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Messages - OhGodHelpMe

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General Manga writer discussions / Re: Tugging At Your Heartstrings
« on: September 20, 2017, 04:19:26 PM »
Hold on, they all did too?! Op, you murderer!

General Manga writer discussions / Tugging At Your Heartstrings
« on: September 19, 2017, 01:29:58 AM »
When you're reading a story, whether it be on here or elsewhere, what is it, when a story is trying to convey sadness, that really tugs at your heartstrings? Is it the mere subject matter, something like a dying loved one? Is it overt sadness and drama that gets you, or a slow, painful march into the ultimate sorrow ahead? When a story is trying to make you feel this way, what specifically about the story or characters actually makes you feel saddened?

Trying to master the art of crushing sadness in my writing, so any input would be greatly valued  8)

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: September 18, 2017, 02:29:28 AM »
OGHM solos on Taeko Ohnuki's 4AM

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: September 15, 2017, 03:21:10 AM »

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: September 12, 2017, 08:01:25 PM »
Thank you, I appreciate it! I commend anyone who manages to binge read this long, depressing tale  :ninja:

Anyway, I've been busy making a few adjustments here.
-The front page arc navigation is no longer a bloody mess. Links snap you right to the start of each arc
-Added Senkumo War Stories to the arc navigation
-If you haven't already been able to tell, I finally got around to doing some major reconstruction on the rather lackluster arc Letting Go. Much more depth being added to Rousoku's part of the story, as well as adding stories focused on Amatsutsuki and
-Will soon add the extra chapters for Inari Standoff to this thread, just so you don't have to go somewhere else to read them

Also just now realizing that Senkumo War Stories is 63 chapters long in totality  :ninja: By comparison, Dawn and Dusk was 20/21 chapters, Inari Standoff was 27, and The End of Osamu Ashikaga was around 42 or something like that. Geez...

MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2017
« on: September 10, 2017, 08:43:54 PM »
Someone hold me. I had a nightmare that anime didn't exist

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: September 07, 2017, 05:43:57 PM »
Letting Go: She Who Gave Her Flesh, Her Kith and Kin
Ishigaki island was the island of your most pleasant, heavenly dreams. The wind, constantly tugging here and there at Shinju's blue poncho and fire-like hair like a playful child begging for attention, carried the salty aroma of the glittering, blue sea with it. The clear skies were as vibrant as the beautiful, green grass disturbed only by narrow, dirt roads leading across the island. The small, private jet Shinju arrived on sat parked behind her, her sunglasses-wearing pilot shouting out to her from the top of the retractable stairs.

Pilot: Be careful out there, Shinju! We'll be here if you need us!

Shinju smiled and held up two fingers in an optimistic peace sign.

Shinju: Don't worry about me! Enjoy your time here! Get a cool drink and something to eat!

The pilot saluted her with a cheek-lifting grin as she trotted along the dirt road. It didn't take her long to spot a small, white house situated just beyond the beach with a view of the ocean and its seemingly endless horizon. Shinju casually approached the entrance to the house, noticing that all the curtains were drawn, and yet the windows were open. She hesitated for a moment, looking around at her surroundings but noticing no other suspicious aspect of the house. Even the roses in the front yard grew and swayed inconspicuously in the wind.

Shinju: Don't mind if I just let myself in...

In an act that seemed unbecoming of a justice-loving girl like her, Shinju climbed through the open front window rather than knocking on the door or ringing a door bell. Her first step inside was one of creaking hard wood, followed by another thorough survey of the house with her eyes. The interior was a different story than the exterior. The couch in the living room, along with all of its pillows were toppled over and strewn about. Shards of broken glass shimmered and dazzled on the floor like sacred diamonds. Shinju carefully crept her way towards the bedroom, the door of which was covered in ofuda, all of them bearing the name "Tsukiakari Senkumo".

There were no noises, no signs of current activity beyond the door, nor anywhere else in the house. Yet still, Shinju took a deep breath as she wrapped her fingers around the bedroom doorknob, preparing for any unpleasant surprises or attacks. She released her breath and slowly opened the door, her hair immediately being flirted with by a sudden breeze coming from the open window in the bedroom. The blue of the sky reflected off of the wooden floor as even more ofuda flew around the room, just slightly obscuring Shinju's view.

Laying upon the canopy bed with the sheets drizzled with dried blood, a young girl no older than 14 opened her eyes as if she was just waking up. Shinju's heart dropped just looking at her, for most of what remained of her body was bandaged up completely. The bandages around her head spared only the sight of her one, blind eye and weakened smile. One of the sleeves of her white yukata lied flat on the bed due to her missing arm. The other was bandaged and rested across her stomach. Both of her legs were gone, and so nothing protruded out the bottom end of her yukata.

Shinju: Lucrezia? Is that you?

Lucrezia's voice carried with it the weight and sadness of exhaustion and forlorn hope.

Lucrezia: Shinju. I knew you'd come eventually. I'm sorry to shock you with such a sight. My flesh has been riven and torn asunder. I fear my heart is no different. It''s been a long time...Shinju. Since the failed mission to kill Hima Chinagaregawa, I believe.

Shinju had to catch her breathe and steady her heart, as if she had seen a phantom. Though she expected to find Lucrezia here, she could've never prepared herself for her terrible physical condition.

Shinju: What on earth happened to you?

Lucrezia: Punishments, of course. You know how cruel our handlers can be if we fail important missions. After we failed to assassinate Hima, I lost my right arm. That was the initial punishment, anyway. I had my face disfigured as additional punishment.

Shinju: Additional punishment? For what?!

Lucrezia: Asking for your pardon. The price for that was doubling up on my own punishment to make up for what was supposed to happen to you.

Shinju: ...And your legs?

Lucrezia: I lost those recently, as you can see. I removed them myself.

Lucrezia could see the weight of guilt bear down on Shinju's conscience. She averted her eyes from Lucrezia, cursing in whispered breath.

Lucrezia: I've always been the other side of your coin, Shinju. I never wanted you to feel guilty about any of this.

Shinju: How else am I suppose to feel? All these years, and you never once mentioned to me that I cost you your arm and face! Why did you cut off your own legs?! What the hell are you thinking?!

Lucrezia: I'm thinking that I want to protect you one last time, Shinju.

Shinju: What are you talking about?

Lucrezia: It was over a year ago, your mission to eradicate the Sentani twins, both Satori and Amatsutsuki. You successfully carried out the most important objective of that mission when you killed Satori and destroyed his mansion, burying all of his stolen toys in the rubble and exorcising the place. However, for some reason, you failed to accomplish the other half of your mission. You didn't kill Amatsutsuki. Why is that?

Shinju:...Killing her at the time would've required a war against Kyoto's crime syndicates. No one knew Amatsu's whereabouts, so going after her directly would've been far too risky. I may be Mizuhame's descendant, but I can't survive a bullet to the temple, Lucrezia.

Lucrezia: But she did reveal herself to you afterwards. You even scheduled to fight. She was supposed to die then, Shinju. What happened?

Shinju: Look, I saved the damn girl, alright? I saved her life instead of letting her die!

Lucrezia: Why?

Shinju remained silent.

Lucrezia: Shinju. I know how compassionate you can be. Finding alternative solutions that still fit within the realm of legality is part of your specialty. It's why you're so loved as an exorcist. But you had specific and strict orders to kill both of them, not just one. Continuing to harbor Amatsutsuki will put your lives in danger.

Shinju: So was it you? Did you organize the recent attempts on her life?

Lucrezia: Wow...I'm wondering how you figured that out so fast. You were always known for your quick thinking and nearly prophetic deductions, but this is something else. Why was I the first person you thought of?

Shinju: It wasn't some genius deduction, actually. It was just sheer luck. I had a list of suspects consisting of Kyoto's finest exorcists. It included you, Heavy Metal, Belle, and White Saint. I was going to visit all of them and question them about Amatsutsuki, but I lucked out on the first shot. I knew to check my fellow exorcists because I was completely aware of the dangers of keeping Amatsu alive. On the surface, you did a good job making it look like it was purely a re-emerging crime feud, but there's more to it after all, isn't there? That's why you used them to get to her. They have every reason to want her dead.

Lucrezia: You're right. You're right about it all. That's amazing, Shinju. I was the one who initiated the current Hunting Game for Amatsu's head. She knows everything about the crime syndicates of Kyoto and Tokyo. She knows the names of the police officers they bribe, the accountants they use to help launder their money, the lawyers they hire to keep them out of trouble, their contraband smuggling routes, safehouse locations, weapons dealers, she knows it all. Hearing that Amatsutsuki was alive naturally sent them into a panic. Everyone was eager to tie up the loose end. I only blew on a rock that was already about to fall off the cliff, Shinju. Eventually, this would've happened without my help. So, I'm afraid that I'm only a single part of the puzzle here. An insignificant one at that.

Shinju: Is getting Amatsu killed your way of protecting me too?

Lucrezia: Of course. I preemptively cut off my legs, you see. I had to find a way to scrub away your sin and draw their attention to me instead. I had to eat your crime and commit one of my own. I figured that would be the perfect diversion, so that Amatsu could've already been dealt with by the time they come to me asking questions. Having already lost my legs, I fear no punishment from them. All they can take from me now is my life, and I don't care too much for it anyway.

Shinju sat at the foot of the bed, realizing that Lucrezia couldn't even see her. She was looking in Shinju's general direction, but she couldn't see well enough in order to make eye contact with her. Shinju's inner sadness grew just a little more bitter upon her realization.

Shinju: You damned fool. I'm working to save Amatsu right now.

Lucrezia: Oh...I see. Well, I expected you would do that. Regardless, the gangs of Kyoto will try to kill her. I doubt even you can fight them off.

Shinju: You have the gangs on your side, and I've got Tsukiakari, Cyanide, and the Shoku Twins on mine, with Izanami as our ace in the hole. I think we can manage.

Lucrezia: Shinju, you know the problem with getting gods involved in human affairs.

Shinju: They know as well. They don't care. What you didn't realize when you did what you did is that Amatsutsuki was taken into a large family of...irregular people. It is the only family right now where humans are intermarried with gods. So for them, it's a personal issue. In that regard, they have every right to intervene. None of them know that my mission was to kill both of them, so even if a squad of exorcists come busting down their door, they can't be held legally responsible.

Lucrezia: And you? What would happen to you if such an event occurred?

Shinju: I'd be punished despite your sacrifices. What I don't get is why a 14 year old girl would sacrifice her mind and body for me, over and over again, over the course of many years. You're so young, Lucrezia. It just wasn't supposed to be this way. You've robbed yourself of a future, and for what?

Lucrezia smiled, her lips trembling just slightly.

Lucrezia: It's a simple reason, but the words themselves are so difficult to say, Shinju. One thing I can say is that I've put all my faith in you as Heaven's Police Officer, as an agent for change. But that can't happen if you ever end up like me.

Shinju: An agent for change?

Lucrezia: The lives of exorcists are nothing but suffering. We're human pawns forced to do the bidding of the divine, to carry out their edicts and laws. Often, our failures result in...this. You know, Belle recently lost her eyes as punishment. Her eyes, the poor girl. Eventually, this system will need to stop, don't you think? Someone will need to change all of this for the better, so that no more children have to fight and lose their limbs for refusing to do so.

Shinju: Damn it, Lucrezia! It's like you're stuck in your own wildest dreams! You're asking for a revolution that I can't give you! There's nothing I can do about your lost limbs, or Belle's lost eyes! It's like everyone thinks I'm invincible or something because I'm related to Izanami! Despite your wildest expectations of me, I'm still a human! Someday, I'll die, just like the rest of you! I can't save the world and erase all of its great evils! I can only do so much!

Lucrezia:...Are you angry with me?

Fighting back her own tears, Shinju turned her back to Lucrezia, whose smile faded into a guilty frown.

Shinju: I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm denying the wish of a dying child...

Lucrezia: You know...I've always thought of you as my hero. The great Shinju Miyakawa, one of the most renowned exorcists on earth. You were always enveloped in that shroud of mystery, this elusive veil of heroic essence. Even now, you're still my hero. I don't believe you'll be some sort of leader of a grand revolution, nor do I expect you to fulfill such a tall role. But one day, Shinju, I think you'll be put in a situation where you really have to decide who you want to be.

Shinju returned her sorrowful gaze to Lucrezia.

Lucrezia: When that time comes, will Shinju Miyakawa be an exorcist, or a hero of her own right and her own world?

Shinju: What is this? You do prophecies now?

The joke produced a joyful giggle out of Lucrezia.

Lucrezia: It's just my gut feeling.

Shinju: And what will you do when that time comes?

Lucrezia: Oh, I doubt I'll be alive to see it, Shinju. But if I am, I'll continue to cheer for you and protect you.

*N O I R*

Shinju: Come on, don't talk like that. Don't tell me you're not going to be alive when you're so young.

Lucrezia: Look at me, Shinju. I'm not going to last much longer. I really didn't want to end my life with you and I as enemies. I'm sorry.

Shinju: We may be at odds, but I'll never consider anyone who sacrifices their body for me as an enemy. You're just a misguided young girl who thought that someone like me was worthy of being your hero. Still...I can at least be the best Shinju Miyakawa you've ever seen. And you get front row seat, Lucrezia!

Shinju suddenly pulled her up by her arm, bringing her in for a warm, tranquil embrace. Shinju unwound the bandages around her head, revealing Lucrezia's long, thick head of snow-white hair that glared in the sunlight like threads of heaven's clouds. More than half of her face, discolored and scarred by old burns, still maintained its childish innocence and curious, adolescent glow. Though she couldn't see Shinju out of her remaining, blind eye, she could feel her and breathe in her aromatic scent like never before. Shinju's embrace felt like sunshine, and her very aura felt like a countryside home.

Shinju: You're too young to die for my sake. How cruel are you? Let the hero take the risks for you, not the other way around. If you die, you'll break my heart.

Like a dam cracking and crumbling under the pressure of a torrential downpour, Lucrezia's entire body shivered as gentle whimpers escaped her lips. She held onto Shinju tightly with the one arm she had, as if she were a prized possession, a rock during a storm. Her whimpers quickly erupted into thunderous, heartbreaking sobbing, for Shinju finally allowed her to release all of her years of suffering.

Shinju: You fool. You're more of a hero than I could ever be...

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: August 30, 2017, 08:54:39 PM »
Yep, Osamu's been that down before. The Corpse's Romance is about Osamu's life before he left Kyoto, and how he tried to commit suicide at Izanami's shrine. That's how they met.

Looks like you're almost done with the first arc, Lego! After Aika Crisis comes War Cloud  :clapping:

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: August 28, 2017, 06:14:21 PM »
I had been wondering if this script/novel hybrid format would work on a kindle while I transition the rest of the story to traditional novel format  :hmm:
Ah, lucky for you, next chapter is an Izanami chapter

Manga Writer workshop / Re: Writers Novel Marathon Workshop: Day 22
« on: August 22, 2017, 12:58:26 AM »
The Coming Storm - Parts 9-11 - Op13
More reminders of the ridiculous requirements of the military. HEY JUMP INTO THIS POOL OF ICE COLD WATER WITH ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES AND 40 POUNDS OF GEAR ON. Of course, it's all to produce the best quality of troops. Let's see, important bits. Nothing wrong with the writing itself. It's all been consistently superb, in fact! No grammar or spelling issues as far as I saw. Since these were training chapters, the dialogue was strict and rigid, as one would inspect from their instructors. Made it feel pretty real  :clapping:

That weapon just seems messy. Messy, but effective. I mean, the safety gear it requires, the training it requires, the troops were learning how to NOT blow themselves up with the damn thing. Is that the weapon's fault, or would it be the fault of a novice? Either way, did Kondor really give them a shipment of some of their best infantry weaponry, or were these table scraps? You never know in this universe  :ninja:

Forever in Our Dreams - Part 7- Krurisuchristina
So short! Ah well, we're steadily moving along with the story. Maybe next chapter you can focus more on Cato and Sasha's interactions here. In terms of writing, I didn't spot any mistakes in grammar or spelling. The parts before this one had some of those, but this was pretty clean as far as I could tell.

I feel like you may be missing a cool opportunity here, or perhaps you haven't gotten to it yet in the detail you should, but wouldn't the feeling of being trapped inside of a dream be scary? I mean, no matter what you do, you can't seem to wake up, even if you kill yourself. Or paralysis inside of a dream? Or falling?! So many things can go wrong in a dream after all, as Cato probably already knows by now. I can definitely see Sasha getting duped by one and being unable to properly believe in either one of them (Cato and the girl, I mean)

I wonder if Sasha will keep Cato as his concubinae  :ninja:

By Heart By Soul - Chapter 1 - Shishi02
Whew, that's quite a lot of concepts presented in one chapter  :hmm:
Character backgrounds, soul color concept, and very quick scene transitions. I couldn't help but feel that so many of these things were explained to me rather than shown to me. If done right, the contents of chapter one could've been two big chapters. There's no time to get settled into the setting before we get into the action  :unsure:

So I have no information about what kind of town Hana is. I know it's a very small town, but is it a small coastal town? A small suburb? A district within a larger area? A countryside town? Is the weather cold, hot, or tropical? It would be nice to have some details, especially about Seishun's apparent bullies and the discrimination involved there. There's cool concepts, but the first chapter doesn't flesh them out, but rather, it plops the skeleton on the reader.

Remember, show, don't tell!

Forever in Our Dreams - Part 6 - Krurisuchristina
The first part of this chapter made me remember how much I hated my friends for their mood swings.
 Like, hot damn, would you like a bra with your twisted panties  >:(

Anyway, it seems like the descriptions got better this time around! They're getting much more cosmic and dreamy,
 it's very pleasing. I knew Sasha would chicken out of suicide if it felt like it was way too real. I think we all know the feeling, if you've ever actually experienced falling in a dream. There were also a few more typos than usual. I'm not one to point those kinds of things out since they're an inevitability when you're writing anything, but you might want to read over that part again and proofread it. Most of the errors are spelling related, not grammar related.

I really liked this one, especially with the rising action at the end! Makes me hope the rest of the story is this gruesome and dreamy as well  :clapping:

The Coming Storm - Parts 7-8 - Op13
Well well well, what do we have here. I wouldn't say it's really a death flag quite yet, but a Pain and Suffering flag for sure. We all know what happens when someone makes promises before leaving somewhere.
 It NEVER works out.

The descriptions of fort life remind me much of real life in forts and other military encampments. The restlessness and exhaustion of it all, to be precise. It's quite disheartening to know that everyone has such low opinions of the young lads serving now, but maybe the people really did see better days with a better quality of troops. Perhaps battle will strengthen Allen and Wallace in that regard, stealing away whatever innocence they have left.

The descriptions were quite nice too! Well, as always, but I did feel the glory of the day passing by Allen's eyes.
 I would've reflected more on Allen's thoughts during the ride to the fort, but that's just me. Or even if he doesn't know what to think and his head is a mess of having to leave home and looking forward to what awaits him at the fort, that might elevate the experience a bit.

Nice word count, too  :clapping: What's our target word count for this day, anyway? In totality, I mean. 20,000?
 I probably couldn't reach that. Anyway, good work!

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: August 16, 2017, 08:21:57 PM »
Okay time to head back to Amatsu's part for a bit. Honestly not too proud of this chapter, but eh. Maybe you'll like it more than I do

Rousoku Himawari's Final Day (Part 2)
The next thing I knew, I was watching Shiyako scarf down waffles drenched in maple syrup, and then washing them down with swigs of orange juice. We had decided to stop in one of the diners nearby, a nice and comfortable place with a cabin feeling to it, since most of the diner seemed to be made of polished wood with high ceilings and fake animal fur hung on the walls. The echoing clang of pots and pans could be heard throughout the diner, emanating from the kitchen. Lots of other people sat all around us, partaking in their breakfast.

A strong, brownish-orange glare coming from the wooden table lit up our faces as the sunlight flooded through the window and shined hard upon us. I never realized how many cute girls were such messy eaters, but she was pretty young, and I imagine she was extremely hungry. I didn't even realize that I had been rudely staring at her for about 10 straight minutes, mesmerized by her ability to eat so fast, as if she were a grown man.

"Wow, you must've been starving. Didn't you have any breakfast today?"

She waited a while, not wanting to speak with her mouth full.

"I didn't! I rushed out the door without grabbing a bite to eat!"
"Why would you do that?! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you know!", I said, knowing full well that I had ice cream for breakfast today.
"Because of love!"
"Yes, love! Love for my mother. I had been wanting to return this to her."

Shiyako rummaged around in her backpack, pulling out a rosary of glistening, red stones. The pendant bore not only the cross, but Jesus as well, paying for the sins of humanity with his blood and suffering.

"A rosary?", I curiously asked.
"My mom always kept this with her. It belonged to her grandmother and was passed down to her, apparently. She, in turn, passed it down to me, but ever since Mom and Dad split up, I haven't been able to give it back. I'm sure she needs it much more than I do."
"Why's that?"
She put down her fork and nervously clasped her hands.
"Mom...stopped praying lately. She said that the prayers don't work anymore."
"Stopped praying? Why would she do something like that?"
"It's stupid. She just gets a little sick and all of a sudden she wants to stop praying. Are adults really that irresponsible? They'll just give up one something they love because it hurts them?"

At 19 years old, I was an adult. I had an obligation to offer my limited perspective. That was something I still had to get used to, answering questions that I used to ask when I was little.

"Adults and children lead very different lives, and they're both exposed to different pressures. I think, because of that, adults have many more ways to rationalize their own surrender."
"But you're not like that, right?", she ignorantly asked. "You don't look like the kind of girl who gives up when the going gets tough!"
"No...I'm no different either.", I said, summoning an expression of disappointment and shock on her face. "I'm just as prone to surrender as anyone else. Someday, you will be too."
"No I won't! I detest people who give up when others are counting on them to keep trying! You don't have to succeed, but at least keep trying! How arrogant do you have to be to throw away your prayers as if everything is God's fault?"
"Are you angry at your mother?"
"Of course I am. Anyone who loves you will bother being angry at you for something so stupid."

I couldn't help but smile. Something about the raw purity of her heart made me so happy. I could tell that she was going to live a very nice life.

"I'm sure if we all had children like you, we'd remember what we're fighting for, Shiyako."
" you have kids, Rousoku?"
"Oh, heavens no! I'm far too young!"
"How old are you?"
"19 years old. You?"
"9 years old! You're just ten years older than me!", she said with a big smile.
"When's your birthday?", I asked her with an amused grin.
"March 27th! You?"
"You can't be serious! I'm March 28th!"

I think I speak for both of us when I say that, upon discovering how close our birthdays were, we fell in love with each other.

"It's like you're my big sister! At long last, I have a big sister!"
"Quite a crazy coincidence, huh?"
"No! Not a coincidence!"

Shiyako suddenly stood up on her booth seat and took my hands into hers, gazing at me with her sparkling eyes of joy and sisterly love.

"It's fate! No, even better! It's a miracle! God made a miracle happen today, letting the two of us meet! Rejoice, Rousoku! I think this is the beginning of a beautiful, everlasting friendship!"
"Umm...Shiyako...everyone is looking at us weird..."

It seemed that our antics had attracted the silent, perplexed stares of the other patrons, which felt more like assault rifles from a firing squad aimed at our temples. She calmed herself and sat back down, continuing to eat her syrup-drenched pancakes.

" any rate...let's finish up here and get going.", she mumbled to herself with her mouth full of pancakes.

How terrible. I made a friend.

*N O I R*

Before long, we were out of there and back on the streets. The hoodie I had been wearing up until then had grown unnecessary. It was already the afternoon, so the sun's heat was bearing down on us from directly above. I removed the hoodie and tied it around my waist while Shiyako whipped out her phone, trying to find the message from her mother that contained directions to her house. I knew that if there was one thing I probably wasn't going to miss, it would be the sun and all of its fury.

Knowing that the sun was also a ticking time bomb capable of wiping out the entire galaxy upon its death, the idea of interplanetary travel seemed much more alluring than just being content with being on Earth for any longer than we, as a species, really have to. I mean, just think of how many other planets and interesting star sys-

"Hey, Rousoku, are you listening? My mother's house is this way! I think..."

Indeed, Shiyako interrupted my thoughts, but that's not to say my thoughts were very important. Yes, I should've been more concerned about getting the young girl to her mother safely, not about interplanetary travel. Stupid, stupid Rousoku.

"Let me see the address, please?"
"Oh, sure."

She showed me the message sent from her mother, as well as the address within. I immediately knew that she had pointed to the opposite direction her mother actually lived, so I pointed is in the right direction. And so, together, we began to make our way over there. She held my hand as if she really was my little sister. The sidewalk wasn't all too busy, but we were walking along a major street comprised of three lanes running East and West. With that many cars, it almost seemed like they were all talking to each other, or rather, cursing at one another with the horns acting as sensors.

Forgive my colorful imagination and retelling of these otherwise typical, urban scenes.

"Hey, Rousoku, do you believe in miracles?", she suddenly asked me.
"Miracles? Well...hard to say. I'm more inclined to just believe in coincidences, or perhaps even karma"
"Coincidences are just a more anti-climactic name for miracles, aren't they? It's the same thing, but removes the divine factor of its occurence. I'd say Karma commits the same crime!"
"Well...if you remove the Kami in "Kamiwaza", you're just left with the character for Karma, so you're actually kind of right about that. Though Karma itself is a concept sprouted from religion, it's also garnered an informal, non-spiritual meaning that is simply synonymous with fate or destiny."
"Boring. No wonder adults are always so depressed. They've taken the magic out of their own lives! Why not believe a big man in the clouds is looking out for you, or an angel saved you from getting soaked in the rain?"
"Because we can't see any of those things, probably!"
"So you'll live your life only by what your eyes can sense, huh? That's worse than just blindfolding yourself."

"Living your life only by what is most apparent to you is just awful. Aren't there things you have to think a bit more deeply about?"
"Of course there are, but it bec-"
"Ooooh look! Birds!", she suddenly shouted. She released my hand and ran ahead, scaring away a flock of pigeons off of the sidewalk. I take it the pigeons didn't quite appreciate being startled like that, but she could only giggle and grin with bliss.
"Sorry, I just had to. See? You didn't even notice those pigeons before I did, and your eyes are wide open."

I...she...she was right. But I didn't really see the importance of a flock of pigeons. Humanity has always had to deal with pigeons in cities, to the point where we consider them to be flying rats. But I did understand something else. For whatever reason, messing with pigeons made her happy. It's like she was a living ray of sunlight beamed down upon the earth, or a small gateway to the paradise of Heaven. She exuded nothing but joy in that one moment, and that was the kind of happiness she knew she had to live for.

Why is it that my eyes were wide open, and yet, I saw none of it until she pointed it out? How do you "see" that which makes you happy?

"Well, I guess you really do have a point after all", I conceded.

We continued out little walk, though she was now marching of her own accord with her hands behind her back, a little ways ahead of me.

"All of that said, the existence of miracles doesn't necessarily mean that coincidences don't exist, right? Maybe they coexist like the moon and the sun! Surely it can't be hard for an adult to just see the plain coincidences, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so. said your birthday was on March 27th, right?"
"Sure did, what about it?"
"I just thought of something! Your first name, Shiyako. It's written with three kanji. 'Purple', 'Sunshine', and 'Child'. Twelve strokes for 'Shi', another twelve for 'Ya', and then three for 'Ko'!"

Her eyes widened in childish amazement, as if I had just blown her mind.

"You're right! 3/27 coincides with my name! Three kanji and twenty-seven strokes! That's pretty good, Rousoku! I guess you can see things that I can't as well, huh?"
"Well, it's like small, trivial details versus your larger than life attention to more subtle and important things. I think, in that sense, you're right about what you said. Maybe adults really are blind, or the may as well be. If only we could have that sweet balance. The education and objectiveness of an adult, with the joyous, positive perspective of a child."
"You're only 19, right? That's still relatively young! Don't talk like it's too late for you! If you need it, I'll help you see what you can't see by yourself! That's what sisters are for, after all."

What a pure little girl. She had given me her full heart and love on the very day I met her, just because of those was going to say coincidences. But thinking back...I like to think she was right, and that meeting her was indeed one of those miracles.

An hour later, we were definitely close to her destination, but we decided to sit down for a bit on a bench in a small park. Our legs felt like melted butter after our long walk, but I will say that the exercise felt pretty good. We saw a lot of little kids playing on the slides and swings with their mothers, all of them wearing the same infectious smile that Shiyako did just an hour ago. As a treat, I had gotten us both some root beer, something that I hadn't had in a while.

"Whew!", she sighed after taking huge gulps from the soda can. "That's so good! Eh...don't tell my mom about this! I'm not allowed to have soda!"
I laughed and waved it off. "It's alright, it's alright. It'll be our little secret."

Shiyako then removed her backpack, opening it up and taking out a small, pink lunchbox. Two juice boxes, a sandwich cut into four, small pieces, a bag of trail mix, fruit snacks, and even a small brownie. Lucky...when I was a kid, I just got peanut butter sandwiches and a banana. Before she even took a bite of any of it, she gave two of her sandwich pieces to me. I didn't even ask for any, and she...she selflessly gave them to me.

Then she handed me one of the juice boxes, and continued giving me equal shares of whatever she had.

"I was supposed to eat all of this at school, but meals are so much better with friends."
"True, but you could've done the same thing at school, no?"
"No, not really. I...don't really have friends at school. It's a pretty lonely place. And I don't see Dad very often since he works so much, so..."
"Oh...I'm sorry, Shiyako." I said, her loneliness resonating in my heart. She smiled and shook her head.
"Don't worry about it! You're my friend, and I'm eating with you now! Let's dig in! Sorry it isn't much."
"No, it's perfectly fine."

Ah, I still remember the taste of her ham and cheese sandwiches. The ham especially was of excellent quality. You can taste a sweet, smokey flavor along with the slight spice of the mustard and the coolness of the cheese. The juice was a delightful peach flavor, the perfect refreshment after a few bites every now and then.

"Hey, Rousoku, do you have a car? I was just thinking this would've been a much easier trip if we just drove here."
", I don't. Actually, I'm...I'm scared of driving."
"Huh? Why's that?"

Because the last time I was behind a wheel, I crashed and killed all of my friends. But of course, I couldn't just say that.

"Just...just a phobia of mine, I guess. Like how some people are scared of spiders or tight spaces."
"Ah, I see."
"Are you scared of spiders?"
"No way! At least not tarantulas. I think they're kind of cute! I guess I'm more scared of...maybe...loneliness. I don't want to end up alone. That's why I really want Mom to take her rosary back and continue praying, even if it doesn't work out in the end."

I battled against my tongue for a moment as I prepared to cut open the issue. The curiosity was killing me.

"You said your mother was sick back at the diner. Is she-"
"Adrenal cortex cancer. It's a very rare form of cancer. She first got it four years ago, but none of us were too worried about it. It was small and mostly contained to the adrenal, so that worked greatly in her favor. But then..."
"It got worse."
"What are her chances now?"
"...Not so good. The doctors told her she'd...I don't even want to say it! I don't know why she agreed to hear how much time she had left! What was the point of doing that if she was going to stop praying?"
"Maybe she wanted to know how much time she had left so she could prepare herself, and maybe even prepare you."
"I'd be better prepared if I saw her happy..."
"Have you told her that?"
She shook her head side to side.

" two should have a talk about it. You're her daughter, so it's not like she won't listen to your feelings. I think spending more time with you will even help her find her hope again again, and with it...her spirit."
"You really think so?"
"I know so."

There it was, that blessed smile. The smile of a child was such a precious thing. I don't think I realized that as much until that day.

"Thank god you came to me today, Rousoku."

*R O U G E*

And so, at last, our journey came to an end. After lunch, we walked just a little further past the park. Looking at the address again, I realized we stopped right in front of the correct house, the Daibutsu household. It was a rather nice house in the middle of a nice, suburban neighborhood. At had at least two floors, a garage, a small lawn and patio area, and a pretty sturdy gate around the house itself. Slanted roofs, a sand-colored paint job with white doors and window really did feel like a home from the outside.

"Whew! Alright, here we are, Shiyako! Looks like this is your stop."

I looked over to her after failing to get an immediate response. She clasped her hands together, the rosary interweaved between them both with the pendant dangling in the sunlight. She seemed incredibly nervous, scared to confront her mother, and probably scared of upsetting her. I patted her head and caressed her hair, prompting her to look up at me with her glossy eyes.

"Go on, Shiyako. Don't be afraid.", I said, almost in a whisper.

She took a few steps forward before returning her eyes to me.

"Will I see you again?"

Of all questions...why did you have to ask that one?

"Yeah. You will.", I lied to her. "I get ice cream next to the bank every now and then."
"Really? I...I hope to see you around there again! I'm really thankful for you today. It was the most time I've spent with anyone for a while."

The girl graciously bowed to me, and I to her.

"Thank you, Big Sis."
"And thank you, Shi...Little sis."

And so, I watched her take those brave steps up to the door. She stood on her tippy toes to reach the doorbell, where she was greeted by what looked like her grandmother. She was probably taking care of her mother ever since her illness got worse. The two embraced as I watched from the sidewalk, feeling a little proud that I was able to help out. They stood with the door open for a little while as Shiyako kept pointing back over to me. Her grandmother, with her knit sweater and head of curly, grey hair, waved at me.

"Thank you for helping her find her way! Do you want to come in?"
"Oh, no! That's fine! I should be heading home now anyway, if I want to make it back before dark. Shiyako...good luck!"
"Thanks Big Sis! Oh, here! I have something for you!"

Shiyako ran out of the house with a bouquet of flowers in her arms, a sweet little bundle of red roses and blue orchids. She handed them to me as if I were a beauty pageant winner, or a monarch.

"My grandma arranges flowers for people, so you can have this bundle! Please, accept it as thanks for today."
"Oh Shiyako...this is so sweet! Thank you, dear. Now you go on and say everything you need to say. Don't-"
"Don't be scared! I know!", she said with a smile.
"Right. Goodbye then, Shiyako."

That was the last time I saw something so beautiful and innocent that it shook the very roots of my heart. Shiyako was a painfully beautiful child. She waved a final time before her grandmother closed the door, and I remembered what it was I had to do that day. I remembered that my life wasn't as joyous as Shiyako's. It never could be.

"I guess...the day is over...", I whispered to myself as the sun looked like it was ready to start its fall past the horizon.

I made my silent return home, holding the flowers Shiyako had given me closely. Most of the dying, orange sunlight had been tucked into the western corner of the sky as half of it disappeared behind the horizon, while the rest of the sky, ironically, wore a faint cloak of ghostly purple. Most of the people that populated the streets at the beginning of that day had already returned home, it seemed. As I stood in front of my apartment building, I realized that I was home too, and that I'd never leave again.

*N O I R*

Ah, my kingdom of filth drenched in darkness and the smell of sadness. There was no need in trying to turn on the lights. What was the point? With a heavy sigh, I put aside the flowers and stripped off my clothes, finally unwinding after my long day, much longer than I planned for it to be. It felt all too real. I was really going to die there, in that bed, surrounded by all of these meaningless things. I wondered how long it would be before anyone even found me. Probably not for a while, huh? No one here knows me or cares about me. That's right. There's no harm in me dying.

It wasn't even all of the suffering and sadness that really made me feel like I had to die. It was the numbness afterwards. It was the lonely nights. It was the long, unbearable days. It was the empty message boxes, the lack of any sign that anyone really cared about how I was doing. I fought to make it through what had brought me great sadness. I fought like hell to get over that and live again, but when I won that battle, there was no one waiting on the other side for me.

All that was left was an empty numbness, compounded by loneliness. And so, Rousoku Himawari would hurt no one by closing the curtains upon herself. Yes...I'll die right here.

I sat down on my bed, my hands shaking with a disorientating mix of fear, happiness, sadness, and great relief. Staring at the bottle of pills I knew I would kill myself with, I...ended up giggling.

"Life is just a comedy, isn't it? A sad, tragic, heartbreaking comedy. And at the end of every episode, the punchline is that none of it mattered. Everyone will be recast, and the show starts anew.'s okay to laugh."

I lied down with the bottle in my hand, staring at my ceiling with a blank expression of emotional oblivion. I began to think. Was there anything else I wanted to do?

I said nothing as my hand lied over my bellow, my fingers drearily creeping over to my sweatpants. I slid them off towards my knees just enough to make room for my hand between my legs. I thought another orgasm would be nice, so maybe I'd try masturbating one more time. It felt good at first. I rubbed and rubbed away, and as the speed increased, my moans would grow louder and louder. I'd lose myself a little more until I couldn't take it and removed my pants entirely. I sat up, and kept going, stopping only to press my fingers against my lips, drooling onto them and rubbing the saliva where it felt best.

That wet, squishy sound that you usually hear grew deafeningly loud, because, admittedly, I was incredibly wet. Rubbing was no longer enough, so I went ahead and forced in four of my fingers. My other hand found it way up my shirt, grabbing my small, aching breasts. I spit onto my fingers again, messily and almost furiously masturbating at this point. It felt...incredible. It felt like I was going to have a very, very good orgasm soon. I felt no shame in letting my moans out as loud as I wanted until that orgasmic shock traveled through my body, swaying my hips and forcing me to seal my legs shut. I lied on my side, panting as I recovered from the orgasm.

The problem with doing this, with trying to enjoy myself in any physical way...was that immediately after I was done, I'd think of Osamu. I'd think of how he used to touch me, whisper to me, cuddle with me. He was a gentle lover, and without him, I was rough, furious, and sloppy. I found it beautifully metaphorically, and tragically true. Osamu was the order in my life...and he was long gone.

I don't tell you this to excite you, but only to leave no doubt that I am expressing every true, raw, naked detail I can muster. The embarrassing bits, the sad bits, the trivial bits, and even these personal, sexual bits, I disclose to you. I tell you this as an admittance of guilt. I wanted and yearned for love, emotional and physical. I yearned for the lover I had lost. There were certain ways I wanted, even needed to be spoken to, touched, and thought of. I just wanted love, for someone to love me for who I was.

Osamu's smile infected me in the afterglow of any attempt to have just a fraction of these pleasures to myself, as if I was being punished.

"This...doesn't feel so good anymore..."

I thought some more as I lied there...was there anything else I wanted to do? After what felt like an eternity of thinking, I decided that there wasn't. I was done. It was just time to go. Stop stalling it. Thinking of Osamu like that only made me want to leave even faster, to be free of those thoughts. And so, over the course of the 20 minutes, I took all 86 pills, as if I were eating candy corn. I reached in the bottle for another, only to realize I had consumed them all.

"Here it comes...death."

I lied there, staring at my ceiling, knowing that I had passed the point of no return. My kingdom of filth, my broken ability to love myself, my insecurities, my pain, my shortcomings, all of it would fade away with death. The dying rays of sunlight tinted my entire room a shade of deep, dark pink as I closed my eyes and waited to leave this world. Karma, huh? That pesky phantom that follows us wherever we go, keeping us stuck in our karmic cycles, our tragic samsaras. I'd rather it all end so I can just reach nirvana already. Let this tired candle be blown out at last, her aroma lifting into the air beyond the sky itself.

Karma...I remembered something so important that my eyes shot open halfway. It was all they were capable of at that point. I had spoken to Shiyako about that, about Karma. I thought about it just a bit as I lied there, and I realized something. When I donated clothes, I got free ice cream in return. When I remembered the teller at the bank, I discovered the note she left for me in the envelope. When I spent the rest of the day taking Shiyako home, she not only gave me those flowers, but along the way, she gave me conversation, a new perspective, even half of her own food.

My heart fluttered with excitement...and soon after, regret. I wanted to get up, vomit out the pills I had taken, and try to live another day. I didn't want to die anymore! There was meaning! Shiyako was really hoping to see me again soon, too! She looked up to me enough to call me a big sister, so I couldn't disappoint her! But no matter what I thought, how deeply I felt about it, or how moved I was by these body wouldn't move. I was paralyzed. It was too late to regret my decision.

I could only turn my head to those flowers, realizing all too late that those were flowers of hope and new beginnings, not for a funeral. Just as I was unable to see the joy in disturbing those pigeons, I failed to see the joy those flowers were supposed to represent. I saw them only as symbols of sadness. And now, the reality of my situation really, truly hit me.

My god...oh my god...I'm...I'm really going to....

"No...wait...please! I made a mistake!", I sobbed as my tears blurred my vision. I was unable to even move my arms to wipe them away.

Oh Shiyako...I'm so sorry. What have I done? Why did I forsake the things you were trying to teach me? You were my greatest miracle that day...and I ignored your warning. I didn't heed your teachings well enough. I saw it all too late. The light at the end of the tunnel. The hope that although the love I wanted died, in your words, I 'was only 19'. I was young. I would have the chance to love again, and when that time came, I'd feel all of the things I felt for Osamu. In you, I could've had a friend, a little sister figure. I'd relearn what it is to feel joy, to love and protect someone. I realized as I was slipping away from this life, that I could've been happy, if I had only discarded my pain for just a while longer. I would've been happy.


"I don't want to die...I don't want to die...I don't..."

But as much as I sobbed, I could do nothing. Fighting my paralysis grew more and more difficult to do. I felt as if my insides were burning, my organs bursting, and my blood boiling against my veins as if it had turned into acid. I realized how painful death by overdose really was. It was like I had opened a great Pandora's Box of pain. But soon, that pain subsided as I got closer and closer to death, my eyes blacking out slowly, like a movie fading to black. Death was calling my name, and I had mistakenly called back to it.

In shameful regret, in filth, bathed only by sin and envy, I, Rousoku Himwari, aged 19...died that summer. I had successfully committed suicide. My last view was of those flowers resting on my nightstand, roses and orchids, my room cloaked in darkness, and the air heavy with the sorrow of my own invention.

Shiyako...did I ever tell you how much I loved those flowers?



The next morning, I awoke to find myself far away from home. Far, far away from my apartment. I don't remember how or when, but I awoke in the middle of a busy street in Kyoto, the cars passing right through my body instead of crashing into me. Of course, I hadn't known where I was yet, not until I came to you and we found out what happened to me. It's like I was just born in the heart of Kyoto, lost and dazed among all the activity there. I panicked and looked around, realizing I didn't recognize anyone or anything. And so, I got off of the road, away from blaring horns and humming engines of the cars, and joined the robotic mass of people walking up and down the sidewalks. At least that much hadn't changed between my home and Kyoto.

I recall something though. I wasn't that far from a cathedral when I woke up. The funeral bells were ringing, and I could just faintly hear the prayer of the priest from inside, using the word of God to bless the dead and comfort the living. I remember some of the words he howled to the heavens, drilling them within the souls of those who mourned their lost loved one.

"Death is but the gateway to the glory of God. Those who lived by their heart, whose souls stood taller than their shadows, they have no reason to fear its embrace. And so I ask of you, all of you who mourned and loved this woman, to open your crying eyes, and take a look at what the lord has done. Look at what he has done! Look at the glory he has shown to us! 97 years of age! 97 long, beautiful years! 97 years of breathing in the air, taking in the sights, working, loving, praying, and singing her joy to the sky. I ask you all today to not only mourn as one should, but to celebrate her life, and how long she was permitted to bless us with her existence. In death, she continues to live within us, her kindness carved into our hearts with a blade that inflicts pleasure, not just pain. Those beautiful scars become our memories of her. And while it may feel as though those memories are phantoms of their own, haunting you wherever you may go, we will all realize our blessings. Only then will we truly realize the glory of God's work."

Shiyako...I imagine she sat by the same bank we met at, waiting for me to arrive. Whenever I think of her standing there like that for hours, holding a bundle of flowers or a tray of snacks for me...I regret my decision even more.

*N O I R*

And so...that's the end of my tale, the story of my final day. I now stand before you, a ghost wrapped in the veil of shame, regret, envy, and resentment. I bear my sins upon my soul, and vengefully inflict them upon you, Osamu. And yet, at the same time, I weep. I acknowledge and repent for those sins. Perhaps we both have a lot to repent for, and to take out on each other. Our love has become a form of warfare, where our words, feelings, and stinging judgements are our weapons, our pride our walls, our arrogance our armies. We blame ourselves, blame each other, and hopefully, in the end, we can repent for it all.

So...Osamu...what can I say as I weep before you now, lost between the motions of hating and loving you? I suppose we can only start here, with this.

Your ex lover is dead.

Manga Writer workshop / Re: Writers Novel Marathon Workshop: Day 15
« on: August 15, 2017, 12:51:19 PM »
Honestly, probably something close to Shigurui Death Frenzy's artstyle, with a strong emphasis on realistic, yet exaggerated symbolic lighting/shading.

Just maybe a little bit lighter on detail and cuter for the girls, but definitely retaining that look. I imagine a fetal moon would look extremely eerie in this artstyle

Manga Writer workshop / Re: Writers Novel Marathon Workshop: Day 15
« on: August 15, 2017, 12:42:12 PM »
The Coming Storm - Op 13 Parts 2-6

You may laugh and sneer at it now, but when war kicks off and the islands are decimated, schoolgirls will be responsible for breeding the future generations. As someone who enjoys writing about rather frowned upon or verboten kinks, I found that part hilarious. Now, if we go all the way and start flirting with straight up lolis  :ninja:

Reading these parts felt like a breeze, really. The scenes are so focused and the dialogue so smooth that you end up reading through the chapters like a hot butter through knife, or a knife through hot butter. There's always a human side to whatever political mess or conflict is happening in the background, always working to personalize the characters and give them motivations instead of simply being soldiers. Who wouldn't feel for a concerned little sister who just wants to spend more time with her big bro?

You're very skilled at telling a story from multiple sides and points of view, I've noticed. Really gives a round perspective to everything happening, so the reader sees the chain of events clearly, or at least from the perspective of a set of characters with different roles, but ultimately on the same general side of the issue. I didn't recall any typos or weird grammatical errors in my reading either. Probably just like one or two sentences with a weird flow, but I don't remember which parts they were in and they weren't that big a deal anyway. I'm no grammar nazi unless we're talking about simple possessive words being confused with abbreviated subject phrases like Whose and Who's or It's and Its.

Nice work  :clapping: :clapping:

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: August 14, 2017, 01:08:28 PM »
Letting Go: Rousoku Himawari's Final Day (Part 1)
That day. My final day. I awoke to the slim strips of sunlight sneaking through the gaps in my blinds and glowing on my bed and skin. My apartment was small and humble, adorned with lazily thrown about clothes and empty bottles of water. The trash can in the kitchen was overflowing, but I never had the energy to take it out. I hadn't even cooked myself anything in a while. I always ordered food or just ate out. I didn't want to cook anything anymore. Things like that just didn't matter anymore. I yawned and stretched my body out before staring off into space, watching dozens of glowing specs of dust float in the air, made visible by the shafts of light streaking through my window.

I is the last day. Today is the day I'll kill myself. I felt sadness, relief, anxiety, excitement, and fear all at once. I looked around at my kingdom of filth, my chaotic room, my balled up tissues by my bed, all representative of the state of my life. In shambles. I felt happy that I would be leaving this kingdom of filth, leaping into the nothingness of death. Or perhaps there was something after death, a heaven or a hell. Either way, I knew that anywhere would be better than here.

I sat on my bed, contemplating if I should write a note. But then I realized that I didn't have anyone left in my life. A note? A note for who? Maybe an apology to the landlord for all of the trouble of committing suicide on his property. Maybe to the people who had to collect my body, or the neighbors that would grow uncomfortable knowing their neighbor had died.

I took a deep breath through my nose and exhaled through my mouth. First thing was first. I badly wanted some water. I could tell just from the feeling of the carpet against my bare feet that I really needed to vacuum, but what did it matter? I felt like a lifeless zombie as my feet dragged me into the kitchen, and my hands did all the work to summon me a glass of cold water. For some odd reason, drinking it burned my throat. Leaning against the kitchen counter, my head was swimming with nostalgic memories of the distant past, and painful memories of the recent past.

Seven months had passed since Osamu left me. I hadn't received a call or letter from him since. He had disappeared, and knowing him, he could've been anywhere in the world. The only person I was able to confide in, the one who listened to all of my awful jokes and tragic stories, just up and left. I couldn't help but think back to our arguments, both petty and great. I could barely even remember what we argued about half the time. The other half...he always said I was unmotivated, far too timid and scared to do anything. I mourn and weep for things that have already been long lost. It takes so much energy just to get me winded up for the day.

I get it. I'm a leech, aren't I? He came into my life with the glory of an angel around him, and I sucked all of it dry.

I abruptly cut away from my memories. It may have been my last day, but there were still a few things I wanted to do. I had already bagged all of my clothes the previous night. Today, I was going to donate them. I was sure many more people could use them more than me.

*N O I R*

My god, the sun was so bright and scary. I realized I hadn't really been outside like I should've. I always made any excuse I could to avoid leaving the house, so much so that I prayed for rain in order to feel even more justified in my isolationism. I descended the stairs of my apartment building and made my way onto the sunny sidewalk of the town. A little shiver would travel from my back up to my spine as I passed by all sorts of different people, all walking with speed and gusto towards their destinations. There were so many men in suits, women in formal, but not too formal dresses, and regular folks who blended in with the scenery.

I had the bright idea of wearing all white for my last day alive, no pun intended. White jeans, a white, long sleeve thermal, and even a white hoodie, since I get cold really easily. There I was, walking with my eyes glued to my feet, trying to ignore my fellow members of society, right up until I made it three blocks down to the donation receptacle. Just like that, I wrapped my fingers around the blue, metal handle of the hatch that had been chilled by the morning air, and dropped my bag of clothes inside.

And then it struck me.

"I did a good thing today.", I whispered to myself.
"At least...I think I did."

I was suddenly pulled away from own thoughts by the shouting voice of a man calling me from across the street. You see, right across from the receptacle was a multi-store complex. One of those stores was an ice cream shop that served all kinds of ice cream in all sorts of different flavors. My eyes kept track of the smiling, clean shaven man despite the cars that rushed by on the road between us. I thought he was calling someone else at first, but he kept pointing and waving to me specifically.

"Come over here!", he shouted. "Want some free ice cream?"

Free ice cream? Every bone in my body wanted to just politely decline, but...he did go through the effort of shouting at me from across the road.

"Sure thing! I'll cross over!"

At this point, I had begun to wonder what on earth had come over me. This wasn't something I'd ever do.

I made my way over, waiting for the red light ahead to halt the free flow of traffic before crossing over. I may have been suicidal, but I wasn't going to die on the road like a wild and unlucky squirrel. I already had a general idea of how I wanted to die. However, I was also intrigued by this mysterious offer of free ice cream. The man was much taller than me, probably around six feet, and handed me a small little plastic cup filled with ice cream topped with crumbled up bits of chocolate cookies. He just...smiled and gave it to me.

"I'm giving out free ice cream to all the folks I can today since it's getting so hot out here, you know? I saw you donating clothes over there, paying it forward like a good girl. So, I thought I should pay it forward too! It's some of the richest vanilla ice cream you'll ever have, mixed in with a few coffee beans and chocolate cookie crumbs! Have it!"

In my fantasy of ideal hindsight, I'm sure I would've given an energetic reply with a flashy smile so precious you could see stars sparkle around me. But, as I painfully and realistically recall, I timidly hung my head in silence, a reaction he didn't seem to mind as he handed me the cup.

"You take care of yourself now! Enjoy your ice cream!"
"Th...Th...Thank you s-so much!"

Stupid Rousoku. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why can't you talk right under pressure? Man...but I digress. I figured, since I had it, I may as well just sit down and enjoy the ice cream. I found an outdoors table at the coffee shop down the way and decided I'd sit there. It was so cold and breezy, I could feel my hair lift and fall according to its direction. I had taken that first spoonful of the ice cream, thinking of all of the flavors at play that the man had described to me.

There was something so magical about it, something so beautifully heartbreaking, that I couldn't help but smile like a child. Every bite tasted better and felt warmer than the last as I let my eyes roam around the town, occasionally returning to the cup to see how much ice cream I had left. Wow...I ran out out of the stuff pretty fast. How many was that? Maybe ten, heaping spoonfuls?

"Ah...that was so good. What a nice guy to be giving out ice cream like that."

With all of the cars passing by the road, the swish and swoon of the trees bending to the will of the wind, and all the people who navigated through the streets, I grew a little more content with my decision. It was a beautiful sight, but it was something that just wasn't for me, something that I didn't think I really should've been a part of. But it was okay. I wasn't sad.

"Next...the bank."

Boy, do I hate the feeling of being stared at in very silent places such as the bank.

Braving through my fear of being outside for too long, I threw away my ice cream cup and made a quick walk over to the bank, which had just opened its doors for business. Upon entering and taking notice of the tranquil silence peppered only by faint whispers from the tellers to their customers, I began to wonder something. Banks, libraries, and churches. All of them have this sort of silence about them, this relaxing, soothing silence. What exactly is the connection there? Sure, all of these places require silence for them to function properly, but does that mean that humans will only shut their mouths for money, knowledge, and God? Do they put on their best act of politesse for material, abstract, and spiritual goods? Yet, when they step out of those places, the people they were inside of them just stays there.

Money, knowledge, and, no. That won't do. I can't reconsider my decision for those things either. Money is nice, I suppose. Knowledge is a good thing to have, but it's so easy to fill your head with the wrong kind of knowledge. And God? Abandoned me. I felt as if I had stood at the entrance the whole time while sinking in this little philosophical, internal rant of mine. So, I got on with it and joined the other peons in line.



Waiting some more. Am I in line for a bank, or for a firing squad?


"Good morning! How can I help you today", asked the nice, middle aged lady teller. Her hair was all nice and pinned up like the classic image of a 50's American woman.
"Y-yes, I'd like to...maybe...shut down my account."
"Oh dear, are you not satisfied with our service?"
"Oh no, nothing like that, It's just that I won't really be needing it anymore. It would be troublesome for you if I kept it around."
"I'm so sorry to hear. Well, I'll need to run your account to make sure there are no pre-authorized debts, pending checks, or anything like that. Would you like us to reroute your balance to your new account?"
"No, that won't be necessary. I'd like to just withdraw my balance in cash, in the biggest denominations possible."
"Alright, ma'am. Just so you know, there is a small account closing fee-"
"That's fine. Take whatever you have to."
"You got it, ma'am."

I don't know why, but closing my bank account made me sad. I guess my decision didn't really feel like it was happening until I did that. For an adult to get rid of their bank account...that's like throwing away the keys to life. It's like shedding the skin of adulthood itself. You become powerless, almost invisible without a bank account of some sort. I felt that. I felt like it was really coming to an end, this miserable life of mine. After going through the necessary steps and boring procedures, my account was officially closed.

"Well, that's it then", sighed the teller as she handed me the envelope containing my cash.
"You seem so sad about this..."
"It's always sad to see a young girl like you go."

For a moment, I thought she was talking about my plan to commit suicide. But then I sort of mentally slapped myself in my mental face. Of course she doesn't know. How could a stranger know? She'd have to be an angel in order to know that.

The sun had positioned itself higher in the cloudless, naked sky by the time I got out of there. It felt like the day was in full effect. I held onto the envelope, counting the bills to make sure I got everything I was owed, minus the closing fee, of course. As my thumb flipped through the bills, my eyes caught notice of a small, white piece of paper among them. Perhaps the receipt?

No, it was a small note that the teller had stuffed inside for me.

"Don't look so sad, Rousoku! Whatever you're going through, I wish you the best of luck!", it said.

What? The teller clearly knew me to some extent. But I...I didn't remember her? I recalled that there weren't that many tellers working at that particular bank, so I'm sure I must've had quite a few conversations with her before. But I couldn't remember her. Not her name, not the subject of previous conversations, nothing. I looked back at her through the entrance door, watching her smile as she served more and more customers. I so badly wanted to go back in and say something. Maybe a polite thank you or a goodbye. I even wrapped my fingers around the cold, steel handle of the door, trying to gather the courage to re-enter the building. In the end...I couldn't do it. In her own way, she was an angel, and I let her pass me by.

*V E R T*

Going over the short list in my head, I concluded that was all I had to do for the day. Donate the clothes. Close the bank account. In reality, I wanted to do so much more, but I didn't really have the means to do any of it. I had always dreamed of having one more conversation with my parents, but I knew they wouldn't talk to me after the shame I brought onto them. Their numbers had changed as well, so I had no method of even contacting them. I would've loved to call Osamu as well, but even he disappeared without a trace. I looked around at the other stores down the streets, wondering if, perhaps, I had any ideas for a last meal, or maybe a desert I wanted to try before I died. But after I had already had the ice cream, I felt like that desire had been satisfied.

"I guess there's nothing left to do..."

I'm sure I looked like a creep contemplating the risks and rewards of a heist, standing there in the bank's parking lot like that. It was time to leave.

Or at least, that's what I was going to do, until I saw a little girl standing on the sidewalk by herself, holding her pink cell phone to her chest as she anxiously looked around. She had such beautiful, black hair that draped over her shoulders and upper back. Her bangs were cute too! She also had these side, twin tails in the front, each one tied with rubber bands with cute cat faces on them. She was in a school uniform, a plain white shirt and blue skirt. Plus, she had her backpack with her, so I assumed she was probably heading to class. Then I thought about it a little more.

The bank is already open.

I haven't seen any other students walking around.

She looks extremely lost.

"Holy crap, she's super late for school, isn't she?! She may as well just go home!", I said to myself.

I figured I may as well approach her and get her to wherever she needed to go. She couldn't have been older than 10.

"Uhm...excuse me-"

The girl yelped in startled fear, covering her face with her phone before calming down and looking me in the eye. It was easier for me to talk to children.

"Are you lost, by any chance? Where are you headed? School, right?"

The girl shook her head disapprovingly.

"Hmm? You're not going to school? Where are you headed then?"
"Momma's house..."
"Oh, so you're trying to go home?"
"I don't live with her, s-so it's not really my home."

Oh man...I felt so bad. It was clear her parents had a separation of sorts, but she still loved her mother and wanted to see her. I couldn't just leave her there, right? My heart was far too big and sympathetic.

"What's your name?", I asked with a smile.
"Shiyako. Yours?"
"Rousoku. Rousoku Himawari!"
"Ah, like "Candle", right?"

The girl flipped her backpack towards me, showing me her name tag. Her full name was Shiyako Ohotoke.


Her face wrinkled as if I offended her greatly.

"Ohotoke? No, that's not how you read it!"
"Seriously!?", I replied in shock, mostly directed towards my own idiocy.
"It's read as Daibutsu, like a giant statue of Buddha!"
"Oh goodness, I'm sorry! Wrong reading!"

Scratch that. Her full name was Shiyako Daibutsu.

"Well, Shiyako, if it's okay for me to call you by your first name, shall we go get some breakfast?"
"I'm not hun-" Her stomach interrupted her and proved her wrong. "Okay, let's go get some food first.

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