Part 90: Faraway
content warning: suicide mention, self-harm mention (scars)
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
07/02 (MON), Early Morning
Allow me to congratulate you on a job well done. You've brought another person's fate to a close tonight. It seems to have placed a heavy burden on your heart, even if you yourself are unaware. Well, you know that you're not alone anymore. That has to be your greatest strength, in my opinion.
I figure I'll wake up in the real world, but it seems fate isn't quite done with me for the night. Instead, I'm face to face with the man that I've grown accustomed to appearing in my dreams. As usual, I can't move or say anything in response. I can only vaguely process what he's telling me.
The card you've gotten your hands on serves as a key to unlocking part of the memories sealed away in your psyche. As such, allow me to do the honors. Consider it a gift for your actions thus far.
BGM: The Memory Remains
It's a scene from my childhood. At the time, I was playing at a nearby park. I say park, but it was a rather famous tourist spot. I went there often as a kid due to my gran being too busy with the store to entertain me. This had to have been before I started elementary school. It was there I met a girl around the same age as me.
She didn't answer my question. It was rare to find other kids there my age, so I probably wanted to play with her. So I kept talking to her. And she kept ignoring me. I eventually gave up and just sat down next to her. She was staring into the distance, seemingly at nothing. When I noticed that, I decided to follow her gaze without another word. Once it was time for the park to close, we both left.
I told her I'd see her next time before we parted ways, but she remained silent.
The day after that... She was there again. In the same spot, staring off into the distance. I sat beside her without a word. Thinking back, I'm amazed I was able to do that. It must've been that I wanted to mimic her or something. I spent the day sitting with her until the park closed. I told her I'd see her next time before we parted.
She spent the day after doing the exact same thing. As did I. As usual, I told her I'd see her next time before we parted. But things changed the day after that.
I'm going somewhere far away tomorrow.
I remember thinking it was weird that she sounded so boyish despite being a girl. I probably should've had a stronger reaction when the girl who had been silent for three days finally talked to me, but I guess that's just how kids were.
Yeah. My dad crashed his car and killed people. Now we need to move because people know he did it. I don't wanna move...
I didn't really understand what she meant at the time. That's why I was able to answer her right away.
Don't worry! You can just come back if you get lonely. I'll probably be here forever.
What's your name?
I'm Rinka. Shishimai Rinka. And you?
I didn't care about her family name. Not like I was old enough to understand the nuance between given and family names. I just made sure to answer people when they asked by reciting what my gran told me to say. We talked and played a lot on that day.
Will you say goodbye today?
She sounded worried when she asked. As usual for the young me, I didn't think about it for very long. So my answer was simple.
Nah! See you next time!
After that day, I never met her there again. At that park, where the oh-so-familiar clock tower had just been built. I guess that, much like how that park has now become our final destination, it also served as our beginning.
BGM: Good Morning (20XX XX XX)
07/02 (MON), Morning
How could I forget something that important?
It doesn't feel like I've had a nightmare when I jolt awake. I normally wake up in a cold sweat whenever that man appears in my dreams.
Looks like Lethe pawed the covers off of me at some point. That explains why I feel so cold. Actually, it's got nothing to do with the temperature. It's got more to do with the fact that I remember the man appearing in my dreams. I'm not sure why, but I'd completely forgotten about him until now. That's right... He's appeared a number of times before.
Some theories claim that the brain organizes one's memories while they sleep, which results in our dreams. It may be possible to dream about past events that you've forgotten based on that theory, but the dreams I have feel more like I'm literally reliving those events. Dreams... Parca said that the dream world represents a wealth of possibilities. In that case, they might not be mere memories, but the representation of a world that could be.
Who in the world is that man?
Yeah, probably pointless to rely on Lethe for an answer. Who knows, maybe that world has dreams of the past as well? Then again, I can't say whether or not cats even dream in the first place.
Ugh. I can't believe I forgot something that important. I really am horrible.
I wonder if Miharu remembers those days. Then again, it's Miharu we're talking about. She definitely does. She probably noticed that I'd forgotten and decided not to bring it up. Those events feel heavier than her confession, somehow. In fact, it might even be possible that she's liked me ever since those days. Maybe I'm thinking too highly of myself. But it would explain why she hates saying goodbye...
I still need to give her an answer...
I feel my cheeks heat up as I recall her confession... It's almost been a week... I wonder if there's a time limit or something for people on the receiving end of the confession. It'd help if someone told me. I'll... put it off for just a bit longer. If she asks about it, I'll apologize and explain. Alan and Federico are still at large, so I don't want to answer her until I settle things with them.
Coming to school every Monday has been something of a cathartic experience for me lately. It's proof that I am able to live and see another week. Miharu is already there by the time I arrive, so we spend some time chatting until class starts.
07/02 (MON), Noon
Once lunch rolls around, I make my way to the rooftop, as usual. Meanwhile, Mao stays in class so she can finish up the homework that needs to be handed in during fifth period. Homework given to us last Tuesday, might I add. I finished it the day I got it, so I get to chill and enjoy my lunch. After some small talk, I decide to bring up an important topic.
BGM: A Dot on a Piece of Paper
Hey, Miharu... About what happened in the Court of Fate last night...
I'm referring to the discussion between Federico and Parca, about whether or not her vessel has access to her powers. While it turns out that isn't the case, Parca did say that she retains the ability to alter fate, even from within her own vessel. That statement seemed to take Miharu by surprise.
You already know my regret, so I'm fine with telling you. Parca likely knows my feelings for you as well. My surprise was from realizing that she may have had a hand in us meeting again here at Amecha.
Apparently Miharu had wanted to see me again ever since that day. That never came about due to her family circumstances, though. They moved to the countryside not long after our last meeting. And they did it because her dad caused an accident in which a child lost their life. Not only did the family get ostracized by the locals, but they faced harassment as well. They refused to let Miharu attend a nearby elementary school with things like that. Once they moved to the countryside, they started using her mother's maiden name instead of her father's. The accident left her father mentally impaired and unable to hold a standard job. It eventually led to him committing suicide when she was in sixth grade.
My father couldn't bear to live with what he had done. Some say he was irresponsible, but I disagree. Of course, it turns out that I inherited his weakness.
Suicide was Miharu's cause of death as well. I know this, but I've never asked why. It might be best that I never know, in truth.
Miharu continues her story. Her father's suicide incited rumors of the accident he caused to spread. The results were even more fierce in such a small rural area. It led to her entire family having to move once again. Having returned to Tokyo, Miharu chose to enter Amecha because it offered scholarships to middle school students and it carried appeal to those wishing to attend college. She only knew my name at the time, so the chances of our meeting again were slim. Especially when you consider that I wasn't part of any clubs or particularly well known. Even so, Miharu's wish to find me again never faltered. She figured she would have the best chance by going to a school in Tokyo.
Just as I was ready to give up, we reunited in high school. You were somehow more cute and charming than I remembered. At first I considered it nothing short of a miracle, but what if Parca altered fate knowing how I felt about you...?
Why would she bother?
So she could enjoy watching us struggle against one another, knowing full well that we'd both become participants. Let's not forget how high the standards are for Amecha compared to your midterm grades. There's no way you would've gotten accepted without a fairly big push from fate itself.
...What was that, a back-handed compliment?
I figured she was joking at first as a way to lighten the mood. But judging by her reaction to my comment, she's serious. Ouch, my pride. Guess I can't blame her. She's been aware of my middling grades since my acceptance, but still. Being told I'm an idiot to my face sucks.
Sorry. Now isn't the appropriate time to discuss this.
No, it's fine. You worry too much. I can do pretty well on exams if I actually put in the effort. That's exactly what I did to get in here, so I'm not about to chalk it up to Parca's influence alone.
Let's say that she did have a hand in our reunion, though. The time we've spent together since then is still ours.
I'm confident in that claim. There's no denying that fate can be, and has been, altered through Divine Selection. The results may not be perfect, but it's clear that there's a power we can't begin to comprehend at play. Still, that doesn't make the time we've spent together meaningless.
...Yeah, you're right. I must be worrying over nothing.
After saying that, she offers a pleasant smile. Her hair dances with the gentle breeze.
Incidentally, remember to study for finals. It might be hard for you, all things considered, but know that you have your whole life ahead of you after this is over with.
Same to you, Miharu. My stance won't change.
The bell rings soon after. It goes to show how long we've been talking. We clean up in a hurry and make our way to class. She never asked about my answer to her confession, despite our being alone.
I feel bad about that...
Mishima Miharu watches Rinka from behind as they make their way back to their classroom. She is under the impression that Rinka has forgotten about their meeting when they were children. Her attitude makes it apparent that she remembers those events, but Miharu understands that either her confession or regret card triggered Rinka's memory. She doesn't mind if Rinka forgot, considering how long ago it was. In fact, it would be a bigger issue if she does remember, based on her attitude toward Miharu. Miharu is willing to forgive Rinka no matter what she does, though.
More importantly, Miharu didn't actually recognize Rinka at first.
BGM: The Memory Remains
It was Miharu's first year at Amecha. She often found herself alone due to a lack of friends besides Mao. Her superb grades and looks caused others to avoid her for reasons only they understood. One day, soon after starting high school, she was on the rooftop by herself, as Mao had business elsewhere. The scars on her wrists were already present. However, due to being alone, she had forgotten to keep them out of sight.
Didn't that hurt?
The school year had just begun, so she didn't know the name of that girl. At first, she thought they might be from the middle school due to their height, but the uniform ran counter to her assumption. Miharu made no attempt to answer their thoughtless question. She was panicking over the possibility of her wrists being seen. Doubly so due to rumors that had begun to spread.
Well, whatever. Not my business. I'm glad the rooftop's open to us though. I was hoping to enjoy the breeze.
After they say that, they sit down right next to Miharu. Miharu swears to herself that she won't speak to them. She gazes toward the horizon instead. They never did try to say anything else to her, though. Miharu eventually caved and braved a glance at the girl. They were gazing into the distance as well. Something sparked within Miharu the moment she looked over. She knew she was right, and yet she couldn't bring herself to speak.
Oh, there's the bell.
Saying that, the girl stood up to leave. Much to Miharu's surprise, she found herself far too nervous to give any kind of response.
Welp, till next time.
That innocuous event was all it took to set Miharu free. It only took her til that afternoon to learn that the girl's name was Shishimai Rinka, and by the end of the next day, they and Mao had become close enough to have lunch and go home together.
Rinka has yet to give her an answer. Miharu is still able to smile whenever she looks at her despite that, however.