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Sanahtlig's novella in progress (Memory's Wounds)

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Ch 1 synopsis: Eight years after a tragic accident claimed the lives of his father and beloved sister, Brian and his mother Clare struggle to cope with the rift their lost loved ones have left behind, as well as the growing rift between each other.

A tale of memories that brings time to a standstill.  One who traverses the world of memories, lost in the past.  One who willfully forgets, frozen in the present.  Both helplessly fleeing a reality that brings them only pain.

Ch 2: With Brian away at school, Clare is overcome with loneliness.  She starts dating again, and when Brian comes home one year later he finds the person who for so long had been his and his alone is doting on someone else.  Brian's interests evolve, and he becomes engrossed in eroge.  He initially plays the games seeking escape and release, but becomes disgusted with his own fetishes, warped by his life experiences.  He meets a middle school girl that reminds him of Kana, and despicable feelings well up in him.  This girl promises both salvation and damnation.

Time heals some wounds and causes others to widen and fester.  Thus begins the tale of their wounds.  Brian's. Clare's.  And those of a middle school girl with whose fate the two of them are inextricably entwined.

Document on Google Drive (most updated version, contains all the posts below with better formatting)

Feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Edited by sanahtlig

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(Continued from another thread; see Google doc for previous content)

 

***

 

After dinner Brian went up to his room.  He glanced at his alarm clock.  7pm.  His teaching aide assignment started tomorrow afterschool at 3pm.  They gave plenty of time to sleep in--and plenty of time to game now.

 

He booted up his PC and started up Yosuga no Sora.  He noticed when he retrieved the game DVD that the DVD cases in the box seemed to have been rummaged through, as if someone had unpacked them and then hurriedly thrown them back in.  He frowned.  He'd caught his mother trying to unpack the box earlier.  Had she come back to the scene of the crime while he was in the shower?

 

He considered confronting her about it, but decided against it.  She was being nosy, but as long as she didn't bother him about it he'd let it slide.  A "normal" going through the box might leap to any number of absurd conclusions, but if she was rummaging through his stuff behind his back that wasn't his fault.  He planned to order more games at some point, so he'd warn her later not to go through his mail.

 

He played through the game from the start, having downloaded a 100% save to unlock Sora's path from the start.  He hated when games had an enforced route order.  Especially games like this where the heroine's route was THE reason for playing the game.  I mean, really, who would play Yosuga no Sora for any route other than the twincest route?  The game was unremarkable in every way except for the captivating art and the complex push-pull relationship between Haruka and Sora.

 

Ah, the bittersweet relationship between Haruka and Sora.  As he played, he found himself drawn viscerally into their drama.  As Sora finally pushed Haruka down and made him take her, he felt Haruka's grief and pleasure as he took his twin sister's virginity, experiencing the guilt and ecstasy of their corruption.  Brian couldn't help but participate himself.

 

When he was finished, he closed the game and glanced at the clock.  3am.  It was time for bed.

 

As he nodded off to sleep, he wondered what life would be like if Kana was around.  Would he have feelings for her like that?  He wouldn't...right?  With that uneasy thought, his consciousness drifted off.

 

***

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***

 

Brian stood before the school he'd graduated 5 years ago.  The memories it brought back weren't exactly pleasant.  As long as he could remember he'd been the smart yet aloof type that seemed to annoy everyone around him.  He just wanted to attend class and be left alone, but for some reason that never worked out, especially in middle school.  He was picked on incessantly, though the encounters never turned violent.  Was it because he used big words that no one except the teachers understood?  Was it because he actually did all the reading assignments and knew the answer to every question?  Or was it because he'd offer a dissenting opinion whenever he saw a one-sided explanation?  He liked school; he just didn't like the people that attended it.

 

But today was different.  Today he was a visiting scholar.  The students would bow to his superior knowledge and life experience and he would impart to them the wisdom gained from 5 years of post middle school education and cognitive development.  Or he'd just do whatever the teacher told him to.  He wasn't even sure what he'd end up doing.

 

He found the assigned room and stepped inside.  It was a fairly typical classroom with around 30 desks.  Students slowly filtered into the room as he greeted the teacher, Mrs. Weinstein.  She explained that the purpose of the classroom was for students that were behind to catch up on their homework under supervision.  It was basically an afterschool study hall.  If the students had questions they could ask the teacher.  And since he was here, him.  This particular classroom was for eighth grade students, who would (hopefully) be going on to high school next year.

 

"Honestly I don't think you'll have much to do.  The students that work, work, and the ones that don't, don't.  I hardly ever get any questions.  I'm mostly here just to make sure they're not disrupting others or playing with their phones."

 

Great.  So he volunteered for a position that didn't need to be filled.  He heaved an internal sigh.  Well, as his mother had said, this was a good way to land a paid position in the summer school program.  And he could use the extra money.

 

The bell rang, signaling the start of class.  About half the seats were filled.

 

Mrs. Weinstein stood up from her seat.  "This is Brian McGuire.  He'll be serving as teaching assistant starting today.  Feel free to ask him questions as you would me."  He bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment.  The students remained silent.  The teacher gave him a funny look and sat down again.  Did he do something wrong?

 

He surveyed the classroom.  As Mrs. Weinstein had said, a few of the students quietly did their work and the rest had their head down on their desk or stared vacantly in an arbitrary direction. 

 

His eyes settled on a girl sitting in the far rear left of the classroom, all by herself.  The other students formed clusters here and there, but there was a wide berth around her.  She was average height for her age, slender, with flowing black hair bundled lazily into a ponytail.  She stared boredly out the window, humming a tune softly to herself.  He found his gaze naturally drawn to her.

 

"Who's the girl in the rear left corner?"

 

"That's Sena.  She's here every day, that girl.  She never does any of her work.  She's probably going to end up repeating the year at this rate."

 

"I'm going to talk to her."

 

The teacher shrugged indifferently, as if to say, "Suit yourself."

 

He walked up to her desk.  The humming stopped.  Time seemed to slow.  She slowly turned her head to look up at him.  He found himself fascinated by the motion.  Her deep green eyes, the color of jade, stared into his.  A faint scent of lilac tickled his nose.  She was pretty.  The thought came to him unbidden.  He froze for a moment, captivated by those eyes which seemed to trace over him curiously, as if measuring him.

 

As he broke out of the trance time seemed to resume its normal pace.  He felt curious stares around him, as if he had broken some sort of unwritten rule, like the invisible "Keep out" signs around her.

 

Despite the stares, he felt calm and in control in a situation that would normally fluster him, as if a fog had lifted from his mind and all his senses were focused on this moment.

 

"What are you up to?"

 

"Nothing really."  Her fingers fiddled with her ponytail.

 

"Hmm."  Brian carefully considered his words.  "Do you have any homework today?"

 

"Yeah, I guess."  Her feet kicked back and forth under her desk idly.  She didn't move to take her homework out.

 

"Could you show it to me?"

 

She shrugged, but this time complied.  She opened her bookbag and took out a bulging folder.  From the folder she took out a math worksheet and passed it to him.

 

Brian scanned over it.  "Why don't you want do finish it?"

 

"Because it's boring."

 

"Oh...?"  Brian thought of a strategy.  "How about I cut you a deal?"

 

The girl looked up at him quizzically.  "A deal?"

 

"Yeah."  He circled the last 3 problems.  "Answer these three correctly, and I'll do the rest of the page for you.  Pretty good deal, don't you think?"

 

The girl eyed him suspiciously.  "And if I make a mistake?"

 

"Then I'll show you what you did wrong, and you'll have to do the rest of the page yourself.  Think of it as a challenge, a test of mettle.  If you get these problems correct, you graduate from this boring stuff."

 

Well, there was a catch he wasn't letting on.  This worksheet had one of those ramping difficulty designs.  The last three problems were the hardest and required patterns rehearsed in the earlier problems.  If she could solve these problems, then that meant she could likely also solve all the other problems.

 

She seemed to consider the offer.  "And what if I decline this challenge?" she asked, as if to test him.

 

"Then you forfeit the chance to have me do all your other homework too.  And you'd have to live with the disgrace of defeat at my hands."  He folded his arms smugly, as if showing off.

 

"Hmph."  She grinned in response.  "Very well, Mr. McVillain.  I'll have you eat those words."  She began working on the worksheet intently.

 

He walked around the room, observing the other students.  They gave him bored looks, some rolling their eyes.  Others simply looked away.  Apparently she was the only one inspired.  The teacher looked at him and gave him an amused shrug.

 

After a short pause, he walked back over to Sena's desk and looked over shoulder.  She'd finished two problems and was absently tapping her foot against a desk leg as she puzzled over the last problem.  She seemed stuck.

 

"Need help?"

 

She glared at him.  "No."  She rummaged through her backpack and got out a math textbook and looked through the pages.  Eventually she found what she was looking for and solved the problem.

 

"Done."  She handed the worksheet to him.

 

"Are you sure?  With math, it's best to check your work before handing it in since it's easy to make mistakes."

 

"Mhm.  These problems aren't that hard," she boasted.

 

"Hmm.  Well, we'll find out."  Brian took the worksheet and quickly solved the problems.  He handed the page back to her.

 

"Well?"

 

Brian smiled wryly.  He circled the second problem.  "You forgot to carry the negative sign here."

 

"Geh."  She pouted.  It was cute.

 

"As a consolation prize, give me the rest of your homework and I'll take a look at it while you finish this."

 

She nodded and handed over her other assignments, then resumed her math homework.

 

1hr later, her homework was all finished.  He ended up doing about half of it, as per their terms.  This homework was probably harder than the tests.  If she did this well on homework, she'd probably get A's on the tests even without studying.

 

She looked up at the clock.  "Aw.  It's all finished.  Now there's nothing to do until the bus comes."  She swung her legs idly in her seat, looking outside.

 

Brian beckoned the teacher out into the hall.  "She can do the work.  I'm sure she can do well on the tests too.  If she keeps doing her homework, she'll pass right?"

 

Mrs. Weinstein shook her head.  "Sena has been failing her classes all year.  Even if she gets her act together now, it's probably too late.  I'm almost certain she'll be held back."

 

"But that's..."  Brian's frustrated words trailed off.

 

"That's how school works.  That's how the world works, Mr. McGuire.  There's no shortcuts to success."

 

It was Brian's turn to pout.

 

The teacher sighed.  "Look, I can talk to her other teachers and maybe work something out.  We don't like to have students repeat but sometimes there's no other option."  She gave Brian an odd look.  "Why do you care so much anyway?  She's just one more student in a room full of students in a school full of rooms."

 

Brian avoided her gaze.  "She reminds me of my sister.  That's all."

 

Mrs. Weinsteins' eyes showed pity.  That really aggravated him, but he said nothing.

 

A head popped out of the doorway, startling them.  "I finished with my work so I'm going to walk around, ok?"  It was Sena.

 

Brian stared at her, frozen in surprise.  Mrs. Weinstein replied.  "Go ahead."  She shook her head and heaved a sigh of exasperation.

 

Sena highstepped aimlessly down the hall, humming.  Then she turned around and smiled impishly.  "See you tomorrow, Mr. McVillain.  Say hi to your sister for me!"  Then she turned a corner and disappeared.

 

"Looks like you have your work cut out for you, Mr. McVillain."  The teacher snickered then returned to the classroom.

 

"Sena...huh..."

 

Maybe this job wouldn't be so bad after all.

 

***

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Chapter 3: Magnetism

 

Forces govern our world.

Opposites attract.

Likes repel.

Objects fall.

Bring two poles close by chance,

and the gap will close of its own accord.

This is Physics.

This is Fate.

 

A single droplet can create ripples that resonate through a stagnant pond.

And thus a chance encounter sends ripples through streams of consciousness.

 

***

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***

 

The next day, he talked to Mrs. Weinstein before class.

 

"Will Sena be able to avoid repeating the year?"

 

"I talked to the other teachers.  We agreed that if she can make-up a selection of homework from throughout the year, as well as complete all her current assignments and pass all the tests she's failed, then we'd allow her to pass--on the condition that she completes summer school.  This gives her a chance to overcome her situation without letting her off the hook and setting a bad example for others."

 

Brian considered the news.  "That sounds fair," he agreed.

 

Mrs. Weinstein narrowed her eyes.  "I won't allow you to do all her homework for her.  This is a trial SHE has to overcome."

 

"That's just a motivational tool," he countered sheepishly.  "I had to start somewhere."

 

"As long as you understand.  Come on, the bell is about to ring."

 

Sena was waiting for him at her desk.  She already had all her homework laid out.

 

"Change of plans today.  Today's challenge is closed-book.  Once I select the problems, you can't use your notes or books to look up the answers."

 

"Huh?  That's no fair!  That's cheating!"  She sulked prettily.

 

"I don't recall promising that yesterday's rules would apply today.  Consider it a test."

 

"Hmm..."  She seemed to consider.  "Fine.  Give me a few minutes to go over the problems and skim through my notes and such."

 

"Sure."  He'd said "test", but homework was homework.  Even if he didn't give her time to look at the problems, she just could just do so before she came and he wouldn't know the difference.  At least this method would ensure she knew most of the material and not just answers to the particular problems he selected.

 

"Alright, I'm ready."  She gave him the first unanswered problem set.

 

That was quick.  "Are you sure?  You failed half the challenges yesterday even with your notes."

 

"Hmph.  I paid attention in class today.  I anticipated your treachery and came prepared."  She stuck out her tongue at him.

 

"Treachery...?"  Brian let out an exaggerated sigh.  Actually, this was good.  She seemed to really be getting into this.  He continued without a pause.  "Very well, then you leave me no choice.  I will feast on your tears."  He circled six problems, three he considered the hardest, and three arbitrarily selected.

 

"Six?!  That's against the rules!"  She stood and pointed at him accusingly in dramatic fashion.

 

"Hmph.  Didn't I tell you before?  Yesterday's rules are today's confetti.  Your conceit will be your undoing!"

 

He heard the screech of the teacher's chair.  "Mr. McGuire.  Can the two of you step outside for a moment?"

 

Oh crap.  Looked like he'd gotten a little too into it.

 

Mrs. Weinstein gazed at him sternly with her arms folded.  "While I appreciate that you're getting Sena to actually do her work, you're disrupting the rest of the class.  Please continue this somewhere else.  There should be empty classrooms you can use."

 

"Yes, ma'am.  Sorry for the disturbance."  He bowed his head sheepishly.

 

Sena pointed and laughed.  "You got kicked out!"

 

"Guh."  He glared at her.  She darted back into the room to grab her things.

 

They found a nearby classroom and sat down.  Sena quickly finished the problems and moved onto studying for the next assignment while he checked it.  This was actually pretty efficient.

 

"Hmm.  These all look right.  Good job."

 

She beamed at him.  "I'm ready for the next challenge."

 

Brian circled some more problems and she started work on the next set.  He was still working on the first sheet when she finished.  He checked it over.  "Hmm, these are all right too."

 

15 minutes later, Brian had a stack of homework in front of him.  "Ugh."  She'd gotten the problems right on every assignment.  All her homework was now his.  "I feel like I'm in 8th grade again."

 

"Hmph.  Serves you right for underestimating me."  She gazed at him triumphantly.

 

He quietly worked on the problem sets.  After five minutes...

 

"Hey."

 

"What?"  He looked up.

 

"I'm bored."  She had that same expression she'd had when he first saw her yesterday.

 

"What do you want me to do about it?"

 

"You're supposed to entertain me!"  She looked at him accusingly.

 

"I'm doing your homework!"

 

"You can do my homework at home on your own time.  Right now, your job as my slave is to entertain me."

 

"I don't recall agreeing to be your slave!"  He rubbed his temples.

 

She giggled.  He looked at her profile.  Sunlight from the window cascaded on her, shining off her hair.  Her hair seemed glossier today.

 

She grinned.  "What's your favorite hairstyle?"

 

"Hmm?  It depends on the person, I guess."

 

"Me then.  What style do you think would look best on me?"  She gazed at him eagerly.

 

"Hmm.  Straight down I guess?  With long bangs on the front."

 

"Alright."  She retrieved a kit from her bookbag.  She undid her hair band and spread her hair out behind her.  She threaded strands in the front into beads to form bangs.  "What do you think?"  She posed for him by the window.

 

He blinked.  Accenting a simple white dress, her long streaming black hair formed a silhouette against the sun shining behind her.  Her bangs framed her mischievously smiling face.  It was fascinating.  He couldn't help staring.

 

She giggled.  "So?"

 

"It looks nice."  He scratched his head, looking away embarrassed.

 

"Hey, so what do you do for fun?"  She looked at him curiously.

 

"Games and anime mostly."  He responded while idly working on the problems.

 

"Anime?  What's that?"

 

"Cartoons from Japan...would be the standard answer.  But that's a bit misleading.  Anime spans many genres and audiences, from children's shows to late night shows with violence and mature themes.  It's not like here.  You'd probably be most familiar with shows like Pokemon and Sailor Moon."

 

"Yeah, I liked Sailor Moon, though it was kind of silly.  So there's more shows like that?  I don't see many shows like that on TV."

 

"There's only a few anime that show on the standard TV channels here.  Most of it you can only watch online."

 

"Oh, really?"

 

"Yeah.  Also, what they show on TV is always English dubbed.  I hate dubs.  I always watch with the original Japanese voices and English subtitles."

 

"Subtitles?  Is it better like that?"

 

"Oh, definitely.  Voice acting is really big in Japan.  They put more effort into it, so of course it's better.  Plus they even censor shows on TV.  The Sailor Moon series you watched was almost certainly the censored version.

 

"Wait, really?"

 

"Yeah.  The original Sailor Moon series had lesbian relationships."

 

"No way!"

 

"Yep."

 

They spent the remaining time talking about anime.  Sena listened attentively as he touched on topics including moe culture, the various anime genres, and where to find anime online.

 

Sena's brows furrowed.  "Aw, but I don't have a PC.  I just have a smart phone."  She showed it to him.

 

"Yeah, watching anime on this wouldn't work very well."

 

"I'll ask mother for a PC then."

 

"Ha, good luck with that."  He finally finished all the homework.  It took a lot longer since he was doing it while talking.  The buses would be leaving soon.

 

"See you tomorrow!"  Sena waved, then ran off to catch the bus.

 

***

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***

 

"Hey Brian, look at this!  They gave me 5x the homework today!  Isn't that unfair?"

 

Sena ran up to him as he entered the classroom the next day.  The day of reckoning had come.  Brian braced himself for the trials ahead.  He looked at Mrs. Weinstein.  "Is it all right if we work on this privately again?  That's an awful lot of work."

 

"Just make sure she does it.  And I mean all of it.  I won't tolerate any of it being in your handwriting this time, Mr. McGuire."

 

"Yes ma'am."  Brian nodded solemnly.

 

They returned to the classroom they'd used the day before.  Brian looked at her grimly.  "You heard her.  You're going to have to do this work yourself.  I'll help of course if you have questions."

 

Sena laid her head on the desk, her arms outstretched in front of her.  "There's no way I can do all this!  It's 5x the work!  5x!  This is cruel and unusual punishment!"  Her voice was muffled between her arms and the desk.

 

"Sena."  She looked up.  "I really want you to pass.  This is the bargain we made with your teachers.  Don't you want to graduate with everyone else?"

 

She put her head down again.  "I don't really care about graduating."

 

"Come on.  Don't say that."

 

"This will take all day to get done!"

 

"With how fast you are, you could probably finish a usual day's work in 1hr.  So this will take you about 5hrs.  That still leaves some time."

 

"It's impossible."

 

Brian sighed.  "What would it take to get you to do this?"

 

Sena thought for a moment.  She turned and looked at him with a glint in her eyes.  "You have to let me come over and watch anime this weekend."

 

Brian blinked.  He hadn't been expecting that.  "I guess I can try and arrange that with my mother, if you can get your family's ok."  He didn't really mind, as long as it wouldn't cause trouble or misunderstandings.  And this was an awful lot of work.  He felt sorry for her.

 

"It's a promise then."

 

Brian sighed.

 

They spent the remainder of the time in silence as Sena worked through the pile of homework.  She got through about half before leaving to catch the bus.

 

***

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***

 

Clare greeted Brian when he got home.

 

"Hey mom.  There's something I want to talk to you about.  Will you be home this weekend?  I wanted to have a friend over."

 

Clare gave him a wary look.  "I was planning to be home most of the weekend.  Did you want me here or not here?"  He was at that age where maybe it wasn't cool to have his mom around, she thought wryly.

 

"I need you here.  She's a girl."

 

Clare looked at him in shock.  "Sure.  I'll make sure to be around.  Just let me know when she's coming."  She couldn't believe he was already bringing over a girl after just 3 days of being back at home.  She was pretty sure she hadn't seen him leave the house except to go to his volunteer job.  Maybe it was someone he already knew?

 

Around 7pm, the phone rang.  "Hello, this is the McGuire residence, Clare speaking."

 

"Is this Mrs. McGuire?  Mother of Brian McGuire?"  The voice was prim and clipped.

 

"Yes, that's me."

 

"I'm indebted to your son for taking care of my selfish daughter.  I trust he's spoken to you about having my daughter over this weekend?"

 

"Yes, he has.  I can host them Sunday afternoon.  Would around 1 be ok?  Maybe until 5?"

 

"That is acceptable.  I look forward to continued results."  She hung up.

 

Continued results?  A steady session perhaps?  But Brian was out of school.  Maybe she was a high school student then?

 

Clare found herself eager to meet this mystery girl.  Brian had never brought a girl over before.  She went over preparations in her mind as she continued cleaning.

 

***

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***

 

Sena's workload was only about 3x usual on Thursday.  On Friday she only had her usual load.  When asked, she said she was finishing most of it during class.  Concerned Sena wasn't honestly doing the work, Brian talked to Mrs. Weinstein in the hall after school Friday.

 

Mrs. Weinstein had nothing but good things to say.  "She's been a completely different person these past two days.  I'm not sure how you did it, but she's been handing in all her work on time.  She spends her entire day hard at work on those homework packets.  I was worried she wasn't paying attention during class, but she replies correctly when called upon.  She also doesn't disrupt class anymore, and she got a perfect score on one of her tests today.  It's like night and day.  Keep up the good work."

 

He returned to their usual classroom where Sena remained, still working on her homework.

 

"I told you I was doing it."  She pouted.

 

"Sorry, I was just surprised at how well you're coping with the load.  You've really impressed Mrs. Weinstein."

 

"It's mostly work from earlier in the year.  I already had tests over this stuff, so it's just a matter of filling the answers in.  I don't usually have to look anything up.  And a lot of it is just the same stuff over and over anyway.  It's boring, which is why I never did it before."

 

Brian was beginning to realize that Sena was really smart.  If she applied herself, she'd probably be a straight A student.

 

"Done."  She leaned back and stretched.

 

Brian took the worksheet and scanned over it.  The answers looked correct.

 

"Hey Brian, did you know?  If I get an A on my next test I can get that new PC!  Then I can watch anime!"  Her eyes twinkled.

 

"Oh?  Then you won't need to come over to my place."

 

Sena frowned.  "You promised!"  She looked ready to spring at him with the fury of a wounded tiger.

 

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding.  Calm down.  Besides, our parents already arranged it.  But if you have a PC you won't need to come over to watch next time, right?"

 

"I mostly just wanted to hang out with you, since I'm always stuck doing homework here..."

 

She looked very lonely.  Brian couldn't resist patting her head affectionately.  She looked up in surprise.  The scent of lilac tickled his nose.

 

"All right, all right.  We'll meet up on weekends.  Hanging out with you is fun, anyway.  Well, watching you do homework isn't much fun, but that can't be helped."

 

Sena smiled happily, then looked out the window absentmindedly, as if in thought.  Then she grabbed her backpack.  "I'll be back in a few minutes, ok?"  Then she ran out into the hallway.

 

After she came back, they talked about anime they'd watch on Sunday until the buses came.  As Brian was leaving, he passed by Mrs. Weinstein in the hall.

 

"What's gotten into that girl, I wonder,"  Mrs. Weinsteinn mused.  "Earlier Sena came running in asking for more work over the weekend.  Was that your doing?"

 

"No, I didn't say anything.  I guess she wanted some of the work out of the way so she wouldn't have to bring home as much during the week?"

 

"I suppose that makes sense."

 

***

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***

 

"I'll be back in a few hours.  Leftovers from dinner are in the fridge.  Make sure you take a break and eat them.  Love you!"  She gave Brian a hug and left.

 

It was Saturday evening and his mother had just left the house all dressed up.  What was the guy's name?  He didn't remember.  He didn't care.  He heard her car creep down the driveway and drive off, leaving him behind.  Alone.  He was always alone, always had been alone, but this time he felt alone.

 

As he climbed the stairs to his room, he thought of the bored girl sitting by herself at the far left corner of the classroom, gazing off in the distance, swinging her legs, humming softly to herself, the scent of lilac about her.  He wondered what Sena was doing at that moment.  He remembered the lavendar-cased smart phone she'd shown him.  He never did get her number.  He could look up her number and call her home phone, but what would he say?  "Hi, this is Brian, Sena's tutor from school.  I'm feeling down.  Could I speak to your daughter?"  Come to think of it, he didn't know anything about her home situation.  She didn't know anything about him either.  She was just that lonely girl that reminded him of his sister who he couldn't leave alone.

 

Brian sighed and flopped onto his bed.  He didn't feel like playing any games tonight.

 

***

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***

 

Brian woke the next day around 12.  Recalling that Sena was coming over in an hour, he pulled himself out of bed and set about getting ready and cleaning up his room.  He thought about what anime they should watch.  Should he pick shows he thought she would like?  A sample of many different genres?  Maybe he should focus on one show?  So many shows, so little time.  He couldn't decide at all.

 

***

 

The knock sounded precisely at 1.  Clare opened the door.

 

A young girl who could have passed for 12 or 13 stood there, her long black hair swaying in the breeze.  She was wearing a lavendar top and a short purple skirt, and was carrying a backpack in her arms.

 

"Hi.  I'm here to see Brian."  The girl glanced at Clare then twisted and bent to the side, trying to look past Clare.  Clare heard Brian come down the stairs behind her.  The girl's face lit into a smile when she saw him.  She waved.

 

Clare stared at the girl, forgetting her greeting.  "I need to talk to Brian for a second.  I'll be right back."  She turned to Brian and whispered.  "I'm glad you're beginning to show an interest in girls, but don't you think she's a little...below your strike zone?"

 

"Huh?"  Brian replied incredulously.  He glared back indignantly, continuing a bit too loudly.  "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom.  As it turns out I am in fact not a pedophile.  Didn't we go over this before?  I have no interest in 3D girls."

 

The girl looked at the two of them and burst into giggles as she took off her shoes and began to wander the house.

 

"Look, this is a girl I tutor at school.  I told her she could come over this weekend."

 

"Oh.  So she's just here to study?"

 

"No, we were planning to just hang out and have fun."

 

Clare gave him a doubtful look.  "You're going to hang out in your room?"

 

"That was the plan."

 

"Just the two of you?"

 

"Is there a problem with that?"

 

"No, I suppose not."  Clare decided not to press the issue.  She eyed the backpack near the girl's shoes.  "What's the backpack for?" she asked Sena, who was now wandering the kitchen curiously.

 

"I brought it because I told my mother I was here to study."  She smiled innocently.

 

Clare eyed Brian sternly.

 

"What do you want from me?  I didn't tell her to say that," he countered defensively.

 

"Why don't you two actually study?"  Clare proposed.

 

The girl shook her head.  "I already finished all my work.  And Brian said I could come over and watch anime if I finished all my work."

 

Clare sighed.  It didn't seem like Brian had any ill intentions.  But this girl...Sena was another story.  The way she looked at Brian made her uneasy.  Like a little girl fawning on her older brother.  Or a guy she liked.

 

But pushing this any further would just cause needless strife.  She decided to trust Brian.  She couldn't treat him like a child forever.

 

"Alright, fine," she said, relenting. "I'll be down here if you need me."  The two of them went up to Brian's room and disappeared.

 

***

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***

 

"You don't like 3D girls?"

 

Sena's question caught him by surprise as he turned on the TV and switched it to desktop mode. 

 

"Real dating isn't like you see in games and anime.  It's full of strife and treachery.  Arguments and being forced to do things you don't want do do.  Girls who tell you they love you and then cheat behind your back.  50% of marriages, so-called "love for life", end in divorce.  The reality fails to live up to the ideal."

 

"You've dated other girls before?"

 

"Well no.  But I hear about it from others."

 

"Hmm.  Maybe you just haven't found the right girl?"

 

"There is no such thing.  The concept of 'one true love' itself is an ideal from fiction.  Studies show that simple proximity is the major predictor of relationship initiation and success.  Most relationships can be easily destroyed simply by separating the parties geographically--so-called long distance relationships rarely ever work.  Real 'love' is weak and brittle."

 

"That's kind of sad," said Sena in a subdued, far-off voice.  "Do you like 2D girls?  Anime girls?"

 

"Yes!  2D is perfection!  2D is whatever you want it to be!  Any ideal can be realized.  It all depends on the skill of the creator.  Everything 3D can do, 2D can do better."

 

"But isn't that lonely?"

 

Sena lied on his bed on her side, gazing at him, her hair draped about her.  Her eyes seemed to bore into his soul.

 

"Mm.  Yeah, I guess."  He turned away, unable to bear that gaze.  He crouched and reached to fish the remote out from behind the TV.

 

He heard steps behind him.  Then a soft weight pressed against his back, arms reaching around his chest.

 

"It's not good to be lonely."  Hair tickled his face.  The scent of lilac.

 

Brian felt his face flush.  Bare arms clung to him.  It was such an innocent gesture, yet...

 

The arms released him.  He turned his head.  An angelic face framed by black hair gazed down at him.  "One person is alone.  Two people are together."  She smiled back at him.

 

Brian grabbed the remote, trying to hide his embarassment.  "So what type of anime do you want to watch?"

 

Sena thought for a moment.  "How about ones with cute girls?  The kind of girls you like."

 

"Hmm."  Brian browsed through his anime DVD collection as Sena watched in interest.

 

One cover caught her eye.  "How about this one?"  2 cute faces ringed a third girl standing naked, a vacant look in her eyes.  The title read "Elfen Lied."

 

"I'm...not sure you'd like that one."

 

Sena turned the cover over and looked at the images.  "Wow, that girl has blood on her face!  But the girls in that picture are so cute!"  She exclaimed excitedly.

 

"This one is for mature audiences.  See?"  He pointed at the rating.

 

"But this one says 14."

 

"Wait, let me see that."  Brian squinted at it.  It read "Canadian Home Video Rating: 14A".

 

"This is why we should've invaded Canada."

 

"These girls are cute, aren't they?"

 

"Well...yeah.  It is kind of a selling point of the show."

 

"I want to watch this one."  Sena smiled at him eagerly.

 

"Alright, don't say I didn't warn you."

 

***

 

Clare finished preparing lunch and loaded a serving tray.  As she walked up the stairs, she heard swelling music from behind Brian's door and a high pitched scream.

 

She opened the door.  A naked cartoon girl that looked to be about 11-years-old was being torn limb from limb.  Blood spattered over the ground beside her.

 

"Brian, what in the world are you showing her?!"  She stared at the screen in amazement.  Sena was watching the screen with wide eyed curiousity.

 

Brian clicked his tongue and paused the show.  "It's rated for 14 and up.  See?"  He sheepishly pointed at the Canadian rating.

 

"How is nudity and torture suitable for a 14-year-old girl?"

 

"Actually, the full list of unsuitable topics includes megalomania, misogyny, murder, infanticide, genocide, public urination, and pedophilia.  Also incest but it's only cousins.  This show represents the most extreme graphic content ever to issue forth from Japan short of actual porn.  And that's what makes it awesome."

 

"But it has cute girls!" Sena added helpfully.

 

"How am I supposed to explain this to her mom?"

 

Brian stood and faced Clare.  "The world is a cruel place.  It's best to prepare our children for it from a young age.  I would probably use the rating defense personally."  Brian paused.  "In any case, she's already been exposed and there's no turning back now.  The show is hopelessly addicting and she'd go find a way to watch it on her own even if we stopped now.  It's simply too late for her now."  Sena nodded in affirmation.

 

Clare held her head.  "Just don't tell your mother you saw this here."

 

Sena nodded.

 

***

 

Sena ended up begging her mother to let her stay til 7pm to finish the show.  Of course, they actually told her they were busy studying for tomorrow's test and couldn't be interrupted.  Sena was entranced by the show from start to finish.  The notion that anime was for children had been thoroughly cleansed from her mind.

"Keikaku doori."  Brian pushed his glasses up sinisterly.

 

He glanced at his cell phone as Sena's car sped away.  His first text message from Sena read "<3".  He smiled.

 

***

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***

 

Sena and Brian met in their usual vacant classroom Monday afterschool.

 

"I finished all my homework!"  She beamed.

 

"Really?"

 

"Mhm.  I took the makeup work from this week home and finished most of it on Saturday.  I'll finish the rest of it in class the day before each assignment is due.  Now we can talk the whole time!"

 

Brian laughed.  "What am I even here for if you can do all the work yourself?"

 

"You're not going to leave are you?"  Sena asked anxiously.

 

"Nah.  I still have to pretend I'm doing work, after all."  He leaned against the blackboard.

 

"What'll you do when school ends in June?"  Sena asked, sitting on a desk swinging her legs.

 

"I'm hoping I can get a paid position as a summer school teaching aide."

 

Sena's eyes lighted up.  "That'd be cool if you could teach for my class!  Since I'll be stuck here anyway."

 

Brian laughed.  They continued chatting until the buses came.

 

***

 

The week passed.  During the week they chatted about the staples of romantic comedy anime: gags, fanservice, drama, colorful characters.  By Friday Sena had watched all the anime Brian had lent her last Sunday.

 

"It's time for a change of scenery," Brian decided when they met up afterschool in their usual classroom.  He led her into the hall and out the school's rear entrance.  The sun shone brightly on them as they walked along the soccer field, where some students had organized a ragtag game.  Sena idly eyed the people gathering in the field.

 

Brian followed her stare.  "Looks like they're forming teams.  Want to play?  I'll watch from over here."

 

Sena shook her head, her hair trailing in the breeze.  She combed it behind her ears.  "I'd rather talk with you."

 

They kept walking, reaching a sloping stone rimmed embankment just outside school grounds, in the shadow of the trees.  No one else appeared to be around.  Sena ran ahead and climbed up the embankment.  By the time Brian walked up, she was sitting down with her eyes a few feet higher than Brian's.

 

"What is this, king of the hill?" he demanded.  He tried to climb up but she kicked at his hands, giggling.

 

"No teachers allowed."  She stuck her tongue out at him cutely.  She was wearing a jean skirt, and her bare legs flailed in front of him.

 

"Tsk."  As he looked up, he realized he was looking right up her skirt.  Her youthful thighs sprawled out from the depths of her skirt.  Against the shaded backdrop of the grey stone and towering trees, the shadow of her skirt hid the interior.  Brian couldn't help himself.  He gazed at her white thighs in fascination.

 

Sena followed his eyes.  An impish grin appeared on her face.  Fixing his eyes with her stare, she slowly spread her thighs, gradually revealing the interior.

 

"H-hey..."  Brian stammered, unable to look away from the sight.  At last his gaze fell upon white laced nylon panties.  He felt his face flush bright red.

 

She looked away, keeping her legs open, as if inviting him to peep.  Brian tried to look away but ended up tracing her lithe legs instead.

 

"It's a nice view isn't it?"  Sena commented cheerfully, looking at the clouds in the sky.  She was teasing him!  This was like one of those generic fanservice moments in a romantic comedy anime.  It was a lot less funny when it was happening to him though.

 

"What goes up must come down!"

 

He grabbed her arm and yanked her down.  She squeeled happily and grabbed his neck, throwing him off balance.  He fell to the grass on top of her, instinctively catching the fall with his hands.  He ended up perched on his hands and knees over her, with her upper body hanging from his neck.  They gazed at each other for a short moment that felt much longer.  His pulse was racing: from the surprise of the fall, embarrassment at the position he found himself in, the nervousness at her closeness, and the sweet scent of lilac.

 

Before he knew what had happened, she agilely pulled her head up and pecked him on the cheek, giggling.  Then she let go and slipped out from under him.

 

As he rose to his feet, he felt his face grow hot.

 

"I thought you didn't like 3D girls?"  She stood smiling at him teasingly.

 

He looked away awkwardly.  "You're cute.  I'll admit it."

 

Sena looked pleased by her victory.  She grabbed his hand and pulled him to their next destination.

 

Her hand was small yet warm.

 

***

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Any comments?  I'm kind of surprised at the sheer amount of progress I managed to make in just 3 days.  I averaged about 3000 words a day, or about 8 pages single-spaced.  I'm pretty sure that's the fastest writing pace I've ever sustained.  I was driven to an extent that surprised even myself.  I basically did nothing except work on this story.

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Any comments?  I'm kind of surprised at the sheer amount of progress I managed to make in just 3 days.  I averaged about 3000 words a day, or about 8 pages single-spaced.  I'm pretty sure that's the fastest writing pace I've ever sustained.  I was driven to an extent that surprised even myself.  I basically did nothing except work on this story.

 

Personally I'm shocked and really impressed at how fast of a pace you have been updating this story. I managed once to write a 10 page story in a single day, but that was because my Creative Writing final was due the next day. :P The fact that you're doing this solely out of self-motivation is great! I told myself a few days ago I would stay up to date, but I haven't. I'll do so right now.

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Wow! Glad I waited to read. I prefer to binge read, so this is my periodic drop in. :) Still got me enthralled with the story, I will definitely admit. I am shocked at the pace you are going though! Your speed is incredible. I can never keep a consistent pace myself. O:

 

Just gotta say:

 

"This is why we should've invaded Canada" I laughed so hard at that line. Mostly because I am from Canada, but that Elfen Lied scene was golden!

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Glad you like the scene.  I've paused to do some planning and flesh out the 4 month period (until now I mostly had focused on scenes for the first 4 weeks).  Writing something extended like this is challenging, especially since I'm basically releasing it in serial updates like a manga.  Once I've written something into the story, I can't really take it back without causing continuity issues, so I have to make sure I have a clear idea of where the story is going.

 

The style of the "sequel" (Ch. 2 onwards) is quite different from Memory's Burden.  It ended up being very dialogue heavy, and I've had to think about how to make the dialogue flow without inserting unnecessary filler words like "Brian said" all the time.  I've tried to focus on minimalism: not having too many filler words and really making sure every scene showed something important about the characters or pushed the story forward.  One consequence of this has really surprised me; this post is written at an 11th grade reading level, but Memory's Wounds (Ch. 2 onwards) is written at a 3rd grade reading level!

 

I did however worry that people might not be able to follow the dialogue since the speakers are often not explicitly stated (I read a guide about writing light novels that specifically mentioned that the heavy dialogue typical of light novels can disorient Western readers, who aren't used to it).  It helps a bit that the speakers have somewhat different speaking styles.

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I found the story novelette you wrote rather endearing. I like to read your posts in bulks as well same as LinovaA. As I want to know what happens next, reading it bulk is much more comfortable then. Also Keikaku doori lol.

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Alright caught up to date. Fuck you... I'm hooked! :D

 

On a serious Note (This is a stream of my unpolished thoughts and criticisms): 

 

I really enjoyed it. Albeit, it took until chapter 2 for me to get truly interested. Before that I liked the premise, but wasn't particularly gripped. That may have more to do with the fact that I don't like MMORPGs and didn't like the scenes that focused on Brian's gameplay. One thing that I thought was really clever and well executed in chapter 1 was when you transitioned from Clare's memory into reality on page 7. When she confused Brian for being a kid again. 

 

You mentioned in your last comment that you are using literary techniques common in light novels (at least I think you were alluding to that). I had no problem whatsoever with keeping up with the dialogue. Rather what felt very light novely to me was Sena's character. She feels very light novel/anime archetype inspired. She's not cliche (I really like how she is written), but at the same time she doesn't feel particularity realistic yet either. Hopefully these are issue that will get addressed in later installments. But why is she so lazy? Why is she so aloof? Why doesn't an attractive girl her age have friends? (Or maybe she does and they're just off screen?) Why is she so accepting of Brian?

 

On the topic of realism, I feel she herself would be a bit suspicious of Brian. She opens up to him fairly quickly, and I think that process should be a bit slower. Also, now that Sena has academically turned around, it doesn't seem like he would still be allowed to focus his tutoring exclusively on her. An assistant teacher should theoretically treat all students equally. I can buy him privately helping Sena for the first couple of days. But especially after she improves herself, it would seem like the staff (Mrs. Weinstein) would step in and mandate Brian to focus on other students as well.

 

Oh! An inconsistency I just remembered. In the first chapter you mention that Brian's grades slipped ever since his sister and father died. And some how by chapter two it turns our he achieved high enough marks to earn scholarship money at his university. Since Chapter 1 emphasizes the fact that Brian still hasn't gotten over his sister's loss. And his grades decline precisely because of his depression over that. There is no solid reason for the reader to think his grades ever improved (which apparently they did). Of course this is just a nit-pick, and I myself almost forgot about it.

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@Zalor: Your criticism of Sena is probably valid.  The character concept itself is idyllic, in part because it has to be.  If she wasn't the way she was, Brian wouldn't be so enamored with her; this wouldn't be a turning point in his life worth recounting.  He's a 2D-con, and much of the story is about how his attitudes begin to shift.  He's likely met other girls like Sena, certainly when he was a middle schooler himself, whom he never gave a passing glance.  So my response would be: Sena is special.  In particular, she's special to Brian.

 

There is more to Sena than what you can see through Brian's eyes, especially at this point.  He admits he hardly knows anything about her.  On the other hand, at least so far as Brian is concerned right now, that's not important.  As one who's been trying to distance himself from his past and escape from reality all his life, he's not inclined to pry.  That's just how he is.

 

As for the reason Sena is why she is: I hope that'll eventually come together as the story progresses. ;)

 

As hinted at in the opening session when Brian first met the class, his presence isn't particularly wanted.  Volunteers are treated like this more often than you might think.  Mrs. Weinstein doesn't really care what he does with his time, or even if he shows up at all.  As far as she's concerned, letting him private tutor Sena was a perfect excuse to get him out of her hair and let her get back to her usual routine (of getting her own work done).  She evicts him from the classroom precisely because his singular focus on Sena was disruptive.  She can do this because Brian isn't paid and therefore she has no obligation to make sure he's fulfilling his job role.  If he was getting paid, that would've changed the situation.

 

As for the grades changing...8 years is a long time.  I'll quote you the relevant segment:

"But after the accident...his grades at school started slipping".  The rest of the scene recounts a particular moment in Brian's life shortly after the accident.

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As for the comment about studying and utilizing literary techniques in light novels...I'm actually ignoring the #1 piece of advice: read light novels.  I was actually looking at it not so much for tips, but to figure out what to call this story. :P  I thought I might call it a light novel because it's somewhat anime-inspired, but then I realized that wouldn't be accurate because there's no illustrations.  And I can't draw so there won't be unless a talented person decided to help me.

 

On that note, there are moments where I kind of wish I had illustrations.  I do what I can to describe moments intended to be poignant in such a way that it *feels* like there's an illustration.

 

I haven't read a single light novel in my life.  And actually, I haven't done any significant fiction reading (outside RPGs and VNs) in probably 10 years.  I'm probably completely out of touch with the Western audience at this point, lol.

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It makes sense why Sena is portrayed in an idealistic way. When Brian briefly thought about how he knew nothing about her other than what he has seen. I read that as you signalling to the reader that she is far more complex than meets the eye. I was mostly criticizing that I though their relationship developed a bit too fast, but since their interactions feel very natural, it's easy to disregard. 

 

Now that I think about it again, it makes sense why Brian can get away with privately tutoring Sena. When I wrote that criticism I forgot that he is just volunteering. 

 

Regarding the grades, yeah that was just me nit-picking. I basically disregarded it as what you said "8 years is a long time. " I just remember that when I first read that he earned scholarship money, I was briefly confused since last I remembered his grades were in the dumps. But I easily dismissed it as time passing.

 

P.S. You're not alone in being out of touch with Western fiction. Other than books and short stories I get assigned for my classes (which are all classics anyway), I pretty much only read VNs (and subbed anime. That kinda counts as reading right? lol).  

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***

 

The doorbell rang Sunday afternoon precisely on time.  Clare opened the door to greet Sena.

 

Her voice caught in her throat.  A girl with long bright pink hair and white horns jutting from her head stood looking up at her, a ghastly smile on her face.

 

"You're next."

 

She took a step towards Clare.  Clare unconsciously stepped backward.  She heard Brian bound down the stairs behind her.

 

"Please stop!  Don't kill anyone else precious to me!"  Brian stepped in front of Clare as if to shield her.

 

The girl gazed eerily at Clare.  "I'll spare her this once."  She took off her shoes and backpack, then walked silently past the two of them and up the stairs to Brian's room, closing the door behind her.

 

Brian put his hand on Clare's shoulder.  "Don't worry, she won't harm you as long as you're under my protection.  Just don't agitate her," he advised solemnly.

 

He climbed the stairs and disappeared into his room.

 

Clare sighed heavily.  "Why can't Brian bring home normal friends?" she muttered as Sena's mother drove off.

 

***

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***

"Wow, you did a really good job with the hair and diclonius horns.  You really look like Lucy from Elfen Lied."  Brian stooped down to eye level and touched the "horns", which were molded from paper mache and affixed to a clear plastic hairband.

 

"You like it?"

 

"Yeah, you look really cute.  Like you could murder someone with a glance."  He couldn't resist taking a string of pink hair and running his fingers along it.  It was her real hair, and the color was perfect.

 

She giggled.  He felt her breath on his neck, the scent of lilac enveloping him.

 

He stood and stepped back, his cheeks burning.  "That color isn't permanent, is it?"

 

Sena shook her head.  "I wanted to dye my hair pink, but my mother wouldn't let me.  This'll wash out with soap."  She grabbed some strands of her long hair and gazed at them sadly.

 

"The costume must've taken you a while.  I have to take a picture of you like this."

 

Sena smiled happily.  "Should I be innocent or evil?"

 

"Just be yourself.  Your smile right now is really cute."  She posed for him cheerfully and he snapped the picture with his cell phone.  She ran up alongside him and grabbed his arm, leaning in to look at the phone.  He felt his heart skip, but obediently showed her the picture.

 

"Hmm.  It's kind of boring."  Sena looked dissatisfied.  She thought for a moment.  "Hey, let's use my phone."  She took out her smart phone and tapped a few times on the screen.  She grabbed Brian's hand and led him to the center of the room.  "Stand right here."  Then she carefully propped her phone on a dresser against a book, facing Brian, and tapped again.  She then scurried back to Brian and grabbed his arm, pressing her body against him.  "Say cheese!"

 

"Eh?"  The phone flashed before Brian understood what was happening.  Sena smiled gleefully and grabbed her phone.  She looked at it and giggled, then showed it to Brian.  The picture showed Sena cuddling cutely against Brian, a big smile on her face, while Brian gazed petrified at the phone like a deer caught in headlights.

 

Sena beamed at him.  "Much better."  She tapped a few more times and Brian's phone chimed, signaling receipt of a text message.

 

He gazed at the picture again, then at the girl in front of him.  "I just can't keep up with you."  He ruffled her hair fondly.  Sena bowed her head slightly, enjoying the rough gesture.

 

"Hey, I have a question."  She looked up at him.  "You talked about 'moe' before.  What is 'moe'?"

 

Brian took his hand off her head and made a dramatic pose.  "Many great scholars have pondered this question, yet the controversy persists to this day.  Moe is an artistic sense.  Moe is an ideal.  Moe is a passion that burns in the minds of the faithful.  Moe defies description in the same way that words cannot describe emotion.  Moe is not something you know--it is something you feel."  Brian paused.  "But to describe it in the way an outsider would understand, moe is the protective instinct, the devotion, inspired by the appearance and actions of someone you hold dear."  Brian cleared his throat.  "I say someone, but it's a term that essentially only applies to 2D."

 

"Hmm."  Sena pondered his words.  She gazed at the image on her phone, at Brian's comically awkward pose as she clung to him.

 

"I think you're very moe in this picture."  She smiled softly as she stared at it.

 

Brian found himself at a loss for words.

 

***

 

Brian and Sena watched the anime Death NoteDeath Note was the tale of a young man, Light Yagami, who discovers a notebook, an artifact with the power of the angels of death.  By recording the names of people in the notebook, one could snuff out their lives at will.  Light Yagami decided to use this power to rid the world of evil, purging criminals that committed unforgivable crimes or escaped the law through corrupt tactics.  It was a suspenseful thriller that explored how absolute power corrupts even those with the best of intentions.

 

They took a break after watching a few episodes.  Brian stood up.  "I'm going to grab a drink from the kitchen.  Want anything?"

 

"Sure.  I'll have some juice."

 

"Ok, I'll be right back."

 

***

 

 

I also added a short conversation to the end of the Monday after they watch Elfen Lied.  Those who have already read that part will want to reread it for the addition.

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***

 

"What are you two doing up there?"  Clare greeted Brian as he entered the kitchen.

 

"We're watching Death Note."  He grabbed two glasses.

 

Clare sighed.  "You're showing her another one of those violent cartoons?"

 

Brian poured a glass of grape juice, frowning.  "How many times do I have to tell you?  Anime aren't cartoons.  They're shows for adults.  The term 'cartoon' itself is demeaning."

 

Clare gave him a long suffering look.  Brian ignored it.

 

"Anyway, Death Note is a battle-of-minds show.  Yes, it has some grim themes about the corrupting influence of power and the nature of justice, but the graphic content isn't excessive.  It was even shown on Cartoon Network a few years back."

 

"Cartoon Network, hmm."

 

Brian glared at her.  He poured another glass of grape juice and headed up the stairs.

 

"He's so stubborn.  Just like his father," Clare muttered with a sigh.  She grabbed a dustcloth and a bottle of furniture spray and followed him.

 

***

 

As Brian reached the top of the stairs, he saw the door to Kana's room ajar.  His chest tightening, he opened the door.

 

Inside pink-haired white-horned Sena was stooped over, holding a teddy bear in her hands, staring at it in fascination.  Kana's favorite teddy bear.

 

Noticing Brian, she stood up and turned around, hugging the teddy bear to her chest.  She had an ominous smirk on her face.  "Is this your sister's?  I killed her, so I guess that makes it mine now."  She grinned evilly.

 

Brian trembled.

 

Sena drew closer.  "Don't worry, I won't kill you.  We're friends after all."

 

"Please...stop it."  That soft entreaty was all Brian could muster.

 

"Do you know what her organs looked like?"

 

"Stop it...please..."  He felt nauseated.

 

"She was so cute as..."

 

"That's enough!"  Someone brushed Brian to the side and snatched the teddy bear from her.  His mother.

 

"Hey!"  Sena protested.  She glanced at Brian as if expecting him to back her up.

 

Brian looked away.  He leaned weakly against the doorway.

 

"Brian, are you ok?"  His mother had put the teddy bear back in its spot and was gazing at him worriedly.

 

Brian felt faint.  He felt his mother grab his shoulders.

 

"Brian?"

 

"I think I'm going to be sick..."  His stomach began to lurch.

 

"Come on.  Let's go to the bathroom."

 

Brian nodded.

 

***

 

Clare left Brian in the bathroom.  He'd been retching uncontrollably for several minutes now, and it didn't look like he'd stop anytime soon.

 

The creepy little girl with pink hair was standing outside, staring blankly at the door.  "What happened?  Is Brian sick?"

 

"I'm calling your mother.  Brian can't play anymore today."

 

"Eh?  But-"

 

"Don't you understand?  Brian is like this because of you."  Clare couldn't take it anymore and snapped at her.

 

"What?"  Sena finally seemed to get it.

 

"Brian's little sister is dead.  And you just trampled all over her memories."  She picked up the phone and dialed her mother.

 

"Yes, Mrs. Holmbrook?  Brian has fallen ill.  Could you come pick Sena up?  I'm sorry for suddenly calling like this."

 

She finished the call.  "Please wait downstairs.  I need to make sure Brian is alright."  She went back into the bathroom and closed the door.

 

***

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