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Keito thinks in pictures, not words, but he's good with those too. Or maybe he isn't ("People who are good with words don't need to use so many of them." "You're missing the point that I love talking and trapping you with my cruelty is part of your punishment."), but he can tell a good story if he has good inspiration, can lay it out legible across a page for a reader to flip earnestly through ("This story is terrible, actually, and the script is a mess") - a reader, singular, because he's only really writing for one person, and it's only their opinion that has any bearing on his work.

"What do you think, Eichi?" he asks. They're in the student council room having a veiled conversation. Keito only had to drop the title to a work Eichi would recognize for him to understand, the one he'd given up trying to write when they were in their second year of middle school.

"This plot is too complicated," Keito complained. "I'm not good enough to write this yet."

"Well, that's why you should keep working on it, though?" Eichi replied, nestling back into his pillows with the sketches still in his hands. "It's a good story. You'll find it eventually."

"And I hate this protagonist," Keito continued, like he couldn't hear him. "I always hate my original characters, they're so boring."

Eichi opened one eye lazily to look up at Keito. "No they're not. Their lives are way more interesting than mine, so I love hearing about them."

Keito waved a hand. "You don't even need an interesting life to be interesting."

Eichi is quiet for ten seconds too long, but at least he's actually thinking, for once. Keito wonders if it's too soon; they've been silent on one another for a long time now, after all. And to be bringing up those old ideas they had when they were children like this… those old ideas and dreams they're supposed to have grown out of.

"You'll stick with it until the end this time?" Eichi's voice is hushed, hand leaning on Keito's desk for balance. He's barely been at school a week, eyelashes so long they seem to touch his cheekbones when his head points down.

"I was always meant to stick with you until the end, Eichi."

Eichi startles and fixes Keito in a deep stare, and Keito flinches back a step. Eichi fidgets, like there's butterflies trapped under his skin searching for a way out, like his bones are itching to fly off. For a moment Keito almost wonders if his friend is going to strangle him, but he couldn't if he wanted to and why would he, anyway?

Eichi takes a shaky breath. "Let's do it," he says, and with those words Keito's hand becomes bound to the pen.

He's met demons and sorcerers, puppet masters and gods, but even knowing all of that, Keito's unsure any of them even come close to what Eichi's will lands in his hands, unsure that talent and rebelliousness can really measure up to the money, the personality, and the means to shape the universe - or at least, to shape their universe, as small as their project is within the walls of Yumenosaki Academy. The scale is unimportant in storytelling, where the precise way a mosquito lands upon the skin can be a world unto itself, and big projects on a small scale are necessary when you're on a time crunch. Keito doesn't want Eichi to live a short life, but that part of the script came prewritten.

He draws Eichi on battlefields, sketches in the back of the planner he writes his student council work in as Rei's booking flights on the landline barely two paces from where Keito's seated. He hangs up the phone and his voice is stupidly, genuinely kind when he says, "You have no idea what you're doing to your friend," and leaves the room.

Eichi sinks into the student council president's chair, ordered straight from a catalogue the two of them had flipped through together ("Given how short I am don't you think looking specifically for the chair with the highest back is a little excessive, Keito?" "It fits the emperor aesthetic." "Can you imagine what would happen if people at school ever found out you're more dramatic than I am?" "Don't insult me like that"). Eichi sighs deeply, Eichi runs his fingers through his hair, Eichi tilts his head back to gaze wearily up at the same ceiling this room has always had.

"I'm lonely, Keito," Eichi laments, and Keito's heart touches the bloodstained, shard-strewn floor, across approval letters and budget boxes his hand is writing, writing, writing. "I'm in power, and I'm lonely, and we killed all my friends."

"Those people weren't your friends," Keito contends, training his eyes on the work he has on his desk. His hand is shaking.

"No, I..." Eichi protests for one short moment. "No. You're right. And maybe that's the graver sin."

Keito doesn't write heroes. He writes protagonists, and every dreary task they undertake in pursuit of their goals. But his protagonists never mattered, couldn't think, lacking dimension and will and music. Eichi could, Eichi and his brilliant mind, Eichi and his stifling guilt that Keito never wrote for him.

"We chose our villains, you know, Keito? They didn't come to the page ready to be wicked."

"Not villains, Eichi," Keito corrects him. "Antagonists. They came to the page to be obstacles for you to overcome."

Eichi sighs again, and Keito knows he doesn't have it in him to think what Eichi does, to think like Eichi is thinking. But that's practicalism and that's utilitarianism and that's making the most of your time , which Eichi doesn't have a lot of, which Keito can't borrow much more of for him.

"Keito?" Eichi asks, and Keito looks up at him, I'll give you the world even if I have to march into heaven myself and kill God with my bare hands. "This isn't... this isn't what I want anymore. Keito, I want the story where we were all friends. I want the story where everybody came back alive."

Keito's pen stills above the line for his signature. Eichi folds his arms over the desk, lets down his head to press his cheek against the surface.

"... But I understand," he mumbles, shoulders sagging like lungs collapsed, like his bones are pillars for a castle they're exhausted of holding up. "The ending is the only thing you can't rewrite."

(From the end of Keito's pen spills light, and it's scorching, scorching, scorching.)