My eyes were swollen as I wiped the tears away. I don't know how long I've been crying but I was finally able to stop. I looked over to see Hideyoshi and saw that he was still staring at me.
He still did not say anything. He was just watching me. As if waiting for me to finish. On his face was a sad look, as if he understood what I'm feeling.
I felt embarrassed but at the same time, relief.
"I'm sorry." He finally spoke. "I know those words don't mean much but, that is all I can offer is my condolences."
I shook my head.
"I appreciate it. That you stayed and listened to my story, or at least read my lips. I'm feeling a little better now. Thank you, you're sweet." I blushed slightly as I told him.
His face suddenly turned red and he quickly looked away.
"Umm... well..." He stuttered. I giggled at his cute reaction.
"But knowing this world is fake, it makes me wonder, how much of my memory was real?"
"Huh?" He looked at me in surprise.
"When I told that story, I could feel there were parts missing. Memories that I can't recall. What if... what-if all that was a fake as well? That my entire life up to this point was all a lie?"
My body trembled.
"I'm scared. I don't know what to do..."
Hesitantly, he reached out his hand but immediately pulled it back.
“Mitsuhide-senpai, his theory is that the people here are all real people that were somehow transferred from the real world. By a mysterious will or some other supernatural means, we don’t know.”" He spoke calmly.
“He said;that the people moved here, are living through the moments they were brought from.”
"There is no doubt that we were students." He continued. "And although certain things are gone from our memories when Artificial was controlling us, the memories we still have are all real.
That we are reliving these memories from a daily basis. That all the people around us, our friends, are the same from the real world. All of it is real."
"Do you think so?" I asked sheepishly.
"I don't really know." He shook his head, smiling a weak smile. "That was his theory, but there are hints of truth in it.
Did we not live our lives normally, before we broke away from Artificial's control?
Even if it was the same loop repeatedly, it must have been based on real events back when we were in the real world. So, I don't think our lives and memories we have are fake."
I pondered his words. It was true that all the memories and times I spent with Asumi did not feel fabricated, but it was hard to tell.
There were pieces of memories missing yet there was also still more that I could not forget. However;
"Who knows. We can't go back anymore even if we want to. We're monsters." I responded cynically.
Hideyoshi flinched. As if the words stung him. He scrunched up his face and opened his mouth to speak, only to close it again.
"Do you truly believe that?" He asked quietly.
I did not know how to respond. I hesitated, but I slowly nodded my head.
"If we're not humans, what else could we be? Do you think we can be anything else? Superhumans? That is nothing but another word for being a freak..."
The moment the words left my mouth, regret immediately came over me. Ah... why... how could I say that? I sheepishly looked up at Hideyoshi to find him staring intensely into my eyes.
"I wonder, is that what you see when you look at us? At yourself? Monsters... freaks?" His voice was monotone as he asked me.
I did not respond, hiding my face away from his gaze in shame. I shouldn't have said that, yet I couldn't stop myself.
I heard him take a deep breath, before speaking again. But this time, his voice was calm.
"When I look at the Prez, Mitsuhide-senpai or you, I do not see a monster. I see a person who is suffering just as much as I am."
"It's... hard." He continued. "To suddenly have your world turned upside down. To be thrown into all of this without any known reasons.
To suddenly learn that everything you knew is nothing more than a fake. Yet, is it wrong? To still live?"
“Our bodies have mutated and we can’t be classified the same as other people in this world anymore, but don’t we still feel? Don't we still think?
Don't we still dream and struggle; to be alive?
While others here are subjected to the whims of Artificial, we who’ve broken free, are we not allow to live? Not as puppets as senpai would call us, but finally as ourselves?
Or is it just because our bodies have been tainted, are we still not who we are inside before all this?"
"I understand your anger... your frustration... and most of all, your pain. All too well. All of this is too much for one person to handle. But you are not alone. We are here with you.
We truly want to be able to lend you a hand. Not just you, but anyone else that might also unfortunately be pulled into this."
"That's why... please... please... do not look at yourself as a monster or a freak. You are still a person like any other. You are still human, no matter the circumstances.
Maybe, even more human than those who are trapped by Artificial. All of us are, that is what I believe."
I carefully listen to his words. As he spoke, I could see slight tears swelling in his eyes. He was fighting back his emotions, yet I could still feel it. Human... still human...,
"I am still human..." I slowly repeated the words. "I'm still a person...; My body might have changed. Who knows what have happened or what may happen but; I'm still me.
I'm still Takatora Ryuuko. And I am still alive."
I looked down at my left hand. They were not the hand of some monster but my own.
A surprised look appeared on his face as he heard me, followed by a little smile.
"That's right. Please don't ever think otherwise."
"Yes... I won't." I wiped the tears from my eyes as those thoughts flowed through my mind.
As I once again touched my right shoulder, it felt different from before. I felt warmth. A smile spread across my face as I look up at the sight of the disappearing night sky.
It was already dawn. The beautiful glow of the rising sun began to bask the sky in a brilliant amber light as I felt my heart a little bit more at ease.
"That smile, that genuine smile. It's different." I heard Hideyoshi said in awe.
"You think so?"
"Yeah. It's beautiful."
"Heh heh, thank you."
His face turned bright red. He immediately turned his head away from my eyes.
"I-I should get going now. I hope I'll see you around." He stuttered as he quickly got up and walked away.
"Thank you, Hideyoshi." I said quietly as I watched him made his way back to the school.