February Ficfest!!! [AKA Suffering]Forum-Index → Fanmades → Fanfictions → February Ficfest!!! [AKA Suffering]
Credit to Hunterz~Wolf for the aesthetic table of contents! Make sure to check out her work, she is an amazing author. <3
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"...wife at home."
"Second Grade Science"
"Hell is Everyone's Heaven but your Own."
"I Don't Know"
"...wife at home."
"Second Grade Science"
"Hell is Everyone's Heaven but your Own."
"I Don't Know"
Final Word Count: 2496
It was only the second day of the Snavian Reclamation that Adrik found the bridge. The final battle, where Legion and the treacherous Queen Isla fell off of- tumbling into the pits, both screaming and clawing at one another- struggling for life, begging for it.
And Adrik had watched- and so now, two days later, he stood here, pondering what would happen were he to jump.
“Adrik,” a voice spoke.
The whole thing seemed to come back to him. Con artist, detective- traitor, freedom fighter- he was always at the centre of it all. The man who’d doomed Isla, doomed Adrik- a man as dead as himself. Nobody could side with him.
A traitor or a hero, a nobleman or a scoundrel, who could say, when the entire world could collapse on a bridge? The loyalties of a coward were far less important in the grand scheme of things.
He opened his eyes.
The older man tilted his head to the side and stepped into the light. “They’re rounding up Legion’s loyalists, you know.”
“You’d better hit the ground running, then.”
“You’ll hit it before me.” Kubo paused, before adding. “Unless you jump.”
He didn’t bother to wonder why Kubo knew- the man always seemed to know everything. It was an effect wasted on him. “I won’t.”
“You will,” Kubo countered. “You were supposed to die in that final battle- by Greer’s side. You were her pet- your face is known all over Macedon. By living, by remaining free- you’re a further smudge on her legacy. Everything she made, everything she designed might live on in immortality, except for the fact that her right hand man remains oh so mortal. A mistake, that was, ultimately- poetically,” he corrected. “Poetically, your life is a mistake. Ultimately, who cares?”
“None of us seem to die when we’re supposed to, huh?” Adrik closed his eyes, ignoring the rest of Kubo’s rant, in favour of the stars which still danced behind his eyes. “Kendo’s still alive. The Saint sits pretty at the top of her tower-”
“And you’re still alive.”
Adrik laughed, bitterly. “Does anyone really think that, Kubo?”
The two fell silent. Adrik thought of Isla’s final moments- the lights crashing and colliding overhead, the hoards of monsters, all lunging for their queen- her face, the flickering emotions upon it-
“I can’t believe they let you live,” Kubo muttered. “And they’re still hounding me.”
“I’m 16- no, 17 now.” Adrik blinked. For some reason, the skies were cloudy tonight. Nothing showing, nothing shining through- telling him he was right or wrong. “They can’t try a kid.”
Since when has being a kid saved someone, though? Since when has being a kid freed someone of the crime of being alive?
When Isla looked up at him, he saw the little girl she’d professed to be inside. She might’ve reached for him in that moment, but instead she lunged for the other side- hoping that against all odds, her ghouls would catch her.
A kid, a failure. Was his lack of control over this fragile world the reason he was permitted to live?
He laughed bitterly, ignoring Kubo’s stare. Permitted. Really… what a good word for it. The winners wrote history- they said they spared Isla’s little brother and they bowed before a puppet in the same moment. They said that an adult bowing before the losing side was a monster-
And yet they said he was a child and unaccountable for all his loyalties. He’d never felt older.
“Do you think they’ll try me when I’m older? When I hit 18- frame me for some new crimes, watch me plead my innocence on camera, the final enemy, the final loyalist to Isla Greer, to Legion-”
He squeezed his eyes shut. His ears were ringing- he wanted to press cotton to them. Let the entire world go underwater- he’d be safe so long as he didn’t have to hear the crashing waves.
“You know Adrik, maybe I got you wrong. Maybe you’ll outlive me after all.”
Adrik whipped on his heel to stare at Kubo. Kubo watched him, amber eyes glittering in the dim night. Off in the distance, a bone-rattling wind shook a tree down to its roots- the flutter of autumn leaves passing by Kubo’s face. And yet he didn’t flinch- the whole world condensed on his form, hands shoved in his pockets, bony face lowered, staring up at him.
“Weren’t you the one saying I’d jump?” Adrik shivered as the wind hit him- it was cold. Snavian winters were terrible. But more than anything, confusion- and fear held him in its icy grip.
Kubo wasn’t stirred, merely staring at him with those lifeless, cunning eyes. “You want revenge, and you’re capable of taking it. I stand by that you will jump- but you will only do so when you’ve done all you wanted to.” He shrugged. His trench coat was thin, darker than even his hair. It was as if he was blending into the night. “And when you do- you will make yourself and Isla immortal. Because you have regrets, and you’re the kind of person to turn them into anger.”
“And you got that from…?”
Kubo laughed dryly. “Figure it out. I’m not going to be the one to dissect you in the future- that’ll be up to the sycophants, as all things in love and war.” He changed the topic. “Do you want my coat? I just might be the one jumping after all.” He laughed, a dark and dry sound.
“If I want revenge,” Adrik said quietly. “And I want to jump- then you, someone who doesn’t give a crap about anyone-” he inhaled. “-to hell with it, you won’t.”
“Ah,” Kubo said. “You’re smart. No wonder she liked you.”
Smart? No one thinks that. If they did, they’d have me on suicide watch.
Adrik closed his eyes. “I do want revenge,” he whispered.
“Then take it. We’ll see if you can construct your empire in time for me to come back.”
“If I’m emperor, I’ll place a million more on your head then they ever would.”
Adrik laughed. Kubo gave him a wane smile. And both turned away.
“Greer didn’t want you.”
“I know.” Has anyone? he thought.
They would both die. They’d acknowledged it- accepted it. One craved the immortality of revenge, the other craved an extra day. Neither would offer that, but it was fine.
Adrik would begin his rebellion the next day, on the third day of his freedom.
And what freedom it was- freedom to dive off a cliff, because a pathetic monarch didn’t have the wits or guts to kill one kid.
Isla was right after all- it was about control. She’d lost her control, and refused to give in to Adrik, so she’d died immortalized- and her reign would be avenged.
Isla was always right.
Adrik would make sure of it. His bridge could wait.
Kendo stood on a balcony, staring out into the stars. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there, in another universe, stood, staring at those exact same stars. He stood, family by his side, a dead angel’s blood on his hands.
What a choice to make. Sacrificing your family for the sake of a single woman. Four lives for one.
Something in him argued against that- if Legion lived, wouldn’t he have executed half of Macedon?
Like we’re doing right now? a voice murmured inside him. Killing anyone who stands in our way- drawing lines with blood, staining our legacy forever?
“Forever,” the Saint said, “is shorter than it seems to mortals.”
She was standing behind him. He wondered why he was surprised anymore- he hadn’t heard her get up. He didn’t hear much these days. Except for the executions.
It’d been 2 days since the end of the war with unconditional surrender from Legion’s forces. 2 days, and all Kendo could think was of the blood that was on his hands.
“Forever is eternity,” he muttered, not taking his eyes off the stars. “It’s countless lives- seeing faces change as you go, but repetitions of the same stories.”
“Still human at heart, Kendo.”
He laughed, bitterly. “If I was still human,” he said. “I would’ve chosen my family’s lives.”
“Thousands of soldiers went out, knowing they might die and leave their loved one’s behind. They were all human, were they not?”
“They were all selfish,” Kendo retorted. “Yes, they were human. And so they made the right choice and did what they wanted to do- not what they had to do, to preserve another immortal’s perception of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
He glowered into the sky.
The Saint sighed. “Kendo…”
“If Isla had lived- long enough to bring back your family, would you have been happy?”
“You would’ve been dead.”
“That’s not an answer, and you know it.”
“I don’t know,” he said emptily. “I haven’t been human for centuries. Sometimes I wonder if I had brought them back, lived for eternity with them-” His hands scrunched his shirt. “And then I wonder what the point is. I can’t see their faces anymore. I can’t know their smiles. I’m hollow, and they’d realize in an instant. And if they didn’t, I’d hate myself until they did.”
The Saint didn’t reply to that. The two continued staring out over the balcony, watching the flickering fireworks in the distance. Celebrations were still going on with the soldiers. They were all still happy. They’d made it, they’d get to go home to their families. Their happy endings had been reached, and so there was no time for moral dilemmas or wondering if their lover’s life equated to their families.
They’d just fought, and they’d listened, and they never had to hate themselves for their own orders.
“Do you hate yourself, Kendo?”
A laugh escaped him- he’d been caught off guard. “No. If I did, I think I’d like me a whole lot more.” If I hated myself… “Because I’d be human, you know? I’m a deity, and I worship myself more than anyone.”
“You’re still mortal, Kendo. I promise you.”
“If I was mortal, I’d be in the hangman’s noose, with my family in the front row.”
“You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
It was the second day of his victory and his choice, and all Kendo could think of were the what-ifs. Maybe she was right. Maybe forever was too short, because he couldn’t imagine ever getting over these choices.
Mortal, immortal- who cared.
All that he knew was that he’d made his choice, and so he’d continue killing people. One after the other, a fallen body to the rope, another to the guillotine. It started with his family, and it’d end with the Saint.
He took her hand in his, and they smiled at one another. They were immortal, and they loved and they hated and neither mattered. They had to just keep going, because whether forever was long or short, now was instant- so he’d just stand in it, and try and forget that he’d killed everyone he loved twice.
Hiding again, like always. Going back and forth, gunning for the losing side- and yet no matter who he chose to follow, the other always won.
It just made Maximus sick.
“When the hurly-burly’s done, when one side’s lost and one side’s won.” He wasn’t sure where that was from. Some magical figure said it in some classic he studied in school.
Power. How stupid that was.
Here he was, a coward, a loser. A runaway, and he didn’t even have a bounty on his head.
He stared into the fire, watching the tongues of flame dance into shapes. A person’s nose, a minx’s tail, an outstretched arm.
He blinked, wondering if he’d gotten it right. But no- Legion’s arm was still reaching for him. Thinking he’d grab onto it, save him.
If he’d saved Legion, would he be living it up in some penthouse right now? Pretty girl servants, a protection force, swirling cocktails, a cracking hearth. He could have had it all.
But instead, he sat in a damp cave, sipping tasteless water, no pretty girls in sight- the only face was of a dead man’s, flashing in a pitiful fire that threatened to go out any second now.
One side had lost, and he’d had the power to change it all- and yet Maximus had chosen to run. He’d chosen this life instead of the possiblity of a bright one.
Macedon would’ve defeated Legion regardless, he’d told himself for days. But now, in a miserable cave with only his thoughts for company, he had to wonder if that was really true. Was Macedon this strong inpentrable force which would keep rising up-? Or was it just a last ember that he’d fanned on?
Maximus exhaled and brought his hands up to the flames. Tonight he’d pretend he was warm.
There would be a new day- it was only the second of a new world.
He’d always find a way up again.
“One side’s lost. One side’s won.”
And it was only as he sat in a cold damp cave and he saw the flickering fireworks in the distance, that a thought occured to him.
No, no it couldn’t be.
There was never a side for him.
But if one side lost, and if one side won…
Then which side had he been on?
Which side had he chosen and ultimately forsaken for a chance to live like a mouse again?
I was never on anyone’s side, he lied to himself, and rolled out his sleeping bag. Festivities wouldn’t be over for days. He had a chance to blend in with the crowds.
He still had his chance.
He’d lost nothing, damn you, and he’d prove that to everyone.
And all around the world, everyone on everyone’s side looked upon a battle won and they cheered in public. This was their victory. The culmination of their efforts, the medal to their heroics. The princess was saved, the bad guys were dead, and the fairy tale was over.
They were ready to begin their new lives.
But no matter how much they told themselves that this was their second, their third, their fourth day-
It always went back to the first.
Because, in truth, it didn’t matter how many days there were. Some were going to die, some were going to live, some were going to vanish without a word. Yet each and every one of them had lost something that couldn’t be recovered with pretty speeches or a pledge to take everything a day at a time. And so when they said they’d keep living, they didn’t mean a word of it.
What life was there, when each step ripped your future to shreds?
When all you had was…
Final Word Count: 847
The prompt was initially “Pedestrian” but due to lack of creativity, this spawned. There shouldn’t be too many of these. Thanks for understanding <3
“They’re going to fall apart in days,” Kaya commented.
“That’s part of the fun of it!” Toshiko argued, peering closely at the pumpkin as she made a careful incision. “Terror- and then nonexistence! Abandoning the mortal plane, leaving us behind with nothing more than a memory of the sheer eldritch beings which lurked within our- Ahah!”
“Nono, go on.”
“Naw, I think I have it.” Toshiko jabbed in her blade, gave it a sharp turn, then dragged out a chunk of pumpkin. She clapped her hands together. “Behold! My masterpiece!”
“Is that- a mutilated cat?”
“Bang on! It’s my best impression of Chaos’ face!”
The cat hissed from his position on a pile of newspapers. Toshiko giggled at his yellow glare and gave him a little wave.
With all the dignity a small feline could have in its body, he turned his rump on her and stormed away into the kitchen.
“You really do have it,” Kaya remarked. “The resemblance is uncanny.”
Toshiko batted her eyelashes. “Glad to hear it, love~ Why don’t we show this with Briar, afterward? Spread my masterpiece?” She smiled, leaning in close. “Maybe we could- oh!” She spotted Kaya’s work. “What’s that?”
“The most terrifying creature on earth,” Kaya said seriously. “It steals the hearts of its victims. Nobody can resist it.”
“Trust you to always be on top of your monster lore,” Toshiko teased. “Why don’t you tell me some stories about this ‘terrifying creature’?” She grinned. “I’ll try and guess. If I do, I get dibs on Briar when he comes over. Sound like a deal?”
The two set aside their tools and took their respective spots on the couch. Kaya drew the curtains, and Toshiko stole a flashlight.
“Once upon a time,” Kaya said solemnly. "a demon was born. While most demons thrived on the suffering of their victims… this one thrived on their misery. It could take a knife and carve up a man. It could set a dozen dental offices on fire in a matter of minutes. Every person who saw it either feared or worshipped it. Each and every time it was locked up, it escaped, dripping blood all over the walls, killing people with crayons and butter knives."
“Woah,” Toshiko shivered. “That’s so scary. It's really hard to murder with crayons."
“And it’s not even the end of the story.” Kaya steepled her fingers together."The monster found a child, named B. B was a loser-and yet even he learned to fear it. Its ability to burn down places without the slightest thought as to what it was doing, its ability to throw children in rivers and laugh at their cries… B had to run. And so he did. And for a while, he escaped. Until, a singular morning when his sibling came home… and nipping at her heels, the monster stood, smiling, and they made eye contact- and then all the lights went out." Kaya chuckled darkly. “And alas… it’s a true story. Even now, it lurks close by… perhaps even behind those very curtains."
“Okay, you just killed the scariness factor. Don’t even pull that b.s. on me, Kaya.” But Toshiko glanced nervously back and forth. “Heheh- maybe we should turn on the light?”
“Why not open the curtains, Toshi?”
“Don’t feel like it,” Toshiko denied.
“Oh dear. I think I hear the monster inside the house.”
The door spun on its hinges. Toshi was gone and some pterodactyl screaming was coming from the bathroom.
"I'M NEVER COMING OUT!"
"I have Chaos though!" Kaya protested, hugging the wriggling cat to her chest. "He's full of love! And he's a black cat, so he repels monsters!"
"THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS!"
"Yeah, it's not," Kaya admitted. "Ow! hey!" Chaos escaped and scampered away from the door. "Come on, Toshi just let me in-"
"Lalala! Not listening LAALLALALLA, YOU'RE THE MONSTER! LALALAALA-"
“TOSHIKO! IT’S YOU!”
Toshiko poked her head out of the doorway. “What are you talking about?”
“The monster. It’s you.”
The two returned to carving pumpkins.
“You just made it sound creepy. I’m not afraid of myself. Haha."
A slow smile spread over her face. “I guess since I now know what 'it' is… I have dibs on Briar.” Her grin widened, slicing over her face. Her aura darkened. “I’ll peel away his sanity like a sticker, and twist my blades into his psyche. He’ll never be able to look at Chaos the same again… never.”
“My love, you are the most frightening thing on the planet.”
“Pfft, you’re exaggerating. When have I ever been scary?”
Kaya coughed, and listened as Toshiko planned to lay torments of centuries on poor innocent Briar who’s only crime was to be a dumb loser.
Toshiko may be a bit of a "demon" but she was still her Toshi.
Kaya smiled and placed her candle inside the Toshi pumpkin. This was a good night
Final Word Count: 4240
“Like you’re any better, Mei. L-Least I can admit I like it! You just wander around in your stupid Walmart clothes pretending you’re frugal when all you are is insecure.”
“Insecure? The hell you on, Kubo? That’s got you written all over it. Don’t put that on me-”
“Me? Insecure? You forgetting the person who’s so obsessed to seem like they don’t give a crap, they can’t even admit that they like my goddamn outfit?”
“Maybe I don’t like it because your emo fashion sense is reminiscent of a mid-2000s vampire convention.”
“H-Hey, hold on,” Lucian began.
“It’s a goddamn cross Mei. This is modern grunge aesthetic. But I bet you didn’t know that, because your sense of style is reminiscent of a middle-aged woman’s Walmart pile.”
“Back to Walmart again! Do you even have any good roasts left in that tiny head of yours?”
“Guys, I really think we should-”
“SHUT UP LUCIAN!” Mei and Kubo screamed at him simultaneously.
Lucian left the room, thinking intensely to the sound of inhuman screeching.
Kubo lay on the couch, firing off his annual text to his mom. No, I haven’t gotten over my emo phase. No I will not talk to dad if he calls again. Yes, I washed my underwear last night.
Someone cleared their throat. Kubo looked up with a scowl, only to see Lucian standing there. He frowned, wondering if he should put his phone down- Lucian had that “we-need-to-talk” look on his face, and from experience Kubo knew that if he didn’t put his phone down, very crucial information pertaining to Kaoru would be leaked on the internet the next day.
He reluctantly sat up and slipped it into his pocket, folding his arms. He waited, but Lucian didn’t say anything. “Well? What is it?”
“You and Mei were arguing earlier.”
You just noticed? “Yeah, what about it?”
“I’ve been thinking that you should apologize to her.”
“No way in hell,” Kubo said instantly. “She should apologize to me.” He scowled. “I wasn’t the one who had to make a stupid comment about the outfit I spent hours in Hot Topic for. She can shut the hell up and get an apology from the stick up her ass.”
“A stick is not capable of giving an apology, Kubo.” Kubo opened his mouth, but Lucian cut him off. “No, Kubo. I’m serious. You’re apologizing to her now.”
Kubo crossed his arms. “No.”
“Then you leave me no choice.” Lucian fished in his pocket and threw a piece of paper on the coffee table.
Kubo leaned in, studying it. It appeared to be some pamphlet for an adolescent summer camp. “What’s this?” he questioned.
“Where you’ll be staying with Mei- for the rest of the summer.”
Mom, I’ll wash my underwear for real. I’ll wear a suit. I’ll even read dad’s texts.
But no matter what meaningless answer a god or parent provided him with on manners of basic hygiene, he didn’t have to go at all. No matter what, he could always just straight up refuse, right? So long as he didn’t go to the bus stop, he’d be home and safe and Lucian couldn’t make him...
Kubo sat on a bench next to Mei. The two were as far apart as they could be, despite the numerous small children crowding around them, pressing them closer together with their sweaty adolescent bodies.
“I hope you die,” Kubo hissed at her.
“I hope someone sets your big girl pigtails on fire.”
“W-Well, I hope someone contacts Goodwill to get your thrift store sweaters back.”
“Maybe if they do, they’ll finally find your lost sense of style.”
Kubo gasped. That was too much. “How dare you?”
The two glared daggers at one another. “I’m going to tell Idris all about this,” Kubo hissed. “You were practically flirting with me the entire time we were here. What do you think he’ll say about that?”
“I think he’ll laugh his ass off. He knows I have more distinguished tastes than that.”
“I’M GOING TO KILL YOU-”
“Hey, strangely kindergartenesc adults, the bus is coming.”
Both turned to glare at the snot-nosed brat. The bus honked, saving the child from immediate dismemberment. He stuck his tongue out and vanished in the crowds of small kids entering the bus.
“That’s weird,” Kubo muttered, checking his watch. “Our bus is supposed to arrive.”
“Hold up, you don’t think-” Mei paled.
“KUBO ATSUSHI, MEI AKAMATSU, IF YOU’RE NOT ON THE BUS THIS INSTANT-” Lucian appeared around the corner, wielding a frying pan.
Both dove into the yellow monstrosity and the doors slammed shut behind them. “GAS IT!” Kubo screamed.
The bus shot off towards Happy Goofy Canoe Camp, and Kubo and Mei were on it.
The first thing that Kubo noticed was that there was an actual picture of Goofy pasted everywhere. The cartoon’s monstrous face erupted from every wall. Each overblown nose, each soulless pair of dead cartoon eyes, each threatening message of “DO YOU NEED A HUG?” sent a chill down his spine.
What was this hell, he wondered, as he exited the bus with the throes of small children.
“Line up, please,” an exhausted voice droned over the screams of excited pubescents.
Mei turned to Kubo. He gave her a shrug. Maybe this is a good thing. We can send a letter to Lucian, and he’ll feel so guilty he’ll let us go home. Just need to clear it up here.
The two took their place at the back of the line, where they could turn around and gasp for air free of children who hadn’t yet learned the meaning of deodorant.
When it finally came to their turn, their strength was waning. Kubo had lost his cross somewhere, which was undoubtedly in the hands of a twelve year old. Mei had gotten dirt in her hair which was admittedly a common occurrence but it still sucked.
Heaving and gasping, they came to the teenager in charge of the list.
“We’re- there’s been a mistake-” Kubo faceplanted by the teenager’s shoes. He looked on, unimpressed.
“We’re not supposed to be here!” Mei finished.
“I’ll see about that. What’re your names?”
“Akamatsu and Atsushi.”
“Why the hell can’t my name come first,” Kubo said mournfully by the teenager’s sweaty loafer.
“Because mine’s better, shut it.”
“Akamatsu and Atsushi…” The teenager dragged his finger along the names. “Ah, yes. Mei Akamatsu and… Kubo, Atsushi?”
“Wh- we’re not actually on there, are we? We’re too old. This is clearly a mistake.”
“Normally,” the teen said pleasantly. “I’d agree with you. But…” He turned to glare at the person by his feet. “Oh, you’re a Kubo, huh? I think that sounds just like a twelve year old’s name. They never spawn otherwise.”
Oh my god, did a random teenager with an unspecified grudge ultimately trap us with a bunch of toddlers? No, surely not. This camp had to be more professional than that-
“I get the bottom bunk,” Kubo deadpanned.
“I’m going to drop things on you all night,” Mei vowed.
Kubo shot her a glare and flung his backpack onto the end of his bed, collapsing on the other end of it. It creaked ominously under his weight. He muttered something under his breath.
Mei threw her pack up on the bunk above Kubo. The contents spilled out, and Mei vehemently hoped something heavy would drop on Kubo’s head.
“Well, we’re about to be hauled off to a health hazard dinner. What’re we going to do?”
“Write letters to your boytoy, demanding he rescue us.”
“Lucian is not-”
“Okay, okay, pfft, let’s just start.” Mei stole Kubo’s notebook and flipped it open to a random page. “First, I’m thinking. ‘Salutations, dear Lucian. You suck. Save us. Respectfully, The Innocent People You Trapped With a Bunch of Children.’”
Kubo snorted. “Is that your attempt at humour?”
“Well I don’t see you getting us out of here, smart guy,” she shot back.
“Fine, fine. Just… write that down, and we’ll send it off. Hopefully he understands your retardation enough to actually come get us.”
Mei scoffed and scribbled the letter out. She slammed the notebook down on his bed. Kubo appeared unmoved. “Done. You ready to go?”
The two left the health hazard of a room and made their way down the hall to wherever… “dinner” was supposed to be.
“Hey! Look!” Kubo gestured frantically down the hall.
There were two burly looking men standing there.
Mei and Kubo exchanged a look of grim understanding.
“I’M GETTING THERE FIRST!” Mei screamed and took off.
“No you don’t!” Kubo pounced on her, and the two tumbled head over heels. “I’m getting there first!” he seized her by the soldiers and tried to pin her.
She flipped him over and easily pinned his weak and gangly teenage body.
Kubo kicked Mei but his blows appeared not to move her. “My grandma hits harder!” she yelled and yanked on his hair. The unholy shrieking he responded with resonated in the entire corridor.
“GET OFF!” a man bellowed.
Both went still.
The burly man glared down at both of them.
Both exchanged silent glances.
“We need to get out of here!” Mei blurted out. “We’re not twelve, y’see. This was a mistake and-”
“Not twelve?” The man scoffed. “I’ll believe that. You’re about the biggest babies I’ve ever seen.”
“Hey,” Kubo said weakly from underneath Mei.
“Shut up wimp.”
They went to dinner after all.
The two sat together. Thankfully, the kids appeared to be avoiding them like lepers. It was kinda hurtful, but personally, Mei blamed Kubo.
“No, it’s on you.” Kubo crossed his arms.
“The hell you doing, reading my thoughts?”
“I just know that you’re thinking when you get that stupid look on your face. You’re practically drooling- of course it’s about me.”
“Hah, you wish. How the hell is this my fault, though?”
“You’re the one who made it a race. Plus, you pulled on my hair.” Kubo tossed his head. “These luscious locks would’ve inspired any man to free us-”
“Oh please, you have three hairs and all are on your bigass forehead.”
“Because of you!”
“I didn’t even pull any out, dumbass!”
“MY SCALP IS BURNING!”
“Fight! Fight! Fight!”
With a disgusted scoff, Mei swept up her backpack and stormed away, suspicious burrito under arm.
Kubo watched her leave, silently seething. How dare she?
But that sounded an awful lot like Lucian, so he told it to shut up.
The two did not share a bunk that night.
Mei had not gotten adequate sleep last night. No, she’d been sleeping above a stupid gossipy girl who apparently did not require sleep to continue gabbing about some crappy IPAD app.
“It’s called Episode! I’m in a werewolf story with the hot Derek and I was just attacked by this scary guy in a bat costume-”
She droned it out after that. This generation was doomed, so she didn’t need to care.
Did the kid really have to talk for like… three hours?
Mei sighed as she hauled herself out of bed. Something spiteful in her curled in satisfaction at the bags under Kubo’s eyes. It didn’t look like he’d gotten much sleep either.
First, they had to go to the crappy camping washrooms and brush their teeth, which was not fun near a bunch of stupid children. Then they were hauled off to go canoeing, because of course they had to undergo more sweaty activities when they were already surrounded by a bunch of children with pore cancer.
Pore cancer. A non-existent disease she’d decided must be afflicting these kids. How tragic, they’d all go bald and die and leave her alone.
“Join my team,” Mei ordered a random child and dragged him onto the canoe.
“But we’re not kids!” Kubo was arguing in the distance. “We’re in our teens! We shouldn’t even be here!”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, youngster. I see two blurry figures of oversized twelve year olds. No reasonable adult would paste so much conditioner in their hair.”
“IT MAKES MY HAIR SHINY!”
“It makes it greasy is what it does. Get back in line.”
Mei snickered, grateful for Kubo’s suffering. It was the only thing that made this entire thing bearable.
She quickly learned to regret it.
Canoeing was hard. And the stupid child kept trying to tell her something about arm position. What a dumbass. Everyone knew you needed to live the paddles as high as possible- for maximum gravitational force.
Sadly, despite her overwhelming talent, she ended up in last alongside the stupid kid who understood nothing.
She had some eldritch monstrosity thing on her face. She peeled it up, but it clung to her skin. She decided it was an enormous green leech and vowed to murder whoever failed to put chlorine in the lake.
Kubo wasn’t any better. He was lying on the ground gasping, his child facepalming next to him.
“Picture time!” Mei barely had a chance to react before it went off in her face.
She screamed, throwing up her arms to shield herself from the piercing overwhelming flash of murderous light.
He did it to Kubo who just twitched on the ground.
“No breakfast,” Kubo muttered. “These… not pancakes.”
They admittedly looked like the thing that was on her face earlier, but Mei wanted to spite Kubo, so she thrust the entire thing in her mouth and chewed as loudly as she could.
Kubo shuddered, burying his face in his arms.
“Elbows off the table,” Mei said obnoxiously.
Kubo didn’t move.
The taste hit Mei. She choked. “Human meat!” she hissed, spitting out green flecks. “No other explanation!”
Her head whipped around but all the children were eating it.
Kubo was still dead to the world.
Mei kept eating it and gagged on every bite.
Later, Mei threw up. Kubo laughed at her, and so she punched him in the stomach and he threw up too. Then she laughed at him.
“Friendship bracelets?” Kubo wrinkled his nose. He hadn’t made one since he was like, 10. Wasn’t this too condescending, even for small children?
Mei looked pale. Kubo chose to enjoy her suffering. She deserved it, after punching him and laughing at him earlier. She’d messed up his luscious locks with her violent acts of hair pulling.
“Exactly!” The camp counseller smiled. “You can find your instructions on the table.”
Kubo shrugged, deciding to just go with it. He followed the familiar steps and was quickly working on his, twisting and spinning until it was done.
“You can’t even make one bracelet?” some kid said.
Kubo ignored him. That wasn’t him.
“Who says I can’t?” Mei snapped.
Oh! Kubo’s eyes widened. That was… interesting. He craned his head back and watched the two.
“I just never… learned! It’s a step by step process. We all have to learn.”
“You’re old though! And I can do it.”
“You think you’re better than me?” Mei hissed between her teeth.
Kubo exhaled. “Mei!” he called. “Come over here! I’ll show you.”
Mei trudged over to him and pulled out a chair. “Really,” she muttered, settling next to him. “You’d think kids would show a little more compassion.”
“You’d think adults would,” Kubo replied dryly. “They still haven’t let us go home.”
“Idiots.” Mei scoffed. “Probably blind, all of them.”
“I can’t wait to go home.”
The two exchanged a funny look.
“Hey, how about I actually show you?”
Kubo took a bottom bunk. Mei took her own bunk away from the annoying child.
The two were directly across from one another.
Kubo stuck his tongue out at her.
Mei stuck her tongue out at him.
Kubo rolled onto his side, rolling his eyes, but silently smiling to himself. Today really had sucked, huh?
Mei giggled, and took the picture she’d gotten of Kubo’s intert form. She carefully tacked it on the wall. Tomorrow… she’d use it for darts.
“A hike?” Mei echoed blandly. She stared at the man leading the hoards of kiddins. “We… have to go hiking. In a canoe camp.”
“I’m not sure how focused this camp is on theme,” Kubo muttered. “They’re still keeping those stupid Goofy pictures up. And I haven’t seen anything of that ridiculous emotional appeal to boomer’s children.”
Mei sighed. The point was sadly relevant. “Guess we’re stuck here.”
“Yeah,” Kubo said. “Guess we’re stuck here.” He scuffed at the ground with his shoe. “We never should’ve gotten on that bus.”
Mei sighed, unable to roll her eyes at that. “Come on. They’ll head out without us.” The two jogged to catch up.
The whole thing was very boring. Mei held no interest in whatever environmental nonsense the weirdo in front was going on about. She began looking around for things to do-
And then noticed that Kubo was gone.
She stopped short, and looked around. But he was really seriously gone. Had he ditched her?
“I think Kubo’s gone,” she muttered to the guide who didn’t appear very pleased to be interrupted about mushrooms or whatever the hell he was talking about.
“Then find him.”
Mei threw her hands up in the air and backed up, searching the forest for any side paths he could’ve wandered back onto.
Wasn’t there one like… five minutes ago?
“I finally found you!” Mei hurried up to him. “Jeez, how dumb do you have to be to stray from a sand trail?”
“I took a shortcut,” Kubo mumbled. He was staring at something on the ground.
Mei furrowed her brow. “A shortcut? Doesn’t seem like you’re really… trying to get anywhere.”
“No.” Kubo looked up at her, a faint smile playing on his lips. “I just know that you’re supposed to stay in one spot when you’re lost. So you can be found. It was on a documentary I watched like… a long time ago.”
Mei sat next to him. “Doesn’t sound like you’re that confident in your wilderness survival skills. City boy?”
“City boy,” Kubo echoed dryly.
“Same.” When Kubo shot her a confused look, she clarified. “I’m a city girl. Never been into the woodsy stuff. My wilds are the well-marked halls of 7-11. Plenty of signs to guide you to the slurpees.”
Kubo cracked a grin. “7-11s- kinda pop up everywhere, don’t they?”
“Like the backrooms.”
“...Ah, so you have a bit of aesthetic knowledge in that ‘tiny’ head of yours?”
“Oh! You remember.” Mei scuffed her hair awkwardly. “Yeah, I kinda did a bit of… research after our argument.”
“So you like my sense of style now?”
“Hell no.” Mei scowled. “Don’t put words in my mouth, emo boy. I stand by that you look like a vomit of Hot Topic merch.”
“Sure, sure.” Kubo laughed. He leaned back on his hands, craning his head up to peer at the break in the trees.
Something glinted by his hands.
“What’s that?” she asked.
He glanced down. His face lost its mirth. “Oh,” he said unenthusiastically. “That.”
She raised an eyebrow at him, but he made no move to show her. Carefully, she peeled his fingers back and plucked it up herself.
A foil package. She flipped it over in her hand and squinted at the faint lettering on it- she couldn’t make it out.
“Does this remind you of Kaoru?” she asked.
He twitched, a flicker of surprise abruptly snuffed out on his face. “Maybe.”
“Ah.” Mei stared at it. She wasn’t sure what to think- Kubo didn’t talk about Kaoru much- she was pretty sure they were exes, but their history itself was still lost on her.
Did Kubo still have feelings for her?
“It’s not like that,” he muttered.
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re not a mind reader?”
Kubo laughed a bit, though it was a sad sound. “Naw. I think I just- understand the way your mind works.”
A flicker of hurt went off in Mei’s heart. “Naw, I think you’re too dumb for that.”
“Because it’s kinda like mine.”
Mei blinked, temporarily caught off guard. Then she was leaning in to him, desperate, trying to see his face. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Are you saying-?”
“We both do the same things. Think along the same line of thought.” His gaze dropped. “You got angry there. I would’ve been angry too.”
“Huh.” Mei blinked. “Being similar caused our arguments, you think?”
Alright, maybe that was too soon- might be time to backpedal-
“Yes,” Kubo said. “Yes it did.”
The two sat in silence. The entire world was cradled there, in this little crack in the forest. A tree stump, a shining blue sky overhead, and the two of them at the heart of existence.
“Do you want to go back?” Mei asked.
“Absolutely. I’m not built for wilderness exploration.”
Mei grinned. “Same. C’mon, let’s get going.”
She helped him to his feet, and she only punched him once- a friendly punch in the shoulder, and he returned it.
Everyone was back at the camp by the time they returned. They were at the picnic tables for the friendship bracelets. Kubo realized that Mei was shaking and gave her hand a squeeze.
The two took their seats. They worked together to pick out their colours.
“See, you start like this, and to work your way down…”
Kubo noticed that Mei was watching his hands closely as he did it, and the thought made him smile.
“I bet you can do it yourself.”
The two returned to their respective bunks. Episode girl was gone.. With only that in mind, she called out to Kubo.
“Hey, Kubo! My bottom bunk’s free.”
Kubo lifted his head up. “Oh. So it is.”
He got to his feet and made his way to Mei’s bunk. He stared at it- and threw his backpack on at the end. Then he vanished under it.
Mei waited, breath in her throat.
“Do you plan to drop things on me while I sleep?”
Mei laughed, long and loud. “Awww, dang! You caught onto my plan!”
“I should’ve known,” Kubo scoffed. “You just can’t leave me alone for one day, now can you?”
But he didn’t go back to the other bunk, and so he stayed there the rest of the night.
Mei only dropped a few things on him that night. She thought he’d suffered enough.
“I wanna punish that one,” Kubo said, pointing to bus kid.
The two teamed up on him in tug of war and the kid was sent sprawling. Literally the best call of their life.
So now they sat in an office, while the annoying old man threatened to call people on them for “being the meanest 12 year olds I’ve ever met”.
Hell, they wanted people called on them! It was time to go all out!
They’d won three challenges by the end of the day, and massacred hoards of annoying brats.
Mei’d learned about the proper way to use a paddle, something she had obviously no way of knowing, and also learned how to use it properly to splash annoying children should Kubo say she was messing it up.
Nothing could beat them.
They went on to friendship bracelets at the end of the day, and Mei held it up. “Look!” she said excitedly. It wasn’t as tight as it could be, but-
Kubo held his up.
Mei’s was blue, Kubo’s was purple.
“Matching!” Mei said. “Booyah! I’m so awesome.”
“Yeahyeah.” Kubo rolled his eyes. He began setting aside the threads. It was almost time for dinner. He really didn’t want to throw up again, so he’d have to take his time with the murder chili.
“Oh my god! Kubo! Mei!”
Lucian was standing right there.
Lucian explained how the mixup happened- and it wasn’t a pretty story. How many cats did Miyako need? How had so much illegal candy gotten mixed up in the Arbred house?
But they were going home the next day, which was a relief. It’d really been too long. Mei longed for air that didn’t reek of sweat. Kubo longed for a shower and conditioner. And it was just in sight.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through with this,” Lucian babbled as they all filed into the car. “What a ridiculous mistake to make! I honestly can’t believe that there wasn’t a printing error. This must’ve been terrible.”
“Oh, it absolutely sucked.” Mei scoffed, propping her head up on the window. “I got lost once, and the food tastes like your mother’s ass.”
“Ugh.” Kubo shuddered. “Absolutely. Not a fun experience. Zero stars, would not recommend.” He tried to fix his hair. “Anyone have an elastic?”
“Huh.” Lucian was staring at them. “So it was really that bad?”
“I know what you’re thinking,” Kubo said quietly.
“SO SHUT UP!” the both yelled at Lucian simultaneously.
For once, Lucian was cowed and he started up the car. They rattled out.
“Emo vampire,” Mei hissed at Kubo.
“Walmart girl,” he retorted.
They looked out their respective windows, and prayed the other didn’t see their smile. And as the rain pattered down, both saw their friendship bracelets, clean and beautiful around their wrists, and stupidly clashing with their dirty clothes.
Friendship bracelets were so overdone.
And they both knew that the other felt the exact same way.
Final Word Count: 155
“You took my cookies.”
Kaya choked through a mouthful of sugar. Crap. Those were Toshi’s? Carefully, she buried her head in the book.
“You’re eating them right now.”
Damn, Toshi was right. And also, damn, she looked good in an apron. Stop looking over the book and letting Toshi see you, no matter how hot she looks right now! Oh god, apron Toshi-
Kaya blankscreened. Apron Toshi... Wait. Did that mean…
“You made them yourself?” Kaya burst out.
Kaya remembered the last time. Coughing up blood. The ambulance. The months in the hospital where she dodged Toshi's questions about what happened to her.
Paling rapidly, she lurched to her feet. She burst into the kitchen and looked around wildly. There! She seized the orange juice off the counter and guzzled it down.
She sighed with relief.
"Just kidding," Toshiko said in the doorway. "I made homemade orange juice."
Final Word Count: 1384
“I remember the way she looked at you.” Toshiko breathed out. A puff of steam wafted up, lashing and intwining in the cold air. She reached out a hand and imagined herself touching it- grasping the plumes of smoke that had taken hold of her life.
Everything came down eventually. Cold air falls, hot air rises.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been falling, but it could’ve been forever for all she cared.
“All that time, she was with you,” Briar pointed out lazily. “If anyone drove her to it, it was you.”
“‘Drove her to it,’” she mocked. “Like it was an instant thing. Like you hadn’t tormented her the entire time.”
"Tormented her? She didn't kill herself Toshi. Considering that you're up here, you should-"
"No," Toshiko said sharply. "She didn't kill herself. She was too alive for that."
Toshiko stared up into the air. Smoke came from the row of houses beyond the school. Each one, warming up after a chilly December day.
"I remember last December, with her. Do you?"
“We’re gonna live forever. Walpurgisnacht, my dad- all just the same enemy in the end, ain’t it? Some powerful jerk keeping us apart."
“Deep 3am talk,” Toshiko remarked. She tapped a few attacks out against Ganandorf. “Goddammit! Stop stealing my kills, coward, I swear to god-” She hit the pause button and plopped it over the couch. “I hate this new Legend of Zelda game. Should never have been made online.”
“Should it?” Kaya asked distractedly.
"Come on, Kaya, what's wrong?"
"Toshi, promise me something. If it comes down to your life or mine, then you have to pick yours, okay?"
“Ugh, still that? Don’t worry so much about it, Kaya.” Toshiko waved it off with a flippant hand. “One of those ‘heroes’ can take out the Walpurgisnacht. We’ll be our own heroes, and take your dad together. Just us. That’s all who needs to live, eh?”
Kaya didn’t reply.
Toshiko pushed herself up, and waved her hand behind Kaya. “Hey, don’t leave me hanging,” she whined.
Kaya’s back was turned, shoulders stiff as she scrubbed at some old dishes. “Sure,” she said. “Just us.”
“She wasn’t thinking of just us. She was thinking of you.”
“Toshiko, you know Briar, right?”
“Yeahyeah, we both know Briar.But only one of us likes him,” Toshiko mumbled the last part. She traced her fingers over the oven’s glass door. Inside, a batch of fresh cookies awaited her- a topic far more interesting than any sibling talk.
“He’s coming down soon. Two weeks left.”
“Not a good time to come. Guess we can’t share the magical girl bizz, huh?”
“No, not a good time.”
“Kaya, how much time’s left on the timer?” Toshiko said suddenly.
“Can cookies be ta-”
“Aww, come on,” Toshiko complained.
Both of them giggled over it and Toshiko promptly forgot the entire conversation. But what she couldn’t forget was the way Kaya fingered her soul gem.
“She didn’t have to sacrifice everything for you. She could’ve just let me take care of it. I would’ve kept you away as long as she needed. Hell, we could’ve fled the continent.”
“Kaya didn’t like running from her problems.”
“Better that than-”
“Walpurgisnacht will fall soon,” Kaya said softly.
“Probably. Any clue where it’ll spawn?”
All Toshiko could think in retrospect was liar.
It was their last date- the end of the world, the beginning of winter. Things would begin turning soon- the clouds, the world, the sky. Everything was beautiful.
Everything would last forever.
That’s what Toshiko thought that day as they ran through the matted leaf floor of the park, giggling like maniacs. Toshiko spun on her heel and flung out her arms, Kaya colliding with her and the two tumbling down onto the ground.
Toshiko could smell rot in her nose, but Kaya’s bright smile matched it.
“You idiot. You wanted me to tackle you.”
“Duh! Then I get to do this!” Before Kaya could escape, Toshiko brought her tickling fingers up and launched her assault.
“Noooooo~” Kaya wailed.
Toshiko giggled under her breath as Kaya pushed off her and stumbled back a few steps. “Had enough?”
“I’ll get you for this,” Kaya vowed.
“Sureee.” Toshiko winked. “Wanna go get hot chocolate? It’s cold today.” She stuck out her tongue, half expecting to see snowflakes, but the air was just dry and gross.
“Not right now. Come on, sit.” Kaya sat down, crossing her legs and gestured Toshiko over.
Intrigued, Toshiko took a spot next to her.
“Do you want to watch the clouds?”
The two sat there for a while, just staring up and watching the sky. Thick clouds drifted across, forming all types of different lumpy shapes. Toshiko tried to find the usual forms- duck, rabbit, ballerina- but nothing emerged but chunky bologna.
“Did you know,” Kaya said suddenly. “That those are called nimbostratus clouds? They bring on snow. We can expect some tonight.”
“Clouds? That’s like… third grade science. Can’t say I never paid attention. Was too busy being awesome.”
“Maybe you should have.” Kaya did not look at Toshiko. “Maybe you always should’ve paid attention.”
“Because you might lose something.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“That’s fine, Toshi. Let’s stay out for a while. We can get hot chocolate.”
Walpurgishnacht roared overhead, a thousand clouds all lumped together. A thousand shapes, a thousand features, a thousand deaths crushed beneath its enormous feet.
And Toshiko stood alone- frozen. Frost had seized her legs, pulling her to a stop.
Ahead of her, she clung to the edge of a railing- the edge of what’d once been a bridge they’d stood upon. The edge of the world.
Kaya’s fingers. The monster had stomped on them earlier. She couldn’t pull herself up.
Toshiko had to help.
But her own twitched helplessly, helplessly broken, helplessly useless.
Kaya looked up at Toshiko and she smiled, and she fell, and Toshiko had to turn away- because there was a weight on her back, and even if she tried, she couldn’t have grabbed those mangled fingers of Kaya’s.
They would’ve hurt far more than the impact ever could.
“Do you regret any of it?” Briar asked. “Letting Kaya go?”
“Only thing I could do.” Toshiko breathed out. “She wanted you to live. It was the only way to save you, fool thing you were. Had to come.”
Toshiko fumbled with her pocket, and withdrew the cigarette. Briar raised an eyebrow at her, and she ignored him with a scoff, lighting it and flicking the cigarette over in a clean throw.
They both watched as it twirled in the air, then fell past the railing, out of sight.. She pictured it lit, plummeting into the snow beyond. Extinguished, killed by the fall. Maybe the air, or the fall would crush it. Or maybe the snow would wrap around it, snuffing out the life it cradled.
“The only way to save you,” she echoed. “I had to do what she wanted…”
“Didn’t help you much though. I bet Kaya would’ve changed her mind if she knew what you’d come to.”
Toshiko twisted around. “What I’d come to?” she questioned. “You know nothing about me.” The cold metal of the handrail bit into her hand.
“I know why you’re here.”
“Are you going to stop me?”
Briar’s eyes dropped. “Kaya would’ve wanted to live, if it meant saving you.”
“I don’t want to be saved.”
“She loved you, Toshi.”
Neither one of them breathed. Toshiko watched the swirling clouds across the sky. Lazily spinning, forming a nimbostratus. That was the cloud for snow. She’d learned that in Science class too.
“You better be getting home.”
“I’ll stay with you.”
“I’ll go as soon as you’re ready.”
Toshiko laughed as she climbed the railing. She stood on the edge, and took a final glance at Briar. Bright hair pulled back to reveal impish ears. Sharp amber eyes that were the distinct Akane shade of Kaya’s. Clothes of the same brand.
“Better late than never,” she said.
“Better late than never,” he echoed, and she knew that he wasn’t referring to the storm.
Toshi, promise me something. If it comes down to your life or mine, then you have to pick yours, okay?
If it came down to her beloved 'Toshi' or Briar though.. well, Toshiko smiled.
So much for love.
Briar left the rooftop alone.
Final Word Count: 481
It’d been three days since Keiki had landed in the world of Nexus. And already their hair was on fire, their nails resembled those of a werewolf, and they were screeching at the top of their lungs as they fled from an enormous herd of Nexie, the version of slimes in this cheapass game their cheaper friend had gotten them for their birthday because they didn’t care about Keiki’s feelings regarding the horrible graphics and-
“AHHHHHH! MY SHOEEESSS!” Keiki screeched. The pair of perfectly styled heels were rolling down the hill into the Endless Abyss. “No!”
Keiki lunged for them.
Unfortunately, the Nexie took this very moment to attack Keiki’s poor delicate calves. The ground loomed before them.
They tumbled down the hill.. “I WANNA GO HOMEEEEEE!”
Their face connected with the ground.
“I haven’t eaten anything except stale bread in the past few days,” Keiki moaned. “And those stupid villagers kicked me out! For no reason!”
All Keiki had been doing was making some recommendations on how to improve the food in the village. They’d gotten mad and started yelling about how the monsters wouldn’t stop killing people. Pfft! The NPCs had gotten mad over something like that. If they had better food, maybe then they’d stop being so serious.
Keiki had made that exact, very relevant point, and was immediately thrown out to the monster hordes. Terrible manners to date. Keiki was incredibly offended, and so was their rumbling stomach.
“Ughh….” they moaned. “Never… playing… discount games… again..”
A voice! Above them! This wasn’t ominous at all. Time for whatever sentient monstrosities appeared in later parts of the story.
“Are you… okay?” That sounded promising. Keiki peeked up through their hair. They nearly gasped with shock.
“AIEEEE!” they threw their arms around the legs of their saviour.
The person yelped, trying to push Keiki off. “H-Hey! Don’t-”
But Keiki didn’t care! Saviour! There was someone else in this horrible universe after all!
“You savedd meeee,” they sobbed. “And now you’re going to kill those evil Nexxie!’ They sniffled, hugging tighter.
“Wait, Nexxie?” The strange, hopefully badass person sounded panicked. “You mean you were being chased?”
Growls erupted behind Keiki. They leapt up, grabbed the stranger by the shoulders, and yeeted them at the monsters. “SAVE ME!” they screeched.
“EEEKKK-!” The sword on PurpleHairPerson accidentally unsheathed itself and stabbed the Nexxie.
That was enough for Keiki! Badass it was.
“You’re a hero! You’re my new Guardian.” Keiki fixed their hair. Now time to be the sexy trophy wife to play up my part of the bargain!
The Human stared at them for a long moment. “I thought I was alone here.” He frowned. “I’m… Niwa. Atsushi. Who are you?”
“The glorious Keiki. NOW! To the base!”
“Yes!” Keiki dragged Niwa off.
And thus began the adventure of two idiots in a cheapass retailed video game.
tw// gore, death, timeloop, general darkness, mild swearing
Final Word Count: 977
“I’m- the hero.” Niwa could barely hear his own voice. “Please… don’t kill me.”
“I’m sorry.” And Majikaruman Dōseiai-shadearimasu looked him in the eyes and pointed the barrel of the gun at his face.
He trigger ceded under his finger and Niwa could only pray that death wasn’t as drawn out as the books made it.
He hadn’t expected to wake up.
Not here, not now.
"I haven't been here an hour- and there's already death. Oh well- boo hoo and all that. We've gotta crack down and find out who that killer is, before anyone else gets killed."
Niwa's heart gave a sickening lurch. He whipped on his podium to stare at the speaker.
Keiki's unmarred, safe whole, not bloody face was there. A confident smirk on their lips.
Is this heaven? Have I been brought here for all the good purification I've done? Am I being rewarded for ignoring my holy urge to save these sinners?
He watched, mesmerized, as Keiki's hair swished in slow motion.
"My nails… pfft."
And suddenly Niwa realized where he was.
And he realized that he could fix everything.
This time, Niwa was kinder. Softer. When Kowai came to him at night, he hmmed and hawwed, and made note of everything she said.
There would be no final message from her this time. He would be the one to kill her.
"I just don't know what I'm doing wrong, Niwa," Keiki admitted.
Niwa twitched. He hated being called that name.
"I just don't know if they will ever like me. Lamb brat just keeps getting in our way."
I hate them both, Niwa thought. Don't spend any time on either of them.
But because he was sweet and soft, and Keiki was going to live, he said. "Have you tried roses?"
Niwa stood over Kowai Kurai's dead body.
The pool door opened a second later.
"It's Niwaface," Niwa corrected, annoyed. "Remember? Like tomato?"
"Still can't get over how obsessed you are with that stupid nickname. Who came up with it, a five year old?"
Niwa laughed for so long, that he wasn't sure whether he was crying from mirth or the horrifying pain which had dragged its claws through his chest.
“Where are we going?”
“Somewhere safe,” Niwa replied.
A bang and then a thud. Something hit the floor. Niwa turned and saw Keiki on the ground and-
Time reset again.
He cried that time and it was his last.
This is my heaven, Niwa repeated. This is my sanctuary.
Keiki'a body was so bloody Niwa wasn't sure what had killed them first this time. The gun was probably involved.
The pages flipped backward and "My nails. Pfft."
HELP ME DAMN YOU HELP ME
Keiki ended up plunging a knife into their neck. Their cold unforgiving eyes never left Niwa's, even as Maji gasped and pleaded for them to put the blade down.
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR NAILS!" he screamed.
Silence fell over the courtroom.
This time, he avoided Keiki. He told them to go away. He let them form bonds.
In the end, the doors were open.
Keiki stepped through.
Niwa stepped through.
And then Suko burst through the doors, and leapt on Keiki, throwing his arms around their neck.
They both laughed, smiling at one another.
Niwa stared at it for a long time. The two smiles ran through the garden, embracing the chirping birds, blue sky, and endless greenery and freedom.
Behind him Hisoka and Maji were holding hands. Suzume and Megami were smiling at one another.
Everybody had lived.
Screw your happy ending.
Apparently everything was perfect in a world where he didn't exist.
He yanked the gun out of Maji’s pack and put a bullet through (Keiki or his?)s skull.
This time, when he saw those green eyes, he said nothing. He just watched them. Amano spoke out. Keiki looked down for a second, then bounced back, smiling and happy as ever.
Maybe they'd vote him this time.
Maybe he'd finally be free from those hypnotizing green eyes.
Or maybe he'd just see the end of this timeline's Keiki, as it always should have been.
A smile or a spray of blood.
He preferred the latter.
Blood that time.
Smiles from everybody who didn’t matter.
Chika stabbed Keiki and Niwa in their sleep.
Kowai cried. Koda held her, glaring at him.
Maji plunged a knife through his gut.
“This is hell.”
“What do you mean, Niwaface?”
It was days, but it felt like seconds after that nickname that Keiki was pulverized from the inside out and sprayed across the pool floor.
“Pfft, my nails.”
“Help me… Niwa…”
“DON’T HURT ME!”
Niwa wasn’t sure when the timelines changed now. Keiki’s death and life blurred together. Sometimes he was sure he was out of the school. Then he’d look down and there’d be a gun in his hands and Keiki’s blood.
Each time, uncontrollable terror he couldn’t direct at anything. Sometimes he’d smash Keiki’s head against the podium, and die when everyone voted him guilty of Nagisa’s murder.
Blood made him happy these days. Bleeding out was better than the pain physical blows could inflict.
Much less words.
“Did you miss me?” Kowai drawled in the doorway.
“Always,” Niwa replied.
He plunged a knife in her and waited.
If the masterminds were dead, would this end?
Niwa flipped the knife in his grip, inhaled and then thrust it deep within his stomach. He bled out onto the floor of Kowai’s lab.
He prayed to not wake up.
His eyes snapped open.
His last hope. The one thing he’d hoped would end this.
It confirmed everything.
This was hell. This wasn’t redemption.
None of this was real.
He was just supposed to die over and over again. There were no lessons. No right and wrong. No sacrifice, no love, no pain.
Just Niwa and Kowai and Keiki, right where they belonged.
Burning, inside out.
Final Word Count: 1735
Suko was alone the first time they saw it. Coming home after a run- Just three letters, scrawled on the side of a dumpster.
JNB. Back then, they weren’t sure what to make of it. Now they knew better. JNB- three letters, each spelling out the end of the world.
The first sign. It was done in greenish grey paint.
They planted a foot on the ground, and held their bike as they studied it. Justin Bieber? Some KPOP band I definitely remember the name of? Some weird gang slang?
“Hey, Suko!” Niwa ran up to them, waving frantically.
Suko inhaled sharply, kicking off the kickstand and taking off. Niwa’s arm just touched their hair as they shot off into the street.
“SUKO, WHERE’RE YOU GOING?”
They pedaled harder.
Suko arrived at Junji’s house without issue. Junji waved them in without looking up. Suko took a spot on their couch.
Sparkling golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling, swinging from side to side. A beautiful piano with such exquisite keys, just waiting to be played. Such warm and welcoming fuzzy carpeted floors that cushioned your feet. And soft, soft red velvet couches, that Suko felt as they sat down.
And the walls were painted grey-green.
“Heyyyy, Jun-jun! Whatcha doing?”
“Working on your commission,” Junji said wryly. “I’m afraid that art doesn’t make itself. Some famous person said that. At one point.” He wetted the brush and took a backwards step, studying the canvas.
“Mm,” Suko quickly lost interest. “Say, do you know any graffiti artists?”
“None in particular. Why?”
“You’re so strange sometimes, Suko.” Junji shook his head affectionately.
“No more than you!”
Junji rolled his eyes, returning to his painting. Suko watched each brushstroke curiously. “Whatcha doing now?”
“Putting down a base. I’ll do the fine details later.”
“Teach me?” Suko plopped down next to him.
“Take a class.”
“Oh come on!”
As per usual, their conversation quickly fell into an argument, and Suko ended up, butt on the curb. They left for greener pastures- their boyfriend, Femi was waiting for them.
“Suko, what did I say about coming here right after classes?” Femi was indeed waiting for them, hands on his hips and standing in the entrance of the kitchen.
“You… told me not to be late?” Suko’s face fell. Then, they saw the time. Had… they really stayed that long?
“Femiii! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be late. I couldn’t help i-”
“...you like Junji better than me, don’t you? You stayed late on purpose,” Femi interrupted, his eyes glistening with tears.
“NO! O-Of course I don’t! I love you, Femi!”
“Then why do you never show it? This is the third time you’ve come here late, Suko. I- I thought… I meant something to you.”
“...please go. Just go.” Femi put his hands to his face. “...and don’t come back.”
Suko, slumping over, backed out of the house, their eyes filling with tears. They wound up limping home, bumping into things on the way back.
Suko screamed into their pillow.
The next day, Suko didn’t go to classes. No one called them- they just sat in their kitchen, staring emptily at a wall.
Suko picked at their toast, the only thing they could be bothered to make. They barely ate a crumb.
They tried to brush their teeth, and couldn’t even pick up the toothbrush.
Suko put their dirty clothes in the washing machine. They couldn’t even turn the dial to start it.
They flopped down onto the couch. They buried themself in the cushions. And just… cried.
Describe them slowly going about their day, not starting the washing machine, just leaving it in there.
Their phone rang.
It rang again.
Suko didn’t pick it up, and it stopped after the third.
They sighed, snuggling deeper into the couch cushions.
It started ringing again.
Their eye twitched and they snatched it upward.
The caller ID read “Mom.” They considered putting it down again, but Mum could be stubborn that way. She knew all their tricks, and they’d get chewed out the next time they went for a free meal.
Sighing, they tapped the “Accept Call” button and put it to their ear.
“Hi, mom,” they said wearily.
“Suko! Were you ignoring me? I’ve told you again and again…” Suko droned out the rest of her rant. “You aren’t even listening to me now, Suko, are you? Oh, baby…”
There was a fond note in her voice, but it quickly fell back into its usual sternness. “Suko, can’t you come up one of these days? Visit your old mom, see your dad- we miss you, kid, you better show up.”
Suko laughed nervously, adjusting the phone by their ear. “Yeah yeah- sure Mom. I can come by this weekend.”
“And no excuses either. I don’t care what Femi says, I called him last weekend and he said you weren’t in the hospital, so your-”
“Mom, Femi and I broke up.”
She finally fell silent.
“No,” she whispered. “No, you didn’t.”
“I wasn’t the one who-”
“Suko, can I call you back later?” There was a note of urgency in her voice.
“Yeah sure Mom but-”
Ding. The call was over.
They pulled their phone back from their ear and frowned at it. Well… that was rude.
A bleary-eyed Suko stared at their phone with a sigh.
Well… they might as well contact the only person they could right now.
“Hey,” they texted. “Are you busy?”
“No. What’s up?”
“It’s just… things have been really hard lately. I don’t know what to do. Can we talk?”
“Sure. We could hang out at the park, if you want?”
The next day they left the house. Not really sure where they were going.
The same dumpster with the same graffiti. Suko paused by the corner, staring at it for a long moment. Something about it made them feel better. Like there was something that’d stay- that something had moved into their life when they’d lost everything.
Three stupid letters.
Maybe it was a boy band Femi was into, huh?
Their lip twitched into a sneer, and they kicked off the ground.
“Suko?” Niwa’s voice called faintly in the distance. “...S-uuuko-?”
Suko glanced back once, and then nearly walked away. No point in talking to him.
What was the point in talking to anyone anymore, when your world was falling apart?
“Suko. I- wanted to tell you about something. It’s… r-really important.”
Suko’s eyes watered. “What’s important? …nothing’s important anymore.”
“Suko, please listen- SUKO!”
They’d already walked away.
The grocery store was open. No one talked to them as they moved through the aisles.
All they heard were whispers.
Whispers… about what?
Probably about what a failure I am, Suko thought, dropping their head. They didn’t feel like buying anything anymore.
The second sign came that night.
Suko was eating takeout, some crappy noodles from a crappy new Chinese restaurant down the street. Their TV was on. By some rule of the universe, pretty much everything on had to be one of those stupid soap operas Femi liked. Daytime TV- at night.
Life was going downhill fast.
Suko sighed, flipping through the channels and eventually settled on the news.
“Missing Person: Niwa Atsushi.”
And when the face of their stalker flickered on, Suko remembered screaming.
Suko’s eyes were wide. Maybe I can call Femi. Maybe… he’ll know what to do.
Suko picked up the phone. They dialed Femi’s number.
Bzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzz.
There was no answer.
“Hey… Junji? Can I borrow your phone?”
Junji gave them a curious look. “Oh. Sure, I guess.”
They borrowed Junji’s phone.
“Hey, this is Femi, if it’s about my car-”
“No, it’s me. Femi, can I-” Suko started to say.
Femi hung up.
“I think a murderer saw me yesterday. I’m a witness,” they whispered. But no one answered.
Suko handed the phone back to Junji.
The third sign came the third day. Suko woke up, any old day, and they left their room. They’d just put on some coffee, and happened to glance at their door.
At first they didn’t notice.
But as they looked, they realized that there it was.
Scrawled on their bedroom door.
This time, it was red. And dripping.
Someone’s in my house, they realized dizzily.
Oh god, someone was in their house.
Suko ran out of the house and got onto their bike, glancing round and round. Everywhere they looked…
No people. Complete and utter silence.
No more voices.
And scrawled on every surface…
JNB. JNB. JNB.
Dripping, in blood.
Suko arrived at their parents’ house. They puffed and panted, but as they came up to the door…
JNB was scrawled in greenish grey letters on their parents’ door.
Suko began to hyperventilate. They banged on the door.
“Mom? Dad? Ar-are you- there?”
There was no answer.
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. JNB… JNB everywhere… it’s everywhere…
Oh… it was Junji. Finally. Someone they could trust.
They hit Accept.
“Suko? I was just calling to tell you… my art is finished.”
“Oh, r-really?” Suko stammered. “Sure. Be right there! Sounds super fun!”
They put their phone away, and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe… Junji would have an answer to all this madness.
They got onto their bike and pedaled as fast as they could, huffing and puffing and panting, never stopping or relenting until they reached Junji’s house.
JNB. JNB. JNB. Everywhere.
Then, suddenly, they saw Junji’s door.
JNB was not scrawled on Junji’s door.
A sigh of relief left Suko’s mouth. Finally. Was… this place safe?
They knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s- It’s Suko.”
“Oh, sure. You can come in,” Junji replied.
Suko turned the knob. The door opened with a ominous creak.
They closed it behind them. Suko headed towards him.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Suko? It took me so long, but it’s finally finished!”
Something about Junji’s voice made Suko shudder.
Why was… his house, the only one that didn’t have JNB carved into the door?
Slowly, they took in the colors of the room once again. Everything… was now painted grey-green.
“Junji… this may be a weird question. But… what are your other initials?”
Final Word Count: 1059
“Do you know where you are, Adrik?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re at Kaden’s house. Who’s Kaden?”
“I don’t know.”
“He’s your friend. Do you know what friends-”
“I’m not an idiot, you know.” Adrik propped his chin up on his hand and stared out the window. “Just- forgot some things. Still know the meanings of words. We’ve been over this.”
“I know, Adrik.”
“Then why were you-?”
“I was going to ask about your interpretation. If the word made you feel anything.”
Oh. “And I guess-”
“I’d guess not as well.”
Priya pushed out her chair and stood, looking down at Adrik. “He’ll be here in a minute. Do you think you can talk to him?”
“After everything?” Adrik asked miserably. “No.”
When you remembered nothing, how could you play intimacy? When you couldn’t picture their face, how could someone be the most important person in the world to you? When you didn’t know anything but their name-
How could he tell Kaden that he was nothing but a hollow shell now? That Adrik Volkov, whoever he was was gone?
Navy blue blossomed on the plastic table at the point his fingers connected. Adrik yanked his hand back, heart pounding in his throat. It spread to the rest- an entire table turned blue.
Priya was looking at him again. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the pity in her expression. “I’ll see him alone,” he said quietly.
“Don’t push yourself, Adrik.” Priya’s hand was light on his shoulder. She pulled it back as he turned to look at her. “He doesn’t want to hurt you. Just remember that, any time you feel scared.”
Adrik nodded mutely. She studied him for a second more, then turned on her heel and left. He watched her go, heart pounding in his throat.
Don’t leave me, he almost wanted to say. I need you here with me.
The door closed behind her.
An entire room went silent, the only noise the ticking of the clock in the corner. Adrik’s knee bounced with each tock, his nerves only growing hotter by the second.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Come in!” he called.
The twist of the knob seized his heart. He watched with baited breath as someone walked inside. He couldn’t see their face- light brown hair fanned over it, hiding it from view.
Then the person looked up and purple eyes met his.
“Adrik…?” he asked hopefully.
“Are you… Kaden?” He flinched as the man’s head dropped. Those beautiful eyes squeezed shut. Adrik’s hands twitched, longing to reach for that face and apologize, but he also didn’t know if he had that right or not or-
“So you really don’t remember.”
Kaden took a seat in front of him. Adrik’s mouth ran dry. He tapped his fingers nervously on his knee.
“Adrik used to do that,” Kaden said quietly.
The room somehow got tenser.
“I- Well, I’m Adrik, right?” Silence. Adrik rushed to fill it. “Maybe we can ask questions. Like some weird first date.”
“What kind of questions?”
“You know, like- what’s your favourite colour? That sort of thing... although I understand if you-“
“Green. What’s yours?”
Kaden blinked. “No reason?”
“Just like it, that’s all. Is it the wrong colour or-“
“No, that’s your favourite. What’s your favourite food?”
“I like sweet.”
The two asked questions for what felt like hours. Every now and then Adrik would feel like they were making a breakthrough, then Kaden would add something odd, and he’d go off balance again. There was something else going on. Something he didn’t get.
“What’re your dreams for the future?”
“Remember things, obviously.”
“...Your answers were all right.” Kaden stood up. “You said everything Adrik thought and said and told me. But who you are is different.” He lowered his head, letting hair fall over his eyes again.
Adrik’s eyes flooded with tears. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Kaden jerked. “Sorry-? Why are you sorry?”
“I’m sorry I can’t say what you wanted me to say.” He stared at his hands in his lap. “I’m sorry I’m not who you needed to see today-“
“Adrik, I’m so sorry.” Kaden’s arms were suddenly around him.
Adrik squeaked, but threw his arms around Kaden regardless. “What-?”
“I’m sorry for the questions. This isn’t your fault- none of it is. I don’t need to know you- you just need to know me again. That’s all.”
“Kaden, I’m not mad about the questions... you know that, right?”
Kaden shook his head, the motion jarring the hug. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. It was always you- you always spoke first.”
“I’m sorry,” Adrik whispered. “I’m sorry I stole Adrik from you. That I can’t be who you-“
Kaden slowly shook his head. His hair tickled Adrik’s nose. “No Adrik. I’m sorry.”
“Are you leaving me?”
Kaden pulled back. He blinked a few times, and the light caught those endless purple eyes. Adrik wondered if that was why Kaden wanted to hear more. If maybe it was those eyes the Adrik in the past had loved.
“Adrik,” he said quietly. “I’m going to stay by you. Screw these questions- even if you aren’t my Adrik, then I owe you what he did for me.”
“I’m going to stay by your side no matter what, okay? No matter what.”
Adrik bit his lip. “I believe you. It’s really okay, Kaden.” He thought. “It’s unfair for you to just try. I like the questions- I think we can try together. But I also think we should ask something different. Maybe more of what we think of each other, you know?”
Whichever Adrik inspired this Kaden... he wanted to know him.
Kaden stared at him. “Adrik...” He smiled. “Okay. You wanna go first?”
Adrik smiled. “Absolutely. Say, what did you think when...”
Priya was right. There was nothing to be scared of. This Kaden was just as nervous as him. Someone his past self could’ve loved.
And as he stared into those beautiful eyes, he realized something.
This was someone he could love too.
Maybe he didn’t need his memory.
Maybe he was already Adrik. And for some reason, he got the sense that Kaden would know that too. Sometime, eventually.
What were a few lost memories, when you could make some new ones?
Final Word Count: 210
“Your taste in upholstery is abysmal,” Kubo remarked, leaning up against the a doorframe and watching as Lucian wrestled with the inner workings of their car.
Lucian sighed, wiping sweat off his brow and looking up past the countless tools and dangerous objects that populated the garage to glare at Kubo. “It’s literally grey. What problem do you have with it this time?”
Kubo rolled his eyes. “Settling on the most boring option because I didn’t approve of your rainbow vomit selections? To be honest, that sounds like you.” He watched as Lucian futilely tugged on the seat cover. “You need help with that?”
“No,” Lucian shot back. “No I don’t.”
Kubo walked down the steps and took his place by Lucian’s side. “You hold it like this, see? Keep it nice and spread so you have as much room as possible…”
With their combined strength, the dilapidated fabric was finally covered with less dilapidated fabric.
“You’re welcome. Wanna go get McDonalds?”
“Sure, we can probably drive now-”
“Actually... I feel like walking.” Kubo’s eyes grew distant. "That sounds nice right now..."
Lucian wondered what he’d said, but shrugged and put his hand in Kubo’s. The two walked away.
Behind them, the car sat motionless in the garage.
Final Word Count: shhh
“What does ‘influx’ mean?” Kubo asked one day.
“Influx? Some kind of economics...” Lucian trailed off, blinking. “You know what, I’m not actually sure.”
“Imagine if you had to write a prompt on it,” Kubo agreed. “That would be torment. Say, remember those February ficstarters we had planned...?”
And thus, Serendibite’s hell spawned. I will post another bonus, I apologize, I genuinely have no idea what to do with this.
Final Word Count: 433
Life likes Suko.
It's a fact. They all flock to Suko- billions of faces, billions of hearts, opening up them- one person's joy, another person's sorrow.
Suko liked to stomp on it sometimes. Life and its countless gifts, all those pretty little ants who thought they meant something. Like their constrained little lives actually dove deeper- and didn't just carve into the porchwood.
There was a girl, they recall. She didn’t quite smile right- all gap toothed and crooked. Her face was swollen and weird and nothing about it made sense.
Suko didn’t like thinking about that girl, or themself for that matter.
The memory of her blood made them uneasy.
The shoe grinding her ear more so. Converse- trendy, popular, perfect, as always.
Each gift of life was buried beneath a new pat of soil. Their talent scooped it up, and smattered it. Bloody smears on warm arms that only wrapped itself tighter around them the harder they fought.
Until, of course, the day life fought back.
And Suko learned they lost it.
And if life didn't like them, then who did?
Mother, father, brother, friend.
Where have you gone?
Hope's Peak Academy hated Suko.
Every time they took a step forward, they were dragged back.
Nagisa's death; choking on his own spittle.
Niwa, calm faced and blinking, saying "you're a monster." You're already dead, their mind whispers.
The fury of Keiki- entangling and wreathing, clasping their face in a searing grip.
And of course, Femi.
Femi, oh Femi.
He burned so bright, so warm, so nervous. Suko hated him, secretly- for that life, for that hiding, for something he had crushed people long ago for possessing.
And then he pulled Femi out, and as they stared into each other's eyes, hands on each other's hips, Suko realized that they'd been wrong all along.
This was life. This was what they should've treasured.
Femi was their lesson.
Now they would live.
And then Femi burned brightly.
Nagisa, Niwa, Keiki, Femi.
Where have you gone?
There has always been one ally for Suko. One pair of arms who wanted to embrace them.
Not for me. Not for my skill. Not for my heart.
As darkness dragged them down, they heard Hisoka and Kowai's voices.
Thank you, they thought.
Maybe, the cold arms around them were their final sanctuary.
After all, even if nobody wanted them, useless byproduct, there was always one solution.
Kowai, Hisoka, Suko, Femi-
Death wrapped its bloodless arms around them. Let's go, bloody lips whispered.
A gap toothed girl crushed their skull and finally, they were happy.