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[X] “Why, maybe I should. Have I ever told you about my life before this? A rather miserable story.” Tell her maybe. This could be a good chance to share some secrets. To bond. And tomorrow, the surprise.
It’s a cruel Akyu who dices with men’s feelings in the midst of a therapeutic bath, but this is your Akyu that you’ve chosen – middled between your legs and skittish with anticipation. You may only speculate what it cost her to put you to this question; she can’t do so much for you.
Nor would she – if you had, even, managed it before her. This isn’t the kind of girl to presume anything so rude. This is the modest girl from your old class, the one who would sit smothering a smile when everyone laughed at you because she’s too polite to do something so mean. She’s the one who’s always been nice for you from the start; once she even lent you a pen and your fingers touched, and you knew at once there was something between you two you weren’t telling. So, as you start stroking her cheek and look into her eyes she doesn’t know what to do and sits there, pink and flustered... but slowly, slowly, the eggshell cracks and sooner than you know it there she goes, smiling that precious smile and asking to be together for ever more.
You breathe the tension out of your chest. Somehow, someway, it’s fallen to you to react, rather than she. The pillion feels cold and tough after riding the saddle for so long. You don’t know if you like it; don’t know if this is to the good or no – but if this is your seat, maybe it’s time to have some words while someone else is holding the reins...
“Why, maybe I should,” you begin. Akyu lights up with a hope, but you put her out just as soon. Careful, Nanaya; you aren’t here to propose, not yet. “That might be just what I need, yes, but first... Have I ever told you about my life before this? I don’t think I have at that. A miserable story, to tell it true. Ancient, too – there are times when I ponder on those days and they seem almost years in the past, not weeks. And when in the dark of the night I search my memory, it is so dead; sometimes it feels as though I’d never even lived before this world.
“I lived on my own, did you know that? Whatever had happened before, I had a place to call my own at the least; I had somewhere to run if... when things went downhill. I do not remember much of my youngest years; you’ll have to forgive me. I was always in this second-floor flat, had always been there. Alone. I knew my days, I knew them well: wake up in the morning – one, two, three past noon – eat what easiest meal was produced from my fridge, then it was the web, my little window to the outside. Oh, I’m sorry. You can think of it as a book – only connected to thousands of other books, perhaps all the books in the world. It was a lot to read, so I read. I read, I read, I read. After the Sun went down, after the world had died, I was still there, reading. ‘Til the Sun went up again and I lost to the wear, when I fainted on my desk, ‘til the next afternoon. I was a walking corpse living many lives but my own. I was dead and did not care.
“That’s what they don’t understand about me, Akyu. I didn’t care. Anything else was needless; and if there was one truth I could say of myself back then, I would never have compromised what I was. Not for a meaningless career, not for this fairy tale called love, and certainly not for some arbitrary want of society. When I lived several lives a day through my books, what was one less where it scarcely mattered? I had my web, I had my books; I had money in my pocket, wherever it came from, and no family to worry for; I had a bed and a roof over my head. What else was there?
“And then, when I most thought I’d found my perfect heaven, the insanity crept in.”
You stop to close your eyes in returning pain. Akyu says nothing; nothing makes a sound but the steady dripping of water. And it is a while before you hear your own voice saying in scarce a whisper:
“And it was so terrifying. To watch it take over, never being able to do anything myself... Have you ever drunk so much you blacked out but not quite? It was something, something very close, like that. There’s always the sober you, somewhere deep inside, fettered inside an iron cage, looking on without – on everything you do... And screaming, screaming at you to stop, and crying, please don’t do it, oh god, wake up, please don’t – but your body is deaf, and you are deaf, and you don’t know why; you stumble out into the rain and trip over your own feet, cut open your hands, break your knees, puke over your wounds, and you’re crying, crying inside, powerless...
“I knew what had set it off. Oh, my dear god, I knew what had done this to me; I loathed the word. ‘Gensokyo.’ I heard it by chance, the damned word, pure chance, and it unlocked something within me, something great and wonderful, but also dark and bloody... And sooner than I knew, I became its prisoner. Night and day, and night and day, I was drawn... compelled... no, coerced to seek it out, say it, know it, want it... To find it. You can’t describe what a crushing will it had imposed on me. I did not eat, I did not sleep; I was deader with each hour I spent passed out. I had to find it, I must. This wasn’t a mere curiosity, not your morbid fascination, no... This was something more, a matter of life and death—no, more than that. The whole world was holding its breath, Akyu...
“And when I found it, and when it breathed again, oh... You don’t know the elation, Akyu. You cannot comprehend the rapture, the ecstasy of that moment. I was free! The howling in my head stopped, and such a weight left my shoulders I stood there for minutes and laughed. I laughed, Akyu. I was changed. This was where I belonged—no, it was there that belonged to me. This world is me, Akyu. You don’t feel it, but I do. I am not a piece of it, I didn’t complete the picture when I’d crossed the border; I was the picture. This may not make sense to you, but I am not in Gensokyo, Akyu; Gensokyo is in me. I am holding it in my hands, I am cradling it in my heart, I am carrying it inside me. I did not understand it then, I don’t still, but that’s how it is. I know it now. I know it, Akyu.
“And what a disappointment it all became when I entered that classroom, so many days ago,” you conclude with a bitter laugh. “For here I am, speaking of nonsense, dreaming of felling trees with bare fingertips, when all I really want is with me right here. A modest girl who’s nice for me and lends me her pen when I need one. Maybe, just maybe, maybe all of that was just a bad dream? Maybe all the insanity, the searching, the pain, maybe all of it was just because I was lonely? What do you think? Akyu?”
“I never knew...” you hear a murmur.
“I never knew...!”
You try to touch her, see what’s wrong...
... But then Akyu turns around, so quickly, and throws her arms around you – around your head, your hair, your ears – and it is so soft... so soft and so gentle, you may think she fears breaking you someway with her embrace. But there’s nothing erotic about it; somehow being naked makes no matter; you’re just surprised, speechless...
“To think,” she breathes out, “to think so, that you had such a secret...” You can feel her breast swell and fall with every gasped word. “I never knew, I never did. I—I’m so sorry, Naya. So sorry...”
“You don’t have to—”
“But I must!” The desperation in her voice almost makes you take her at her word. You wait for her to go on. And finally, she does. “I am the Child of Miare,” she says. “The ninth, the current incarnation, the inheritor. It is my blood duty to know! And yet here I was, so oblivious... I feel vile, like I was toying with you, never knowing... Naya, I didn’t...”
“It’s nothing to cry over,” you try to calm her, “it’s not even that sad of a story...”
“But it was! You had no family, no one but yourself... You were dead, you said so! You did! And then, these things you do, the things you feel... Think who you could be, Naya. Think—”
“I don’t want to think.”
Akyu comes away from you, all teary-eyed confusion.
And she’s so pretty like this, your heart leaps in its cage. The flushed little cheeks, the shoulder-length hair that glitters when she moves, the sloping shoulders, the small perky breasts... This is something to die for. To live for. This is what you’ve been searching for. This is your heaven.
You can’t rest upon your laures yet, but breasts should do for the nonce.
You pull your Akyu closer and hug her to your face. The breasts jump up and twitch, as she gives up a little yelp of surprise.
“I don’t want to think,” you tell her again. “I don’t care for the ‘was’es; I don’t want to linger on ‘could have been’s. When the night is fallen, when tomorrow is a heartbeat away: that is when I feel truly alive. And if the heartbeat is yours...”
You kiss her chest where her heart ticks beneath her skin.
You kiss her between her collarbones.
You kiss her neck.
And before either of you musters a “no, please, not now,” you’re kissing her fully on the tender lips.
There is no telling the time, but it strides by silent all the same; and when the only question that remains is “your room or mine?” the clock out in the hall peals a twelve. Midnight.
“Sorry, Akyu,” you say, your voice stiff, “sorry. Not today. Not... I need to gather my mind. You know...”
“... Yes. Yes, I know.” Akyu tears her lips away from yours. “You do that. You... do.”
You let your fingers slide along her sides when she comes out of the lukewarm water, dripping, pink and white and beautiful; and when she towels herself down and rushes out of the bathroom, so swiftly as if she were running away, you almost call after her... But you don’t.
After the last of her naked steps vanish in the hallway you rise yourself, do your deed and turn out again your stale old clothes. You gather up Emily and leave the house on your tiptoes, watchful for the sleeping as well as those not.
The night is young, but you feel your years tonight, however few.
Along the dimly lit streets you stalk toward your inn, unseen, unheard... unheeded.
This is good. They will hear of you soon enough.
Why should you foreshow the surprise?