Violet: No. 02189
My head hurts...
I'm laying down somewhere...
I'm kinda sleepy but... I hear a voice.
It's a little bit distant, but that is for sure Ren's voice.
What in the world is he saying?
I forcibly open my eyes and as soon as I look around, I immediately notice that I'm in a hospital room. My head is still hurting but I don't have time to waste, I need to go back to the Shrine, back to everyone!
"Hey, we didn't finish checking you up!"
A nurse tries to grab my arm as I jump off the bed, but I dodge her kind attempt of restraining me.
"Sorry for that, but I can't stay here!"
"Thank you and bye-bye ~ ♥"
I run off the ward's corridor and reach the street still in hospital attire.
Dammit! Now that I'm here... I'm not really sure in what direction is the Shrine...
I see people around all going in the same direction, and as I begin to follow them I hear a robotic voice.
[Mayu-san, please come in this direction, don't follow these people]
I turn and see a box-shaped figure floating right next to me.
This is Hideki's...?
I silently nod and follow the drone right in front of me as it starts to fly.
As I follow it, some of the questions that were in my head before I lost consciousness begin to once again flood my brain.
"Hey, Hide-kun... can please tell me what's goin' on?"
[Sorry, this is not the ti-]
"If you can't tell, how can I trust you?"
"What did you ask Take-kun to do?"
"Why did you leave Ren-kun there all alone while knowing the Shrine would be attacked?"
"What's goin' to happen to this city?"
[I'm sorry you got caught up in the attack. Neither you nor Mr. Amano needed to go through what you did]
[Some things ended up getting messed up, but from now on I swear everything will get back to the right path]
Mayu continues following the drone. She stays quiet until Hideki's processed voice once again breaks the silence continuing the conversation.
[…You know, it really surprised me you cared so much about Renichi-san to the point you got back to the Shrine to warn him about the attack]
Mayu bites her lips as she thought that maybe that was not the best time to confront Hideki. However, the more she quietly reflected on everything that happened until that point in regard to Ren and Hideki, the more she noticed the contradictions and lies.
The girl then dumped all her thoughts, all at once, without any filter or measure.
"Did you forget that it was your idea to welcome and befriend him?"
"I'm sure you also got through a lot and even right now you must have a lot of things in your head"
"But have you seriously not noticed how confusingly and unfairly you have treated Ren-kun?"
"First you attack him out of nowhere (you also attacked me, don't go thinking I'll forget this anytime soon!)"
"Then, you told him about your past, something that even I and the others that got acquainted with you for more than 5 years did not know"
"Then you string two opposite orders one after another to all of us:"
"You said you needed help, just to a few minutes later tell us to go with him to the Arcade"
"After that, you ask for Kaede to bring him to you at the surface, which she obviously declined to do"
"And finally, you somehow got info of an attack on the Shrine by the people from the surface, but you didn't warn Ren-kun to get out!"
"What is wrong with you!!!??"
The usually upbeat and energetic but kind Kaede very rarely raises her voice, so even she got surprised by her own tone.
[Those were almost all tests]
[To see what he was thinking, to learn about his dreams and goals, as well as his personality]
[As I've said many times, he presented a great risk for us, he could very well just be used as a spy working for Violet, or even Blue]
[In the end, I decided that spy or not, he was not needed...]
[But against all odds he ended up surviving]
[Which he did not by his merits, but only by luck and is now at the hands of Violet again if he ever left them]
"I don't understand..."
"I always knew you were different, but this is new to me..."
"To treat someone like a disposable object like this... I didn't know you were someone like that!"
"Ren is a human too!!"
[No, he is not!!]
This time Hideki is the one who lost his temper as his already distorted voice (the signal is very weak in the underground city) breaks even more as he raises his voice.
[Much like I wasn't until I meet all of you and spent years with you]
"I'm not recognizing you Hideki"
[It doesn't matter anymore. The only thing you need to know is that I'm still your ally despite all that]
[And for much of my dismay, trusting Renichi-san is now your best chance to survive]
That was Mayu's reaction to not only Hideki's voice but also to what she saw.
As both finally reached the place that once was Amano-oka, Mayu finally saw all the destruction and mayhem.
The girl falls to her knees as memories of the place she heartfully cheered start to overflow.
Take who was still there aimlessly wandering around saw the girl and went in her direction.
He shouted out her name as the girl cried over the loss of her home.
The drone then tells them that both Kaede and Ren are approaching them.
It also told them about Juurou's fate while entrusting them with the old man's transmitter which recorded his last words.
After doing so, the drone leaves the area.
Mayu can't believe her eyes and ears.
It's as if her entire life was turned around and there wasn't even a chance to try to change anything.
The world moved without her.
It was as if some major force had held a grip on her life and distorted it right in front of her while she was chained down.
She played the transmitter to hear Juurou's last words.
The first time she did, she didn't even react to it, it was as if she was empty.
Then, she played it again.
Take was extremely uncomfortable with the situation, he felt somehow guilty of the old man's demise, but he hadn't the strength to say anything.
Those words were tearing him apart, but he couldn't just take the object out of Mayu's hand.
After a while, the girl stopped playing the recording.
And crouched down with her hands covering her face.
The girl then bawled her eyes out.
She screamed until her voice broke.
She lamented until her spirit was utterly crashed.
After that, a sepulchral silence took over and maintained itself for a good while. Up until the girl played the recording once again.
It wasn't as if those words were special in particular, or something she didn't know, they were engraved in much pain and were much probably fruit of a mind that was about to shut down, so of course, it wasn't particularly well thought or meaningful.
The message itself had meaning.
It was a last wish, the last wish of the man Mayu saw as a parent, the man who taught her the meaning of hope, the meaning of courage, the meaning of miracle, the meaning of life.
The girl gritted her teeth.
After crying, screaming, and lamenting, she stood up.
Take hadn't said one word, he was in as much shock as she did, however impassive he seemed to be. So he just watched surprised when the girl finally rose up.
She wiped her eyes and clutched her hands.
There was a new resolution in her eyes, the same as Juurou had when he meet his unavoidable end.
As 02189 could not find words for what he was just seeing, nor could comprehend why that was happening he simply tried to shove the car to the side while ignoring the three that were in his way. However, that was not possible as Take simply put himself between the mech and the car before 02189 could get the vehicle out of the way.
[I don't have time! I'm sorry for all of this happening, but it's seriously out of my control!]
[Please let me get through!!]
"Ren-kun, what happened? I'm sure you can explain it to us-"
[Now is not the time!]
As 02189 said that his pursuers began to approach him once again.
Dammit! They're leaving me no other choice!
02189 punches the panel inside his cockpit as he opens its hatch.
The four look at each other as 02189 finally sees them in person as opposed to seeing them on a panel.
"Get in here if you wanna live!"
The mech kneels to help the three reach the cockpit.
As they all get inside, 02189 closes the cockpit and once again takes off, finally leaving the dome and the city.
02189 launches a missile at the empty car causing a big explosion hoping this will distract his chasers enough to make them give up on following him.
"This is really uncomfortable..." - Says Take whose whole body almost takes up half of the space inside the cockpit.
"At least you're wearing normal clothes!" - Mayu protests.
02189 tries to look in her direction but ends up receiving a slap in his helmet.
"Hey! Don't look at her! It's already embarrassing enough to be jammed here with you two!" - Exclaims Kaede.
"Also, you should look ahead if you're piloting this thing!"
"The mech it's on autopilot, you don't need to worry. Also, it seems our pursuers decided to not follow us, thankfully"
After confirming there's no one following them anymore, 02189 enters the labyrinth and puts the mech to walk to preserve the battery energy that was extremely spent after the dogfight from before.
The metallic steps resonate inside the mech's cockpit as it continues its way en route toward the spot indicated by Ophir.
Everyone inside the mech has a lot on their minds and just mustering up the mental energy to begin asking questions and talking about the unpleasant topics that need to be talked about is very hard.
A few awkward minutes pass away and the one who ends up breaking the ice is Take.
The man massages his nape while he begins talking.
"So... First things first..."
"I'm sorry everyone!"
The attention of all the people inside the cockpit is directed to the man.
"What happened there is partly my fault"
"All because I chose to help Hide..."
"The time I was on the surface I was actually infiltrated in Violet"
"It was surprisingly easy with Hide's privileged info of how to behave, but it was a very stressful job too as I acted more like a hostage than a spy"
"I was honestly very grateful for you Ren, since the only reason the professor called me back to end the mission earlier was because of you"
02189 continues looking ahead without making any gestures or showing any emotions.
"It honestly scared the outta me when I discovered they had a weapon that was capable of easily destructing our home without much hustle"
"I thought that if I helped Hide with his plans, it would help Neo-Tokyo to be more secure"
"But now... If only I knew my own decisions would cause-"
"You don't need to finish that line" - Mayu interrupts the man in the middle of his sentence.
"I suppose you two still don't know..."
"Grandpa- Mr. Amano is dead..."
Kaede resigned face tells about everything that's on her mind, while 02189's surprised and sad expression is isolated from the rest of the world by the helmet he's wearing.
"He also left a last message"
Without asking for permission the girl immediately played the message.
Once again 02189's troubled face could not be seen by anyone else.
The blunt steps once more are the only sound that echoes throughout the closed space inside the mech.
Kaede puts her hand on 02189 armor's cold shoulder while continuing talking.
"Can you please tell us what happened?"
"Why did you get back this way?"
The young man kept silent and the others looked at each other contemplating 02189's quietness.
"Ren-kun, please talk to us" - Mayu interferes.
"I know it may be hard for you to trust us after all that happened, but we really want to understand you too..."
"...and we can only do that if you at least tell us what happened to you" - Take adds.
Once again despite all the requests and pleas, 02189 keeps quiet.
"Ren, we deserve at least a response, don't we? Have you already forgotten the promise we made?"
02189's head turns in Kaede's direction as soon as she says those words. It's possible to see by his armor's movement his heavy breathing and his trembling hands above the panels on the cockpit.
His voice is shaky and the words struggle to string themselves.
"Your voice is too muffled inside this helmet" - Kaede holds the young man's headgear and pulls it off.
The face of the young man with his eyes full of water is a scene that gets everyone by surprise. He quickly tries to wipe his tears but the frigid glove of the N.R.I.C.A. could not dry them out. Seeing this Kaede decides to touch his face and dry up his tears for him.
"We're friends since the moment we met. You said it yourself, didn't you?"
"So please put some trust in us."
Despite being rightfully embarrassed, the young man ended up letting out his mind the moment he couldn't hide inside his armor anymore.
"I'm sorry... it's just that..."
"I also don't know what's going on!"
"I know nothing... I probably know even less than you all"
"So I thought that if just encountered a way for you to be safe..."
"I could just forget about you all and just as the CEO told me..."
"Go back to live as 02189..."
As he says that, the young man once again punches the panel in front of him in a mix of anger, confusion, and sadness.
02189 looks with his eyes widened at the other girl at his side.
"You're Ren, your name is Haku Renichi. It was the name I gave you" - Mayu softly spoke.
"You like this name, don't you?"
The young man reluctantly nods in agreement.
"If you like it you don't have to go back to being a number anymore" - Mayu completes with a smile on her face.
"Also, it's far easier to address you as Ren than 0517..3...9..." - Kaede jokingly adds.
"I'm not like all of you..." - The young man hesitantly says.
Seeing his reluctance, Take decides to also say his mind.
"Mr. Amano gave you a place to stay and a job in the Shrine didn't he?"
"Then stop thinking about things like 'how different from us you are' and what not"
"We all came from different places and have different stories, however no matter how distinct our backgrounds are..."
"All of us have one thing in common"
"And that is, that the people of the Shrine is our family"
"Family..." - Says the young man in a pensive tone.
Noticing he said something that could be difficult for 02189 to understand, Take tries to correct his words, but end up mumbling inconsistently.
"Let me reframe, what he said..."
"Even if you don't know what family is, or anything related to our world. You are for us already part of our world" - Kaede completes.
"Also, we are almost family for real!"
"I even gave you a name, I guess that makes me like your mom!"
"I think you would need at least be double your age to be his mom Mayu-chan..."
"Don't fret over the details Take-kun!" - Says Mayu making a face.
"With this behavior, you are more like a little sister..." - Kaede states smugly.
"So I'll be his big bro!"
"In this case, Kaori would be his... hmm"
Take and Mayu both teasingly look at Kaede.
"What!? What are two you trying to say!?"
The three see the young man laughing uncontrollably.
"Hey, see what you did, you confused Ren even more with this family talk!"
"Now he'll end up not even knowing the difference between family and friends" - Says Kaede in an annoyed tone.
She's right, I don't even know half of the terms they're using.
In truth, shouldn't really trust them, but- but for some reason... this is...
This is so warm.
They are the only people I ever got around that made me feel this way. Welcomed, wanted. This is not like the naïve wish I had, to have friends just because I saw it in the series and movies I liked. This is different.
I still have many doubts inside me but there's one thing I'm sure of...
With tears in his eyes that could be either from laughing or crying, the young man takes a deep breath and says:
"Okay, I understand now..."
"I'm Haku Renichi!"
He opens a wide smile like no other he ever did. This was not a gesture to gain sympathy nor something just for show. That was a genuine smile, however a little awkward. The awkwardness was a consequence of his life up until that point, not a bad life, per se, but a life that didn't know the meaning of true happiness. A life that did not know the meaning of many things
Even without knowing what that smile represented for him, Ren's expression spread to everyone else in the place. Even the usually deadpan Take cracked a smile after seeing the young man's face.
Ren looked once again at the reflex of his face on his helmet that was on Kaede's hands, and for the first time he could accept that the one he was seeing was really himself.