Part 110: The Last Choice
content warning: lots of mention of suicide, suicidal ideation, mention of self-harm manipulative behavior etc
So. That was the Good Ending. But if you'll note in the OP, I said that there was a True Ending, not just a Good one. But before we get into that really, I figure now's the best place to give my own thoughts on the story up until this point, more specifically on the character of Miharu.
It's kinda interesting to me how almost entirely negative the response in the thread has been to her character when I consider how people responded to her when the VN first launched (it had a simultaneous release in Japanese and English, if anyone was curious, since it was a Kickstarter VN ); I remember people being a LOT more... well, forgiving is the wrong word, absolutely- probably closer to like. More sympathetic to Miharu's whole deal, I guess? I distinctly remember seeing people thrilled to get representation of a person struggling with suicidal ideation/depression (and also being explicitly portrayed as self-harming, but having that topic never be dragged out for drama or unrealistic sympathy either- it's just a thing she's done to herself that, while bad, is not any kind of moral statement about her person. good and bad people are capable of hurting themselves, it honestly shouldn't be representative of morality in the first place) but not shying away from the fact that sometimes those can result in symptoms that lead to toxic behavior like jealousy, control issues, etc... Most media that approaches the topic of 'this person wants to commit suicide' either shies away from taking the topic seriously past the standard 'no, people care about you, don't do this ' plot thread 95% of the time (or, you know, tries to play it up for drama, which is how we get shit like 13 Reasons ).
Having a character who openly struggles with that kind of thing and even admits on multiple occasions that she can see she's doing things that she shouldn't (letting her jealousy lead her to immediately hate Naomi without ever even trying to get to know her first) or that are just enabling her deeply rooted self-loathing (her constant putdowns of herself, her inability to even consider that the way she treats herself and those around her could jeopardize her friendships/chance of a relationship with Rinka), but still allowing her to obtain forgiveness by those she's hurt (Naomi very clearly does not hold it against her and seems to have wanted to become actual friends this whole time, possibly because she knows that Miharu's dislike of her is superficial), is honestly in my opinion a good way to approach these kind of themes without possibly causing harm to anyone who resonates with those kind of experiences from a reader perspective. It's not a perfect representation, obviously, and I think if I were going to improve this I would've given more time to Miharu's thought processes, maybe had her become the alternate first-person narrator after Federico was eliminated? Something to give us more perspective of how she sees things compared to Rinka would've done a lot.
Obviously this doesn't excuse her behavior, she HAS been uncomfortably possessive and has overstepped her boundaries multiple times- Miharu does not love Rinka in what could be considered a healthy way right now, she's desperately trying to cling to this image of Rinka as she was when they were children and that's a bad foundation for an actual relationship, but over these weeks Miharu's basically had to reconcile the fact that she doesn't know Rinka as well as she thought either (especially with the stuff with Yu and Scale)... and she, too, has changed her perspective on things, whether she knows it or not, which has led to developments that previously would've been unthinkable, such as her actually reaching out to Naomi and coming to realize that her initial kneejerk hate was legitimately getting in the way of a potential friendship. But there's one last, huge hurdle that hasn't actually been cleared at any point in the VN to date: Miharu's deeply rooted sense of self-sacrifice.
She said it from the very start, the moment she saw Rinka was a participant, she made the decision that she was going to make sure Rinka made it to the end of Divine Selection and then give her life up to ensure Rinka made it out as unharmed as possible. She made this claim already having spent her whole life talking to Parca, so we can infer from this as well that she'd already known and prepared for the inevitability that someday, no matter how old she was when it happened, she would have to participate in Divine Selection when she died. She even says as much in a previous update- she had every intention of winning, but seeing Rinka led to her throw all that out on the spot because she feels that Rinka's survival ranks higher than her own (and since she still had residual guilt over killing herself, regardless of the implication that Parca groomed her into doing so, this just rooted that desire in her head more); so the fact that she's ultimately just making good on her promise by sacrificing herself to save Rinka shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
One of the last big remaining regrets that Miharu had was that A) she never confessed to Rinka, being able to get her feelings off her chest, and B) never got a response from Rinka, regardless of what that answer was. She'd even already assumed the answer was going to be no, Mao outright says this when she comes to visit, and when Rinka accepts her feelings Miharu even misunderstands at first because of how prepared she was to be rejected. If anything, the fact Rinka dragged her feet so long probably gave her enough time to steel her resolve to sacrifice herself regardless of what answer she actually received, rejection OR acceptance!
When rejected, she subsequently sacrifices herself that Sunday night, but it's not to 'get back' at Rinka- there's no malice there, she's not angry or bitter, just defeated. Emotionally spent. Similarly, when Rinka accepts her feelings and the two go spend the weekend on one long extended date, all this does is give Miharu everything she's wanted... leaving her with no regrets, and thus, also confirming in her mind that she can ensure Rinka survives but with a smile on her face this time. She's internalized so strongly that there is no way the two of them can make it out of this together, partially because of her own defeatism, partially because of the years and years of manipulation on Parca's part- that kind of deeply-ingrained thought process is something that takes time to properly break out of, and 48 hours of love is not going to overcome that kind of barrier no matter how strong the love may be. Getting in a relationship is not going to save Miharu (or even inherently help address any of the remaining problems).
There is one choice that no attention was ever given to, and I'm kind of surprised nobody ever called me out on just brushing past it (or even acknowledged that it existed); the only way to both ensure that Rinka and Miharu can even possibly make it out of this alive together as well as give them enough space and time to properly work on getting to a healthy relationship, not one developed under duress...
...is to NOT GIVE HER A GODDAMN ANSWER YET.
I can't give you an answer yet.
Miharu's eyes open wide before she freezes up completely.
You'll no doubt be satisfied regardless of what answer I give you. On the other hand, putting it off means you'll want to survive to hear it, right? I promise I'll give you an answer then, so please. Let me keep that promise.
That's cheating, you know... You're trying to sound cool, but you just haven't decided yet, have you?
Urgh... I, er, can't deny that...
I can't bring myself to think things through until we've found a way to survive together. You're just that important to me. You even got Mao to help you out so you could get an answer from me before the next election.
With that done, you'd let me elect you. You even lied about seeing what would happen if we can't elect one another.
She pulls her eyes away from me. I know this is the truth after asking how she felt earlier. Her love for me means she'll do whatever she can to make sure I survive.
Sorry, but there's no way I'd forgive you if you let yourself die.
So do you hate me now?
Of course not. How about you? Do you hate me after having to deal with how indecisive I am?
Honestly, I expected this response the moment you posed your little question.
Having said that, no. There's not a single thing that could make me come to hate you. Especially not when I love to see you squirm like this.
Oh boy, she's making me all hot and bothered again.
N-No need to be so blunt. Anyway, I feel kinda bad since it sounds like we're negotiating, but... I'll absolutely give you a proper answer once Divine Selection's over. Until then, let's find a way to survive together.
...All right. You've really changed, haven't you? Ahaha. I'd come back to haunt you if I died now, so I guess it's time to swallow my pride.
I'm not the only one who's changed. Miharu just changed a bit right now.
Let me ask you, though. You're not just putting it off, right? Can I take this to mean I actually have a chance?
...Yeah. I can't say for sure since I've never been in love before, but it could easily swing either direction. Sorry for sounding so smug despite not giving you a proper answer...
Don't worry about it. I just wanted to settle this, regardless of the outcome. In that regard, it's nice to know I'm not chasing shadows.
She brushes her hand through her hair before smiling. The light from Tokyo Tower reflects off her. She's so cute... Not only that, but she's smart and capable as well. She can be a bit mean sometimes, but she's always thinking of her friends. She makes it seem like life's so easy, but in reality, she works hard to make it so. It's tough to take all that into consideration and tell her she has no chance. If I'm being honest, I'm still not too sure. Ugh, I really am the worst. Anyone else would've ditched me by now.
Following that, we make our way back home. We have to walk back to the station together, but that's fine. Being together doesn't feel awkward tonight.
BGM: Rinka's Room
I get ready for bed once back home. Way too much has happened today. First I finished my finals, then Mao dragged us all out, and then I had to finally give Miharu an answer. Well, technically... I didn't. But we reached a conclusion for now, at least.
I really should sleep for now. The store will be open for the first time in a while tomorrow, so I need to get up early. There's a lot to be done. I've messaged my gran as well, so all that's left is to shut my eyes. It's fortunate that the next election isn't the last. We'll still have a week to work things out if nothing comes from this one. As much as I want to finish the diary, I'm better off getting some rest.
[END OF WEEK ELEVEN (PART A): TIL THE VERY END]