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Common Route

Alley with Takeru

Nano made his first appearance in the game after Takeru escaped from the Executioners and was recovering his breath in an alley. When Nano appeared, Takeru first thought Nano might be a ghost, which he knew wasn't possible, or a hallucination from his physical exhaustion. Either way, the sight made him doubt his own eyes. As Nano approached him, and came to a halt still some distance away, Takeru harshly asked: "...What the hell are you...?"

Nano merely gazed back at him without replying and Takeru, unable to deal with the silence, questioned him again. This time Takeru asked if Nano had some kind of business with him. With a voice that one might interpret as serene or emotionless, Nano said: "...It must be painful."

Nano and Takeru

Nano reassuring Takeru.

Takeru felt his heart jump for some reason, but frowned at his inability to grasp Nano's intentions. As Takeru grew confused and frantic, Nano told him, "It is not the time to be doing this... It is not the time to curl up in a place like this..." It was as if Nano had read his mind. Suddenly, Nano strode towards him with a vague, unsteady gait.

Takeru yelled at Nano to stay away. Takeru was pressed with his back against the alley wall and faced a dead end, which caused him to squeeze his eyes shut. Something soft and cold touched his cheek, and Takeru opened his eyes to find Nano gently cupping his cheek with his hand.

Nano regarded him with a small smile and pale blue eyes, and said, "Fear not." His deep voice somehow sounded very comforting to Takeru. Caressing Takeru's face, Nano continued, "You must be tired." Somehow all fear and tension dissolved inside of Takeru and he felt like he was under some kind of spell. He thought the sensation was reminiscent of sleepiness. Nano continued to say, "I am you." Nano reassured Takeru this was true, like an incantation.

Takeru decided this must be why Nano understood everything, and felt strangely free of doubt. At this point, Nano stood close enough for their lips to be able to brush, and said: "You must wish for relief." All the while, Nano looked at him with kind, knowing eyes. Takeru pondered what he meant and told Nano that he didn't want to die. Nano responded:

"You need not die... But you would find relief if you were only a little stronger. It would grant you release... All-surpassing power."

Of course, Takeru thought to himself, he wanted more power, strong enough to fend off the Executioners, beat Il Re, and to manage Vischio. Nano then asked him if he wanted power and all of the sudden, to Takeru, Nano seemed to be everything. Nano repeated, "All-surpassing power." Takeru slowly repeated the first two words as well.  

The hand that was cupping Takeru's cheek slid down Takeru's throat and jacket to close around Takeru's hand. Nano spoke one more time to tell Takeru: "Get back at those who look down on you." Smiling, Nano released Takeru's hand and, as he faded away into the darkness, all that remained was the after image of Nano's smile and silence. To Takeru, it felt like time had come to a halt, and he returned to himself as if he had awoken from a dream. He noticed a new sensation in his hand and, as he opened his fingers, found a glass ampoule resting on his palm.


Alley with Takeru (2)

After the Line-crazed Keisuke murdered Takeru, the first person to find his corpse was Nano. Nano checked for a pulse with one hand against Takeru’s bloody neck; finding his body cold, Nano gently closed Takeru’s dead, horrified eyes. Then Nano licked the blood off his fingertips. He looked at Takeru’s corpse with an empty, pitiless expression.


Nano's Route 

By the Tree

Nano Sleeping

Nano sleeping defenselessly.

Akira encountered Nano for the first time when he saw, from a distance, Nano lying motionless underneath a withered tree. Unaware of who Nano was and if he was even alive, Akira knew he could easily leave, but something nagged at Akira enough that he decided to check. Up close, Akira could clearly see that Nano was alive, as his chest was rising and falling in his sleep. He also noticed that on Nano had an open book lying on his chest, as if Nano had fallen asleep while reading. Akira could tell it was in a foreign language because he had never seen the characters on the cover before. Akira took a better look at Nano and noticed he had quite fair skin, and that his hair appeared to be naturally light as well, which suggested Nano could be as foreign as the book he held. 

Suddenly, Nano's eyelids twitched and he opened his eyes. His gaze was vague and unfocused. Alarmed, though he felt he had no reason to be, Akira took a step back. He watched Nano's gaze slowly settle on Akira, and their eyes met. In that moment, Akira didn't know why he felt so shaken, but he thought to himself that Nano's eyes looked so very empty, like mere marbles, with a transparent darkness deep inside. He also noticed that there seemed to be no life in him. Akira simply stood there, watching him, when Nano suddenly spoke. His first words were a riddle: 

"It has no mouth with which to speak. It has no ears with which to hear, yet it can bestow every form of wisdom... Do you know what it is?"

Akira, confused, simply shook his head. Nano replied: "A fount of wisdom with no ears and no mouth... The answer is a book." Akira repeated the answer, questioning it, and Nano agreed, repeating, "A book" as well. He closed the book on his chest and offered it to Akira, who stared at it. Nano asked: "...Do you not like books?"

Nano withdrew the book and moved away from the tree. He reached out for Akira and his fingers brushed his cheek. A weird sensation went through Akira, as if some kind of static electricity went through his skin. Startled, Akira jerked away and went on his guard, but all Nano did was gaze expressionlessly at him, fingers touching his cheek. He noticed Nano seemed absolutely devoid of hostility, and relaxed a little. Nano's fingertips glided down his cheek, but the contact didn't shock Akira again. Akira thought Nano's fingers were cold as ice, but the touch didn't feel unpleasant. Nano blinked slowly, and leaned back against the tree trunk before speaking:

"Being too close leads to blindness. One underestimates the true value of things, and by the time one realizes their worth... all has already been lost. How many times will people repeat this before they weary of it...?
...A book will never betray you. It gives and gives without seeking anything in return. The distance between you and a book never shrinks... That distance is the most comfortable of all.
When the proper balance crumbles, relationships twist far out of shape."

As he listened, Akira thought of Keisuke and the distance between them both. He and Keisuke hadn't been aloof, but would it be appropriate to call them close? Echoing Nano's words, he thought perhaps they'd been too close, and the balance in their relationship had crumbled. He didn't know for sure. At this point, he noticed Nano didn't wear a tag, signaling he wasn't part of Igura. He asked Nano if he lived in Toshima. He found it difficult to imagine someone who was experienced with the harsh environment would nap right by the street. Nano didn't answer, but rose to his feet with his book and studied Akira, his blank gaze growing moderately more focused. "I see. The intersection of antithetical colors..."

Akira hesitated to ask Nano to repeat his words. Nano silently watched Akira for a little longer before turning and slowly walking away. He didn't look back. Akira watched him go, and didn't return to himself until Nano disappeared. It felt like he'd awoken from a dream, and Akira almost wondered if the encounter had been a daydream. Akira thought about how mysterious Nano had been:

"He'd given off an air of mystery, a quality difficult to pin down with words. Perhaps because he'd seemed so lifeless, he'd given Akira an impression of overall ambiguity, as though his outlines were soft and blurred."

Akira shook these thoughts away.


Alley

After Akira's initial meeting with Nano, he returned to searching for Keisuke by going back to Meal of Duty and found the remains of the slaughter of the club's workers and patrons. He encountered Takeru as he tried to leave. Takeru, who had taken Line, attacked Akira and almost strangled him. Amidst his threats, Takeru licked some of Akira's blood, sending him into painful paralysis and shock.

Akira stumbled into an alley, horrified, and assumed the ugly reaction had been due to Line. Before he could leave the alley, he felt a new presence near the entrance. Akira pressed against the wall and tried to stifle his breathing as he hid. He was exhausted from being beaten by Takeru and hoped he wouldn't have to fight again. He readied his knife. The soft approaching footsteps became a dim, pale figure. Akira felt a moment of deep chill:

"His hair was a color verging on gold; his skin was so white that it almost made him seem ill, and his eyes were pale blue. Every hint of color about him was faint, and this-- together with his general atmosphere--made him look as ethereal as a ghost."

Akira noticed the man wasn’t gazing at him as much as looking in his direction; he was just that lacking in energy and life. Even so, Akira’s anxiety peaked as the figure entered the alley and walked toward him. Akira thought there was something eerie about how vulnerable he was, and contemplated body-slamming him and running. He noticed the man was carrying a brown, worn-down briefcase.

The man stopped when he was close enough to touch, and the moonlight illuminated his features, showing Akira it was the same man he’d seen sleeping under a tree. Akira wanted to ask him what he was doing here, but could only gape at Nano. Nano’s eyes appeared to shine brilliant purple for a second, which startled Akira into staring at them. He rationalized it might have been a trick of the light. He felt more unsettled before Nano spoke:

“...There is more than one color in which to dye oneself. Or in which to be dyed by another.”
“Soft and toneless, lacking in inflection, seeming at once gentle and cold: it was more like a mere sound than anything else, even a mechanical voice. The flow of his words melted into Akira’s eardrums.”
“Some colors blend. Some colors paint over or swallow others. Sometimes a color will seep out from within… what will be the case for you?”

Nano blinked, and Akira saw his eyes did have a purple tint. He thought Nano felt otherworldly, before Nano added, “And the same is true… of me.” Akira stood, transfixed, as Nano pressed the beaten-up leather suitcase into his hand. “A man will come here soon.” Akira questioned, “A man?” but Nano only elaborated: “I want you to give this to him.” Nano’s fingers brushed Akira’s grip on the suitcase, and caressed the back of his hand. His touch was cold and smooth, and Akira’s breath caught. All his questions dissolved when he met Nano’s blue stare. Nano retreated some steps back before he finally turned and walked away.

“He vanished into the darkness like someone walking on the brink of the abyss dividing reality from dreams."

Akira’s reverie lasted after Nano disappeared. The dreamlike sensation lingered, but his heart beat rapidly. He closed his eyes to clear his head and waited for whoever would come pick up the suitcase. Just as Akira decided he didn’t owe anyone anything and placed the suitcase against the wall, Shiki appeared. He acknowledged Akira’s presence, and stated knowingly: “A man must have come.”

Shiki picked the suitcase and checked the contents. “...Fucking around again. Damn.” He was clearly displeased with what he’d been given. Shiki questioned whether Akira had looked inside, and asked, “Do you know him?” Akira remained quiet. Shiki demanded to know, “Why you? Answer me.” to which Akira replied, “...That’s what I’d like to know.” Shiki grabbed Akira’s shirt and slammed Akira into a wall. He held his blade to Akira’s throat. “Forget everything you saw here. Including him.”

In spite of his fear, Akira had no intention of submitting to Shiki, who believed he could intimidate and threaten everything into going his way. After all, Akira hadn’t asked for Nano to give him the suitcase. Akira glared at Shiki. “I’ve got no reason to take orders from you.”


By the Tree (2)

Having been spared by Shiki, Akira wondered how Shiki and the mysterious Nano were related, and what could Shiki have seen in the suitcase that repulsed him. Whatever was going on, Akira thought he didn’t want to get caught up in it. He intended to look for Keisuke, but first he needed rest.

He thought of returning to the place where he’d first met Nano. Inexplicably, Nano pervaded Akira’s thoughts. He was mysterious and connected to Shiki. and not someone Akira should feel safe trusting…

“Even so, he was captivated by the thought of those clear, empty eyes, with their gaze that seemed capable of stealthily slipping right inside his heart---”

Akira questioned if he wanted to see Nano again, and dismissed it as something different. Despite his hesitation, his feet carried him towards the clearing. However, there was no one there. Akira made excuses for his behavior - he didn’t know anything about Nano, he wasn’t seriously expecting to find him - and became irritated with himself for doing so and for falling to such a pointless impulse.

Just as he began to return to the city, Akira sensed someone’s presence. Akira turned back around to find Nano standing beside the tree again. Akira acknowledged that Nano didn’t emanate any aggression or enmity, but it’d be foolish to drop his guard, regardless. Akira approached him, noting again that Nano’s coloring against the darkness made him look otherworldly. Akira asked him who he was.

“Instead of offering a reply, the man turned his head to one side and scanned the horizon as if to read the flow of the wind with his eyes. It was hard to get a grip on him. Something about his movements made Akira think of a stray cat.”
“You can have one without even trying. But even trying your very hardest cannot make you have one… Do you know what it is?”

At Nano’s new riddle, Akira felt both annoyed and, strangely, relaxed. He wasn’t going to ponder the answer and he didn’t know what the heck Nano was thinking. Nano said, “The next time we meet, I would like to hear your answer.” Internally, Akira scoffed at the idea of meeting a mysterious stranger again and again, but he couldn’t deny that he’d come to the clearing because he was interested in Nano. Akira’s stubbornness and curiosity warred within his mind.

Meanwhile, Nano peeled a piece of bark from the withered tree. Nano toyed with it before he tried to stick it in his mouth. Akira automatically grabbed Nano’s hand and asked what he was doing. Akira thought his behavior didn’t seem like an act, but that Nano looked like an animal casually munching on whatever was around. His hand was too cold and startled Akira, too, but he was far more concerned and flabbergasted by Nano’s actions. “That’s not edible.” He glanced at the strip of bark again, thinking Nano was seeming weirder and weirder. “Are you hungry or something?”

Without a word, Nano held the bark out to him. Akira took it, thinking who knew what bizarre thing Nano might do if Akira failed to react. If the player chose to have Akira taste it, Akira then remembered that some animals hold off starvation by eating bark in times of famine. He thought it probably wouldn’t taste good, but it also probably wouldn’t harm him to try it. Akira bit down, and Nano watched him with mute surprise. The taste was indescribable: mingled earth and wood undertones. Akira said it wasn’t so bad. At his words, Nano relaxed very slightly and almost appeared to smile.

“And yet, if we go back to our roots, nothing in nature is ever wasted.”

Akira found his words incomprehensible as ever, but his voice was so easy to listen to that Akira didn’t mind. Akira put the bark down at the base of the tree, which prompted Nano to say:

“Ashes to ashes. All life returns to the earth in due time. Insects, plants, and human beings… they are all fundamentally the same.”

Nano’s pale fingers scooped up a handful of soil and let it crumble back to the ground. Akira had a panicked moment where he worried Nano might start to eat dirt, but Nano then straightened up and reached for Akira. Again, his body felt a faint shock as Nano’s fingertips brushed his cheek.

“The man’s cold fingers glided from his cheek to his jawline, then fell back to his side in the same slow motion, as if he’d lost the strength to keep holding his arm up.

Though Akira remained tense, the wariness within him begun fading little by little. After leveling his dark marble-like eyes at Akira for some time, the man turned on his heel and began walking off. His pale form drifted into the distance as though being swallowed by darkness. Again, Akira compared the strange feeling to a waking dream.


Akira's Dream

Image294

Nano in Akira's dream

Finding an empty building to sleep in, Akira dreamed of wind chimes and a voice he couldn’t determine was real or meaningless noise. A figure appeared, washed out by bright light; their pale skin, short hair, and beige shirt collar could be made out, but their expression was hard to see. Akira compared his initial impressions to a blurry edge of a watercolor painting, but his senses gradually grew sharper and sharper. Amidst the light is a brief glimpse of pale green.

“---If, at that moment, ...I had… his… and…”
“What? What was he supposed to have done?”

Akira grew frustrated, couldn’t breathe, and woke up. He had this dream more times than he could count, and he always forgot everything when he opened his eyes.


Theater

The next day, Akira returned to the club again to find crowds gawking at the massacre. There, Akira won an Igura battle against a random man, and almost beat the loser to death with his fists. Mulling over his own behavior, Akira encountered the now Line-using Keisuke. Keisuke explained that he was the one who slaughtered everyone at the club, and that he intended to torture Akira slowly before killing him, before he left.

Distraught from these events, Akira wandered around until he caught sight of something whitish. The almost colorless silhouette nearly blended in with the night, but the person’s wavy golden hair caught Akira eye. Realizing it was Nano, Akira broke into a run without a second thought. Akira wondered if coming into contact with Nano’s mystical, dreamy atmosphere would help his crushing depression.

Akira followed Nano through the streets and struggled to keep up despite how Nano appeared to walk slowly. Turning a street corner, Akira found Nano had vanished. The area was completely silent and devoid of people. Akira wondered if seeing Nano had been a hallucination, but then noticed that one of the buildings’ doors was open.

Unable to determine the purpose of this gray building, he entering the open door and found a dimly lit room with a black counter and a set of stairs leading to the basement. There was a Solid on the counter, which Akira decided to take with him as he headed down the stairs. In the corridor, Akira realized the building had once been a movie theater.

Image288

Akira and Nano in the empty theater

He entered one of the rooms and found rows of seats and a big movie screen with a blank picture playing. Nano was the only person in the audience. His heart beating hard, Akira noticed the white glow of the screen made Nano’s hair and skin look like the same color. Only Nano’s eyes were as dark as ever, and Nano watched unwaveringly as Akira approached and sat down a seat away from Nano. Having followed on a whim, Akira found he had nothing to say.

Tilting his head, Nano asked, “Did you find out the answer?” and reminded Akira of the riddle Nano had asked during their previous meeting. Akira was too exhausted to remember what the riddle had been. As if reading Akira’s mind, Nano repeated: “You can have one without even trying, but even trying your very hardest cannot make you have one. What is it?”

Unable to deduce the answer, Akira said nothing. Nano answered: “...A dream.” He blinked, and his eyes briefly shone purple. Akira recognized that he’d thought it was a trick of the light before. Akira thought Nano’s answer seemed almost childish, too, but he couldn’t remember if he dreamed very much. Akira reasoned that maybe Akira always forgot his dreams when he woke up. Akira didn’t have any dreams about his future, either. Akira asked, “What’s the point of making me answer that?”

As an answer, Nano repeated the riddle again. Not understanding what was going on, Akira stole a glance at Nano’s face. Nano had no expression, yet at the same time there was an intensity to him that made Akira speechless and uncomfortable, Akira squirmed in his seat and the Solid spilled out of his pocket with a noise. After a moment, Akira held it out to Nano. Between seeing Nano try to eat tree bark and the way Nano’s hands were bone-thin and gaunt, Akira suspected Nano really wasn’t eating. Aloud, Akira asked if Nano wanted some. Nano glanced between Akira and the Solid. He stared so intently and innocently that Akira began to feel as if he’d done something wrong. Just as Akira was about to withdraw his hand, Nano turned the question back on Akira: “Will you eat it?”

Akira replied, “...It’s for you, not me.” Akira almost suspected that Nano didn’t understand his words, and, with that thought, mimed bringing the Solid to his mouth and biting it. This time, Nano took the Solid when Akira held it out. Akira felt relieved.

“It honestly felt as if he were trying to feed a stray cat.”

Unfortunately, after a minute of contemplation, Nano tried to eat the Solid with the wrapper on. Startled, Akira grabbed his hand to stop him, and asked if Nano had ever eaten one before. Nano stared at him in silence. Akira wondered if he was being made fun of, but Nano looked earnest. Sighing with exasperation, Akira unwrapped the Solid for Nano. Though tentative at first, Nano ate it without a word.

Halfway through, Akira realized he’d been watching Nano eat, and questioned to himself what Akira thought he was doing here.

“Though the man spoke in incomprehensible and seemingly sophisticated non-sequiturs, his behavior was childlike and utterly random.”

“Do you like it?” Akira asked to break the dead quiet. Nano finished the last bite of the Solid and looked at Akira with crumbs on his cheek. Akira smiled ruefully and told Nano, “There’s some on your face.” He pointed at his own to explain, but Nano didn’t react. Akira sighed and tried to brush it off himself, but Nano caught his hand. Akira felt a tingle like static electricity and briefly shrank back. Nano watched him fixedly, so Akira explained, “...You’ve still got crumbs on your face.” Slightly alarmed, Akira tried to pull his hand away, but Nano’s lips brushed his fingertips. Akira winced as he felt the same electric sensation again, but stronger than before.

He broke free and questioned why he felt a shock every time he touched Nano. Seemingly unconcerned, Nano turned back to the blank white movie screen.

“...Nothing.”
“...Huh?”
“One cannot perceive anything without attempting to see it. Human beings are such arrogant creatures.”

Akira found the words bewildering, but somehow captivating. He waited for Nano to speak again. “Two souls can never unite as one. The breach between them is insurmountable. But there are answers to be found. Infinite answers, for those those seek them… And what will you find there?”

Akira couldn’t respond to the sudden question, but he thought about his relationship with Keisuke, and Akira’s outburst of temper at the hotel. Akira realized he didn’t know Keisuke as well as he thought, because Akira hadn’t bothered to get to know him.

“Give it some thought.” Nano said, breaking through Akira’s reverie. He added, “Ponder your answer. To everything.” and left the theater. Akira thought Nano was hard to understand, but admitted he couldn’t explain his own reactions and the strange emotions he felt, either. Akira sat in the theater for a while longer and let the white screen blot out his thoughts.


Church

After leaving the theater, Akira rested up in another abandoned building. Akira intended to go to the hotel to look for information, but Keisuke abducted him and brought him to the cafe they’d first slept in. They talked, and this time, Akira realized Keisuke was also behind the recent non-Igura killings, and that Keisuke’s murky eyes meant he’d taken Line. Before he left, Keisuke reiterated that he intended to kill Akira, but also that he wanted to torture him and revel in his many expressions, so Akira would live for a while longer. Akira spent the night at the cafe, but didn’t sleep. The next day, Akira discovered Takeru’s tragic corpse. Akira wandered in despair until he was slightly out of the city. He found himself near a dilapidated church surrounded by withered trees, and spotted a small black kitten by the street. The kitten retreated inside when Akira approached, and, feeling strangely compelled, Akira entered the churchyard as well. He peeked through a crack in the door.

Initially, Akira only noticed the kitten sitting on one of the pews, but when it started bristling as it did earlier at Akira’s approach, he saw Nano leaning against one of the walls. The kitten snarled and hissed at Nano, who simply gazed at it with empty eyes. Finally, Nano mouthed several soundless words at the kitten, and held out his hand. The kitten abruptly stopped snarling, all hostility gone. It hesitantly crept forward and rubbed it’s head against Nano’s hand. Akira thought it looked as if Nano had hypnotized the kitten. 

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Nano sitting on a church pew

Nano petted the kitten quietly. Amazed by how happy the kitten seemed now, Akira accidentally leaned on the door and made it creak. Both Nano and the kitten turned to look at Akira, who apologized for interrupting and tried to leave. Nano broke the silence with, “Don’t go.” Nano slowly extended his hand in a wordless “come here” gesture. Without warning, Akira felt the urge to obey.

“It was a powerful feeling, as if some magnetic force were drawing him in without a sound, sucking at his body and soul.”

The kitten hid behind Nano’s ankles and peeked at Akira, who could only manage to say, “...You…” Nano approached him, and his outstretched hand touched Akira’s cheek. Akira felt the familiar electric charge.

“The man’s hand was so chilly that is seemed bloodless, and yet his touch felt somehow soothing.
---Why?
His wariness and constant stress seemed to inexplicably dissipate into thin air whenever he entered this man’s presence. It was as if those hollow, somehow gentle eyes could see right through him.”

Akira thought Nano’s hands were cold, yet warm at the same time, and that the kitten must have felt the same way. Nano’s touch felt so nice that Akira almost closed his eyes. However, the kitten’s meow broke his trance, and Akira retreated with a racing pulse. Akira wondered: “What in the world had he been doing just now---?” The place Nano touched felt warm. Nano watched Akira without any shift in expression, then sat down on a bench. The kitten leapt into his lap and curled up. Akira awkwardly stood nearby, eyeing Nano’s face. He thought Nano looked like a piece of ancient religious artwork in dark colors, and the aura of the church in disrepair only heightened the sacred tranquility.

“Even the fluttering of the man’s eyelashes as he blinked had a curiously magical quality, like something out of a fairy tale.”

After some internal debate, Akira sat down next to Nano.

“Whenever he came near this man… emotions like fear and dread seeped away from him, but in their place welled up a deep and all-consuming uncertainty. It was hard to pinpoint how he felt; it was like steeping in lukewarm water. He couldn’t tell whether he was growing more relaxed or uncomfortable.”

Nano turned his leisurely gaze from the crucifix towards Akira. He asked, “Do you know now?” Akira shook his head. Nano petted the cat and looked back to the altar. “What do you gain more of whenever you give it to others? The answer is happiness.” Akira repeated the last word, surprised to hear it spoken. Nano nodded, still not looking at Akira, who muttered, “That’s pretty idealistic.” Akira couldn’t imagine being happy because someone else managed to find happiness; they were them, and he was only himself. Akira thought it sounded like a hypocritical delusion.

“It is idealistic.” He looked at Akira, and his eyes gleamed purple. “But everyone is free to long for something.” Akira asked, “Do you long for someone else to be happy?” He was entranced by Nano’s shifting eyes, which had returned to pale blue. Nano answered, “It is the only freedom remaining to one whose future has already been determined…” and slowly closed his eyes. Akira thought it looked as if Nano’s heart were divorced from the world.

Suddenly, Akira began to struggle to breathe. He gripped his shirt and squeezed his eyes shut. It felt like a dam had shattered and flooded his body as the feeling of vague uncertainty became a torrent of pressure on his lungs, crushing them with a feeling like unbearable loneliness. Akira compared it to pure and clear darkness, infinitely deep, like Nano’s eyes, and like... 

Images of white and of light shining through a tree quickly flashed before Akira’s eyes, and then Akira gasped for breath. Something soft had touched his hand, and he opened his eyes to see the kitten’s rubbing it’s head on his palm. Akira realized he’d been holding his breath and let it out all at once. When he looked, Nano’s eyes had already opened.

“Wish with all one’s strength… and it might come true.” Nano lowered his gaze, and Akira thought that, though Nano was still expressionless, something about his profile appeared almost fragile.

Replaying Nano’s words, Akira’s thoughts turned to Keisuke, and whether Akira could get through to him if he longed for it. He’d begun to think it was hopeless, but he didn’t want to give up. Out loud, Akira said: “...If it’s not going to come true on it’s own, then you have to step up and make it come true yourself.”

Nano looked up at Akira, who had gotten to his feet. Nano hesitated, about to speak, but was cut off by a small noise from the doorway. It was a white kitten, and the black kitten that had been sitting nearby rushed over to it. They left together. Akira informed Nano that Akira was leaving, too. Nano silently watched as Akira stepped back, unable to break eye contact for a moment, before Akira straightened his shoulders and marched out. Akira didn’t understand why he felt the need to explain his departure to someone he barely knew.


Alley Rescue

It began to rain after Akira left the Church and returned to the heart of Toshima. Keisuke found him in another alley. Akira recognized the bloodlust in Keisuke’s eyes meant this was his last chance, so he tried to be honest with Keisuke about everything. Their conversation inevitably broke into a violent confrontation and crossing of blades, which Akira accidentally ended by dripping blood onto Keisuke. Keisuke went into agonized shock. After the gruesome convulsions ended, Akira gathered the strength to check Keisuke’s pulse. Finding it feeble but still beating, Akira attempted to drag the unconscious Keisuke to safety. Before he could even get them out of the rain, Akira collapsed.

As Akira’s consciousness faded, he felt the presence of someone nearby. He cracked his eyelids open just enough to meet someone’s empty gaze.

“It was---aggressively cold, aloof, and impassive.
Hollow eyes. Akira knew these eyes. But had they always been this icy?”

Without meaning to, Akira thought he called out for Nano to please wait. Akira found it hard to tell if he was speaking or thinking.

“Don’t leave me here, he thought. Please---don’t leave me alone here.
That burning wish was the last thought to penetrate Akira’s mind as deep darkness closed over his conscious self.”


Nano’s Room

When Akira awoke, he tried to leap up and doubled over in crippling pain from his injuries. He realized he was lying on a sofa, and someone had draped his wet jacket over the back of it. Remembering he had been with Keisuke before he passed out, Akira looked around the room. He thought this room looked run-down and poorly lit, but tidy and free of unnecessary items. It had the bare minimum of furniture and resembled a waiting room to Akira’s eyes. Outside, it was still raining.

He found Keisuke curled up on the floor, back to Akira. Akira forced himself to rise and walk across the room to check on Keisuke. Crouching down, he could see Keisuke was still breathing. Akira exhaled as relief crept in, even as Keisuke’s face was shadowed and gaunt with pain and exhaustion. He reasoned Keisuke might experience withdrawal from Line, though he didn’t know what or how long this could mean. Whatever it took, Akira intended to take Keisuke home.

Akira heard a small noise from just outside the cloudy glass door to the room. He was amazed to find a greenhouse on the other side. It was filled with strange furniture. Most of the plants were dead and brown, and all that remained was a sense of withered desolation and a kind of sorrowful beauty.

Amidst the shadows and shriveled-up plants stood Nano; he blended into his surroundings as faintly as watercolor paint. Nano looked steadily at the rain-battered walls of the greenhouse as Akira blinked to make sure Nano was real.

“Something about him seemed to gleam more darkly than before, perhaps because Akira was now seeing him in such a different setting. His wet, clumped hair made his white complexion stand out starkly.”

Nano turned around and his eyes had a vacant, unsullied darkness in them. Akira approached him without knowing it, as though he were being pulled in. Akira found something almost frighteningly alluring about Nano’s face up close. He wondered why Nano was here. Maybe, he thought, and then asked Nano if he brought Akira and Keisuke here.

Nano didn’t answer, and Akira knew he was at risk of falling under Nano’s spell. Akira felt dizzy when he averted his eyes, but looked back when he heard Nano move closer. Nano brushed his fingertips over Akira’s cheek once more, giving Akira the usual electric shock. It didn’t end there, however, as the point of contact grew heated and Akira felt as if something were flowing into him. Akira remembered what happened at the church, and his anxiety rose. Akira didn’t understand the sensation; he felt coldness, warmth, and loneliness… Akira wondered if he was tasting Nano’s emotions.

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Nano licking Akira's cut hand

The emotions that entered Akira made his thoughts go hazy, as if he could forget everything about where he was, what he needed to do, and who he was. Nano stroked Akira’s face, cheek to forehead and back. Nano grabbed Akira’s wounded hand and brought it to his lips to caress the cut with his mouth before he licked it.
“Akira stiffened at the unexpected heat. A powerful reaction bolted through him, different from anything he’d previously experience-- it almost felt as if he’d gone numb.”

Despite feeling startled and confused, Akira couldn’t take his hand away. Akira found Nano’s actions closer to worshipful than lewd. It felt as though he were attempting to share something, and grief seeped from the tongue on his gash into Akira’s body. Nano glanced up from Akira’s palm and leaned in so close that their lips were about to touch. This, too, felt like a ritual or rite necessary for them to open their hearts to one another, but before their lips could meet, they were interrupted by a soft meow.

Akira quickly stepped away, feeling embarrassed and bewildered and other unidentifiable emotions. His heart beat wildly, and Akira felt a vague melancholy like he’d awoken from a very long dream. Akira headed toward the mewling without looking back to avoid the bewitching effect Nano had on him.

Just outside the greenhouse, Akira found the black kitten in the rain. It had a large, bloody cut on one leg. Akira turned to Nano and started to say that at this rate, the cat will die if it stays out in the rain, but he cut himself short. Suspicious, Akira asked if Nano had already known. Nano didn’t answer, but Akira felt positive his guess was right. He asked Nano why he didn’t do anything.

“It is impossible to defy fate.” Nano’s normally pleasant voice became as sharp as a blade of ice. “It is fated to die at some point or another, regardless.” Akira angrily replied that it doesn’t have to die right now. Akira thought that if it was struggling to live, they might be able to save it if they helped. Nano glanced once at the kitten and said nothing, rejecting it. Akira asked Nano to explain to him why he’d saved Akira and Keisuke from a parallel situation.

“...Because you held onto him. Because you said you would rather be left to die, if salvation meant leaving him behind.”

Akira was surprised he’d said that, but the broken memories began to coalesce. Akira affirmed that he was going to take Keisuke when he left town, no matter what. He glared at Nano, who simply explained that he gave Keisuke sleeping medicine. It would take two days, but with rest, the Line would to leave his system. Akira didn’t know how much he could trust Nano, but Akira knew he didn’t have another option. Even so, he asked Nano if Keisuke will get better.

“Everything is predestined.”

Instantly, Akira felt another wave of the same grief flowing into him like before, but Akira shut his eyes to stave it off. “I won’t give up,” Akira muttered, and scooped up the black kitten. “Fate can be changed... and I’ll be the one to change it.”

Eyes narrowing, Nano wordlessly brushed past Akira and walked out into the rainy night. Akira watched Nano disappear with mixed emotions, before the kitten’s soft cry called him back to the present situation. Akira returned to the room with Keisuke and made a makeshift bandage for the kitten’s leg with some cloth. He used the rest as a blanket and placed it on the floor near Keisuke. Nano’s empty eyes flashed in his mind, and Akira vowed he’d never let them die.


Akira's Dream (2)

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Nano in Akira's next dream

In the white space of his dream, something called to him in a broken, halting nose. The fits and starts were reminiscent of white noise from a radio. Akira couldn’t tell what it was saying, but hearing the sound made his chest tighten and his breathing difficult. He got an incomplete glimpse of person, but he couldn’t make out their face.
“---If, at that moment… I had taken his hand, ...and started running…”

Akira woke with a start, drenched in sweat and his chest heaving. He knew it was that dream he’d always had, and mulled over the details in his head, but the strongest feeling was a vague sense of sorrow. Akira remembered the words about running, but not why, or what for. He couldn’t remember what came next, or the face of the person who called to him in a voice like wordless static. He knew their expression was one of deep lamentation, but little else. For the first time, he remembered the contents of his dream instead of forgetting as soon as he woke, and it left him with a feeling like frustrated regret.


Nano’s Room (2)

Thirsty from sweating so much in his sleep, Akira fetched a water bottle from the small fridge in the room. He checked on Keisuke and the kitten. Glancing at the door to the greenhouse, Akira thought of Nano, and how he’d given up on changing fate. Akira thought it looked like he’d resigned himself to fate from the start. He also thought about what Nano said about the only freedom left to him was the freedom to simply yearn for something.

Thinking about who Nano could really be led Akira to think about Nano’s treatment of Keisuke, and the experience Nano must have with Line and drugs in general if he knew the drug would leave Keisuke’s system after two day’s rest. This is when Akira noticed a glass object on the floor.

Akira picked up the ampoule and got a bad feeling about it. He’d never seen it up close, but he suspected it was Line. Finding this cast further doubt on Nano, who Akira knew nothing about, Akira wondered if maybe Nano could be a Line user too, and impulsively threw the glass at the wall, shattering it. A glimpse of the kitten flinching at the sound brought Akira back to himself.

Akira studied the kitten, but when it didn’t get up, he let out a relieved breath. He sat on the couch and tried to get a hold of his emotions. He reasoned Nano might never return to this room, and Akira might never see Nano again. This shouldn’t bother Akira, but he had so many questions he wanted to ask Nano.


Greenhouse

Akira had dozed off on the sofa while brooding. Sleeping in this dark room with no blanket had made him cold, so Akira put back on his jacket. Warming up made the wound on his hand ache, so he found the first aid kit. Akira noted the kit was stuffed with both clean and dirty, used bandages. Coupled with the bizarre furniture in the greenhouse, Akira had serious doubts about the common sense of whoever lived here.

Akira wondered again if Nano had disappeared for good. When he checked, Keisuke was still asleep, but the kitten was missing. Akira saw the door to the greenhouse was slightly cracked, just enough for the cat to escape.

Akira entered the greenhouse and compared it to stepping into a separate world. Outside the glass walls, it was still raining. Akira found the black cat up and grooming itself on the path up to the open door to the rain. It limped forward and Akira stopped himself from intervening because there was nothing left to do. The cat was feral and had recovered its strength, albeit faster than expected. Akira watched it leave, and thought of the white kitten awaiting its return.

Akira recalled Nano’s words and wondered again about destiny and if he’d been fated to take care of the black kitten. Or had he defied fate to save it? Akira decided he didn’t care, as long as the cat was alive.

Just as Akira felt a bit cheerful about the cat walking out on its own two feet, he heard footsteps approaching the door to the outside. Akira didn’t need to guess who it was; Nano seemed to float through the rainy scenery. Nano was soaked from head to toe. His hair formed wet clumps that shed little drops, and his clothing clung to his skin. Akira stepped down the path, eyes fixed on Nano. He’d thought about the man’s words, but was determined not buy into what Nano said about fate. Akira announced: “Fate’s got nothing to do with it. The cat survived... and so will Keisuke.”

Nano didn’t react, but something felt off. A peculiar scent tickled Akira’s nose that was clearly not of the blended rain and soil present in the greenhouse. Akira identified it as blood. Nano’s wet clothes made it hard to tell what was what, but Akira thought he saw a smear on Nano’s cheek. Akira asked what happened. He felt a chill down his spine. Nano remained expressionless. but Akira found himself gripped with dread. Nano tossed the thing he’d been holding to the ground, and Akira recognized it was a katana covered in blood. He thought it had to belong to Shiki. Remembering the ampoule he’d found, Akira looked Nano in the eye, checking for the murky glow of Line, which was absent. 

Nano abruptly embraced him, pulling Akira close with startling speed and strength. Shocked, Akira couldn’t even fight back before he was pressed to Nano’s chest. Akira protested for Nano to let him go, but Nano grabbed his hair and forced his head to tilt back. Nano’s eyes were darker than midnight, and Akira felt the illusion that Nano could see right through him to the innermost depths of his body sweep over him. It made the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

“People live by forgetting everything. And one day, time itself will devour them... I am no exception.”
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Akira repeated for Nano to let him go, and struck out, but Nano seized Akira’s arms and flung him onto a nearby sofa. Before Akira could push Nano away, Nano kissed him so fiercely it was as if Nano were trying to bite him. Nano gripped Akira’s jaw hard enough that Akira had no choice but to part his lips to Nano’s tongue. In that moment, Akira was assaulted by a sensation far more powerful than anything he’d felt through contact with Nano in the past. He tried to escape, but Nano held him tightly, arms around his back. Akira felt the static tingle every time their tongues touched, and as if all the blood in his body simmered.

Akira was kissed so intensely that he couldn’t breathe, and had a coughing fit when Nano finally released him. Saliva trailed from the corner of Akira’s mouth, and Nano lapped it up. Nano slid down from Akira’s lips to his jaw, across his throat and to his collarbone, leaving a piecing tingling in every place he licked.

Akira begged him to stop. He wanted to push Nano away, but didn’t have strength to struggle seriously. Nano gripped him roughly and licked every exposed inch of Akira’s skin. Akira compared him to a wild beast attempting to consume its prey, and he couldn’t understand how this was coming from the normally apathetic Nano. Akira struggled to ask: “Why’re you doing this…?”

Nano tore off Akira’s jacket and rucked up his shirt, as if starving to taste more of Akira’s skin. Akira gripped Nano’s hair in an attempt to pull Nano off, but by inhaling Nano’s scent, Akira was overwhelmed with nostalgia and a pleasant dizziness, which made all the tension drain from his body. Akira was more embarrassed and ashamed of his own reactions than by what was happening to him.

Nano’s frantic, wild animal-like behavior continued throughout the encounter. At one point, Nano bit into Akira’s shoulder and lapped up his blood. Akira too showed a taste for blood in repeatedly biting into Nano’s thumb, which Nano broke his silence once to remark upon. In his way, Nano was trying to be closer to him, as if frantically clinging to Akira like a child. Akira felt Nano’s emotions wash over him in full. As Akira slipped into unconsciousness, he felt lips against his wounded shoulder and felt certain that Nano was still watching him with dark, grief-stricken eyes.


Greenhouse (2)

Akira woke up alone in the greenhouse. His body hurt from the everything he’d endured, making it difficult to stand. Akira saw his clothes had been neatly folded, and his jacket hung over the back of the sofa he’d been resting on. Akira had a different dream before he awoke: Nano took his knife, traced the blade’s engraved pattern, and murmured something under his breath. Akira wondered if it had been a dream at all, since it was so curiously real to him.

The smell of the greenhouse brought back memories. He couldn’t hate Nano, even after what happened. Akira felt a pang in his chest, as if some part of Nano had buried inside.

“That tragic gaze. The wild, clinging desperation of his caresses. Something lurked behind the man’s seeming emptiness. Akira could just barely perceive it, though he knew not what it was… and he wished he could understand the truth of it.”

In spite of this, Akira also thought he’d better not risk getting any closer, and that if he waded too deep into Nano’s transparent darkness, he’d never escape.

On shaky legs, Akira started to head into the adjacent room to check on Keisuke when he started to hear the abnormal sounds of footsteps, laughter, yells and screams of an approaching crowd. The mob gave off an aura of impending violence not unlike when Keisuke and Takeru had taken Line. Knowing he’d be unable to protect Keisuke if the mob entered this area and unable to wake him from sleep, Akira could only try to carefully carry Keisuke somewhere safe.

Nano returned to find the greenhouse and room empty, and Akira nowhere to be found. Standing in front of the couch in the greenhouse, Nano laid his fingers softly on the backrest and let his gaze fall to the cushions Akira had once rested.

“His face was expressionless, and no onlooker would have been able to guess what was in his heart. Perhaps he felt nothing, just as his blank look suggested. And yet…
An unusual color seemed to flicker, just a bit, in his eyes. Disappointment? Or despair? Or maybe something altogether different---”

The faint hint of change in his look soon melted away, and the hollow darkness returned. For some time, Nano continued to stand in front of the couch, surrounded by silence. A small noise broke the quiet, causing Nano to raise his head and see the prone form of the kitten Akira had tried to save. The kitten’s fur bore damp splotches, and its breathing seemed unnaturally fast. For some time, Nano listened to it cry, before he spoke soundlessly:

“---You cannot change anything. There is no resisting fate.”


Emma and Gwen

Nano left the greenhouse. As he did so, he heard two sets of precise, clicking footsteps approach. The figures of Emma and Gwen emerged from the mist. Emma greeted Nano with familiarity and pointed her gun at him. “I finally found you.” In a deliberately antagonizing voice, Emma asked Nano what was wrong, and wasn’t he searching for Akira? Her stare was challenging, but Nano stared back, unaffected. Emma smiled coldly as she taunted:

“Hmph. You should know exactly what I’m getting at. There is absolutely no one in this world capable of saving you… No one at all.”

Nano shut his eyes to cut off the rest of the world. As he had always known, everything was predestined. Along with the newly falling raindrops, Nano heard a strange vibration. Screaming.


Meanwhile, Akira brought Keisuke to a safe and difficult to find place in a nearby building. He reluctantly left Keisuke after promising his unconscious friend he’d return, because couldn’t stop thinking about Nano. Somehow, he knew Nano would return to the greenhouse. Getting a bad feeling, Akira ran back to the greenhouse, heedless of the rain. Outside the greenhouse, Akira discovered Emma and Gwen had cornered Nano. Emma greeted him, and in response to his asking how she came here, stated that it took time to pinpoint Akira’s exact location; the communications device they’d given him was actually a tracking device.

Emma and Gwen made the deal with Akira because they said it was impossible for them to enter Toshima and take out Il Re, but this was a cover for their real goal of finding Nano. Emma had Akira framed for murder to force him into Toshima because she predicted that Nano would be drawn to Akira. She explained that the strange incidents involving Akira’s blood and Line users was not a coincidence, but a result of Akira having been a scientific test subject as a child. The government-run orphanage had been a front for ENED’s experiments on children as carriers of a man-made virus, codenamed Nicole, intended to turn soldiers into living weapons. Nano, codenamed Nicole Premier, was perfectly adapted to the Nicole virus and the ultimate living weapon. His blood was the source of Line.

Nano looked slightly to the side, silent, as Emma continued to explain that Nano went mad and broke out of the lab, massacring all the researchers as he fled. Akira couldn’t imagine Nano doing something so violent, but he also couldn’t imagine the suffering Nano must have experienced as a test subject. “...Anyone would go crazy in his place.”

The military intended to recapture Nano and revive Project Nicole, but couldn’t move into the neutral zone of Tokyo. They tracked down the other subjects from the orphanage and discovered Akira’s blood carried a neutralizer to the Nicole virus, which sent those infected (Line users) into shock and possible death. Emma manipulatively pointed out that Keisuke’s intense reaction to Line could be traced to Keisuke having been a test subject as well, and then said of Nano:

“Vischio does not bear the sole responsibility for the birth of Igura or the rampant prevalence of Line. This man encouraged it because he despised and despaired in the world that created him. Yet at the same time, he sought salvation. If he came across someone carrying anti-Nicole, the neutralizing virus, he couldn’t possibly allow himself to overlook them.”

Akira questioned how Nano could be saved by something that does the opposite, and Emma replies no one can predict what will happen if the two forces meet, but all they needed to do was observe. As expected, Nano came out of hiding to contact Akira.

Gwen stepped up to say if Nano and Akira came quietly, they’d be treated as honored guests, which made Akira scoff; they’d be test subjects in a lab. Gwen replied that their service will bring happiness to great numbers of normal people. Enraged, Akira told them off for acting like the future was decided for him, that the so-called “special qualities” Gwen mentioned were planted without permission, and Gwen and Emma didn’t really care about anyone’s happiness. Emma dismissed Akira, and turned her attention to Nano. Emma asked Nano why he took her arm instead of killing her with the rest of the researchers. At last, Nano spoke, with a voice that resembled a musical sound more than a person: “Everything is illusory. Including the bond we had.”

Emma hoarsely repeated, “Illusion, you say?” Nano explained: “The connection between us was twisted from the very beginning. What does it matter if it became even more twisted afterward…?” Nano’s eyes narrowed, and Akira found his expression terribly cruel as he continued: “But once I realized just how twisted it was… that knowledge became the heaviest chains of all.” Emma confessed she didn’t know she was being used at the time, and says that Nano’s attack came right after he fought in the war

“I reaped countless lives on the battlefield. I witnessed immeasurable lamentation. People die so very easily. Like insects being crushed underfoot. Their brains stop working, their hearts come to a halt… death is so simple. And humans are so fragile, so impermanent.”

Hearing Nano’s words gave Akira a sense of deja vu, because he had held the same casual attitude towards death himself.

“Given all that, what on earth am I? I, who have crushed so many lives… who am I supposed to be? In theory, I am no greater nor lesser than all those whose lives I have destroyed.
There is no difference between the killer and his victim. I could not comprehend what set us apart… what distinguished me from those I murdered.”

It became clear that being stripped of emotions robbed Nano of the context for his actions; without any emotional motivation, Nano struggled to understand why he was fighting in the first place.

“In the end, there is no single, certain truth. Everything has been planned out, manipulated… It is all a delusion.”

Emma was startled to hear Nano’s words, and wondered aloud if someone had actually told Nano about how ENED used Emma. A dark light flickered in Nano’s eyes, and a flashback began.


Research Flashback

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Nano during testing

In a blurry-looking room full of scientific equipment, the voices of some researchers discussed Premier’s condition and the data they’d collected from him in battle. One scientist explained that Nano had been put to sleep to record his brain waves, unaware that Nano could hear them. They stated that Nano’s emotional parameters were stable, which meant he could kill someone face-to-face without a second thought.

After discussing Nano’s complete annihilation of the enemy troops, one researcher noticed an abnormality in some of the measurements from before he was sent to fight. They attributed it to having been taken with Emma, and implied Nano had some feeling of romantic love or affection for her. One researcher joked he could understand, given Emma’s beauty, making the other warn him not to let Emma hear him talk like that.

It appeared they had used Emma to test Nano’s emotional responsiveness.


Emma and Gwen (2)

Having heard Nano’s story of the past, Emma frowned and asked Nano why he swallowed the researcher’s words without questioning, and perhaps assumed that she was complicit in manipulating Nano’s remaining feelings. Emma asked why he didn’t have faith in her, to which Nano replied: “I have never had anything or anyone I could truly believe in.”

Nano tore a strip of bark from the nearest dead tree, lifted it up, and crushed it in his fist. When he opened his hand, the dried scraps fluttered to the ground. He turned his head and spoke in a low, despairing voice:

“Human beings are fallen creatures. Greedy and shameless, they bare their teeth at everything outside their little bubble and strive to stand at the top of it all. And I, too, am among them.
If those who I have killed were paying the price for that… Then I wish I could have seen them marching down the path to self-destruction, blinded by their desires. I long to watch my fellow men implode of their own volition as they swarm around me, greedy for my flesh, for my blood.
The instant when a human life dissipates is so evanescent, so ephemeral… and so very beautiful. They struggle to the very last instant, swamped by horrific terror and agony until signs of life gradually vanish from their eyes, and as I watch, I myself drown in the sight of it… There is no escaping fate.”

Akira began to understand the way Nano had spoke of fate in the past, having glimpsed the bottomless abyss of despair within Nano. Nano explained that took Emma’s arm as a way of bidding of farewell to her and to his previous life. It was a representation of the beginning of the end. Of Toshima, he said:

“The lives clamoring throughout this little Garden of Eden… I meant to look on as they made their fall from grace.”

Emma believed Nano meant to destroy himself along with everything else, and arranged both Line and Igura to that end. She didn’t understand the point, though; nothing would come of the lost lives and nothing would change if everyone in Toshima died.

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Dying Emma gazing up at Nano

Nano lowered his eyes and stated: “I desired utter ruin.” The sound of his voice pierced Akira’s chest like a blade. Emma said she understood the depths of Nano’s despair, raised her gun again, and told him that in his current state, his only salvation would be in death. Gwen intervened, repeating their mission’s goal, and Emma shot Gwen in the chest while he hesitated to act. Before she could shoot Nano, however, Nano shoved his bare hand through her chest. Nano pulled out his arm, now drenched in blood, and gazed down at Emma with a completely emotionless expression. Emma, in her last moments, looked up at Nano with eyes filled not with loathing, but sorrow. She died while struggling to speak.

Akira watched them, feeling numb and dazed. He asked Nano, “Why?” Nano, whose eyes were totally empty and blank, replied that he did it to bring everything to an end. He blinked, and his eyes flickered with a purple color more brilliant than the blood he wore. Nano slowly raised the hand dripping with blood and asked Akira:

“Life itself has stained this hand of mine. Innumerable lives… Are you still willing to take my hand?”

The last sentence echoed in Akira’s head, triggering a flashback of his own. He remembered the dream he had and forgot upon waking again and again.

“I met you back then.”


Orphanage Flashback

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Nano and Akira's first meeting

Memories from Akira’s forgotten childhood returned to him in vivid detail. Wandering around the small wooded area during afternoon recess, the much younger Akira found Nano sitting in the shade of a tree. Curious, Akira approached him and asked what he was doing. Blinking slowly, Nano shifted his gaze onto Akira, and Akira was entranced by his light-colored hair and unusual blue eyes. With no answer, Akira tried to guess if Nano might be waiting for someone, like a friend. Nano repeated his last two words. At Akira’s agreement, Nano explained, “I am always alone.”

“Always?” Akira asked, and Nano nodded. “Do you get lonely?” Nano repeated the last word again, eyes widening in mild surprise. Akira thought about how Akira had always been on his own, too; he’d never felt lonely, but somehow he wondered if Nano were lonesome.

“I don’t really remember what it feels like to be lonely…”

Nano looked up at the sky, and Akira felt certain that he was lonely, after all. Akira asked Nano if he wanted Akira to stay with him, which earned him another startled look. Nano smiled slightly and shook his head, saying it was impossible. Akira wanted to know how come, but Nano fell silent, so instead of pressing for why, Akira childishly asked if he could stay with Nano the next time, or some other time. He wanted to ask Nano to play with him, but suddenly felt embarrassed because he’d never reached out to anyone before. Reaching out to pat Akira’s hair, Nano said wistfully that he hoped they’d meet again.

Akira extended his hand. “Let’s make it a promise… I won’t lie to you.” Almost shocked, Nano replied, “Are you willing… to take my hand?” Akira couldn’t understand what his tone implied, but touched Nano’s hand anyway. His skin felt cold and smooth to Akira, and Nano said aloud that Akira’s was warm. Their body temperatures remained separate and didn’t intermingle as they held hands. Finally, Nano let go and gave Akira a knife. Akira examined it and noticed the markings on the base of the blade. Nano explained, “Instead of a promise.” Akira shyly muttered his thanks.

“---If, at that moment, I had taken his hand and started running,
If only I’d done that, I might have been able to save him---”


Outside the Greenhouse (Motomi)

Akira confirmed the man he met then was Nano; they have the same gaze. He asked Nano if he knew all along. Nano said he didn’t know everything, and he didn’t know that Akira was anti-Nicole. Nano’s hand brushed Akira’s cheek, and Akira stiffened at the burst of static feeling. Akira wondered aloud if some kind of reaction was taking place because of their polar opposite natures. Nano says the spark led him to hope for something to change unexpectedly. For Nano, this small reaction became the light in the darkness of his despair. Eyes flaring purple, Nano repeated: “If you are still willing to take my hand…”

Their conversation was interrupted by Motomi appearing and telling them they were out of their minds. He brandished a handgun at Nano and glared at them both. Motomi stated that he’d never have guessed Akira carried anti-Nicole, and when Akira asked if he’d eavesdropped, told them he’d been watching since Emma and Gwen arrived. Motomi explained that he knew them because he, too, was an ex-researcher for ENED. Motomi denied that he wanted to get his hands on Nano; his goal was to put a stop to the military research for good, which couldn’t continue without Nano. Nano’s creation was all but a miracle.

Akira defended Nano with, “He’s a human being just like you or me. He’s not an object or a machine.” Motomi replied this was true before he became a living weapon, but Nano might as well be a killer robot with his emotions suppressed. Akira pointed out Nano didn’t become a weapon out of his own free will, nor could he change himself back. Akira related to the lack of choice, himself.

“No human being can exert total control over another. It’s just not possible. People aren’t machines, where you can plug in numbers and get an exact, mathematical answer. You know what? The assholes who thought they could mess around with the human body and create a weapon of mass murder… if anyone’s a soulless robot, it’s those guys.”

Motomi didn’t deny Akira’s words, but returned to the point that if Nano’s alive the military will eventually claim him. Akira stepped in front of Nano and said that they are the same: the military would find Akira just as useful as Nano. Pointing his gun at them both, Motomi spoke to himself: “...I can’t let there be any more victims.” Before he could shoot Akira, however, Keisuke tackled Motomi to the ground.

When asked how he found them, Keisuke said he could track Akira’s scent, indicating that he’d retained the heightened abilities given to him by Line. Keisuke defended the humanity of all three of them to Motomi, who continued to hesitate. The standstill was broken the sudden approach of armored soldiers, who restrained Motomi and surrounded Nano, Akira and Keisuke. Keisuke told Akira to hide during the fight, and Nano provoked the soldiers by making a point of licking Emma’s blood off his hand.

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Keisuke dies protecting Akira

The enhanced Keisuke and Nano fought the soldiers off. The battle was over in minutes, but one injured soldier survived long enough to shoot Keisuke in the back. Nano killed the last man, but Keisuke died in Akira’s arms. Nano questioned why Akira would mourn his friend’s death when it was destined to happen. Akira, enraged, demanded to know who decided what was fate and said: “You think I shouldn’t care because he was just meant to die…!? Keisuke took that bullet for me…” At this, Akira began crying.

Still calm, Nano asked why Akira cried, and repeated the same words again: “This was destined to happen from the start.”

Disconcerted, Akira asked if he’d ever considered other possibilities, like if Akira hadn’t been there, Keisuke would’ve lived. Nano answered: 

“I do not know what you mean when you speak of possibilities. The path I must take, everything I must do, has been laid out before me from the very start.”

Akira remembered that Nano had been following orders for a very long time, and hadn’t been given the freedom to choose. Nano added, “Free will is useless.” Akira rejected that, and insisted Nano had free will, too, buried beneath resignation and despair. Akira said Nano might become his real self again if he tried, but Nano dismissed it as impossible. Akira encouraged him to think hard about the possibilities his life could’ve taken. If Nano hadn’t been a test subject, he’d be just like anyone else. Again, Nano called it impossible.

“Destruction isn’t the only thing that lies beyond falling into despair and giving up. It doesn’t matter whether anything has been fated all along. At least not to me.”

As Nano considered Akira’s words, Akira turned to Keisuke’s corpse. Akira declared that he didn’t want Keisuke’s death to be in vain. He’d take true responsibility for it by not wallowing in guilt, but Akira would never forget the pain of losing Keisuke. Looking genuinely melancholy for the first time, Nano spoke: “I thought all I had was despair. I thought there was nothing else for me. But if there are other possibilities, if it is possible to create some kind of change… I want to go there.”

Seeing the will in Nano’s eyes, Akira felt strangely relieved. Nano asked if Akira was leaving, and, after some hesitation, spoke with a stronger voice:

“I want to go with you. Perhaps you find my very existence unforgivable. But you have shown me the existence of other possibilities… that there might be light at the end of my path. So, wherever you want to go, I want… to walk with you.”

Akira realized that Nano was making a choice, after such a long time of having given up on the world. He decided that he couldn’t hold any one person responsible for what had happened, because they were all victims to being born in a sorrowful time. Akira apologized to Keisuke’s corpse, and moved to the shade of one building. He couldn’t carry the body out of the city, but he couldn’t leave it in the street, either. After Akira laid Keisuke’s corpse down, Motomi approached them and told them he couldn’t let them escape.

Nano raised a hand before Akira could react and firmly told Motomi not to get in their way. Motomi was shocked by the change in Nano’s demeanor. Nano looked like a human being, and was ready to protect Akira. Motomi confessed he’d lost his sense of right and wrong. After a pause, he told them that the CFC and Nikkouren were going to fight soon enough, and open war will end Igura and Vischio. With a wry smile, Motomi pointed out that he’d been chasing after an emotionless android, not Nano, and left.

For a moment, Akira felt conflicted, but a touch on his hand startled him out of it. Nano pulled him forward, and Akira decided not to look back. As they walked hand in hand to somewhere Akira knew not, he saw the two feral kittens, black and white, making their way down the street and leaning on one another for support. Nano watched the kittens go, and a shadow passed his face before he warned Akira that “The road ahead will be more painful than you can imagine.” They’d have to leave Japan, and the government would continue to chase after them.

Akira understood they’d be fugitives. “I want to keep going down my own path. I don’t want to forget about anything that’s happened here, or about what’s inside my body, or about my past. I want to face it… that’s the only way to overcome the truth about my blood.” He carried Keisuke’s dog tag in his pocket, and closed his hand around it as he thought he couldn’t make himself forget any of it.

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Nano's smile

As if echoing his thoughts, Nano said: “I do not want to forget… the weight and meaning of the lives I have reaped with these hands of mine.” He tightened his grip on Akira’s hand, and, after some thought about the future, Akira squeezed back. They continued walking, and Nano suddenly said, “...A wish.” and clarified, “That’s the meaning of the letters engraved on your knife.” Akira brought out the knife and examined the faded lettering. Nano had given him the knife as if handing over the last vestiges of hope or desires.

“Your name is… Akira. That is what they called you.”

Akira realized they’d never been properly introduced. Nano repeated his name. Mildly embarrassed to hear Nano say it, Akira clarified that Nano wasn’t his real name, was it? Nano said it was his codename, so Akira asked for his real name. Nano smiled the gentlest smile Akira had ever seen. “My real name is…”


Epilogue

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On the run in a foreign country, Akira and Nano dodged their pursuers by hiding in an dark alley. Holding his breath, Akira watched them go by, and turned to Nano in the shadows. Nano had dyed his hair black to blend in better, but the color emphasized his pale blue eyes and skin, instead. Though Nano still looked somewhat vulnerable, he lacked the fragility of the past, and there was new light in his eyes.

Nano noted it had been three years since they left Japan, and they were still being pursued. Akira replied that it showed how much the military valued Nicole. The civil war had ended a year ago with Nikkouren creating a new democratic government, but the remaining corruption ensured they were still being pursued. The government might be trying to dispose of Akira and Nano to cover up Japan’s human experimentation. Nano called his blood both valuable to others and the bane of his existence, and noted the way different goals could produce such different perspectives with a small smile.

Akira thought about how Nano could now smile and was becoming more expressive in small ways, although he hadn’t cried yet. It made him feel something unidentifiable to see Nano’s emotions break free. Akira saw Nano’s hands shaking, so he tenderly took hold of them and asked if Nano was cold.

Nano had carved cross-shaped scars into the backs of his hands as a warning and reminder to never again use his powers to kill. The wounds had healed into painfully bright scars. As Nano’s conscience grew, Akira discovered that Nano sometimes didn’t sleep for entire nights. He never complained, and Akira knew it was something Nano had to handle himself, but when Akira silently leaned into him, Nano would softly sigh as if Akira’s presence helped.

Akira said he hoped winter would be over soon, because it was the hardest season, and half-joked that the warmer weather would let them sleep outside without getting cold. Completely serious, Nano replied: “Good point. I’ll be happy anywhere, as long as I’m with you, Akira.” Embarrassed, even though Nano wasn’t, Akira glanced away and said he’d like to visit Japan in the spring, when it’s beautiful. Nano had spent most of his life in research facilities, after all, and Akira thought it’d be nice to show Nano the season just as renewed emotions began to bud inside him.

Akira asked if it was too dangerous to go back. Nano said they’ll be fine, which couldn’t be guaranteed, but made Akira feel calmer all the same. Just as Nano’s ice-cold hands began to grow warmer, they heard the footsteps of their pursuers returning to the area. Nano took Akira’s hand, and together they began to run once more into the night.


Keisuke's Route

Outside the Palace

Akira and Keisuke learned from Arbitro that undiluted Line had entered the marketplace, and that Line addicts were overdosing and swarming the city. Exiting the Palace, they were quickly attacked by one such Line user. Keisuke unsuccessfully attempted to fight him off, and Akira tried to kill the man by cutting his hand and forcing his blood into the man’s mouth. The Line addict convulsed and appeared to go down, but later got up and tried to stab Akira.

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Nano strangling the addict who attacked Akira

Keisuke knocked both of them out of the way, but when they looked up, they were stunned to find the Line-crazed man being choked by a stranger. Akira took in Nano’s unfamiliar features: golden hair, light blue eyes, and a pallid face as lifeless as a mannequin. He appeared slim, but only used one hand to strangle the sturdier-looking man.

Nano tossed the twitching man to the ground, and his eyes drifted in Akira’s direction. Akira assumed a defensive stance, and Keisuke followed suit. Akira noticed a trace of brilliant purple in Nano’s eyes, but also that his eyes resembled glass. Meeting Nano’s gaze made fragments of memory return to Akira for a moment, but the images quickly flickered out. Akira couldn’t recall what the memory had been; only that it felt nostalgic and pure. The nostalgia extended to Nano himself.

“...Time has run out,” Nano said, and his voice was husky and dry. “All will be lost.” Akira was perplexed by Nano’s odd, poem-like words. Keisuke watched Nano warily, but Nano appeared limp and uninterested in moving.

“...In the end… black cannot become any color other than black…”

Akira asked Nano who he was, and Nano replied: “Once, I yearned. But if you have found the color that belongs with you…” Nano looked at Keisuke. “Keep following your path.” Akira felt like Nano was almost speaking directly into his head, and it made Akira restless.

“--I know those eyes. This voice.
But from where…?”

Before Akira could ask about the inexplicable familiarity, they were interrupted by a voice telling them to stop. Emma and Gwen appeared, and Emma pointed a gun at Nano. She explained her plan to lure out Nano with Akira’s neutralizing ability and the truth about Line’s source. She also explained about the government research and the orphanage, and that: “The three of you--this man included--are all children ‘chosen’ by the government, albeit at different times.”

Akira accused her of lying because he had no memory of being in a lab, but Emma clarified that most children had their memories erased; only one subject, Nano, had been a success. She spoke of Nano’s bloody escape, and Keisuke was the one to defend that they’d messed with Nano’s body and made him a tool, and somehow expected Nano not to go crazy. She blew his words off, and Akira grabbed Keisuke’s arm to keep him from striking Emma.

Emma changed the topic back how Line was made with Nano’s blood, and to her true plan; Nano appeared unfazed by her sudden switch from capturing Nano to killing him, but Gwen tried to intervene and was shot by Emma. Nano called Emma’s name, and she flinched. 

“Nobody can fix a warp that rusts into place… Nobody wished for this answer. But it warped all the same… Do you know why? Because of predestination. No one can change what happened. No one… There is nothing more to it.”

Emma replied that she knew that, and she understood how she couldn’t fix what happened, but she could prevent Nano from suffering from more experimentation. She said it would be better to set him free with her own hands. Her shot pierced Nano’s shoulder, but his hand impaled her chest. Before she died, Emma sputtered out that she had no other way; Nano looked on with no expression.

At the sound of reinforcements in the distance, Nano looked up at the sky and suddenly advised Akira and Keisuke to “Go north.” Nano elaborated that going north led to the residential district, and gave instructions to find a covered entrance. Akira repeated the last two words, but Nano simply told them, “Hurry.”

Keisuke tugged Akira forward, but Akira needed to ask Nano why he spread Line around. Nano simply gazed at the sky, and Akira almost gave up on the answer before he spoke:

“...I hated my blood. And those who desired it. Everything that made me what I am. I scorned those who flocked toward my blood. I thought: if you want it, I will give you as much as you like. Drown in it, and destroy yourselves… And I hoped I would be destroyed with them.”
“...Then why’d you do it in Toshima?”
“The place made no difference to me. As long as I could witness my foolish brethren destroying themselves in their longing for my blood… and I learned of you, whose blood is akin to mine and yet different. To test your blood, I made use of a certain man."

When questioned about the certain man, Nano added: “One who wore a silver cross.” Akira realized this could’ve been Takeru, and showed Nano the cross he’d kept in his pocket. Nano didn’t reply when Akira asked if this cross was right, but no answer was the same as an answer. He thought about how they’d all been dancing in Nano’s palm. Out loud, Akira confirmed that Nano was the one to make Takeru use Line.

“Your power is the inverse of mine. I glimpsed something in you… I thought perhaps even I might have a chance to seize the light.” Nano trembled very slightly; his shoulder still bled. Akira noted how Nano should’ve been able to avoid the wound altogether. Nano repeated: “...But black cannot become any color other than black.” and said, “If you have found the color you will walk together with… Then leave. There is no need for you to be stained black as well.”

For once, Nano’s eyes held something other than emptiness: surrender, loss, and despair. Again, he told Akira to leave. Nano looked to the sky, where a helicopter was now in sight. Keisuke urged Akira to go, and as they left, Akira watched Nano over his shoulder. He thought Nano looked frail and ephemeral. As the source of Line, they had every right to resent Nano, but Akira felt reluctant to leave him behind. Akira thought it might be because they shared similar scars. He closed his eyes to block Nano out and started running with Keisuke, but the image of Nano standing in the rain remained behind his eyelids.

Tunnels

While Akira and Keisuke made their way through the sewers leading out of Toshima, Keisuke mentioned how he couldn’t bring himself to hate Nano. He thought Nano must have suffered a pain like theirs, except Nano’s experience was likely worse. Keisuke felt as if he had a small sense of how horrible things were for Nano, and wondered what Keisuke might have done if Akira hadn’t been there for him. The researchers tried to treat Nano like a machine, without realizing that rage was building up deep inside... Keisuke speculated that perhaps Nano could’ve been someone different if he had someone to understand him like Keisuke had with Akira.


Motomi's Route

Coliseum

Motomi and Akira entered the Coliseum to watch the Il Re battle pre-show together, but Akira lost sight of Motomi in the crowds. Looking around, Akira noticed something eye-catchingly strange. Unaffected by the flow of people, there was pocket of space where time seemed to stop. Akira corrected himself; the space was formed around a man who faced him. Without a thought, Akira stopped in his tracks.

The crowd moved around Nano as if they couldn’t see him, and only Akira could perceive his existence. Akira realized the man was less staring at Akira than simply fixing his eyes in Akira’s direction. He took in Nano’s features, and thought his weak coloring might be the cause of Nano’s eerie, lifeless aura. Nano stood out against the energized coliseum, and Akira couldn’t understand why no one else noticed.

Nano slowly blinked, and Akira was captivated by the way his eyes flashed purple. Nano slowly turned away, and the frozen time effect was broken. Nano started to disappear among the crowd. Akira was surprised by his desire to chase after Nano. Akira questioned himself, but couldn’t find an explanation for the impulse. Soon, Nano was out of sight.

Motomi clapped Akira on the back, snapping him out of a daze. They sat down, but Akira couldn’t get Nano out of his head. Motomi commented that Akira looked like he’d seen a ghost, and Akira considered the idea. He continued to privately question whether Nano’s eyes turning purple had been a trick of the light. After Motomi prodded about what was wrong, Akira asked Motomi if he thought this was possible. Motomi grew subtly more serious at the description of eyes changing from blue to purple, and asked if Akira saw this happen. Akira admitted he had, and Motomi asked if it was a man and when and where Akira saw him. Akira pointed out the direction Nano had disappeared. Motomi excused himself by saying he had something to take care of.


Alley

After a fourth incident in which a Line-user came in contact with Akira's blood and went into convulsions, Akira had confirmation of his blood's qualities without an explanation. He was recovering from both fight and flight in an alley when he sensed nearby presence. Under a dim streetlamp stood a man with muted colors, and Akira recognized he was the same man Akira had seen in the Coliseum and Motomi had chased after. Nano approached him, and Akira went on his guard. Nano asked if Akira was confused.

Akira didn't answer, but he noticed Nano's blue eyes, the pleasant quality of Nano's voice, and how Nano wasn't wearing a tag for Igura. He wondered if Nano suited Toshima's atmosphere; he didn’t fit in, but also faded into the background.

Nano clarified: "Are you confused? About yourself." Akira remained silent because he didn't understand the question, but he got a bad feeling. Nano asked: "Do you find it abominable? The blood flowing inside you." Akira felt chilled, because how did Nano know? Nano's gaze focused and he said: "It is power." Akira repeated the last word as a question.

Nano stepped close enough to touch and blinked slowly; his eyes flashed purple. Focused on Nano's eyes, Akira was startled by something cold on his cheek. He jumped back, and realized Nano's fingers had brushed his skin. Akira's cheek felt slightly numb from the electrical shock. Akira suddenly thought he shouldn't let Nano get any closer, and his heart raced. Along with the warning feeling, Akira also felt inexplicably nostalgic and sad.

"Incompatible existences. Yet for that very reason..." Nano reached out again, and Akira was too transfixed to move. Just as Nano touched Akira's cheek, Nano stopped and and turned to look at something in the dark. Nano pulled his hand away. The spell was broken, and Akira could hear footsteps approaching the alley. Without another word, Nano left.


Church

In Motomi’s route, Akira learned about the government experimentation from Motomi as he confided about his past as a researcher. Akira argued with Motomi that both Akira and Nano were victims, and the best course of action would be to talk to Nano and convince him to go on the run. They intended to go to Arbitro’s Palace for more information, but found Toshima in chaos. Motomi realized that the military was moving in, and requested Akira return to the church for the time being.

While Akira waited, two crazed Line addicts began trashing the church and banging on the door to the back room where Akira hid. Suddenly, the noise stopped, and there was a strange dull snap. After moments of silence, Akira opened the door and found the addicts lying dead in front of him. Through the church’s open doors, he could see a man standing outside.

Akira tried to calm down, but he shivered as he recognized the strange presence and blue-purple eyes of Nicole Premier. He was terrified, but the impulse to approach Nano was stronger. Akira left the church and stopped a distance away; the sky began to rain on them both. Even in the dark, Akira could see Nano’s eye color change as he blinked.

Akira asked if Nano killed the Line addicts. Nano didn’t answer. Akira asked rhetorically if he was Nicole Premier. For mere a second, Nano appeared to smile. “...Have you found it? Your color.” Akira frowned and repeated the last word. Without answering, Nano continued to tell Akira that everything was predestined, and: “I was not allowed to long for other colors… Such is the whole story.” To Akira, Nano looked expressionless, yet somehow grieving. The rain dripped down Nano’s cheeks. He stepped toward Akira.

His heart beat loudly and Akira saw something unfathomable and all-consuming in Nano’s eyes: the darkness of despair. Nano’s hollowness came from how he’d given up on everything, including himself, and Akira could understand him. Akira’s fear was replaced by an indescribable emotion, akin to nostalgia, and he couldn’t look away.

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Motomi aiming a gun at Nano

Nano reached out, but before Nano could touch Akira’s shoulder, they were interrupted by a voice telling Nano to get away from Akira. Nano stopped, and Akira turned to see Motomi pointing a gun at Nano. Motomi order Akira to come to him. Akira stared at him silently. Motomi argued for Akira to listen, and Akira interrupted Motomi to say he should lower the gun, because of their promise. Motomi swallowed and hesitated, and Akira stepped in front of Nano. After more hesitation, Motomi gave in.

Relieved, Akira turned and asked if Nano attacked the Line users to save Akira. Nano didn’t react. Akira said the military was in Toshima and looking for them, and prompted Nano with how he broke out of the research lab. Akira explained that he had been unaware of his past as a test subject while Nano had been on the run. He laid out what he knew of Nano’s past and the choices Nano wasn’t given, and said he thought anyone would’ve run away. Akira didn’t think Nano was to blame for what he’d done. Motomi called Akira’s name warningly.

Looking Nano in the eye, Akira said: “I’m not interested in getting caught by the military. I won’t let them keep on doing as they please. You and me, we’re polar opposites. So… We might be able to find a way to free ourselves from the curse of our blood… Run away with me.”

The three men watched each other in silence. At last, Nano’s lips parted: “If something changes…” Akira nodded. “Will I, too… be permitted to give rise to a new color…?” Although he didn’t fully understand, Akira replied that Nano didn’t need permission or forgiveness, and that they would bet on every possibility. Nano echoed the word, “Possibility...” With conviction, Akira said: “Let’s go together.”

Nano blinked and his eyes turned purple. Just as Nano took a step forward, a gunshot knocked the gun from Motomi’s hand and a voice told them not to move. Akira saw it was Emma and Gwen. Emma greeted Motomi, and they sniped at each other in words about their positions. Emma turned her focus on to Nano. Nano’s eyes went blank and he watched her expressionlessly. Emma explained about the transmitter and the plan to lure out Nano, who she addressed as such and made Akira wonder if Nano was his name. Nano didn’t react, but Motomi replied he knew it was a farce. Akira tried to attack her, but Motomi held him back. Akira blamed her for what happened to Keisuke. Motomi talked him down.

Emma pointed out that Nano was responsible for Line and Igura; when Akira asked what she meant, she directed him to asking Nano. Nano continued to stare at Emma, or at least in her direction. Akira looked at Motomi, but he just shook his head. Gwen tried to tell them to come along quietly, but Akira rejected that. Emma asked if he’d prefer to die, and when Gwen tried to stop Emma from shooting Akira, she shot Gwen in the thigh. She denounced research as her goal, and Motomi stepped in and pulled Akira behind him before he questioned her. Emma avoided answering what her true goal was, citing the curse of their blood and the destruction in Toshima, and tried to shoot Motomi when he told her that they would be the ones to decide their future.

The bullet missed because Nano shoved his hand through her chest. Emma died saying she could do nothing else for Nano. After a moment of contemplation about blame and why people needed to die, Akira addressed him: “...Nano.” Eventually, Nano turned to look at him and studied Akira’s face. Nano opened his mouth to speak, but the sound of people running reached Akira’s ears. Motomi said it had to be the military and they needed to run. Akira looked back and forth between Motomi and Nano, who stood still. Nano told them to go, and after Akira asked why, said that Akira had obtained his color and not to turn back. Akira asked what that meant. Nano called himself a foreign element to Akira and said they could not mingle, as was predestined. Nano looked in the direction of the approaching footsteps. Akira called Nano’s name again.

Motomi interrupted to say they needed to go, and explained that Nano intended to help Akira escape, so he shouldn’t waste it. He looked at Nano, who was no longer facing them. As Motomi and Akira ran, Akira looked back to see the bodies of Emma and Gwen, fallen guns, and Nano’s unmoving back. Akira averted his face, but couldn’t change the complex coil of emotions in his heart.

Motomi’s epilogue took place five years after they left Toshima. There had been no information about what happened to Nano, beyond the fact that the troops in Toshima were obliterated. Akira thought it was possible they could’ve met Nano on their travels as journalist and assistant, but they would never know.


Rin's Route

The only hint of Nano's existence on Rin’s route was a line in the ending, which stated that Line eventually stopped flowing out of Toshima.


Shiki's Route

Alley

Akira first encountered Nano in a nearly identical scene to the meeting in the Alley in Nano's route. The only major difference was that Akira didn't recognize Nano's face in the moonlight, because he hadn't encountered Nano under the tree on Shiki's route. Instead, Akira felt disturbed when Nano stared at him, yet strangely hypnotized.


Conversation

When Akira finally asked Shiki why he participated in Igura even though he had no obvious desire to defeat Il Re and become a drug lord, Shiki replied by way of asking Akira if he’s ever seen “true madness.” Shiki explained:

“Pure, unadulterated madness. All that remains to one who has lost every other human emotion. I’ve seen it. He looked limp, defenseless. At first glance, you’d wonder whether he was capable of fighting at all. But he…”
“I’ve never forgotten the look in his eyes. Never. Not for a second. There was madness in his eyes. They didn’t reflect anything. Not even light. Neither black nor white. Just pure nothingness.”

Shiki continued on to say that emotions were a weakness, that all he needed was pure strength, and that he intended to “crush the life out of him.” Shiki did not specify who he was talking about. Akira understood the man Shiki described was the reason Shiki participated in Igura.


The Clearing

After Emma, who contacted Akira through the communications device, told Akira that Shiki was Il Re, Akira became distressed and started to pass the time by zoning out. While lying in bed, he heard the sound of faint footsteps. Akira initially believed Shiki had returned, but he realized the footsteps were too soft and slow, and their rhythm was uneven. The footsteps stopped in front of the door to the apartment, and Akira left the bed to determine who was outside. The door swung open, and Akira was shocked to find Nano standing there.

Akira observed that he was the same man who passed him the suitcase, and that his unusual aura persisted even in the daylight. The way Nano drifted into the room was so smooth and natural that Akira did not feel threatened. Akira reasoned that Nano must have come to see Shiki, since the suitcase exchange proved they were connected, so Akira told Nano that Shiki was out.

Nano turned his pale eyes onto Akira, and Akira noticed they looked purple sometimes. Akira tensed as Nano approached him. In spite of how languid Nano looked, he moved unexpectedly fast and caught Akira’s arm. Akira flinched at the cold touch, even if Nano’s grip wasn’t very tight. Akira couldn’t break away, because he felt like their skin had bonded in the place they touched. He described it as a strangely sticky sensation, and felt disturbed. Looking up at Nano, Akira saw his own figure in Nano’s steady eyes. He recognized how different they were from Shiki’s eyes, and yet they threatened to swallow him.

Nano said one word: “Come.” The soothing sound of his voice entranced Akira, and he caught himself trying to follow. Nano looked over his shoulder as Akira hesitated; he felt terror at the thought of leaving the room. Nano tugged on his arm, but Akira shook his head and said he couldn’t go. He thought about how he didn’t even know Nano’s reasoning. Nano turned back and let go of his arm to cup Akira’s hand in both of his own. Akira expected the coldness from before, but Nano’s hands were almost like warm; the temperature was cold, but something seeped into Akira from deep within. Akira described his hands as not a hard, ice-like cold, but something softer, like snow. He looked up, and saw Nano staring at him. Akira thought the way Nano repeated “Come,” sounded like snow melting. It sank into Akira’s ears and spread through him, dissolving his doubts.

Nano took his hand and pulled him along, and Akira left the room without resisting. Nano looked languorous and wasn’t hurrying, but he moved surprisingly quickly and Akira had trouble following him out of the building and through the back alleys. Akira noticed he hadn’t been outside in days and the cloudy sky looked brighter than it did through the window in Shiki’s room. Akira observed Nano’s hair and the way it wafted around Nano’s neck; he thought it would shine gold in the sun. He thought about how mysterious he was, and noted Nano lacked the tag marking him as an Igura participant. Akira compared Nano to streaks of watercolor in oil paint, and felt full of questions he couldn't express.

Nano brought Akira to the open clearing with the dead tree and scattered debris. Akira recognized the area from one of his encounters with Shiki. Nano tugged on Akira’s hand and brought him to the center, to a rounded shattered pillar on the ground. Nano sat down there, and Akira sat on a nearby metal beam. Akira observed Nano blended in perfectly into this area, and it was as if he’d returned to the one place he belonged.

It made Akira felt alienated and uncomfortable - he wondered if it was the area itself or if it was because he hadn’t been outside in so long. Akira said he needed to leave. Nano watched as Akira stood up. Akira explained that he was getting a sense he didn’t belong, then asked why Nano brought him to the area, assuming Nano came to see Shiki. Akira didn’t have high hopes for an answer, and Nano wordlessly gazed at him.

Akira muttered his next question: “Who are you?” He felt disappointed and he looked away. Akira realized he had no reason to be there, and he didn’t understand Nano’s thought process. He wasn’t sure why he’d followed Nano. Nano asked: “Do you fear Shiki?” Startled, Akira went still. He contemplated the word fear, and wondered why he would fear Shiki; he had lost all reason to be afraid. He knew that if he didn’t flee, his sense of self would crumble and die under Shiki’s control, but if he did flee, Shiki would hunt down and kill him. He thought the end result would be the same. Akira pointed out that Shiki would kill them both once he found out about their trip. Nano replied: “That is impossible.” Akira repeated the last word, and Nano explained: “He cannot kill me.”

Akira gaped at Nano, who was staring into space with no expression. Nano’s emptiness seemed to run deeper than any lack of emotion. Akira understood Nano meant that Shiki could not defeat him, and decided Nano had to be joking in an unfunny way. Out loud, Akira asked Nano how he was sure. Nano said: “He who is devoured is defeated. Pride comes before a fall. And at that moment… loss equates to the negation of one’s existence.” Akira thought his words sounded like a melody from a foreign country. Nano continued: “Excessive emotion can destroy you.”

Akira recalled Shiki telling him how emotions were merely an obstacle. Akira asked: “What does that have to do with Shiki being unable to kill you?” Akira felt as uneasy premonition as he said the words. Nano looked at Akira with dark shadows in his glassy eyes and repeated that Shiki cannot kill him with the same lack of inflection as before. Nano’s strange certainty made Akira recall Shiki’s words about the man who looked limp and defenseless, and what remained to someone who has lost their emotions. Akira haltingly asked if Nano was the man Shiki spoke of. Nano didn’t answer, but he gazed silently. Akira could barely conceive of Nano being the right person, but he realized Nano couldn’t be so confident without a reason, and that he did match Shiki’s description.

Akira wondered about Nano’s intentions; he thought if Nano was going to use him as a hostage, he’d made a mistake. He told Nano that if he wanted to use Akira against Shiki, it wouldn’t work. Akira thought that if Shiki did come, he’d just cut Akira down. Nano studied Akira before shaking his head slightly. Akira cut himself off from asking why Nano brought him here and felt irritated. Nano extended his hand and caught Akira’s arm. Akira couldn’t break free from Nano’s powerful grip, and it felt different from when he’d been pulling Akira’s hand.

“...Have you realized yet? Have you realized what color is staining you?”

Akira recalled Nano saying something about color when he gave Akira the suitcase.

“Do you understand what color truly suits you… and what color you are choosing?”

Akira asked Nano what he was talking about. Nano blinked, and his eyes flickered purple; the sight captivated Akira, and the pressure was contrasted to the feeling Akira got from looking Shiki in the eyes. The difference could not be characterized in terms of emotion, and Akira realized he was in danger of being swallowed into the depths. He thought about what would happen if the dark veil from Nano’s eyes fell away. They were interrupted by a strange sound, and the sound of footsteps. Akira broke free of Nano’s weakened grip and stepped away, feeling as though he’d woken from a dream.


The footsteps belonged to Emma and Gwen. Without looking at Akira, Emma said she’d finally found him. She glared and pointed her gun at Nano. Akira recalled Emma saying she was coming, but Akira didn’t understand how she found him because he hadn’t told her his location. Emma smirked and added that finding him had required extra work due to Akira breaking his transmitter. Emma explained her plan to trap Nano and how she used Akira, and about both of their pasts as research subjects.

When Akira refused to be part of the government’s research, Emma offered to put him out of his misery. Gwen intervened, and Emma justified her actions by saying Nano’s “mere existence sows the seeds of madness and massacre.” She called his bloodline the root of all evil, and told Gwen she didn’t care about the government. Before either of them could fire their guns, they were interrupted by an inappropriate noise: applause.

It began to rain, and Akira saw Arbitro and the Executioners standing a short distance away. Arbitro grumbled about how his suit is getting wet. Then he smiled and begged pardon for interrupting their “performance”; he called it entertaining. Akira noticed how Arbitro was deliberately talking in a deliberately campy and melodramatic way. Arbitro greeted Emma and added that “an elite” like her may not remember him. Emma clicked her tongue, and both she and Gwen relaxed slightly. Arbitro looked around the group before settling on Nano, and said: “Heheh, I see. So he’s the one. Incidentally, this is my first time encountering him face to face.”


Emma replied that Arbitro had nothing to do with what was going on, but Arbitro argued that he couldn’t let them carry off his primary source of income. Arbitro then surveyed Akira, and commented that Arbitro hasn’t seen him in a while. Arbitro admitted to being surprised that Akira was one of the test subjects, and called the planning meticulous. At Akira’s voiced confusion, Arbitro explained that he was a former researcher for ENED, too. Emma told Arbitro to shut up and threatened to shoot him if he got in her way. Arbitro repeated how he couldn’t let her kill their cash cow, and waved his hand to the Executioners. Even faced with death by dismemberment, Emma refused to back down on killing Nano. Arbitro compromised by taking Akira, and ordered Gunji to grab him. He explained that even if Akira has anti-Nicole, they may be able to reverse-engineer the Nicole virus.

They started to drag Akira away, and Gunji almost used his claws on Akira’s eyes before they were interrupted. Akira averted his face, and when he looked up, he saw Shiki had snatched him from Gunji, and that he had also cut down both Emma and Gwen. Akira realized that Shiki’s usual aura of violence and bloodlust had increased, and that his usual calm was completely gone. Shiki addressed Nano with a tight voice.

Without an expression, Nano slowly turned to Shiki and asked: “Why are you fixated on him?” Shiki repeated the word “fixated,” and Nano’s gaze shifted to Akira. Nano asked: “Do you need him?” Shiki grimaced and brushed off the idea, and explained he came to take back what was his and nothing else.

Akira was stunned to hear Shiki say such a thing, and he couldn’t understand his own reaction to the words. Akira shook off his thoughts and clarified that Shiki was Il Re. Shiki looked amused and explained that was Arbitro’s name for him, and that he had no interest in drugs. Just as Akira grew more confused, Nano softly spoke: “You longed for it.” His voice crept through the air. “I know that you long for it. So I leave it for you to find.”

Shiki instantly became consumed with murderous fury as he asked Nano what he meant. Shiki asked if Nano thought so low of Shiki that he believed Shiki would use drugs to get stronger, and said only the scum of the earth would long for it. Nano replied: “You yourself were defeated by the illusory power that you scorn… and even now, it still gnaws at you.” Shiki’s murderous aura doubled at these words.

“This is why you take the measure of your own power by crushing fools who rely on temporary, borrowed strength. You crave that reassurance.”

Shiki told him to shut up and not project onto him, and Nano said:

“Then you should have discarded it, rather than taking it. Undiluted Nicole comes straight from me, and you loathe me more than anything.”

Akira realized the suitcase Nano entrusted to Akira had contained pure Line, and recalled how angry Shiki’s face had been when he opened it. Shiki pushed Akira away and pointed his katana at Nano. Nano told Shiki that by giving the Line to those who oversaw Igura, Shiki spread Line without ever dirtying his hands, all so he could kill those infected by the Nicole virus. He asked Shiki if that wasn’t what kept him from falling apart. Shiki repeats that he said to shut up, and Akira realized that Nano’s voice was slowly and gently driving Shiki to the brink.

Shiki said: “I’ve never forgotten you. Your--insanity. Not once, since the day we first met on that battlefield.”


Battlefield Flashback

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Nano standing among the flames

The setting of the flashback is during a minor civil war before the Third Division. Shiki, who had a prominent reputation in the underworld, had been contracted by the military to infiltrate the battlefield and do reconnaissance. Late one night, when he returned to his own garrison after such a mission, Shiki found the encampment in flames. Shiki noticed the bodies of the troops lay piled on the ground like dolls carelessly cast aside, but he wasn’t phased by the dead. The only thing that surprised Shiki was how the enemy had been skilled enough to take out everyone undetected, and how there was no sign of resistance from his fellow soldiers.

As the smoke began to clear, Shiki could see people in black combat uniforms standing amongst the dead. He counted six total, and thought about how he’d never heard of a special unit so small that could do so much damage. Shiki’s eyes were drawn to Nano, who stood on top of a pile of corpses and wore a different uniform from the others.

Shiki wasn’t drawn to him because of the uniform itself, but to his out-of-place aura. His body was completely relaxed, and every muscle of his hung limp; Shiki had never seen anything close to it on the battlefield before. Nano looked defenseless, like he’d crumple in a helpless heap at any attack, and showed no sign of excitement or bloodthirst. Looking around, he saw the other loitering soldiers had similarly vague expressions. Shiki surveyed the scene, unable to fully believe this unit had caused so much destruction. When he looked back at Nano, he was startled to see Nano looking over his shoulder.

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Nano’s eyes were as soulless as the rest of him as he stared directly at Shiki, who though he should be undetectable because he lurked in the shadows a good distance away. Nano continued to stare at him with empty, dark eyes, and Shiki’s pulse raced. He began to panic and found it hard to breathe, never mind look away. Shiki felt pinned in place by Nano’s eyes, and his thought grew wild. Shiki recognized what was happening: he was terrified, for the first time in his life. He thought true nothingness seemed like a kind of madness.

Shiki drew his knife and charged at Nano. The only thing he could think about was erasing the source of his fear. The other living weapons turned and started attacking Shiki one by one. He struggled, because their power was unlike anything Shiki had ever faced in his long history of war, but he cut his way through them. He felt driven by impulse and couldn’t recall much from those moments later; the only thing he could see was Nano and his nothingness. Shiki leapt at him.


The Clearing (2)

In the present, Shiki demanded to know why Nano didn’t kill Shiki, and why he let Shiki live. Nano replied: “I wanted… to savor your fresh-born fear.” Shiki’s eyes widened as he asked, “...What?” Nano explained:

“Fear, born when your illusion of invincibility shattered. And the compulsion it gave rise to. I saw everything in your eyes. I was certain you would pursue me. You do not loathe me alone. You hate and fear everything that comes from me. The more powerful you are, the more devastating a shock it is when you meet with defeat.
As long as fear haunts your heart… you will never overcome me. No matter how intense or violent your hatred might be, you cannot defeat me. ”

Watching this, Akira thought Nano seemed like he might melt away in the rain at any moment, yet his outline remained oddly distinct as he held out his hand. He curled his hand into a fist as he spoke. His voice contained no emotion, but Akira detected a hint of pity coming from Nano. Akira wondered if he was pitying Shiki or himself. Shiki’s blade cut an arc through the air, and he told Nano his “blathering” would end as he tilted in to attack. Nano’s hand dropped to his side. Akira thought that whoever succumbed to emotion would lose, and it was obvious who had the upper hand in such a battle.

Akira had a sudden thought that it didn’t matter if Shiki lost, and he reasoned that the victor of the battle shouldn’t matter to him, but he couldn’t understand why he felt an aching feeling. Akira examined his emotions and told himself that he didn’t want Shiki to lose, because it would make Akira seem more pathetic for having been controlled by Shiki. Akira shouted at them to stop and grabbed Shiki’s arm. Shiki shoved him away and looked only at Nano.

Akira was then grabbed by Kiriwar, as Arbitro and the Executioners re-entered the scene. Arbitro remarked that he hadn’t expected Shiki’s past trauma, and Akira realized they had been watching until now. Gunji asked to join the fight between Shiki and Nano, but Arbitro said no, because he intended to let Nano kill Shiki and get rid of the “middleman” to Line.

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Nano dodging Shiki's attacks

Shiki yelled at Nano to die and attacked with crazed speed. For a moment, he appeared to hit Nano, but Nano’s form wavered out. Nano dodged every swing as effortlessly as if he were being blown about by the wind. It seemed as though Nano could predict every one of Shiki’s swings. Arbitro smirked and commented on the true power of a military weapon: he thought Shiki’s inability to touch Nano was magnificent.

Akira turned to Nano with the words “military weapon” in mind. He noticed Nano was still expressionless, and compared Nano’s empty eyes to a living gun training its sight on a target. Akira thought his face was eerie, but he felt something deeper than being creeped out. 

Akira also thought about Nano’s despair, and sympathized with how Nano must have given up on the entire world, including himself, while living without freedom or dignity in a laboratory.

Without letting up his attacks, Shiki called out to Nano and demanded to know what Nano was trying to accomplish. Nano’s bangs fell into his eyes as he replied: “My answer is obvious. To return all ignorant souls to the void from which they came.” Shiki told Nano he thought too highly of himself, and tried another attack. Nano stopped a distance away, and stood still; his breathing was unhurried, unlike Shiki’s, and his coloring was muted further by the rain. Nano spoke with a steely voice, unlike his usual tone:

“...This world is overflowing with the foolish fruits born of every form of arrogance. Life, nature, civilization… the power to produce and reproduce is a wondrous thing. Yet once it crosses a certain line, it degenerates into an ugly mass of covetousness.
Human beings are such weak creatures. They have no fangs, no claws, no special tricks to protect themselves. A single naked human is totally helpless. Their very weakness is what drives them to try to claw their way higher.
And once they reach a height from which they can gaze down on others, they become transfixed by the delusion that they can have it all to themselves.”

Shiki responded that was the reason people need to have absolute power, so that they can avoid relying on anything for help. Nano replied:

“That is a mistake. One person’s rampage invites resistance from those around him. Many people end up as victims… Yet those blinded by their own greed are unaware of the dark consequences of their actions. This cycle of destruction and rebirth has occurred throughout human history. And it will continue far into the future… forever.
The eager elation that comes with ascending in power is so sweet, so unlike any other sensation. But it is also temporary. A mere illusion.”

Shiki acknowledged he may be caught up in that elation in a murmur to himself; there was euphoria in his voice, and Akira was startled by the brief smile he saw on Shiki’s face. Shiki’s eyes were unchanged in their murderous fire, and he was clearly enjoying the battle with his archenemy. Nano told Shiki that destruction and rebirth would continue to repeat, but he had no desire to watch humanity continue to degenerate. He said people who fight their fate shine brightest, and that his wish was to watch those people bring destruction upon themselves. Therefore, everything was going as Nano planned. Shiki replied that Nano was using him for his own self-satisfaction. He shook the rain from his katana and pointed out this was why he said Nano was arrogant, and asked if Nano imagined himself a god.

Nano said his individual actions didn’t matter, that nothing would ever amount to anything, and that all he wanted was to bear witness to self-destruction. He claimed all he wanted was to see what would happen. Shiki asked what he wanted to see. Nano ran his fingers through his wet bangs and pushed his hair away from his face, which bore a taunting smile unlike any expression he’d shown before. Shiki glared harder than before. Nano stood still and let the rain hit his face before he began to laugh wildly. Arbitro wondered if Nano had lost his mind. Shiki ordered Nano to stop, but he continued. At last, his laughter died down into a mocking smile.

Nano explained that Shiki was a fool: he couldn’t beat Nano, and he lost every time he tried. Scornfully, Nano said the reason Shiki would never win was because he was familiar with a feeling Shiki was too terrified to experience: weakness. He told Shiki that whatever suffering Shiki had experienced was nothing compared to what Nano had endured and continued to endure, and that Shiki wouldn’t be able to imagine the feeling that gives Nano strength. Shiki told him to shut up once more, but Nano extended his hand and spoke softly as he wondered what Shiki would do if he had a taste of it. He asked Shiki if he’d be able to stay strong, and at Shiki’s prompting, elaborated that he was referring to his blood. Nano pointed out that his blood, source of the false illusions of power, was the symbol of Shiki’s weakness, and asked if Shiki understood what he meant. Nano rolled up his sleeve and gently bit his own skin without taking his eyes off Shiki.

Nano told Shiki that his blood, which would kill or drive insane whoever ingested it, would be the ultimate test for Shiki. Shiki called the idea of taking Nano’s blood ridiculous. Nano urged Shiki to try: “Do you desire true power? Do you long to overcome me? Can you embrace your greatest weakness and master it?” Shiki glowered at him as he considered the proposition. Akira felt an uneasy premonition that Nano’s offer was more than what it appeared to be. Nano asked Shiki what he would do, and extended his hand. Shiki admitted he cast everything aside for power, including killing his own kin (Rin). He dropped his katana, and swore he’d surpass Nano over and over. He charged at Nano and grabbed his shoulders; Nano didn’t resist, and a smile spread across his lips as he said: “A born fool.”

Shiki’s route split into his endings, and the player had the option to make Akira cry out to Shiki or stay silent.


Shiki’s Good Ending

If Akira did call out, Shiki stopped in his tracks. Akira reminded Shiki of how he intended to use his own power to bring down Nano, and that being consumed was different than overcoming weakness. Shiki turned and stared at Akira for a moment, before he glanced at Nano and shoved him away. Shiki leaped back, picked up his katana, and cursed Nano. Nano’s smile and all the life in his body disappeared, and it was as if his taunting attitude had been an illusion. He looked at Shiki with vacant, blue eyes before he softly said, “You’ve lost.” Shiki attacked once more, and Nano didn’t dodge. The katana went straight through his stomach. Shiki drove his sword deeper, and Nano collapsed against his shoulder. Nano smiled in a tranquil way and closed his eyes before he died.

Shiki pulled his sword free, and Nano’s body fell to the ground like a marionette with severed strings. Akira wondered if Nano had succeeded in feeling when his soul burned out, because Akira thought it was as if his spirit had gone up in flames. With Nano dead, Shiki became listless and empty. Arbitro thought Shiki was broken and checked the pulse on Nano’s corpse. He tried to draw some of Nano’s blood, but Akira intervened and told Arbitro not to touch him. Akira said: “He was helpless at the mercy of others for so much of his life… Don’t make him suffer even now.” Akira’s chest felt tight at the sight of Nano’s peaceful, almost sleeping expression in death. Arbitro tried to order the Executioners to handle Akira, but Shiki pointed his katana at Arbitro’s face. Gunji and Kiriwar refused to fight with the soulless Shiki, so he passed his katana to Akira and carried Nano’s body away from the downtown area.

Shiki laid Nano’s body down on a flat, coffin-like rock in a place surrounded by withered trees. He took his sword back from Akira, and stood still before Nano’s body for a long moment. Akira thought Shiki was mourning, and empathized with Shiki’s loss of his greatest enemy and his purpose in life. Akira recalled Nano’s last words were that Shiki had lost, and thought that at least Shiki had kept to his principles. In the end, Shiki and Akira leave Nano’s body behind and escape from Toshima.


Shiki’s Bad Endings

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Shiki drinking Nano's blood

In both of the bad endings, Akira remained silent. His impulse to scream was swallowed by his horror as he watched Shiki sink his teeth into Nano’s neck. Nano shuddered, and blood dripped down his pale skin. The inhuman light in Shiki’s red eyes sent chills down Akira’s spine. Nano’s blood began to stain his clothes as Shiki took in undiluted Line. Akira couldn’t see much of Nano’s expression, since his head was tilted up and his wet hair was clinging to his face, but when he looked closer he was shocked to see Nano smiling in a confident way. Nano’s last words were: “Let this blood of mine torture you, torment you. And at last...destroy you.” Akira wondered if everything had been Nano’s plan in the end.

Arbitro yelled that drinking Premier’s blood was suicidal, and Shiki cried out and lifted his head. He shoved Nano away, and Nano collapsed to the ground without resistance. Akira thought he and Nano were both toyed with by fate in the end.

Regardless of the player's next choice, Shiki inherited the Nicole virus and the ability to produce Line through his blood. In the first bad end, Shiki then took over Vischio and continued to pit himself against the phantom of Nano by running the production of Line in the opposite way of the the quiet and distant manner Nano had used. In the other ending, Akira gave Shiki his blood to partially neutralize the virus, but Shiki’s strength and cunning were still increased. Before Shiki cut his head off, Arbitro said Shiki was now the same as Premier, but Shiki didn’t care.

Facing Nano’s dead body, Shiki stated that he had surpassed Nano and his own weakness, and vowed not to fall into the despair Nano did. Shiki said he would use the new power to obtain “everything”, and with Akira by his side, rose to power in Japan. Again, in contrast with Nano’s resigned helplessness, Shiki took an active role in developing a version of the virus to use in battle and create elite soldiers.

“Shiki showed zero hesitation in unleashing his power upon the world--the same power that had once shut Nano away in an impenetrable shell of loneliness, the same power that could drive other humans to the depths of utter madness. It was as if he were still trying to fight with Nano’s long-dead ghost.”

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