Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly ~ Real World ~

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(Gotta clear out more ends until I unlock the character routes. I’m going to do a quick summary of everything that happens at the beginning up to this end, but if you want more details then please read the first few Psychedelica posts I have from the Prologue to Yamato.)

Quick summary before we head into this other quick end so I can continue in my journey of unlocking the actual routes LOL. It doesn’t matter what choices you choose at the beginning I believe (although I just chose all the Yamato ones again) so long as you pick the last choice which asks why everyone arrived here. This choice only unlocks after you’ve gotten the Best End, iirc.

*** PROLOGUE ***

Beniyuri wakes up in a strange mansion with no memories. She meets up with Hikage and they are both saved from the monsters by Monshiro. Kagiha appears and leads them to a refuge. But then they hear a scream and so Beniyuri runs out to save Karasuba and Yamato. The team gives themselves names from the plates on the door and also find out that they are all amnesiac and that the master of the mansion wants them to complete this item called the “kaleidoscope”. They can also manifest guns to fight the monsters.

*** CHAPTER ONE ***

The team finds the pieces of the kaleidoscope and complete it. They are then told by a messenger, called Usagi, that they need to collect fragments to complete the kaleidoscope. The fragments are held by monsters and so they need to exterminate them. As a reward for completing the kaleidoscope, everyone is also given back their childhood memories. Beniyuri has a cry about her previous life and is comforted by Kagiha.

*** CHAPTER TWO ***

Everyone trains themselves to manifest and use their guns. Beniyuri is taught personally by Yamato, and is the last to pick this skill up. Anyway, they go on their monster hunting expedition with Beniyuri choosing who she wants to explore the mansion with. After that they are given another reward by the master of the mansion in the form of Usagi delivering food to them. Everyone has dinner around a table and Beniyuri feels that everyone is getting closer together. She also manages to see Usagi’s face.

*** CHAPTER THREE ***

Yamato has been irritable lately and so Beniyuri visits him with hot chocolate. They have a talk about their families and lives before Yamato reveals that he has a younger twin brother who has been in a coma for ten years. Yamato is impatient to get out of this mansion because he’s the only one who’s been talking constantly to his brother, and the doctors say that this gives his brother the best chance to wake up.

Beniyuri comforts Yamato but runs out of his room when he tries to touch her, for some reason. In her room, the master of the mansion suddenly sends her a photo of the twins and asks her if she wants to know more about Yamato or not. Regardless of how she answers, everyone is woken up by Yamato screaming and rushes out of the refuge to see him transform into a monster in their face. Yamato runs off before they can do anything.

After this event, Usagi visits them and reveals to them that this world is the interval between life and death. Meaning, everyone here is almost dead and the only way for them to return to life is to complete kaleidoscope, since it’ll grant the user a wish. And then Beniyuri reveals to everyone the photo of the twins that the master of the mansion sent to her. Hikage realizes that he’s Yamato’s little brother and staggers off to be alone in his room. Everyone is shocked and a bit broken from the sudden loss of one of their members.

Beniyuri is distressed in her room and in her anguish a thought starts to rise:

  • She wants to talk to someone
  • Can they return Yamato to normal?
  • She wants to solve the mysteries of this mansion
  • It’d be nice if everything was a dream
  • (Why did they arrive here?)

She wonders why they arrived here. It is said that this place is the interval between life and death but she doesn’t feel like she died. She covers her face with both hands and escapes into the darkness. With her eyes closed tightly, she doesn’t know where she is anymore.

Beniyuri decides that she’s in her house. Right now, she’s comfortably in her house. The moment she raises her head she’ll see a familiar view. There will be a window that is partially open with a pleasant wind blowing in and then… she draws the nostalgic place in her mind. In her mind, the detailed reproduction wraps around her gently. In the moment that she feels at ease, she is struck by a strong sense of drowsiness.

Minato Ai awakens to the familiar sound of a device. Eh? What is she doing in this place? Yawning loud enough to crack her jaw, she sits up from the sofa that she had fallen asleep on. The first thing that enters her vision is the messy dining table. Next is the kitchen with the mountain of plates and clothes that are thrown around. The room is silent with no other inhabitants.

Ai recalls that she had finished her breakfast and was cleaning up while falling in a doze but when did she actually fall asleep? She also feels like she saw a scary dream. A device beeps again and she realizes that there’s an incoming calll. Grabbing the phone, which had just beeped again, she impatiently presses the call button. She answers the phone and hears Himeno Akari asks her if she still hasn’t left the house yet and that it’s been twenty minutes pass the time they promised to meet.

She greets him and then echoes his words in confusion before yelping when she realizes what time it actually is. Aki is surprised by her reaction before asking her if she went back to sleep after waking up the first time. She confirms that sheepishly, which makes him realize why they couldn’t connect a call to her earlier. Ai doesn’t understand how this happened since it’s never happened to her before.

At any rate, Ai tells him that she’ll prepare immediately and she’d like them to wait! Ending the call, she flies out of the foyer. The moment she opens the door she sees Aki leaning against the wall, and he calls her out on being slow. She apologizes breathlessly and can see that he’s called countless times. He notes that this is unusual for her and asks if anything happened. She can only answer that she was feeling drowsy after eating breakfast and so she fell asleep on the sofa.

She has the feeling that she had a long dream but… He asks her what kind of dream it was. She answers that it was a scary dream, one where she wanted to run away but couldn’t run away. Aki thinks it might be implying something. She repeats his words and he nods. But then he checks the time display on his phone and raises his voice in alarm. They’re late and they’ll be scolded by the teachers if they come to school at this time.

And so, he wants to know if she wants to go somewhere to play? They can return for classes after lunch. Ai protests and tells him not to say any jokes. They need to hurry and they can still make it if they cut through alleys. Aki complains because that route tires him out and he doesn’t like that. She narrows her eyes at him and he tsks before agreeing. She’s as goody-goody as always, in addition to being his senior.

With a wry smile, Aki starts to walk. Ai confirms that she locked her door first before chasing after his back. In the moment that they pass a game center, the person walking beside her disappears after noting that the crane games have changed and now they’re featuring mascots from the Tengu series. Ai scolds him for stopping because they’ll really be late at this rate. He reassures her that it’s fine and there’s still time if they run along the way. Moreover, whose fault is it that they’re late?

Ai winces and then admits that she feels bad about that, but she’s told him to go on first if they’re going to be late. He tells her that it’s a useless suggestion to him because he doesn’t remember the way to the school! He needs someone reliable like her. She doesn’t think that’s something to be proud of and to thrust his chest out about. In the first place, if he doesn’t know how to get there then how did he make it for the school entrance ceremony? He went by himself, didn’t he?

Aki admits that he was lost on the way there but then butterflies guided him to the school. Ai sighs at his exaggerated words, but he just seems proud of returning that story on her. At any rate, she just bites her lip and pushes his back. She doesn’t want him to joke around anymore and she’s pleading with him to move his feet now! Aki laughs and calls her cute when she’s impatient.

And then he tells her that he’ll obediently go to school if she promises to go on a date with him after school, although he just wants to buy a few things and have her accompany him (so it’s not really a date). Ai thinks on it before agreeing so long as they’re just buying things and so he needs to move then! Aki points out that he’s walking already so it should be fine. He wants her to promise him their plans for after school though! Ai returns that she’ll only promise if they arrive at school without being late.

Aki yells out that they need to move then! Ai is left to call out for him to wait when he suddenly changes his attitude and dashes off. And then, in the moment that she crosses the intersection, as she chases Aki she feels a strong glance at her that makes her turn around. But… maybe it was her imagination? Right now, she did feel as though someone was looking at her though. Aki calls back and asks her if something is the matter. She reassures him that it’s nothing and continues to walk towards him after seeing nothing in the crowd.

Someone seems shocked to see the two of them though.

At any rate, she was reunited with her childhood friend Aki at the school entrance ceremony for high school after ten years. Under the red and white banners decorating the gymnasium, the second years were lined up to welcome the newcomers and she saw a familiar face among them. Features that still retain their childishness, eyes larger than the other boys that were his peers, a mouth gently curled up, and soft honey-colored hair. In the instant she confirmed that it was Aki, he also seemed to notice her.

On that day, after homeroom ended and she came out of the classroom, Aki had been waiting in the hall in the new uniform. Ten years ago, Aki had changed schools, had a weak body, and had a personality that was easily depressed. But, on the contrary, there in front of her was a lively boy that she couldn’t imagine. And in that instant she knew that it’s been a long time. He called her “Minato-senpai” which was a different address than the one he used when they were young.

And then, in the next morning, she found him outside of her house so that they could walk to school together. The first thing he said was that he didn’t know the way. And so months pass like this. Most likely, it was an excuse. She doesn’t know the reason but, because she was beaten to the punch, she never asked for anything more than that. She wasn’t used to dealing with this version of Aki who became strong. It was because he’s her precious childhood friend and someone she is very close with… and also because she was afraid of forcibly opening something inside of her.

After their lessons, they met up at their school gates and returned to the business district. Aki wants to eat some crepes. They had finished their shopping and were just walking around aimlessly when the person beside her raised his voice. He points out a board that is advertising natto yogurt cream. I FEEL NAUSEOUS JUST TRYING TO IMAGINE THIS FLAVOR. He’s really curious. Ai doesn’t know what to say about that and prefers normal things like strawberry custard and chocolate banana.

Aki thinks those selections are boring and she doesn’t really like to challenge things, huh. Ai thinks natto-flavored anything is a bit too much. At any rate, she notes that he always eats a lot of bread during lunch break and then eats on the way home, all without getting fat… she’s jealous. He asks her if she’s complimenting him because it sounds like she’s treating him like a bag of bones and that hurts.

He’d like her to know that if he strips he’s fairly well and even has some muscles. He yanks his shirt open, causing Ai to yelp before turning her face away with her heart pounding. Aki pouts and tells her not to scream like that and her overreaction makes it seem like he’s sexually harassing her. THAT’S BECAUSE NO NORMAL PERSON JUST WHIPS THEIR SHIRT OFF. She retorts that it’s already sexual harassment and orders him to get his shirt back to normal. He’s happy so long as she knows that he’s not skin and bones.

Ai blurts out that she gets it already, so…! He stills looks unsatisfied as he returns his clothes to normal before commenting on how she isn’t used to males, which won’t do in this society. She tells him that he’s being unnecessarily meddlesome. He continues on though, ignoring her, to say that his meaning is that he’ll help her become immune and so she should go out with him! She just stares at him blankly. Eh? He repeats himself slowly and asks her if she won’t go out with him?

He doesn’t mean going out to shop or anything either, but as girlfriend and boyfriend. She can’t believe he’s joking again. He denies that he’s joking and he’s being serious! He’s conveyed his feelings plenty of times. She doesn’t believe him, especially because his confession was so nonchalant. He pouts at how quickly she avoided his question. She can’t trust him, huh. But, while complaining about it, he doesn’t pursue the topic any further. In her mind, she can’t believe he’s constantly spouting these lighthearted lines. It’s something she couldn’t imagine the Aki of old to do.

They continue to walk for a little while on a street with few people until she notices a street stall. It’s a sensation of being distracted by a single abnormality in the bustling street. Glittering accessories are laid out on a blue cloth and there is an old man at the stall that is nodding off. Aki comments on how unusual it is for a stall to be there, especially since there’s no meaning in a stall here when it’s not a busy street.

Ai agrees but for some reason finds herself curious about it. She finds herself drawn to it and approaches the stall to greet the man quietly. Aki points out that he’s sleeping and so she doesn’t need to greet him. She shrugs and says that it was just in case. They both lower their eyes to the table top. Amongst all the accessories glittering in the sunlight, there is one that catches her eyes.

It’s… a hairpin with a butterfly motif. She constantly feels drawn to look at it and finds that it is glittering strangely. Aki notices her look and comments on how rare it is for something to catch her eye, since she usually doesn’t have any materialistic desires. Does she want it? She hesitates before shaking her head and says that she was just looking. She actually really wants it but she also feels hesitant to take it.

Aki notices that there’s a tag attached to it and tries to read it out, but he can’t. Pushu… ke…? Ai points out that it’s “PsycheDelos”. I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING HERE. Ai wonders if it’s the name of the shop? What does it mean? Suddenly, someone tells her that it means “that world”. Ai looks up to see that the old man has woken up and is staring at her with both eyes. He continues on to say that Aki wasn’t mistaken.

“Psyche” is a foreign word for “soul” and it also holds the meaning of “butterfly” as well. “Delos” means “embodiment”. In olden times, butterflies were said to be souls and the butterflies, having thrown away their physical bodies, would head to the other side. A place with a countless number of those butterflies would be “that world”, in other words “PsycheDelos”. In the present it is also known by its English name as “Psychedelica”.

Ai repeats those unfamiliar words in her mouth. And then a strange sensation is born in her chest. The old man goes on to say that these are mourning jewelery used to mourn the deceased and for her to be so interested in one must mean that she lost someone dear to her? Ai stiffens and stutters, but the old man tells her that he won’t ask any further. For one to be drawn to this accessory means they have someone in their heart.

At his words, a sleeping memory inside of her starts to waken. An important someone… an unforgettable someone… She spaces out as she digs into that memory. But she’s drawn back to the present when Aki reminds her that they should get going. It’s going to get dark soon and it’s her turn for dinner, isn’t it? She startles at the reminder and thanks him before leaving the place where she spoke to that old man.

Later, Aki yawns in the evening light and comments on how it feels like they just made it in time. He’s pouting unhappily though as if he didn’t get enough time to play. She reminds him that it’s about time to return home though and final exams are coming up, so they need to study. He grumbles and asks her not to remind him about things he doesn’t like; he’d much rather think about summer break. She points out that he’ll be buried in supplementary classes if he gets red marks on his final exam, so he needs to work hard to avoid that.

Aki only sighs at how severely realistic she is. Ai blinks in confusion though when he sighs exaggeratedly and continues to walk with her, despite his house being in the opposite direction. She points it out. It can’t be that he really doesn’t know his way around, right? Aki only tells her that even though the days are longer now, it’s around 7PM and so he’ll walk her home. She blinks and he asks her why she’s surprised.

In her mind she can’t help but think on how this makes it seem like a date though if he walks her home, despite her refusing. Ai reassures him that she’ll be fine alone and it’ll be late by the time he gets home if he makes a round trip like this. He tries to protest but she reassures him strongly that she’ll be fine and so he relents. But he asks her to stick out her hand and, when she does, places the hairpin that she had been looking at in her hand.

Upon her shocked look, he explains that he bought it secretly because she liked it. She hurriedly blurts out that it isn’t her birthday and so she can’t accept such an expensive thi– but he interrupts and says loudly that he can’t hear her! His ears aren’t working all of a sudden! She grumbles out his name but he just grins and tells her that he’ll part ways here and come get her tomorrow! She can’t be late! He gives her a large wave before turning around and walking away.

Ai watches him walk away without anything to say. He gave her a present… just when did he buy it? She’s really happy that he noticed her wanting it and gave her this present but receiving an accessory from a guy is a bit… In her lightly curled hand, the pin with the butterfly motif rests. The four wings shine like jewels and just tilting it slightly makes it look like a shooting star. Ai admits that it’s really pretty like the fragments they picked up at the time.

She recalls how the old man called these mourning jewelry and she didn’t know that those existed. An accessory to mourn the deceased… She wonders if Aki gave her this to please her or… Her thoughts are interrupted by someone calling out her name. She turns around to see a young man with sanpaku eyes looking at her in surprise. He confirms again that she’s Ai, right? He thought he saw her in the morning but wasn’t sure.

Ai realizes that this man is Takuya, who used to live in her neighborhood. He used to bully her all the time, right? He chuckles at how she can remember that before noting that it’s been a long time. Ai points out excitedly that it’s been ten years or so. Takuya was one of her childhood friends and now he’s grown tall to the point where she has to look up or else she won’t be able to meet his eyes.

She asks him where he goes to school. He answers that he goes to Nagikou. She recognizes that school as being an advanced school, which surprises her since she didn’t know his mind was that good; but she can accept it being possible. He recognizes her uniform as belonging to Shirasuzu. She tells him that he’s right before saying that it’s close by; she’s also surprised by how close he lives. He tells her laughingly that those are his words.

They exchange some more light conversation before he raises his voice in surprise. He needs to leave now because he’s in a rush! She’s a bit disappointed since they just met, but then she suggests that they exchange contact information. He agrees and, after they confirm the exchange, he apologizes for rushing off when he’s the one who called out to her. He promises to call her again though. She nods and says her goodbyes before watching him disappear into the crowd with a grin.

Returning home, Haruka welcomes her back. Ai announces that she’s back to Haruka and Koro, who brushes up against her legs. She gives him a pat before lowering her bag to the ground. Their father is working overtime and so she will be making dinner for tonight. What shall she make? Haruka asks her where she went after school since she’s later than usual. Ai tells her that she went shopping with Aki.

Haruka hums thoughtfully before commenting slyly on how well her sister gets along with Aki. They go to school together every day and so they might as well start dating. Ai denies the whole thing being like that. Haruka thinks Aki definitely likes her though and it’s cruel for her not to answer to that appeal. Ai sighs and wonders when Haruka started replying cheekily to her like that.

She washes her hand and, while rummaging through the fridge, Haruka takes out the kitchen knife from under the sink and prepares the ingredients. Ai thinks on what a good kid her little sister is for helping out. Haruka continues on to point out that Ai is bad with men and she herself already has a person she likes. Ai tells her that she has a impertinent little sister and so her hands are full.

Haruka asks if she’s talking about her in which case she’s willing to cut their sibling bond. At Ai’s look of surprise, Haruka tells her to keep this a secret from their father but she’s promised to marry Makoto, a kid in her class. Ai repeats her words faintly. Haruka goes on to say that she’s going to have a huge diamond ring one day and she’ll invite her sister to the ceremony! Ai laughs and thanks her. It’ll be nice if that promise is granted. Haruka gives a large nod and smiles innocently. That smile is dazzling to Ai.

At night, after dinner and a bath, Ai takes out something from her room. She places the hairpin she received from Aki and this thing in her hand and feels as if they are glimmering in response to each other. They really are similar: the hairpin and the fragment from summer camp. The jewel glimmering in the wings of the butterfly match exactly with the glass fragment that had been resting deep inside her table.

This fragment was found by her and four others during the summer camp when they were children and when they went into a western mansion on the lake. She recalls how Natsuki gave it to her because was really pretty, and it’s her most precious treasure. She murmurs Natsuki’s name and her heart, deep in her chest, clenches. Amongst the five of them, Natsuki was the oldest and so he always watched over them kindly. She loved Natsuki.

And so, when in the park he made a ring of white clover and proposed to her, she immediately and happily agreed. She wanted to be Natsuki’s wife. Even though they were young, it was a real love. It was a true promise to marry. But… Natsuki died. All of a sudden, he disappear from in front of her. Ever since then, whenever she gets close with other men she feels guilty. Her memories and nostalgia continue to repeat, as if she were a lover who suddenly became alone.

She wonders whether they would be going to the same school, if Natsuki were by her side. She’s sure he would have grown taller but that bashful smile wouldn’t have changed. She murmurs that she wants to meet Natsuki. And then she’s brought of her thoughts by the ringing of her phone. It’s a message from Aki and it reads that he wants to eat ice cream, so they should get some tomorrow on the way home.

Ai knows that Aki is aware of how Natsuki is still in her heart. But, ever since their reunion at school, he’s never brought it up even once. He’s approaching her with jokes and gently avoiding the topic of Natsuki. But she wonders just how serious he is. She likes Aki but it’s different from the way she liked Natsuki. He has started to joke more about dating though and it makes her wonder if she should stop meeting him when it’s just the two of them.

How should she respond? She grabs her phone after placing the hairpin and glass fragment into a pouch. Ah, she knows! And, after a moment’s hesitation and composing the message, she presses the send button.

The next day, after school, Aki asks lowly why this guy is here. Takuya snaps back that he didn’t know he would be here either! Ai tries to get the two of them to calm down and smiles warmly. Yesterday night, after promising to go out with Aki, she also called Takuya. She tells Aki that she met Takuya after such a long time and then thought the three of them could hang out together. Was it this bad between these two?

Both of them have dark expressions on their face instead of emotional faces after their ten year reunion. Aki notes that Takuya’s uniform belongs to Nagikou and he’s surprised a simple-minded person like him got into such a good school. Or did he enter from the back door? His parents are rich. Aki asks about his studies. Takuya only smirks and notes that in the time that they haven’t seen each other, Aki has become a very irritation person. Surprising, considering that he used to be a crybaby.

Aki only responds lightly that it’s because the captain of a bad personality wasn’t there to make him cry over anything. The two of them continue to exchange abusive words to each other. Ai starts to giggle because rather than them being unable to get along it’s more like… Takuya asks her roughly why she’s laughing. She points out that even though they haven’t met each other in such a long time, they’re on the same wavelength.

Both of them shout out at her that they are not! Only to gasp at the same time and look at each other. And then they huff and turn away. Ai laughs before pointing out awkwardly that they’re all gathered here at any rate and so they should have fun today. She grabs them both by the arms and drags them into the shopping district.

First stop is the game center! Aki hesitantly asks if she intends to take a picture with the three of them in the photo booth. Ai looks at him oddly and answers that she wants to have an anniversary picture, which is why she came here. Takuya reminds her that she’s not a child but she ignores him and tells them impatiently that the countdown is starting and they need to make a pose! Aki groans at how troublesome this is.

Second stop is a family restaurant where they take a break. Takuya makes a jibe about Aki’s picky tastes and asks how he was raised at home. Aki retorts by pointing out that they’re not competing to see who eats fastest and so Takuya can slow down. Takuya explains that his food will get cold if he eats slower! But then he wonders angrily why he even needs to listen to Aki’s words. Aki snaps out that Takuya is the one who started it! Ai tries to mediate and offers something sweet to them to improve their mood. Takuya hesitates before telling her that she’s lost track of their conversation. Aki is shocked at how the goldfish parfait isn’t a legend.

After they catch their breath, they go around to many various shops. Ai asks him if he found anything interesting. Aki thinks he has and shows her how cute the mascot caterpillar character, Mojamoja-kun, is. She… thinks it’s a bit too unique. Takuya reminds her that she’s Aki’s senior and so she should tell him clearly that he has no sense. Aki only shakes his head because Takuya is the one with no sense for beauty. Takuya retorts that he doesn’t want to hear this from someone like Aki. Ai only laughs nervously.

And then they go to an ice cream shop that Aki recommends. Ai notices that Takuya only ordered a drink. He doesn’t want ice cream? He tells her that he doesn’t like sweet things and he’s surprised by how much she can eat. Aki makes a big show of how Takuya is a hater of sweets. Is he also the type to look cool and drink black coffee?

Takuya wonders who even thinks like that and asks if Aki is a kid. Aki retorts that only a child would insult someone by calling them a child. Ai exasperatedly calls them both large kids for fighting like this. Both of them repeat her words in a shocked tone. At any rate, the three of them pass the time rowdily with the two of them, Takuya and Aki, continuing to argue with one another.

Soon it’s evening and Ai talks about how much fun she had and how it’s been a long time since she was so merry. Takuya agrees and it’s been a long time since he’s experienced losing track of time while walking around. The number of people in suits on the streets increases and Ai realizes that it’s almost time to part ways. Aki comments loudly on how it would have been more fun if “someone” hadn’t been here. Takuya tells him to stop complaining about someone intruding.

Aki asks him about his persecution complex because he didn’t say anything about Takuya at all! Takuya is grinning as he retorts that Aki was looking at him as he was talking, with narrowed eyes. Ai giggles because even though the two of them have grown these things won’t change. Takuya is still Takuya and Aki is still Aki. Watching the two of them fight brings back memories of her childhood. A nostalgic memory of the five of them in the park during the evening after they’ve ran around.

Ai murmurs that it’d be more fun if everyone was gathered here. Both of them turn to look at her and Ai hurriedly covers her mouth at her unintentional slip. She rebukes her mouth for running off like that in front of them and looks down, enduring her regret. Takuya shifts the bag he is carrying before facing her and telling her that he’ll leave here since he has somewhere to go. Ai hurriedly nods and thanks him.

He thanks her back for inviting him and admits that he would have liked to stay longer. She understands that he’s busy though and is just glad that he came. Aki shoos him away and tells him to leave already. Takuya clucks his tongue and threatens to choke Aki the next time they see each other. And then, acting as if he didn’t notice her blunder, Takuya turns around and walks away. She’s glad because she wouldn’t have known what to say if he reacted to her earlier words. It accidentally came out of her mouth but she knows it’s an untouchable topic.

Aki notes that they should get going to. Ai points out that he’s mistaken his way home again but then realizes that he’s going to walk her back again. Aki confirms that he’s walking her back but also adds that he wants to talk to her about something.

But even though he said he wanted to talk he doesn’t say anything as they walk to her home. They even walk in silence without the usual lighthearted talk. Ai wonders what’s wrong since it’s her first time seeing a silent Aki. Usually he continues to talk even if they have no topic. Ai comments loudly on how they walked around a lot today and she’s tired. She has the feeling that she’ll sleep well tonight! Aki grunts in acknowledgement.

Ai continues on about how Takuya hasn’t changed at all. Oh, but he’s grown taller and his voice is lower! Aki grunts. Ai falls silent and wonders what the matter is. All of a sudden his mood changed and she doesn’t understand. She peeks at him out of the corner of her eyes but Aki turns to look at her at the same time and their eyes meet. He suddenly murmurs the word park, which makes her pause in confusion.

He elaborates and tells her that the park they used to play in is close. Shall they go there? Both of them head to the park and Ai looks around at the playground they used to play in, which feels like it still contains their presence even now. She can see the playground slide and the jungle gym. There is the scent of thick vegetation and freshly green trees surrounding everything. It’s like she’s caught in a time slip.

It’s been a while since she came here since the walks she takes Koro on are different and she hasn’t played on the equipment since elementary school. She looks around at all the corners of this playground which feels much smaller than it did in the past. Aki, who was walking ahead, turns around slowly.

Ai starts to say his name but he interrupts and notes that she’s been avoiding him today, huh. He grants that she might have wanted to have Takuya hang out with them but wasn’t it also planned because she didn’t want to be alone together with him? Ai doesn’t know what to say and Aki doesn’t have his usual humorous smile. Instead, he has a complicated expression which shows none of his feelings.

She hesitantly tells him that she didn’t do that and he must be mistaken. He steps closer and smiles before saying that, in that case, they can go out together tomorrow then? And the day after that, and the day after that day, and the next. She hesitates and he steps back again before pointing out that her expression is the answer to that. She doesn’t hate him but she doesn’t want to be alone with him, huh?

Because he’s on the mark, she can’t say anything. Aki continues on though uncaring of her lack of response. He asks if she still likes Natsuki. Is she not aware of him because of Natsuki? She smiles weakly and asks him to stop joking. He replies that he wouldn’t joke about this, right? She knows that but she’s extremely shaken right now to have the topic of Natsuki brought up when they’ve been avoiding it ever since their reunion.

Aki tells her quietly that he likes her. He was drawn to her strong optimism in the past. But after the accident and their reunion, she’s changed a little from the past. However her voice, the way she talks, and her smile hasn’t changed at all… and he’s grown to like her more. THE CREEPY MUSIC KIND OF TERRIFIES ME. He admits that he tends to talk jokingly but he properly conveyed it, didn’t he? And that’s why she’s running away from his feelings and clinging onto the illusion of Natsuki, right?

Ai tries to get him to stop talking like that, but he interrupts and shouts out that she’s always running away when Natsuki is already dead! Her eyes widen and he flinches back, closing his mouth as if realizing he said something wrong. A heavy silence visits them. In her mind, Ai knows that Natsuki has already died and ever since then something dark has settled in her heart. She tells him quietly that she knows that.

Aki apologizes because he didn’t intend to say that. But those words that had been launched wrap around her heart like a spell. Ai points out that he’s changed and is completely different from how he was in the past. He used to be more gentle and sensitive and… Aki snarls out that he could care less about the past! She’s startled but he continues on to snap out that he’s different from the past him and he thinks he’s changed as well!

He’s not a princess anymore who can be bullied and he’s not a crybaby. He doesn’t ever want to be like that again! She’s startled at his sudden vehemence. Once again an uncomfortable silence descends on them. It feels like no matter what words they choose they’ll both hurt each other. Aki stares at the ground for a while before suddenly calling out her name. He asks her if she knows where he went for middle school.

She’s confused by the change in topic. But he continues on to ask if she knows what kind of clubs he joined, what kind of friends he had, and what kind of a life he had? The him that had changed schools but hadn’t entered high school yet. She hesitates and realizes that they haven’t talked about that before. Aki notes that even though they go to school together every day… she never asked.

He accuses her of only seeing the past him and not having any desire of wanting to know about the present him. He stares at her firmly and asks her to look at the current him for a moment. She hesitantly says his name. He asks again, shakily, for her to look at him. Her feelings are shaken by the sadness in his voice. She didn’t know that these were his thoughts until now. She didn’t notice at all. And then he averts his eyes and apologizes before informing her that he’s going home. He can only escort her up to here. She nods. He starts to walk home but turns around for a second, as if wanting to say something, before continuing on his way home.

Ai starts to walk home and thinks back on his words about her just seeing the past him. It’s true that she’s been looking for the childhood Aki that she knew in the current him. And she has compared on how much he’s changed. She sighs to expel the countless words that continue to float to her mind. She’s been struck by the reality that she’s been desperately trying to endure and avert her eyes from. Natsuki is already dead. It’s like a swollen topic that is there despite no one talking about it.

Once every year, in the town that she lives in, they go to a summer camp event for children. Ten years ago, she participated with her good friends Natsuki, Aki, and the twins, Takuya and Kazuya. They jumped onto a bus that took them outside the city to a camping place in the forest. During their free time, they approached the lake there. On top of that wide lake was an island with an old western-styled building.

That building, with no human presence, was like a castle out of the stories to their young eyes. With her heart pounding, she tempted everyone under the label of an “exploration” and entered the mansion, ignoring Natsuki’s worries about it being dangerous. The mansion was devastated to the point of being called ruins. But that atmosphere drew them in and they became engrossed in exploring the mansion. Sunlight poured in from holes in the ceiling and reflected through glass windows. Butterflies that they had never seen before rested on the vegetation growing through the broken tiles. Charmed by this majestic spectacle, they didn’t notice the cold droplets on their cheeks from the weather.

Rain. By the time they felt it, it was pouring down ferociously. They realized that the water in the lake was rising and hurried over the only strip of land connecting back to the forest. On the way, Kazuya exclaimed that he dropped the ribbon she gave him and returned to the mansion alone. In the end, both she and Natsuki went back with him and somehow found the ribbon. But by then the strip of land was submerged under the water. In a hurry, they crossed the path again but their feet were dragged into the lake by the tide and they drowned.

After that, she woke up in the hospital with her life saved but was told the sad news. Natsuki, who saved both her and Kazuya, drowned and died in their place. To be accurate, Natsuki’s remains haven’t been found. But she was told that it’s unthinkable for him to be alive from that incident. Ever since then, everyone became separated and moved away except for her.

Ai murmurs Natsuki’s name and thinks on how if she hadn’t invited everyone to explore this wouldn’t have happened. If they hadn’t tried to cross the lake. If she hadn’t tied the ribbon. If they hadn’t participated in the summer camp. Although these assumptions are lined up, there is only regret left afterwards. And then she started to avoid deep relationships with people and only keep the barest minimum contact.

She’s scared of losing things. And so she’s scared of having things. Those thoughts are her foundation. She hasn’t taken one step forward since that time and has only ran away from her memories. Suddenly, she’s reminded and wonders about what happened to Kazuya. Is he attending the same school as Takuya? She hasn’t asked Takuya about Kazuya after all that. She takes out her phone nonchalantly and starts to input his number. OH GOD THIS IS NOT GOING TO GO WELL.

But then she hesitates and feels awkward about calling him since he said he had something to do. Now that she thinks about it, he was in a hurry yesterday too. Where does he go at a time like this? Ai startles though when she realizes that she’s pressed the call button while thinking. W-What should she do? She’s calling Takuya! A curt voice answers the phone. She greets Takuya with a stutter.

He’s surprised to hear from her since they had just met. Did something happen? She hesitates and thinks on how she’d just trouble him if she told him she called the wrong number and so she decides to ask her question bluntly. She asks what Kazuya is doing since it slipped her mind when they had met up. Takuya makes a startled noise before falling silent, which prompts her curiosity. She asks him if something happened.

Takuya replies that nothing happened and… Kazuya is with him right now. She’s surprised to hear that and asks if he can pass the phone then. Once again he falls silent before hesitantly asking her if she wants to meet Kazuya. She tells him in confusion that she’d like to meet him if she can. He tells her that she can see Kazuya if she can come to them right now. She quickly asks where they are and follows Takuya’s directions.

Later, Ai excuses herself as she enters the room and Takuya apologizes for making her come all this way. The place he had called her to is a private room in a nearby hospital. And in the center, on a reclining bed, is the nostalgic form of a young man. Takuya softly tells Kazuya that their childhood friend, Ai, came. He remembers, right? He was attached to her when they were children, after all.

Ai sucks in a breath as she listens to Takuya gently talk to Kazuya. She can see how Kazuya’s face has gotten older and yet there are remnants of his childhood. For a moment, something hot rises up in her throat. She confirms with Takuya that Kazuya hasn’t woken up since the accident…? Takuya tells her that it’s real and, as she can see, Kazuya is in a vegetative state. Since that accident, even though nothing happened to his body his mind hasn’t returned and he’s continued to sleep like this. It’s like his soul had been left behind in that lake.

Takuya goes on to say that a doctor told him that even though there’s no response from Kazuya like this, there is a chance that Kazuya will wake up if he receives stimulation. And that’s why he comes to the hospital to move Kazuya’s body and talk to him. Takuya then urges Ai to take a seat instead of standing there. She thanks him blankly and lowers herself into the seat while staring at Kazuya’s face.

His expression looks pained with his mouth turned down and his brows drawn together. She points out his expression and asks Takuya if he’s always been like this. Takuya confirms that he’s always been like that and he’d feel more at ease if Kazuya had a calmer sleeping face. Ai wonders if he’s seeing a scary dream. Takuya points out that it’s been ten years and that’d be hell. Ai reaches out to hold Kazuya’s hand, as if telling him that it’ll be okay, but then notices something.

This ribbon… Takuya recalls that Kazuya borrowed it from her. During their exploration, she had used it to treat Kazuya’s wound. Takuya tells her that Kazuya’s expression softens when he holds it and so Takuya wrapped it around his wrist. But he recalls that this was a memento from her mother, huh? He apologizes and goes to return it to her but Ai refuses it. She tells him that Kazuya can return it directly to her when he wakes up and until then she’ll lend it to him.

Takuya murmurs her name before thanking her in a rough voice while hoping that a time will come when Kazuya can return it. Ai asks him if he comes here every day. He replies that he does and usually he comes the moment school ends since there’s no one but him to care for Kazuya. She inquires about his parents since he has studies and club activities, no? Takuya tells her that he’s not in any clubs and he can study here. His parents are busy with work.

Ai recalls how Takuya wanted to be a professional athlete when they were small though and how he wanted to go to a soccer school. Takuya smiles wryly and tells her that it’s not the case anymore now that things have become like this. He can’t think about his dreams and he has his hands full with Kazuya. She wonders when Takuya, who used to talk proudly about his dream to other people, started to think like this. PEOPLE GROW UP AND CHANGE JFC DID YOU NOT LEARN FROM AKI’S RANT?

She finds that she’s a bit happy to not be the only one trapped by the past. Although she also hates herself for it. A silence descends on them. With other people she’d feel uncomfortable in this silence but she doesn’t feel that way with Takuya. They stay like that until visiting hours are over and, after the nurse who informed them about this leaves, Ai hesitantly asks Takuya if she can come again. Takuya smiles and tells her that he doesn’t mind. He also thinks Kazuya would be happy. Receiving his consent and feeling as if she’s found another place to belong makes her feel a small happiness.

The next morning Aki comes to meet her at her house with a smile on his face as if nothing happened. On the route to school, as if they didn’t have a conversation yesterday, he talks about random things. On the other hand, she feels like there’s something strangling her throat. Aki often waits somewhere to ambush her in order to invite her out after school but, for the first time, she avoids him by exiting out the back and going to Kazuya’s hospital. She feels at ease in the white room with its lack of things.

She goes again the next day, and the next day, and the day after that too… she runs away from Aki and goes to Kazuya. That day she sneaks out of school again and heads to Kazuya’s hospital room. She notices that Takuya isn’t here and lowers herself in the nearby seat before staring at the face on the bed. And then her attention is caught by the hair above his furrowed brows. She comments out loud on how long his hair has become.

Even though the days have passed since she came here, his hair has slowly gotten longer. She continues to stare at his messy hair. Even though time has stopped for his mind, his body continues to grow. His hair and nails are long. He’s also much taller and broader than he was as a child. Even though he’s asleep, he’s also still alive. She quietly asks him if he hates her for inviting them to explore during the summer camp?

If she had listened to Natsuki’s warnings and didn’t cross over the lake then right now they’d be attending high school together, huh… She apologizes since it’s her fault. She envelops his ribbon-wrapped hand with both her hands and lowers her head to it. Even though apologizing solves nothing, it’s painful to only look at him.

Suddenly, Takuya calls out in surprise at how she’s here again. Ai raises her head and sees him at the door. She starts to apologize for intruding and then realizes that he actually arrived before her since his bag is under the bed. Takuya explains that he had been called away by a doctor. She quickly asks him if there’s something wrong with Kazuya. He tells her that Kazuya’s heart rate is a bit weak. It’s nothing worrying but they had wanted to let him know.

Ai nods and realizes that they wouldn’t understand the illness just from looking at Kazuya. He must be worried. Takuya changes the subject to how odd she is since there’s nothing interesting here but she still hasn’t grown tired yet. She replies that she’s seeing Kazuya… and Takuya is here too. That’s more than enough for her. Takuya grins and calls her strange before grabbing his bag and gesturing to the exit with his chin.

It’s going to rain tonight and so they should return home before it pours. She nods. He informs her that he’ll walk her home and asks if she’s living in the same place. She freezes. Takuya tilts his head and asks if something is the matter. She shakes her head and confirms that she hasn’t moved and has been living in the same place. She thanks him, to which he just nods.

“I’ll walk you home”. Before, whenever Aki offered that, she would unintentionally reject it with her whole body. Such a nonchalant action had slowly changed their relationship. At least, that’s her insight. But she is able to accept these words easily from Takuya. He’s the same as her. A person trapped in the past and who can’t take a step forward. Under that recognition, she’s gotten closer to Takuya and feels strangely bound.

On the way home, as they walk on her asphalt dyed yellow, they talk about lighthearted topics: like the battleground that are lunch breaks, teasing her dog, and the cake that she burned when she was trying it out. Takuya’s eyes are crinkled in happiness at these light topics. Buoyed by happiness, she becomes more talkative than usual and mentions how Haruka has gotten a boyfriend now and even though she’s in middle school it seems early.

For a second, when she brings up her sister, Takuya has a puzzled expression as if he has no idea what she’s talking about. Ai asks if he doesn’t remember Haruka. Takuya repeats the name before recalling that it’s her little sister, right?! He didn’t recognize the name at first but now he’s surprised she’s already entering middle school. Last time he met her, she was a baby. Ai laughingly tells him that she doesn’t believe Haruka was that small at the time but now she’s fashion-conscious and looking into magazines.

Takuya comments on how scary the flow of time is. She realizes that he doesn’t have memories of Haruka apart from the ones when she was younger. Anyway, he returns the conversation to what she originally talked about. Ai repeats that Haruka made a boyfriend and, after their father bought her a phone, she talks to him until late at night. Her phone is even more advanced than hers and she’s worried that Haruka’s studies will be neglected. Takuya points out that she’s like a mother.

Ai pouts and asks him not to make fun of her; although she admits that her and Haruka’s ages are actually quite far apart and so it does feel like a parent and child relationship sometimes. Takuya gives a light hum in response before snickering. She asks him why he’s laughing. He shakes his head before remarking on how she and her sister do share the same blood. She asks him what he means.

He reminds her of how, when she was just entering elementary school, she received Natsuki’s wedding proposal and was ecstatic. She freezes. He continues on about how she and her sister are quite similar– but then cuts himself off abruptly. He averts his eyes.

They are always like this. They avoid it so well but always return to this beat. A past that they can’t forget even if they wanted to… At the same time that she stops moving, a self-derisive smile leaks out. Maybe it’s a sign from god telling her not to run away. Ai quietly confesses that after the accident, while she was watching everyone move, she had wondered why they all needed to part ways. But now she knows that if they had remained together then they wouldn’t have been able to move forward or run away from that sad incident. They might have unconsciously hurt each other and became scattered. Even now she can barely talk frankly about the reality of loss.

Takuya muses on how their parents may have been right in moving. Even now, his parents can barely face Kazuya and only give him the bare minimum of visits. Ai asks him if it’s painful to face Kazuya? He sighs before admitting that he falls into depression when it rains and he remembers Kazuya’s drowned face. He won’t be able to look at Kazuya straight on. She hesitates before apologizing. He blinks in surprise.

Ai knows that apologizing doesn’t solve anything but if she hadn’t asked them to explore then this wouldn’t have happened. He freezes before telling her loudly that she isn’t at fault. When she asked, he and the others joined in and when they were drowning he was– Ai interrupts and points out that he was going to call the adults, right? He’s not at fault! He shouts back that she’s wrong and he’s at fault for her and Kazuya… even Natsuki’s death is his…

She tries to protest but he just declares loudly that she’s not at fault. Her heart trembles at his firm words. Her eyes grow damp. She… Takuya’s own eyes widen as he asks her why she’s suddenly crying. She shakes her head and blurts out that she isn’t crying. She’s not crying but… all this time she had continued to blame herself. That hasn’t changed but being defended like this also loosens her guilt.

He suddenly murmurs her name and steps closer, reaching out a hand without reserve to wipe away her tear with a finger. He tells her that he doesn’t know what to do when she’s crying and so he wants her to calm down. She apologizes tearfully but this just makes him chuckle weakly at how they’ve been apologizing to each other ever since they reunited. But he admits that even though he’s troubled by her sadness he’s also happy that she’s still thinking about the accident.

Ai looks at him in confusion and so he admits that he had thought she and Aki had already moved forward with their lives. He had thought that he was the only one who was still left behind ten years ago but it relieves him to have the same feelings as her. Ai realizes that these are her feelings too and he shares them.

Suddenly, someone muses coolly on how everything is like this, huh. Ai turns her eyes to the voice and is startled to see Aki appear around the corner. UM… CREEPY MUSIC. THIS ISN’T A BAD END RIGHT? HE’S NOT GOING TO GO CRAZY IS HE? Aki is smiling as he comments on how she hasn’t been there when he goes to see her after class and he had thought that she was acting oddly. It’s because she was secretly meeting with Takuya.

Ai defends herself and says that she wasn’t secretly– but he interrupts and tells her not to make excuses. She tries to call out his name, but he snarls out her name and asks her how far she needs to run before she’ll be satisfied. He accuses her of using Natsuki as an excuse to run away from him and of never accepting Natsuki’s death. And now next is Takuya? If the two of them are together when will they recover?! Or is she happy to run around together with this guy?!

She stutters out that she’s never thought that. Aki snaps out that even if she hasn’t thought about it that’s what she’s doing, and that’s why she’s getting along well with Takuya like this. He yells at her to accept it – her own weakness – and to confront it. She just wants to stay in her comfortable place, right?! Ai is stunned and repeats his words faintly.

Takuya yells at Aki to quit and not to talk to Ai in such an angry voice. He throws off Aki’s hold on his arm and presses Ai behind his back to defend her as he faces Aki. There’s a feeling of tension when they exchange looks. Aki asks Takuya why he had to appear now and why he’s getting close to Ai. Takuya retorts that he doesn’t have a reason but Ai interrupts to tell Aki that she’s the one visiting Takuya and Kazuya.

Aki snaps out that she might be the one going to see them but Takuya also has a hidden motive. Takuya hesitantly asks him what he means– Aki points out that he wants to console Ai and he wants to be pardoned, no? He calls the two of them weaklings; weaker than him who used to be bullied. They’re afraid and they’re cowards. He gets angry just watching them and why are they like this!? He had lost everything in the lake during the accident at the same time they did!

But right now the two of them are just licking each other’s wounds. It’s incredibly pathetic! Takuya snarls and lunges at Aki but Ai yells at them both to stop because nothing will be solved with them like this. They’ve finally met again and she doesn’t want them to fall to pieces again… she just wants everything to return to how it used to be. Aki and Takuya freeze and then separate.

Only splintered feelings are left behind. These feelings only pile up with nowhere to go. Ai wonders if it would have been better if they hadn’t reunited, so that they wouldn’t quarrel like this. What can they do to move forward? What can they do to overcome this? It’s like they’re blocked in every direction. She raises her head, feeling like she’s sinking into a bog, and meets eyes with Aki. For a second, he looks like he wants to avert his eyes but then he stares firmly at her and opens his mouth.

Aki says that he understands and they should go to the lake. At her look of confusion, he points out that the accident is the reason they’ve become broken to pieces like this. And so if they go to the same place and mourn Natsuki, who is sleeping in the lake somewhere, they can fix themselves from there. They can end it there and accept everything. Make it a clean end. She repeats his words weakly. Aki wants them to make it so that they won’t ever turn around again to this accident. He also invites Takuya. After throwing these words down, Aki turns around and heads home without a consent or refusal.

End everything. It’s so easily spoken but isn’t it just a shrine visit? Can it really do that? She doesn’t think it’s possible to sever the bond that has crossed for ten years. But she’s unable to give voice to this doubt. If she refuses this plan then the next one she’ll lose is Aki. She’s certain about that.

And so, on their next holiday, she went to a terminal in the center of the city and climbed onto an express bus to head to the camp where the accident occurred. There was a forecast of rain on the day of but the skies were a clear blue without any indication of that, in contrast to her heart which was clouded with thick fog. The bus continued on to another stop as planned and, upon its unique chime and as the doors opened, Takuya entered to take the left seat. Aki took the right.

The feelings born from that day remained in the atmosphere between the three of them. The bus continued on with her being troubled and them sitting in the last row. And then, in a little while, the glass windows started to collect droplets of water. In the next moment, it started to rain with great force and the world around them shrunk. Where are they right now? From time to time the bus would stop, people would get off, and all she could see would be increasing greenery. All she knows is that they need to continue on to the last stop.

Ai sighs. She’s lost count of how many times she’s done that today. Just a little bit more and they’ll arrive at the lake. The place where Natsuki is… In the end, Aki brought them along but can they really end everything but giving flowers and joining hands? Is it even okay to end everything? She opens the pouch she had snuck into her bag and lays the things inside out on her palm.

She brought the glass fragment that Natsuki gave her and the hairpin that Aki gave her. The two items, glimmering with the same color, seem to represent the past and the future. Both are important. She can’t choose one. She closes her hand and the past and future collide.

Tens of minutes pass. It seems like they’ve finally arrived at their destination on the bus and through the haze of rain she can see the lake. But the shaking of the bus has made her eyelids feel heavy. She thought about today so much that she wasn’t able to sleep last night. It’s slowly becoming harder to stay awake. She blinks multiple times but her awareness seems to grow distant. Ah, she can’t sleep yet. If she sleeps now then she’ll arrive at the camp without having organized her feelings. She hasn’t even prepared her heart.

Unable to resist the strong drowsiness, her eyes close. She falls to the edge of sleep. In the middle of that, her hearing still remains and she can hear the raised voice of a male on one side of her ears. Takuya decides that he wants to return home. He’s getting off at the next stop. Aki asks him what he’s saying. Takuya blurts out that this is meaningless and he won’t be able to get over it just from a funeral visit. Aki calmly asks him why. Takuya splutters at that.

Aki comments on how he understands now that Takuya can’t get everything back. Takuya asks him lowly what he means. Aki replies that he knows that Takuya was jealous of Kazuya and so played a prank on him. Takuya chokes. Aki continues on to mention that Ai gave Kazuya her precious ribbon to use as a bandage when he was injured. Takuya, who was watching that nearby, grew jealous and when he was fixing the ribbon he actually loosened it on purpose, right? Takuya asks him to stop it.

But Aki continues on to say that the result was connected with the accident. If Takuya hadn’t played a petty trick then everyone would have returned safely. Takuya pleads with him to stop. Aki’s voice turns soft as he points out that Takuya has concealed this crucial fact and is taking advantage of Ai’s weakness. He hisses out that Takuya is the worst and he shouldn’t drag Ai into this anymore. In fact, it would have been better if he had been the one to…!

Takuya snaps out that he himself would do that if he could and he wants to exchange places with Kazuya! Suddenly, the bus starts to shake and Aki asks loudly what this shaking is and what happened. Takuya snaps out that he doesn’t know and Aki can ask the driver… who he just noticed has lost consciousness. Aki sees a cliff and shouts out that it’s dangerous! Takuya only has time to grit his teeth. The bus careens off the cliff and plunges into the water of the lake.

Ah yes. They were weak. Even though they tried their best to be strong, their hearts were always insecure. As if they weren’t broken. As if they wouldn’t break. They did nothing but run from anything that came close to them. And that’s why, that must have been some kind of punishment. They were soon invited into a strange world. In there they smiled, they cried, they fought, they struggled, and they truly lived–

Can they change anything? Can they move forward?

She’s falling. She’s falling. And then they, even as they tried to run, lost their way into an inescapable dream.

I TAKE BACK MY WORDS AND COMPLAINTS AS I WAS GOING THROUGH THIS ROUTE. THE PROSE CONNECTS SO BEAUTIFULLY TO THE PROLOGUE. HINT: GO BACK TO THE PROLOGUE AND READ THAT.

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