Part 123: Embrace
Miharu seems to have stayed put while I was gone. Rather, she had no choice but to do so. We have no freedom of movement here.
It doesn't apply to my current state, though. I take a page out of Parca's book and run across the abyss toward Miharu's platform.
She's been at the mercy of the black flames. The damage isn't to her body, but her soul. I'm able to tell Miharu's condition despite the lack of physical damage. It proves Parca's claim that I've become the closest thing to a goddess here upon her elimination.
Sounding ever so weak, she points toward the center of the Court of Fate. That's where the source of the flames seems to be.
There sits a girl, wailing in pain. She's holding her head while sobbing, her throat roasted beyond repair.
What's going on...?
Parca's still here. There's no doubt that I eliminated her. I saw her final moments with my own eyes. She would've told me if there were any special exceptions due to her status as a goddess.
I don't understand... The flames came out of nowhere, and... sorry...
It's fine. Don't force yourself to talk.
Her condition is similar to when someone inhales too much smoke during a fire. It sounds like her lungs are giving her trouble. These flames are bad news. That's the one thing clear to me in this situation. Meanwhile, Parca sits at the center of it.
I need to save her.
My body moves before I can think. Running on absolutely nothing is frightening, but I make my way to the center regardless. Parca's small enough that I should be able to carry her on my back. I need to get her away from there, first and foremost. I'll take her over to Miharu's platform. There's no heat to the flames, so I should be able to make contact with them if it's brief. I need to do this as fast as possible, leading me to get as close to her as I can.
Parca continues to cower and wail. Seeing her pain, I hug her.
BGM: Sinking in Flames
It's okay! You're gonna be fine!
She really does resemble a girl stuck in an actual fire. It's like Dianna's death. The situation closely resembles it if you ignore the place and color of the flames. I have no intention of abandoning her, though. I'll do everything I can to save her. Parca seems completely unaware of my voice, though. She continues to cower in fear, refusing to budge.
You seem to be in a spot of trouble.
Lethe! Why are you here?
This is the first time I've been able to speak with the human Lethe. That doesn't matter right now.
I've come to view my own disappearance, I'm afraid. Using my connection to Parca and her erasure is the only way to accomplish this. I'll do everything I can to assist you before that, though.
Lethe knows far more about the dream world than I do, so his timing is perfect. There's no one I can rely on more than him right now.
First things first... You should get away from her.
He speaks in a calm and composed demeanor.
She is indeed the source of the black flames consuming this place. But you have every intention of saving her, don't you? I can only assume you think she's the same Dianna you've come to know.
Get to the point!
Apologies. She may indeed be Dianna, but one you're entirely unfamiliar with. I told you once before about how I took most of Parca's memories. Well, 'most' is the key word. I left the bare minimum of memories there in order for her to remain as Dianna. In other words, you can think of her as a representation of the memories I left with her.
Parca continually gave people false hope and used their lives as a stepping stone for her own sake through Divine Selection. Those memories left within her created a personality that grew sick of those actions. A personality that split off from Parca herself and remained hidden all this time. This is mere conjecture, but I assume this side of her somehow remained separate even after Parca regained the memories I had taken.
Thus, the girl you now hold in your arms is an entirely unique existence.
I'm surprised you need to ask. It's only natural to wish for one's survival, regardless of what happened before. Dianna's attachment to life was so great that it transformed her into Parca upon her death. These black flames represent her mental state. It's her desire to live- the greatest desire of all humanity.
Her continued wish for survival never faltered, even knowing what awaited her. She's trying to recreate the scenario that led her to become Parca in the first place, in order to achieve the same result. It just so happens that the feelings of eleven others have gathered here, too. One of which happens to be the same essence as her own, to boot.
Wow, unbelievable! To think she was this attached to her own survival! Simply astounding...!
Do excuse me for that outburst. Things have taken a turn for the worse, though.
I'm on the right train of thought, then. This situation is eerily similar to the scene of Dianna's death.
Dianna! Calm down!
There's little point to that.
Then what should I do?!
...I don't know, honestly.
Lethe, of all people, says he doesn't know what to do! How am I supposed to figure anything out, then?! No, I can't give up here. Lethe did all he could to help us. To the point that he became nothing but a frail little cat. Besides, he already told me once. I need to handle things on my own now.
I need you to take Miharu back to the real world for me. Can you do that?
Already been taken care of.
I glance over to Numeral II's platform. Miharu is nowhere to be seen.
Naomi still has a sliver of my power remaining within her. Enough to remain connected to this place. Much like how I was able to use my connection to Parca to come here, she must have sensed what was going on and dragged Miharu back to the real world. My will remains connected to hers, which is what made that possible.
Even as he says this, the panic on his expression remains.
Let me be blunt. My existence won't last much longer. As I said, myself and Parca are connected. Her erasure entails my own. This was my true goal all along and the only means I had of accomplishing it. I apologize for keeping it from you.
Why are you telling me this now...?
My desire to help you was no facade. Secret though my intentions were, I made sure that my actions would never burden you.
Don't worry. I trust you.
Time isn't on our side. I don't have the ability to help you much more. You can return to the real world while I remain connected to Naomi. This is your only chance to do so.
What will happen to Dianna if I do?
I can hear her groaning, even now. The black flames continue to wash over the Court of Fate.
She will become a goddess once more and seek out twelve people connected through the junction of causality. She will continue to carry out Divine Selection. Electing her will be impossible now that the Dianna and Parca you know have been erased. She will exist forever, with survival as her sole purpose.
That means one thing...
She'll be doomed to suffer forever...
I never should have told you. You would have had no issue with returning to the real world. Never have I regretted something this much.
He probably saw the expression on my face as he explained things. One glance was probably enough for him to understand what I'mt hinking after having spent so much time with my family.
You know me too well, don't you?
Sorry. My time seems to be up.
Lethe's body begins to shine. It's similar to when our cards would light up during an election.
If anyone should be expressing their thanks, it's me. There's still-
Lethe disappears mid-sentence. He's returned to his original fate. Death, in much less flowery terms. I'm sure he's happy if he's able to be with Dianna, though. I'm willing to bet that was his wish all along. The issue I face now is the Dianna before me.
The flames continue to spread, dyeing the Court of Fate jet black. This is a reenactment of Dianna's death. Not just the events themselves, but the fear she experienced during it. I take a brief, yet definitive look at her. Lethe understood my intentions. Yes- my desire to save her.
I have an idea about how to do it. Parca herself told me. She holds no resentment toward her mother and Linda for abandoning her... Is it possible for a person to hold no resentment whatsoever, though? Is it possible for someone who's been abandoned to hold zero animosity toward those responsible? It was Dianna who split from Parca. Not the other way around. Animosity is sure to have built up within her, slow but sure. The cause came down to one thing. Her grief and hatred born during her dying moments.
In that case, there's one simple way to ensure that this scene ends differently from when she died.
Don't worry. I'm right here with you.
I just need to stay by her side. I hold her close and offer up a single prayer.
Please save her. Set her free.
BGM: Sinking in Flames
I am consumed by black flames. My body is charred. Smolder fills my lungs. They burn away my very existence. That seems like the most accurate description of what's happening to me. I'm being erased in my entirety. Not just from the world, but from fate itself. But despite that...
My soul refuses to pass on.
I persevere with my earnest wish in my heart.
I wish for the salvation of a girl once abandoned by those she held dear.
This is the only way I know how to do things. It's just who I am.
BGM: All For You
And then a voice calls out to me.
Can't say I know much about you, but hey, keep it up! You're doing great!
It's a voice I've heard before, now that I think about it. Did I meet this woman at some point...?
I must admit, the idea of saving Parca had never occurred to me.
Another voice I've heard once before. While we never had a conversation, our paths crossed here.
Standing tall, even within those flames... You really do live up to the name your mother gave you.
Now this is a voice I could never forget.
My will lived on thanks to you. Well, that's how I choose to see it, anyway. I don't know what name my son was given in the end, but everything you did helped me to accept my fate.
I want her to know that her son has been named Haruki, just as she wanted. The thought never turns into words, though. No matter how hard I try.
A cheerful young girl's voice calls my name next.
Thank you so very much for making my wish come true!
Yeah, that's right. Sonya believed that we could both survive right until the very end.
Oh-ho? As soft as ever, I see. A time might come when you regret it, but that certainly isn't now.
You might want to try saying something nicer...
Next up is that unmistakeable duo. Judging by Yu's attitude toward Shigetsugu, they're back to their previous relationship.
You accepted me as not just a tool, but as a person. That's why you tried to save me till the very end. You've overcome a lot since then, but I'm glad you haven't changed. You're still the Rinka I knew.
You're fibbing if you honestly think she hasn't changed at all.
Yeah, you're right... You've learned how to move forward in life, no matter what.
Their voices suddenly grow distant. What am I hearing now...? Dianna's attempting to turn into Parca once more. There's no doubt I'll be used as energy to accomplish that. I'll become cinder and disappear from the world, with my last memories serving as nothing but fuel.
C'mon, kid. You ain't gonna kick the bucket after squaring up against me of all people, are ya? ...Or so I'd like to say, but I guess there ain't no need. You ain't nowhere close to giving in. Heh. Good. That's what I like to see.
Something tells me that I won't disappear, even in these circumstances. I'd say it feels like I'm being shielded with something, but it's more than that. It's almost like I'm recovering from the effects of the fire.
I have nothing in my heart for you but hatred. Just watching you make your stand right now freaks me out. If hearing that bothers you, then you'd better stick to your guns. There'd be no point in using my life as a stepping stone if you end up just like me in the end.
Amazingly enough, even Scale's voice reaches me. I can feel my body return to normal each time this happens. I'm not imagining things.
I'm pretty grateful to you, squirt. You gave me the opportunity to finally come out on top of that asshole. And, hey... Props for making an impression on Odette. That proves you're stronger than you look. Welp, that's enough from me. Tell Miharu I said hey.
My existence is a fragile one. How others perceive me is what's helped to maintain it so far. I lack the means to prove who I am on my own. There may be countless versions of me existing in all the worlds out there, but they may as well not exist without that. In the same vein that possibilities can be nothing but unattainable dreams.
Your disposition to help others and never give up borders on ludicrous at this point. I can't say for certain that Amrita would make the same decision as you. There's little else for me to say to you at this point. If anything, though... I advise that you prioritize your friends. Hmph. Everything will be for naught if they lose you, correct?
Now that I think about it... yeah. There's bound to be people who can accept their own existence based on my perception of them. That's not a big stretch to believe. Miharu, Naomi, Mao, and even my gran... They all have sides to them that only I know. What would happen if I disappeared? Would they follow suit?
Good evening, my dear. Reckless as ever, I see. I must apologize for causing issues at even this stage. Have you been questioning the nature of those voices you hear? The energy gathered within this space comprises fragments that contain the residual feelings and experiences of those eliminated. The fragments hold no sentience of their own. However...
You are aware that one's perception of others is what allows them to exist at all. Thus, your perception of these fragments bestows them with a fleeting sentience. Brief though it may be, you granted it to them in their final moments. But enough with the overly obtuse explanations.
In layman's terms, they are all cheering on your efforts to save me. With all the energy gathered here, you should be able to make use of their support. So, please. Wish for a miracle.
I can't do that. I've already made my decision to stay here with her. I can prevent her death from being recreated by doing so. She'll be able to fade away while remaining human if I do that, right? If that's all I need to do to save her, then I'm more than willing.
Yes, you are correct. However... My death can no longer be reproduced. You see, one miracle has already taken place.
Her voice vanishes when she finishes her sentence. And in its place, my vision returns.
I see a girl cowering amidst a sea of flames. A black cat braves the fire and approaches her. It reaches its paw out and touches her cheek. Noticing the cat, she raises her head. Her distraught expression melts into a calm smile.
And the black flames soon engulf them both.
BGM: Moment of Fate
It's amazing how much of an effect something that insignificant can have. That's all I can think as my consciousness begins to fade once more. Then again, it's not right to call it insignificant. Knowing for sure that you're not alone is a miracle in and of itself. None of us are alone.
Although, it's not quite that simple. The fact that you're not alone is something, ironically, you must believe all on your own. That's why- I think I'm just talking in circles. There's no point in thinking about it right now. There's only one choice left for me.
I want to live.
I voice my deepest desire. One that is simple and held by everyone.