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The Echoes after the Storm

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The question lingers around them like the scent of teriyaki and coffee that made up their dinner together, this night after the Liar Game ended. It follows them as they wander neutral territory, a neighborhood between her apartment and his.

“Are you satisfied?”

Nao blurts it out first. The words stumble from her lips after his name and before the clarification about the story of the game.
Akiyama’s response at first consists of a slide back on the park bench and closed eyes. Then a deep breath. He stays like that for 20-30 seconds, an eternity in this blank night.

“If you don’t want—“

The words come out in bits and pieces, as though he measures each one twice before letting it out. “I don’t know.” The laugh that comes with that statement feels more like an animated smirk. “I had this vision of what bringing down the LGT Office would look like. That wasn’t it. And…”

The long silence returns.

“I took down that MLM through a scam, but I never got to see the suffering on the faces of those who ran the corporation. New scams can be started. Money can be made back. I’m not proud to say this, but maybe I just wanted to see it for myself on someone like those people, someone who would scam and ruin the lives of ordinary humans for their own profit.”

“Akiyama-san...” Nao trails off. This time it’s her silence that pushes against the void. She leans back against the bench and looks at the empty patch of night sky. A plane flies overhead. “You sympathize with Miyagi-san, don’t you?”

“I don’t want to. Not even counting the debts, they put a lot of people under emotional distress, and even trauma without giving them a way of opting out. Undoubtedly, they’ve done some very real harm to the people who were chosen, even they’re intending to do it for a larger good. But…”

Nao waits.

“You could say that about everything I’ve done too. And what would I have done if I had been in Miyagi’s position, after having those I cared about being threatened like that. I’m almost certain I’d have done the exact same thing. That’s pretty bad of me to admit, huh?”

“I don’t think so.” Her hand touches his, and his moves to cover hers. “You’re human, Akiyama-san.”

“You...” The rest of the sentence dies and is replaced by the same question: “Are you satisfied?”

“Me?” She looks at her feet, at the starless sky, and the streetlamps lighting the paved path out of the question. “Everyone’s safe and sound. And I’m happy that everything we’ve all gone through will have a good effect. So I guess…maybe I am satisfied. I don’t know.”

“Let me ask you this, knowing everything behind the Liar Game, would you have opened the box that started all this?”

Nao goes silent. “Even all things considered, it was difficult and dangerous, wasn’t it?”

Akiyama neither confirms nor argues that statement.

“I was really afraid of so many things. Not just for the other people, but for myself. What if I had been caught up in debts? What if they took me away? Who would care for my father? I’d always believed it would be good to trust, and that had never been tested. Up to that point though, what did I have to lose?

“And with the help of Akiyama-san, Fukunaga-san, and everyone, even Yokoya-san, I survived and was able to hold on to that belief. My father taught me to be honest and trust in others, that there’s something good in every human. Those words are more precious to me now having gone through the Liar Game.”

Her fingers go through his.

“Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I also was able to get a big prize out of the Liar Game.”

“Huh?”

“You know, when I first received that box with the money, I had no one. I’d just moved into a new neighborhood by myself. All my high school friends had scattered, and I hadn’t met my college friends yet. I didn’t have any relatives nearby except my father, and even then…I was alone. But through the Liar Game, I was able to make connections with so many people, no matter that it was a difficult situation: Fukunaga-san, Akagi-san, Miura-san, Abe-san, so many players. And Akiyama-san, of course, most importantly. I’m not alone anymore.”

Akiyama shakes his head, but not even the darkness hides his smile. He gets up and offers that same hand out to her. “Heh. Let’s head back before the trains stop running for the night.”

“Of course.”

The trip to Nao’s place takes place in near silence, pierced only by the stray noises of those around them. They’ve said nearly all there is to say tonight except, perhaps, for the unsaid sentence that echoes in each step they take together.

“Thank you.”