The Nightmare World

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Chapter 17

Me: Subaru!

Before I know it, my feet sprint towards the scene, my heart beating against my chest like a roaring ocean wave.

The monster’s claws come crashing down on me, sending sharp jolts of pain through my body.

BIood splatters from my skin as if in slow motion.

Me: Agghh...!

I fall to the floor.

The excruciating pain and the sight of my own blood makes me feel faint.

Subaru: Jessica...?

Horrified, Subaru runs over to me and holds me up.

Subaru: Jessica! Please wake up,Jessica!

I look up at Subaru. my vision blurry. His tears drip onto my cheek and mingle with my blood.

Me: I'll be fine, Subaru. Save

yourself.

Subaru: Th-There's no way I'm leaving you. Jessica!

I sense the monster approaching. The eerie sound of it dragging its body gets closer and closer.

Me: Please, Subarul! You have to get outta here!!

With each step the monster takes, the wood floor begins to give way until we end up falling headfirst into a black abyss beneath.

(This is the end.)

I slowly close my eyes and lose consciousness.

As I'm free-falling, the last thing

I feel is the warmth of Subaru's body clinging tightly to me to protect me.

I wake up.

The morning sun casts its rays through the curtains.

In contrast to the warm sunlight, my heart feels immensely heavy. It

feels hard just to be alive.

Young Ray: Subaru!

Out of nowhere, I catch sight of Ray's younger self.

Young Ray: Hey Subaru. are you listening to me?

I realize that Ray is talking to me.

Confused, I try to move my head, but I can't.

Something in the window catches my eye.

The reflection takes me by surprise for a second, and I realize that this body isn't mine.

This is Subaru's body. and I can't help but wonder if I'm dreaming.

Young Ray: Were you sleeping?

Young Subaru:

I look around at the other kids in the room.

Thoma's in the corner by himself and Monica's playing with her dolls.

Suddenly, the door creaks open. Licht comes in, grinning from ear to ear.

Young Ray: Licht! Where have you been?

Young Ray: We could've started the game earlier. but now it's time for art class.

Licht laughs, shrugging off Ray's complaints.

I can see a little girl trying to hide behind Licht.

Young Subaru:

That little girl is me!

The other kids start to gather around, and Licht's introduces my younger self.

I just nod despite everyone's enthusiasm not even a smile on my face.

Young Licht: Subaru! Come here!

Subaru tries to take a step, but something holds him back.

It's an invisible force, something

growing at the pit of his stomach. His sense of dread takes over, and all I can do is watch as things unfold.

Subaru does as he's told and introduces himself,eyes downcast. He keeps his head low, and as his bangs cover his eyes, he squeaks out a greeting.

Young Subaru: Hello...

Subaru does his best to hide his eyes, but he bobs his head up and down lightly, wanting to see if my younger self will react.

But instead, my younger self reaches out to pat him on the head.

Young Subaru: Umm...

As Subaru lifts his head. his bangs sway to the side, revealing both of his eyes.

Young Jessica: Ah.

My younger self stares at Subaru with those empty eyes,hands

suspended in the air.

Young Jessica: So pretty...

I see myself looking curiously at the boy in front of me, eyes wide with wonder.

(My eyes...are pretty?)

My younger self smiles slightly. Suddenly. I start to hear and feel Subaru's thoughts and emotions inside me.

(Why would she like them? I don't understand.)

(All my life. everyone's said that my eyes are a curse.)

(But she...)

(She's looking at me!)

(Aren’t you afraid?)

The heavy burdens in Subaru's heart are suddenly lifted all at once.

At that moment, I realize just how much my simple words meant to Subaru.

He had been waiting so long to be accepted by someone.

Young Licht: Subaru's eyes are pretty, right?

Licht smiles brightly as he looks at his friend.

Young Licht: Hear that? You better get a haircut and let those eyes of yours shine.

Young Subaru: I-l’m not getting a haircut...

Young Ray: What's your name?

Young Jessica:

Young Ray: That's funny. I heard you say something just a second ago. Are you mute?

Young Subaru: That's not nice, Ray.

Young Ray: Father said it's rude not to answer questions.

Subaru ignores Ray's remarks and takes my younger self's hand.

Young Subaru: My name is Subaru. What about you?

Little girl: Jessica...

(Jessica...)

I hear Subaru repeating my name in his heart.

It feels like both love and the will to live budded in his heart that day.

As I begin to drift away, the last thing I sense inside him is his strong determination proclaiming, "Someday, I want to be able to save Jessica just like she saved me.”

I squint my eyes. trying to prevent myself from waking up.

(Let me stay in this dream a little longer...)

But the closer I get to consciousness, the more pain I feel.

I gently open my eyes and see Subaru kneeling beside me.

He's tightly gripping my hand as tears silently stream down his face.

It seems I just passed out from the shock.

My cuts are snallow,but by no means Iife-threatening.

(I'm glad I'm alive. Not just for my sake, but also for Subaru.)

Running a straight line from my check to my collarbone, the scratches have already closed up.

I still feel hazy and lightheaded. Maybe it's because I keep drifting in and out of sleep.

Subaru: I'm so sorry, Jessica. You encouraged me to look ahead. I was determined to protect you, but I couldn't even do that.I couldn't protect the one I cared so much about.

I can hear the powerlessness in his voice as he clutches my hand tightly.

He keeps his gaze downcast. seemingly not noticing I'm awake.

Subaru: Nothing ever good comes of me being around people. This all happened because of me.

Subaru's lived his life blaming himself for the suffering of others. The thought alone hurts me.

(Oh. Subaru...)

(How many times do I have to tell you? I'm right by your side.)

I gently retract my hand, and Subaru's head snaps up.

Subaru: Jessica!

Me: Hey...

Subaru slowly looks up at me. Our eyes meet. I gaze at his tear-filled red eye. It really is pretty. I don't understand why people treated him as if he were cursed.

I place a gentle hand on his cheek.

Me: So pretty...

Subaru: I

I say it, just like the first time I saw him in the orphanage.

Me: Right?

He looks at me as if an epiphany just came to him.

Me: Do you remember now?

Subaru nods firmly.

Subaru: You complimented my eye so many times. Because we lost our memories, we were like complete strangers to each other when we first met in the nightmare world.Even still. the first thing you did was say that my eyes were beautiful. I can't express how much that meant to me. I've realized that every time I cursed and rejected my eye. it hurt you. That every time I rejected my eye. it was like I was rejecting you. But even still. it's no use.

He utters from the depths of his

heart.

Subaru: No matter how many times I tell myself, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to accept my eye...to actually like it.

Me: Subaru...

Subaru’s words render me quiet.

(I don't know...)

Right now, Subaru seems so far away...

And it hurts to think that I can't help him despite being so close to him.

Subaru:

(The only way I know how to reach him is through the truth.)

Me: Your eyes have always made me feel calm, Subaru.

He looks at me for a second, perplexed.

Subaru: They do?

Me: Would I lie to you?

Subaru shakes his head, smiling

weakly.

But it then turns into a frown as he zeroes in on the cut on my cheek.

(Oh...)

Subaru: I’m really sorry about that.

Me: It's okay! It's nothing serious. I hope Ray and Licht are safe up there.

I stare at the hole in the ceiling.

Me: Ray! Licht!

No response.

Subaru: Let's go find them,

Subaru leads us through the narrow pathway.

Subaru: We should be fine if we follow this path.

Subaru stretches out a hand to help me up.

In the dark, we walk hand in hand.

I can't help but look up at Subaru’s face.

I smile to myself. feeling the warmth in his hands, admiring how much more confident he's become. Just as we make it up the stairs leading to the surface, we run into Ray and Licht heading toward the basement.

Me: Look, there they are!

Subaru: Finally.

Ray: Hey!

Ray runs toward us with a smile of relief.

Ray: How are your wounds?

The first thing Ray does is check my injuries. Then, he looks aII over, trying to find the places that need attention.

(Even though he's just examining me to make sure I'm okay. it's embarrassing to have him stare at my body.)

My eyes meet Ray’s as he pensively inspects my wounds. I immediately look away.

Ray: Jessica? What's wrong?

Me: Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.

Ray: Good. It’s not that bad, but we need to clean these cuts to avoid infection.

Me: Okay.

Ray then goes over to Subaru and quickly checks on him.

Ray: Hmm. You seem okay too.

Ray lightly pats Subaru's head. Subaru, like a little puppy. closes his eyes and spontaneously smiles. He turns back to me and pats my head as well.

Ray: Thanks for keeping Subaru safe. Jessica.You did good.

Ray smiles broadly.

(I thought he’d be angry.)

(Ray sure is a lot more easygoing compared to when I first met him.)

Ray reaches into his pocket and looks a little puzzled.

He fumbles through both of his coat pockets and then through his pants pockets. frantically searching for something.

Ray: Goddammit...

(Uh-oh. I knew something was wrong.)

Me: What are you looking for, Ray?

Ray: Bandages.

Ray: I know I always carry some around. but...

Ray scratches his head in annoyance.

Ray: Why now of all times?!

(He's really serious about this, huh?)

But after a few minutes going over where he usually keeps his supplies, Ray sighs in frustration. He puts a hand on his hip, and the other catches his head in a facepalm.

(He's so cute like this.)

(He’s usually so calm and collected, but now he's all flustered.)

Me: Hehe...

I accidentally let a giggle slip out.

Ray: Wh-What are you laughing at?

He looks even cuter when he's sulky. I want to pat him on the head.

(Haha, I wonder if he'd get angry if I did. Or maybe he'll surprise me by turning beet red.)

(No, no, I can't do that.)

I shake my head, dismissing the silly idea.

Me: Thank you, Ray. But I'm okay. really! It’s not bleeding anymore.

Ray: But

Licht appears from behind him and Ray takes a step back.

(Phew! At least Ray's dropping the topic.)

Licht: I’m glad you're both safe.

Me: I’m glad you guys are okay too!

We decide to leave the orphanage for the time being.

After we go outside. Ray checks his watch to see how much time has passed and sighs.

Ray: Ah, I keep forgetting time doesn't run here.I’ve been checking my watch out of habit.

Subaru: But we've been here for a while now. The bell will ring soon.

Licht: Then you can rest.

Our conversation is suddenly interrupted by a disturbing sound.

???:Kill...the child...

Everyone: !

Terrified, we turn toward the direction of the voice.

(Oh, no!)

A blob forms from the ground up, mumbling in agony.

Subaru: It's the monster!

Ray: Everyone, get back!

I turn to run. but something catches my attention.

I turn to see Subaru holding his ground.

Me: Subaru! Run!

But Subaru doesn't budge. Instead. he takes a step forward.

Subaru: This is my past. I’d be lying if I said I'm not scared, but...

Subaru looks back at me.

Subaru: I’ve already made up my mind. I won't back down.

I’ve never seen someone look so determined.

I approach Subaru and...

Me: You can do it, Subaru!

Licht wraps me in his arms, both shielding me and also stopping me from going any farther.

(I won't go. I trust Subaru.)

Monster: Filthy...demon boy! I'm gonna put you out of your misery!!

Subaru sharpens his gaze as the monster charges at him.

(I believe in him!)

Monster: Ugly... red-eyed...monster!

Subaru takes his stand. staring down the monster with determination

in his eyes.

Subaru: What of it?This is what makes me who I am! No matter what anyone else says

Subaru turns to me, eyes shining.

Subaru: No matter what anyone says. I've decided to embrace my eye.I don’t care who rejects me. If just one person near and dear to me says she likes my eye, then I’m happy with that.

(Subaru...)

I can't help but grin despite the terror looming over us.

His determined eyes are so beautiful.

The monster grows restless, bellowing out an anguished cry of voices in varying tones.

(It's working!)

The monster groans and staggers in agony.

Bright light envelopes us for a

moment Subaru falls to his knees.

Ray: Subaru!

Subaru puts a hand on his heart, wearing a pained expression as if an arrow just pierced through his skin.

Subaru: I feel hot.

The only thing we can hear is the soft sound of Subaru's breathing.

(It's just like when I got my memories back. He's completely accepted and recovered his memories.)

Ray looks around, checking the surroundings for any sign of the monster.

Finally, he faces us with a growing smirk.

Ray: The monster’s gone!

(Really?!)

Ray starts chuckling, shaking his head as if this moment is truly unbelievable.

Licht: Good going, Subaru!

Licht gives Subaru a thumbs-up, a proud smile painted on his face.

(We really did it...)

My heart beats again, this time, for the warmth it feels in light of our victory.

Ray extends his hand to help Subaru up, and the latter takes it with a shy smile.

Subaru: Thanks, Ray.

Subaru dusts himself off. then notices me looking at him.

Subaru: We did it, Jessica.

(We sure did!)

Before I realize it he take me into his arms

But he doesn't shy away. Instead. he hugs me tighter. and I feel his heartbeat next to mine.

(This is it.)

(After all we've been through...)

Me: We're finally free.

I step back and look at each of them, realizing how far we’ve come together.

(This world has been so cruel to us.)

(But we got through it.)

Me: So, what do we do now?

Ray: The bell should ring any minute now.I can't wait to wake up.

He stretches his arms and yawns.

Subaru: Licht should wake up in the morning. right?

Me: In theory, he should.After all, we returned the memories back to their original owners.

Licht: I can't wait to see all of you for real.It's been too long.

Ray: Well. the world's changed a lot.

Licht: That's true, but I have you

guys.I’ll figure it out in no time.

Hearing Licht say that makes me feel excited.

(We may have started as strangers. but now we have our memories back.)

(We found out the truth about our bonds.)

(And everything that's happened has just made those bonds stronger.)

(All of us...we're truly friends who care for each other.)

I find myself staring at the moon. hoping that our salvation has come.

(This is the last time I‘ll have to look at that ghastly moon.)

Clouds float just across it, casting a shadow on us.

Out of nowhere, we hear an eerie groaning sound.

Licht: What's that?

???: Grnnngghhh.

The groaning gets louder and louder.

We suddenly find ourselves huddling together. keeping an alert eye on our surroundings.

(What's happening?)

(I thought the monster was gone for good.)

Then, the ground starts to rumble.

(Why is this happening?)

A lump of gooey liquid appears, steadily growing as we watch it form in front of us.

Just when I thought I would never have to set eyes on that disgusting monster ever again, it once again appears right before my eyes.

Licht: The monster's still alive?!

(It can't be!)

The blob spikes itself in all directions as it grows, reaching heights taller than the monster that attacked Subaru.

(Even Licht is freaking out! This can't be good.)

Ray: There's no way around it! Run!

We make a run for it to try and get as much distance between us and the monster as possible.

Monster: Gruuwaaaghh!

(Why?)

I force myself to run even faster.

(Why?!)

Blood rushes to my head. my ears burning.

(Why did it come back?!)

No matter how much I ponder it, I can't think of a reason.

(Has my understanding of the nightmare world been entirely wrong?)

The road ahead darkens with despair.

(Then, how do we get rid of this monster?)

(I can't think of any other ideas.)

Just when I had given up...

Monster: H-Help!

(!)

Suddenly. we hear a muffled cry come from it.

Monster: Please...

At the sound of that familiar voice. we all suddenly stop running and turn around.

Me: Did you guys hear that?

Ray: It's Thoma!

Monster: Aaaah!

The monster screams in a much higher tone of voice.

Me: That's Monica!

Thoma and Monica died rejecting their memories, and it made the monster even stronger.

Me: Are these their lost memories...?!

Monster: Graaagh!

Ray: Dammit. our memories alone weren't enough! We'll have to figure out a way to accept Thoma and Monica's memories! But how?!

Licht: I can buy you guys some time!

Me: You mean you're going to sacrifice yourself?!Don't you dare! How many times do you need to sacrifice yourself for us?

I won’t let you do this!

Licht: Jessica, please. Let me protect you.

The monster is getting closer and closer.

The monster glares at me with its disgusting eyes like it wants me me

I resist the fear with all my might while desperately trying to come up with a plan.

(What do I do?!)

Me: Licht!

Licht: Jessica?

Me: We’ve gotta face this thing together!

We all walk up to Licht’s side.

Licht: Jessica...

Ray: Can't let you be the hero all alone now, can I?

Subaru nods swiftly.

Licht: Ray. Subaru...

Ray: Thoma’s in there, after all. I

have to do this for him.

His voice sounds so sure. but the moment he takes my hand, I feel the chill on his skin.

(He's trembling.)

I look at him, pressing my lips together, and he nods at me with a smile.

Subaru: We promised Jessica. We’ll see this through to the end.

(Even Subaru...)

(Everyone's here.)

Licht looks at each of us at his side, wide-eyed at first.

Then he closes his eyes, lips curving in satisfaction.

Licht: Together. I like the sound of that...

I take Licht’s hand in mine as we look forward.

We stand,hands joined together, feeling the energy of our bonds flow through our core.

Suddenly, it feels as though nothing can stop us.

Licht: Let's finish this.

The monster charges at us with a high-pitched scream. and I stare it down. releasing all my emotions with a powerful gaze.

(Thoma. Monica. I'll never forget you.)

(We'll bear your burdens.)

The strain of Monica and Thoma's fears washes over us.

(Thoma’s memories, Monica's memories... So much pain,grief and suffering. )

(How can this world be so cruel?)

(I... I can't breathe.)

Grief overtakes my heart. The pain is unbearable.

(But I’m not running away.)

(No matter how painful it is!)

Thoma’s guilt, Monica's fears of neglect.

Even memories that were forcibly thrown away need a place to belong.

(No matter how bad.)

(They're still a part of us!)

(They complete who we are!)

l glare at the monster,determined. As I watch the monster spiking in all directions, I see a faint vision.

It turns into the shape of two people.

(Is that...Thoma and Monica?)

They float across the space, smiling as they join our side.

Tears cloud my vision and warmth spread through my heart as I realise that they too will be at peace once this ends.

We're all together now!

We hold each other tighter,feeling stronger than ever.

The monster screams, and a blinding streak illuminates our surroundings. It's so bright my eyes can't take it.

Ray: don't look away!

I grip Ray's hand tighter ,no intentions of letting go.

Monster:gnnnggg....

The monster shows no sign of stopping,and we're forced to take a step back.

Ray:stay together!

We take another step back, but I feel myself growing weaker.

The monster grows closer and closer.

It opens its mouth with a violent moan. I nearly tremble at its shining fangs. I strengthen my grip on the two hands I am holding and feel a surge of power rush back from them both.

Suddenly,a streak of light comes out of the monsters mouth.

And envelops us in it. My vision blurs and then it all goes dark.

When I open my eyes I am welcomed with the familiar hospitial kind of scent.

Licht:you are awake!

Me:Licht....

(Finally he is back.)

I immediately grab him an embrace.

And saw Subaru and Licht also awake.

We all did a quick group hug.

And went away from the orphanage back into our normal lives.



The end

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