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It had rained all afternoon, so the night air was an odd mix of chilling & humid. The songs of the cicadas echoed through every corner of hinamizawa. A cool breeze brushed the tendrils of the teenage girls hair. It’s been so long, so many summers & no luck. Ryuugu Rena has died again & again, yet she couldn’t be further from the truth. What was causing these tragedies? What was causing her beloved friends, who she loved dearly to fall to tragedy again, & again? To turn on one another, & end in slaughter?

She had to try. She was so tired, but she had to fight on.

She knew it was something far more powerful than anyone could guess, but it was also amoung them. Right under their noses. Slipping under their radar. Someone was a liar. No matter how many worlds she lived, no matter how many times the dice rolled & she watched a new friend fall to despair, break apart & lose their humanity, there were always secrets. The breeze came to a halt, & for a split second the cicadas froze. Their silence made the secrets echoe even louder, the secrets that were forever out of her reach.

Rena wasn’t just a bystander. She had the power to change destiny, but what scared her the most is she’s been a victim, not once but many times. She felt the watchful eyes of Oyashiro sama looming, the footsteps following her, & what followed she could barely remember. No, her subconscious tried to block out. She knew she hurt people. She stained her hands in blood. Rena was no angel herself.

Was it her fault? She didn’t know. Who was doing this to her? Why did she feel Oyashiro sama had a higher presence in her life than anyone else’s? Was this the price she had to pay for leaving, far back then? She’s never traveled that far, but even if she did she had no idea what she’d say to her father.

He’d never believe a word she’d tell him - even if he was right in the head, which he wasn’t. Her mother was a liar & a traitor & Rena refused to be associated with her. It had to be her fault, her fault her father was broken, her fault Rena’s friends & village crumbled in tragedy, her fault that Rena was forced to repeat this endless june.

No matter what happens, one thing was always the same. Rena wouldn’t venture to say it was the only thing keeping her sane after all this time. That old pile of treasures; sure, the villagers referred to it as a dumpster filled with trash, but they were precious treasures to Rena. She could always find something new, something cute, yet it was always there for her to return to. The same old van that she called her home, on those nights she couldn’t face her father. The same hideout where no one else dared to go; a safe place for Rena & Rena alone. A place where she could ponder, dream, watch the stars & even cry.

Old junk wasn’t the only thing Rena treasured, however. She treasured her group of friends more than anything. It’d seem like she’d grow distant, disassociate as she repeated, but that wasn’t the case at all. The more she watched them die, the more she played games with them, shared tears with them, cooked meals for them, & died for them, the more attached she became. The clearer her goal became. She had to save hinamizawa. She had to protect these people with her life.

Even the insignificant moments with them made her heart soar, the limited happy times she got before everything fell to tragedy. She knew all too well that her happy days were limited & numbered, so she poured her heart & soul into them & made the most of every meal, every game, every joke, every shared laugh.

Her bond with each member of the tight knit club was different.

Rika Furude, the cute shrine maiden, was wise beyond her years. She had the spirit of a fighter; regardless of how bad things were. She was the close friend Satoko Hojo needed the most. In multiple timelines, the ten year old took her in, & the two children cared for each other like a family. It warmed Rena’s heart how much she cared. She knew that Rika was the only one who knew the true horrors of Teppei & how badly he treated Satoko. Rena hated him the same, they all did; but due to the villages long time grudge on the houjos, nothing could be done.

Satoko Houjo deserved only good things. Rena has seen her grow beyond depending on her brother who went missing. He was always missing. Rena had a suspicion that his disappearance was connected to Oyashiro-sama’s curse & the tragedies that kept happening. She still remembered the struggles he faced before disappearing, because she was the one he confided in.

Satoko Houjo was so damn strong despite everything. The poor girl lost her parents, lost her brother, was cursed by the village & believed she had been hated & cursed by god. Yet she could still wear that playful smirk & laugh with the rest of them as if nothing was wrong. As if she didn’t harbor the turmoil Rena knew she did. She was a trickster & a master with traps, & won several games.

Then there was the transfer student, Keiichi Maebara. He was more than a little oblivious, & could be a total fool. He was the loveable kind of fool, though. He hardly ever won a game, but he never gave up trying. It was inspiring to Rena, in a way. No matter how small, Keiichi poured his heart into it & never gave up. She only wanted good things for him, too.

The one she loved more than she could ever put into words, however, was Mion Sonozaki. She hadn’t recognized her feelings at first. The more timelines she progressed though, the more it became clear. Rena hopelessly loved her, everything about her. She was truly her embodiment of beautiful.

She loved her smile & her laugh, friendly with a hint of mischief & adventure. She loved her spirits, how fiercely competitive she was putting her all into every little thing she’d do. She admired how the Sonozaki heir, soon to hold the weight of the whole village on her fragile shoulders; was also playful, & fun loving. She’d make an amazing leader someday, & she’d shape Hinamizawa to be a place of peace & laughter. Rena wanted to break this hellish cycle & see this someday more than anything.

There was a part of her who also wished to be at Mion’s side through it all, though she knew that was near impossible. First of all, loving her was unacceptable. She’d be considered cursed, filthy, a sinner for loving another women. So Rena fought to suppress it, but that didn’t stop her from dreaming. Dreaming of being the one in Mion’s heart, laying in the grass & watching the stars, being by her side for the rest of her days, assisting the new leader in any way she could. She dreamed of small things, like telling her she loved her. Going out to get parfaits.

That could never happen. Rena knew there was something very wrong with her. There was a lot wrong with her, really, but this was the icing on the cake.

She vowed to never say a word of this to Mion, no matter what. Even if the timeline is long doomed, she could never deal with the girl she loved much looking down on her. Finding her gross, or worse - cursed. She had to close off her heart & settle for best friends, & a best friend she was.

She was there to watch Mion fall for Keiichi, who was so stupid & oblivious to it. He was so insensitive, brushing Mion’s feelings as nothing. Rena knew the pain of love more than anything, so it killed her to see. Mion deserved better than this, & she even found herself angry with Keiichi over it. That time was something she fought to forget.

She refused to let some silly feelings take over her, control her & destroy her relationships. Rena was cursed from the start, so it was expected for something like this to happen.

Rena’s past held its own darkness, & since her mind managed to block it away over time, she remembered it in fragments.

Occasionally, it’d come back to her; always in pieces. She’d be minding her own business, & she’d remember. Or she’d be asleep, alternatively, & she’d dreamt it.

Yet, it was always in fragments. Fragments of her past, before she got trapped in this horrific time loop. She remembered her mother, who was dishonest. A liar, a dirty liar she didn’t want to be associated with. Rena changed her name for that reason. Reina took after her mother, the liar. Rena was free.

Her mother had left her father a while back without warning, and he was constantly blaming himself. "What did I do - where did I ever go wrong?"

His ex-wife never even came to him to talk about it, no, it was her lawyer. The only one with any context at all was Ryuugu Rena, his daughter herself. In fact, around those couple of months, before her mother popped the big question to her, Rena noticed it all. She noticed her mother going out with this 'friend' more than she ever did with her father, and she noticed how her mother was rarely ever home.

She had been plagued with guilt ever since it happened, ever since her mother handed over the divorce papers and left him for another man - one she had told Rena was a friend from work. She took Rena out with him a couple times, telling the same lie each time. Just a friend, she’d tell her. She’d always ask Rena what she thought of this man. He bought her  things, & always asked about her. She didn’t like him.

Rena never told her father her suspicions, and if she had; he wouldn’t be as heartbroken. He would’ve seen it coming; at the very least, or been the first to break away. But she didn’t tell him a thing. She was just as filthy as her mother, Saika Ryuugu - If not  worse. She had her blood flowing through her veins, that tainted blood…

Her mind began to fill with toxic thoughts. She tried to relieve them by smashing things, specifically all the possessions her mother had left behind. She would go down to the old dumpster with a cleaver & a baseball bat, & she’d smash everything she could. No one else has gone to that dumpster since the dam war, so Rena had decided to make it her own domain. Sometimes she went there to smash things, to scream, or even just cry. She found an old van that she would sleep in when she had to get out of the house.

Her father was always a kind person, and Rena felt so sorry for him. She also felt guilty for never warning him about the signs she'd seen. She deemed herself filthy, just like her

Reluctantly, Rena obeyed her father. She felt the dark cloud hanging over her the entire time, it was there and it was watching her, she was sure of it. Those watchful eyes that followed her, no matter where she went.

But her father never noticed a thing. She walked to the car, hearing footsteps that were not her own.

Crunch, crunch, crunch... crunch.

Rena froze. After she had stood still, she heard an additional footstep that didn’t belong to her, and it was dead behind her.

An extra footstep.

Oyashiro-sama’s curse.

She didn’t say a word to her father, because she knew she deserved this. Of course she had to go through this, it was only natural. All her fault.

That, along with this awful disaster must be Rena’s atonement. Perhaps god really was angry with her, angry that she stayed silent, angry that she was raised by a liar. However, that wasn’t all she remembered. Ibaraki was the worst of it. Ibaraki was why she was being punished, why she was the one burdened with the fate of Hinamizawa.

When Rena started school in Ibaraki, she was far too distant to make any friends. Due to this, the other kids saw her as a loner. It wasn’t cool to be a loner, it was just lonely. Rena felt those eyes still watching her, she heard the footsteps, & could almost feel Oyashiro-sama’s wrath. She began to feel as if every child there was out to get her. Everyone was. She isolated herself, constantly fearful & sick.

Not long after, the hallucinations started. Her own blood felt dirty. She began to scratch away at her skin, even cutting herself. She saw them & she felt them, those maggots wriggling in her bloodstream. There were so many of them, & it was no use. No matter how much she scratched & cut away, more fell out. The only way to escape was moving back to hinamizawa. Surely Oyashiro would forgive her.

Her father, on the other hand, didn’t listen. No one in Ibaraki did.

He felt absolutely awful; not only because his wife abandoned him & his daughter, but Rena was suffering from something horrendous that he didn’t understand. The worst part was he felt lost. He didn’t know what to do. So he resorted to drinking.

Rena was at her limit. She brought her hatchet to school that day, & smashed in all the windows. She could arely control or process or explain what happened; not with any means beside oyashiro. She tried to rid herself of the influence by splitting her throat, & it’s a miracle her father got her to the hospital in time for her to survive.

They returned to Hinamizawa, & Rena had an experience.

She heard a gentle voice in her head apologizing again & again. The maggots were gone & so were the watchful eyes & footsteps that followed her everywhere. It was like it had all been a bad dream except it wasn’t. Now she was trapped in a time loop where the only reasonable explanation was saving Hinamizawa.

Rena couldn’t help but feel a little hopeless. She had no lead, no idea on what could be causing this. Was Oyashiro really that mad at her? She didn’t know. How could she know?

Despite that, she kept on fighting. No matter what she fought to save Hiniamizawa. The casual moments everyday, all her friends, even the smiles of the villagers she didn’t know. The unity they had, the beautiful glow of the stars over the cotton drifting festival. It made it all worth fighting for. So she’d fight on.