There's no Reset Button in Real Life – A Brief Introspection
Why…? His copper-colored eyes stared blankly out into space. He was not seeing the short-haired girl sitting next to him; he was not seeing the starry sky surrounding them from the vantage point of the school roof. He saw nothing. It was almost ironic…; the moment the wool was finally pulled from his eyes, was the exact moment he could see nothing clearly anymore. Why not…? From his world of blank darkness, of endless void, he could hear words… the words… those horrible, unprecedented words. Where… where's the…?
He wanted to run his hands through his hair, scratch at his head, kick-start his brain into useful thoughts once again…. There was nothing. Not with her… leaning on him like that. Not with her smell… wafting in through his inhales, wiping all coherent thought away. This… this wasn't supposed to happen. This was never supposed to happen. For me to be the God of Conquest…. And for the first time in my life… to be stuck without it…. It's the catch-all! It's the one thing that will save a gamer without fail once he's backed into an unredeemable corner…! Why…? Why is it… in real life… there's never a…?
It was a sensory overload. Without rational sight, he was reduced to his other senses. Touch… her hand is so cool on my head. Smell… is that… green apple shampoo she's using in her hair? Sound… it's her music… that handful of chords she's strumming… those notes she's humming in that wavering falsetto. Taste… leftover mint from her toothpaste… a hint of cherry from her chap stick, too… that steamed pork bun she bought me.
He heard her voice before he registered the meaning behind her words. Then her question hit him: "Katsuragi… do you love me?"
He drew in breath, started to speak, and nothing came out. Love…? Love a 3-D girl? Don't be absurd! He felt a sharp poke come from his breast pocket. Something thin, flimsy there…. His eyes widened. That… that guitar pick. It was just a prop… something for her to notice to guide her to the correct Ending. He clenched his teeth. Who am I trying to convince? Why am I talking to myself for so long? Where… where is she? In his mind, he swam towards a distant light; it shimmered, rippled. It was like looking up at the moon from underwater, and he furiously worked his arms and legs, travelling towards it with all his might. His heart was in his throat, pounding furiously. Every breath he took hurt his chest, and he felt like his heart was pumping ice water through his veins. His stomach roiled incessantly; he could swear he was going to be sick. And the breeze, warm as it was, prickled at his eyes; they felt dry.
If there's no goddess within her…. If she's not the one I'm looking for… that means…. That means…! Damn it, where's the damn…?! He knew the answer then. There was no Reset. There was no Load Last Save Data option. This was Real Life. This was 3-D. This was chaos; this was entropy; this was a confession of love spurred not by a contrived conquest of a "sports fanatic character," but by a true, discretionary emotion; this girl of flesh and blood and heart and soul had lived her life, accumulated experiences and insights and sense of self, and fallen in love… with him.
Ayumi was the last goddess. Chihiro wasn't. Ayumi was the correct target. Chihiro was a mistake. Ayumi was the one he'd have to conquer again. Chihiro was now an obstacle to be overcome. Ayumi… Chihiro… Ayumi… Chihiro… Ayumi… Chihiro! Without having to close his eyes, he could recall with vivid clarity every detail… her, kneeling down in the rain and trying to make small talk; her, refusing to confess to the boy after he'd spent countless hours preparing her course; her, standing outside his bedroom door and confessing her love to him even as he was within trying to build his Affection Rating with her best friend. She remembered nothing of his conquest; she remembered nothing of the kiss they'd shared…. And yet… and yet….
He felt his arms lift; he was not willing them to. He felt himself push her away to arm's-length; he'd commanded no such action. He felt his lips moving, heard the words leaving his mouth; it was as if he were hearing someone else speak from miles away, only barely able to comprehend what was being said. He watched her face react to his words; he watched the light go out from her eyes; he watched her collapse in on herself. Inside his own mind, he desperately searched… searched… searched. But of course, there was none… in this 3-D world, there was no Reset button.
She didn't hit him. She didn't yell at him. She didn't even try to laugh it off as if it were actually he that was at the wrong end of a cruel prank. No, she did none of those things; he wished she'd done all those things instead. What she actually did was to look at him, and he could almost still see a flicker of hope in her eyes; it was like a wax candle, burnt almost to the iron holder, the wick surrounded on all sides by melted wax, the flame desperately clinging to life despite being out in a torrential rain and hurricane winds. She said: "You're… you're lying." He would have winced; he did, in his mind. Am I…? Am I lying? If I'm lying… what does that make the truth out to be…? Can I even think about what the truth is…?
Then he was pulled, cruelly and remorselessly, back up. He surfaced back into coherence, back into full control of his faculties. He took in a deep inrush of breath, his eyes focused… just in time to watch Chihiro turn and run away. In an instant he was after her, but something stopped him at the top of the stairs, and he could only breathe in ragged gasps as he watched her form slowly disappear. There was nothing to be done anymore. The God of Conquest's destruction of Kosaka Chihiro was complete… and bitterly flawless.
(Two days later….)
It was done. The world had been saved. There would be no unleashing of Hell on Earth. The goddesses had been gathered, the conquests completed, the Ending achieved. So then… why did he feel as though… he was still looking at the image of a 'Bad End' on his screen? Why was it… why did it… hurt so much?
"Bye-bye." Two words. Simple enough words. Nothing overly consequential about them. People said them all the time. They could mean "until next time". They could mean "see you tomorrow". But that's not what that bye-bye to him meant, was it? That had a weight of finality to it. That had a tone of conclusion to it. The words to her song struck him like a hammer blow over the head….
That once-in-a-lifetime moment and sensation
Have faded away
But in my heart, I'll always have those feelings and
The memory of my first love
As he sat on the school rooftop again, at the scene of his ruthless crushing of her offered feelings, listening to her emotion-wracked vocals and the desperate wail of her electric guitar, he re-lived that night again. He thought what it would have been… without that heavy metal band at his neck. What it would have been… in any other situation… in any other context. He wondered… would he have been able… to reciprocate those feelings in that imaginary time? There was an outpouring of warmth in his chest at the thought; it spread to his extremities slowly but unchecked. There was nothing else to think….
Chihiro… I'm sorry. Earlier, that wasn't what I wanted to say. A lone tear escaped him then; he didn't notice it had happened until it landed on his hand. He looked at it for a moment, contemplative. So…. This is what those 2-D games are supposed to be conveying, then…. This is what… what we've all been told… is the thing we're buying in those stores of digitized music and neon lights. It's so…. Her face, streaming with tears and twisted with heartbreak, flashed to the forefront of his mind. …beautiful.