Neol looked at the man who left and then averted his gaze. Rather than look at the guy who played ‘his’ part, there was someone more important waiting for him.
A beautiful young woman lying on the ground. Her golden hair was spread out behind her and her thin white dress clung to her body, only just hiding the more important features. A few golden bangles were on her arms, and she had a faint blue butterfly hairpiece, an outfit suited for a divine goddess.
At the moment, her eyes were half open, dazed like she just woke up from a long dream. Her emerald eyes blearily scanned the surroundings and then her beautiful face scrunched up in thought.
Seeing that, Neol laughed. But he couldn’t help it. After all, he had seen her act like that so many times before.
Hearing the laughter, the Goddess… the former Goddess, glanced over at Neol with her dazed eyes. Faint recognition appeared in those emerald orbs and her soft pink lips slightly parted. “You…?”
Hearing her voice, Neol carefully hid his shaking hands in his pockets and let out a casual greeting. “Yo. Long time no see, Rena. Seems like you’re as unfortunate as ever.”
His heart pounded.
-It was a long shot. A plan that he laid out at the very beginning and modified as he realized the truth. One that required him splitting apart his soul in a gamble that could have lead nowhere at all. The reason why he chose ‘Absolute Memory’ instead of any other power.
If it was true. If the power he had derived from that omniscient Creator and if that guy was truly omnipotent…
If Absolute Memory was truly absolute and if the person there was really who he thought she was…
The former Goddess- No, the young girl who he lost so long ago slowly stood up. Her eyes widened, shimmering with tears. And then she covered her mouth with her hands, as if not wanting to say her thoughts in case they were wrong.
Neol was quiet, simply staring and keeping up that old habit of his, pretending to be calm and nonchalant. Of course, that was a complete and utter lie.
“Neol…? Neol… Neol!” Tears glittering behind her, Serena- No, the girl called Sanada Rena ran forward.
Neol held out his arms and she fell into them, pulling him into a tight embrace. “Neol… Neol…!”
As if she was afraid to forget him again, she kept muttering his name between sobs, burying her head against his chest.
He carefully massaged her back and said, “That’s my name alright. Don’t wear it out now, okay?”
A casual response. A calm and collected smile. Neol appeared the very picture of nonchalant and confident… if not for his trembling arms that held Rena tight, as if he was afraid she would disappear if he didn’t.
How long did they stay like that?
In that empty void, time didn’t matter, so neither of them knew. But neither of them cared either.
Eventually, Rena called down and quietly said, “You came for me.”
“Of course I did. Who else would I offload my bad karma on?”
Rena laughed, stepping back.
Neol hesitated for a split second, but he let her go.
She smiled and then gently brushed her tears away. “You haven’t changed, have you? No, even when you didn’t remember anything…”
“I should say that to you, Rena. You’re as annoyingly beautiful as ever too.”
Rena giggled, covering her mouth with her hands. “I take that back. You’ve become a bit more honest, haven’t you?”
Neol didn’t respond. Instead, he walked forward and scooped her up in his arms.
“N-Neol?!” She flushed and then she glared at him. “No, I take that back too! You haven’t changed at all!”
Neol smiled. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
Rena fell silent. “Home? We… Can we go back?”
“Of course. Nothing and no one would ever dare try to stop me, you know?”
Rena poked Neol’s cheek and said, “You’re still as corny as ever.”
He smiled and started walking off into the void- No, along the path back to Earth. “You’ll have to get used to it, I’m afraid. I’m not letting you go anywhere else, anymore. Besides, I still have to give you your gift.”
“That’s right. We never finished our anniversary, remember?”
“Right. It was a year after the day we met.”
“Oh. That anniversary.”
“…You seem disappointed.”
“It’s your imagination!”
Neol shook his head and kept walking.
As he did, Rena glanced back at the gameboard. “…Is it alright to leave it like that?”
Neol glanced over.
The board was the same way that ‘he’ left it. No, it was different actually. A few of the pieces were hazy, overlapping with others. At the same time, the two main pieces that ‘he’ used were gone now, absent from the board along with a few others.
Neol turned back and said, “It’s fine.”
“Is it? But… what if something bad happens?“
“It doesn’t matter. From here on, it’s no one’s story but their own.” He paused. “Unless you want to keep meddling? Because if you do, I’m going to have to collect on your debt.”
“Of course not! I was just curious.”
“Mm… then here’s something else to be curious about.”
The sound of footsteps echoing through the empty void. An ordinary young man that became extraordinary through denying karma with his own hands. A girl who became a goddess against her will and was finally heading back home.
“What’s the perfect gift to give to a girl on an important date? One that would make them happy for the rest of their lives?”
Rena’s eyes widened. “Neol… You didn’t…?”
“That’s right. The limited edition Mintendo Switch with Animul Crossing.”
Rena froze, her eyes tearing up. “You…!”
“Ah, and an engagement ring, of course.”
Light welled up. A path home opened up by the memories he left behind and the future he wished for.
With it, the pair began to fade, teleported back to Earth to the day before their time stopped.
“Wait. Wait!” But before that happened, Rena shouted. “You can’t just spring something like that on me! Neol! Ne-!”
And then it was quiet, Neol and Rena returning to their rightful home with ‘nothing’ and ‘no one’ seeing them off.