Part 83: Determined Once More
06/27 (WED), Morning
Can't say I slept particularly well last night. My heart was racing even when I went to bed. Part of me even entertained the thought that everything else I'd come to see and learn during Divine Selection wouldn't hold a candle to this. Maybe that's true, though. I mean, it makes sense... depending on one's viewpoint of how the human heart works. Even at school, I'm unable to keep my mind off it.
Miharu and Mao get there before me, so I make it a point to give them a cheery greeting to try and switch gears.
BGM: At Amecha Girls' University High School
Oh, 'sup Rinny? You're a bit later than usual today.
H-Hey! Miharu! Awesome to see you!
There's nothing different about Miharu today. She speaks to me like she always does, but it leaves me flustered. You'd think nothing happened last night judging by her attitude.
Mao makes no effort to hide her suspicion by staring at us. Can't blame her when I'm acting like this first thing in the morning.
06/27 (WED), Noon
After battling my way through a grueling gauntlet of classes with less than a third of my typical concentration, the sweet release of lunch break finally arrives. Miharu has some business with one of our teachers, so it's just Mao and myself. Relieving, considering I'm still not sure I can talk to Miharu normally.
I sip my vegetable juice before getting started on my sandwich.
BGM: Regular Ordinary Girlish Chat
So Rinny, did Miharu finally confess?
And the juice flies right back out of my mouth.
...Whoa, amazing. I mean, it was so obvious with the way you were acting and all.
Ack, ack. Couldn't you be a bit more... eloquent? So you knew? About her, uh, feelings for me and stuff?
You might be the only gal in the world who didn't. Even Naorin knows, though I'm not sure if she figured it out herself or if Miharun told her.
So what's your next move?
While vague, it's easy to understand what she's asking. The only thing that comes after a confession is a response.
Nothing for now... I'm still not sure how to process her feelings for me. Doesn't help that I've never had anyone confess to me before, let alone another girl. What would you do if you were me?
A quick and blunt answer as she focuses more on jamming a straw into her strawberry milk. She probably knew I was about to ask...
But what I do know is that it probably took a lot of courage for Miharu to tell you. In which case, I'd say you better take it as seriously as possible. So long as you give her a truly sincere answer, it should work out.
I won't think any less of you if you turn her down, and she'll just go back to being your friend. Not like anything'll change. Then again, I guess I'd be a third wheel if you two end up an item, huh? Might just go to Naorin for company, then...
Hearing Mao ramble on helps to cheer me up a bit. As she said, maybe I don't need to worry about this too much. I mean, I'll still take it seriously. I just won't worry about my answer affecting our friendship.
Actually... wouldn't it change if I said yes? We'd be girlfriends, right? A number of questions come to mind, but I do my best to push them aside and focus on the fact that we'll still be friends, regardless.
I honestly thought love was just some thing you'd see on TV and in manga.
Mao's face contorts in horror at what I just said. Yup... definitely freaked her out with that one. I know more or less why. Even worse, I have no way to defend what I just said, so I try to change the subject instead. Fortunately, we manage to avoid bringing it up again until after lunch. If anything, I feel like I'll be able to set it all aside for now and hang out with Miharu like always.
BGM: Good Morning (20XX XX XX)
06/29 (FRI), Morning
Friday. I've spent my time thinking about both Miharu and Divine Selection. The possibility that both myself and Scale suggested, of everyone being able to survive, weighs on my mind again. Miharu would likely tell me not to bother if I brought it up with her. So maybe I should talk to Naomi about it instead.
I already planned on meeting her after school anyway, so it works out.
I haven't given up on learning the truth behind Divine Selection. Going through a bunch of books and hoping for the best might not be the best approach, but I don't want to stop. I'm a little more knowledgeable when it comes to the architecture and styles related to that place now, at least. For example, the designs aren't just for show. They reflect the time periods in which they were made, and are a result of necessities from those times.
Let's put that aside for now.
I'm best off relying on Naomi.
No need to be reserved at this point. I've already accepted that I need to rely on others to press onward.
Seems like Lethe snuck into my bed while I wasn't paying attention. That serves as a reminder that I should probably change my sheets, what with summer fast approaching.
06/29 (FRI), Evening
C'mon, it's just us, remember?
I laugh when I remember that we've had a similar exchange regarding politeness upon entry before. Naomi doesn't know about Miharu confessing to me. Mao said she's aware of Miharu's feelings for me, but I feel that it's best not to bring it up with everyone. Mao caught on without me saying anything, so I'll chalk that up to a simple accident.
The plan for today is to go through some more books for an hour, and then open up the store. Just as we've moved over to our table and tossed a bunch of books and notebooks on it, Naomi hits me with a suprising question.
So have you made your decision yet?
M-My decision?! Wh-What're you talking about?
Is... something the matter? You said it'd be best to create a situation where none of you can elect one another, so I was wondering if you'd decided to speak with Scale or not.
A wave of relief washes over me. I nearly panicked over the possibility of her having realized the situation with Miharu.
I've already decided on my path going forward.
I haven't told her about my parents, either. Miharu's likely to tell her soon enough. Knowing that, she might be a bit confused by my statement. That's the answer I've reached, though. Nothing will change it. I felt a real connection with my parents when Miharu told me about them. I'm much younger and less competent than they were at the time, but the fact remains that I would do everything I could to help save a powerless child. That fundamental desire serves as a link between us.
In fact, that may very well have been what's influenced my actions up till now. In other words, I've been acting on instinct. Everything I did for Keiko, Sonya, and Shigetsugu was all by my own will, yet at the same time, it wasn't. The blood flowing through my veins is what spurred me on.
That all changes now. I won't let my blood or my instinct influence how I live my life anymore.
I'm not doing this because I want to save anyone. I'm doing this because I want to live. I want to return to the normal life I had with all of you. I'm fine with eliminating the other participants till it's just me and Miharu. What happens after that is anyone's guess.
The fact of the matter is that I don't care about the others anymore. The best I can do for them is acknowledge what they did during their lives and make sure to never forget that. Are you sure you still want to shoulder this burden with me, knowing that?
Scenery from the park flashes through my mind. I told her not long after Divine Selection had started that I may not have it in me to shoulder the burden of eliminating other participants. Naomi offered to shoulder it with me back then. But the resolve I have now wasn't a factor before. I had yet to awaken to who I really was. If there's anyone I have to thank for doing so, it's...
There we go. That's the Rinka I know.
What's that mean?
Naomi continues, struggling to overcome her shyness.
Well, erm... What I mean is... nothing's changed. About you and Miharu being the only survivors and about me being willing to shoulder that burden with you. You don't need to worry at all!
Naomi answers with a smile. Now it's all clear. Everything I do from here on will be of my own will. This is my path now.
I'm curious about Scale, though. It's possible that he opted not to break through Miharu's defenses because he knew that you would elect him later.
Yeah... I'm pretty sure he thinks he can win me over to his side, hence why he left us the way he did.
It's entirely possible that I would have taken his suggestion to heart before Miharu's confession, too. It's far easier to think about ways for everyone to survive. Looking back, I was basically turning my eyes away from reality.
He's likely to pull something soon as his response to Miharu's admission. At the very least, he'll be looking to delay his inevitable election...
Just as Naomi finishes her sentence, the phone rings. Not my cell phone. The store's landline. All inquiries regarding orders and supplies go straight to my gran right now and this isn't a place that requires reservations, so it's rare for that phone to ring at all. Knowing that, I prepare myself before picking up.
Good evening. Thank you for contacting Lion House.
Good evening, yourself. It's your good pal, Scale Jones. I still haven't looked up your cell number, so I settled for this.
I make eye contact with Naomi when I hear his voice. No doubt she's realized it's him, too. There's something disturbing about what he said, though. The way he said it implies that he could find information pertaining to me whenever he wanted.
I'd like to talk things out, just the two of us, if possible. No need to worry, haha! It's only regarding Divine Selection. I know a bar called MILK CROWN nearby. Would you mind meeting there around 8 p.m.?
He doesn't even expect me to decline. Once I agree, he shares the bar's location. Turns out it's not too far at all. I can walk there without issue.
I look forward to seeing you.
The call lasts a mere two minutes.
Did things... work out?
Sounds like he wants to talk. Probably thinks I'm the easier target since Miharu won't hear him out, but that's fine. I'll make my way over later.
Naomi looks concerned at first, but nods in agreement a moment later.