Part 32: Comparing Answers
I prep to open the store as soon as I get back. A few people swing by, but no one stays for long because it's a weeknight. Once 9 p.m. rolls around, I close up shop. Miharu stops by around then, just like she said she would.
Hey, yourself. Lemme get you some coffee.
Thanks. Should you really be giving out freebies, though?
I nod and follow up by telling her that we might be here for a while.
BGM: Lion House Cafe
After making enough for the both of us, I move over to our usual table.
Is it safe to assume you're looking to confirm certain things with me?
She wastes no time in getting to the meat of things. She takes a sip of her coffee before going on.
Mmm. As delicious as ever.
Thanks, but let's not get off topic. That night, when I caught you and Sonya discussing something... It was about my cause of death card, wasn't it?
Yup. I bet you hadn't anticipated her being in possession of one of your cards. She didn't keep it a secret with any bad intentions, though. Apparently she just didn't want you to suspect her even more.
I can't blame her, considering how I acted when we first met.
Anyone in your position would've done the same. That's why I made it a point to confirm with her whether or not she had any of our cards.
As it turned out, she also had your name card.
Right. She mentioned that she regretted her choice- that it would've been better to have thrown her fear of not being trusted away and told us the whole truth.
That sounds just like her...
No argument there. It's almost upsetting just how innocent that girl was.
Memories of us sitting together at this very table come flooding back. It was like we were nothing more than three friends hanging out.
You know that Numeral XI is looking to eliminate as many people as she possibly can, so I wanted to make sure she couldn't get her hands on my card. More importantly though, the prospect of her snatching up your card terrified me.
And that's why you opted to eliminate Sonya instead.
I hesitate to press the issue any further. Mainly because it involves questioning how she can be so calm and collected in the face of all this. It's entirely possible that I'll hear something I don't want to if I ask. And yet, I end up asking her anyway.
How... can you stay this calm after her elimination? Did it mean nothing to you?
Is there any need to waste my time feeling upset?
BGM: Two Crossing Paths -S/I V/S-
I can't bring myself to snap anything back to her. That's the exact response I was afraid I'd hear. It's not like I don't understand her point. I know that there's no point in being upset.
You honestly have no issues taking that stance?
I don't. My course was set the moment I learned that you're a participant. My life exists soley for yours now.
I wish you'd stop saying that. I've heard it more times than I ever wanted.
I can't help but be blunt. While I expected such a reply, it's still not what I wanted to hear. I don't have it in me to say anything more, though.
It's barely been a day since it happened, so I can understand why you're distraught. In fact, your ability to worry like this is one of your stronger points.
The tone of her voice doesn't falter.
We should probably wrap up for the night. Although... would you mind if I stayed a bit longer? I haven't gotten to finish my coffee yet.
My only response is a quick nod. Just as she said, I'm still distraught over what happened. What's worse, I seem to get more aggravated at night. I end up waiting for Miharu to finish her coffee. I can't bring myself to look her in the eye during that time- not even once.
Well then, I should be going now.
...Mind waiting for a minute?
I stop her just as she gets ready to walk out. There's still one important question left for me to ask.
BGM: A Dot on a Piece of Paper
Your last surname was Hebinata, right? I, um, know there've been issues at home and stuff, but... I was always curious why I didn't have your name card, and then it triggered with Hebinata Miharu rather than Mishima Miharu, so...
I'm Mishima Miharu on my family's register, just so you know.
Yeah, so... it creates a whole lot of doubt for me when it comes to the criteria for creating new cards...
Yes, and those doubts aren't unfounded. Our lovely little goddess seems to have skimped on her explanation relating to the process. You could call it a... loophole, of sorts.
I manage to catch the brief glimpse of sadness in her expression. There's no doubt that she's not very comfortable discussing this topic. And yet, she's doing her best to act unfazed for my sake. I make no effort to stop her, though. She knows that I've noticed, which is why she's bothering to explain it in the first place.
BGM: Wi H g L n (Dark Side of Hers)
First things first. I need to apologize for not telling you the truth.
Her expression grows more pained as she says that. I feel kinda bad about it, so I can only imagine how she feels.
The only way I can explain it is by divulging even more about myself.
I said that my surname became Mishima after my parents got divorced, but well... that's not quite right. You know full well that my mother isn't the greatest person in the world. In fact, let me make it clear that I loathe her.
She has talked to me about her mom before, albeit briefly. About her habit of wasting money and her failure to do any chores, for instance. That's why Miharu has several part-time jobs, and has to deal with the household chores, as well. Unlike most students at Amecha, she's far from financially sound. The only reason she can attend is due to her scholarship.
If I had things my way, I'd take my father's surname. But alas, I'm stuck with this one.
I sense that there's a lot more to this than what she's telling me. It's likely that everything she's suffered through links back to whatever that could be.
You'd think that the rules pertaining to our individual cards would be grounded with logic, but that isn't the case. In fact, they seem to rely far too much on one's personal perception.
You can't make blind guesses when it comes to someone's cause of death and regret cards. Knowledge of the events surrounding them is a requirement. Each participant's perception of those events takes priority. In other words, there's no universal criteria in place for participants when it comes to creating new cards. That's Miharu's point.
In my case, I've yet to accept that my name is really Mishima Miharu.
That's why your name card is Hebinata Miharu instead...
Considering our cards are linked to the dream world, a deep part of the psyche, I really must be against taking on the Mishima name.
Then it might be a lot more logical than you think. Think about it. No one's born with a name; it's on someone else to give them one. The names aren't set in stone, either.
If it weren't for Keiko, I probably would've agreed with Miharu. But now... this is how I truly feel. Surnames change all the time due to marriage. Not only that, but you can even get it changed legally if so inclined. It's not always cut and dry like that, sure, but names are still something that reflect a person's individuality over all else.
Hmm. I certainly hadn't thought about it that way. Perhaps my concern about my name was obstructing my outlook on the bigger picture.
That's a bit of an exaggeration. Still... I feel like my doubts have been cleared up.
Sorry for the confusion.
Nah, don't worry about it. We've all got our baggage. You'll always be the same Miharu to me, regardless of what happens.
She giggles with a smile in response to my proclamation. And it's not a forced smile, either. It is sincere- one of relief.
While slightly off-topic, I was worried that you would start to avoid me after what I said in the Court of Fate.
Really? I knew exactly what you were doing.
Assuming things went as planned, then some of the other participants may be giddy over how we got into a big fight.
I have nothing more to say to you at the moment. Some of the other participants must have figured out our friendship because of how we'd been talking to each other since the very first election. In fact, Sonya assumed that we were friends from the start, too.
The timing couldn't have been more perfect.
Indeed. Regardless, I really should be on my way.
This is a very deceptive choice; the 'good' answer to give here is actually the first option, because Miharu hates 'goodbyes'.
-I'll see you tomorrow.
-Okay. Take care.
I'll see you tomorrow.
She smiles and makes an ever-so-elegant exit from the store. Funny. I made coffee thinking we'd be talking for a while, but the real conversation only began after we'd finished drinking it. I take a moment and stare at Miharu's empty cup before getting back to my usual routine.