brighter, brighter @isurani
Chapter 1

Your eyes were brown, before you died.

You know that, because Onari would tell you that you had your father's eyes. His eyes were comforting, that deep shade of brown that made you feel warm when you looked up at him and smiled and he would smile back.

You didn't think you would change, when you died. Ghosts looked like they did when they died, right? So you were still you, even if you faded away sometimes, and could walk through walls, and were never hungry.

Akari and Onari always teased you for that. But you did miss food! Sometimes it was a lot easier to pretend that you were still human, just a weird one that could kinda pass through stuff. And everything seemed to work like that! You could still sleep - though you didn't need it - and you could still get hurt - which wasn't fun, actually - but you didn't need to eat, so you weren't hungry, and that always bugged you.

There were lots of small things like that, that changed with dying. Small things, like your scrapes fading away more than healing, like the way you would wake up and not feel refreshed in any way, like the way you would find yourself not touching the ground without realizing. Small things that bugged you, because you were getting used to them the longer you were dead, and you didn't like that.

No one liked to say you were dead, either. They'd mention gathering the eyecons, making the wish, coming back to life, but everyone skirted around the fact that you were dead, dead and gone, and the very fact you were standing here now was pretty unnatural, really.

But there were reminders, and some weren't just noticed by you.

Akari stared at you, one morning, like she was trying to analyze you. Like she was putting together a puzzle in her head, and she couldn't blink until she was done. You didn't really question it, because it was just such an Akari thing to do, and if you asked she'd either dodge the question or go on a really, really long explanation, and you were too tired for that.

That was another thing. You could sleep, and you didn't need to, but you would still get tired after too much fighting. That one was the worst, probably. That and still getting hurt.

She had mumbled something to Onari before you came through for breakfast - and picked at it, like always, because you hadn't eaten anything in weeks now and were still getting used to not needing it, and he had looked at you in that over-the-top way, where his mouth was agape, before shaking his head and waving it aside.

You had finally caved to curiosity and asked Narita why everyone was staring at you. It was kinda messing with you, after all, and you had already gone invisible once today without meaning to, so it was an important question.

Narita had just kinda shrugged, saying that no one had told him or Shibuya. But he looked at you again, and squinted, and asked if your eyes had always been so silver.

You had laughed, but not fully, the confusion seeping through more than the ridiculousness of it. Your eyes were brown, like your dad. Didn't he remember?

Narita had looked like he wanted to argue that, but he didn't say anything, and that was more worrying, so you had run to your room - and according to Nartia's confused questions, turned invisible by accident, again.

By the time you grabbed a mirror, you had to will yourself to be visible, and that was a problem on its own. It took some time, but you finally looked visible enough that you could start looking -

And sure enough, your eyes were silver.

You asked Yurusen about it, but it didn't really seem to care, which wasn't exactly surprising coming from it. It mentioned offhandedly that since your powers were all eye-based anyway, was it really so surprising that your eyes would change?

Even if that made sense, for some reason, you didn't like it.

It was a few more days before you finally talked to Onari about it, one night when Akari was working hard on something and Shibuya and Narita had already gone to sleep. He sputtered for a little bit, said there was nothing wrong with your eyes, but you guessed you looked a little more tired or determined or something than usual, because it didn't last long.

He said that Akari had noticed it that first day, when you had died and come back. She had been keeping an eye on it ever since, to see if it'd change, but your eyes were persistently that silver-gray.

You asked if she knew why. You liked your eyes being brown, after all. It felt like that was something that you could keep from your dad that would stay, after Musashi's crossguard was gone and now just another form to use to try and keep yourself alive.

Onari shook his head. However, he said, he had an idea.

He seemed more serious than usual, the kind of comfort he would give you if you really needed it, the Onari you remember seeing when you were young and your dad was gone and all you had were Akari and Makoto-nii-chan and Kanon-chan and it felt so lonely. But Onari was there, and he was comforting, and warm, and he was silly but in a way that it made you smile, so it felt better.

So you asked what Onari thought about it.

He said that there were different ideas about eyes showing the soul, and things like that. And all you really were was a soul right now, right? So maybe your soul is that pure silver-white, an innocent soul.

You weren't sure if you believed it all, but it made you feel better.

When you ran out of time, you met your dad.

You didn't know what to do. You were saying something, you knew, about failing and leaving everyone, but the words weren't quite reaching your own ears, and all you could do was stare at your dad through your tears.

He looked exactly how you remembered him, with warm brown eyes, with that comforting smile, like you were coming home.

But then he gave you your time back, and he was gone.

Just another power up, now. It's probably cold to think of the Toucon Burst eyecon like that, but it's kind of getting numb to you now. Your dad gave you another shot, another 99 days, because you want to help people, but it's also scary, and it hurts. You finally saw him, and he's gone.

And if you run out of time again, he'll be gone for good.

You were crying when Makoto-nii-chan found you, in that quiet way you'd gotten really good at. Crying without making too much noise, just letting the tears drip down your cheeks and nose and chin until you were all done, until you could put on that smile again and work hard again, piece by piece by piece.

But Makoto-nii-chan was there instead, asking you why you were crying, because you didn't cry, didn't let people see you cry, and you were so starved for some sort of affection at the moment that by the time the words came out of his mouth you were hugging him.

He was shocked, which made sense - you really had been fighting up until today, after all, but you had never wanted to. You hadn't wanted to, and at the moment you felt like you were eight and alone and scared and you just wanted Makoto-nii-chan to tell you it was okay, so you clung onto him anyway.

Makoto-nii-chan stayed after that, both him and Kanon-chan, and you were glad, because despite the temple filling up with more people you were feeling increasingly more lonely.

The time resetting shouldn't have done anything, shouldn't have affected you like it did, but it felt like you were getting farther and farther away from life, and it scared you. You had long given up on trying to eat, and sleeping was becoming far less of a familiar experience, instead just sending you into dreamless darkness for a while before you woke up. You were starting to pass through things without realizing it, having to focus more on being physical and there.

Then there was the matter of beginning to see people's memories. It was jarring, throwing you into a different world without any control over it, like you had opened up their head like a book and were taking a look in, and you couldn't stop it. You felt what they felt in those memories, too, and it left you dizzy once it ended.

It felt like you weren't really there, like you really weren't present on this world, and you felt isolated.

It was Kanon-chan's turn to ask if your eyes had always been so white, and both Akari and Onari tried to shush her, but you had already heard. You gave her that sheepish grin, even if it felt fake, and said it came with being dead, and she just nodded in return.

Makoto-nii-chan had frowned, though, and said it still didn't look quite right, and you had excused yourself at that point.

But the thing was, he was right. Your eyes weren't the same as they had been, going from silver-gray to silver-white, as if your iris was threatening to fade into the sclera, and there was an odd glossiness to your eyes, like they were clouding over.

You didn't like it, you decided, and you dropped the mirror before you could even realize. It clattered to the ground, too loud, because you hadn't dropped it, it had passed through your hand, and you really, really needed to sit down.

Kanon-chan found you a little later, and apologized. You told her it was alright, it was a question, and it's not like she had seen you for ten years anyway, but she still seemed unsure. You said it was just a being dead thing, anyway, but that didn't seem to help - and of course it didn't, she had been dead, too. Great going.

You got out a quick apology, but now it was her saying it was alright, that it wasn't the same. Still, even if it wasn't the same, she was dead or gone or something much longer than you. Kanon-chan said she guessed that was true, but wouldn't that mean you and her were similar rather than different?

She asked if being a ghost was hard. You said it was, a little, that sometimes it really got to you, even though you've been dead for months and months now. She said being an eyecon was hard, too, not having any control over anything.

You wondered, the Toucon Boost eyecon in your pocket, if your dad feels the same way.

You both talked for a little, about being dead, but Kanon-chan's reluctant to talk about the Ganma World and you really can't blame her. Makoto-nii-chan called it hell, and the Ganma call it utopia, and you're not quite sure what it is but you don't really like it at all. Kanon-chan says that the Ganma were nice, that the prince Alain was kind to them, but that's yet another thing you don't really trust, so you don't say anything to that.

You asked if the Ganma are like you, with your eyes and your body that keeps fading and the way you can float just a little bit.

Kanon-chan went silent, then, for a little bit, saying about how they don't need to eat or sleep, either, but…

The idea that "they're not ghosts" went unspoken, and you felt farther and farther away.

By the time you died the third time, you're used to it, and isn't that funny?

You came back, of course you came back, and you're so much brighter than you were the first time. You were made of light, now, not even close to the ghost you were, and you insisted, insisted, insisted it's human. You're human.

Because this was human, the feelings are human, it's all so human, and you still felt human. Adel and the Ganmeisers say you had surpassed humanity, but that can't be true.

You were just eighteen, closer to nineteen now, and you had died and you were going to come back, and that was the end of it. You weren't surpassing anything. You weren't going anywhere.

But you could fade into light, now, could feel yourself dissolve and come back together. There were feathers when you transformed, and you're reminded of a time when you still dreamed when you slept, dreamed of falling from the sky with feathers all around. You still saw people's memories, stronger, so much stronger, can pull them into them until they saw what you saw, and,

you were kind of losing your grip.

You were human, human, human, and you were eighteen going on nineteen and you've died three times and you just want to come back, and when Gramps finally shows his face again in the wrong clothes and says that you were closer to alive and he can't bring you back anymore - that he could have brought you back in the first place, that you were just being pulled around and around by different forces even though you just wanted to live - you let the memory of your dad and his coworkers take you over just so you don't have to deal with it.

You forgave Gramps, because you had to, because you knew he helped, but your smile doesn't reach your eyes.

Your eyes.

Your eyes were different, too, not fading like they were when your time was reset. They were almost too-bright, having gone from gray to silver to white, a shimmer of colors in them, and they still looked far, far past you even though you were the one looking back.

The temple got more full as well, now that Alain had joined as well. But it hadn't felt any more welcoming, just claustrophobic, all your friends pressing in on you with too-many questions and not enough answers and it was too much, too much, too much.

You summoned Mugen from your soul. It was such a simple thing, so much like the way you summoned the Ghost Driver, but it felt so much more wrong. Humans don't do that, it made you think, and that's funny because humans couldn't do anything you can do.

You kept helping people, even as not-a-ghost and not-a-human, because it's all you could do. You would glow when you did that, when you felt the right emotion, and wasn't that just another thing to add to the list?

And you fought, because you had to. It wasn't about coming back to life anymore, not really, and it wasn't about ghosts and humans and good and evil. You just wanted to protect people, because it was all you could do.

So you kept doing it, over and over and over.

It was good to talk to people, before. You knew that. You knew that maybe, talking to someone would help again.

But with every word of "surpassing" "exceeding" "beyond" humanity, you were just a little worried that one day,

That one day, your friends wouldn't recognize you.

You wanted to ask to be human again.

You were scared that it wasn't possible.

You asked for everyone to come back, instead.

You're alive now, and it's a little different.

Sometimes, your muscle memory isn't quite right. You forget to eat, sometimes, only surprised when your stomach growls too loudly. You have trouble waking up, again, now that your body actually enjoys sleep. You get banged up a little more than you used to, just because you don't really react to tiny bruises or scrapes anymore. You also walk straight into walls sometimes, but that's a whole other problem.

You're alive, but you're not quite exactly human, either.

You don't fade away anymore, and people can see you. You're glad about that.

You can still summon your driver, and you don't want to ask about it. The eyecon never left, though you're pretty sure that you're not stored in it anymore.

Mugen's gone, deep inside your soul, and that's probably for the best.

There's that rainbow glimmer in your eyes, too. If people don't focus, it's like the light hits them, like a filter effect that makes your eyes shine a little too brightly.

And it isn't quite right.

But your eyes are brown again.

You're eighteen-almost-nineteen, and your eyes are brown, and your body is warm, and you can eat whatever you want, and you sleep for way too long on weekends, and you go to school again, and the temple is suddenly much too quiet and empty without Kanon-chan and Makoto-nii-chan and Alain but you visit them, and Onari frets too much over you like always and Akari helps you study what you missed and

You have to learn how to be human again, but you think you can work it out from here.

Just maybe.

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