Sometimes, Hifumi forgets that Hiruko ever existed.
He wakes up early in the morning, takes a shower, and heads downstairs for a quick breakfast before opening hour. Mizuki would already be making coffee for them while the bowl of rice and dried fish waits on the countertop—it’s not a luxurious breakfast like the ones he was used to in his old life, but he never minded. It was a gift from his Mizuki, after all, and the feeling of domesticity from the entire situation more than made up for it. After breakfast, he would go back upstairs and briefly wash up again before dressing for work as the Silver Star Tea House’s server.
They don’t speak of him anymore, so it was easy to forget him. Every now and then, though, someone would walk into the Silver Star that sparked Hifumi’s memory: be it Kairi or Shima, one of the old customers that needed a nightmare eaten, or even the rare occasion that Azusa left his room. And each time his memory gets jostled, Hifumi has to excuse himself to go behind the counter, reaching for a lone picture frame and reminding himself Yes, there he is. It wasn’t just his imagination.
After the tea house closes, Hifumi would sit and hold that frame with both hands, just letting his eyes take in the picture again. There they were, just the three of them and Namu, posing for the camera in their best clothes. And there was Hiruko, turned to the side, clearly bored and unsure of what to do in such a situation.
He felt guilty each time he forgot about the annoying little baku who had changed his life, much like he had changed the lives of others. Mizuki told him, after the mass hysteria of nightmares had ended, the truth: that Hiruko had only been a figment of Azusa’s imagination, brought to life within Delirium’s rooms by her brother’s delusions of self-destruction. Hifumi didn’t want to let Hiruko fade back into the imagination.
To him, Hiruko had always been a person—someone who existed beyond their original human form named Chitose Kurosu. And after seeing Hiruko cry in his last moments, when the baku knew that he was going to disappear forever after attaining the contentment he never had in his original life, Hifumi knew he would never want to reduce Hiruko to a forgotten memory.
He asks Mizuki one night, once the tea house has closed shop for the day, if they can put the picture frame by the radio so they can see it better. Mizuki smiles sadly and places it right on top of the device. The song knowingly switches to an enka ballad and the two quietly listen to a song about times gone by.
The next day, Hifumi wakes up early, takes a shower, and heads downstairs for a quick breakfast before opening hour. As he hits the last step on the stairs, he looks up at the little cavity where the radio and picture frame rest.