Hajime frowned as he looked over the dropped items from his latest victory. “1 potion, 2 rations and… 30 XP?”
He heard the sound of leaves crunching underfoot as his white haired companion walked over.
“It will be hard for you to reach ultimate level at this rate.” Nagito acknowledged.
Hajime sighed as he saw where this was going. “Komaeda, I’ve just spent half an hour fighting a beast for 30 XP,” he said ruefully as he put the meager items in his bag. “I’m not in the mood to-”
“Think of how much faster this would be if you’d just kill me!” Nagito interrupted, with stars in his eyes. “I’ve already checked! My level is high enough to get you to level up!”
Hajime stomped farther into the dark forest, refusing to engage.
“It’ll be so quick!” Nagito insisted as he ran after him. “One critical hit,” he said with a wink. “And Level 70! Then you can join the Hope’s Peak guild!”
Hajime bit back a groan and focused on the map to their next village, tuning out his team member chanting a chorus of “Kill me! Kill me! Kill me!” behind him.
His first mistake had been rescuing Nagito from a hoard of bandits near Jabberwock beach. His second mistake was telling him about his ambitions to get to ultimate level so that he could join Hope’s Peak. His third and biggest mistake was thinking “ this guy is hilarious” when Nagito offered him his life for the first time.
Ever since then the man had made it his mission to follow him around, urging him to commit murder, refusing to leave him alone until Hajime finally became an ultimate.
Hajime stopped at the fork in the road and a quick glance at his map informed him that they were quite a bit far from the village.
“Nagito,” Hajime called. Nagito instantly stopped his ramblings and gave him his full attention. “Let’s stop for the night after a bit more, yeah? It’s getting dark.”
Nagito excitedly nodded and after they reached a clearing where they could rest for the night, began setting up their sleeping bags as Hajime collected wood sticks for the fire. In half an hour, the two had set up camp down the trail from where they had initially stopped.
Hajime sighed in relief and closed his eyes as he melted into his sleeping bag after the long day.
“Hinata-kun?” Nagito’s voice cut through the silence.
“Hmm?” Hajime hummed in response as he opened his eyes. The fire was the only source of light besides the stars, illuminating the trees around them along with Nagito, who was sitting next to the fire rather than in his bag. Hajime sat up, his body already missing the cozyness of his little bed.
“You still haven’t told me what talent you’re going to spend your skill point on when you become an ultimate.” Nagito mused. He’d tucked his knees under his chin and wrapped his arms around his legs. Hajime was lost in how warm Nagito looked.
“I still haven’t decided.” Hajime answered, same as he did every night.
Nagito was silent for a moment before he got up and made his way towards his sleep sack. “Whatever you choose, I’m sure that it will be a talent full of hope.”
And just like that, Nagito’s eyes had closed and his breathing had evened out and Hajime realized that he couldn't stay awake watching his crazy team member sleep all night. He laid back down into his own bed roll.
He watched the stars and pondered Nagito’s question. He knew of a few ultimates. Shuichi Saihara and Kyoko Kirigiri had both spent their skill point on the detective skill when they reached ultimate level and were renowned for their crime solving. His friend Chiaki had chosen the gamer skill, making her unbeatable at games like chess and poker, showing up every challenger at their hometown’s bar.
The difference between him and the other ultimates was that they became ultimates by pursuing their talents. Chiaki had gained XP by beating people at various games and when she reached her ultimate level, she had chosen the ultimate gamer skill because that was what she enjoyed.
The other ultimates had been accepted into the Hope’s Peak guild because of their ultimates. He was the only one who’d tried to become an ultimate for the sole reason of being accepted to the guild. And now that he was at level 69 ( hehe nice ), it was nearly time to decide on how he’d spend his ultimate skill point and he had no idea.
With Nagito’s question swirling in his head, he fell asleep.
Hajime let out a sigh of relief as soon as he made it into the town. Entering a safezone always gave him conflicted emotions. The relief that if he were to lose, he wouldn’t have to start over back in his hometown, and the crippling anxiety that if he did respawn here, he’d have to start over at level 0 when he was so close.
“Wanna get us a room while I stock up on items for the rest of the trip?” Hajime asked when they spotted the local inn.
“Of course!” Ngito sang, always chipper to do whatever Hajime asked. The two parted ways for a few hours while Hajime idly strolled through town, missing the other boy’s company more than he’d expected.
Once Hajime noticed the sky getting darker he realized he should make his way back to the inn where Nagito was no doubt waiting for him when a merchants’ stall caught his eye. It was full of the usual items one might give as a gift- musical instruments, candy, books- but he was particularly drawn to a piece of jewelry displayed in a glass case.
The merchant must have noticed him looking because he smiled when Hajime finally made his way closer.
“I see you have your eyes set on the Hope’s Peak ring,” he commented. “A great choice. Only 20,000 gold.”
“20,000 gold?!” Hajime exclaimed. His brain was yelling at him to not even think about spending all his money on a piece of jewelry but… Nagito’s stupid happy face popped into his head, the adorable excited look he’d get whenever either of them brought up the guild they looked up to so much.
A voice in his head spoke up.
Hajime, don’t you dare. What’s a better way of spending this money? Two months at an extravagant inn or impressing a suicidal twink?
Well, when you put it that way...
Picking up the ring with the Hope’s Peak logo, he smiled. “I’ll take it.”
“Nagito, come here.”
Nagito looked up from where he was fussing with his blanket with surprise. The moonlight coming in from their room’s window looked beautiful on his face.
He seemed conflicted for a moment before he slowly made his way over to Hajime and sat down on his bed.
“Hinata-kun,” he said, nervousness clear on his face. “As happy as I am that you’re finally taking me up on my offer, y-you can’t kill me while we’re in the village so-”
“Oh my god,” Hajime groaned, silencing Nagito’s jittery ramblings. “First of all I’m not killing you, not now and not ever.” he exclaimed as he threw his hands up. “Secondly, I, uh…”
Now it was Hajime’s turn to fidget. Before he could chicken out of giving another man a ring why did he think this was a good idea , he quickly pulled a velvet box out and thrust it into Nagito’s hands with zero elegance.
“This is-this is for you,” he sputtered.
Nagito looked at him as if he had suddenly caught fire.
“I, umm, I wanted to thank you.” Hajime continued. “You know, for helping me level up and setting up camp every night and stocking up on items whenever we’re in a town. You’re nice- it’s nice to have you around.”
The little speech felt pretty lame but Nagito looked at him like he’d just put Shakespeare to shame.
He gave Hajime the shyest smile he’d ever seen as he looked back towards the box and once he opened it, his expression went back to shock.
“Hinata-kun…” he whispered.
“I know you like Hope’s Peak! So I thought…” Hajime trailed off.
Nagito picked up the ring and examined it from every angle. “It’s real,” Nagito breathed out.
“What?” Hajime furrowed his brow. “Are these special or something?”
“There’s only a handful of these to have been ever made,” Nagito calmly explained as he set the ring back down into the box. “They go for a lot of money. An auction I once attended had one of these and it was sold for a 100,000 gold.”
“ What? ” Hajime choked out.
Nagito gave him a disappointed smile and held the box towards him. “Which is why you should take this back. You clearly had no idea of its real value and-”
Before he could say any more, Hajime pushed Nagito’s hands back towards the boy, eliciting a surprised squeak from him.
“No,” Hajime said firmly, as he let go of his hands. “I got this for you. If you want to sell it or whatever, that’s your choice, but I’m not taking it back.”
Nagito looked so hopelessly lost for a moment that Hajime just wanted to pull him into a tight hug and tell him that he deserved everything good in the world and also that he should really get a therapist like seriously-
And then Hajime noticed the water in the corners of his eyes and his mind went blank.
Oh my god, how do I get someone to stop crying.
Quick tell a joke!
“Nagito!” he said too loudly, causing both boys to jump a little on the bed. “Uh, how many bards can fit into a carriage?”
Nagito’s look of wonder slowly melted into one of confusion. “What?”
“Eight! Eight bards can fit in a carriage!” Hajime forced out. “Now, how many cobblers can fit inside the same carriage?”
“Eight…?” Nagito said uncertainly.
“Nope! You can’t fit any cobblers in because the carriage is already full with the bards!”
There was a moment of silence before Nagito let out a snicker, which evolved into full blown laughter. Hajime had never felt so relieved to see the other smile.
Nagito moved closer and rested his head on Hajime’s shoulder, which did something funny to his heart. “Well,” Nagito murmured. “It certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to pick a comedy skill when you become and ultimate. You could use it.”
“Hey!” Hajime laughed. “Rude!”
Nagito only hummed as he closed his eyes and cuddled more into Hajime making the boy’s face heat up. Hajime looked away and scanned the room as a distraction and let a few minutes of silence go by until he heard distinct heavy breathing and looked back to see that Nagito had indeed fallen asleep while clutching onto his arm.
Hajime carefully laid him down onto his bed and tucked the blanket around the both of them with a smile.
The next morning Nagito seemed to be even more cheerful than usual, a feat Hajime would have thought impossible if he hadn’t witnessed it first hand. Nagito kept flashing him the brightest smiles the boy had ever seen in his life and kept glancing down at his hand where he kept playing with the ring he’d gotten the day before.
Neither of them mentioned the fact that they’d woken up together or that Nagito was wearing his gift on the ring finger of his left hand.
Many things changed after that.
While before Hajime would have to tune out hours of Nagito coming up with reasons for Hajime to kill him, the pair would now go days without even a mention of the idea. Nagito kept falling asleep around Hajime ( on purpose? ) and his admiration filled gaze had been replaced with some other emotion Hajime couldn’t identify.
Nagito laid a map on the ground near the fireplace. “Someone said there’s a boss terrorizing the citizens near Towa,” he explained as he circled an area near the town. “A boss fight should give you the last bit of XP you need, no problem. We’ll stock up on potions when we get to Towa so we don’t have to worry about you respawning and losing all your progress.”
Hajime nodded, his heart beating wildly at the thought of finally becoming an ultimate. Nagito sat down next to Hajime after stuttering out something about a leaf in Hajime’s hair and fell asleep on his shoulder after a moment of playing with his hair.
Maybe we should just get sleeping bags big enough for two people at this point.
He immediately shook his head as if that would clear the thought from it.
He looked down at the white haired boy clutching onto him as a thought wriggled into mind.
Nagito said he’d stay with me until I become an ultimate. What will happen after?
For the first time in some time, Hajime didn’t doze off with a smile on his face despite the warm body next to him.
“Let’s take the longer trail to Towa,” Hajime suggested over lunch.
There was a silence before Hajime gathered his courage to look up from his sandwich towards the log that Nagito was sitting on across from him.
“Why?” Nagito questioned, one eyebrow raised.
Hajime felt himself break out in a nervous sweat. “Just thought we could take the scenic route. It’s gonna be my last adventure, thought I’d make it count.”
Nagito nodded slowly, but Hajime knew the boy didn’t believe a word he was saying.
That night Hajime stayed awake a little too long watching Nagito’s eyelashes while he slept, resisting the urge to wake him up so he could spend the rest of the night kissing him.
Not that long until the two of them would reach Towa. Hajime had insisted on every distraction he could think of, but it had only prolonged the course by a few days at most. He could feel Nagito’s questioning stare directed at the back of his head every time he pointed at a lake or a small merchants’ camp and requested to take a detour to explore.
Nagito was intelligent. He wondered how much longer he could keep this up before the other boy realized. He wondered if he already had.
One more day until they’d arrive in Towa and his XP bar was nearly full. There was no way of getting out of this. Hajime wondered when he’d started seeing an ultimate level as something to ‘get out of’ rather than something he desperately wanted.
His walking was interrupted by a hand pulling on his.
“Hajime,” Nagito called. “I know what you’re doing.”
He felt his heart fall. The first time Nagito had ever called him by his first name and it was when he was about to call his ass out for being a useless idiot who’d fallen in love-
“It’s okay to be nervous about your final boss fight,” Nagito calmly continued. “But don’t worry. I’ll be there to make sure nothing happens. You can count on me.”
Hajime watched Nagito’s face with his mouth hanging open until Nagito started looking a bit uncomfortable. Eventually he managed to laugh out a weak, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Nagito pouted. “Hinata-kun, even an idiot like me can see it!” So it’s back to Hinata. “You’ve been avoiding your fight!” Nagito lifted his other hand as well, so that he was holding Hajime’s between them both. “I can understand why you’re worried… if you lose you’ll have to start again with a level 0… it would be truly despairing…”
“Nagito.” Hajime gently interrupted. “That’s not the reason.”
The boy scanned his face for a moment and stilled. “It’s not?”
Hajime moved his hand away from Nagito’s and looked out at the scenery around them. He tried to focus on the cloudless blue sky or the white of the dandelions sprinkled around the trees, but the white fluffy seeds blowing away just reminded him of a certain boy’s hair.
“I… I’m not sure I want to be an ultimate.” Hajime finally admitted.
He could hear his heart beating dangerously loud in his ears.
“What?” Nagito’s voice cut in.
He sounds so hurt.
Hajime let out a deep sigh and turned to face him again. “I don’t want to be an ultimate anymore. I never had a good enough reason for wanting to be a part of Hope’s Peak. I thought I desperately wanted to be special but I don’t.” He felt his cheeks heat up as he spilled every secret he’d been hiding. “I wouldn’t be happy at Hope’s Peak… at least… not as happy as I am with you.”
Nagito’s face went through several emotions faster than Hajime could identify them until it settled on one in particular: disappointment.
“It seems I was wrong about you,” Nagito said in a cold tone that made Hajime’s heart crumple. “I thought you were a symbol of hope.”
Nagito abruptly turned around and started walking in the direction opposite of their destination.
Before Hajime could tell him to wait a roar startled them both into grabbing their weapons. A mother boar jumped out of a bush, angrily eyeing the two as it dawned on Hajime that perhaps stopping in the middle of a forest to hold an argument was not the most intelligent thing he’s ever done.
The giant boar pawed at the ground for a moment before making a dash towards them.
Hajime opened his eyes to see his sword in their attacker, with Nagito behind him. He didn’t remember moving. He didn’t remember attacking back.
But he didn’t care about that. His eyes were glued onto the +50 XP! floating next to the body of the animal. When he finally tore his eyes away he say the words floating above him:
LEVEL UP! Ultimate level reached.
He turned to see Nagito’s reaction, only to find himself alone.
Hajime checked into an inn that resided at the heart of Towa. He collapsed onto his bed, not daring to think about how cold and empty it seemed when he was alone. He half heartedly scrolled through the different skills he could spend his ultimate skill point on.
Ultimate artist. Ultimate entomologist. Ultimate librarian. Ultimate librarian? What special power would you need to shush people in a dusty old building?
There was no need to pick an ultimate today. He sighed as he closed the menu and laid his head back down onto his pillow. He refused to let his mind wander towards Nagito, but it did anyway.
Hajime looked over the menu while at a restaurant that was apparently famous for its sushi. Ultimate nurse. Ultimate blacksmith. Ultimate housekeeper. Hajime frowned as he stuffed his face with another maki roll. These ultimates had sounded a lot less… boring when being an ultimate was all he had wanted.
He closed his menu once again and took in the other customers enjoying their meals. One couple in particular caught his eye. He’d recognize the ultimate writer anywhere, after seeing her face on half the books his old school teacher had read in class everyday.
“S-s-so the f-future foundation sent l-luck boy to f-f-fight the bo-boss,” he heard her stammer out. He raised an eyebrow. He really expected her to be a lot more eloquent considering she made a living using words.
“Well, I’m not complaining!” the girl with the bob sitting opposite to her said cheerfully. “It’s nice to have a Friday free I can spend with my girlfriend.” At the mention of the word, Hajime held back a laugh as he saw the ultimate writer’s face go all dopey.
“I just hope Komaeda can handle a dragon on his own.”
Hajime nearly spit out his food.
“What?!” he instantly yelled across the tables towards the couple.
He watched them jump in their seats before they turned to face him.
“Wh-what’s y-your problem?!” the ultimate writer spit out.
“This Komaeda guy. White hair? Stupidly pretty?” Hajime urgently demanded as he slammed his hands onto their table.
Stupidly pretty? Really? Right now?
“You know him?” the girl with the short hair asked.
He quickly nodded.
“He’s taking care of the boss problem east of town.” She explained as she took a sip of her iced tea.
Nagito? Fighting a boss all on his own? The guy trips over his own two feet half the time!
Hajime quickly threw out a “thank you” before he was running out of the store.
As soon as he reached the borders of the safe zone, he could hear the monster give out a deafening howl. It gave him chills as he rushed over to a clearing where he saw a familiar figure aiming a bow at his giant flying opponent.
“Nagito!” Hajime yelled.
He saw Nagito look back towards him with wide eyes as he lowered his bow. “Hinata-kun…?” he asked, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Hajime reached the boy and stood next to him, drawing out his sword. “Idiot,” he said fondly. “You didn’t have to do this alone. I was still going to take care of this.”
Nagito looked as though he was going to cry when the moment was interrupted by the beast raining fire down on the field.
“Hinata-kun!” Nagito called as he dodged a fireball. “Can your new ultimate help right now?”
It dawned on Hajime for the first time that he hadn’t picked his ultimate.
And he was fighting a boss.
“Umm, about that…” Hajime started. His mind shut off when he saw the dragon fly straight up into the sky, before turning around and making a beeline towards them. Specifically, towards Nagito.
Why does literally everything we come across try to kill Nagito? was the last thought he had before he pushed Nagito out of the way and everything went dark.
Respawning in 3… 2… 1…
Hajime slowly cracked open his eyes to find himself in what looked like an infirmary. He reluctantly got up on his bed and put his feet on the cold floor.
“Oh, you’re-you’re awake!”
Hajime turned to the unfamiliar voice and saw a woman with choppy hair arranging various medicine bottles in a cupboard.
“I’m M-Mikan Tsumiki, your nu-nurse!” she stuttered out as she set down the few remaining bottles and made her way over.
“Is th-this your f-first time respawning?” Mikan asked as she picked up a clipboard.
“W-well, you probably know the basics, I’m sure,” Mikan went on, her voice slowly becoming smoother. “You’ll have to restart at level 0, but your friend informed me you’re an ultimate, so don’t worry, your skill is safe.”
At the mention of ‘friend’ Hajime, perked up. “Is he here?!”
Mikan looked startled at the sudden outburst and reverted back to her nervous stuttering. “I will- I’ll go g-get him r-right now!” she blurted out as she made ran towards the door. Hajime cringed as he heard her fall on the way and quickly get back up to continue running.
A few moments after, his old companion poked his head through the door and scanned the room. When he saw Hajime, he gave an awkward wave and stepped inside.
“Looks like this is the room,” he said walking over to Hajime’s bed.
There was a moment of stiff silence while Hajime looked out the window, too nervous to say anything with Nagito standing in front of the bed, looking the opposite direction and hesitantly playing with his ring.
“Th-thank you for coming to help,” Nagito finally said quietly.
Hajime looked away from the room’s light source and towards the boy. Was it his imagination or was there a slight blush on his face?
“Well I just-” was how far Hajime got into a response before the other boy cut in.
“However, it was extremely foolish of you,” Nagito scolded, finally looking at Hajime properly. “I could have handled myself! And for you to take the hit and restart with a level 0…”
Hajime slowly tuned Nagito’s frustrated speech out and took a moment to just take in the face he had missed so much. The angry boy must have noticed the stupidly happy face he’d no doubt been making.
“You’re not even listening to me!” Nagito snapped.
“I am!” Hajime lied quickly.
Nagito gave him a disapproving look before he sighed and sat down onto Hajime’s bed next to him.
“I’m happy to see you again,” Nagito admitted in a soft voice.
Hajime felt himself smile. “Same here.”
Nagito gave him a weak smile back before he snapped his head up.
“That’s right!” he exclaimed. “I still haven’t heard what skill you chose as your ultimate!”
A groan slipped out of him before he could stop himself. Hajime quickly covered his face with his hands.
“Uh, Na-Nagito....” Hajime stuttered out. “S-see the thing is…”
Hajime felt his face get hot from the embarrassment of what he was about to say. He uncovered his face to see Nagito looking worried and confused for a moment before a shocked expression overtook his face.
“No,” Nagito whispered, horrified.
“Yeah…” Hajime nervously pulled at his pillow. “I never spent my skill point while I was the ultimate level… so uh… no ultimate here. Just a level 0.”
Hajime didn’t let the tense silence follow for too long.
Hajime took a deep breath. “Remember when you said you’d stay with me until I became an ultimate?”
Nagito looked over with confusion. “Yes? Why?”
Hajime blushed as he forced his words out. “Is that offer still standing?”
Nagito’s mouth fell open and Hajime laughed before he could stop himself, effectively breaking the fragile atmosphere.
“Y-you don’t want to be an ultimate!” Nagito sputtered out, frantically waving his hands about, causing Hajime to laugh harder.
He took a moment to calm down before he looked back up towards Nagito. “It’s not that I’m against being an ultimate…” Hajime explained, feeling lighter than he had in weeks. “It’s just that I want you with me more.” Hajime ignored the wild blush that rose on the other boy’s face and continued. “So if you’ll join me from the beginning… and stay until I finally get all the way there again… that would be perfect.”
Nagito’s face was so red, Hajime would have been concerned if he didn’t look so adorable.
“A-and what about after?” Nagito countered. “What will happen after you become an ultimate?”
Hajime hummed in thought for a second. “Then we’ll start over again. I’ll spend my skill point and start again from level 0. I’ll keep going until I have every single ultimate.”
Nagito looked like he was about to pass out.
“You’re serious,” was all the boy said after some time. Hajime nodded with a big grin.
“Every single ultimate? You’re crazy.” Nagito continued. Hajime felt his smile only get wider.
“So you’re in?” Hajime cooed.
“Obviously,” the fluffy haired boy scoffed. For the first time in what felt like centuries, Nagito gave him a smile and Hajime felt his heart flutter. “I should have known you’d do something I could never predict.”
Hajime beamed as he rested his head onto Nagito’s shoulder. His hand made its way on top of the other’s. “Stay with me forever?” he finally asked.
Nagito gave him a shy smile as he turned his hand so he could squeeze Hajime’s. “I already said yes.”
The two waved goodbye to their new friends in Towa, thanking Fukawa, Naegi, and Tsumiki for their help. This time when they made their way back to their adventure, the two were holding hands, each wearing a ring on their left.