5:54:34 - 6:10:14

[ Researcher Saicho finds RPC-365-1 sitting on a rock on the shoreline of the lake where his son first met the entity. RPC-365-1 is weeping. It turns around and sniffles. Saicho averts his eyes and RPC-365-1 moves to run away. Saicho stops it in its tracks. ]

Saicho: Please. I wish to speak with you.

RPC-365-1: No, please. I’m not really in the mood to talk.

Saicho: I beg to differ. For you see—

[ RPC-365-1 waves him away.]

RPC-365-1: I said no.

Saicho: —often one finds their destiny exactly where they hide to avoid it.

[ RPC-365-1 stops dead in its tracks. It turns around and looks at Saicho.]

RPC-365-1: You… You’re his—

[ Saicho simply nods. RPC-365-1 begins weeping again and crawls over to Saicho on its knees. ]

RPC-365-1: I… I am so, SO sorry about what I did, I can never—

[ Saicho stops RPC-365-1. ]

Saicho: Please. I forgive you.

[ RPC-365-1 is taken aback. ]

RPC-365-1: What?

Saicho: You had a right to know what we were doing to you. I was never angry with you.

[ RPC-365-1 sniffles and sits back up on the rock. ]

RPC-365-1: Where is he?

[ Saicho looks down, ashamedly. RPC-365-1 correctly interprets the meaning of the gesture. ]

RPC-365-1: No… no that’s not… I couldn’t have…

Saicho: Child—

[ RPC-365-1 is not listening. It starts bawling, louder than it ever has. RPC-365-1 can be heard repeating the phrases “Not him,” “I’m sorry,” “██████, please,” “I’m a monster,” and such for the next minute and a half as Saicho retreats into the woods. He comes back with a teacup. RPC-365-1 calms down, wiping its eyes off and staring at the teacup. ]

Saicho: It is quite clear to me that you have not had your daily dose of calming herbal tea!

[ Saicho laughs. RPC-365-1, still trembling, takes the teacup from Saicho, being extremely careful not to touch him. It sips the tea and then, like before, drinks the entire cup in one gulp. RPC-365-1 slouches on the rock and hands Saicho back the cup. ]

Saicho: How do you feel?

RPC-365-1: … Relaxed.

Saicho: Such is the power of a cup of jasmine tea.

[ RPC-365-1 sniffles and smiles. ]

RPC-365-1: … Thanks.

[ The two sit in silence for five seconds. ]

RPC-365-1: W-Why are you here?

Saicho: I came to ask you the same question, child.

RPC-365-1: I told you guys, I don’t know. Whenever I try to leave—

[ Saicho stops RPC-365-1. ]

Saicho: Yes yes yes, we all know about THAT, but why are YOU here?

[ RPC-365-1 is confused. ]

RPC-365-1: What?

[ Saicho leans in. ]

Saicho: In my religion, a situation such as yours is a fact of life. We all die and come back, but it is never a good thing. Who we are as people holds us back from escaping this torturous cycle.

RPC-365-1: … I don’t understand.

Saicho: What do you remember before you first came to this place?

RPC-365-1: … Well… I wanted to be a musician… and my dad, he wasn’t interested in it. He wanted me to be an actress. Like my mom used to be. And mom agreed with him. So… I left.

Saicho: You ran away from home?

[ RPC-365-1 protests for a second before realizing Saicho was right. ]

RPC-365-1: I– yeah.

[ Saicho sips his tea. ]

Saicho: I sense feelings of great shame within you. You must move past them if you wish to leave this place.

[ RPC-365-1 begins rubbing the back of its neck with both of its hands. ]

RPC-365-1: I-I left without even saying goodbye. I didn’t even write a note. I didn’t even fill ███’s food bowl. I… I just left. What was I thinking?

Saicho: We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought. So they say.

[ RPC-365-1 buries its face in its hands. ]

RPC-365-1: I still loved them. I still LOVE them NOW. I made a huge mistake. They’re probably furious. They’re probably worried sick. What if they—

Saicho: Stop, child. I know what you are thinking may seem true, but they are your parents. They love you too. I know I did not approve of my son refusing to drink my tea, but a parent’s love is a very peculiar thing.

RPC-365-1: I would never know what to say or how to apologize. I… I just wish I knew what they were thinking.

[ Saicho grins. ]

Saicho: Luckily, I do.

[ He pulls out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. RPC-365-1’s eyes widen. ]

Saicho: This is from the file we cataloged of you when you first introduced yourself.

[ He unfolds the paper. ]

Saicho: It is truly a blessing. A non-anomalous photo of you, and a news article to match. Guess who is featured as interviewees.

[ RPC-365-1 reads the subtitle underneath the picture of its parents’ photo. It reads, “’I can’t be mad at ████. She reminds me of when I was a kid,” says ███ ████████, father of the missing ████ ████████. “Ultimately the decision is up to her to stay or go, but I’ll be proud of her, regardless. I just hope she sends me a postcard from Nashville!” ]

[ Tears begin pouring from RPC-365-1’s eyes as it reads. When it finishes, it drops the paper on the ground and unconsciously rushes forward, hugging Saicho. Saicho forms a surprised expression on his face, and RPC-365-1, after three seconds, realizes what it’s done. Horrified, it hollers at the top of its lungs. ]

RPC-365-1: NO!

[ RPC-365-1 recoils far back, falling off the rock and accidentally submerging its head in the lake. ]

[ Saicho turns to face RPC-365-1. He pulls it out of the water, RPC-365-1 spitting and coughing all over. When RPC-365-1 finishes, Saicho pulls it up off the ground and looks it dead in the eyes. ]

Saicho: Merciful heavens, child! Don’t startle me like that!

[ RPC-365-1 is stunned. ]

RPC-365-1: Wh-What?

[ RPC-365-1 starts heavily shivering. It begins looking around.]

RPC-365-1: WHAT?

[ The pine trees have turned green. ]

[ RPC-365-1 is beaming with pure, unadulterated joy. ]

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