Chapter 20:


Third and Final Time

A rooftop.

Specifically, the one I had visited twice.

Specifically, the one I’d chosen to die on.

Why was I here?

Wasn’t I just-?

“There’s nothing I can do.”

I turned but found no God or Devil awaiting me.

There were no stars, no buildings, no breeze; there was just me, me at the top of a building.

If I jumped from here, what would happen to me?

Would I die?

Or - did I die back then?

If so-

“What do you want to name him?”


I’d never had an out of body experience before, but there was another me talking to my husband.

“What, don’t you think it’ll be a boy?”

“What makes you think-?”


“Idiot.” The other me laughed giddily. “You just want it to be a boy.”

“Well, I always-”

This never happened.

The room went dark.

When the light returned, the apartment was empty.

No, that wasn’t right - the living room was.

My bedroom was occupied.

The other me was on a balcony, smoking my eleventh cigarette for the night.

On my bed were two women and a man, all of whom were asleep or passed out from the drugs.

From the looks of things, the man had overdosed.

But this didn’t happen, did it?

The figures rewound in time to a few hours ago when I first beckoned them in.

I remembered the night now.

It had cost a small fortune, but I had an inexhaustible pile of gold to pilfer from.

“Mother, father, how are you today?”

I was in a graveyard in the rain.

Neither me nor the other me carried an umbrella.

She was dressed in black; I didn’t exist in that space.

“I am pleased to report that I have once again increased my business’s profits by almost fifty-eight percent this year, with about two percent of that going right into my pocket. It’ll hopefully be put towards a child’s trust fund in the near future and, from there, I intend to spoil that child silly. I simply wish that their grandparents could have seen them.

“A shame.”

Was I truly so indifferent and cold in that life?

For my first life, I think I was?

Mum and dad were alive in my second, but we-

“Akane, what’s wrong?”

Suddenly, I found myself sat at a dining room table.

Dinner had just been served, but I wasn’t touching my food.

My parents looked at me anxiously.

I looked down at my body and saw that I was very young, perhaps grade-school age.

“…It’s nothing.”

I started to eat, but that did not improve my parent’s mood.

“…Don’t worry, Akane! You’ll make plenty more friends once you-”

“I’m fine.”


I really did speak so coldly to them, even in this life.

I remembered this day well; it was the day I truly decided to become close to my parents.

I hated myself for how I had treated mum that day that I-

“I’m sorry, but there was nothing we could do. Your parents-”

Are alive and well!

The illusion shattered and I found myself stood up in an empty classroom.

Outside, in the corridor, I could see a group of girls and a lone figure.

Another me.

“Thank you for everything up until now,” I said with a polite bow. “Goodbye.”

That day - I remember it well.

The day I lost Ami and my old friends.

Strangely enough, I saw it more clearly from this distance.

Ami’s heartbroken expression - the desperate, last attempt at reaching out to me.

What did you want to say that day, Ami?

What would’ve happened if-?

“That’s the lesbian.”


“Don’t look at me like that, pervert.”

“Sensei, I don’t want her in the same room with us when we change!”

“Me too, me too!”

This never happened.

This was just a fear of mine.

I knew it was false because it had been Hinata, Inori and Kana mocking me.

They would never do this.

Glass broke.

I spun and saw Hayate tackled to the ground just moments after he burnt me.

One boy had run into him so hard they’d broken one of the windows in the science lab.

I ended up being one of two students sent to the hospital that day.

For some reason, I suddenly felt the fire on my chest again.


It had been years since the accident, and even my phantom pains were never this bad.

What was all this?

What was this place trying to show me?

Was there any purpose to it, or-?

“Are you just delirious?”

The Devil appeared on my left.

“Perhaps, or perhaps this is the truth of your lives, Akane.”

What do you-?

“Mean?” God appeared and laughed. “What do you think we mean? Think, for a moment, child, about what it means.”

I…I don’t know.

None of this makes sense.

“Why not?”

Some of this happened, but some of it didn’t.

You’re mixing reality with-



“Night terrors.”

“Your imagination.”




…Yes…why though?

“Why what?”

Why are you showing me this?

“Who ever said we were?”

“Who ever said we were here?”

“We’re inside your mind, aren’t we?”

“Or are we still right next to the stage?”

I was conscious, but paralysed, lying on my side, vomit pouring from my lips.

My eyes were open, but they couldn’t move.

Hinata was beside me, trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.

Ryuuji was dumbstruck on the stage, shaking as he dropped the microphone.

As it landed, the audience made painful faces and attempts to cover their ears.

I deduced that it was a distressingly loud sound.

I felt nothing.

Then, I started to drown.

There I was, fully awake and locked in my own body, drowning in my own vomit.

Out of all the ways I thought I would die; this was the worst possible-

Everyone vanished and I was the only member of the audience, sat in a lone chair, with a spotlight on me.

The houselights came on and, stood on the stage, in a business suit was me, my hand pressed over my deflated stomach, and tears in my eyes.

Stood in the corner, without any light on her, was the me from my first life.

What is this-?

“Please remain seated and do not speak during the feature presentation.”


“Please remain seated and do not speak during the feature presentation.”

The lights went out as a projector screen fell from the invisible ceiling.

After a few seconds of static played, I was shown a scene I knew all too well.

A young girl, standing beside a broken vase, hoping that their mother would admonish them.

Your love suffocates me, mother.

I could never tell her.

I want to hang out with friends after school.

But I had none.

It’s okay - mother said I’d make some.

She was wrong.

I’ll make friends in middle-school.

I failed.

It’s okay - I can still make friends in high-school.

I didn’t.

…Father’s best friends were all the ones he went to university with, so I’m sure I’ll-

I was wrong.

Would any of my colleagues-?


If I had a family, then-


“Please remain-”

Shut up!

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

The houselights came back on, and the projector seemingly disappeared into thin air.

On the stage, the me in the business suit just stared at me.

The me from my first life didn’t move or react; she just stood there with empty eyes.

What was the point in all of this?

Was it to remind me of all the misery?


“Please remain seated and do not speak during the feature presentation.”

The projector returned.

This time, it was a scene of me on a rooftop.

The start of my second life and its end.

I was given another chance! I won’t waste it!

God said I did.

This time, it’ll be better! I’ll make friends, fall in love, start a family, and we’ll live happily ever after!

…I really believed that would happen.

Where did I go wrong?

I knew - I just didn’t want to admit my mistakes.

What can I do now?

Try to make it right this time.

Oh my God, I love him! Sakamoto Ryuuji - please, please be the one for me.

He was, and he wasn’t.

…I’m pregnant? Haha, haha, hahahahahaha! I’m pregnant!

I was.

I’m married, I have a child on the way, and I have enough money that I don’t ever need to work again…I’m happy, I’m so, so happy - thank you, God.

I really thought I’d made it.

The whole world turned into a bright white space.


I turned around and saw a young boy and girl running towards me.

Without thinking, I scooped them up into my arms and laughed merrily. “What is it?”

“Can we please go on the ride again? Please, please, please!”

“Haha, you’ve already been on it three times today. Aren’t you sick of it?”

They shook their heads. “No! But…” They looked a little dejected. “We’d love it if you rode it with us this time.”

“Oh, but I-?”

“Sweetie.” Ryuuji emerged from the bright light. “I can look after the baby. Go on with them.”

“Baby?” I turned and saw the stroller carrying my youngest daughter. She had been born six years after her siblings and - “Sure.”

“Yay!” My children cried out with joy and my daughter kissed me cheek. “We love you, mum!”

“…Yeah, I love you too.”

I cried.

I bawled my eyes out as my children looked on with worry.

Only Ryuuji stayed calm.

“Kids, go on ahead.”


I put them down and they ran off, disappearing into the white space.

“Akane, are you-?”

This isn’t real.

He smiled. “It could’ve been.”

Could it?

“Why couldn’t it have been? I mean, if we’d worked things out, if I…hadn’t done the things I did, this could’ve been our life together. We could’ve spent the rest of our days like this, just as you wanted. And then.”

We were suddenly sat in wooden chairs, watching three different small children running around in the garden.

My children, our children, were older and each had rings on their fingers.

They were all playing happily together in the sunshine.

It was…an image I often dreamt about, in my past lives.

Stop it.

“Akane, this is what could have-”

I can’t have this anymore.

“Sure you can.” He reached his wrinkly hand out to me. “We can-”


I stood up and the image vanished in a cloud of dust.

This isn’t my future!

This was my dream!

My most precious, life-long dream and I can’t ever have it because of you, Ryuuji!

That’s why-!

I began to bawl uncontrollably again.

The birthmark on my chest started to burn so excruciatingly I thought I’d pass out. I clutched it tightly and fell onto my knees, tears streaming down my face.

That’s why I made the deal with the Devil!

That’s why I doomed myself to this short life!

No matter what I do, it doesn’t matter!

I won’t have kids.

I won’t have a family.

I won’t live happily ever after because, because-!

“Why won’t you?”


A slightly older Hinata stood before me, smiling, in a pure white wedding dress.

“Why can’t you have a happily ever after?”

“Because…” I sobbed. “Because…even if we spend the rest of my life together, I’ll make you miserable. We won’t have kids, we won’t see them marry, we won’t have grandchildren and grow old together, or-!”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t live happily ever after.”


Hinata smiled and reached out her hand to me. “Akane, what matters most to you in life?”


“Is it having a high paying job?”


“Is it getting married and settling down?”

“I…don’t know.”

“What about having children?”

“I want…them, but…”

“Or is there something that linked all of them in the beginning?”


“Akane, what did you feel when you thought about all those things?”

“…I was…happy.”

“Then, as long as you’re happy, isn’t that what matters most?”


“Akane - I love you, and you love me.” She bent down on one knee and held my chin between two of her fingers. “I want to spend the rest of my life together with you, and I want to make you the happiest woman in the world. Isn’t that enough? Or are you saying you can’t be happy unless you have all of that?”


“Well, if you do need all of that, I can do my best. We can get married once we’re old enough, we can adopt kids or look into other ways, we can watch them grow up, go off to school, and…” Hinata kissed me. “We can do whatever you want, Akane.”


I stood up as Hinata disappeared and I was back before that stage, facing my past selves.

All this time, I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, that I would overcome my trauma, and live a happy, long life.

But I’ve never properly faced myself.

Even when I said I would, I was still running away.

If I wasn’t, I’d have just refused Ryuuji in front of everyone.

If I wasn’t, I would’ve told everyone the truth, the whole truth, and let them know why I am who I am.

By not talking to anyone, I’ve just been running away this whole time, despairing while I carried my burdens alone.

I’m not alone.

My parents, my friends, my girlfriend.

I have all of them.


I marched towards the stage.

“Please remain seated and-”

Shut up!

I’m done running from you two!

I messed up in both of my previous lives and I’ve made some mistakes in this one, but-!

I jumped up onto the stage and stood face to face with my second life.

I’m sick of running.

I’m sick of hating myself.

I’m sick of worrying the people I love.

So, I’ll tell them - and I’ll trust that they’ll believe me.

I will live a long and happy life, until the day I die!

I might die today, tomorrow, or at the ripe old age of twenty-five, but I’ll still live the longest, and happiest, life in the whole world.

I’ll make sure I do.


“Goodbye, my past selves. And thank you - if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

“…I see.”

The me on stage slowly started to fade into golden particles, as did the one in the corner; then a gentle breeze drifted those particles towards me, absorbing them into my skin.

“Then, Akane…live a long, and happy life.”

I will.

“Akane! Akane, oh my God, I was so worried!”

Before I could even fully open my eyes, Hinata had pounced on me, wrapping her arms around my neck.

It was a little painful, but it comforted me.

I recognised my surroundings - I was in the nurse’s office in the early evening.

“What happened?”

She broke away and I saw her dry red eyes staring worriedly at me

“A-after you passed out, Ami ran over and she carried you here. I-I-I opened all the doors and supported your head, but she did most of the heavy lifting. Lots of people chased after us, including some teachers, but Inori and Kana kept most of them out until the nurse arrived. Once she’d checked you out, she didn’t let anyone enter.”

“Even you?”

“No…I, eh, told her…about us. I-in secret, of course! I whispered it to her and she let me stay. Ehehe.”

It was slightly agonising to see Hinata’s otherwise cute face laugh so awkwardly.

I put my hand on hers and slowly sat up on the bed.

“Thank you, Hinata.”

“…You’re welcome.”

“…What happened to Ryuuji after that?”

“…Rei chewed him out. Well, more accurately.” She scratched her cheek. “He screamed at them for half an hour, Ami and Inori even joined in, though Kana did her best to make peace between them and…” She smiled thinly. “It’s pretty rough, right now.”

“I don’t think anyone expected me to throw up like that.” I suddenly became embarrassed. “Oh, God, you saw me throw up!” I dove my head into my pillow and screamed. “That’s not something my girlfriend should’ve seen.”

Hinata laughed a little and stroked my head. “It’s alright - I’m not going to break up with you because you threw up.”

“What if I’d been keeping a big secret from you?”


I sat cross-legged on the bed and faced Hinata directly.

“Hinata, what I’m about to tell you, I want you to know is absolutely true. I am not going to lie to you even once and I want you to listen to me until the end before saying anything.”



Centuries passed faster than the stale, awkward air between us.

“Okay.” She nodded and held my hand. “I’ll believe you.”

“You will?”

“I will.”

“…Thank you.”

So, I confessed to her again.

The truth of all three of my lives, from start to finish, leaving no stone unturned.

Little did I know that there were two other people listening that day.