Chapter 8:

Chapter 8: A New Beginning

Madman's Forgiveness

Chapter 8: “A new beginning”

The silence is almost deafening. They all now found each other congregated outside the bedroom, awkwardly waiting for what they believed to be an argument. At the edge of the bed, Hiro sat with his head facing the floor.
The stares of both Suika and Suzume feel almost as if they’re piercing through his very soul.
Feelings of shame and embarrassment loomed over him, and for good reason. He had served as the catalyst for a complete stranger's transmigration to his world. The reasoning he had for this was not only irresponsible, but it proved to be utterly pointless. Something like this was inevitable regardless of whether or not he brought Suika to his reality. Suzume would have always returned to her home-town, and would have always chosen today to come visit. Something he painfully had the misfortune of realizing too late.
“How long..?”
Minutes felt like hours, until the sound of Suzume's soft voice finally pierced through the silence. By the tone of her voice, she doesn’t seem angry in the slightest. She was more confused than anything. Not over the obvious however. The girl's uncanny resemblance to her was the furthest thing from her mind. For now. The only thing she wanted an answer to at this moment, left her confused. What exactly did the girl standing adjacent to her mean to Hiro?

“What do you mean by how long..?”
Hiro asks, the worry on his face fading as he finally summons forth the courage to look up at her. She’s smiling down at him. There’s a warm indescribable glow to her. Yet, this kind hearted expression is not the same as the one he remembered so fondly. It feels forced. It’s as if she’s hiding something behind it.
Something Hiro has yet to unveil.

“Don’t be silly.”
“How long have you been with someone new?”
Says Suzume.

Hearing this seems to spark different reactions.
“What a dog!”
Yua blurts out from behind the door. Quickly covering her mouth, worried that the three may have been alerted to their eavesdropping.
“Easy now ma chérie”
“I think you had enough tonight”
To which Troy politely attempts to calm her down, moving her back in the direction of the living room area.

“Should we be saying something?” Asks Kazuma as he stares at Kentaro who is uncharacteristically invested in the drama unfolding. So much so, that he is holding his ear to the door hoping to better hear everything.
“You can’t be serious right..?”
“Are you telling me you aren’t the least bit interested?”
“Besides, why stop now?”
“Are you that eager to win the bet..?”
Hearing this disappoints Kazuma. Kentaro is usually seen as the most level-headed of their group. Seeing him stoop this low and not know when enough was enough led him to believe it was time to re-evaluate their friendship. It wasn’t the time for that however. Interrupting Hiro and Suzume’s conversation this early would surely have negative consequences.
Turning his attention away from the door, Kazuma began to reach into the inner pocket of his cardigan. Feeling around for a rectangular shape.

The most notable reactions are of Hiro and Suika. They both jump, prepared to counter Suzume’s claim.

“Me and this loser..?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I’ve known him for barely two days now!”
“I’ve got better things to do than to entertain the affairs of strangers!”
Just the thought of it is enough for Suika to burst into a fit of short-lived laughter. She only stopped due to the onset of confusion that came the moment Suzume joined in.

“You’re totally just like him huh?”
“You’re both terrible liars, so you’re perfect for each other.”
Though Suzume was just teasing, there appeared to be some truth in her statements. Suika's face flushes a bright pink coloring, unsure of what to say next.
“It’s not even like that!”
“If you’d just listen to me already I can give you a proper explanation!”
Hiro contests, rising to his feet so that the two can be on the same level. This gave him the chance to have more than the metaphorical high ground in this debate. If he were to have just remained sitting, she would have surely used her positioning to talk down on him.
Yet he knew that it’d be practically impossible to just explain to her everything that happened the past two days. What sane person would just believe a story like that blindly, let alone someone he hadn’t seen in eight years?

What could he even say in this scenario?
“Hey, I’m sorry I caught feelings for someone who looks just like you?”
Even without this very specific context it’d make him sound like some creep. The alternative wasn’t any better though in hindsight. With Kazuma, Hiro told him because knew that he’d be more willing to believe him. Kazuma was always big on the supernatural. Going as far as forming a club around mystery hunting at their old camp. Recording makeshift ghost-hunting videos with everyone at the end of each week. Choosing to host these meet-ups on Sundays only because he believed it to be the “spookiest” day of the week.
While Kazuma never admitted it, they all could tell that these activities were inspired by certain cartoons popular in the west.

Suzume was different though. If he were to explain his ability, there's no telling how she’d react. She was always a sweet person to him during their time together, but this felt like a lot to unpack. Hiro believed that she would either think less of him, believing him to be a liar. Or, Suzume would call him crazy for believing in such a “delusion.”
Possibly leading to her exiting from his life again.

“Then what is it like then Hiro..?”
“If you two really aren’t together..”
“Can you please explain to me why she’s here?
“And more importantly, why do we look so similar..?”

She asks, beginning to size up Suika from head to toe. Even though she has no reason to be, the archer begins to look nervous. Was that tough girl bravado she had in her movie just that? It had appeared as though once she was freed of the restrictions that came from being inside of a pre-established work of fiction, Suika was free to be herself. Rather, she had a chance to learn what being herself meant. Inadvertently this led to her coming across as a ditzy airhead to the people around her.
Hiro has reached a point where he’s finally had enough. This constant bout of mental gymnastics and debating what was best to say was only going to do more damage. If he wanted to end this conversation peacefully, he had to rip that band-aid off as soon as possible.

“So what if she just leaves again!”
“I’m tired of constantly running from my problems!”
“It’s now or never!”
He thought to himself, preparing himself to make the confession that everyone had been waiting for.
“You want the truth?!”
“I can-”
As he began his rant, the three's attention seemed to shift. They now focused on the door. Rather, the person who swung it open. It was Kazuma, holding what appeared to be a blank orange VHS tape.
The others were caught by surprise, especially Kentaro who stumbled inside of the room; landing on his face.

“Hiro can jump through movies!”
“I don’t know how but..”
“That girl is proof of it!”

Kazuma begins to shout. Aiming his free hand at Suika, he begins to wag his index finger. Desperately attempting to lock everyone's collective gaze on her. Suzume however begins to look down, as if she were in deep thought.

Kazuma’s sudden shouting fit garners the attention of Troy and Yua who return to investigate the noise.

“Just what the hell are you on about this time..”
Kentaro asks, as he begins to rise back to his feet. Dusting himself off, he turns to Kazuma.
“Does it always have to be otherworldly shit with you..?”
“Why don’t you just give it a break for once?”
It had appeared as though old habits die hard. Being roommates and all, Kentaro knew Kazuma’s antics all too well. There was more or less a boy who cried wolf dynamic that the two had. This could have just been another one of Kazuma’s poorly timed pranks. Just hearing it from his mouth wasn’t enough to fully convince him. Like everyone else, Kentaro had to hear it from Hiro first.

“Is this true..?”
Suzume’s question falls into the void. Due to her not granting the dignity of looking at whoever she was speaking to, it wasn’t clear to the others. but Hiro knew.

“Yeah.. it is.”
“The reason I’ve been gone for two weeks is because I was transported into a movie..”
“I still don’t quite know how, but I've experienced things I honestly don’t think I believe in myself.”
The room falls silent as they all listen attentively to his story. As the story progresses however, Suzume’s mood seems to decrease. Something that is only noticed by Suika, who sees the girl begin to ball her fist the moment she learns her name.

“All I know is that it happened”
“Suika here taught me how to control it somewhat..”
“I was able to escape and to my surprise, what felt like two days is equivalent to two weeks in our world.”
“I’m not asking you to believe me.”
“Hell.. I wouldn’t believe me.”
“But I have nothing to gain from lying to you-”

“Prove it..”
Suzume mutters under her breath, catching Hiro off guard.
He begins to ask, genuinely concerned by this change in attitude.
“I said prove it god damnit!”
She turns to Hiro, revealing the well of tears that formed in her eyes. Though she is on the verge of crying, she isn’t upset.
"What is this..? Why is she shedding tears?" Suzume was never the type to outwardly get angry unless she was seriously wronged, or if someone hurt someone close to her. As shown in the past when she lectured Kazuma for peer-pressuring Hiro into almost drowning.

“I may be able to help with this”
Says Kazuma, as he begins to insert the VHS tape into the VCR. After hearing Hiro’s story on the phone, he believed it to be too good of an opportunity to pass up. He just had to bring one of the ghost-hunting tapes the group had recorded at the camp. “How cool would it be for them to travel back to the days of their club?” being the thought that drove him to this.
The group is now all standing together in a strange heptagonal shape, all linked together by hand, with Hiro standing the closest to the TV. Though he held her hand tightly, Suzume refused to look in his direction. Suika however, observed quietly. She wanted to analyze this moment so that she could see just how closely the transmigration lined up with the manuscripts.

“Hold on tightly everybody..”
“When this first happened to me, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience”
The world around them began to dither, as if being consumed by the fast approaching white noise.

“What the hell is this shit!”
Kentaro screams, attempting to cover his eyes with the hands of his sister Yua and Kazuma.
Throughout the immense amounts of static however, the members of the group begin to fade away one by one.

First it was Suika who calmly accepted things as they were.

Then it was Troy, who attempted to put up a fight.

Then it was Yua who tried desperately to hide her face in her brother's chest.

Then it was Kentaro himself who was still a bit shaken up, wondering where his sister disappeared off to.

 Then Kazuma,


 and lastly..
As the room was finally consumed with television static.

Hiro disappeared as well.

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