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Thread: /Ep.in lost dream. [DDD]

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    /Ep.in lost dream. [DDD]

    Hey. This is the thing I wrote for the 2017 Lemon Contest, now titled, edited, and very belatedly completed. As you might divine from that fact, at some point in this fic people bump uglies. And if that isn't enough to discourage you, it's also about DDD.






    You need not remember the path.
    Only the signs.
    A möbius strip of memory unravels infinitely.


    ------------------/Ep.in lost dream.


    0/
    (2006, Beginning of January)

    *

    Deep night. An encirclement of mountains. Dense clusters of trees giving a healthy image of nature, laden with snow. White field. A light dance of snowflakes in the clear air. Outlines of traditional-style roofs and the faint lights of civilisation in the distance. A winding road covered in sleet and ice. A mechanical beast, four wheels still and engine silent, spotlights lit to illuminate said road. A sorry-looking black dog skulking about and digging at the frozen earth. A shivering youth, so miserable that he can’t even muster the will to scowl at his predicament, instead adopting the pained expression of the long-suffering that can do absolutely nothing to change their fate.

    The scene goes from “something out of a fairy tale” to “flat tire in the middle of nowhere” as one perceives more details, but my day has been consistently crappy from start to pending finish. Forget wandering into Ihatov, I’ll sooner get chomped by a youkai like an ice pop.

    Thrusting my hand deeper into its pocket, I will my teeth to stop clattering. The coat I’m wearing is too light to properly hold off the chill of the night, never mind that it’s also the dead of winter. It’s not Tōhoku, but Prefecture C can be fairly considered the boonies, and it’s naturally colder out here than in the urban centre of Shikura, where the encroaching frost breaks against the walls of buildings and the protective cocoons projected by heat-regulating thermostats. The reason I don’t own a heavier coat despite often visiting such locales is that I make a point to be safely back in the air-conditioned cradle of civilisation by the time the sun sets. Dipping into my ever-limited funds for a situation that can very well be avoided would be massively wasteful.

    That, of course, goes to show that I’m not standing here slowly turning into a Classical one-armed ice sculpture by choice. Oh no sir-- Ishizue Arika was kicked out of bed first thing in the morning, given two minutes to prepare, and then physically dragged from his apartment and thrown into the passenger seat of the expensive European roadster that he is currently standing next to. Smash and grab, a proper kidnapping; and what’s worse, I’m legally obligated to not resist. What followed was a load of nonsense unworthy of comment, a casual brush with death, then a more serious contemplation on the mortality of man; and now, an intense nostalgia for the warm and sterile halls of Origa Memorial Hospital, which I, in the folly of youth, had abandoned for such a trite thing as “freedom”.

    In short, a massive waste of time, effort, and overall well-being. What’s that? ’This is what it means to be an adult and part of the workforce’? Do not misconceive this as a mutual agreement on the exchange of labour for wage: it is neither voluntary nor paid. Spurred on by threats of violence and a leash around my neck, this is a textbook example of slave labour.

    ...Well, in truth it’s not that bad, and much of it will become just a scribble in my notebook in a few hours, but grumbling about the injustice of it all makes my present condition a bit more bearable. Blaming other people is the prerogative of a weakling, after all.

    Hatred-chan shuffles up to me. It sniffs my trousers as if to see whether I’m hiding any food in my pockets. Detecting none, it sits on its back legs and gives a low whine that seems somehow accusing. Am I imagining it, or is it acting more like an actual dog than before? It’s rather suspicious that what by all accounts is a manifestation of emotion can acquire the behavioural patterns of an animal. It’s entirely possible that its dog-loving master made it this way, but really, equating this thing with dogs gives dogs a bad name. I should ask Kaie about it next time I see him.

    “Shoo. Go find a squirrel or something,” I wave the blind dog away. It stays where it is. Tch.

    Despite being as thin as a rail, it doesn’t seem to be affected by the temperature, as it keeps company to a fellow dog that has no choice but to sit here with eyes glued to the road illuminated by the car’s headlights, faithfully awaiting the return of its master. As to why it isn’t waiting inside the car, that is because said master had taken the car keys with her as she went, not out of some concern for locking her pet in, but because she would be “back soon”, or some such nonsense.

    Hyuu. Resignation condenses into vapour. The wind has died down, and without it the dance of snow slows even further to a gentle, almost unnoticeable sway. Hatred-chan plops on its side as if tired of existing. A silence as heavy as the blanket of the surrounding snow settles.

    It’s actually quite nice. I still long for my shabby one-room apartment, but leaning on the driver’s side of the car and taking in the wintry scenery, my agitation ebbs away and I relax somewhat, even though I’d planned to keep up my front of righteous indignation as a final defiance.

    It’s been a long day. I’m probably much more tired than what I feel right now - which is mostly numbness with pangs of hunger gnawing at it. Returning to Shikura before either sets in would be ideal, so it probably won’t happen. Thinking about it this way, the ‘me’ in the here and now has it pretty good. Isn’t that nice? You feel good about the present, thinking about how the future will be even worse. That’s positive thinking right there.

    I try whistling a merry tune, but my lips are dry and cracked, so I settle for humming instead. I don’t know the lyrics, but it’s a seasonal song that’s been fairly popular throughout the winter holidays, which has been engraved in my memory from listening to it being played over and over while eating at Nebula. Thinking about it, it’s not just songs, but actually a great number of things that imprint themselves onto us by sheer repetition until we accept them as normal occurrences, but the less one thinks about such things, the better. There’s no point in asking myself whether I actually like this song, just as there’s no point in wondering whether I’m fine with being dragged around and, frankly, being used like this.

    Rather, I know the answer already, but there’s no point in stating it out loud.

    Because, that person is--

    “Christmas was a week ago.”

    “——Geh.”

    While I was distracted, something terrifying has snuck up to me.

    “These songs are valid for the entirety of the holiday season. Everyone knows that.”

    “Uh huh,” she doesn’t seem convinced. “Move off the door, Shozai.”

    I hurry to comply. Retrieving the keys from her pocket, she unlocks the Mercedes SL55 AMG and reaches inside, first turning off the headlights, then rummaging for something. Dress pants are drawn rather fetchingly taut against firm legs, a sight I turn away from tactfully, because at this point I’ve grown attached to my continued well-being.

    “Mato-san, the road is still frozen over. Not that I wouldn’t place my life in your hands without hesitation, but is it really okay to drive in these conditions?”

    I don’t see any tire chains that she might’ve brought with her, and honestly the idea of being in the passenger seat while this speed demon drifts on sleet with little traction at 60 miles per hour is making me a little ill. Thankfully, she would never do something like that; not out of respect for the law or, I don’t know, basic self-preservation, but simply because she wouldn’t tolerate so much as a speeding ticket on her record.

    “Moron. Of course it’s not okay. We’re not going anywhere until road conditions improve, and that’s not happening until daytime.”

    Having apparently found whatever she was looking for, the woman straightens herself and stares me down like I’m a particularly bothersome leaflet distributor.

    Touma Mato. Assistant Inspector, erstwhile Doctor, also known by a number of nicknames: most of them colourful, few of them charitable. The manner of her formal dress betrays her as a careerist, but although she dearly wishes to join the bureaucratic circles that match her disdain for the socially inferior, she’s no paper pusher. Simply put, this cool and stylish lady had applied for a Public Security field job thinking it would be a quick stint and an easy step towards further career advancement. Unfortunately for her, few things are simple where A-Syndrome is involved, and so she’s now on her third year of rounding up and documenting the cases of Agonist Disorder in this prefecture, a task compounded by the hoaxes that are labelled “demon possessions” which also need to be sorted out. I can commiserate with getting more trouble than you bargained for, but then again this frustrated sadist is also my supervisor - in other words, my parole officer - so I also take a peculiar joy from her consternation.

    She has been trying to clear her backlog of cases in order to finally facilitate a transfer, and so her shiny imported roadster has made the rounds from one end of the prefecture to the other, a furious mechanical steed for the harbinger of forced entry, detention, and property damage. Much like a hurricane, and in quite the same hurry.

    Then, what am I doing with her? As it turns out, I apparently “owe her” for helping me “become a functioning member of society”, and that entitles her to “enlist my services” - a meaninglessly tactful way to reaffirm that I live at her sufferance, which is something that I’ve known since the day I was released from Origa, when it was plainly spelled out for me. In fact, I did actually sign a contract in order to be eventually released, so I may have already signed away my freedom without noticing. Whoops.

    Well, that much is fine. I genuinely enjoy being useful to Mato-san, and being a glutton for punishment that is surprisingly resilient like a taffy ball makes for good compatibility, so I fare a lot better than a regular person, like her poor underling Atsushi-kun. What really stings is the way that my employer at the time took the news.

    The conversation went like so.


    “I’m going to be borrowing this piece of trash for a while.”

    “As long as you don’t burn it when you’re done and return it in good shape, that’s fine. Ah, but then no one will be here to tend to poor old me…”

    “How much for one month?”

    “About this much. Also, send a replacement here once a week.”

    “I’ll arrange it.”

    “Alright then, Mato-san. Take good care of him. Oh, Arika, you can take the arm with you. Remember to feed it once in a while!”


    And then I was led away by my new owner, while the shitty brat that had just rented me out like I was his property waved me goodbye with a smile. Just like that, Ishizue Arika’s ownership exchanged hands. Human rights? This one doesn’t believe in them, and that one isn’t even human to start with.

    That was the beginning of a weeks-long buddy cop routine starring the Terminator, a man that just wants to live quietly, and his demonic K-9. They had a romp all over the place, ticking names off the hit list one after the other, until the very last one brought them here; “here” being east of Shikura City, in a land scenic enough to host a temple where a self-proclaimed bodhisattva resides, as well as, more pertinently, a hot springs district. This seems like an agreeable locale, but as it happened, that last name on the list turned out to be the real deal, and let’s just say that the heart-throbbing adventure which ensued left no time for relaxing at the onsen.

    Bottom line is, I was very much hoping to return to my apartment, leave all this behind, and ease myself back into the wage slavery of that perennially twilit underground chamber, the spoiled demon-child in satin pyjamas, and the most comfortable couch in the world - all things that I have gained a new appreciation of. However, maintaining an air of deference and gratitude towards my captor until the moment she tosses me out in front of my doorstep and drives off is essential for the fragile everyday life I have cobbled together to not crumble under this evil Tomato’s boot.

    Also, I’m somewhat proud of the way things turned out, so if I made it end on a sour note I wouldn’t be able to deal with myself afterwards. Since I took this job one way or the other, there’s no point in not seeing it through properly. The fact that I hate leaving things I’ve started unfinished is something I’d never let Mato-san find out, for what she does not know she cannot use against me. Being thought of as reliable is nice, but only if you retain the right to say “no”.

    I put on my best guileless expression and ask an equally innocent question.

    “Er, so will we stay here until then?” It must be close to four in the morning, so the sun won’t rise for another two hours at least. Granted, it’d be much better to wait inside the car, but…

    Mato-san just stares at her wristwatch, a severe formal design, and ignores me. Then she reaches to her waist and unclips the waistband bearing her gun holsters, twin Berettas sheathed in them, and throws it on the driver’s seat. This she replaces with a smaller, more compact chest holster, which is probably the item she was previously looking for in the car. The grip of a monstrous Desert Eagle pokes out from under her armpit briefly before she buttons up her overcoat - cutting as smart a figure as the rest of her attire - and hides it from view. As far as concealed carry goes, it’s the equivalent of hiding a sawed-off shotgun in a trench coat, but she has that jurisdiction as a special agent. Probably. I don’t see a reason to ask anyhow.

    The look I’m receiving is implicitly calling me an idiot, but that’s the idea in the first place, so it doesn’t faze me.

    “I’ve made arrangements for food and a place to rest in the district, but by all means, I can lock you in the car if you prefer it. You won’t die, so it’s fine.”

    A perfect, bone-chilling response. It almost warms my heart.

    “No, please and thank you. I just cannot bear that long without you.”

    “You’re an imbecile. Leave the arm here.”

    I turn to look at the black dog, which has been playing dead ever since Mato-san came back. Usually I cut off its connection to the stump of my left arm and it turns back into a black-tinged appendage soon after, but this time it’s stuck around in mutt-form long after being called into use. Another oddity, but this leaves me stumped - more than usual, ohoho - on how to force the transformation, so I can only scratch my head and stare at it all contemplatively.

    I hear a sigh that conveys the precise nuance of disgust at being forced to do something that is, by all accounts, extremely simple. Then footsteps make a half-round of the car and stop by the passenger’s door. The handle is pulled; click, the door opens.

    “Get in here, mongrel.”

    A voice so cold I think I see ice crystals form in the air. The emaciated dog springs to its feet in the blink of an eye, and with a yelp as if kicked it dashes to the Mercedes and leaps into the car like a hunting dog into a rabbit hole - only in this case it’s cowering from a vastly superior predator. When I take a look inside, it has already turned back to the rigid form of a jet-black prosthetic left arm.

    “Hmm, just like its owner.” With that remark, she locks the car, turns her back to it and me, and starts walking back in the direction of the faintly lit district.

    That was probably derogatory, but I think Hatred-chan acted exactly how someone should when faced with a monster that preys on monsters. Smart doggie. Nothing likes its owner, though.

    And to prove that point, I hurriedly follow after Mato-san.


    *


    So, here are some more details about Case File, uhm… well, he doesn’t get to have a questionable codename like the shut-ins at Origa’s deeper Wards, being quite deceased after a forceful infusion of several lead pills. Maybe “Jigoku Geyser” or “Vaporapizer” could work, but then again I have neither a taste for nicknames nor any business giving such retro ones to those unable to raise any objection to them, so in the spirit of anonymity “Subject” will have to do.

    Anyhow, the Subject was a male approaching middle-age, living in X town in Prefecture C, married to Ms. Yamada, and father to little Tarou. He was known to his neighbours and fellow residents as a hot-tempered man, quick to anger and quicker to follow up on it. That temper was expressed in all aspects of his life, but as he was also skilled at his work and highly valued as a result, a shouting match or a brief brawl would be soon forgiven and forgotten. He had made trouble since youth, but the man managed to live in this manner for so long with the tolerance of the society that valued that particular skill. It was an equivalent exchange where people would accept an evil as necessary, as long as it was balanced out in another, beneficial way.

    It was miraculous that such a precarious balance endured as long as it did, but eventually the side of benefit began to be outweighed. The Subject’s inner fire flared a bit too violently, and a man was seriously injured. That man wielded a certain amount of influence within that community which was enough to ensure that he would get his comeuppance. The Subject was fired from his job - quite the ironic phrase. He was reported to have fumed about it but to have surprisingly left without an issue. Another report has him returning to his house, and the sounds of arguments and agitation following soon after. The report notes that these sounds seemed “more violent than usual” - and let us take a moment here to consider what it is that the witnesses considered “usual”. Suddenly, what were described as “bursts of flame” shattered the house’s windows and door, shooting through the gaps and out into the street; this was altogether decidedly unusual, and thus it motivated the witnesses to inform the authorities. Said authorities entered the house to find it remarkably undamaged from the reported conflagration which resembled the description of a gas explosion. With the Subject nowhere to be seen, there was really only one more thing immediately obvious: that being the two fire-blackened skeletons, one larger than the other, lying side by side on the slightly singed carpet.

    That was the point where the Agonist Busters (trademark pending) swooped in to take over the case. Using a web of informants with zeal to put secret agencies to shame, which Touma Mato commanded - rather, commandeered - he was tracked down to this quaint vacation spot. He seemed to have sensed his own status as prey and so laid an ill-conceived ambush for us on the way there, which failed to thin our numbers or deplete our resources beyond the water used to clean all the soot and hot ash from the windshield, but in return netted us the proof of a genuine case of A-Syndrome, as well as the all-important knowledge when it comes to dealing with them.


    Affected site: the right arm. His dominant, punching arm, if you were wondering.
    New function: meteoric rise of temperature upon physical contact.
    Cause: Irrelevant; but as a guess, “uncontrollably hot temper”.



    Armed with this information, the experienced hunter Mato-san created a battle strategy, and Arika the simple-minded hunting dog nodded along in agreement. In a stroke of fortune, the usually bustling hot springs district closed during winter holidays for the necessary cleanup and repairs, which made what would have been a delicate situation with a huge risk of collateral damage into a simple matter of calling the proprietors of the local establishments, informing them that it would in their best interests to not got out tonight, and simply lying in wait.

    Now, it didn’t quite go all according to the plan, but that isn’t to say that Mato-san’s strategy was flawed so much as that my own deficiencies exceeded expectations and created a flaw where there should have been none.

    Though honestly, there was no way I could have known that this seaweed-thin dog can’t swim. I only had one other point of comparison, and the shark seemed to handle water just fine!

    It was a complete blindside that no one could have seen coming, but one which gave the Subject, whom I was dramatically confronting in an onsen pool, the freedom of his right arm and ample time on top of that to stick it in the hot spring and raise against me a geyser of superheated water that would have melted skin, meat, and viscera off my body so cleanly my skeleton could be used as an anatomical model at an exhibition. One-armed man, East Asia, ca. 2006. So pearly white you’d need sunglasses to observe it directly. To be used even after death, that was the kind of fate I was facing, but the bath-hating Hatred-chan redeemed itself by grabbing me from my shirt’s hanging left sleeve and dragging me out of the way of the intensely pressurised, immensely hot pillar of water, turning the encounter between pet owner and human geyser into a deadly game of whack-a-dog. It was terrifying even for me, a person incapable of feeling terror. I don’t think I can look at a hot tub the same way again; it’s cold showers for Ishizue Arika from now on. If any of this sounds exhilarating, you should seriously seek help.

    The target practice ended favourably, as should be immediately obvious. With Plan A: “Shozai pulls his own damn weight” failing miserably, Plan B: ”Shozai puts his worthless life to good use as a distraction” automatically went into action. Evading the attention of the man, Mato-san snuck up on the blind spot of the danmaku for cornering a trapped dog, and aimed to incapacitate the Subject with a stun grenade.

    It seemed like a perfect throw, but I have no choice but to believe that it was actually a miscalculation. She had said so herself, and to cast doubt on that and think otherwise would inevitably paint an image of Touma Mato as a vindictive, sadistic person that prioritises personal satisfaction over duty, which clashes horribly with the rule-abiding consummate professional that I know her to be. Such is the case that I simply have to accept this as the truth, and put it down as such, without letting my own thoughts colour the account overmuch.

    The objective truth of the matter is that the flash grenade that should have detonated non-lethally in the near vicinity of the Subject, depriving him of his senses and creating an opportunity for incapacitation and arrest, was instead overthrown so that it came into contact with the affected area of the right arm, thus instantaneously skyrocketing in temperature, and exploding with such force that mangled his right arm in a manner that reminded me of the octopus-shaped sausages that my mother used to put in my bento. I remember this detail of my pre-Origa life simply because they were my favourites. Another thing I used to love is now ruined forever.

    Beyond that, simply the nature of the injury made me involuntarily wince, but having sustained such a wound his assault on me instantly ceased, and the Subject lay insensate and heavily bleeding on the small island in the middle of the onsen pool from which he was mounting his assault. Dr. Mato - and I must stress that she is a medical professional with years of practical experience - approached him, and after a rather brief cursory examination she determined that what this man was in dire need of was not gauzes or a tourniquet, but a mercy killing that would shorten the slow and painful experience of bleeding his way to an inescapable death. Having completed her diagnosis, she pulled out her Berettas, and bang! bang! bang! -- we’ve done all we could. Time of death: etc. etc. While I am skeptical about Dr. Mato’s methods, I’m not the one with the medical license, and as long as there’s a plausible explanation for everything, no one - not even the dead - can complain too much.

    After working around the black dog’s hydrophobia, the only thing left behind to mark the proceedings were some deep gouges in the structures of the inn and a pool of blood on the islet that Hatred-chan couldn’t reach to lap at. Mato-san set off to find the owner of the establishment to inform him that some cleanup on pool #2 was in order, as well the phone number which he should call to arrange for the repairs. Then we walked all the way back to the car which had been left a ways off from the district. When we reached it, Mato-san took a long look at the frozen-over road, got in the car, and tested the traction of the tires before getting out again, locking it, and turning back the way we came, instructing me to stay put where I was until she was back.

    That about covers our activities leading up to the present. What had happened on Mato-san’s end for the past 30 or so minutes can be briefly summed up as follows:

    Mato-san returned to the establishment where the fight had taken place. She was received as an unwelcome surprise, kind of like something that one had gone to great pains to get rid off only to find it at their doorstep again almost immediately afterwards. She put forth our current predicament and need for food and shelter. The answer was that there were no tire chains available, and that the district was closed for business, not to even mention the unfathomable hour. Mato-san then posited that the heroes that had saved the populace from a homicidal maniac’s rampage deserved at least a special accommodation, not to mention that said maniac could have used his power to detonate the water reserves feeding into the onsen of the district and turning the whole place into a failed business model. The riposte was that the homicidal maniac that happened to have wandered here wasn’t any of the proprietors’ concern, nor had they asked for our services against him, and that was without even getting into the fact that the people who had trespassed into his property and inflicted material damage on it were in no position to make demands. Mato-san commented to me that this argument was easily refutable on account of all the damage being paid for from the Investigative Bureau’s budget, but having at that point ran out of patience, a very hungry Touma Mato made it abundantly clear to the proprietor that she was an absolutely invincible authority not to be denied by anyone within the borders of the prefecture. This seems to have convinced the man to arrange a brief, exclusive reopening of his facilities. Sticking around long enough to see that preparations were indeed being made, Mato-san then returned to the car to retrieve her belongings (sic).


    All in all, the path that lies behind us has been retraced completely. I will endeavour to no longer think of the past, and simply anticipate the future which has been foretold.


    Still, the impression that places which were designed to host large groups of people give when they are completely devoid of them is remarkably akin to an alien landscape. Not too alien, like standing on the cloud layer of a gas giant, but something like the red mountains of Mars, familiar yet fundamentally different. It’s an absence of something essential, a concept I despise on principle, but on the other hand one is alone where he would never be alone, which is a marvel for a natural-born social outcast like myself. The two feelings balance out, and as I don’t dwell on my surroundings too deeply while following Mato-san, the onsen resort seems to have a traditional charm to it that is compounded by the loneliness of a winter night.

    Mato-san knows where we are going, so I just turn off my brain and follow her. Eventually she stops at a specific facade, out of which faint lights and the hurried sounds of preparation emanate. She pushes the door open without hesitation, a tiny bell announcing her entry. I linger at the doorstep for a moment before following her. The feeling of breaking and entering come unbidden, but we are practically guests of honour here, though we have essentially invited ourselves. Sorry for intruding, honestly!

    The interior is not sparse so much as cleared out, which in these circumstances makes sense. Regardless, the design is fairly utilitarian, though the unified aesthetic made apparent by its remaining furnishings suggests a hospitable space where one can relax and fill his stomach in peace. A few tables have been pushed to the side, chairs stacked upside down on the sides. The walls are a grainy hue of wood that probably matches them well. Hm, yeah, okay, this is a fine enough establishment. Vaguely familiar, too. It seems highly improbable for a young man struggling to make ends meet, who subsists on junk food and can only make it as far as the corner of his apartment block and the Café Marion before blowing his paycheck on a proper meal, but can it be that I have made my way out here before and eaten at this place during the day?

    That seems like something that I’d definitely note down, and the more I prod at this feeling, the more nagging my suspicion grows. If I lose my appetite because I started overthinking things I don’t even know whether I’ve forgotten, that would seriously make me cry. Forget that, that’s nothing! I don’t even remember the last time I ate!

    A base beast with base desires has no time for deep thoughts. I’m sure Mato-san agrees with me.

    Speaking of whom, she’s moving into a corridor that lies in the back of the room, which is actually the origin of the current illumination. She turns into the wall to the right and vanishes, so those must be private booths. Curious, I move to join her. Private booth, and this soft light… For an invasion in the middle of the night during the off-season, I honestly expected some sandwiches at best.

    The booth is fairly spacious. Inviting plush sofas are on either side of a large round table that takes up most of the room, and Mato-san has already made herself comfortable in one. There’s a couple of spots on the ceiling turned to half-light, plus a lamp nestled on a crook on the far wall.. But the most peculiar light is cast by…

    ….oh.

    I bring a hand to my face just to confirm. Yeah, I’m actually smiling.

    “Good grief, I’m embarrassed just being in the same room as you.”

    Mato-san flatly states her mortification and turns her head away from me to resolutely stare at the wall. Not a trace of such a cute emotion as embarrassment can be seen on her face.

    You will never understand, Tomato-san. Forcefully deprived of a job with an actual salary, Ishizue Arika has spent the past month pinching pennies harder than ever before. Ready-to-eat meals at a bargain or bumming off of Kirisu, neither taste nor pride were a factor anymore. I once reached the point of desperation where taking up Tsuranui on her offer to split a “Lovey-Dovey Couple Giga Omelet Rice” seemed like a viable option. And all that while being hauled to investigations lasting from morning to night every other day? Forgive me for feeling like my suffering has finally been miraculously rewarded.

    I school my expression back to neutral and speak with the most gravity that a person who has just actually cracked a wide smile over the prospect of food can muster.

    “Mato-san, just answer me this one thing. Is there any sort of catch to this?”

    Her glare is an encapsulation of supreme contempt. My back shivers involuntarily in response, the result of two and a half years of conditioning.

    “Shozai. Sit down and shut up.”

    I think I’ve just managed to break new ground in how low Touma Mato can possibly think of me. I’m actually genuinely happy right now, but she also seems genuinely angry, which is more than enough incentive for me to drop the act of the fool and slide onto the sofa opposite of her. It’s as comfortable as it looks.

    Hmm, I guess we really are having yakiniku at a little before 5 in the morning. The power that this lady commands is awe-inspiring indeed.

    I’d very much like to sing her praises right now but I’ve been given an order that I feel I can’t get away with disobeying. While I sit mute and perfectly obedient, Mato-san looks as if she is unusually preoccupied with something. I’m guessing it isn’t thoughts like ‘when will the meat arrive’ that inspire such complicated expressions, though either way I can do nothing but watch the dance of two perfectly sculpted line-thin eyebrows while her face shifted slightly from one facial expression to the next. Staring at her face might be a bit rude even though she doesn’t pay it any mind, but there’s little else for one to rest their gaze on during the wait. If I fix my eyes on the dimmed light spots or the faint glow burning under the steel griddle, I’ll fall asleep in no time at all.

    I am transfixed to the point that it takes me two full seconds to realise that she has spoken, and another two to parse the words.

    “Is this the natural colour... of my hair?”

    “Yes,” Mato-san nods. “The patient file at Origa did not include this information, and it’s a recorded phenomenon that hair can turn white almost overnight after immense psychological shock. I was wondering whether this was the case with you.”

    That’s a mixed personal-medical interest question, but I wonder what prompted Mato-san to ask this.

    “It’s always been white. Used to be made fun of for it - Kirisu and others called me “gramps”, among other things. But didn’t you have a clear look at it that night, Mato-san?”

    A perfect shrug.

    “I see. I didn’t pay much attention, but you were pretty much covered with blood anyway.”

    Ah. That’d probably make a stronger impression. Something that stays with you, just like the heroic image of a dashing Agent Touma barging into the scene of the crime with twin pistols drawn, or the nightmarish visage of Dr. Mato as she brandished a running chainsaw with bloodstains on her doctor’s robes. It makes me want to ask whether she remembers me back then as a brutalised victim lying limply on a blood-drenched bed, or holding a baseball bat just after I had tried to bash my sister’s skull in. But neither cut a flattering figure, so it’s better not to ask.

    No other overture to conversation is likely forthcoming any time soon. Thankfully, just as the intensely awkward silence between two people trapped in a small space with nothing to do and no will to talk settles in, an angel makes its appearance to dispel it.

    “...hey, do you need any help?”

    “How many times do I have to say this: I’ve got this.”

    A rather atypical angel in an all-black attire, including an apron tied backwards and impressive dark circles as the centerpiece of a tired-looking face, comes into the booth while balancing a truly huge covered rectangular tray over her head. The girl - altogether too petite to be called a woman - sways a bit precariously as she tries to maneuver the tray towards and onto the table. I try to hold it from one side to at least ease it on the surface, but the girl scowls at my proffered help and instead pulls the tray away from my hand, nearly dropping it in the process. Is she some kind of waitress here? Or just a kid that was woken up in the middle of the night to do the work of adults? Interrupting the precious sleep cycle of children, which is the cornerstone of proper growth, for something like work - society has clearly taken a wrong turn somewhere.

    Somehow she gets the tray to rest safely on the table with a thump rather than a clang. What the hell is actually loaded on that thing? I had been essentially watching a weight-lifting routine being performed by a little girl.

    “Er… ah, thank y—”

    “Are we done here?”

    The irate server interrupts me without even addressing me. Her eyes are fixed on Mato-san, who meets the challenging gaze with stunning indifference.

    “We will require refil—”

    “—then ring the bell.”

    “I see. That will be all, for now.”

    The girl couldn’t turn the corner soon enough, leaving me to throw a confused look at Mato-san. She’s leisurely taking off her coat, not even looking at me. Something felt off about that exchange, but then again, I’m about to have a very late dinner in a romantically lit private booth with my part-time slavedriver/full-time handler, which is a very convincing argument for taking things as they come without agonising too much about where they’ve come from, or where they’ll go from here.

    Coat now removed, Mato-san rolls up the sleeves of her dress shirt to the elbow, and I have the strange realisation that this is the first time I’ve her take off any article of clothing from her attire. Thinking back, she has always taken care so that her appearance fit the proper image of her profession, which of course translated into authority. Either with the white robe of the doctor or the formal wear of a bona-fide special agent, one knew with a single look that this person was a no-nonsense professional. Being privy to the sight of Mato-san letting her hair down - metaphorically, her actual hair was still gathered in a ponytail at the nape of her neck, with two long bangs framing her exotic-looking face on either side - is a strange feeling. Like I’ve obliviously wandered into a place where I shouldn’t be - which I do very often - seeing something I’m not supposed to see - which also happens in the sense that there are things I would rather have never laid eyes on - yet my presence there is tolerated as long as I do not acknowledge the fact that ‘I shouldn’t be here’.

    I think that translates in simple terms to “playing it cool”, and I’m by no means pretending that Mato-san’s company is unpleasant. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, though it may have been lost among her many descriptions as a monster, a killing machine, or some other avatar of destruction, but Touma Mato is objectively hot. The issue, if it can be called that, lies in that I’m one of Pavlov’s dogs that’s been trained to react to stimuli based around “the authority figure Touma Mato”. Come, sit, follow, roll over, play dead, I know all the moves by heart. But in a casual setting like this where she shrugs off her symbol of authority, all the patterns that have been carved into my subconscious are thrown out of the window - kind of. I’m not relearning human interaction from scratch, but it’s disorienting. Given that I deal with half of my life being wiped clear every day just fine, that much is really nothing to worry about.

    Ultimately, it’s not a problem, because I have no desire to change it. I made my choice to live the rest of my life easily and I intend to see it through for as long as I can. There is nothing inherently wrong with living vaguely, half-assedly. Knowing your own self is a bother - seeing half of myself as if it was a stranger’s life has helped me realise that knowing “all” of anything is simply too much, and what’s more, it’s completely unnecessary. If I can get by knowing only half of my own self, is there a reason why I should strive to learn all there is to know about someone else?

    That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Without acknowledging the answer that I already know, I will stop here. Deep thoughts sink fast in an empty stomach. Throw this Pavlov’s dog some meat to chew on instead.

    Mato-san duly obliges, uncapping the tray, and revealing something so ridiculous that I have to go over it again carefully just to be sure I’ve understood correctly.

    Let’s see. Beef, lots of it, intricately marbled, probably Japanese. I don’t know much about cuts, or expensive food for that matter, but it seems to my untrained eye that every way one could think of to slice up a cow is being represented on this platter. Thick and thin, boned and boneless, chunks and steaks, even slabs of meat that were merely cut down to a manageable size rather than a recognisable shape. And then there’s the liver, the heart, a skinned tongue, ears, as well as a pile of other, unrecognisable offal that must have been collectively designated as horumon. The only item on the tray that wasn’t a beef product were, bafflingly, a few cherry tomatoes set off to the side.

    All in all, there’s enough meat here to imagine that some kind of small-sized cattle - perhaps a calf - which had been slaughtered and taken apart, has found itself unexpectedly brought back together for the most part on our table, at least for a short while. Mato-san has already selected a few pieces and places them on the heated steel plate in the middle of the table, where they sizzle violently.

    In ancient times, the return of a triumphant hero was celebrated with the sacrifice of an animal and a subsequent feast. In a similar manner, a prized animal, like a beautiful bull or cow, was ritually slaughtered and then burned in a pyre to honour the gods, who would feast on the burning fat. A banquet to honour a hero and a sacrifice to appease a violent god - both fit Mato-san perfectly. Since I’ve been graciously invited to partake as well, I need only say my thanks to her and to the unlucky bovine, but I am at heart a responsible person, so I could not properly enjoy this meal of a lifetime without knowing at least this much.

    “Mato-san, will this delicious-looking meat turn to ash in my mouth as punishment for abusing taxpayer money?”

    “Mhm.”

    Please swallow first, you greedy carnivore.

    “Mm. You’re very straight-laced about things that don’t concern you, Shozai. If you put half as much care in your own affairs, you’d save me a lot of work.”

    The accusation pings off her harmlessly. Nom, another piece of meat disappears.

    “I’m only watching out for you, Mato-san. Important people are accused of corruption every day, and apparently it’s quite a sticky label even if it’s slander.”

    “Your concern is noted. But if you’re going to keep bothering me about it, you should know that I’ve had a budget authorised by the Bureau for these investigations. This was the last case, so I have no more use for it. Or are you saying this isn’t money well spent?”

    She doesn’t expect me to reply, and goes right back to eating. Well, not that I’m going to raise any further objections. It’s a certainty that the tyrannical Assistant Inspector had essentially authorised an allocation of spending money to herself, through procedures that properly turned embezzlement into bureaucracy. Questionable ethics, airtight legality, not my problem. I’m more peeved that while I was subsisting on the fast food equivalent of emergency rations, she was probably enjoying short rib sandwiches out in Tokyo Bay or something.

    There’s no way that she will leave anything for me now, either. I quickly load up my side of the griddle with whatever piece looks good; then I add a couple of tomatoes as an afterthought. While waiting for them to cook, I observe Mato-san work her way through preposterous amounts of beef without rest. There’s something both pleasing and intimidating in the way she eats. She doesn’t chop up her food into portions, preferring to chomp at the whole until nothing remains, yet this action is completed with such speed, precision, and perfect manners that you’d think she’s a machine designed by God for the maximum eating efficiency, and then let loose on Earth to devour everything that stands before it. Simply sublime.

    The matter of my own meal cooking diverts my attention from this microcosmic display of reckless consumption before long. Sure enough, I’ve never eaten beef of this quality in my life. I feel the emotional scars I’ve accumulated in the past month heal with every bite. And what makes these moments of sitting in this booth and stuffing my face with high-quality meat all the more precious is that it isn’t day yet.

    I, the chronic junk food consumer living in perennial financial duress, will never forget the memory of this feast for the rest of my life. Damn it, I think I actually just shed a tear.

    As if to drink to that, Mato-san reaches for the sake.


    *


    When Touma Mato drinks, she doesn’t get drunk per se. That is to say, she doesn’t exhibit a loss of inhibitions or an impairment of her mental faculties. Incredibly - impossibly - she becomes even more straightforward and brutally honest than her usual self.

    Sometime during the second round of eating, my stomach betrays me. Modest eating habits have decreased my capacity for food, and so I am forced to drop off early, cursing the cruel fate that has conspired to minimise my enjoyment of this unique occasion. Mato-san, wholly unfazed, keeps eating in a way that makes me wonder if she’s actually replenishing some sort of health or stamina bar instead of sating her hunger. A number of empty sake bottles are placed off to the side of the table, new ones being brought into the room by the haggard, glaring girl who was definitely losing precious sleep to the ringing of the summoning bell. I sympathise, but right now I am on the side of the strong, and that feeling overrides the compassion for my weakling brethren.

    So, while the demonic Tomato works her way towards an incredible feat, I start hitting the sake, which I don’t really favour, but at least it makes me feel less like a bystander at some competitive eating event - or rather, a World Record attempt. Working a pleasant buzz into this sore body is a nice bonus.

    At some point, Tomato-san takes an unexpected break from her eating. Claiming a bottle as her own, she keeps it close to her lips and takes frequent small sips of sake as if gathering strength and determination to continue her self-appointed task. Meanwhile I’m making a tentative enquiry to my stomach by nibbling on a thin strip of beef and trying to tease my appetite back into action.

    “Shozai. I am concerned for you.”

    Never mind then, that’s not happening. I put the half-eaten strip back on the flat metal surface and immediately reach for the sake.

    “These past few weeks have dashed beyond all doubt any hope that you can develop a sense of self-preservation. I’ve said before that it’s dangerous for you to simply live, but you’re actually so hopeless that I won’t even get any satisfaction from a weakling being crushed when you get killed. It’s amazing, really.”

    Forget the cup, just chug straight from the bottle. I’m not being told anything I don’t already know, but I don’t really trust myself to open my mouth for anything other than drinking right now.

    “It’s not only that you run straight into danger, you also attract it just as much. If it was up to me I would’ve kept you in Origa, but since that isn’t an option anymore, having this responsibility is that much more of a burden. That’s the worst thing with you social underdogs: you’re the ones that are supposed to wear the collars, but you become burdens for those that hold your chains.”

    Okay, this I actually can’t let go without an answer.

    “Mato-san, considering that you’ve been calling me a helpless weakling that’s one step away from death for years now, maybe the case is actually that someone as strong as you has a skewed perception of what it means to be weak.”

    To my surprise, she nods as though taking my words into consideration.

    “That is possible, yes. All the more reason why your own lack of self-preservation is a burden to others. I’ve told you: people like you who do not know themselves must strive through endless effort and mindless repetition to engrave this instinct of self-preservation that the mind cannot learn onto the body instead. That is the only way you can exist in society on your own.”

    Mato-san looks perturbed after speaking these words. As for me… well, I can’t very well tell her that the ingrained reactions cultivated through repeated conditioning that she describes are in the case of Ishizue Arika centered around the concept of obedience to the figure of authority called Touma Mato. No amount of alcohol is going to force these words out of me. Instead, I will play the familiar role of the fool. The clownish weakling to the abusive top dog. Two very distinct roles which force this relationship to familiar territories and conversations; familiar, and easier.

    “It’s alright, Mato-san. You’ll be returning this hopeless underdog to its previous owner very soon, chain and all.”

    I, the fool, speak words with no regard for their meaning. The look that she gives me in return is not part of Agent Mato’s cruel repertoire. How could it be? I have been talking to an image from the past, while looking at the real Touma Mato sitting opposite me in this booth.

    She doesn’t reply immediately, preferring instead to check her watch. I realise that I have absolutely no idea what time it is. It might be day and I wouldn’t even know.

    “Well, one of the thoughts I’ve had is, if you can’t be made to understand the value of your life in relation to yourself, maybe you could understand it through the value it has for other people. But if you only associate with devils in human form, gang members, and demon possessed, nobody decent is going to grab a hold of your chain.”

    So she says, pointing her chopsticks accusingly at me with a piece of sirloin skirt hanging between them.

    “Basically, Shozai, have you tried getting a girlfriend?”

    Touma Mato chomps down on the meat. I press the summoning bell under the table like my life depends on the sullen drink-bearer’s arrival; and that’s the theme for the rest of the private dinner. By the time Mato-san clears the tray of everything except the untouched tomatoes contemptuously pushed to a corner, I’m well and properly smashed.

    For someone that has just eaten a small cow on her own, she looks the part just about as much the black dog would. There’s always talk of people with unfair metabolisms, but this is moving straight into the sphere of the superhuman. If she was serious about it, I believe Mato-san could have given that compulsively eating demon possessed from a couple of years back a run for its money.

    Right now, she looks the closest to content that I’ve even seen her, leisurely nursing a final cup of sake, brought by the girl that had gradually lost even her will to glare at the special agent from Hell due to her tiredness. Mato-san told her that she should go and rest; after all, it’s already morning.

    I’m just about done myself. What preexisting tiredness had been temporarily chased away by the promise of food has long settled back in, now bolstered by reinforcements - the lethargy following a satisfying meal, and the influence of alcohol in my system.

    If I should guess, it must be between seven and eight in the morning. That’s as good a time as any for this private banquet to end. Or so I think, but I have no idea what Mato-san intends to do. Tonight has been just another piece of proof that this woman isn’t answerable to human limits, so I can’t discount the possibility that she can just walk back to her car and drive back to Shikura without any rest at all; I could pass out in the passenger seat. But then again she hasn’t shown any indication to leaving, and I don’t have a clue what arrangements she had made for rooms here, so I could also very well pass out right here, on this comfortable couch.

    My voice comes out mumbled, and it takes a few tries to speak clearly.

    “Wasn’t there something about… accommodations?”

    Out of the corner of my eye, I can see her stretched out on the couch with her back at the far wall. The ponytail has nearly come undone, spilling long tresses of hair on her shoulder. Damn, even through blurry drunken vision, she’s really beautiful.

    A ceramic bottle is raised to the lips from which a command is issued.

    “Don’t worry about it.”

    So I won’t.





    0.5/

    *

    I awake to a faint, unidentifiable sound, and familiarly unfamiliar ceiling

    That is to say that even though I know not where I am, I know that I’ve not known where I am while looking at this ceiling before.

    Having had bad experiences with both waking up abruptly to mysterious sounds and finding myself in familiar places that I don’t remember going to, my first instinct is to close my eyes again and go back to sleep. Not so much closing one’s eyes to reality, but placing yourself in the hands of the unknown. ’I don’t care anyhow, so don’t bother me.’

    As it happens, there are two things that stop me from doing so. One, my right arm is stretched over my head in a very awkward sleeping position. I try to move it, and find that its range of movement has been severely limited. Nothing myoskeletal, I’ve just been handcuffed to the bedhead.

    Now, a lucky schmuck with two arms can’t quite appreciate how discomforting it is to only have one, and to have even the use of that taken away from you. It really gives you a fresh taste of helplessness when you thought you’ve grown used to it all.

    Of course, one good thing is that I can at least move my body, unlike that other time. I confirm this by trying to move my legs - good, everything responds just as it should. It’s not my legs’ fault that they are currently being held down by some vice-like grip that neutralises all my attempts to lift them and pins them firmly to the bed. Most worrisome. That’s number two, right there.

    With some effort I lift my upper body so that I can take a look at what’s holding down the lower parts. There’s no blanket or sheet, so the only thing in the way is my own dim vision. The room is lit by a faint light of imperceptible origin to which my eyes haven’t fully acclimated, so it takes a while to focus. Good, no profuse bleeding as far as I can tell, which sets me a bit at rest. That dark shape though… I squint slightly, and--

    Then, feeling bleeds away from all my limbs, and the totality of Ishizue Arika becomes condensed in one intense point. The illusion of all the sensations of my body vanishing except for one place is a dreadfully familiar one, but where the left arm that isn’t a left arm thrums with the perverse pain of eating and being eaten, this feeling is like brand new nerves were being created in this instant just so that they could experience this sensation of stroking, moist pleasure.

    In the midst of the almost overwhelming rush of sensory information, I must admit that this is one of the better things that I have woken up to.

    Look, I’m a man. Just because I have one arm and some loose parts inside my head doesn’t change the base model’s natural features.

    Then, from the whirlpool of pleasure, a voice like a sharpened knife tears apart the reverie.

    “When I raided your house and broke down your door, the first thing that came to mind when I saw your sister eating you was actually this sort of thing. Funny, no?”

    Between my legs, Touma Mato holds my penis in one hand, the other brought to her chin in contemplation.

    Ah… my brain’s turned to ice. So that’s it. I will be mercifully slaughtered now. Ishizue Arika will get his last wish over and done with, and then move down the death row. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a bad way to go.

    My current feelings aren’t something that can be put into words, so I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind without even noticing.

    “Please don’t bring up my sister, Tomato-chan. It’s a total buzzkill. I don’t want to be thinking about her right now.”

    Eek, now I’ve done it. Not only have I acknowledged this mix of dream and nightmare as something that’s actually happening, but I also babbled without thinking the one adorable nickname that will turn this pleasant execution into a grisly murder scene. Even now, I am my own worst enemy.

    Right on cue, a vice-like grip tightens, making me whimper like a beaten dog. I’m half-expecting the sensation of a gun’s cold barrel pressing against me. This Level 100 sadist has me at her complete mercy, so getting my dick shot off might be a mercy compared to what a mad doctor who once tried to operate on a flu patient could do. The image of a tomato being crushed by an iron fist flashes in my mind, and my stomach almost does a backflip.

    But miraculously, the grip relaxes, and my executioner shakes her head and sighs.

    “This is what I mean when I say you have no sense of self-preservation, you idiot. But still, that’s not one of your worst qualities.”

    Having said that, she once again takes gentle hold of my penis, and like so much meat, takes it in her mouth.

    OKAY. Okay. It seems I’ve avoided certain death for now, but the sensation of the cool and abrasive Mato-san’s warm and inviting mouth and the image of her bobbing her head up and down while she alternates between taking me in and coating me with her saliva is threatening to erase any other thought from even attempting to form in my head, so I frantically rifle through my shot memory for some logical explanations to this highly illogical situation.

    Hmmm, ah, I see. Really? It’s that well-trodden, commonplace scenario of eating and drinking too much and fooling around afterwards? That seems too banal, and more than that, completely out of character for the sophisticated Mato-san. I can’t speak for myself as I’m clearly capable of things - mostly stupid - that I had thought to be impossible, but the iron lady of Shikura has no place in these pedestrian, everyday plots. I can only picture her having a drink at the high-rise bar of a hotel, and then checking into a room so classy I’d feel ashamed to step on the carpet. The only problem with this hypothetical scenario is that there’s no way in hell I could somehow partake in a date like that, but then again, if you’d asked me yesterday, or the day before that, or literally at any point in time but now, I’d have said the same thing about the possibility of Mato-san handcuffing me to a bed and giving me a blowjob.

    Life is stranger than fiction. And I can say that literally, because when I imagine such a scene while in a daydreaming (read: frisky) mood back in my apartment, I envision something entirely more violent. Mato-san’s ministrations are firm but tender, to the point where I’m mixing the signals with the idealised version of her that’s beating me up and calling me a glorified sex toy. Of course, this feels way too good, so the imaginary version is blown away like smoke with a deeper bob of the head and a tongue that swirls around the base of my dick - a stark reminder that I’ve spent the past few minutes of having sex with Mato-san by critically analysing the background setting and narrative of this arrangement. Seriously, brain, fuck off.

    I turn my focus solely on Mato-san. Her hair isn’t tied in her usual business-like ponytail, instead cascading down the sides of her sculpted cheeks and past her shoulders, giving her a totally different, more sensual look. Since her eyes still hold the same unwavering and direct gaze, which she directs to me every now and then as though to see my reactions, the contrast between that softness and the ever-present dangerous glint in her eye is a massive turn-on. I wish my arm wasn’t restrained so I could place it on her head.

    With a plop, she takes me out of her mouth leaving a connecting trail of saliva between her lips and the shaft, which she turns into lubrication to work me with her hand instead, making eye contact while doing so.

    “Too gentle? You’re a masochist through and through, Shozai.”

    A dangerous smile. She knows me too well - obviously, since it’s because of her training that I turned out like that. Manicured nails are added into the mix, and the alternation of kneading and scraping has my legs stretched taut and sends the chain of the handcuffs rattling. Then, a carnivore’s teeth start nibbling at me, starting at the top and progressing lower and lower, until the sensation of an actual half-bite sends an urgent message of pain, pleasure, and worry piercing through the haze of instinct. Pardon me, I simply must voice my concern.

    “I’d appreciate if you didn’t bite that off. It would make my life very difficult.”

    “Then get a new one. Plastic surgery aside, maybe that kid can help. Who knows, he might have more than four limbs that he give out to people.”

    The image of the doll-like Kaie making a sinister come-hither face is annihilated without a trace of mercy.

    At the same time, the unrelenting assault on my penis brings me all the way into Mato-san’s mouth as she places her hands on my inner thighs and takes me to the hilt, and with a deep grunt I come right down her throat.

    Did I manage to purge the demon brat’s face from my mind in time? I will endeavour not to think on this too deeply.

    Mato-san brings a hand to her mouth, and tilts her head back slightly. I see her throat move in a swallowing movement, and suddenly the full realisation of the preceding act sets in, along with an intense awkwardness. She turns to me and I fumble mentally, searching for something to say and coming up only with nonsense. Why is Mato-san having her way with me? If I ask something like that, the nature of an impossible situation will be acknowledged and it will end right there. I don’t want that, so I keep my mouth shut and leave myself at the mercy of Touma Mato - at least that’s a familiar situation I’m at ease with.

    I trust Mato-san to restore my karmic balance. Instead, she starts to unbutton her shirt. However much I wish to burn this into my memory, a rational part of me hopes it’s day right now, because there’s no way I’ll be able to interact with her from now on if I remember any of this.

    Black underwear and a supermodel’s body. Mato-san’s beauty, which would be apparent even if she was dressed in a baggy tracksuit, is in full display as she undresses in front of my eyes. Unfortunately her movements are swift and efficient as always, so it doesn’t quite cut it as a sensuous sight, but for me who has only seen her in severe business suits it’s a true wonder, and the way that her now-unbound hair sways when she moves captivates me. I want to tell her she’s beautiful but I’m too embarrassed, never mind that I’m still chained to a bed with my penis proudly saluting her. Also, she’d kill me.

    Having removed the last of her clothing, Mato-san straightens her back and looms imperiously over me. Balanced figure, toned limbs, taut stomach with a fairly defined outline of her abdominal muscles, firm breasts of medium size - probably a comfortable handful, not that I can confirm - smooth skin all over but for a dark, trimmed coppice down south. An athletic build, though not nearly athletic enough to explain some of her more superhuman feats, lean but with softness in the right places. Wearing no uniform and bearing no badge, she stands there solely as a woman, and easily knocks all competition out of the park, as usual. I’m probably blushing. I dearly hope the light is low enough to hide it.

    Bearing an indecipherable expression despite the fact that she’s naked and was wringing me dry just a few moments ago, Mato-san climbs onto the bed, and without a shred of romanticism she grabs hold of my penis with her long fingers to keep it steady, positions herself, and heave-ho! - lowers herself on it.

    It’s like when the black dog awakens, only many times more intense, and infinitely more pleasant. All my senses have fixated on the same point, all of myself is concentrated in a single place. In this moment, I exist only through the sensation of being inside Mato-san. Warmth from all sides, pressure and friction in equal measures. My body which I no longer control jerks with a suddenness that makes the wood I’m bound to creak. My captor examines the chain binding me critically.

    “Being low maintenance is one of your good points, Shozai. You complain a lot but require half of what a regular person does, so I only needed one pair of handcuffs.”

    Praising my deprived lifestyle and physical impairment, she starts moving her hips. I can’t seem to find any fitting words at the moment, so let’s just say that it feels pretty damn good. Her breasts sway to the movement, and she flips the hair that falls on them over her shoulder, then brings up one hand to tuck an errant strand behind her ear. Her other hand is pressed against my stomach for balance, legs folded to the sides. It’s all very erotic and unfathomable, and I try to take it in stride and move my hips a bit to match her rhythm. My legs aren’t tied but I’m having some trouble with motor functions, so my thrusts barely lift from the bed, but at least I’m not being useless.

    Mato-san’s expression doesn’t let much show. She’s closed her eyes without stopping her movement, but with no outward display of emotion I don’t know if she’s enjoying this or is just thinking about something right now. A thought emerges - and not just from the part of me that’s a trained lapdog - that I would hate to be disappointing her.

    “Mato-san.”

    Unconsciously, I call out to her. Her eyes snap open, and hard eyes regard me with no particular alteration, as if this was just another everyday situation. I know she doesn’t emote that vibrantly, but still, that kinda hurts.

    “I just remembered. I have been given a message to relay to you.”

    “...can it wait?”

    “It’s from your sister.”

    “I don’t want to hear it.”

    Seriously, is she trying to kill my mood on purpose? Talking about that monster and maintaining an erection are directly opposed tasks.

    “She came for me last week, looking for a ‘rematch’. As expected, she’s become an exceptional monster, so it was very close. In the end I had to drop her in a vat of molten steel to put her down.”

    Bracing herself on my propped-up legs and leaning her body back, she gives a suspiciously familiar account.

    “Anyway, the message was: “I’ll come for you after I beat this old lady, my stupid brother.”

    I’m not exactly surprised. It’s not the first time that my unhinged little sister has expressed her intent to see me again. It’s more annoying that she’s managing to ruin my sex life too.

    “Then I’ll be counting on you not to lose, Mato-san.”

    “That’s the point, you moron. You can’t keep relying on me forever, because I won’t be around for that long, and it’s not my responsibility to keep you alive. It’s natural behaviour for your kind, but do you realise what a bother it is for you to saddle me with that?”

    Agitated for entirely the wrong reasons, she picks up the pace and intensity, putting her hands on either side of my head to lean forward. This way her face is closer to mine. Her hair brushes against my cheeks. It’s almost as if we’re lovers.

    She is, of course, completely right. One need not to look further than yesterday for a corroboration of that fact. And as the special investigation on demon possessed has finally concluded, it’s only a matter of time before Touma Mato climbs the next step of the bureaucratic ladder, to a fatter salary, more authority to bully underlings with, and an office with her name on the door - a careerist’s dream. That pretty much means I’ll finally see the end of this three-year long enslavement, but losing the ability to call upon a force of crisis resolution through irresistible violence removes the safety net from all my possession-related activities. Or if I fall in the clutches of the Nanase group, my best hope is Tsuranui paying my ransom. Horrible, just shoot me instead.

    “Is this what you meant by “getting a girlfriend”, Mato-san? I’ll have to keep getting in dangerous situations to earn Kaie’s paychecks, and there’s no way I can find someone to help me out like you do.”

    Quite certainly she is one of a kind. If there was another like her, they would hate each other with such intensity that entire city blocks would be destroyed every time they met.

    She’s the greatest. I try to convey my appreciation of her by putting more effort in my movements, and I’m rewarded with a break in her composure when her mouth rounds briefly, a hitched breath escaping, in response to a powerful thrust.

    “Ngh. Not exactly. It’s a bother if all the work that went into making you an acceptable member of society goes to waste, but you’re content with being a bottom-feeder. Since you get more motivated for the sake of others than yourself, someone that cares for you and your self-improvement would make you care for these things too.”

    I recall something that Kaie had once told me. “Living easily” and “enjoying life” are different things. By thinking that “things are fine as they are right now” and not moving on, you are deluding yourself into thinking that stagnation is comfort.

    In my case, it’s not that I’m still clinging to the wish of living the easy life; I have accepted that from the moment I stepped into that underground moonlit room, nothing would be easy. What I have yet to accept, and what I deny by casting myself as a weakling to be used by others despite his will, is that if there is such a thing as an easy life, I wouldn’t want to live it.

    “Or, you can wallow in being human garbage. Once you’re not my problem, do whatever you want.”

    Usually her insults are a delicacy, but being dismissed like that while my penis is slickly sheathed inside her just rubs me the wrong way, and also lights a fire of motivation in me. Our rhythm has so far been dominated by her own movements, so I give all I’ve got into frantically pushing up and against her. The bed we’re on probably wasn’t made with this activity in mind, and it creaks out its protest. Eventually, my hips win out, and Mato-san becomes the one who passively holds her body in place as my dick forcefully pistons in and out of her.

    She can’t help but to show that she’s feeling it now. Her lips are parted, smooth cheeks flushed, and her almond-shaped eyes are scrunched up tight. Either by the force of my hips as they slap onto hers or in trying to find better balance, her body is almost pressed flush against mine. Her face is closer than ever, close enough that I can smell the fragrance of shampoo from her curtaining hair and feel the hotness of her breath as it leaves her mouth in sharp, near-silent gasps. She’s so close that if I lift my head a bit, I could kiss her. It takes all of myself not to.

    By the time a pressure builds up inside me, my thrusts have become desperate. My bound arm must be terribly bruised by now. Release in sight, I channel all my remaining energy into burying myself deeper and deeper. Mato-san shudders and braces herself with both hands on my chest. Then, the barely-held back torrent inside me is released. I close my eyes, and for a moment all I can feel is the entirety of Ishizue Arika exiting his body in spasmodic, forceful spurts.

    Afterwards, I’m numb all over. Feeling is returning to my limbs, released from the singular task it had been enlisted to, and the feedback I’m getting is that I’m utterly dog-tired. I hear shuffling, then a faint click, and my captive arm is suddenly free to fall onto the bed. Predictably, it throbs with muted pain.

    I crack my eyes open. Mato-san is sitting on the edge of the bed with her back to me, putting her clothes back on. I check my own body and yep, sure enough, trails of semen have spattered onto my stomach and stained the bed sheets. She’d pulled herself off before I came.

    Tilting my head back and to the side, I take a look at the bedhead to which I was tied. It’s a design with a number of vertical joists set lengthways, and the wood has been marked all over by the metal cuffs, scratched and even etched into in some places. Strangely, not just the beam to which I was anchored, but others too. The gears in my head fall in place, and I turn back to Mato-san, who has already put her pants back on and is now fastening the clasp of her brassiere.

    “How many times have we come here?”

    “In this room, a couple.” Mato-san replies without looking at me. “In the district, fairly often, usually for lunch during day-long jobs. You’re useless if you starve so there’s no other choice, but I won’t have you develop the habit of expecting to be fed. That’s where your condition is convenient. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

    I see. So while I was whining about being forced to survive on an empty wallet, Mato-san had been taking care of me. While Ishizue Arika was bemoaning his maltreatment, Touma Mato was trying to teach him how to live when she’s no longer there.

    Since I came to terms with the abnormality of my memory, I’ve felt nothing for the things that I forget when half of my life is erased the moment the sun sets. As far as I’m concerned, my tangible life merely happens to have half the length compared to everyone else. But right now, for the first time, the knowledge that I will soon forget the kindness of Mato-san’s true intentions fills me with deep and bitter regret.

    “Get some sleep. I’ll come back later.”

    Fully dressed, jacket included, she takes one last look at my pathetic form, turns her back, and walks to the door. My heart nearly leaps out of my chest to go with her, and words that I’ve promised myself I’d never speak well up in my throat, but I force them back down. For me, the world will turn back twelve hours soon, slate wiped clean, words dissolving in the air, actions made meaningless. But what I tell her, she will not forget. It won’t be conveniently forgotten as if it never existed, but instead become a burden that will weigh on her even after we go our separate ways. I’m fine with whatever happens to me, but I will never be fine with that.

    A conviction means nothing if it doesn’t remain in the heart. But since I reach the same conclusion every time, I can at least uphold this one.





    1/
    (2006, End of January)

    *

    With an exertion of supreme effort, eyes squeezed tightly and muscles clenched from collarbone to neck, I force the mouthful of convenience store-bought 150Ľ tuna sandwich that I’ve been chewing for the past half minute in futile hope of it miraculously turning into something palatable down my throat one uncomfortable inch after another. The bread tastes of preservatives, the fish and mayonnaise have combined into a cold paste of slimy texture, and it’s even soggier and saltier than any low-quality, soon-to-expire bargain meal for the broke and homeless has any right to be. Or maybe that’s just my own tears serving as seasoning.

    Kaie grins at me with undisguised mirth, as if it isn’t because he refused my plea to pay me in advance for the month that I’m forced to subsist off this crap. No, rather because it is. Damn rich brat, this is why you don’t have any friends.

    And to think that I looked back fondly on my luxurious dinner not so long ago. Now the memory of that small taste of the high life only amplifies my misery as I stave off starvation day after day until my benefactor deigns to throw a paycheck my way. Not that my plight would move him: Kaie’s distaste for paying in advance is dwarfed by the amusement he derives from my suffering. To him Ishizue Arika is his main source of enjoyment, a private caretaker, agent, manservant, and jester rolled into one dysfunctional, slightly crumpled package. Should he find a novel way to screw me over he will milk it for all the laughs it’s worth. Oh in the end he’ll pay, but by then I’ll be feeling used in a quite uncomfortable way.

    And before you start, I have some standards, alright?

    “Something wrong with the sandwich, Arika? I’ve seen you eat that many times before,” a voice cloying with false concern nearly teases the cud back up and out. I resolutely push it down and refuse to rise to the bait. Just wait until you get thirsty, brat. You’re going to parch.

    “I just feel bad that I didn’t bring you something to eat as well. Want me to go grab something from Nebula?” And mooch half of it on the way back, of course.

    Kaie shakes his head and pats the slender appendage lying on his lap.

    “Don’t worry, you’ve fed me plenty. Although even something that fresh still tastes a bit like food left overnight on the countertop. I’d like you to try eating the affliction while it’s still active next time. Plus all that lead, eugh.”

    He makes a face to illustrate his dislike of that condiment and I can only nod uncomfortably. I never needed to know the particulars of a demon’s eating preferences but I’m curious despite myself.

    “You mean Agonists have flavours?”

    “Sure they do. This one tasted smoky, with undertones of regret.”

    Kaie licks his paper-thin lips, all too reminiscent of a snake flicking its tongue, and the gnawing of my hunger instantly evaporates.

    “About that, I’ve been meaning to ask…” I begin hesitantly. “The arm is an extension of yourself, right? I mean, metaphysically. But lately it’s been more… animated.“ I pause, waving my hand still holding a half-eaten sandwich as I search for the right words. “It manifests for longer than usual, it interacts with things unrelated to A-syndrome, like it’s... becoming its own being.”

    Kaie cocks his doll-like head to the side and blinks owlishly. “Well, it is my arm. As a demon controller you can achieve an emotional connection and transmute it into a tangible form, and it’s certainly true that it is a manifested demon’s nature to imitate life, but to me it is emotion as a component of the self - a part of me that will always return to me, no matter our separation.”

    The demon in human form smiles beatifically.

    As long as I have hatred within me, that is.”

    “Aha. I see. Gotcha.”

    Uh-oh, unfortunate implications are rearing their head. If ever I needed a reminder that every time the sable appendage slots neatly over the phantom image of my left arm I connect with Karyou Kaie on an intimate emotional level. As always, I regret asking him about these things.

    “You know Arika, I really like you, so I’d much rather give you Delight. How attached would you say you are to your other arm?”

    And as always, he picks up on my discomfort with glee. I’m so desperate for a distraction that I stuff the rest of the abominable sandwich in my mouth, chewing with as much deliberation as it takes to avoid answering. Kaie pouts at me ruining his fun. I pointedly ignore him. He’s adorable, but I think I’ll run away soon. In the meantime I decide that I’m going to start saving money just to go back and finish the job at that restaurant. This time, it’ll be a proper, unrestrained feast--!

    Or so I’d like, but financial matters aside I think I might not be welcome there, if the looks that server girl was giving me when I left the last time were anything to go by. She looked tired to the point that she struggled to stay standing, but when I asked her if she had gotten any sleep she turned to me in anger, face red and hands clenched at her sides, and shouted at the top of her lungs:

    “AS IF I COULD HAVE SLEPT THROUGH THAT!”

    Much as I ruminate with each thoughtful chew, I’ve no idea, really.

    A few awkward minutes later, Kaie stops me as I’m making my escape halfway up the stairs with unexpected news.

    “I did take down his message, but Arika, you realise I’m not your secretary.”

    “Well, sorry, but I don’t know who would call here asking for me either. I dunno how many people know about this place, but it’s not like I advertise where I work.”

    Kaie gives a little shrug. “Okay, as long as you still remember how this relationship works.”

    Don’t call it a relationship, dammit.


    *


    After Origa’s destruction caused by a certain demon-possessed’s rampage, Japan faced a serious problem regarding the hospitalisation - to be precise, the imprisonment - of A-syndrome carriers. There just weren’t any places that could guarantee the secure containment of especially severe cases which also maintained the politically correct facade of rehabilitation institutes. Each Prefecture redirected the patients that could still pass for humans to its own hospitals, but a great debate arose on whether it’s viable, or even morally required to treat the truly unsalvageable cases of Agonist Disorder as people with a chance of recovery - especially in light of the Origa Incident. In other words, if it wouldn’t be better just to get rid of them.

    Personally, I think it’s important to realise when something causes more trouble than what it’s worth. Not that it matters to me at all.

    At any rate. As it happens, Prefecture C faced less difficulty in these new conditions, as it only had to revert to the preexisting system which had only fallen out of use when Origa rose to prominence as the premier facility on Agonist Disorder in the nation. Kinui General Hospital opened its gates to welcome those special patients after almost ten years. And soon enough, those patients didn’t want to leave. Now I might have picked up a strong aversion to hospitals, but I understand their feelings well. After all, the director of this one is like a Buddha reaching a saving hand down to these abandoned wretches. The person that I’m about to meet is the reason I’m able to walk a free man right now.

    “Hey Doc. It’s been a while.”

    “It really has, Arika-kun. I’m glad to see you well.”

    Dr. Roman shakes my hand warmly. He’s the kind of person that makes you wholeheartedly believe that he means what he says. It’s no wonder he was the guardian angel for every lost soul at Origa. Even though I haven’t seen him since I was discharged, I easily slip into the same familiarity as back then.

    “Yeah, this and that happened, but I’m definitely in a better spot than I ever expected.” You wouldn’t hear me admit this to anyone else, as it’s far better to give both other people and yourself the impression that you’re dissatisfied with your lot in life, but doctor-patient confidentiality is at work once again and my honest feelings come out unfiltered.

    He smiles as kindly as always and places a fatherly hand on my shoulder as we walk to the café adjacent to the hospital’s entrance. Everyone from patrons to servers and baristas greet him as we pass on our way to a table. This is true charisma at work.

    “I wanted to check on you for a long time but things have been very hectic in the hospital, so I couldn’t quite find the opportunity,” he begins after we are seated. “As you know, A-syndrome patients require special handling, and it takes time to create the right conditions for treatment, but it’s worth all the time and effort to be able to give them back some hope for the future.”

    There he goes saying the same romantic things that both endeared him to people and made them feel embarrassed at how optimistic this man can get. It’s true, though. If people like Dr. Kinui didn’t exist, the lives of those patients would end the moment they were taken into custody, and successful rehabilitation wouldn’t be thought of as possible. I’m an example of that, if not quite the same. I tell him as much and he nods earnestly.

    “You weren’t a carrier in the classic sense, but you weren’t unaffected either. Your and other patients’ reintegration into society was vitally important in order to show the public that Agonist Disorder is treatable, and more than that worth treating. And you’ve done very well indeed, Arika-kun.”

    I never so much as thought of another person back when I was discharged, but I can see what he means, put into perspective. I certainly benefitted in this way so that other people after me could one day too. I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of pioneer or altruist, but one way or another that’s score one for the good guys. Sort of.

    “Can’t really claim all that much credit for that, Doc. I had all the help I could need, and I needed a lot.”

    The next hour is spent pleasantly catching up on life outside the pristine prison of Origa. I talk about such quaint matters as reuniting with schoolmates, picking up old hobbies again, and generally becoming an upstanding member of society, while carefully omitting unpleasant topics such as consorting with serial killers and performing exorcisms as a side job. I’m not sure how much he knows about Kaie, considering he’s partly responsible for our acquaintance - and he even has his number - but these just aren’t proper things to talk about over a friendly coffee.

    There’s also another topic that I’ve been avoiding, one which is inevitable to be breached.

    “We’ll be seeing each other a lot more from now on, Arika-kun. With Doctor Touma reassigned, I’ll be your new supervisor - although we’ll only be meeting once every week now.”

    “Huh, that’s great Doc,” I mumble behind my mug. Kinui picks up on my half-heartedness with all the experience of a seasoned talking therapist and immediately zeroes in on the cause with the instincts of a hopeless romantic.

    “You know Arika-kun, just because people move a couple of Prefectures away doesn’t mean you can’t give them a call every once in a while. Human relations don’t operate based on necessity alone.”

    The glint in his eye foretells one of his infamous sessions of relationship advice, which rather served to confuse the socially maladjusted outcasts who most often were their recipients back in Origa. Me, I’m just trying to drown myself in a cup of coffee. He’s not going to let me off so easily though, so I try feeding him a bit of my patented whining.

    “I think I’d rather try to live my life without any tyrannical influences, thank you very much. This “freedom of choice” thing feels rather nice.” Never mind that a certain someone has me by the balls, however much I try to convince myself that I’m taking advantage of a little kid with too much money and too few limbs to use it with.

    “Ha ha, in a way the city is breathing easier now without Doctor Touma. I’ve heard a rumour that the Nanase group cracked open entire crates of alcohol to celebrate her departure. But overbearing though she can sometimes be, trust me when I say that she genuinely cared about you getting back on your feet and over your rough patches in life.”

    I give a scoff of doubt at his assessment. “Not that I don’t trust your insight, Doc, but she never missed a chance to tell me that people who rely on others because of their own weakness are the pond scum of society.”

    And it’s better that way. It’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative - than being pitied by her. I hate the idea of that so much that I’m surprised by the depth of this emotion, to the point that the doctor’s next words startle me out of my thoughts.

    “Do you really think you’re weak?”

    With a rare gravity in his voice, Kinui leans forward from his seat and stares at me intensely.

    “Even more so, do you think Doctor Touma would have bothered with you for years if that were the case?”

    Confronted so directly, I don’t know what to say. I simply stare back at him until he eases up a bit and leans back, though not losing his serious tone.

    “Arika-kun, your biggest problem has always been that you’re not honest with yourself. You sell yourself short and expect the worst, and you think you’ve deceived everyone when it doesn’t happen. I don’t know what made you treat yourself this way, but you should realise that the good things that happen to you are not coincidence or the work of others. It’s because you caused them to happen.”

    I’m… shocked. Not just because he had read me so perfectly all along, but because I’ve never had anyone say these things to me. Sitting there wide-eyed and rooted to my chair, I seriously feel like a little kid being scolded and encouraged at the same time. This level of psychological unravelling wasn’t what I had expected at all; and Kinui continues his lecture relentlessly.

    “I don’t make a habit of telling people how to live their lives, but you’re the kind of person that needs to be confronted with it all like this. It’s painful to watch you cripple yourself when you’re made of so much sterner stuff. Few people could have gotten through the things you have. At least be proud of yourself for that, just as other people are proud of you. I know that Doctor Touma is.”

    “That’s…”

    ‘That’s what I’ve always wanted’, is what I want to say, but I don’t need to. Just the fact that I’ve acknowledged this truth is enough. Just the knowledge that I’ve repaid even a fraction of my gratitude to that person I owe so much is what I’ve sought. If Ishizue Arika was not a burden to Touma Mato, then this second life of his has been worth living.

    Come to think of it, Doc had said such a thing before, long ago: that I need to give everything to find that one person that needs me, and to give it all for them again. Of course, me being an idiot, I stuck to the one person that doesn't need anyone else. And that’s good enough for me.

    I’m more misty-eyed than I care to admit when I meet his gaze.

    “That’s the sappiest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve had Tsuranui describe her ideal wedding to me.”

    Dr. Roman finds this so hilarious it takes a full minute for him to settle down.

    “Well, I’ve done my part as your doctor and supervisor. The rest is up to you. Here’s my number to keep in touch, in case you need some more love consultation. Don’t be a stranger.”

    “I get it, I get it, sheesh.” However cathartic this has been I’m not in any hurry for the next heart-to-heart. I pull out the bright orange cell phone to register his number, which Doc takes a rather curious look at that makes me feel strangely defensive.

    “What? It’s a practical colour, easy to find if you’ve lost it.”

    “No, I mean, it’s charming in a way, but not really what I imagined you having. A gift?”

    “Kind of. How’d you figure?”

    “Oh, no reason. I’m glad, though. You’re surprisingly popular.”

    Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?



    Even as Doctor Kinui laughs at some joke I only know I’m the butt of, my mind is half elsewhere. I feel a lightness in my heart that refuses to be repressed even by my habitual pessimism, and it almost makes me giddy. Privately, tentatively, I chance a promise to myself.

    The next time I meet her, it’ll be as equals.

    So to speak. She’ll still beat me up and drag me behind her, but at least I’ll try to put up a fight.


    /Ep.in lost dream.end
    Last edited by Leftovers; November 29th, 2018 at 11:23 PM.
    Fanfiction, on occasion.

    The Blue-Blooded League
    When the Queen's away, the pawns will play. A Lord El-Melloi II Case File.

    /Ep.in lost dream.
    Decoration Disorder Disconnection. Ishizue Arika and Mato Touma. An episode from a hypothetical future.

    Pseudepigrapha
    Snapshots from the world on the eve of the Third Crusade. A Tuitio Mysterii et Obsequium Reliquiarium prequel.

  2. #2
    Hair of the Dog Five_X's Avatar
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    You know this and I know this, but I truly delight in your writing, Left! And just recently I've been thinking about giving this a re-read so I could properly comment.

    It feels very DDD, and yet not, its own fixture. It's long but quick, a story that delivers a lot and by cutting so close to the original makes me long for more DDD, even if I might as well then start hoping the moon will drop out of the sky. You write an equally great Arika and Tomato-san, their characterisation solidly spot-on, and the ostensible payoff of the story - considering its origins - done believably through and through. Really, your style is wonderful, and I'm glad I made my awful, awful prompts what they were because I half-hoped something like this would happen. I suppose that means I should thank Kirby as well for running his contests in the first place!

    Good work editing it all, as well. As much as I passionately dedicate myself to my writing, editing is the one thing that makes me fall asleep, and my quality suffers for it. Though with this, now, I'm inspired for the coming contest to try harder! This is a really great, enjoyable story, Left, and you deserve all the praise not only for finishing it (mostly!) on time as you did, but for making something as simply good as this is. More, more!
    The Manhattan Project: Is it a sin to kill for your country? In an age of nationalism, where do you draw the line between right and wrong? In the 1960s, eight people seek peace amidst war and tragedy.

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  3. #3
    We-e-ell, what I mean by "edited" is that I edited the part that was posted for the contest months ago, churned out the rest in a few heavily caffeinated hours tonight, and then edited that a hundred times after posting it to fix all the embarrassing mistakes. That is also why this would benefit from a round of polish later on but I just wanted to get it done and put it out there. And since it was your prompt to begin with, I'm especially glad you enjoyed it.
    Last edited by Leftovers; November 12th, 2017 at 11:49 PM.
    Fanfiction, on occasion.

    The Blue-Blooded League
    When the Queen's away, the pawns will play. A Lord El-Melloi II Case File.

    /Ep.in lost dream.
    Decoration Disorder Disconnection. Ishizue Arika and Mato Touma. An episode from a hypothetical future.

    Pseudepigrapha
    Snapshots from the world on the eve of the Third Crusade. A Tuitio Mysterii et Obsequium Reliquiarium prequel.

  4. #4
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I'm reminded all over again about why I voted this my #1 fic from the contest.

    In fact, I'll repent a little and read DDD, just for you.
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  5. #5
    Soon, there will be dozens of us.
    Fanfiction, on occasion.

    The Blue-Blooded League
    When the Queen's away, the pawns will play. A Lord El-Melloi II Case File.

    /Ep.in lost dream.
    Decoration Disorder Disconnection. Ishizue Arika and Mato Touma. An episode from a hypothetical future.

    Pseudepigrapha
    Snapshots from the world on the eve of the Third Crusade. A Tuitio Mysterii et Obsequium Reliquiarium prequel.

  6. #6
    Bitchin' Arashi_Leonhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftovers View Post
    at some point in this fic people bump uglies.
    aww yeee--

    And if that isn't enough to discourage you, it's also about DDD.

  7. #7
    Hair of the Dog Five_X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftovers View Post
    We-e-ell, what I mean by "edited" is that I edited the part that was posted for the contest months ago, churned out the rest in a few heavily caffeinated hours tonight, and then edited that a hundred times after posting it to fix all the embarrassing mistakes. That is also why this would benefit from a round of polish later on but I just wanted to get it done and put it out there. And since it was your prompt to begin with, I'm especially glad you enjoyed it.
    So dedicated, he even edits his post about his edits.
    The Manhattan Project: Is it a sin to kill for your country? In an age of nationalism, where do you draw the line between right and wrong? In the 1960s, eight people seek peace amidst war and tragedy.

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

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