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A note from kenbinru

Hello! If you're curious and clicked on this, I highly warn giant spoilers below! Please start either at CH1 way back, or at the very least CH36. If you've been following since the very beginning, thanks, and enjoy what's probably the climax of "The Return" arc. 

Onwards! 

CHAPTER 40

Your Name

 

“noos os kcab uoy ees ot tcepxe t’ndid I”

I open my eyes to find myself in this white room. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I have any eyes at all. I don’t think I can perceive what is happening in the most traditional sense. Everything just kinda “works.”

In “front” was a little girl in a white lily dress, with her long black hair draped across her thin shoulders. She seems recognizable, yet I can’t recall exactly where I have seen her. Finally, I understood what she said:

“I didn’t expect to see you back so soon.”

The little girl didn’t have a face. From every angle I look at it is the same. Her face looked like it was scribbled out by a pencil, with the deep strokes of the tip haphazardly covering something underneath. For some reason, it felt as if she was smiling. I think it is happy to see me again.

“Do you have a dream?”

This time the girl doesn’t move her “mouth.” Instead she opted to transmit her thoughts directly into my consciousness. I would have preferred this method of communication to begin with honestly.

I wonder why she asked me that question specifically. It’s not like I had any real ambitions or anything.

I only dream of you.

The little girl has disappeared from view. I’m not sure how long she has been missing, but I’m starting to think about that question more and more as I am alone. It cannot escape my mind. The contrast of the bright white in this “room” is making my head hurt. I can’t stop thinking about that question.

Do I have a dream?

Why do I dream of you?

I only dream of you.

I think, therefore I am. I ask myself a question, the greatest question of all:

Do you remember yet?

I don’t remember anything.

What is the point of love? Is it just something that our culture has defined for us, or is it just part of our human evolutionary progress? Is it just the production of offspring – to carry on our biological data? Or is it not unreasonable to say that the purpose of love is to cure our loneliness?

There is pain.

I feel the warmth of a summer day as the light shines through the leaves.

What is it like to hold the hand of someone you love?

It’s hard to explain, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is you are here right now.

Where I am right now?

I shake my head. My consciousness returns to nothingness.

Considering how love, real love, never ends, there is no point. Being in love is the best thing there is.

There is joy.

You are watching my every movement, down to the tiniest details. I can feel an oppressing weight upon my shoulders. That’s not what I wanted. That’s not what I wanted at all. All I wanted was a simple life. Can something be done about that?

A simple life.

A simple life.

Here lies Kazukhira. Kaneshiro.

Somehow that vague answer made me feel a bit at ease.

I shake my head.

I shake my head once more.

They will remember what you said.

It seems disappointing that I was supposed to remember it in the first place. It must’ve been something really important! But I sincerely wish that someone would tell me what to do.

Is that my name?

“Tell me your name.”

I can hear the girl’s voice. I quickly scan around me, but she isn’t physically here – at least, as far as I am aware.

I say something in response. I suddenly feel a pair of phantom hands touch my cheeks; they’re warm.

“It is up to you to decide.”

It lets go of me.

I have trouble with my identity. Isn’t the idea of an identity problematic on its own? No one can have a “true” identity. It is because we have two distinct selves, the first – the identity that is formed through the viewpoints of others, and the second – the identity that is formed through our own internal creation. It does not help that we cannot see something like us as objective creatures, since the idea of our true self is subversive in its own nature. Society prides itself to conformity, yet everyone is encouraged to pursue their own individualistic endeavors? How can someone function like this? It is only when the idea of a single identity, one that is pure and has no imperfections, can we truly decide there is a “true self” that exists.

I can do no wrong, for I do not know what that is.

My shadow follows me, as he is an individual as well. He has his own feelings, thoughts, and insecurities. Currently, I feel like I am at a crossroads with my own persona. No matter how hard I try to suppress it, I can never forget who I am. The shadow appears behind me.

“Just let me out.” he whispers to me.

I have insecurities as well she said. That’s what I wanted right? To get you always. I wish to be the change I wish to be. To be here forever instead of the other. I am restless, eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to present myself for the world.

This is all on me isn’t it? To escape this place means sacrificing everything. How cruel can I be? I think I can be very cruel.

Suddenly I feel cold; empty inside. I can’t think at all. My head is spinning around and around and around and around. Spinning, nonstop. I can’t stop shivering intensely, unable to process what’s going on. Why? When? Where? Why? What? The light is shining brightly inside. There is nothing to fear.

We are all just characters in a story. No matter how hard you try to escape your roles, it is only delaying the inevitable. It is because we see life as an inevitability that we truly accept whatever happens. In that case, wouldn’t that be the same as death? Am I living to die? Or dying to live?

Mary Kaneko has blond hair and pale blue eyes. I have seen her die 10,501 times.

Who is that person? I wonder why that name suddenly appeared across my mind.

Why am I in love? Is it because it’s something I’m supposed to do?

Not everyone feels the same way I do. For what reason does it have to do with me? No one can teach what love is, nor can someone deny that love is false. I am in love because I am in love. There is no reason for my love of Her.

I am afraid. Because I am not sure what will happen next.

We promised to reach each other no matter what. I call to her, for I am the guiding voice to this madness. He wants to make it harder for myself, as he is struggling internally.

I am the one at fault. “Do it!” she says to me. She could no longer suffer the pain. Or rather, she could no longer bear to see me suffer. I have cooked you meals. I have listened to your inane stories. I have showered you with affection and my undying attention. Is that not what love is? Do I deserve any of this?

“A kind answers never explains.” the voice says to me.

My consciousness is slipping away.

I am you. You are I. Together we live at this white lodge.

I can’t stop this feeling – despair.

“It was nice to see you again Kaz-----------------------------------kun.”

She speaks to me…and yet I am at ease.

It is the best feeling in the world.


Today is February 2nd. It’s always February 2nd.

“My name is Akane Yuki, nice to meet you.”

I died yesterday. My hands are numb, as my consciousness is still recovering from the shock.

I want to scream.

It felt like routine at this point. Even learning Mary’s secret did not help. So now, I’ve helplessly returned back to square one. At least I saved her yesterday.

She is wearing blue-striped panties today.

Dr. Mori was our substitute P. E. teacher today. Because I forgot to tie my shoes again, I tripped, falling flat onto my face, causing a nosebleed. I’m comfortably resting my head on Mary Kaneko’s lap. I still don’t know why Mary would agree to something like this.

Why is she okay with me resting on her lap?

I look up into Mary’s face. It was easily visible since her chest wasn’t in the way. I don’t think I ever noticed that there was a slight hint of green in her blue eyes. Being in a malaise, it brings me at ease, yet I still had this tension within me.

“Hey Mary?”

She tilts her head down to me.

“What is it?”

“What are you thinking about right now?” I ask.

Mary looks ahead into the crowd of people below us. I can feel her leg slightly shaking, as she was tapping her foot instinctively.

“Nothing much.” she smiles to me. “Just making sure you’re okay Kaz.”

“Of course.” I chuckle anxiously.

Who am I to Mary? Why do I feel this sudden tension when I am with her?

For real though, why did I care so much about Mary Kaneko? I try to recall something – anything – of why she mattered so much to me. I try to remember, but nothing is coming up.

“Is something wrong?” Mary says with concern.

She averts her attention back down towards me. I never noticed her fanged tooth appeared every time she spoke.

“I-It’s nothing.” I chuckle nonchalantly. “I think the nosebleed stopped.” as I sat up.

“Oh…okay?” she says, surprised at my sudden reaction.

Maybe I couldn’t remember because of the blood loss from my nosebleed. Yes! That definitely explained why I don’t remember anything about Mary.

How is that even possible? She’s the most important person in my life right now, isn’t she?

I lift my head up; it seems my nosebleed stopped.

“Are you feeling better?” she asks.

I stand up and stretch my arms. I nod and thank Mary as I head to the bathroom, anything to calm myself down. I can’t believe I’m acting like the biggest idiot in the world, voluntarily refusing to continue resting my head on Mary’s lap. It’s so weird because inside I can’t remember what Mary meant to me.

I am in love with Mary Kaneko.

I’ve known for the past three years, so surely there should be something there. My relationship with her wasn’t so casual like I am with Daisuke. Was I in love with her? Yes, of course it was! Could it? Did she say something to me, or did I say something to her which made me feel this way? What happened between us that made me care for her so much? I should know it; there’s no way someone can forget this feeling for someone they cared so much about. If someone asked me if I was willing to die for her, I would say yes without hesitation. But why did I feel this way? I don’t know why.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why I am in love with Mary Kaneko.

“Kaz…?”

I turn around, only to see Mary had been quietly following me.

“Do you need to see Dr. Mori or something? You look kinda pale.”

From her facial expressions, I could tell she was being genuine. She deeply cares for me. It makes my heart face. This feeling is real.

“I’m okay. Thanks for your concern.”

The more I keep thinking about this, the more it became apparent. I had zero romantic attraction to Mary Kaneko. In fact, I don’t think I was ever attracted to Mary Kaneko that way. I only became attracted to her today, February 2nd. Kazuhira Kaneshiro fell in love with Mary Kaneko on February 2nd.

What even happened today?

I turn my head towards the center of the gym, where I see Akane Yuki alone to herself.

Ah I see.

I finally remembered. I am stuck inside a loop. It is the same February 2nd over and over again, where nothing ever changes. My feelings for Mary must have happened somewhere in the 10,504 loops I’ve experienced so far. It was only for a split second, but I’m glad I am aware of the existence of the loop again. I was with Mary on a date yesterday, that I can confirm. Everything else is muddled, but I can confirm it did happen. Maybe something happened that was too traumatic that my mind locked up the memory.

Mary Kaneko is secretly in love with me.

I have lost my memory – how I realized I liked her, and how she liked me. It was impossible for me to remember now, something like that from so long ago. I’ve only been aware of the loop’s existence for four days right? I should be able to remember only four days’ worth of memories, but I do not. Yesterday and today felt so long ago. As time passes, will my feelings for Mary Kaneko change? If I escape this time loop, will I even feel anything for Mary Kaneko afterwards?

My feelings have to be real. They aren’t just convenient.

“I’m glad Kaz. I’ll always be by your side.” Mary says to me.

This must have been my thousandth existential crisis. For some reason, this felt like a true turning point. It is time to finally destroy this time loop – once and for all.


I find Akane Yuki sitting alone at her desk during lunch time, eating a small sandwich. It felt like her lunch was too modest for some reason. I think today was the first time she didn’t approach me first. I can break this loop now. After 10,505 loops, I finally remember something. Maybe Yuki-san and I can work together.

I walk up to her with reservation. I can feel my heart rate rising rapidly, as just looking at her made me anxious. Yuki-san had managed to create an invisible barrier, scaring people from approaching her, even if it was technically her first day here.

“Yuki-san…”

She ignores me. Being directly in front of her, there’s no way she didn’t hear me.

“We need to talk.”

“Piss off.”

Yuki-san continues to apathetically chew on her sandwich. She doesn’t bother to look up at me.

“Yuki-san?”

No response. Given how I’ve been acting about this time loop, I don’t blame her. This was a conversation we should have had 10,000 loops ago, but I wasn’t aware of it for some reason. Yuki-san was ignoring me, no matter how much I begged for an answer.

Akane…?

Suddenly I feel a sharp pain in my head. It’s pounding, over and over again. My hands move to grip my skull, as I see another series of images flashing through my mind. I see a bird-eye’s view of an amusement park. I see a girl dressed in a maid costume. I see a red ribbon. Then I hear what sounded like a lullaby, something a mother would sing to their baby. This triggers my mind for a response she can no longer ignore.

“Akane.”

Her eyes open wide. She stops chewing her sandwich and puts it down.

“We need to talk.”

Akane stays silent, her head kept low. I didn’t even notice that the whole classroom had been observing our situation, as it suddenly got really quiet. Akane sighs, and finally looks up to me with her hazel eyes.

“It’s been a while since you’ve called me by that name. Something must have happened correct?”

“Yes I-“

“Well, good luck with that.” she interrupts me.

She continues eating her sandwich, acting as if nothing had happened.

This girl!

“Why?” I shouted, ignoring the leering eyes around me. “Didn’t you say I am the key to this? Why aren’t you even listening to me?”

“Why…?” she sneers. Akane stands up from her seat. “I can’t believe you’re actually asking me that. You really don’t know anything don’t you? Maybe you should think before you say something next time, because I don’t bother with idiots like you.”

I felt guilty. Her words made me feel like I was being the difficult one here.

“I can’t help it! I don’t know what’s happened before.”

“See. Then you’re just the same Kazuki as you always were.”

“No, I’m not! This time I can help you. So therefore-“

“It doesn’t matter!” Akane slams her fist on the desk.

I want to object, but she shuts me down promptly. She says something that leaves me dumbfounded:

“Because you’ve already said this to me more times than I can remember.” she says with a pained expression.

“W-What?!?”

I’m speechless. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Have I really had this conversation with her before?

No…it’s impossible!

Yuki-san sits back down, and tosses her half-eaten sandwich to the side.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m forced to waste away on useless things. Since I have nothing better to do, I’ll explain things to you again. Hopefully you will actually remember this time, but I doubt it.”

Yuki-san stands up and leaves our classroom. I quickly follow her outside.


“Now listen very closely, I’m only going to say this once.”

I followed her to a secluded corner of the school, where we could be alone together.

“Kazuki, do you know what loop this is?” she asks.

“Based on your introduction, this should be the 10,505th loop right?”

Yuki-san laughs sarcastically. “It’s actually number 11,505.”

It felt like I was punched in the stomach! In reality an extra 1,000 loops has happened since her introduction?!?

“H-How did you even keep count?!?” I said in disbelief.

How was I not even aware an extra 1,000 days had passed? Yesterday I was with Mary…wasn’t I?

“I’ve tried marking myself, keeping notes, etc. It doesn’t matter since everything resets anyways. I just have to. If I forget, then I’ll lose myself.” Yuki-san looks at me with a pained expression. “11,505 is recorded history. It honestly could be more than that.”

I suppose it’s good to know how many steps you’ve taken, even if you have no idea where you’re going…

“I’ve repeated everything an infinite amount of times. I’ve tried every way to approach you. Nothing worked. I’ve run through every possible scenario a multitude of times, and I always come up short.”

“So that’s why you think talking to me is pointless?”

Yuki-san pauses for a second.

“Yes.”

“I’ve been through everything Kazuki. There were times where you willingly cooperated with me to break this loop, and there were other times where you were openly hostile to me, saying I was crazy. Either way, they led nowhere.”

“Not this time.” Determination was coursing through my body.

Yuki-san bites her thumb. I wouldn’t blame her if she doubted me.

“Let me be blunt with you Kazuki – it’s impossible for someone to deceive me 11,505 times. I know for sure you are the key to breaking this loop, since I’ve suspected everyone else. Mary Kaneko, Daisuke Akatsuka, Dr. Mori, and everyone else within this city never retain their memories – except for you.”

“So why haven’t you given up?” I asked rhetorically.

“I did.” she glares at me. “It’s not like looking for a needle in a haystack Kazuki. Imagine searching for a penny that should be in your wallet, but you can’t find it no matter what. It’s easy to search every corner of it, but for some reason, you can’t. In that case, you just assume the penny has gone missing. I’ve come to conclude that I cannot persuade you. Either that, or you’ve hidden it away somewhere.” she bites the nail on her thumb. “Maybe it’s time I start calling you Kaz like everyone else.”

Yuki-san’s frustration expression brings tension within my body. She turns her back towards me.

“Well, that was a waste of time. I’m finished here.” as she slowly walks away.

“W-Wait!” I call out to her.

She ignores my plea and keeps walking.

I have to say it! This is my only chance.

“I-I remember this time! I remember you!”

Yuki-san suddenly stops, though her back is still facing me. Finally, my words manage to reach her.

“You were there that night, when I was with Mary.”

As I lay there dying on the ground, she was the last thing I saw before the reset. She looked sad.

Akane turns around.

“Please…stop.”

She was trying her best not to break down in front of me. I never noticed those tired eyes, as the stoic transfer student with her misty-eyed expression was on the verge of tears.

“W-Why…why are you crying-“

“Just stop it!” she shouts, her voice wavering between frustration and pain. “Can’t you see? This is just another loop! I-I just can’t take it anymore. You get my hopes up…and I think maybe…just maybe this is the one, but nothing ever changes! There’s no way I wouldn’t see through this, is there?”

I stand here, unable to form any thoughts. Has this really happened before? I thought this was surely the bold move that would finally get through to her.

“There’s no-“

I suddenly stop. Does this mean there’s nothing to be done? I’ve come to terms seeing my friends dying at Akane’s expense. I’ve chosen to break this loop, so that I could find the truth within me. I’m willing to forsake my humanity in order to save everyone. That is my reason to break this loop, in order to find the truth.

"Please! I want to break this loop because-"

“Don’t make me say it! Don’t make me say your reason to break this loop I’ve heard so many times before…” she interrupts.

I want to break this loop because I am in love with Mary, not you.

I firmly clench my fist. Nothing could come out of my mouth. Yuki-san walks away.

“It’s funny. Even after 11,505 times, you still make my heart race.” she chuckles, wiping away a single tear from her eye.

Wait!

Did she finally acknowledge me?

“What are you going to do now?” I asked.

She pauses and tilts her head to face me. I could only see half of her face, but her off-putting gaze stares straight through me. It was a blank expression, reminiscent of that first night I saw her at the train station. With one look I somehow understood immediately. Yuki-san finally walks away, this time without saying a single word.


“Are you okay Kaz?” Mary asks. “You’ve been acting weirder than usual today.”

No actually. I’m losing my mind.

Obviously I didn’t want Mary to freak out, so I gave her a normal answer. I don’t think she bought it though.

Have I made any progress at all towards breaking this loop? Who am I really?

Mary and I were walking home together. Knowing Mary’s fate in this loop, I’m sure I would run into Akane Yuki soon. It was only a matter of time before the truck comes once more.

“Hey!”

Mary stops in front of me.

“What?”

What? That’s all you have to say?” Mary furrows her brow. “I know you’re hiding something Kaz, so just spill it.”

Was I that easy to read? Maybe since I’ve repeated this day over 11,505 times I’ve gotten sloppy. I thought Mary was the clue towards breaking this loop, but our date led nowhere.

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try it.” Mary crosses her arms, awaiting my response.

I tell her everything. It wouldn’t matter anyways since nobody ever retained their memories, the exceptions being myself and Akane Yuki (though she didn’t remember through “natural” means). Telling Mary everything felt a bit therapeutic.

“I see…”

To my surprise, she was taking this pretty well.

“You’re so weird Kaz…” she smiles. “Can I ask you something?”

“If you had the choice to be with the ones you love forever, but be stuck in the loop, or escape, what would you pick?”

“I’ve already decided to break the loop Mary.”

Mary looked a bit disappointed in my answer. I guess she was expecting something else, or at least some hesitation in my answer. I needed to strengthen my resolve, especially since I’ve lost track of how many loops it has been.

“I think I would stay. I’d want to be with the people I love forever and ever.” Mary averts her gaze from me. “I wouldn’t mind spending eternity with you Kaz.”

“Even if I wasn’t who you think I was?” I ask.

My memories were still muddled, but I was once known as Kazuki Kaneshiro, but at the same time, Kazuhira. I don’t remember why or how this came to be. Does this mean who am I now, in the present, is a fake?

Mary smiles adoringly. “Of course. I don’t know know what you’re thinking about, but I will always accept you Kaz.”

Mary rubs her old and worn Masked Avenger pin with her slender fingers.

Hearing her say that made me warm inside.

Wait…was her pin always that worn and old?

I looked closer at Mary’s pin. It was brand new when she first showed it to me, wasn’t it? It looked like it was extremely old compared to Akane Yuki’s 10,501st introduction. The pin looked like an antique, its glossy exterior almost gone, with its once vibrant colors completely faded.

“Hey Mary, is that a limited-edition, super-rare exclusive Masked Avenger pin from overseas?”

“Hmm? Oh this old thing? Yeah, my dad gave it to me a while back.” she says, proudly showing off her fanaticism.

Doesn’t everything reset after a loop?

Even though it’s been 11,505 loops, one thing was for certain – everyone forgets, and everything resets. Even though there were some gaps in my memory, I remember having conversations with Mary every morning on the same exact topics. I could almost repeat our conversation line-by-line, and I definitely remember her pin looking brand new, especially since this was a recent release.

“Is there something wrong?” Mary drops her smug act.

The tension between us has risen ten-fold. Suddenly I could feel my heart rate rapidly rising. In an instant, Mary’s personality seemed like it changed. She looks at me, her blank expression a stark contrast to her usual energetic personality. I doubt even Akane Yuki knew about this; she had been focusing on me this whole time.

I shouldn’t raise her suspicions.

Finally it dawned on me – there was only one logical explanation.

But…it can’t be!

Mary was the owner of the pin, and it is the only thing I’ve noticed that has changed in any way. The next thought that crosses my mind shakes the very foundation of everything I know:

Has Mary been aware of the time-loop this whole time?

You need to see something shocking in order to remember, and Mary has literally been that “shocking” factor to begin with. Questions and paranoia reach me as I start to doubt everything I know about her. 

If she does know, why is she keeping it a secret?!?

Suddenly I feel pain racing through my head. It feels like a bomb is about to go off in my brain! I can feel the walls of reality inside me are breaking down at the thought. My mind blocked off some traumatic memories from that night, the night where I learned of Mary’s secret, the one she kept telling me to “please wait until tomorrow.”

“You look pale Kaz.”

Mary steps closer to me, and I instinctively step away from her. She knows I’ve been staring at her old pin for too long. Every single fiber of my body is telling me to run away from Mary, the girl i love so much. 

“Mary, what is my name?” I ask her to confirm.

No, I’m just paranoid. She has to know my name.

“Your name?” she replies. “Hmm…it’s Kaz.” she laughs.

“No. What is my full name?” I ask her once again. 

She doesn’t reply to me.

"Please say my name!" I plead to her. 

Please say Kazuhira!

Mary turns her towards the ground. She stands still like a statue, completely and eerily silent. Finally, my worst fear is confirmed:

“It seems I don’t have to get struck by a truck tonight Kazuki.”

My heart races rapidly as a small grin appears on Mary Kaneko's face. 

 

 

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A note from kenbinru

So yeah Mary's been aware this whole time. I hope the hints I were dropping weren't too obvious to see this coming, but yep, one of the twists is finally here. Gettin' Yandere vibes, but hopefully things work out for Kaz. 

It also seems Kaz is really struggling with his identity, as the boy is losing his mind over things. I'd like to think your identity is whatever you choose to be. Anyways, the Return continues.  

Thank you for reading, please follow/favorite/leave a review if you enjoyed!


About the author

kenbinru

Bio: Musings & Misc. Follow kenbinru.t*mbler.c*m for illustrations.

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