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New Hope

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Kokichi heard soft footsteps behind him. He knew who they belonged to, it wasn't hard to tell. He'd always studied such small details about Shuichi Saihara, even down to the way he walked. Either way, there wasn't anyone else left who would've bothered to walk towards him besides one person.

“Here we are.” Kokichi said as his half lidded violet eyes gazed idly into the abyss that was the supposed "end" of the virtual program. He knew that wasn't true, but he didn't really care.

“The edge of the world.” Kokichi said with an unimpressed tone.

An empty silence settled between him and the detective. Kokichi felt like he should be cold out in the snow, the icy wind biting at his fingertips and cheeks. But it felt like nothing at all. Only the ghost of the concept of cold on his skin. Maybe Miu’s program really was flawed. Or maybe he was the flawed one.

“Are you alright with this, Kokichi?” Shuichi asked, his voice low and almost hushed.

The shorter boy was taken aback at how little hatred Shuichi carried in his voice. He only sounded...tired. Done with all of this. Kokichi could understand that. He supposed he expected Shuichi to have more bite in his tone. After everything he’d done, it’s only the beginning of what Kokichi knew he probably deserved. He thought for a moment before the other boy had spoken that Shuichi might just push him into the blackness at the edge of the virtual world the moment he saw him.

Kokichi forced those bitter thoughts to a different pocket of his mind as he truly pondered the question Shuichi asked. He should be, shouldn’t he? Alright with this? Even though his plan with Kaito had failed, a part of him was. The most bias part of him that only ever wanted Shuichi by his side was content with this disgusting outcome.

But it wasn’t, was it? Because deep down another fragile, rational side of him knew that the Shuichi standing next to him wasn’t the same person he’s set his sights on the first day he woke up in this place. And, the other parts of him, well... He had already lost track of how many of those he’d created.

He’d hate me if I said yes.

Kokichi internally scoffed at himself for that pathetic thought. Just because the other boy spoke calmly to him didn’t mean he’d give him any kind of “second chance”, or whatever the hell the voice in his head was so naively wishing for. He doubted Shuichi cared to start to hate him all over again, anyway.

His chest felt empty. It had been like that for a while, ever since he forced it to be. It had to be that way, for everyone. He had to be empty to kill 3 of his classmates for his goal.

But even if he told the other he wasn’t content with this outcome, was there any future for them? Shuichi could walk away any moment. Kokichi waited to be discarded by the void that mirrored his heart. It hadn’t looked like space, not really. It hadn’t looked like Kaito Momota. But for some reason it was like he could hear his voice in the nothingness, drifting away as if he’d never existed at all. And maybe that was a cruel thing, but also maybe not. Maybe it’s what he needed. What they needed.

Maybe the most heartless thing he could do was stop hating himself even though he deserved it. Maybe the worst thing he could do was let go of the people he’d destroyed. But maybe the line between what was bad and what was good had already dissolved entirely in his mind. It's how he knew he was probably losing his sanity.

“No.” Kokichi finally answered, after who knows how long. Time seemed to move strangely when the mind is in despair.

He heard Shuichi take a deep breath, collecting himself, his gaze still focused on the vast emptiness before them.

“...Then why did you do it? Why do any of this if you aren’t happy when you’ve gotten what you want...?” Shuichi asked, sobs threatening to spill from his throat.

Kokichi felt something familiar bubble up, a spark of something raw and painfully human left within him that hurt hearing Shuichi’s voice sound that defeated.

“Why do you ask? I doubt my words carry any significance to you at this point. They really shouldn’t, y’know?”

Even now, you can probably still do better for yourself than listen to me.

“I...I don’t know.”

“I don’t know either.”

A moment passed before Kokichi spoke again.

“...What do you want right now, Shuichi?” He asked.

To jump.

The knee jerk reaction of that thought in Shuichi’s head left a guilty sting in his heart. He knew Kaito wouldn’t like him thinking that way, no matter what.

Another silence fell between the two as Shuichi contemplated the question as best he could with his mind so exhausted. It seemed like everything he could think of that he wanted had to do with changing the past, or something else impossible. His chest hurt. It’s all he could feel, like it was suffocating him. He was drowning in the feeling of his own heartbeat.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I want. You don’t have to listen.” Kokichi said bluntly.

Kokichi’s voice snapped him back to reality, and as much as Shuichi hated it, he remembered breathing was a thing.

“I want you to push me.” Kokichi said, his voice flat.

“What?” Shuichi turned to face the other, feeling his stomach sink to his shoes.

“You heard me. I think my death would be better for every-“

“No!” Shuichi shouted, his voice echoing in the void. If Kokichi hadn’t been so exhausted he probably would’ve flinched. He'd rarely ever seen Shuichi yell.

Ah, he’s still got something left in him. Kokichi thought.

Shuichi met the other’s eyes for the first time during their conversation. Kokichi hadn’t meant to let the small gasp escape him that did when he saw Shuichi’s face. He hadn’t realized how bad the other looked. Not that he was probably doing any better, to be fair. The eye bags, the dirtied clothes and greasy hair, puffy eyes from crying, and dry, ghostly pale skin... His lips were even blue, teeth chattering from the cold. The way Shuichi looked in that moment had finally confirmed a thought Kokichi had been contemplating.

This was the worst outcome.

“No more.” Shuichi said, his voice deep and serious.

Despite everything, the smallest bit of pride swelled in Kokichi’s chest. He hadn’t realized any part of him still held any kind of drive to live until he heard the other boy raise his voice. If Shuichi really didn’t care anymore, he probably would have just pushed him like Kokichi asked, or walked away if he hadn’t felt like sparing the strength.

Kokichi wore an unreadable expression as he reached behind his neck and fumbled with his scarf before the cloth slid delicately down his chest. The small boy’s breath could be seen in the air, a puff of frost escaping his pale lips as he held out the checkered fabric to the other.

Shuichi looked at him, and the down at his offering, a little confused. He gently grabbed it, feeling the ghosting warmth of Kokichi’s body heat from his neck on Shuichi’s own frozen fingers.

“Then let’s save them too.” Kokichi said, his tone raw.

“..Huh...?”

“No more. That’s what you said, right? It was your call. And I’m not going to jump unless you push me.” Deep purple eyes locked with Shuichi's wide golden ones.

Shuichi stilled for a moment, his mouth slightly agape. He glanced up at Kokichi, the other’s determined expression not faltering.

He hadn’t exactly known the reason why he did it. Why he took Kokichi’s scarf. It wasn’t because he was cold. No, the scarf wasn’t that warm. It wasn’t even all that much of a scarf anymore. It was torn in all sorts of places and stained with dull, dried blood all over. But Shuichi held it in his hands tight enough that it wouldn’t blow away in the wind when it came.

Something clicked in Shuichi’s mind, and maybe it had been out of nothing but grief, but he’d made a decision.

Here at the end of this fake world, Kokichi Ouma and Shuichi Saihara invested everything they had left into each other, even if that was just an exchange of words.

Something sparked in Shuichi’s chest, like the tiniest flame under rubble after the end of the world. Somehow, Kokichi Ouma made Shuichi Saihara feel hope again.