explosive sound. Followed by a woman's shrill voice.
A gunshot....? There'd been someone with a gun here....?
Why was everyone so worked up....
Why was everyone picking fights with people who had nothing to do with them....
Why were things becoming so chaotic....
The "scapegoat," the "living sacrifice" everyone had been waiting for, wasn't it me?
"Shibuya's GE rate.... people's biorhythms are ascending at an unbelievable pace."
"Didn't I tell you? It's an indiscriminate human experiment."
"The people here are currently on the receiving end of an invisible 'attack.'"
SFX: Squeak, squeak
There were so many people here. Chaotically swelling walls of people.
Despite that, "Shogun" continued straight toward me in his wheelchair, without bumping into anyone, without getting tangled up with anyone.
His eyes were a cloudy white. I couldn't tell what he was looking at or what he could see.
I couldn't take my eyes away from him. The clamor around us suddenly died into the distance.
"I was always watching you."
The same voice as from the first time we met. Not a weird voice, like the one I'd heard at O-Front.
"Who are you?"
"I am you."
Those three words enlightened me.
He was my creator. He was the existence who had imagined me into being. And to me, someone I could never measure up to.
"What's your name....?"
The real me. The original me.
"How.... old are you?"
"The same age as you. Going by your 'setting.'"
"At this rate, the world will die."
"All manner of people will have their hearts controlled by Noah II."
"That was why I entrusted it to you."
Entrusted.... entrusted what....
"I don't get what you're saying.... that sort of thing.... it has.... no, nothing to do with me."
"Please.... erase me. I want you to erase me.... right away."
Shogun's wrinkles shifted. It seemed like he was making a different expression, but it only looked as though his wrinkles were moving.
"It's all my fault."
"And so I brought you into being."
"To have you stop them for me."
"I don't know anything about that stuff.... I might be a copy of you, but I don't want to do it...."
"Having to suffer, even though I'm just a copy.... I don't want that."
"Let me die...."
"You aren't a copy of me. You are my other self."
"In other words, doesn't that make me a copy?"
"What you're doing is incredibly cruel...."
"I'm sorry for it."
"But there was no other way."
"It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the fate of the world now hinges on you."
"Something like that...."
"Can't you just ask Rimi to do it for you....?"
"You're acquaintances, aren't you...."
I phrased it in such a way deliberately. I didn't want to think that maybe they were a couple, or close friends.
And now, of all times, I noticed my own feelings.
I was jealous of my original. Despite being a delusionary existence.
How.... hideous, how unsightly.
Talk about not knowing my place.
My own emotions sickened me.
I felt more and more pent-up.
I want to die....
"You see, Rimi was trying to save me."
"The reason why--"
"Why is it so blue that it makes me want to cry?"
"I wished for it."
"Because this place is your imagined world, and at the same time, it's also mine."
"Who are you? There shouldn't be anyone here besides me."
"Are you a separate me?"
"Then who are you? How did you come here?"
"This is inside my heart, you know? There was never anything more than darkness. The only light was the spotlight on me."
"Yet the moment you came here, the darkness went away, and the sky was born."
"Our delusions synchronized. Because your power was so very strong."
"I've never seen the real sky."
"When the personality that is me was born, I was already shut up in a dark room."
"Both inside my heart, and outside it, there was nothing but darkness."
"They'll never let me out."
"I tried to die just now."
"To make my heart kill itself."
"I think every other me up till now did the same thing."
"But since you've gone so far as to bring the sky to me,"
"Would it be okay if I carved this scene into my memory? So the next me can imagine the same thing."
"Do you want to die?"
"Don't you think you'd like to see the real sky?"
"But the real sky is much more dirty than this one."
"Where is it?"
"Where is that sky?"
"Anywhere you wish it to be."
"Is it okay, to wish....?"
"How do I wish for it?"
"Light is made up of waves in an electromagnetic field. Human sight detects its oscillations as color."
"Try applying the color you desire to your own dead spots. If you do--"
"You can create the color of the world you desire."
We were fellow patients staying at the same hospital.
Fellow bearers of the power belonging to Gigalomaniacs, which transcended human understanding, and which left us unsure of whether to take pride in it or detest it.
"Hey, hey, who is she? Your girlfriend? When did you meet?"
"Way to go, Bro."
"....We meet again."
She was very worn down.
Her skin had a sickly pallor. Her hair was dry and neglected, left to grow as it liked. There were cracks in her fingernails.
She kept her eyes constantly narrowed, as if it were bright out.
"Were you able to see the true sky?"
"Ah, I know."
Nanami, who had been watching us, clapped her hands as though she'd remembered something.
"I've gotta go do the laundry. Rimi-san, right? Take your time~"
Nanami left. Rimi and I absentmindedly watched her go in unison.
Rimi turned back toward me.
"How long have you been hospitalized, Takumi?"
"About five years."
"Do you have any plans for being discharged?"
"Thanks to you.... I was able to try harder."
"I'd thought there would never be an end to it. But I decided to try my best to keep going until I could see the sky you had told me about."
"And then, all of a sudden, they let me out. Although it might be more proper to say that they'd simply finished up with me."
"You saved me."
"So this time, I want to become your strength."
"You don't have to worry about it."
"You don't have to come out of your way to see me."
"I want you to live a normal life from now on."
As I remembered them, my chest tightened.
"Why did Rimi approach me?"
"By being close by you, she meant to keep watch over your actions and the people making contact with you, and prevent you from awakening."
"Please don't resent her. She's simply a bit of a meddler."
A sad note resided in Shogun's voice.
"I didn't want her to get caught up in it, but no matter how I tried to stop her, she wouldn't listen to me."
"Feeling a one-sided debt toward me...."
"She's truly a meddler...."
"Who's holding Rimi and Nanami captive?"
"He's also the man who held Rimi prisoner and tortured her in the past."
"Despite that, for the sake of saving Nanami, and me, and you, Rimi marched into his territory all by herself."
SFX: Judging by the ringtone, it sounds like Shogun's using Nanami's phone.
"Ah, yeah. It's me."
"The truth is, I've got a wee little something to report to you."
"....I think I'm going to go save Nana-chan now."
"You don't want to see that man.... to see Norose anymore, do you?"
"Tahaha. You sure don't have much faith in me. I'm totally fine."
"It happened a long time ago."
"Both rescuing Nanami and stopping Project Noah are things I should do. You don't have to go so far."
"Didn't I tell you? I want to help you."
"Besides.... I don't want to get Taku involved."
"....You like to meddle."
"Maybe so. Although you're the only one who tells me that."
"Say, would it be okay if I talked? Just for a moment?"
"I said a whole bunch of cruel things to Taku...."
"And after having done that, I know it's really selfish, but...."
"I find myself thinking about how the time I spent with him was so much fun."
"Even though everything about it was nothing more than a delusion-drenched game of pretend."
"Our school life"
"And the way Taku and I went back and forth to school"
"And being friends with Daichin"
"And how I tried to stay together with Taku"
"And Taku's existence itself."
"Taku is overwhelmingly pathetic. And overwhelmingly weak. The kind of boy any regular girl definitely wouldn't give a second glance."
"Yet, in my heart--I feel like we had fun."
"Yet, in my heart--I feel like I wanted to be with him longer."
"I wonder, what is this feeling?"
"Something akin to imprinting, perhaps."
"Instinct, you mean. That might be unexpectedly romantic."
"If you enjoyed yourself, I'm sure he had fun as well."
"It'd be nice if he did...."
"Because Taku and I are the same sort of thing."
"A body created by means of a delusion."
"And a personality created by means of a delusion."
"They aren't any different, are they?"
"That's why I didn't want to erase Taku."
"Though I thought I had to erase him."
"But it seems like, at some point, I got attached to him."
"I want Taku to lead a regular life."
"I want to save both you, Takumi, and Taku."
"Please leave Taku be."
"I can't afford to. He's necessary for destroying Noah II."
"I'll do something about it."
"You don't have to do such a thing."
"You yourself should lead a regular life."
"Now then, I've gotta hang up soon."
"Rimi, stop it."
"Ahaha. Really, it's all right. You don't have to worry about a thing. Cause I'll get everything settled for you."
Rimi's words sank into my heart.
She was truly a meddler. What enabled her to fight so hard? What enabled her to act so much on the behalf of others?
The brief amount of time we had spent together up until the present.
The emotions hidden behind each word she'd uttered.
I'd immersed myself in them and remained shut up in my base. Rarely going to school, not attempting to speak with anyone.
Born into this world, I had been throwing my time away, as if I were dead.
OST: Tender hearts
But she'd stayed together with the likes of me.
"At school, we'll talk about silly things during our breaks."
She'd pacified me as I quivered in fear.
"We'll eat together during lunch."
She'd supported my no-good self. She'd encouraged me.
"And leave school together in the evening."
She'd embraced me.
"Once in a while, on the way home, we'll stop by a shop somewhere."
She'd shown the meaning of human warmth to a delusionary existence like me.
"We'll chat a bit in your room."
She could've erased me, but instead she tried to protect me.
"And then we'll say see you tomorrow, and wave good-bye to each other."
She made memories for me.
"If you don't mind, we can do as much of it as you like."
Even now, I could think vividly back on my time together with Rimi, out of my mere year-and-a-half-long life.
The sound of Rimi's breath. The light in Rimi's eyes.
Rimi's cheerful voice. Rimi's tender warmth.