Screams echoed against the faraway walls of the laboratory. Somewhere near Shintaro, someone was breathing raggedly. Or maybe it was Shintaro himself. His sense of self had inconspicuously faded away at some point, blending into a blurry idea of panic and urgency.
Why was he so panicked again?
Oh right. The hole in his side. Which continued to furiously spout blood. Blood which then trickled down his leg and puddled under the soles of his feet, making him slip and stumble as he kept on walking and searching for…
What was he- oh. Momo. Where was she?
Blinking blearily at his blurry environs, Shintaro glanced around himself; his attention was snagged by something before him.
Something dark red and vaguely human.
It held little to no resemblance to his little sister. It was only a bloody mess, blurry and unclear to his wet eyes. His throat knotted up.
“Momo,” he mouthed, instinctively stumbling forward.
The shape didn’t answer. Only the snake chuckled, somewhere faraway and as if from behind a curtain of deafness.
There was roaring in Shintaro’s ears; he felt sick.
Once more, laughter sounded. It was closer this time.
A pitter prompted Shintaro to turn- just in time to see Kano, his smile slipping away, widen his eyes. There was a gun’s barrel pressed against his forehead and the snake was smirking, then madly roaring with laughter.
Someone was screaming and it might have been Shintaro. But he had no way to be sure of that- for the snake turned to him, eyes flashing.
Pain flared across his ribcage, then numbness; and a blackened void engulfed him whole.
Shintaro did not wake again.
It was the 15th of August for the second time and it was terribly warm outside.
However, huddled around the cluttered table, the Mekakushi Dan were cold. Apparently, fear did that to people.
“So…” tried Kido. She didn’t complete the thought, waiting for someone else to finish her idea. From her expectant glance, Shintaro guessed that she was thinking he’d be the one to do it.
“Yeah,” was the only thing he said. His ability had told him that this was the first time the day had been rewound, yet he had a terrible feeling of deja-vu.
“That’s the only thing you’re gonna say? Wow, you’re useless,” joked Kano, his arms crossed behind his head. He grinned at Shintaro.
Images of that smile-shattering bullets flashed across Shintaro’s mind. Heart clenching, he turned his head away from the blonde and pushed away the painful memory. He’d deal with that later. Or never. He’d see.
“So…” started Momo, hesitant and apprehensive. Kido comfortingly bumped her shoulder into Momo’s. “What’s the plan?”
There was absolutely no way that this plan was going to work, but Shintaro did not have the heart to tell the others. Hope seemed to have taken hold of them, and they were giddy with excitement. Slightly wary, of course, but mostly excited.
Which was exactly why Shintaro had such a bad feeling about this.
A loud cackle made Shintaro flinch with sudden recollection. On the other side of the room, Kano was loudly laughing at Mary; this went on for a few moments, before he suddenly fell silent and froze, Mary glaring at him unblinkingly.
Serves him right, chuckled Shintaro, slightly smiling as he stared at the two.
He missed the way Ene silently stared at him.
This one plan ended in bloodshed, in the laboratory.
Crouched at the edge of the rooftop, Shintaro peered down at the faraway ground. At his side, Kano seemed completely unfazed by the dizzying heights.
An “ Are you sure this plan will work” was on the tip of Shintaro’s tongue, but he swallowed it. Doubts would serve them no good at this point.
“So, Shintaro-kun,” sounded Kano from next to Shintaro, startling him out of his daze. “Anything interesting happen in the other realities?”
There was something in Kano’s eyes that told Shintaro he wasn’t talking about the unavoidable massacre at the end of each of Shintaro’s lives.
“Uh, not really?”
Keeping his face carefully blank, Kano looked away. The tension in his shoulders thoroughly confused Shintaro.
“Huh,” murmured the blond, his posture tenser by the second. Kano once more turned to face Shintaro, and his eyes were large and bright, grin lopsided and somewhat shy.
The blond abruptly leaned forward and forcefully slammed his lips into Shintaro’s, pulling away quickly after. This was no kiss; only something remotely related to it, messy and hasty, filled with confusion.
“Now you’ll have something interesting to remember in the next ones,” he grinned, the expression unsure yet more real than ever.
Only hours later, well into the bloodbath, did Shintaro realize that this Kano had never expected to live through his reality.
This one ended in the hideout, with Shintaro holding onto Momo even as her body grew cold. The day started once more before he could die with her.
This one was shattered suddenly, with the help of a pair of scissors and with Ene distantly screaming at Shintaro to stop, stop, drop the scissors, please-
It ended before it could begin.
In this one, Shintaro and Mary were the only ones who knew.
Sitting on the sofa, Shintaro watched his sister timidly court Kido, who, if possible, was even shier than Momo. Both of their faces were scarlet, yet their fingers were interlaced and their lips quirked up into content smiles.
Pain flared in Shintaro’s stomach as his insides squeezed painfully.
“Shintaro-kun, don’t ya know it’s not polite to stare?” came a cheery voice from next to him.
Forcing his features into blankness, Shintaro turned to look at Kano, who was fiendishly grinning at him.
Annoyance abruptly smothered Shintaro when he saw the expression, knowing from his previous realities just how fake it really was.
“Stop that,” he ground out. The room was silent, Momo and Kido too far away to hear. Ene was God-knows-where.
“...What?” Kano’s smile was slipping. He tried to pick it back up, but he only managed to make it more obviously fake than before.
“Pretending. I’m sick of it,” replied Shinatro, batting away the memory of red scarves and paper cranes from his first reality.
His real reality.
No, scratch that. There was no real reality anymore, not for him. He’d have to make do.
“I’m…” fumbled Kano.
Pushing down the guilt, Shintaro stood up from the couch.
“I need to talk to Mary,” was all he said before walking away. Really, maybe he’d be lucky this time. Maybe they’d live.
They didn’t. Death took them in Mary’s childhood home, their blood coating its walls.
Gleeful laughter surrounded Shintaro, yet the only thing he could think of was that damned snake. Which was probably normal in his situation.
What was normal in his situation, though?
Momo accidentally nudged him, bringing him out of his reverie. She was wildly gesticulating as she told Kido a story of how she’d managed to buy a package of dried squids at a third the price. They both seemed entertained enough, considering their general situation.
From the other side of the table came a squeal: Kano was once more teasing Mary, making her flush with embarrassment. Her face was scarlet as she turned away from him and towards Seto.
Affection bloomed in Shintaro’s chest and he slightly smiled as he looked at the people surrounding him.
Kano alone returned the grin; warmth enveloped Shintaro.
A plan involving a large scale riot, two hundred skateboards and a large coil of rope proved to be enough to subdue the snake.
Villain captured and ended, the Mekakushi Dan allowed exhaustion to take over, falling back onto the couch’s pillows in a large pile of limbs and sharp elbows.
It was warm and uncomfortable.
And Shintaro had never been happier.