CHAPTER 46

I can't believe I'm doing this…

"So we're using a double boiler to melt the chocolate? That's probably why I was burning everything. Oops!" Mary places her fist on her temple, while slightly sticking her tongue out cutely.

She follows my directions, closely watching every subtle movement I make. Along with many other skills I had acquired over the course of these loops, making chocolate was one of them. It shouldn't be a surprise that had bothered to learn to make confectionaries.

I-I was just bored one day…that's all.

"Maybe I should have asked you from the very beginning Akane." Mary sighs of relief.

She finally places a chunk of her chocolate in the bowl, and we wait for it to completely melt. Now there's a bit of an awkward silence between us.

I can't let my guard down…

"I didn't want it to be this way. Unfortunately, you and Kaz are the two must stubborn people I know."

Kazuki and I walked into Mary's trap. I was locked in here with her, unable to escape – for now. She never really did forget everything about this loop, and in the back of my mind, I always had a feeling that it would've been too convenient. Immediately I understood that there was only one logical way for her to be standing in front of me like this:

She must possess another object.

That was the only explanation that fit with the rest of our acquired information. I just can't believe it was staring right in front of us the whole time.

"Your track suit…" I thought aloud.

As I observed further beneath her chocolate-stained apron, I noticed it was unnaturally red, almost like it was dyed with a particular fluid. It was so dark that it completely changed the original color of the track suit.

And so with no choice but to comply, Mary has asked for my assistance in making some chocolates. Apparently it was something she never got the hang of, despite being stuck in this loop for almost an eternity. I don't know the true reason why she wanted to learn, but I had a feeling it had something to do with Valentines' Day. It was a day that would never come while we were stuck in this endless loop.

"Are you willing to do what it takes?" she asks me.

"What do you mean?"

I've had contingency plans in case Mary ever did try something against me. Our unspoken – but mutual – agreement to not interfere with each other was never something we really adhered to. Our disputes were fought through proxies, such as Kazuki, or through other, often indirect ways. It was a game of one of us waiting for the perfect opportunity to gain the upper hand. Mary wanted to stay in this loop, while I would do anything to break it. No matter what, I wasn't going to be the first one to blink.

"I want to ask you a personal question." she moves on.

Mary takes the chocolate off the bowl and then begins to pour it into her molds in front of me. The melted chocolate drips into her heart-shaped molds, along with other various cute shapes.

"Do you feel like a part of you is missing?"

"Why are you asking me all these questions?" I snap back at her.

Although Mary had experienced more loops than I did, she didn't have that much of an advantage over me. After all, it was about quality, not quantity. It felt like we knew more about each other than ourselves, and in some twisted way, our relationship was almost comparable to the level of soul mates. Maybe that's why I'm humoring her in this tired charade. It was difficult for me to keep telling myself this was all fake – that this was only an illusion.

"It's because I'm genuinely curious Akane. I'm just wondering what kind of devotion you have to Kaz."

"If you hurt him-"

"Don't you consider us to be friends?" she interrupts me abruptly.

Mary fills all of her molds, and now waits for them to cool down a bit. "We both want to protect the people we love, so I don't see why we can't be besties." she smiles at me.

"You're delusional to continue living in this false world." I reply.

A small grin appears on Mary's face.

"Can you say without a doubt that everything here is meaningless? Look around us? Doesn't the chocolate in front of us smell and taste like chocolate? What is the real thing if you can't tell the difference between something false and true? Those nameless students in our classes and don't care about? They have lives and stories that you've never bothered to listen to. You've been in this crusade for the truth, that you've never once thought about anyone else." her face builds with frustration directed towards me.

"Breaking this loop would be no different than genocide, wouldn't you agree?"

Every fiber of my being wanted to call her out, but deep down I knew of the dire consequences. Even my theory of destroying objects to break this loop had its flaws.

"Kazuki is the key to getting us out of here, don't you realize that?" I reply back.

"And what makes you so sure that everything is going to be fine? Isn't a bit hypocritical for you to assume the best for everyone? Why should we suffer further in pursuit of some stupid hope for an escape when it's impossible? Have you ever stopped to think about your own happiness here? Kaz has suffered long enough, what he deserves is his own happiness, his own choice."

Our ideologies would never end. Mary was dead set on keeping this world alive, in whatever pitiful state it was in.

"Did Kaz ever want to escape this loop?" she asks me. "Until that day you came, he was unaware of what was really going on."

I audibly sigh.

"It's because of you that now he's going to suffer for an eternity." she says, biting her tongue.

"No." I reply. "It's because of you."

I didn't want to admit it, but Kaz's awareness started when he witnessed Mary dying. He wanted to break this loop in order to save her. It was never about me. I'm sounding like a jealous girlfriend (because I am), but I was not the reason why he suddenly felt the urge to escape. If he never saw her die, then I'm sure none of my words would have gotten through. After all, it took me over 10,503 days until he finally started to remember.

It only took Mary a single day.

"Ignorance is bliss." she says to me.

Mary raises her hand towards her collar, but is quickly reminded that her other object was outside this room right now. She currently has nothing to ease her troubled mind. Instead, she checks to see if the chocolate has solidified.

"I know almost everything about you Akane. Odds are, you probably know everything about me too." she chuckles.

"Can I ask you another question?"

I stay silent. She takes that as confirmation. I feel like I am undergoing an interrogation.

"If you had a choice to forget everything, would you? If there was some way for you to forget that you were stuck in a loop, without a chance of ever realizing you were in it, would you do it?" she asks.

To forget everything..?

Mary takes a piece out of the mold and hands it front of me, motioning me to taste it. I'm not sure if she was asking hypothetically, or if she truly had the power to do that. I'm aware that Mary had a significant advantage over me in terms of days experienced, but after finding out it was possible to possess multiple objects, surely some kind of power to manipulate this loop was not out of the realm of possibility.

But I can't give in so easily. I can't back down now.

"No." I say firmly.

Mary smiles genuinely. I take the piece of chocolate, and eat it.

Delicious.

The chocolate melts in my mouth and the flavor coats my tongue. There's a subtle bitterness to it, a pleasant feeling, probably because Mary managed to burn it a little somehow.

"I always knew you would say that. I just wanted to hear it directly from you." she laughs. "But-"

Mary pauses.

"Would you change your answer if Kaz said yes?"

Suddenly I felt this immense pressure inside me. In an instant, I can feel my heartbeat racing, caught off-guard at her question. No – was it from this chocolate? I taste something else, something that shouldn't be in this. For the first time in this loop, I feel anxious.

Why would that matter? I am my own independent person, aren't I?

It shouldn't matter since that idiot doesn't know what's good for him sometimes. But then if that was the case, why do I feel that his answer would be a deciding factor? Was it because of my feelings for him? Would I throw away everything just to be with him?

"It wouldn't change anything." I say reluctantly.

Mary sighs.

"In the end, maybe you're more devoted to him than I ever was."

Mary was trying to guilt me, since I am to blame for everything that has happened. I could have stayed ignorant, never to tell Kazuki the truth of what was going on. Maybe I never should have pressed him further, to force him to experience these cruel situations. Even now, when we speak to each other, I realize how different he acts around me. Kazuki has only been trying to reach my impression of him. He knows almost nothing about me.

And yet-

And yet I can't think of anyone I feel closer to. He is the only one with a "true sense of justice." Even if I didn't say anything, he would have found out anyways. He is the only one that feels the same way I do – to choose something genuine. But then she says something that breaks me:

"Can you kill me?"


This can't be!

Daisuke had obliterated everything I knew about this loop in one single statement – 'you didn't think we could only possess one object right?'

"Like a lot of things, it was right in front of you the whole time. Y'know, Mary's track suit was originally green."

Then the red must be from the times she-

I try not to think about that. Of course! How obvious it was! The pin was just a distraction from her true object – Mary Kaneko's trademark red track suit. I wondered why she still held onto something tattered and worn. I suppose this was the appropriate moment to find out why.

Daisuke looks out through the windows. The orange sky was clear, without a cloud in sight.

He looks back at me. I couldn't tell what he was thinking from his pale face.

"Part of me doesn't want this to ever end. I hope this goes on forever and ever. I wouldn't mind if this story never had an ending."

"How can you live with yourself stuck like this?" I asked him hypothetically.

"I think you already know how I feel about that dude. What's the point of living if there's no one there to spend it with? So long as I'm with you and the people I care about, that matters right?"

"But Mary has gone too far. Why would she risk everything on this single play? Why now? Why not a thousand loops ago?"

That was the still the only part I did not understand. If Mary truly had a heads-up on all of us, why did she do this now? Why even allow us the opportunity to rebel. Why would she allow us to go so far, even revealing that she was aware the whole time?

"Because she wants to break your spirit." Daisuke says with a blank expression. "Once you truly feel despair, the only escape is to accept the inevitable."

Somehow, I don't think Daisuke truly felt that way. I can't refuse my resolve!

"Mary is hoping that you don't go through with it." he says. "Personally, I don't think I can. That's what separates you and I."

Of course I can go through with this! With Akane right next to me there's nothing we can't accomplish together. We've figured out that the key to breaking this loop was to gather all the objects. We found 2/3, so only one left, probably hidden by Mary.

"No!" I shout at him.

"The Daisuke I know wouldn't give in to this so easily. He would be an idiot that never gives up trying to escape, but he's not stupid to accept that it was impossible."

After all, I had vague memories of my past life. Even though it wasn't 100% there, I know this is temporary. No matter how real it seems, this is all just an illusion.

"I'm sorry we had to trick you two; it was the only way. Mary just wanted to confirm something without interference."

"Confirm what? Don't you already know everything?"

Daisuke shakes his head.

"It's just a theory that's even too far-fetched for me, but Mary insists."

Daisuke faces back at me. His pale face showed no signs of emotion.

"That pin you have, I want you to take it from me."

That sounded oxymoronic. I already did take it from Daisuke. It was in my pockets right now.

"I want you to really concentrate on it Kaz. Think about your memories. Really try to remember."

"Why…? Why are you helping me? This sounds like a trick!" I shout at him.

"It's no trick dude. I'm being serious." he raises his hands, his tone a bit annoyed.

"You're the only one who could break this loop Kaz. You can escape, to make things back the way they were." he sighs. "I don't think it's fair of me to decide for Yui. Seeing her suffer and to put on a smile for me every day…I'm not sure if I can live with that."

Daisuke averts his eyes into my pocket. He wants me to touch the pin. I start to understand this was not part of Mary's plan.

I reluctantly reach into my pocket and grasp the Masked Avenger pin. It was practically brand new; its colors bright and shiny.

R…Remember?

"Argh!"

My scream echoed through the hallway. A burning sensation coursed throughout my body, almost as if I've been stabbed repeatedly by a knife. My head felt like it was a nail being hammered on, with every impact slowly cracking my skull apart into pieces. There is too much to remember at once, my body can't comprehend it. His voice becomes fainter and fainter. My vision is becoming blurry, and I'm surprised I'm still conscious. But I can't hold out any longer. It shuts-

The little girl in the lily white dress stands in front of me.

"Hello again." she says to me happily.

I don't know where I am exactly. It's almost as if I'm in a small room, one that looked a little too clean. The familiar little girl stands in front of me, closely watching my every movement.

"It's hard to explain, but it doesn't matter. What matters is you are here right now."

Somehow that vague answer made feel a bit at ease.

"Do you remember now?"

I shake my head.

"Ah. You wouldn't be here if you did."

The little girl seemed disappointed. If only I knew what I was supposed to remember in the first place.

"That was the point of the loop, was it not? To get you to always remember that."

I was still confused at what she meant.

"Your wish."

Suddenly a flood of images wash into my consciousness.

Ah.

"I wish to be with Akane."

That was what I wanted wasn't it?

I am selfish.

This is all on me. Isn't it? To escape this place means sacrificing everything. How cruel have I been?

"It's time for you to wake up now."

The little girl turns around from me, and in a blink of an eye, she vanishes into thin air.

Suddenly I feel cold; empty inside. I can't think at all. My head is spinning around and around and around and around. Spinning, nonstop. I can't stop shivering intensely, unable to process what's going on. Why? When? Where? Why? What? The light is shining brightly inside. There is nothing to fear.

When I wake up, I'll remember this feeling – despair.


The same scene plays over and over again. Kazuhira Kaneshiro dies over and over again. A blonde-haired girl, Mary Kaneko, tries to save him, but fails every time. Kaz is struck by this truck, an unavoidable tragedy, over and over again.

"You have to believe me! I'm telling the truth!"

Everyone thinks I'm insane.

Today is February 2nd. It was only twelve more days until Valentines' Day. I planned on giving homemade chocolates to him.

I'm not crazy. Yesterday I had seen him die in my arms, his blood staining my hands and tracksuit. It's my fault he died; it was my stupid mistake that he had to push me out of the way. It's too real to be a dream.

"So wait, you're telling me that Kaz got hit by a truck? I just ran into him earlier today at his class."

That was Daisuke Akatsuka. He sat next to me in Class 2-A. Not only was he Kaz's de facto best friend, but they were partners-in-crime since they were little kids.

"Jeez Mary, the joke's not funny anymore."

"I'm telling you, it's like I'm repeating this day again. Everything is happening all over again. If I don't do something, Kaz is going to die again today!" I explain to him.

"Mary, like I said, you probably had a terrible nightmare or something." he brushes me off. "If you were really repeating this day, then surely you would know everything that's going to happen right? What am I going to do later?" he asks me.

"Um…I don't know, go out and eat at a new restaurant or something?"

If there was one thing I could count on Daisuke, was he was the guy to count on for food recommendations. He was practically on Yelb all the time, looking up new places to try.

"Nope, completely wrong." he replies. "C'mon Mary, you gotta calm down, nothing is going to happen to that knucklehead."

I sigh in frustration and sit back down at my seat. Am I going crazy? I've told everyone my story, and every single one of them brushed me off. The only problem was almost everything I experienced on February 2nd was playing out the exact same. Maybe the best approach was to just confront Kaz directly.

"Mary, I'm completely fine."

I keep poking at Kaz's face repeatedly, making sure I wasn't imagining things.

"A-And can you stop with the touching?" he brushes my hand away.

"I'm sorry. I just wanted to make sure of something." I reply.

I'm not crazy. Yesterday I had seen Kaz die in my arms. It was my fault that he died yesterday. It was my stupid mistake that he had to push me out of the way. There's no way it was a dream.

"What's gotten into you today? You're acting way more annoying than usual." he says sarcastically.

"H-Hey!" I snap back at him. "I-It's not like I'm worried about you or anything…it'd just be inconvenient if something happened to you. I-I'd have nobody to tutor me." I snidely remark.

There more I kept thinking about it, nothing made sense. Was that simply just a dream? I still remember every detail from last night. Kaz and I were walking home, and then a truck came out of nowhere! Is this some sort of premonition? Did I experience a warning of what could possibly happen?

"A-Are you okay?"

Kaz snaps me out of my daze. "You're really off today."

There's only one way to prevent this. If I truly had a vision that Kaz was going to die today, then I better do everything I can to make sure it doesn't happen.

I need to tell him the truth.

I tell Kaz everything. Of course, he doesn't believe me.

"You sure you don't need to see Dr. Mori or something?"

"I'm serious!" I groan in frustration.

It didn't seem like I was getting through to this dense knucklehead. The only way he would believe me was if I had undeniable evidence. But how could I obtain evidence of his supposed death?

I need proof…

I quickly inspect myself, to see if anything had changed, much to chagrin of my crush standing right in front of me. I pat myself up and down, and my attention turns to my Masked Avenger pin.

Hmm…

"Kaz!" I call his attention. "I want you to hold this."

I unhook my pin and hold my hand out towards him.

"What's that? A pin? Mary what does this-"

"Just do it knucklehead!" I snap at him.

Kaz pauses, uneasy at what was going on, but a part of him couldn't say no to me. He reaches his hand out reluctantly, and holds it in his hand.

"See noth-"

Suddenly he enters a trance-like state, his eyes staring straight through me. His expressionless face is devoid of any emotion, as he continues looking onward. I think his brain has reset, almost as if he is trying to remember something important. I'm not sure what is happening to him right now, but clearly holding onto my pin managed to trigger something inside his memories.

"Kaz!" I shake his shoulders. No reaction.

His knees give out, and he collapses onto the floor, his body dropping like a sack of potatoes. Kaz's eerily expressionless face is still stuck, unchanged.

I keep shaking him, doing anything to get a response – but nothing.

"Kaz!" I cry out to him, tears beginning to form in my eyes.

"Maerd a evah uoy od?"

"What?!"

He said something!

"Kaz! Are you okay? What's happening!"

He definitely said something. I have no idea what it means though. He doesn't repeat it. Kaz is stuck in a catatonic state. Considering what happens the next few thousand loops, this was the least painful.

We make promises that we cannot break.


I'm not sure if I can take this anymore.

I will sacrifice my life to save her. I think that would be a fair trade, wouldn't you agree? Even if she were to die, she would come back to life the next loop, almost as if nothing had happened. But that was the point.

Nothing would happen.

If nothing happened to Mary Kaneko, then my deaths were meaningless in the end, weren't they? I would save her, but I would effectively be doing nothing at the same time. Am I stuck like Sisyphus, forced to save Mary every night, only to repeat it again and again?

Then she would never be saved.

I am the living dead, unable to move forward, stuck in this place for eternity. For Kazuhira Kaneshiro is in love with Mary Kaneko, and he will do anything to save her.

Isn't that selfish? Who are you to decide who lives or dies?

There are no consequences in this world. You could almost even call this place a twisted utopia. Everyone is technically free to do whatever they want, free of any restrictions placed upon them, with the law merely acting as a front for some form of morality. If the people were made aware of this situation, then of course, human nature would assume some people will begin to act amoral. However, in a world with no consequences, their amoral actions would be negated, rendering it to become a moral one. Would the question then be the action of something to be considered amoral, immoral, or moral? Or would it be the consequences. Hence comes the contradiction in this idea – if there are no consequences, then there is nothing to standardize with. In this world, no actions would be considered amoral, immoral, or moral.

We are the living dead – and there is no escape.

However-

Mary Kaneko somehow managed to save me. Once. And then she saves me once more. I am not sure how she did it, but slowly I began to forget. Without the sense of death to remind me of my mortality, I slowly begin to forget about this world without consequences. I need to remember, yet I don't want to. Suddenly, she appeared. She struggled to make me remember, though I did not want to remember everything about Her. For if I did, I will forget about Her. I want to live here, with Her. I stay because I do not want to remember, for if I did, she will be gone. There is no escape, not without Her – for she is the object of my affection.

What is it like to hold the hand of someone you love?

My mind restarts.

"Why does that matter?" I say.

It is the best feeling in the world.

I bust through the door with Daisuke's help.

I don't see Mary's body anywhere.

I only see Her blood-stained hands, once elegant, now shaking profusely.

I see Her saying something to me, though I cannot hear Her screams.

I only see Her, the object of my affections, with tears trailing down Her face.

For she is the object of my affections.

Akane Yuki the object of my affections.