I’ve left my body to fade into the desolate scenery. The storm has brought judgement upon the city, covered it in flames and broken it down to a more natural state. No cars or people inhabit the streets; no lights illuminate buildings or pollute the apocalyptic sky. It’s like the city itself has become free to live on without constraint.
So, have I. I’m free to observe the destruction brought on by my dreams, my heart, and my emotions. The city reminds me of myself, and the dream I’ve sought all along. It’s likely I was never aware of what my dream truly was. I was so caught up in escaping the nightmare that was my reality, that I never allowed myself to visualize a light at the end of the tunnel.
Until now, the city and I have both run on a strict schedule of operation. As the sun rises, the city awakens with the daily hustle and bustle of commuter traffic, business, and ultimately, society’s idealistic pursuit of happiness. A brief respite is had once the sun comes down, in which quotas of resting and recharging must be met by every member of society. I myself have been a component of this city’s environment, a fixture built and directed by the demand of others and by the environment itself.
My childhood was stolen from me when I was kidnapped and shipped overseas. The memories of my parents and the rural town I lived in have long-since been warped to the point I no longer see those images as anything more than a flip-book of proof to serve the supposition that I was once a genuine human.
I was tortured, toyed with, and kept concealed to the world and all concepts of living, so it didn’t take me long to lose all value of self and forget what it is to feel peace or pleasure. By the time I'd reached Shibuya and undergone the procedure to remove half of my heart, I was already a slave to the demands of others— so when I was released and told to stay put and simply exist, I did so without any thought.
That day, as I sat in my hostel researching modeling, I deliberately inserted myself into the cycle. It wasn’t like I ever wanted to be a model. The Shibutani Group told me I needed to live a normal person’s life, and I did exactly as they told me.
I’d thought that my decision had been a rebellious act against them, that I was going to become famous enough to ensure my exemption from being used by them again. Instead, I let fear control my every move, and lived each moment of my life by a strict schedule, under the agenda of elevating my status to a place of importance.
I sought to fit a mold and live by it, in order to obtain my freedom. But I was never free, only seeking acceptance into society's ever-turning wheel. I never sought to free myself from my situation, only to adapt to it. I never thought to set the world ablaze or create a storm so big my enemies would not dare pursue me further.
I thought that becoming a famous model would protect me by making them think twice about taking the rest of my heart when it was necessary. Logically speaking, it wasn’t a bad idea. It might have even worked for years, but it was never going to grant me true freedom.
It’s my own fault for not realizing what true freedom meant. I allowed my pitiable youth to foster an idea of freedom that merely fell in line with the perpetual cycle of society’s pursuit of happiness.
Now I understand that true freedom does not lie in that pursuit of happiness— at least not for me. What I truly sought was to be unbound; Free from the monotony of life and its constant cycles of pain and relief. Perhaps the most pitiable thing is that I obtained this dream when I was tortured until I didn’t want to be me anymore— but that is the place my dream was born, where my freedom was shaped.
That’s why I created this storm. To free my world of monotony, of the endless cycle I’ve grown so tired of. So that I won’t have to fight forever, knowing the fight will result in more pain and suffering. This way, I can fade into nature, and enjoy true freedom, unbound to my reality. It’s no wonder I wanted to become nothingness in my dreams, and even resolved myself to die before being taken captive. It’s what I truly wanted all along.
Yet, if I can achieve this level of peace by fading away… is there something more? Because of this storm I created, I made the first real friends of my life. Is something even more wonderful possible? If I were to gain Aku’s power and return to the real world with this understanding of myself, could I achieve an even greater freedom? Even if I can’t, I can simply return to nothingness. But, if I can, there’s no limit to how great I can dream. So, against my best judgement, I’ll fight a little longer.
I force my eyes open and sit upright. Mirei, who had been sobbing over me, shrinks back in shock. JC loses focus on the road and nearly wrecks the car, his jaw agape.
“Mary, how?” Mirei mutters in a low quiver, eyeing me with fearful eyes. “I just… watched you die.”
“It’s my world, remember?” I remark, the words coming out effortlessly despite the many wounds my body has suffered. “When you die in a dream, you wake up, right? It might be that I woke up in full control of my world.”
“I never would have thought this could be possible,” JC exclaims, glancing back in wonder. “Mary, you’re living in a dead body.”
I observe my pale skin. My wounds no longer bleed, and I have no pulse. I feel a certain numbness throughout my body, rather than any pain or other sensation. I’m not breathing, simply because I have no need to.
“It doesn’t matter,” I answer, my words flowing out like wind. “I have everything I need, now.” JC does his best to focus despite his disbelief, while Mirei sobs silently, avoiding my gaze.
“Where are we going, JC?” I ask, paying no mind to her distress.
“We’re here,” JC answers, bringing the car to a stop. “Let’s go, there’s no time to waste.” I step out of the car into the raging storm. Before us lies the same station we disembarked at.
“Why here?” I ask over the hammering rainfall.
“I think that the only way to obtain Aku’s power, now that you’ve connected our wavelengths and taken hold of your world, is to return to where it all started,” JC replies as the rain smothers him.
“Alright,” I answer, glancing at Mirei. “Let’s go, then.”
“Yeah,” she answers with a meek smile and a hesitant nod. “Let’s go.”
Despite no blood circulating in them, my legs charge ahead. There are no nervous signals sent from my brain to my limbs, only my desire to push my lifeless body forward. The pain I feel is not like anything I’ve felt while living. It’s a cold, stiff pain only comparable to the re-education my body underwent in rehabilitation after the procedure. However, this is on an entirely different level.
Yet, I take their hands and drive ahead, through the crushing winds and flying debris. We make it inside the station, and scale the escalators leading to the railway. The train comes into view as we step out from the cover, exposing us to the storm once more. A crowd of people are fighting desperately to enter the train. Once they notice me, half of them flood toward us.
I dash into the chaos, pulling JC and Mirei despite their hesitance. I call upon my storm, as if it’s simply another of my limbs. Wind and lightning collide in a tornado born of my own emotions, sweeping the NPC’s away.
Channeling the lightning and wind, I keep JC and Mirei safe. There is a pain signaling through my transformed consciousness, as if I’m overusing my muscles. A pain that, had I still inhabited my living body, would have debilitated me. However, I accept the pain and move forward with certainty.
The train’s entrance door comes into view as I clear my storm from our path. I kick the iron door inward, where it disappears into the great white light. I shift my gaze to JC, who nods reassuringly, and then to Mirei, who smiles her sweet, genuine smile. My feet pass through the entrance, and we fall into the light, together.
My consciousness shifts anew as the feeling of control leaves me. My eyelids feel extremely light, but a distinct burning sensation tells me it’s been too long since I last opened them. Only a blurry sight comes into shape.
A thin hand protrudes from a pink sleeve hanging off the side of a bed. I instinctively move my hand toward it, but the stiffness in my palm indicates it’s been too long for that as well. I move it nonetheless, toward the hand that’s so close. I feel an overwhelming urge to touch it, and just as my finger makes contact, everything fades to black.
“I offer you this small prize, as an acknowledgement of your sincere display of strength,” a stern voice resounds in the void. “You did everything in your power to overcome your dreams and take control of your world. However, you failed at making yourself whole. You couldn’t see the truth you needed to see, nor take the actions necessary to become the absolute victor.”
“You lost your chance, Mary,” his fading voice blocks mine out. “However, it is not over yet. You still have a role to serve in this world.”
My ears twitch to the sound of an engine puffing rhythmically, and I open my damp, weightless eyelids. A certain empty feeling hangs over me as I look upon my open palms before slowly turning my head, my gaze settling upon a familiar sight. On the other end of the velvet red couch, a pretty pink-haired girl begins to stir from her deep sleep, her eyes falling on mine as she opens her mouth.
"Um, do you... know where we are?"