Part 83: PrayerPart 83 - Prayer
Almost all the other buildings had collapsed partially or fully, yet it alone remained unscarred.
On its roof was the dome of a planetarium that had closed down several years previously.
Noah II rose in state. A chill in the air stole away my body heat.
And then there was the objet d'art that had been made to stand beside Noah II.
Our eyes met.
Her eyes went wide.
"I came.... to save you...."
The light in her eyes flickered.
"You're.... an idiot...."
She shook her head sadly.
"Becoming.... so covered in wounds...."
"Overdoing it.... so much...."
"Even though I told you.... to wait...."
But I didn't put it into words.
I couldn't say something along the lines of, "I love you, so I've come to rescue you," like this, drenched in blood, my arm crushed to a pulp.
I looked nothing like a prince on a white horse. And she'd definitely find it to be nasty and creepy. It would pretty much make me the equivalent of a stalker.
If I conveyed my feelings to her one-sidedly, it would only bother her.
From here on out, she would go on living. From here on out, I would soon die.
If someone on the verge of death went off and decided to tell you their feelings, it would just leave you with a bad aftertaste.
Which was why I didn't speak of how I felt.
"I wanted to give this back to you."
My weak right hand. The hand still holding my Di-Sword. Desperately using those fingers, I pulled a handkerchief out from near my heart.
A soft vermilion. I couldn't tell if that were its original color or if my blood had soaked into it.
It didn't give off a floral scent anymore, either. Something Rimi had given me. One of the irreplaceable memories I'd received from her.
"And break Noah II."
"And give back this handkerchief...."
It was all I could do. If I saw those things through to completion, I could vanish without regrets.
Besides, it didn't seem like I'd be able to accomplish anything else.
For a while now, I'd been having the hallucination that all my senses had gone numb. Maybe the excess of pain had made my brain start blocking off those sensations, which were being transmitted through however many of my nerve endings.
I couldn't move my body well. Blood kept dripping from my arm. My eyes were going cloudy.
It was incredibly cold. If I weren't careful, I'd probably pass out.
SFX: Clap, clap, clap, clap
A tall man--Norose Genichi--emerged from Noah II's shadow. Expressionless, he faced me and clapped with feigned innocence.
"However, you have one fatal flaw."
"To wit: you're acting on your emotions. That is how barbarians behave."
I didn't really understand what this man was saying.
I was frantically working to take in and deal with my pain, and I didn't have the spare room to comprehend other people's words--Rimi excepted.
"Taku, run away...."
"Making small sacrifices for the sake of the greater good."
"Do you consider that evil?"
"I certainly don't."
"At this rate, humanity will eventually destroy itself."
"By means of human avarice."
"Such ugly hearts."
"Such a deluge of self-interested greed."
"Human society is already beginning to fail and decay."
"Everyone thinks only of themselves, and as a result, they kill and steal from one another."
"If you too have awakened as a Gigalomaniac, you must have seen it. The essence of the human heart."
"I awoke at a very young age, so I've witnessed it for decades."
"In the name of preventing humanity's self-destruction, a most noble goal, the Committee of 300 has been moving forward with the worldwide Human Domestication Project."
"However, that too is ultimately nothing more than a way for them to stroke their egos."
"I came to a revelation."
"Hence Project Noah."
"With Noah II, it's possible to cleanse all human beings in the world of their negative delusions, leaving them purified and with more upright hearts."
"War will vanish, and we can grant the world eternal peace."
"And as for you, no one will hold you in contempt anymore."
His lengthy speech came to an end at last. I desperately braced my legs to keep from collapsing. I'd managed to get a little rest. It had saved me.
Not that I'd been listening closely. If you were to take the future of humanity into consideration, his way was surely correct. A truly righteous point of view.
Norose was the president of a large enterprise, and a man motivated by justice; he devoted thought to the entire human race.
I was a monster, and a virgin, and a creepy otaku, a selfish and blatantly egotistical guy trying only to save the girl I loved.
Under normal circumstances, I'd totally play the villain. Justice would defeat the monster and come out victorious.
"I can't.... let myself lose to you...."
"Why do you deny what I've said?"
"Purely for my own self-satisfaction....!"
"What a shame--"
And in front of that sculpture, he extended his right hand to the side.
OST: Gradually panic
The work of art, which should've been standing vertically, appeared to have installed itself in Norose's hand.
It wasn't a piece of artwork or anything of the sort. And it certainly wasn't a cross made for crucifixions.
All too massive to be called a sword. Cruel. And cold. A tool for sowing terror.
A contaminated Gospel. Intricate chaos. Sacrilege for violation. Unadulterated wickedness.
Just like the door to Hell, it would steal the hearts of those who saw it, tempting them into a cycle of endless suffering.
Its shape blended everything negative in the world into one whole, embodying all of it.
I took a step toward Noah II.
Namely, I began closing the distance between me and Norose.
When it came to the range of our weapons, his was overwhelmingly superior.
"I'm not particularly skilled at such savage activities as slashing at people with a sword."
"However, I need to obtain your CODE sample. For that, I must render you powerless."
The tall Norose swung his even taller Di-Sword, one-handed.
My arms wouldn't respond right away. Pain shot through them when all I did was tense them. Even then, I forced myself to raise my arm.
If I had a normal sword, there was no doubt that it'd have split clean in two.
Not to mention that my Di-Sword was terribly thin. It contrasted too sharply with Norose's.
But. My Di-Sword didn't break, and I somehow managed to hold off Norose's first attack.
My hand went numb. Since my left hand was all but gone, I had trouble keeping my balance. My posture crumbled.
It seemed as if he were about to send me hurtling back. I withstood it--
Don't be led astray by how his sword looks, I warned myself.
Somehow, I succeeded in going up against him. But that was very much just for now.
It appeared as though he had clenched down on the grip of his sword.
His Di-Sword undulated. Releasing an eerie sound, it hummed as its structure recombined.
The tip of its blade opened like a pair of scissors. Thrusting up toward my chest.
That transformation-- I realized it would be fatal to me.
A brutal smile played about Norose's mouth. His grip loosened.
The colossal scissors closed.
My chest. Together with my ribs. Together with my lungs.
The scissors gnawed into them.
I retreated a step in desperation.
Norose swept his arm further toward the side.
Although my senses were supposed to have gone numb, it was enough to render me speechless. I clenched my teeth and endured it.
My chest, roiled up, had turned to shredded meat. If I hadn't backed up, he'd have gotten to my heart. Huge amounts of blood came spraying out.
I started to topple. I caught myself.
--I couldn't die.
Like I'd let myself die after coming so far....!
I ignored Norose. I frantically advanced toward Noah II--and the fallen Rimi.
Lying there, Rimi raised her head a little bit without moving anything else, and looked up at me.
She was probably weakened, wasn't she. Her body must be insisting on limpness.
Weariness--or else my injuries--made my vision fuzzy. I didn't know what kind of face Rimi was looking at me with.
I couldn't bring myself to meet her gaze.
I didn't want her to see me like this, bloodstained and beaten.
My tiny little pride. It made me picky about that kind of thing, even though I was going to die anyway.
SFX: Noah II suddenly starts blaring a music-like tone
Noah II, towering before me. The sound resonating from it grew shriller.
As it resided there solemnly, I sensed something unknown beginning to move inside it.
For a second, I quailed. But I gradually lowered my center of gravity, readying myself. I faced Noah II's tube-ridden, almost organic-looking surface.
And mowed it down with my Di-Sword--
I'd definitely been attempting to destroy it. I'd had no intention of spinning around.
But I was facing backwards.
Norose, rather than Noah II, appeared in the center of my vague sight, standing in front of me.
But, though I'd meant to turn around, I hadn't.
I had willed myself to turn around. I had made the motion of turning around. But the final result was that I hadn't.
I grew befuddled.
"You might call it Noah II's self-defense mechanism."
Norose's quiet voice echoed through the dome. Mingling with the melody of "Let Me Pass."
"It interferes with the hearts of those who approach it, bending their will."
As he finished speaking, Norose closed in on me with elegant strides.
I bit my molars together. I didn't have enough blood left. I couldn't think clearly.
Despite that, I took my all but senseless right hand, my right hand that was basically crippled by pain. I raised it in desperation and prepared myself for his next blow.
It tumbled across the floor. Moving away from me.
SFX: Noah II has stopped playing 'Let Me Pass' and is now making the siren-like 'beeepbooopbeeepbooopbeeepbooop' noise.
The music shifted. As though it were giving me some kind of warning. As though to urge me toward something.
"Let me now deny your existence."
SFX: Noah II abruptly becomes absolutely silent.
All too overwhelmingly. All too destructively. All too viciously.
In opposition, I was unarmed. Without anything to help myself stave off his blow. I became petrified.
Rimi threw herself between me and Norose. Something soft-feeling covered my face.
"Please don't kill Taku...."
Rimi's chest. Rimi was embracing me as though to wrap herself around me. Shielding me from Norose.
Rimi had saved me again. Even though I'd come to rescue her. God, how pathetic.
In my mortification, I reached for Rimi's blouse, the gap between its buttons. I slipped my right hand inside it.
The lingerie she wore was warm and just a little rough to the touch.
The pain of the wound gored in my chest. And the pain of my separated left hand. And the pain in my dislocated right shoulder.
The anguish of being unable to breathe properly through damaged lungs.
Her warmth seemed like it would heal all my suffering.
Rimi's lingerie. Rimi's bare skin.
"What.... are you....?"
Exposing her bra.
I grabbed them through the fabric. Her ample breasts.
I pressed my bloody right hand to her bra. To her naked skin. As though rubbing the red blood up against her.
I felt her suppleness, her elasticity. So very soft....
Rimi squirmed in an attempt to escape. I hung onto her. I wouldn't let her run away.
I buried my face in her breasts. Smooth skin that seemed to fit right against me, to suck me in. I went further, using my freed right hand to grope inside her skirt.
"Stop it.... Stop it.... Taku...."
"I don't.... want this...."
"Uu.... sob.... uuu...."
Even after I moved away from her, Rimi hid her chest with her hands and wept heartbrokenly.
Despite her protecting me. Why had I done such a thing....
What the hell was I doing at a time like this.... Why was I making Rimi cry....
Why was I alarmed? Because he'd hit the nail on the head? Because he'd seen through me? Who had?
My voice. The voice in my heart. My.... true self?
"That wrinkly little asshole is gonna be doing Rimi, you know?"
"You don't want to be cuckolded, do you?"
I wanted to cover my ears, but I couldn't do it without my left hand.
Rimi, crying, unable to fix her disheveled clothes. Seeing that face of hers pained me so much, it felt like my heart would be crushed.
"Norose's nice enough to give you some time for getting it done with."
"I'm going to die soon anyway. Who cares if she holds a grudge?"
"Let's do what we want before we die. They'll say, 'It couldn't be helped,' and let it slide if I do something a tad horrible here, given how it's poor little me, with my pitiable background."
So it'd be real bad if I didn't work on not listening to him. I wouldn't be able to avoid getting swept away by the flow.
My weak heart was guiding me in the wrong direction, in an easier direction. But I couldn't let myself get swept away now....
"Fuck her. Get rid of your virginity before you die."
I yelled. As though to break through my inner weakness. As though to hurl it all away.
Thankfully, it made the voice in my heart go away. Before me, Rimi had stopped crying as well.
She lowered the hands covering her face. She gave me a cold, brief glance.
That single sentence filled the inside of my head with tar-black emotion.
With mind-blowing momentum, a colossal stake burst up through the concrete floor.
Its sharp point impaled me in the crotch.
OST: White out
I couldn't swallow what was happening. My legs hovered in the air.
I couldn't run away, even if I wanted to.
The stake steadily ate its way into my body.
Ghastly pain. But not enough to kill me.
The stake continued extending, hoisting me up about a meter above the ground.
If I stirred, pain shot through my crotch. I became incapable of movement.
I wanted help. I sent pleading eyes down at Rimi below me.
But she walked over to Norose without taking a glance at me. And crouched down there with a thump, as though worn out.
Both Norose and Rimi. Watched me up here, me and my shame.
They simply watched me, expressionless. They didn't attempt to help me.
"Did you know?"
"In the past, impalement was used worldwide as a form of punishment by torture."
"Your own body weight gradually makes you sink deeper and deeper down the stake. The key point is to avoid making the end of the stake overly sharp."
"This helps prevent injuries to your internal organs, thereby increasing the period of time before you die."
"At the very end, your execution concludes once the end of the stake breaks through your mouth or shoulder."
"I'll keep watch over you for the next three days."
"Until you die."
"She appears to be thinking along the same lines."
Rimi gave a little nod.
"Then again, the wounds on your chest and arm may mean that you'll die of blood loss first."
This was a delusion, I told myself. A delusionary attack.
In reality, I wasn't impaled on anything. I was just standing still in front of Noah II.
I was merely seeing an illusion. So I believed. I had to believe it.
If I could tolerate that much, this delusion would come to an end. It would have to end.
It'd be so much easier if I could at least fall asleep or pass out, I thought to myself.
But I couldn't. The pain wouldn't let me. That was precisely what made it torture.
"Ah, higuh.... uu, uuu, guh.... hah, ah, haa...."
I'd go crazy if this continued--
Even though, a second ago, I'd thought about enduring it. Now, in a shift, I lapsed into despair.
When I considered the vast quantity of time left before I died, every emotion other than despair went rushing out of me.
Just kill me....
I wanted to see a clock. But if I did, the slowness of the hands' progression would probably break my spirit.
I clenched my teeth together. Sweat trickled down all over me, like a waterfall.
It made my throat go parched. Once in a while I moistened it by swallowing coughed-up blood.
Inside my body. I felt the stake gradually push aside my viscera, burying itself deeper.
I definitely felt it.
It was a countdown toward death.
With this, it would finally surge up to my shredded chest. It would go further, skewering itself up my neck.
And it'd break out through my mouth.
"Ah, giih, gii, ah, ah...."
I was going out of my mind with pain and fear.
What I learned from it was that when I fainted, my body relaxed. In other words, the stake began eating into me faster.
Naturally, the pain also increased beyond the point of comparison. And that pain would then rouse me.
And my trapped body would writhe in agony. I'd faint again to escape it. It was the worst of all vicious cycles, and it kept repeating.
My sight was dim.
I'd thought maybe it was night, but there were no windows in this dome, so that had nothing to do with it.
I figured it was most likely because I'd lost too much blood.
It was only a little bit, but blood went on trickling from my chest and my left arm.
If more of this blood would drip out, maybe I'd be able to die peacefully of blood loss before I died from behind impaled.
When that occurred to me, I made an effort to swing around my left arm, crushed from the elbow down.
But it wouldn't move. The nerves in it had surely died long ago.
Bubububu, bupeh. Bupepepeh. Boh.
When would it end?
Was it really going to end?
What had made me believe it was a delusion in the first place?
How did I know it was a delusion?
What if it were reality?
After enduring it, I'd only die.
There'd be no meaning in enduring it.
But I was gonna endure it anyway?
I was an idiot.
Die. Not dye, die.
I oughta die right away.
I'd had enough of this pain.
I'd had enough of this suffering.
Bite your tongue off.
Do it, and things will become easier for you right off the bat.
Let me go already....
....This is a delusion, isn't it?
The amount of blood hemorrhaging from my chest increased. I was losing the ability to breathe.
No matter how much I tried to suck in oxygen, my throat just made this dumbass sound, kind of like a faint whistling.
When I looked down, I could see the stake peeking through the wound in my chest.
I violently vomited blood. My mouth flapped open like a goldfish all the while, as I sought oxygen.
I was relieved at the prospect of dying soon.
Norose's voice. His presence, right in front of my nose.
But I couldn't see him. My eyes didn't reflect anything anymore.
Because I'd been impaled for such a long time, exposed to continual agony, I'd utterly forgotten that he and Rimi even existed.
I wondered if Rimi were still nearby. Not that it mattered.
I was preoccupied with inhaling.
For some time now, I'd been spending all the strength in my body, and every one of my nerves, on that labor.
"Before you safely reach death, I'll dispose of her."
I didn't quite get what he was saying. I couldn't afford to think about it.
"You're going.... to kill me?"
"Yes. That's what it comes down to."
"Go on, say your last words."
"....I'm sorry, Taku. I'm sorry I couldn't save you."
I heard Rimi's dying wail. The sound of someone falling. He'd shot Rimi to death, I thought.
It didn't stir my emotions. I had other things to deal with.
I went back to the work of breathing.
And, in the process, I astounded myself.
What meaning was there in this kind of thing? For what purpose was I frenetically breathing? Wasn't this all far too much?
Something hot trailed down my cheeks.
I might've been crying, but I had no way to know for sure.
With only a little bit left out of the three days I was supposed to withstand, I'd lost my reason for struggling and enduring and coming this far.
I'm sorry, Rimi. I'm the one who should apologize. I wasn't able to protect you.
The speed at which I sank lower, propelled by my weight, increased. The sensation of a foreign object in my throat. It was utterly impossible to breathe.
Something was pushing up through me--
I came back to myself. The feeling of something foreign inside me had vanished.
I wasn't impaled on anything. The only bloody parts of me were my chest and my left arm.
How much of it had been a delusion?
My brain's processing speed couldn't keep up with things. I couldn't grasp my situation.
Before me was Norose, and his raised Di-Sword.
"Have you come back to us?"
"It was a delusion after all--"
When I muttered to myself in relief,
My upper body and lower body slid apart.
My field of sight tilted.
From the waist down, I was standing on the ground.
Yet from the waist up, I had fallen.
I'd been cloven in two at the torso. The cross-section where he'd cut me was all too clean.
I stared blankly at the lower half of my body.
A reality I didn't want to acknowledge. Was this a delusion, too?
It'd be nice if it were. Please be a delusion....
Rimi was calling me.... In a grief-striken voice, calling me....
"In this condition, you'll last for a few minutes before dying."
"I say this as a former doctor, so it's quite certain."
"In the meantime, shall I harvest your CODE sample?"
I crawled. Using only my right hand, I pulled myself forward. In the direction of Rimi's voice.
I wanted to touch Rimi. I had to save Rimi. Rimi--
My right hand. Forward. And forward.
I stretched it.
I didn't reach anywhere--
Norose's leather shoe had stepped on the back of my outstretched right hand.
"Just what one would expect from an abomination, I suppose."
SFX: The sound of Noah II's siren fades out, replaced by a shrill tone.
Norose's foot wavered like a mirage.
The floor tiles began to look fuzzy.
The floor and the ceiling reversed.
I was crawling on the ceiling on all fours.
Blood spilled from my severed waist with incredible force.
Like a faucet turned up all the way.
My blood was leaving my body.
My innards poured out, too, traveling through the opening of the wound in my arm.
But it didn't completely cut off.
A pool of blood was forming.
My beating heart.
Tumbled out before my eyes.
Creating ripples in the puddle of blood.
As I vaguely watched those ripples.
My flesh melted.
My bones twisted like gum.
My eyeballs become squarish.
My lungs flipped inside-out and spilled through my mouth.
The wrinkles in my brain smoothed out neatly, one by one.
My body went mushy.
I was dissolving into the air.
Wrapping around it.
Over and over.
Over and over.
Over and over.
Like water balloons.
Full to bursting. My skin stretched.
Making a creaky sound.
Both my muscles and bones.
They melted away and got stopped up in my calves.
A tiny head sprouted up from my hips.
It looked at me with boggly white eyes.
It got crushed, and it turned gloppy.
To the earth.
My brain made a drippy puddle.
I'm not anywhere.
What am I?
I am what?
What is I?
"You aren't a delusion."
In the hospital where she has been accommodated together with her older brother. She curls up in a corner of a waiting room overflowing with the injured.
Holding her true brother's wrinkled hand.
Withstanding the pain in her right hand.
She closes her eyes.
By the wreckage of a fallen building. Inside a container house lying toppled over, all but buried in the rubble.
Holding one of "his" bishoujo figures.
Withstanding the pain she had felt in her chest when she saw how hideously the figures had metamorphosed, thanks to the earthquake and the ensuring fire.
She closes her eyes.
At Suimei Academy, now a place of shelter. From the roof of the school building, she gazes up at the sky.
Holding a paperback book with legends written in it.
Withstanding the pain of the malice displayed by the myriad, indeterminate number of delusions covering the now-fallen Shibuya.
She closes her eyes.
At the dim platform of Shinsen Station.
Holding Aoi Sena's trembling hand.
Withstanding the pain of her wounded foot.
She closes her eyes.
Sitting next to her father, who lies there.
Holding her father's cold hand.
Withstanding the pain of her regret over her inability to be honest, even at the very end.
She closes her eyes.
Lying on the chilly floor.
Tightly clenching her own hand, which she had extended toward "him."
Withstanding the strangling pain in her chest she had felt when she saw "him" covered in wounds.
She closes her eyes.
"You took action."
"As a result, everyone saw you."
"The local shared recognition known as you has long since reached completion."
"From now on; no, already."
"You yourself are--"
We may have had the last Delusion Trigger some time ago, but that wasn't the final vote.
You must answer the following statements 'yes' or 'no'.
Answering these statements 'correctly' will lead to the True Ending. Deviating from that sequence will lead to another Ending.
The poll will run for at least 48 hours from the time this is posted.
What is Takumi?