“I swear it won’t happen again.”
“You swore that the last time,” Hinata sighed.
Nagito’s eyes filled in what Hinata had initially mistaken as tears. He knew now that the glossy, reflectful gaze rather secreted hope, an abstract promise of dreams. A distant longing, a ripe justice, a rotten offering. Begotten wishes. Nagito didn’t cry; he silently wept in joy for the future he wrought.
“I know, I know, my Hope, but this time-- I won’t let any despair in my path of assisting true talent such as yours. I swear from the bottom of my filthy, degenerate heart that I will try my best-- despite the fact that I am mere garbage for you to dispose of-- to do anything and everything you ask of me. That is my only purpose!” Nagito laughed shrilly, a hoarse wheezing that Hinata despised.
Flat birds painted a lifeless landscape, sky undulating under willful waves that never ceased. Salt consumed the sun. Sunsets bled into runny yolks that spread over weekends worth the span of months.
“Komaeda, just-- Shut up about hope, alright? Stop.”
“Gladly! I will do anything you say.”
“No! None of that.”
“...Will do, Hinata-kun?”
“Fine,” Hinata resigned, knowing that he had no chance of winning this hope-despair struggle with Nagito. It was essentially Nagito’s Ultimate to be this… obsessed with hope. He couldn’t overcome that.
Nagito stood straight, eyes nearly lolling out of his head. Crevices hid between his teeth, worms of silence stretching between his lips. They crawled and crawled and crawled, and Hinata couldn’t stand it. Nagito looked like he was waiting for guidance, for permission, and it made his stomach ill. He knew that Nagito wouldn’t speak unless spoken to, in some warped channel of fervid thinking, and he couldn’t reason with what he didn’t comprehend. He couldn’t invalidate chaos, he could merely throw rocks in it and cross his fingers that they hit something critical.
“Komaeda. Stop catering to me. Go… be your own person.” One rock.
“My person is wholly for your benefit,” Komaeda cheerfully responded.
“I would be better benefited if you acted as yourself.” Two rocks.
“This is the true me, my Hope! I know it’s vile and disgusting to look at, but--”
“Stop! Stop,” Hinata interrupted, chest heavy with the looming air, “I can’t--” Three rocks.
“--but I would gladly dispose of myself if that is what you would prefer than having to look at my gross body--”
“Stop!” Hinata shouted, his fourth rock breaking through Nagito’s glassy eyes. It shattered not his resolve-- not his mind-- not anything of importance, but it ended the spiel of self-depreciation. That was a pebble off of the impending mountain.
Nagito, as before, propped himself up taller as if a scarecrow on a pole, a loopy smile hanging off his face. Limbs protruded from distressed clothing, feet sunk into the ground, hair shuttered towards the sky. It was a sight.
Hinata spoke without thinking.
“I can’t believe how someone so pretty can be so self-hating.”
Nagito blinked. He blinked again. Hinata watched him.
“Hinata-kun, I don’t--”
“Before you go off into another spiral of misery, just-- It’s true. You look like an angel. But you act-- you act like an angel from down under. I don’t get it. You’re beautiful.”
Nagito blinked again.
Then he turned and walked into the bleeding sunset.
Hinata had struck the Jabberwock jackpot; he had managed to make Nagito stop his rambling with a mere compliment. It hadn’t been his intention, but he’d discovered the trick nonetheless.
Maybe it was sadistic of him, but he liked the way Nagito’s face shuttered down at the receiving end of praise.
“--and I will kill so I can be a small stepping stone in the journey of you Great Ultimates! I will die for the most noble cause in the pendulum of despair, haaaah!”
“Nobody asked,” Hiyoko snarked back. In all fairness, she was just trying to finish her cereal, and Nagito had unpromptedly advanced into a long monologue of his hopelessness.
“Oh, I apologize. I did not mean to interrupt your hope! I am but a nutrient for your roots, a yeast for your bread, a chemical for your cleaning. Use me as you wish, there is no greater pleasure than to serve the Ultimate talents, the light of our despairing society--”
“Nagito,” Hinata cut in, testing a theory.
“Yes, my Hope?” Nagito responded.
“Your hair is the fluffiest thing I have ever seen, and I would love to run my fingers through it.”
Hiyoko choked on her cereal.
Nagito fled the room.
Maybe it was his imagination, but Nagito seemed to avoid him from then on. Hinata didn’t understand why. He didn’t understand the way Nagito’s face radiated at the mention of death, but broke at commendation. He didn’t understand how Nagito revered him when he was spiteful, and ran from him when he showed affection. He didn’t understand the tingles that traced his spine when Nagito called him ‘my Hope’.
He continued nonetheless. He didn’t know how to express himself properly. He sucked in his teeth and tried anyway.
“Everything I’ve said,” Hinata started (god, why did this feel like a confession speech?), “is true. Everything from the past few weeks. Uh, I mean that I’ve never lied.”
He may have been trying to get a reaction out of Nagito-- a reaction of silence-- but it was all valid as well.
“Of course! You’re an Ultimate, you possess the most hope in the world! You wouldn’t lie!”
“No-- I mean that when I say, uh, you’re beautiful. You are, Komaeda.”
And Nagito’s face blanked.
“Hinata-kun, don’t bother wasting your hope on reprobate bacteria like myself--”
“You’re not reprobate bacteria! You’re not trash! You’re cute.”
Cute cute cute cute cute-- fuck--
It was jarring in--
White in black-- he hated gray--
Nagito clutched at his chest.
“I know that you joke about being lowly, but you’re not. You’re amazing.”
“ Stop ,” Nagito forced out, chuckling without humor. He was nearly wheezing.
“I have to tell you, Komaeda. You’re worth so much more than you think,” Hinata pressed on, diligent in his task to prove Komaeda’s value to himself. As he expected, it was not easy.
Nagito turned to flee, but--
Hinata grabbed his hand--
“You don’t mean that. Stop that. You’re mistaken,” Nagito pleaded, a wretched expression playing on his face.
“You’re worth so much, Komaeda, please--”
“Sick, sick, sick--”
Nagito heaved over, dry retching on the beach sand. He stood up quickly, slapping away Hinata’s outstretched hand, and wiped his mouth on the cuff of his sleeve.
“Never say that to me again. To think that you harbor any affection for me, I truly hope that I’m the next one murdered.”
“Out of all the hopes in this island, the silly notion that you would choose me--” He was consumed by a spasm of emotionless laughter.
“It’s more absurd than-- than--” He continued, clutching his stomach with fits of giggling.
“You’re pretty, that’s all I was trying to say.”
And, suddenly, Hinata had a thin hand wrapped around his throat and he was shoved mercilessly against a tree. Nagito stepped into his space, a low growl resounding. Sand fed into the ground, imaginary crabs pinched at his ankles, tree bark hunted a road to his heart.
“I feel sick to my very repulsive core. The fact that you chose me, hah, I just want to scrape my own face off and leave it in a shredded pile at your feet. You would like that, right? You wouldn’t have to waste your affections on scum like me anymore. I should just-- I should drop dead, shouldn’t I?” Nagito allowed no room for discussion. “That would be splendid. You can keep going on your hope that way, untainted by my soiled person, ahh,” he huffed, eyes sugary, “I wonder which weapon would leave the scarcest wreck. I couldn’t bear it if you Hopes were forced to spend your valuable time cleaning up after my corpse. Your lives are so much more treasured than tending after filth like myself! I could use a noose, maybe? Or--”
Hinata broke from Nagito with a quick slap to the arm tethering him. It was surprisingly easy to overpower Nagito. Despite his strong words, he was physically frail.
He dared a daunting step forward, causing Nagito to hunch down with a wicked grin warping his features. Before he could speak, Nagito cut in.
“That’s right! Slap my lowly hand away, Hinata-kun! How dare I lay a soiled finger on prominent Hope such as you!”
“No, just listen--”
“How dare I listen to your mistaken ramblings and intimacies! I should have ended my life upon hearing them! My existence is now a burden upon your Hope, for it confuses you.”
“Komaeda. Komaeda,” Hinata repeated, “ Komaeda . I’m not confused, and you’re not a burden. I do wish you’d stop going off on tangents about Hope and self-worth, though. It… gets annoying. I’m trying to tell you that you’re not trash or filth or whatever you monologue about.”
“Ahah, this is truly horrid! What despair I’ve wrought upon an Ultimate, to cause Hinata-kun such misshapen thinking! I am but the ground underneath your feet, to carry you along your journey.”
“You’re a person just like me.”
“I am merely a stepping stone--”
“Enough with the stepping stone crap! You’re-- You’re intelligent, clever, hardworking, kind--”
“Filth filth filth--” Nagito interrupted, clutching his throat, “Filth stop sick sick sick--”
And as water into wine, chemicals into water--
Toxicant waves slipped into sharp sand with no barrier. Bane water inked down pale skin. Teeth grew whiter and wider. Spirals whirled in the stars of Nagito’s eyes.
He stumbled backward, coat billowing soundlessly.
“I’m the cause of this--” Nagito sighed out breathlessly, backing up into the shadows.
But Nagito was a wallflower, and when he wanted to disappear, he could.
Hinata ran across the empty beach, calling his name in vain, but nothing happened. Nagito was gone, and Hinata was alone.
It didn’t matter whether or not his reasoning was valid (luck was fickle like that). It only mattered if he continued to taint Hinata’s life like that.
It was a painting. A large, plain canvas, too large for any one person to fill. So, it stood, with brushes at its bottom, and copious sums of paint to the side: an invitation. A welcoming for all to accept, to conversate and trade, to fill and inform. His memories-- they were the designs, and his family and friends were the artists. And Nagito--
Nagito had done his very best to cover the canvas in bright white, a vast foliage to prove innocent Hinata’s past. What amnesia had started, Nagito sought to bring to fruition. He granted Hinata, along with all of the other hopes, a restart. There was no question about whether or not they accepted; they had been given a chance to prosper on this island, and it was Nagito’s sworn duty-- his only purpose since birth-- to aid their talent along. He painted their canvases in a sheer, but resilient layer of stark hope, sprouting his ideas deep inside of them so that they could start a new chapter. A new inspiration. That was his only goal.
But, along the way, his own despair crept in. That was the only way. His own essence-- his own cursed blood, his befoul birthright that was destined for doom-- it blighted the painting. Among the beautiful, hopeful white, were miniscule drops of red that never dried. They dripped, and dragged, and besmirched Hinata’s wonderful pedigree. There was no solution Nagito could extend-- he, himself, had irreparably hampered his wonderful Hope’s destiny. He had wormed into the canvas, righteous in his intentions, but as his luck often ended up: he failed. He ruined the one purpose he maintained.
There was no hope saved for a disappointment. If he was not to be a stepping stone for hope, he would be a nutrient for the very ground. A decomposition worthy of soil-- not talent, but plain soil.
So he burned some rope, filled a fire canister, and recorded a video. The Hopes would no longer be infected by his failures. Hinata would no longer be infected by his failures. And if he sobbed when he heard the factory door open, the sprinkler alarms hid it.