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Chapter 1

this kind of world is all wrong.

something's wrong.

it's as if the world is crashing down around him, as if everything he believed in and hoped for and looked up to threatens to crumble and bury him under it all.

and it hasn't gone away. it's been a persistent threat, ever since gai amatsu showed his true colors. since aruto felt something snap inside him, a rage that burned and burned until aruto lost himself, mentally and physically, as the hiden metal coated him for the first time and he couldn't hang on anymore.

it's not like him to be angry. aruto deals with things as best he can, with a smile and a quick joke and some silly outburst. never focusing on looking back, only his plans, only his dreams. jumping towards his next adventure, something to bring a smile to a face.

gai made him angry.

gai made him furious.

gai stood against everything aruto believed.

"kamen riders are humanity's strongest weapon against the fear of extinction."

"the raidriser is a weapon bestowed upon the populace."

"there's no one left to share your naive little dream."

it burned. it burned in aruto, just like the ark had burned in his mind, and it wouldn't quite leave. the humagears had believed in him (and he had let them down) and it should be gone, but it continued to rise higher and higher, until it threatened to consume him whole.

he could believe in his dream. he could. he had to.

aruto would believe in his dream.

("I wanted you to leap towards your own dream.")

but

he feels alone.

he didn't know if he could believe in that dream.


"a nightmare?"

aruto nods, and tries not to wince at the sharp feeling shooting inside his chest. it shouldn't be anger, because that's not fair, fuwa went through enough as it was. it wasn't his fault.

and it shouldn't be fear, because if no one was scared of aruto because of the hiden metal, he shouldn't be scared of the controlled fuwa who wanted him dead.

still, aruto felt strange, choosing his words carefully. he wanted to blurt out the fragmented memories in a stream, not pick and choose what he shared.

it's unlike him. when did everything become so strained?

"something like that," he amends, because aruto wants to trust fuwa more than anything at this moment. someone on his side, even with how close it all is to falling apart. it's why they're in aruto's apartment instead of hiden intelligence, because it's one place that aruto is certain will stay.

"do you ever remember...something that couldn't have happened?" and it's obviously the wrong way to ask the question, because fuwa's expression darkens.

there's a cold "no." and aruto tries again.

"It's, um, it's like...something real, that i know happened. i just can't...place it." and that doesn't work, either, so he forces out the words. "i'm missing something."

that makes fuwa's look turn from hostile to...almost understanding. but he waits for more, and aruto tries to elaborate.

"there's - there's a scar. on my shoulder. and it makes sense, because we fight a lot, right? with - with thouser," and he has to use the word thouser, because even the name "gai" feels like it's going to set off the fire in both of them, "and with the raiders, and with the magia. but…"

aruto runs his fingers over the scar that reaches over his shoulder, almost onto his back. it's almost the length of the attache calibur blade.

it isn't fresh, though. it's been there for months, and it won't leave, either.

"you don't remember getting it, do you?"

it's surprising, to be on the same wavelength as fuwa. aruto nods, slowly, because he doesn't quite know where this is going.

(it burns in fuwa too, aruto knows, so much stronger and all-consuming than it does in aruto. but it's burned in him for far longer, enough that fuwa can push it back, that fuwa can harness it. aruto can't, and it's gai's words that echo instead.)

("just like a humagear destined for disposal.")

he tries to speak again, but doesn't quite know what to say. it sounds like nothing, like fragments of anger and dreams that don't quite matter anymore, but fuwa seems to connect, right now.

he thinks of the cold, quiet voice that responded to gai, and the fuwa that broke through at the end.

if he could do that, aruto could say something else.

"i remember it hurting," because he does. a clean slice, unlike most attacks, one that cut through the armor. he knows that because he felt it, a shock, a cut through the adrenaline that was keeping him on his feet. blood, for once, dripping down his sweatshirt and suit jacket, enough that it dripped on the floor.

the sensations are clear, crisp. but most of all, aruto remembers his anger in that moment.

("why can't humans and humagears live together in peace?!")

fuwa raises an eyebrow, but waits patiently for aruto to collect his thoughts.

"it hurt, but...i was fighting. i was," and aruto swallows hard, "angry. really angry. everything was wrong, and it hurt, and everyone was going to die…"

aruto shakes his head, mustering up a smile to give fuwa.

fuwa doesn't smile back.

"i want to see the scar," he says instead, and aruto didn't think that far ahead.

it's a clean line. that's the strangest part about it.

aruto's dotted with scars, and he doesn't know why he agreed to showing fuwa in the first place - maybe it's some sort of desperation, at this point.

but each scar is jagged.. a scrape from being slammed against the pavement, tiny nicks from the rubble crushing him before he figured out the shine system, the cuts upon cuts of the hiden metal not knowing how to keep aruto alive. his stomach still has rough bruises from gai forcing him to stay on the ground, watching as yua and the controlled, not-fuwa came close to killing izu.

("izu, you traitor. i'll dispose of you and the terrorists.")

(the scar seems fresh for a moment.)

each wound is rough, unknown, but the strange line on his shoulder is straight. it's as if aruto ran right into it.

"well, someone definitely patched you up. not well, but you would have know if you got infected, so you're okay." fuwa inspects it, and it's odd for him to be this close. aruto takes a deep breath. "looks like some sort of sword cut. and it's old. could have been metsubojinrai, you know."

aruto shakes his head before he even thinks about it. the scar is thicker than the katana's blade, and there's a familiarity to it.

"though he didn't even use that damn katana, anyway…" fuwa mumbles something unintelligible, before turning away. "put your shirt back on."

aruto pulls on a sweatshirt, quiet.

"why's this bugging you so much, pres?" fuwa's flippant, and aruto sees it for what it is. this whole situation, with the two of them in his apartment of all places, is strange. "thought you'd have bigger things to worry about."

for some reason, that's almost what breaks aruto's carefulness.

he wants to yell, say that yes, there are bigger things to worry about, he's angry and scared and he almost lost izu, and fuwa attacked him, and he's never been so angry in his life. aruto wants to know how fuwa can stand it, the fire that's threatening to tear down everything aruto wants to hold close to him, the feeling of being eaten alive by the hiden metal all over again, consumed by the ark until he can't think about what's he's even doing anymore.

aruto wants to smile. he wants to make a world where humans and humagears can smile together.

aruto sits down on his bed, and just shakes his head.

"this isn't what i wanted."

he hears himself scream it as he says it himself, and he shakes his head to clear it.

"i didn't want to fight like this." fuwa crosses his arms as he listens, and aruto tries to put into words the feeling that burns and burns. "i wanted to help people. make people smile. but i transform, and i'm angry at him, and i'm in control but it's just like before."

the ark pulsed red. it felt like a second heartbeat, but much too strong, overpowering. it pounded and pounded until aruto couldn't see anything but red, until he couldn't feel or hear anything except the pulsing of the ark's sheer hatred.

there's more scars around aruto's waist. uneven points, like spikes had dug into his skin around and around.

"i don't understand - i want to keep going, i need to keep going, but i don't know what to do, nothing feels real, it's wrong, it's just like i'm going to wake up and i won't remember it, either," aruto knows he's rambling, knows that the scars and burns and bruises that the zero-one suit couldn't protect him from are proof enough that it's all real, but he can't make the connection. "fuwa-san, what my father wanted, what i want, it's all falling apart - this kind of world is all wrong -"

there's a rough grip on his shoulders, a "pres", but aruto's words can't stop. he can't say he's scared, he wants to be determined, wants to keep fighting, how does he do that - ?

"hiden."

aruto looks up. fuwa looks serious, but his grip is almost more calming than threatening.

"focus." but he can't focus, that's the problem, what's there to focus on? what can he do, what does he have to do?! "no, focus right now. right here. breathe."

aruto takes a deep breath, in and out. another. another.

the fear ebbs away, replaced by something else.

the pulse. that second heartbeat of anger, of rage.

it's because of everyone who believed gai, everyone who listened to him and his manipulation. he's a monster, he was the one that changed the ark, he's the one that should be falling apart, so why does he get to win, why can't things go back to how they used to be, it should be fine, but instead they're weapons, people are weapons and humagears are weapons and fuwa's a weapon and aruto's a weapon and they're tools even though aruto's fought for so long to prevent that, and it's all because of him, because of gai's malice, and humans full of malice should JUST BE-

"aruto!"

aruto blinks. he…doesn't really know what just happened. he takes a deep breath, and feels the fire die down for a moment.

that wasn't like him, either.

"sorry," he mumbles, not meeting fuwa's oddly concerned look. "don't really know what came over me, there."

a smile at fuwa.

fuwa doesn't smile back.


"i don't want to forget the dreams i'm living for," aruto mumbles, picking at his food. "but it feels like they're...going farther away."

fuwa makes some sort of noise of affirmation, even as his mouth is still full of ramen. It's another moment before he talks again.

"you became ceo what, a few months ago? i don't blame you for panicking, pres." is aruto panicking? he couldn't really put the feeling into words. "you can still hold onto your dream, even if it's harder. you said -"

fuwa stops, and looks away.

"i've learned that, recently. a reason to keep going...is all we can look for, right now. got it?"

aruto nods, finally taking a bite of his food.

it's tasty.

"fuwa-san."

aruto wants to say "thank you", but he doesn't know how well that would go over. it feels almost too vulnerable - for both of them. then again, having a breakdown in front of fuwa has left him vulnerable enough, so he just says "thanks" as quietly as he can.

fuwa nods. but aruto has another question, so he sets down his chopsticks and just looks at fuwa.

"how do you deal with it? the...ark. and the anger." aruto tugs at his sweatshirt, as if he'd feel that pulsing. "you connected to it too, right? with whatever...controlled you. and assault wolf, and everything."

fuwa just huffs, shaking his head.

"it's what kept me alive. ever since daybreak. up till now, i haven't needed anything else." he crosses his arms. "so i didn't ever see more of it as something wrong."

"but -"

"but i know what you mean."

aruto blinks.

"you're scared, aren't you? because you lost yourself with that metal form." aruto just stares, unmoving. "but you overcame it. you're yourself again, pres. that's what you need to focus on. that anger isn't you."

"and that's how you keep going?" aruto mumbles, staring at his food.

"nope."

fuwa crosses his arms, and gives aruto a smirk. it's small, but aruto still feels like it means more than any other way fuwa could reassure him.

"it was a little different, back when...you know. when i wasn't all there. more like everything was too calm, and moving would hurt." fuwa doesn't seem to notice that his hand is on the side of his head, so aruto doesn't say anything. "but i got past it with my own rage. because that's what drives me. my own emotions are stronger than any tech like that."

his focus returns to aruto, and the small smirk returns. it's almost more of a smile.

"what drives you, pres, is that idealism of yours. that dream. not anger. so you need to fight against whatever isn't you. and then it'll be okay, got it?"

"my...dream."

aruto echoes it, and for a second, he remembers something else that shouldn't exist.

("i have detected two smiles, as in mr. aruto's dream.")

and slowly, aruto smiles a little himself.

his idealism -

his ("naive little dream") -

no, his ("own dream").

as long as he held onto it -

"It'll be okay," aruto repeats, and fuwa smiles a little more. "both of us will be okay."

he's not sure when he focused on the two of them, but fuwa almost seems surprised, coughing and returning to the impassive expression aruto is used to.

even so, there's a "yeah", and fuwa reaches over the table just to clap a hand on aruto's shoulder for a moment.

it's an odd moment of contact between the two of them, but it's...nice.

it'll be okay.


it's the day aruto leaves hiden when he mentions it again.

"dad, do you think we're going to be okay?"

soreo hiden can't respond, of course.

but aruto remembers his smile, now.

he remembers bits and pieces of the fear, of the rage, of everything tearing him apart that day, even if he can't place it.

("a world where humans and humagears can smile together.")

("i'm fighting for that dream to come true.")

he remembers izu's smile. he remembers his own smile.

it hurt, and he was scared. the ark, and the metal, and everything that felt like betrayal, and losing, it all hurt.

even now, how alone aruto feels.

it hurts.

but

his dreams haven't changed.


it's okay.

our dreams won't be broken.

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