When you come to, the first thing you notice is the scent in the air: it's floral, it's the cool presence of greenery around you. Before now, the last thing you remember is dying. You were lying there prone and helpless: a broken arm, bullets in your lungs, Moral's words echoing through your head, a phone ringing, ringing, ringing in your ears. You wish you had died, you must have died, so you hold your eyes closed, praying that this is the afterlife and not what you dread. Why did you survive? You're on a western-style bed, and you can tell the room is lit, albeit dimly. Soft footsteps on the flooring and a low, soft-spoken voice greet you.
"Welcome back, Art."
Squinting, prying yourself back into the moment, a figure – all splotches of blue and brown to your unadjusted eyes – makes its way from the doorway to sit beside you. As your vision returns, you take in the auburn hair that frames her vacant features, eyes that seem to see right through you. Perhaps she is death herself, or something much worse. What is going on, you try to ask, where am I and where is my phone, but all that comes from your disused vocal chords is a dry "uh?"
She rests a cool hand on your forehead, and smiles.
"How nice to have you with us once more. I suppose it's true, then – what Moral told me about you."
It's been several days since you died: you don't bother keeping count, and they all seem to blur together in a haze anyway. You can hardly move: all your bones are made out of lead, and you can't bring yourself to do anything more than lay there, trying not to think about the swirling pit in your stomach threatening to consume you.
Death's name is Momoka, so you've learnt, and she tends to you, provides you food and shelter. She isn't around much: she has a business to run, and God only knows what else she does with her time. She's an associate of Moral's–therefore she is inherently untrustworthy, repulsive–yet you can't help but be drawn to her. Though her presence is heavy, almost intimidating, you find it unusually soothing. It's a relief to know someone in the world hasn't mourned for you. You, who not only murdered your own brother, but failed to do so properly, failed to fulfil the wish he'd made on his deathbed, that which he had pleaded of you with desperation in his voice–
You cried. You couldn't hold back your tears when she told you, when you poured over the articles and papers Moral had written back then, when you unearthed the copied fragments of Skill's medical record you're sure she left for you to discover on purpose. You know you're playing along with her game, eating right out of her hand, but you can't bring yourself to care.
One wish, and you couldn't even grant it for Skill.
Sometimes you catch wind of the news – more unexplained deaths, tensions between holders and non-holders boiling over. You wonder if Moral is enjoying using your face.
You resent Moral. God, you want nothing more than to make him suffer, take the light from his eyes like he took yours. When your thoughts aren't clouded by memories of your brother, you think about the way Moral's ribs might shatter were you to crush them beneath your foot, or the way his blood would flow should you rip his throat open with your bare hands.
You're itching to go and find out for yourself, but you can't. You're dead to the world. You died that night in the rain: Moral took a part of you, and your old self is never coming back.
Everything's changed since you found out Skill's heart is still beating, no less beating in the chest of your former best friend. It makes you sick, thinking about Nice. All the times you were by his side, smiling and laughing with no idea that he was carrying evidence of your failure in his chest. You don't know what to do, but you know you need to do something about it. Anything.
You fall into bed with Momoka two, maybe three, times – you're not sure how or why, it just seems to happen. A touch lingers for a second too long, skin brushes against skin, one thing leads to another. There's no love, no affection behind either of your actions, only a fight against ennui as she climbs into your lap, digs her sharp nails into your sides, and you both go through the motions. With her hands around your throat, you catch yourself wondering for a fleeting moment what else she could be doing right now to pass time, but you push it to the back of your mind and focus on the physical.
She guides you through your first death and rebirth since that night, and she teaches you to master your resurrections. Her eyes light up for a moment as she plunges the knife into your chest for the first time, but once you return to reality, coughing and dribbling blood and stomach acid down your emaciated chest, she's bored again. Bored, that same thin smile lingering on her face like a mask.
"You did well, Art. Isn't it interesting, learning how your Minimum works?"
Your Minimum. The words sound wrong on her tongue, and even worse echoing in your head. In your time hidden away, you've come to resent the very concept of Minimums – vile, selfish manifestations of the individual's own greed, their hunger for power. Your brother wanted them gone from this world, you know he did, and you vow to do whatever it takes to fulfil his wishes. You start to carry a knife on you.
The more you practice using your Minimum, the faster your resurrections become. When you died in the rain, it must have taken at least a day for your vital organs to regenerate, but you have honed your skill and can now manage to come back within ten minutes. You get used to the feeling of slipping your knife's blade through your ribs, working it into your heart without remorse.
There's an adrenaline rush of sorts that comes along with it: pushing yourself to the edge, your body to its physical limit – before shoving yourself off that edge and sending all your senses into overdrive after those moments of darkness. You wonder what kind of sick fucking freak you must be to find excitement–pleasure–in mutilating yourself like this.
Not Art, that's for sure. That man is long gone, and you are merely a remnant of him, a living memory.
"One person's longed-for reunion can be another's nightmare. Only one side can get their wish. In the end, the world is unfair. I wonder what you would think of this reunion, Art."
Momoka likely thinks you're asleep – you're good at faking it, after all.
It's the 21st of October, and appropriately enough, it's pouring with rain outside. It seems as though today is the day Moral has scheduled to execute his horrific plan, and the thought of it coming to fruition makes your blood run cold.
"Today, Yokohama will be bathed in the scent of blood," she says offhandedly, not long before leaving you to your own devices.
Momoka isn't around, and Anemone's storefront is closed, so you show yourself out. It doesn't take you long to figure out where Moral is, what he's doing to Nice, to your brother. You don't bother to lock the door behind you. It won't matter in the long run – the world is changing today, change that will be pushed forward by your hand alone. You will take back from Moral the life he stole from you, and finally fulfil Skill's wishes.
You steady your trembling hands, and set off towards the harbor.