Chapter 25:

The Bitter Truth

Second Chances

“Shin.”Bookmark here

I opened my eyes.Bookmark here

I notice myself standing in front of my house on a sunny day. My overly-friendly neighbor walked his dog past me, without greeting me. So, this is definitely some past memories or something.Bookmark here

“Come in,” a voice came out from the main door of my house.Bookmark here

I opened it.Bookmark here

“Come,” the voice resonated from the kitchen, just right ahead. There were a pair of feet lying there, like someone had collapsed in the kitchen.Bookmark here

I walked to the kitchen, until I could get a closer look at the body.Bookmark here

It was me.Bookmark here

From my first death.Bookmark here

My face fell flat to the ground, and there were some bubbles at the edge of my mouth, just like I remembered. Same shirt, same posture. The clock in the kitchen has stopped moving.Bookmark here

But, a little girl with double ponytails was standing next to my body, looking at the current me. She crossed her arms.Bookmark here

“Hello, Shin,” she said.Bookmark here

“God of Fate, Moirai?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Eh, Moira would do just fine. Are you not surprised with my form?”Bookmark here

“Well, there was a saying that the devil dressed himself as a little girl to make deceiving people easier.”Bookmark here

“So now I’m the devil, huh?”Bookmark here

“What do you want from me, Moira?”Bookmark here

She half-grinned. “I want you to wake up, Shin. It’s time.”Bookmark here

“For what?”Bookmark here

She grinned. “For your soul to return to its original body.”Bookmark here

….Bookmark here

“You had enough fun, now it’s time to go back.”Bookmark here

“My body is at the shrine.”Bookmark here

“Ho ho ho, surely you jest. You can’t be kidding me. You really believe all those things?”Bookmark here

She slammed the table. “They are fake, you fool. All your own imagination for you to comfort yourself. Hell, I’m also your imagination. Your real body, is lying on the hospital bed for four years already. No, wait, the bell rang. That’s five years, Shin.”Bookmark here

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Five.Bookmark here

My heart started to beat faster than usual as I looked at her. “You’re lying. I was there at all those moments. I met Reaper, I talked with Hideki, I hugged Chiaki, I bought gifts for my parents. I saved them. Five of them!”Bookmark here

“Human’s imagination really knows no bounds. No, you didn’t save them, fool. Why do you think you refer to yourself as ‘them’? Plus—”Bookmark here

“That was not what I meant, that was because—”Bookmark here

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, shut up,” she sealed my mouth. “Let me finish.”Bookmark here

“You remember in this timeline, what happened before you woke up? People calling your name? Every single time you woke up to people calling you, they were not your friend, or family. They were the nurses, the doctors beside your patient bed. Because you were hyperventilating, you were so deep into a coma that your body doesn’t function properly anymore, your heart was failing. It was shutting down, Shin. For more times than I can count already.”Bookmark here

She chuckled. “Your conviction was so strong that it fooled your own body. I gotta hand it to you—that’s amazing. Well done, Shin. Even the doctors are surprised by it. You might be able to break the medical field advancement if you continue.”Bookmark here

I tried to speak but no voice came out of it.Bookmark here

“I’m not yet finished,” Moira said. “Still think I’m lying?”Bookmark here

“Remember every time when you had ‘vision’, when you felt yourself being pulled through the ‘gray shrine gate’? You made up those things based on the pieces of your memory. Those weren’t real, they were just there for you to convince yourself that the whole invisible string thing really happened. That, you were fighting some sort of god.”Bookmark here

She pointed at me, “Oh, you had an electric jolt through your body every time that those ‘vision’ things happened right? When you were ‘pulled’ through those gates.”Bookmark here

She laughed, “Those are when the doctors tried to revive you with their defibrillator, silly. They were trying to wake, and pull you from the edge of death. And you yourself, subconsciously linked it to the shrine gate that separated two realms. All of which you learnt in your university, Shin. That’s how you linked them. That’s how you knew.”Bookmark here

She walked in circles around me. “But you’re stubborn, Shin. No, no, you were very stubborn. You made up these whole elaborate stories just to keep yourself from not waking up, so that you’ll forever be indulged in your dream. In the life you’ve always wanted. A good friend, loving parents, a cute girlfriend.”Bookmark here

“No,” she clapped her hands. “They were all gone five years ago, Shin. You are all alone now, and you always will be.”Bookmark here

I tried to recollect my thoughts, all of my thoughts jumbled and started to overlap each other.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath. Is it true? Could it be?Bookmark here

“Phew,” she said. “You’ve done well lying to yourself so far, Shin.”Bookmark here

My breaths become heavier. It felt like all of the memories crumbled down before me. I felt like I can’t differentiate them anymore, that they exist and do not exist at the same time.Bookmark here

I felt like I lost the grip of the reality that I clung so dearly to.Bookmark here

“It’s time to face the bitter truth,” she added.Bookmark here

Are they really fabricated? The memories, the warmth feeling, the pain and the sadness I felt piercing my heart, did I really lie to myself that made them so real, so heartbreaking? All, just to assure myself, just to be able to live in my little world?Bookmark here

I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t have known.Bookmark here

I slapped myself.Bookmark here

Then, again.Bookmark here

And, again.Bookmark here

Think clearly. Analyze, like you always do. Have you met Yui before, prior to those three days? I’m not sure. Have you ever heard Chiaki telling you about Yui's past? No, Chiaki wasn’t that type. So, how did you know her past already? Is it possible you made it up, so that it matches Hideki's past? I’m not sure. Is it coincidence, or fictional?Bookmark here

She unzipped my mouth. “You may speak now.”Bookmark here

“Reaper,” I said. “Is he also fake? And those 10 children?”Bookmark here

“Fake.”Bookmark here

“Reaper is just a figure of your imagination,” she continued. “To enforce your so-called supernatural ability to time travel. Those children were probably just some stories you made up to make sure the logical sense of your world gets to be perfected, to be realistic to you.”Bookmark here

“That’s a lie,” I said.Bookmark here

“If those are all that I needed, I wouldn’t have to create a background story for him, for me to connect with him. That’d just be nonsense, and far-fetched if my only objective is to keep myself here.”Bookmark here

“No, it’s not, like I said, you needed a strong grip for you to stay in your dream. Your connection with those 10 children, and with Reaper in between, made it felt much more realistic. You’re just trying to think of everything you can now, this just shows how desperate you are to stay in your little dream.”Bookmark here

“Yui. She wasn’t a pivotal person in my dream; with or without her, I could still live my so-called happy life with others. But no, I talked with her, I understood her, and I created a bond of friendship with her.”Bookmark here

Moira clicked her tongue, and snapped her finger.Bookmark here

I was brought to a hospital room, a patient resembling me was lying in the bed, with tubes out of his noses, and a ventilator beside him. He has a watch, the same as mine. But he just laid there not being able to move, only his chest expanding and contracting up and down.Bookmark here

“This is you, Shin.” Moira said. “The real you.”Bookmark here

“You’ve been suffering with those tubes and fluid coming in and out of you for five years, Shin. Geez, I can imagine you not wanting to wake up.”Bookmark here

“Those occasional chokes you had,” Moira continued. “Those are when you were struggling to breathe.”Bookmark here

“Those chuckles, and smiles, and tears,” she added. “Those were because you couldn’t speak.”Bookmark here

“And, Chiaki’s parents were the one responsible for your hospital bill, Shin. They were the one found you attempting suicide, and called an ambulance. They felt empty after the death of their daughter, so they tried to take care of you instead.”Bookmark here

My legs gave in.Bookmark here

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This can’t be true.Bookmark here

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All those I’ve done.Bookmark here

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Was it for nothing?Bookmark here

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....Bookmark here

“Shin, it’s always better if you return to your body sooner.”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

I need to calm down first, and think.Bookmark here

“You’re only delaying the inevitable, Shin.”Bookmark here

Reaper. What did he say to me during our last encounter?Bookmark here

“Shin, go back to your body.”Bookmark here

What did he tell me to remember?Bookmark here

“Shin. Go back.”Bookmark here

Something about…Bookmark here

“SHIN.”Bookmark here

Don’t falter.Bookmark here

I stood up and slapped Moira.Bookmark here

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