May 25, 2020, 01:11:06 AM

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Messages - OhGodHelpMe

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 66
1
One thing that's being improved upon throughout the retouched DbEG series are the plot threads I left dangling in the draft version originally posted here. There were two big ones.

1. Lucrezia
2. Izanami's identity

While the second one has been given light in Senkumo War Stories, I did leave the plot thread untouched in the draft version. This is going to have a much bigger impact, especially in the final book. Won't say too much because massive, plot-critical spoilers.

As for Lucrezia, she's introduced very late in the draft version, and in a very uninteresting manner. I didn't have the time to properly weave her into the story. But now I do! Osamu meets her in the final (not counting the epilogue) chapter of Dawn and Dusk now, and she's been given much more personality and nuance. Having it done this way ties everything about the Exorcist Program detailed in Senkumo War Stories into Death by Ex-Girlfriend much better.

It also makes Shinju's appearance in the next book, Satori's Deception, make more sense.

Anyway, here's a Osamu meeting Lucrezia

Lucrezia's Introduction
Spoiler
(I had nearly forgotten about it, but there was just one loose end I needed to resolve before I left with the girls.)

Osamu stopped to lean against the wall as he approached the abandoned bowling alley, realizing it was probably a mistake to sprint all the way there. He took a few deep breaths and stood up straight. He needed all of the confidence he could muster. Stepping over the broken glass at the entrance, Osamu proceeded towards the lanes. The sun beamed through the row of colored windows to the left, washing the entire alley in a rainbow of radiating colors.

He looked all around but didn't see what he was looking for. He pulled out his phone and checked the notes he had written on his phone, as well as the time.

"Damn, did I miss her? Where could she be?"

Osamu returned outside, feeling very stupid for having ran all the way to the bowling alley. He looked to the left and right of the empty street before checking his phone again.

"Supposedly she comes to the bowling alley periodically."

Screaming suddenly echoed from the distance. It was coming from the direction of the convenience store. Osamu immediately rushed down the road without much of a thought. He was convinced that the person he was looking for and the sudden commotion down the street were connected. Sweat dripped down his forehead and neck as he ran. His silver peace sign necklace bounced off of his chest while strands of his hair stuck to his face.

Several people rushed out of the convenience store entrance, screaming for help. Something awful was happening inside.

"Gun! He's got a gun!" someone shouted as they ran.

Osamu stepped right inside, crouching behind the candy bar shelf. Several more men and women lied on the floor with their hands above their heads. The store was filled with the enraged screams of an armed robber, a masked, black-clad man holding a revolver to the cashier's head.

"Hurry up, or I'll shoot one of these people!" the man shouted.

"I already told you, I'm trying! The cash register is busted!" the cashier cried.

"You have ten seconds to get it open or I'll blow your brains out!"

Osamu nearly shrieked in fright as someone tapped his shoulder. He turned his head and met eyes with a very peculiar, young woman. She held her bandaged hand over his mouth, preventing him from crying out. Her arms and legs were hidden beneath white bandages, from the tips of her slender fingers all the way past the sleeves of her black haori.

She pressed her erect index finger against her lip, signaling Osamu to remain silent as she removed her hand from his mouth. Her head was partially bandaged, covering her left eye. Her long, wavy, chestnut colored hair reached down to her wrists. The light shining through the store's front windows enwreathed the outer strands of her voluminous hair in a veil of bright light.

"We can take him down. I'll need your help though." the girl said.

"Are you crazy? He has a gun!" Osamu whispered.

"We've got something stronger than that. Just wait for my signal."

Osamu watched in horror as the girl stood up, marching right towards the armed robber. This mystery woman was going to get herself killed. While the young woman approached the robber from behind, Osamu made his way around the side of the store floor, hiding behind boxes and shelves.

"My good sir!" the young woman called out, drawing the robber's attention. She now had his gun pointed at squarely at her.

"Who the hell are you? Get on the ground!"

The girl put her hands up and took a single step closer. "I mean you no harm. You know don't look like you're having a very good day, sir."

The robber fired his gun, the bullet smashing through one of the windows behind her. "The next one's going between your eyes! Get on the god damned floor!"

"I'm not having a very good day, either. This season is hell for my allergies. I was hoping to come here to get some nasal medication, but, well, you're robbing the place. Cashier, do we have any allergy medicine left?"

"Y-yes, we do!" the cashier answered.

"You move a god damned muscle and I'll kill you!" the robber screamed.

"Please, can you just let him toss me my medicine?" the girl begged.

The robber's eyes darted back and forth. He grabbed the box of medicine himself and tossed it over to her. "There, you got your meds, now get on the *censored*ing floor!"

The girl did as she was told and dropped down to her knees, her hands still raised. "Thank you, sir. You're a good man."

"The cash register! Now!"

The cashier finally managed to get it open. He backed away from the counter and let the robber grab whatever he wanted. Osamu peeked around the corner of the shelf, catching a glimpse of the thief up close. His heart bludgeoned itself against his ribs as he thought of what to do next.

All of a sudden, the girl threw the box of allergy medicine at the thief's head. The girl was absolutely insane. There was just no way she wasn't. Osamu couldn't believe one person was capable of putting themselves in so much danger. He knew it must've been the 'signal' she told him about.

The robber spun around and aimed his gun at her, prompting Osamu to charge in. He came rushing in like a football player, tackling the robber to the ground and knocking the gun out of his hand. One he was disarmed, the cashier, as well as some of the people previously lying on the floor, rushed in to apprehend him. One of the civilians confiscated the gun, leaving the robber with no chance to fight everyone off.

Osamu was suddenly pulled backwards by his collar. The girl plucked him from the crowd of citizens piling on the robber.

"Let's go. I'd rather not be here when the police show up." she said.

"Hey! Hold on a second!" Osamu cried.

The girl took him by the hand and ran off with him. The police sirens were already blaring from the distance and closing in on the convenience store. The girl led him through alleys and corridors, in between houses and crevices to avoid being seen on the main street. Once they were back in the neighborhood, the girl continued running until they reached the abandoned bowling alley. The two ran inside, stopping before the row of colored glass to catch their breaths.

Osamu bent over forwards, winded from the sprint. The girl rubbed his back as she let out an amused chuckle.

"You okay, Osamu? Sorry about all of that."

Osamu stood up, his eyes widened in shock. "You...know my name?"

"You were looking for me, weren't you?" the girl asked. "I knew you would someday."

"Then you're..."

The girl extended her hand towards Osamu. "Lucrezia. A pleasure."

Osamu nervously shook hands with Lucrezia. "Yeah...I can't exactly say it's a pleasure meeting you. You made this doll of me, didn't you?"

Osamu took out the knit voodoo doll of himself from his left pocket, showing it to Lucrezia.

"Like I said, I knew you'd try to find me someday. I'm sure you have a lot of questions, Osamu. To be honest, I do as well."

"Just...who are you? How are you capable of making a doll like this that actually works?"

Lucrezia spun around and cradled her chin between her thumb and index finger. "Hmm. Well, you did lay siege to Heaven and all. I suppose I should let you in on this."

"Let me in on what, exactly?"

Lucrezia spun back around with a devious smile on her face. "Gods aren't the only ones with special powers around here, you know. Far from it. Osamu, you haven't heard of the Exorcist Program before, have you?"

"Exorcist? No, I can't say that I have."

"Seriously? You got involved in that huge incident with Tsukiakari and Bishamon without knowing about the exorcists? You realized you could've easily been killed, right? And I don't mean by Bishamon."

"Will you just tell me, already? What is this exorcist crap?" Osamu shouted.

Lucrezia put her fists on her hip and sighed. "You boys are always so boorish. Basically, we're Heaven's police officers. The normal police department handles crimes like the one we just witnessed. Exorcists, on the other hand, handle supernatural problems, much like the incident that took place over a year ago with Tsukiakari. Actually, it was after that incident that I heard about you. You're quite the celebrity amongst us exorcists. You've got some balls for a mortal."

"So, Heaven has its own law enforcement? You're one of them?"

Lucrezia nodded. "Precisely. See, I was tasked with watching over that friend of yours, Aika, after she had her memory wiped. It was just to make sure there no weird side effects from her revival. Through her, I met your other friend, Rei, who was a complete and utter downer, by the way. Rei begged me for a way to get back at some boy she despised, but ensured me she had no intent to kill him. I wasn't even going to entertain the idea until I heard her say your name. Once she said the words 'Osamu Ashikaga', I gladly made her that doll I figured that you'd try and look for me soon after that."

"So that's what happened? Some exorcist made this doll of me? How exactly did you do it? Did you get samples of my blood or my hair?" Osamu questioned.

"Oh, please." Lucrezia scoffed. "I'm an exorcist, not a witch. Making that doll required no such thing."

"I wondered how Aika ended up getting involved with the Shoku Twins." Osamu said. "If this exorcist thing is for real, it would make sense how that happened."

"Of course. She met them through me." Lucrezia admitted.

"Are you still watching Aika?" Osamu asked.

"No, she's already made her recovery. My responsibility to watch her ended a little less than a year ago."

Osamu sighed and plopped down on one of the seats in front of the colored glass. "I was hoping to get an answer about this doll. I did, but I also ended up having way more questions about things I don't know about."

"Regardless, I must thank you for your actions back at that convenience store. I expected nothing less of the man who laid siege to Heaven. You're quite brave, aren't you?"

"Not at all. I was just scared out of my mind and didn't know what else to do." Osamu said. "You weren't so bad yourself. You kept calm even with a gun pointed at your face."

"I've faced worse." Lucrezia snickered. "As an exorcist, you end up fighting all sorts of vile creatures and demons. Things that people thought only exist in fantasies and nightmares. We have to fight those every so often."

"Really? Is that...is that why you're all bandaged up?" Osamu asked.

"Something like that." Lucrezia said as she broke her eye contact with Osamu. "You don't seem very shocked to hear that spirits and ghosts exist."

"Of course not. I've known for years now, ever since I met Izanami. Though, I've never actually encountered a ghost before."

"Good. If I were you, Osamu, I wouldn't get involved with the supernatural any further. That's a dangerous path for a normal human being to walk."

"You say that like you aren't a normal human being." Osamu said.

"Most exorcists aren't. Some of us are descendants of gods. I myself am a descendant of the late Raijin."

"Raijin?! The god of lightning and storms?" Osamu recoiled.

"Out of all the things I've said so far, that's the one that shocks you the most, huh? Oh! I made a pun!" Lucrezia snickered, a little proud of herself for that joke.

"So, uhh...can you, like...shoot lightning out of your fingertips or something?"

"I'm not a Sith lord, Osamu."

"Well, where exactly am I supposed to draw the line when we're talking about ghosts and exorcists?!"

"That's a fair point. I suppose this is quite a lot to take in."

Osamu's phone rang in his pocket, and he suddenly remembered he left Izanami and the others standing there outside the house. He fumbled for his phone and answered, stepping away from Lucrezia for a moment.

"Crap, I'm sorry, Gekko. I'm on my way back now. Alright, bye."

Osamu sighed as he hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket. Lucrezia sauntered over to him, surmising that they were out of time to talk.

"Gotta jet, huh?" Lucrezia asked.

"Yeah, I'm leaving for Hokkaido today. The girls and I are going to vacation there for the rest of spring, maybe summer."

"Sounds fun! Consider yourself lucky, Osamu. Most people don't get to take vacations. Thank you again for your help during that robbery. I could've easily done it without you."

"Gee..thanks.." Osamu grumbled.

"I'm kidding, of course. Say, why don't we exchange numbers? If you happen to run into any more trouble, you could give me a call."

(That might actually not be a bad idea. Given my luck with life so far, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up in another supernatural snafu of sorts. If this girl is really an exorcist, I'd have one more person to count on if I ever get wrapped up in a bad situation.)

"Sure, here." Osamu said.

The two whipped out their phones and traded contact info. Osamu had to stifle his laughter as he laid eyes on Lucrezia's neon pink flip phone, complete with a Sailor Moon chain strap.

"I like that show too." Osamu teased.

"Hmm? Oh. That was an insult. I suppose we're even now, yes?"

"Sorry, I couldn't help myself." Osamu said.

With Lucrezia's number and email address saved, Osamu slipped his phone back into his pocket. The two shook hands once more and marched back outside, closing the doors of the abandoned bowling alley behind them.

"If you need any help, you know who to call." Lucrezia said. "That said, try to stay out of trouble, alright? No more incidents like that one with Tsukiakari."

"Well, I'll try. That's as much as I can promise you. I should be fine, though." Osamu assured.

Lucrezia smiled "Have a fun trip to Hokkaido. No hard feelings about the doll, right?"

"That depends, actually. Can you destroy it? I'd rather not have it existing...like, at all."

"Without killing you?"

"Obviously!"

"Very well, I can do that for you. Consider it a token of my appreciation, a sign of my goodwill."

Osamu handed over the doll, finally free of its voodoo torture. He never wanted to be stabbed with a needle again through his foot or his abdomen. The sooner that accursed doll could be disposed of, the better.

"We'll meet again, Osamu Ashikaga."

"Yeah. See you around, Lucrezia."

Finally, the question of who created the doll was resolved. Although, Osamu did indeed leave with more questions than answers. Exorcists, some assignment to watch over Aika, and him being famous among said exorcists? It seemed there was so much more to the supernatural world than just gods and heaven.

Still, it seemed this Lucrezia wasn't a foe or a villain of any kind. Having her number handy provided Osamu with a bit of comfort, knowing he had an exorcist to call upon if thing got hairy again.

"Alright, time to go."

2
Why Have You Forsaken Me
Spoiler
Some days are exciting and easy to get into, providing us with great times, laughter, and memories. Other days are seemingly endless loops of continuous boredom until the person experiencing it feels the urge to jump off of a bridge. Such was this day for Anzu and Giuseppe. Anzu took up her responsibilities, and with nothing better to do, began to clean around the house. She tied back her hair and began wiping the floor, cleaning the dishes, and wiping all of the glass in the house. Meanwhile, Giuseppe laid on the couch watching television, looking half asleep and half suicidal.

Seeing Giuseppe practically weld himself to the couch, Anzu stood in front of the tv with her fists against her hip. The veins in her temple throbbed as she stared daggers at him.

"What's up?" Giuseppe asked.

Anzu recoiled in stupefied shock. "What do you mean 'what's up'? Aren't you gonna get off your ass and clean up your own living space?"

"I will soon. Just....just let me die here. I'll be right back, I promise." Giuseppe groaned.

"Look at you, you look miserable! Like your wife divorced you, took the kids, and told you she's dating a man with more money than you!" Anzu scolded

"Why such an oddly specific example?" Giuseppe questioned.

"There's things to do around the house and it's a beautiful day outside." Anzu continued. "So get up! The mirrors need to be cleaned, the counters need to be wiped, and the toilet needs to be scrubbed!

"Please don't tell me what to do."

Anzu went into the bathroom to grab the toilet scrubber and handed it to Giuseppe. "Get up. At least help out. I'm not the only one who lives here."

Not even the Rapture lift Giuseppe off his seat. However, the thought of making Anzu do all his housework for him certainly did. As it turned out, his will to remain as inactive and catatonic as humanly possible wasn't as strong as his sense of guilt. Giuseppe unenthusiastically got up from the couch, grabbed the scrubber, and asked for the toilet cleaner so he can help out.

"Here I am scrubbing toilets, thinking about all the crap in my life. Being commanded by a girl who isn't even alive anymore."

Giuseppe's growled as he scrubbed. "Damn it."

He finished scrubbing the toilet and proceeded to wash his hands. Looking in the mirror, he noticed his hair was getting longer than usual. His curly, messy hair now covered his ears and almost touched his shoulder blade.

"I should probably cut this soon."

"Staring at yourself in the mirror trying to convince yourself you're beautiful?"

Giuseppe yelped as he was caught off guard by Anzu's sudden appearance in the doorway. "Why don't you ever say something or make some noise before you talk! You almost gave me heart attack!"

"It's like you have a bag of doggy treats where your brain should be." Anzu snickered. "How did you manage to get spooked in such a small space when you know it's only me and you here?"

"I get tense when I haven't had wine in a while." Giuseppe sighed.

Giuseppe fell to the floor and procceeded to hug the toilet and pout at the absence of alcohol in his life, which he believed was the answer to most of everything.

"Alcohol? What does alcohol taste like?" Anzu asked.

"Like fornication and regret, with a sprinkle of misery and self-loathing." Giuseppe answered.

"You make it sound awful, though." Anzu mumbled. "Are you done with the toilet? Help me load up the dishes. We're almost done."

Giuseppe released a defeated sigh. "Yes ma'am."

Giuseppe managed to gather the will to get off the bathroom floor in much the same way he gathered it to get himself off of the couch. He sauntered into the kitchen to help Anzu clean the dishes. Anzu scrubbed the plates, bowls and glass, handing them to Giuseppe to put away in the dishwasher. When the last dish was in, the dishwasher was closed and the sink was wiped clean to avoid the silver getting stained.

Feeling quite accomplished now that all the cleaning was done, Anzu did the honors of pressing the start button on the dishwasher. She released a satisfied sigh and darted her eyes across the sparkling kitchen.

"A clean house!" Anzu cheered. "All the chores are done now. Did you want to do anything today, Giuseppe?"

"Nah, I didn't really have anything in mind."

Anzu looked out of the apartment window to see what the weather was going to be like. She was surprised to see thick blankets of pallid clouds looming in the skies of Sapporo.

"Ah! It looks like it's going to snow!"

"Huh? I thought you said today was a beautiful day earlier." Giuseppe said.

Anzu nodded. "Snow is beautiful! I don't know what people have against cold weather! It's much better than warm weather, if you ask me. Fall and Winter are just so nice, you know?"

"I get you. Regardless, it looks like it's not going to be the best day to go out. Want to find something to watch?"

"Seriously? You want to watch more television?" Anzu asked with a look of disgust.

"Well, it's either that or freeze outside."

"Alright, alright. Just no stupid game shows, please."

Anzu and Giuseppe plopped themselves down on the couch, resting their bones after spending so much time cleaning. Anzu looked as though she could fall asleep right then and there, which surprised Giuseppe. He had no idea how ghosts work, but it really did seem like Anzu could still get tired or hungry. Before he knew it, his mind conjured up some odd questions, like if ghosts can sweat or if they need to shave. The thought grew too weird for him to consider any further, so he surrendered his attention to the television again.

Giuseppe stared at the television, trying to find something to watch. Anzu did as well, but soon glanced over to Giuseppe.

"Hey, do you mind if I ask you something?" Anzu questioned.

"Sure. What is it?"

"Well, you know a little bit about my parents after reading from my diary. But I don't know anything about your parents." Anzu said. "I noticed the pictures of you and someone whom I can only guess is your mommy."

Giuseppe's head sunk as the troublesome situation with his family reminded him of memories he had been trying to forget. He didn't answer her question at first. He just sat in palpable quietude.

"Oh, I'm sorry....should I have just kept my mouth shut?" Anzu lamented.

Giuseppe shook his head. "No, it's fine. I'll tell you."

Anzu sat on the couch cross-legged, eager to hear about Giuseppe's parents.

"You were right. That woman is my mother. Or, was. Her name was Maria, she was born and raised in Italy. She moved to Japan for some work opportunity or something, and she ended up meeting my dad here in Sapporo, at an ice sculpting party."

Anzu clapped her hands together. "Oh yeah! The city puts together an ice sculpture festival around this time of year, don't they? What an interesting place to meet."

 Giuseppe nodded. "The two hit it off immediately, and four years later, I was born. I had a pretty good childhood, more or less. My father worked, so he wasn't around throughout the week, but my mother would always keep me company. She was actually the one who got me into music from the 70's, mostly obscure hard rock records."

"Wow, your mom sounds amazing. I'm sorry for your loss. I really am."

Giuseppe closed his eyes. "It's alright."

"Where's your father these days, if it's okay to ask."

"Prison." Giuseppe answered.

"What?! What for?"

Giuseppe paused. His lips trembled and gave way under the weight of his words. "For killing my mom."

Anzu looked horrified, but also greatly saddened. She hadn't realized Giuseppe had gone through something so horrible.

"Giuseppe...I-I'm so sorry, I didn't know...."

"Nah, really. It's okay. I was seventeen when it happened, so it still kinda lives with me."

"Wait, if it was really murder, as in a clear act of malice, then...."

"Dad's on death row. His execution is in just a few months."

"Why aren't you more bothered by that? You're dad is gonna die!" Anzu cried.

"Because he was a scumbag who never loved me and took the one person on this earth that ever did."

"But....that's not true...." Anzu muttered.

"Man, now I know how you felt. This really is depressing. I gotta say, you're kinda lucky you can't remember anything about your life. I'd kill for that ability right now. Ah crap, probably not the best expression to use after that conversation."

"Giuseppe. Promise me you'll visit your mom's grave sometime, okay? There's no reason to be scared."

"It's...not that simple, Anzu. It's just....ah forget it. I really need some alcohol. Let's go grab some sake or something."

"Wait what?! But I can't just walk into a liquor store!" Anzu gasped.

"It's like you have a bag of doggy treats where your brain should be." Giuseppe said, returning the insult from earlier. "Nobody would be able to see you but me."

"Oh that's right! I'll go get my shoes!" Anzu said, running into the bedroom.

Giuseppe and Anzu ventured out into the streets, heading towards the local liquor store. The thick swathe of clouds in the sky darkened and the air had grown colder. It definitely looked as if it was going to snow. The two walked side by side, with some people passing right through Anzu. Giuseppe kept his hands in the pockets of his hoodie as he strolled down the sidewalk, pacing himself ahead of Anzu.

"Hey, would it be possible for me to get some warmer clothes?" Anzu asked. "I'm hardly ever prepared for January weather and this cardigan isn't going to be enough."

Giuseppe did not answer here, he simply looked at her and put his finger on his lip, signaling to her that he can't speak to her while there are still people on the street.

"Oh, I get it." Anzu said. "But we will get clothes, yeah?"

Giuseppe nodded in agreement.

Anzu smiled. "Thanks Giuseppe!"

Giuseppe entered the liquor store first , followed by Anzu. Anzu's eyes sparkled at the collection of beers, malts, and varying kinds of wine. She looked around the shelves in child-like wonder, not only at the immense variety of alcohol available, but also the sheer quantity.

Giuseppe browsed the shelves for a suitable drink for his alcohol needs.

"Wow! I've never seen so many bottles of alcohol!" Anzu gasped.

"My mother was Italian, so wine was her thing. It caught on to me when I was legally allowed to drink." Giuseppe remarked.

"I wonder how they make wine. Something involving grapes, right?" Anzu asked.

"Well, it varies from place to place. It can be relatively simple or really complex. It usually isn't just grapes though, it's a mixture of different kinds of fruits and produce. You have to cut them up, bust the skin, bruise the produce, all sorts of stuff. Than you have to stir all of it, mix it with yeast and let it all ferment, which converts the natural sugars of the fruit and produce into ethanol and carbon dioxide. There's a whole lot of natural bacterial and molecular processes that have to take place before you can even start cold stabilization and bulk aging of the wine."

"Wow, you sure know a lot about it."

"You can thank my mom for that."

Giuseppe grabbed a bottle of red wine, paid for it, and walked back home with Anzu. By the time they got outside, the clouds began dusting the town in snow, just as Anzu had predicted. What Giuseppe saw as a sad sky of grey was a beautiful sky of darkness to Anzu. They got back to the apartment, took their shoes off at the door, and sat down at the table as Giuseppe opened up the bottle of wine.

Giuseppe rubbed the bottle of wine against his face as if it was the chalice that Jesus himself drank from. "Oh baby, I've missed you sooo much!"

"Alcoholics, I swear." Anzu chided.

"I'm not an alcoholic, just an alcohol enthusiast! Wanna try some?"

"What?!?! But I'm only seventeen!"

"You're also dead. Come on, it's not like you're gonna go to jail or something."

Anzu blushed and put her hands flat on her face, closing her eyes and dreadfully imagining herself drunk as a sailor. "But what if I get drunk and you decide to have your way with me!"

"You should win an award for these dramatics, Anzu. Here, have a glass."

Giuseppe handed Anzu a glass of red wine, as red as the devil himself. The tempting glass of liquified sin almost seemed to speak to Anzu, begging her to drink it. Anzu spoke with her hands over her mouth, as if she was speaking of something forbidden.

"Will it burn?" Anzu asked

"Maybe a little." Giuseppe answered.

"Well....okay. Down the hatch then."

Anzu took the glass and began to sip away at the wine. To Giuseppe's surprise, and to her own surprise, she absolutely loved it. It would take her some time to get used to the smell and the taste of alcohol itself, but one glass ended up turning into half of the bottle in just a few hours.

"You know, I...I just.....pfffffttttthahahahaha!" Anzu stammered, utterly inebriated. "I'm so wasted!"

"Uh, are you okay? You may have had too much to drink." Giuseppe said.

Anzu burped. "Are you kidding me?"

Giuseppe sighed as he clasped his hands and sent off a prayer. "Damn it....forgive me mom. I didn't know she'd get drunk so easily."

"Hey, l-let's go to the churchy churh. Come on, right now. Let's go!" Anzu demanded.

"The church? Are you sure you'll make it over there?"

"Of course I will! I'm gonna praise the good lord and thank him for the wine! Now get your shoes on!"

Giuseppe sighed, regretting his decision to let a seventeen year old girl have alcohol. Regardless, Anzu and Giuseppe went back to the church, walking along the dirt path leading up to the church as the snow fell gently onto the earth. The church was filled with dull, indirect light from the outside, so much so the light piercing through the colored window panels didn't extend past the window sills. Giuseppe and Anzu stepped inside and closed the door, rubbing their arms to stay warm from the cold.

Anzu pointed to the room covered by a thick plastic sheet. "Oh hey, have you ever been back here?"

"No, I haven't actually. Have you?"

"Sure have, but I only peeked inside. The whole room has these plastic sheets draped on the windows and stuff too, so I never bothered taking any of it down. May as well do it since we're here, right?"

"Your sense of adventure spikes when you've had alcohol. Alright. Let's do it."

Giuseppe lifted up the plastic sheet covering the doorway, allowing Anzu to step in as he followed behind her. One by one, they began taking down the sheets draped over the windows, revealing beautiful, blue stained glass images depicting various scenes from the bible. Even without much light, the room seemed to be engulfed in a shade of light blue. The room was small, and looked as if it may have been an office or private talking place.

"I didn't know this place could be so beautiful. The room I mean. The rest of the church is lovely, even if it's been abandoned." Anzu remarked.

"Yeah, I'm pretty impressed. It must've been amazing when it was still being cared for." Giuseppe said.

"You know, if we end up sleeping here again tonight, we could sleep in here instead. It's smaller so it will keep us warm. Unless you're tired of sleeping here." Anzu proposed.

"Well, we'll see how the night goes. If it's still early, we'll head back. If we end up staying late, we'll sleep here."

Giuseppe and Anzu exited the room and sat in the fifth row of pews in the church. They simply sat, took in the atmosphere, stared at the high ceilings, the statues, and even into space.

Giuseppe broke the silence. "Hey, Anzu?"

"Yeah?"

"Did you want to go over your diary again? We could read more if you want."

Anzu squished her tingling hands between her thighs. "I'm honestly scared of knowing the truth. But, yeah. I'll go get it."

Anzu retrieved her diary from the podium, bringing it back to the pew to read with Giuseppe. "Okay, let's see. 'Dear Diary. Mom doesn't want me. She can't want me. She doesn't seem bothered at all that she might not ever see me again. I wanted to tell her I loved her, but that I also hated her. I hate her for making it all look so easy, so simple. She didn't cry a single tear, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I might not see her or my sister again, and I still can't stop crying. I don't like our apartment, I miss living in the house with my mom and sister. It's cold here, it's small, and my dad just stays in his room all day. I prayed all night for the past eighteen nights, but god never answered me and still let my family get torn apart. But I just want to know why. Just the 'why' part would be enough. But nobody talks to me. Nobody tries to heal the real victims in all of this; me and my sister. Without each other and without our parents together. I'm going to stop praying. It doesn't work anyway.'"


Anzu flipped the page and cleared her throat, preparing to read another excerpt. "'Dear Diary. When I went to knock on Dad's door, he just told me to go away. It sounded like he was crying. For once, I disobeyed father and entered his room. I'll always regret it. When I tried to hold him like Mom used to when she was around, he snapped and threw me on the ground. He threw a bottle at me and scratched my head, the bleeding still hasn't stopped all the way. I cried and screamed at him to stop, but he just kept punching me and kicking me. This wasn't the most heartbreaking part of it. It wasn't until he was done and began laughing did I truly feel any pain. I don't know what happened to Dad, but I'll have to cover up my bruises and cuts before I can go back to school. I just wonder how Megumi is doing. I hope she and mom are alright, wherever they are.'"

Anzu kept her head down, her hair draped over her face as she refused to look up and face Giuseppe.

"Your father beat you? Why?"

Anzu kept going. "'Dear Diary. Dad kept telling me he hates me, he wishes I was never born, he wishes he never became a Dad, and that I'm nothing but a heavy burden on him, the only thing restricting him from a happy life. He said he hates my hair, my smile, my eyes, everything. I wanted to believe he was just saying that because he's under so much stress. But ever since that day, he never even looks at me anymore. Maybe he's right. Maybe I am worthless. If me or my sister weren't born, Mom and Dad would still be together, living their dreams. Maybe having us prevented them from being able to do that. I hope God isn't watching, because I've started cutting myself in the past few days. It helps with getting rid of the anxiety and the pressure, without the trouble of making someone listen to my troubles. If nothing I do is ever good enough for him, if nothing I could ever be could ever satisfy him, then let there be at least one thing that I can do that will make him happy. Destroy myself until I'm just like him. Maybe then, we could understand each other. Maybe then, I could figure out why I keep crying when it's time to go to sleep.'"

Giuseppe closed his eyes tightly as he heard the last entry. It was hard for him to listen to as he imagined Anzu going through all of that. Now, more than ever, Giuseppe felt awful for Anzu. But to his surprise, Anzu laughed. It wasn't a sincere laugh, it was Anzu clearly trying to cheer herself up.

"Anzu?"

Anzu looked up at the magnificent statue of Jesus on the cross, right behind the podium and the organ.
 "Don't worry, I'm fine. Reading all of this just makes me glad I'm dead. I don't have to be burdened with any of that anymore, so that's an upside in all of this."

"Still, it doesn't mean ghosts can't feel pain."

Anzu smiled. "It's alright for now. I'll deal with the pain when it gets here. I've already spent three years alone. How much more painful can it really get?"

Giuseppe also looked up at the statue of Jesus hanging on the cross, his head bowed in agony. "Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?"

Anzu glanced over at Giuseppe in confusion. "What's that from?"

"It's what Jesus cried out when he was suffering on the cross."

"So you've read the bible?"

"Nah, just saw a few movies."

"You're smart, Giuseppe."

"And you're brave."

"Brave? How come?" Anzu asked.

"To go through all of that when you were so young, to die, and to still smile like you do are things I wish I could do myself. But, I'm just hopeless like that. With you though, you just never really give up hope, do you?"

Anzu shook her head, balling her hands into fists.. "That's not true. I do give up hope. That's why I started cutting. It was because I lost hope in life, my dad, and myself. Perhaps even my mother too. Giuseppe....."

"Yeah?"

Anzu's voice shook and cracked as her tears built up. "If Jesus can cry out on the cross like that, is it okay if I cry too?"

"Of course you can."

Anzu, in death, let out two years worth of tears that had her turbulent life had built up. She weary leaned her head on Giuseppe's shoulder as her cries filled the empty church. Giuseppe remembered crying exactly the same way when he was her age. Neither of them were strangers to tragedy and heartache, but it pained Giuseppe more to see such a young girl go through such a cruel set of circumstances. Not only did Anzu had to live through such terrible events, but she had to experience the memory of them all over again now that she was dead.

Before they knew it, it had gotten late and shadows benighted the church.

"Do you want to head home or sleep here?" Giuseppe asked.

"Let's go home." Anzu answered.

"Alright."

The two of them stood and shimmied their way out from between the pews.

"You look tired." Giuseppe said.

Anzu stretched out her arms as she let out a loud yawn. "Yeah, I kinda am. I think I did too much today."

"Get on my back, I'll carry you."

"Come on, that's not funny."

Giuseppe knelt down. "I'm not kidding, I'll seriously carry you home. Get on."

"My my, how chivalrous of you."

Giuseppe carried Anzu on his back, her long hair draped over her shoulder and spilling onto his shoulders. Neither of them said a word as they made their way home beneath the winter moon on that quiet, peaceful night. Giuseppe was troubled on the inside however. He wondered how the constant flow of memories would affect Anzu in the future. He dreaded finding out exactly what resulted in the end of her short life. All he knew was that Anzu still had a lot of sorrow in store for her.

As they got home, Giuseppe got into a shirt and sweatpants and readied himself for bed. He let Anzu borrow another pair of sweatpants as well, which she had to tie to make it fit around her waist. While Giuseppe slept, Anzu said she would stay up and listen to music until she felt tired. The lights in the living room remained on, but Giuseppe's room was completely dark. Anzu was at least able to get her mind off of things with the various kinds of music Giuseppe had stored on his computer.

 She remained entertained until one song came on. It was one of Giuseppe's favorites; Otis Redding's version of A Change Is Gonna Come. Anzu rested her eyes and laid her head on the desk as the song played, but soon fell asleep. Giuseppe couldn't quite sleep knowing Anzu was still out there, so he went to go check on her to see if she was still doing okay.

He found her sleeping at the desk with her earbuds still in. He took them out and held them up to his ears, noting it was one of his favorite songs. Once more, Giuseppe carried Anzu on his back, shut off the light, and put her on his bed. He covered her up as warmly as possible and proceeded to sleep on the floor.

He began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, their meeting really was a work of fate. For two people to share such similar circumstances and meet by chance seemed top perfect to him. Whatever the case was, he sincerely wanted to help Anzu get through the tough journey of piecing her memories back together.

He'd be there, to carry that weight.

3
BEHOLD, THE FRUIT OF MY LABOR




Tsukiakari and Osamu on the cover of Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud! As you can see by Osamu's new hairstyle and their black robes, this is them after...well, you know. Tsukiakari is even wearing Yachi's red prayer bracelet from Senkumo War Stories. I love visual continuity like that.

War Cloud comes out on the 17th of May.

4
Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: May 10, 2020, 11:09:51 PM »
The Spooky Boogie
https://soundcloud.com/tonbogiri/spooky-boogie

Finally got around to recording this big old joke of a song.

5
I have been silent.

That is because I've been working quite a lot. With the Senkumo War Stories series finished, I can go back to the ease and comfort of Death by Ex-Girlfriend.

In the time I've been out, I've been able to finish re-writing War Cloud AND Dawn and Dusk!  :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:

War Cloud will be out May 17th. Dawn and Dusk probably sometime in June.

With that, DBeG's classic trilogy is finished (that's what I call the first three books). Next up is Satori's Deception, renamed from Satori no Akuma.

Looking forward to it

6
I am quite pleased that my works received such wholesome title changes

Praise the Emperor.

7
Alright, I've done you all a huge favor.  :clapping:

If you haven't read War Cloud yet, I've uploaded the document to my google drive. This version is the one I intend to publish soon. I recommend reading the doc versus reading War Cloud here, as the doc is in proper novel format and has a bunch of huge changes like extra dialogue, extra chapters, extended scenes, and a fight between Bishamon and Tsukiakari! It's a huge improvement over the original, where Bishamon was just killed off in anti-climactic fashion.

Didn't feel right to do after writing out everything in Senkumo War Stories.

Read War Cloud here

And you can read the novel version of Aika Crisis here.
Same deal with this entry and all future entries. Big improvements, extra scenes, and story changes.

8
And I Sang Holy Holy
Spoiler
The next followed the same blueprint as last. Giuseppe rushed off to work in the morning, leaving Anzu to hang by herself at the house. It was a warm, Tuesday afternoon. A blinding wave of golden sunlight poured in through the windows of the apartment, flooding the kitchen in its radiance. Anzu took the liberty of giving herself a quick tour of the kitchen.

Her bare feet slapped against the white, tiled floor as she skipped over to the fridge, flinging it open. The contents of the fridge were utterly depressing. A closed, styrofoam takeout container from god knows how many days ago,  single block of cheddar cheese, two bananas, a jug of milk, and a container of two dozen eggs all stared Anzu right in her disappointed face.

"I don't know what I was expecting." Anzu sighed. "He's lived alone up until now. Maybe he'll eat better from now on, since there's two of us."

Anzu closed the fridge and searched through some of the cabinets over the double-sided sink and gas oven. Salt and pepper grinders, garlic and onion powder, aluminum foil rolls, and not much else.

"He seems to work so hard. He should treat himself better than this."

Anzu's gaze wandered around the kitchen, quickly finding the framed picture on the granite countertop. Seeing the photo had been ripped nearly in half, Anzu's expression of wonderful curiosity soured into a look of confusion. She set the framed photo back down, noticing that only one person in particular was torn from the picture.

Anzu smiled. "That little boy is him, isn't it? He looks so happy here."

She turned around, spotting another family picture on top of the media console. Giuseppe and his mother were photographed in a pizzeria, both of them holding up huge slices of pepperoni pizza. Anzu focused in on his mother, noticing her olive skin and unbound, raven hair. Remembering Giuseppe had mentioned he was half Italian, Anzu figured he got it from his mother's side.

Anzu released a gentle gasp. "Wow, what a beauty! You must have some amazing parents, Giuseppe."

Looking at the photos of Giuseppe with his mother and father, seeing all the fun trips they took and moments they shared, Anzu found herself smiling with joy. Echoes of pleasant memories and familial love just oozed from each photograph, which in turn made the apartment feel like a warmer place. It no longer felt like just an apartment to Anzu, but a fully lived in home.

Anzu's chest tightened and her vision blurred. The joy she felt became an overwhelming wave of sadness and longing. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she let out a mournful sob and suspiration. She closed her wet eyes, wiping her tears with her sleeve.

"I can't...remember what they looked like..."

Giuseppe pulled into the garage that evening, the sky split in half by the faded light of dusk. He turned his car off and leaned forward on the steering wheel, releasing an exhausted sigh.

"An actual ghost." Giuseppe said. "I have an actual ghost living with me. Unless...I was just dreaming it all."

It was far more believable that Giuseppe was simply losing his mind. He opened up his glove department, pulling out his copy of Magura Dogura.

"A fetus's dream...I wonder if something that crazy could really happen to me." Giuseppe shuddered.

After calming down a bit, Giuseppe locked the car and marched back upstairs. He returned home to find Anzu listening to his music as usual again, though at a much lower volume this time around, as not to disturb the neighbors.

"I'm home." Giuseppe said, taking off his brown leather shoes.

Anzu leapt off of the couch in joy. "Welcome back Giuseppe! How was work?"

"Hey, was that Smokestack Lightning just now?" Giuseppe asked.

Anzu nodded. "Oh, yeah! I'm starting to get into all the bluesy stuff, Howlin' Wolf especially. But don't change the subject! Tell me how your day was!"

"Geez, get off my back. It was a regular work day as always."

"Okay, but that's even more reason to do something fun tomorrow!"

"Hmm...alright. Did you have anything in mind?"

Anzu scoffed. "Well that's not very manly of you, you should surprise me."

Anzu grabbed a hair tie from her pocket and wrapped her hair in a voluminous pony tail, still letting bangs of her hair drape over her face.

Giuseppe collapsed on the couch, talking with his face buried in the cushion. "I just wanna die. Go away and let me sink into the fires of hell."

Losing her patience, Anzu crossed her arms and put her foot down. "You're not going anywhere until you come up with something! Now get up off your ass!"

"I'm not on my ass, I'm on my face." Giuseppe muttered.

"Ugh! Get into something more comfortable, we're spending the night at the church!" Anzu ordered.

Giuseppe rose his face up from the cushion. "The church? Alright, I'll put something on."

Giuseppe went in his room to change into a black thermal and a pair of skinny, black sweatpants. Anzu peeked through the door while he was changing, poking her head in the room and taunting him. She made a flirtatious whistling noise to get Giuseppe's attention.

"Nice underwear, baby. What kind of service can I get for twenty-thousand yen?" Anzu teased.

"What?! Get out of here!" Giuseppe shouted, completely startled.

Anzu shut the door and snickered quietly to herself. "Gotcha!"

She went ahead and walked out of the front door, sitting at the top of the steps that led down to the courtyard. She turned her gaze up towards the moon as she waited patiently for Giuseppe to get himself ready, the evening breeze tugging at her hair. Giuseppe finally came out, and the two began their walk to the abandoned church together.

"Hey, I forget. How exactly did you come across the church?" Anzu asked.

"I just went for a walk and got a little lost." Giuseppe answered. "Before I knew it, I stopped walking and saw the church up on the hill. That's really all there is too it."

Anzu laughed quietly. "Maybe it was fate, right?"

"Yeah right. More like blind luck and idiocy."

"Maybe, but you got to meet a dead girl because of it! Pretty cool huh?"

"Anzu...you really don't remember anything about your life? Like, how you died?"

Anzu shook her head. "Nope, not at all. Just my name, some of my favorite foods, possessions, and minor stuff like that. But I don't remember how I died or anything."

"That diary. Is it still at the church? Maybe there will be some clues in there." Giuseppe suggested.

"You think so? I hadn't actually read it since I awoke in the graveyard. Learning about how I died sounds a little scary, honestly."

"But, you were so young. Aren't you curious?"

"Of course I'm curious, but also terrified."

"What, scared you died doing something dumb like drag racing?" Giuseppe teased.

Anzu crossed her arms, closed her eyes, and looked away from Giuseppe. "I'd rather die choking on brownies, like the brownies you still haven't made me for proving I'm a ghost!"

Giuseppe had completely forgotten about that bet. "Ah crap. That's right..."

The two of them completed their march up the hill and entered through the creaky doors of the abandoned church. There was an eery silence as the moon shone through the colored windows of the abandoned building, its pale light turned into waves of color.

"Oh look! Our beds are still on the podium! The lantern is probably there too." Anzu said, her voice reverberating through the sanctuary.

Anzu ran towards the podium, jumping on top of it and turning on the lantern that was left in between the mattresses. She waved from the podium, signaling Giuseppe to come up and join her. They both sat down on the mattresses together as Anzu prepared to open her diary. As she opened it, she kept the book away from Giuseppe's view, blushing as she held it close to her chest.

"What's wrong?" Giuseppe asked.

"Even if we're trying to figure out what happened to me, this is still a girl's diary." Anzu hissed.

"Okay, fine! Take your time and read whatever you want from it." Giuseppe groaned.

Anzu skimmed through the pages, looking for an appropriate entry to read out loud. "Ah! Found one! Dear Diary, today is the day Mom leaves. She's taking my sister with her, but Dad said I have to stay with him. We have to move out of our house in just a few weeks. I'm really gonna miss this place, and my mother and sister. Dad says this is happening because he and Mom can't get along anymore, but nobody will tell me why that means we all have to separate. I'll pray to god and ask him not to let my Mom and sister leave. I really hope he answers."

"That...that sounds a lot like a divorce." Giuseppe said. "Do you remember anything about your parents?"

"No, I don't. This all sounds depressing though. Should I keep reading?"

"We don't have to go through all of it in one sitting. Let's just take it a step at a time and work from there. Maybe you'll remember something that way."

"Alright. I'll read the next one. Dear Dia—"

Anzu suddenly shot up in fright, blurting out an alarmed scream.

"What's wrong?!? Giuseppe recoiled.

"There was a spider on my blanket!" Anzu cried.

Giuseppe facepalmed. "You've got to be kidding, you're scared of spiders? You realize it wouldn't even be able to touch you, right? So far, we learned that living things pass right through you and can't sense you at all."

"I...I knew that!" Anzu pouted. "I was just pretending to be scared. Haha, f-f-funny huh? G-Got ya!"

Giuseppe threw his pillow at her face. "Just keep reading!"

"God, you're so abusive." Anzu sighed. "Where was I? Oh, yeah! Dear Diary, today is the day me and Dad move. We're going to a small house in a more quiet neighborhood, and I'll have to say goodbye to the few friends I have here. I'll miss my teachers most of all, since my classmates always picked on me. Whoa, whoa whoa. Wait a minute. I was bullied? Me?!?! What a crock of crap, why would anyone bully me?!?! I'm awesome!"

"Source: Anzu." Giuseppe said.

Anzu leaned in towards Giuseppe, holding her fist to his face. "Careful what you're saying, Giuseppe! We don't wanna reenact a scene from Fist of the North Star!"

"I'm surprised you even know what that is. A little before your time, isn't it?" Giuseppe asked.

"I watched a rerun of it while you were gone. There sure is a lot of fisting in anime."

"Let's stop talking about fisting and just get back to the diary, Anzu."

"Right, you're right. Let's see...ah! Last few lines." Anzu said, finding her place again and taking a small breath. "I'm not ready to go. I really don't want to leave. But I want Dad to be happy and for Mom to stop crying. Please God, I'll do anything to make them both stop hurting."

Giuseppe sat in silence for a few moments, thinking about what Anzu was going through during her time alive.

"Looks like I had it pretty rough when I was still alive. Bullying, divorce, a move nobody wants." Anzu said.

"If you died here in Sapporo, maybe it would be possible to find records pertaining to your death. We could search for them, if you want." Giuseppe offered.

Anzu sighed and stood up to stretch her body. "I'm done for tonight. Let's not talk about this anymore, it's so depressing. Hey, wanna head over to the convenience store? I'm getting a little hungry."

"We can go, but just don't pick anything up. It'll just look like a floating item and people will freak out." Giuseppe said.

"Understood, komandir! Let's go!" Anzu cheered.

"Komandir?"

Giuseppe walked alongside Anzu with his hands in his pockets as they passed by the park, crossed the streets, and walked by the local stores. Anzu sauntered with her hands behind her back, a smile on her face, and her hair blowing in the wind.

"How can you remain so calm after reading that kind of stuff? You must've gone through a lot during your life." Giuseppe said.

"Well, I suppose it's because..." Anzu paused, coming to a stop on the sidewalk. "You take my mind off of it!"

Giuseppe felt a deep sense of worry inside, but if what Anzu said was true, how could he dare question it? It was her life, and he didn't have much of a right to make her accept any of it. He put himself in her shoes, wondering what it would be like to have died at the age of seventeen, to only be able to remember the past three years of complete spiritual stasis. The more he thought about it, the more saddening it really seemed. People are born, then they die and move on, but Anzu was stuck in the middle.

Anzu and Giuseppe entered the convenience store together, though the cashier could only see Giuseppe. The welcome chime rang as Giuseppe stepped through, but not when Anzu did.

"Alright, what do you want?" Giuseppe asked in a low voice.

Anzu's eyes widened with excitement as her lips formed an ear-to-ear smile. "Ooo! What are these?"

"Huh? You've never had Mochi before?"

Anzu shook her head. "Nuh uh! Never! My dad never let me have those when I was young!"

Immediately after saying that, Anzu gasped in shock. She slapped her hand over her mouth and stood petrified in the middle of the aisle.

"Anzu...you remembered something again." Giuseppe said.

Anzu closed her eyes tightly, still keeping her hand over her mouth.  She couldn't decide whether she should be feeling anger, sadness, or longing. She didn't even know why she felt any anger at all. A tidal wave of emotions hit her all at once and she couldn't understand why. So, instead, she began to cry. It was the first time Giuseppe had ever seen the usually energetic Anzu weep. It occurred to him just how lonely Anzu's existence had been these past three years, for nobody could hear her laugh, sing, or even cry. Giuseppe embraced her as she wept, trying his best to comfort her.

"I know, Anzu. I know. It's alright. Everything is gonna be alright. Do you still want the Mochi?"

Though her face was buried in his chest, Anzu shook her head as if she was saying yes. Giuseppe grabbed the box of Mochi and made his way to the cashier. Anzu let go of Giuseppe, knowing that if he kept holding her, it would look odd to the cashier. The two walked close together as they left the store and made their way back to the abandoned church.

"Are you okay? Anzu?"

"Oh! Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little shaken, you know?" Anzu said, her eyes still red and swollen.

"You remembered something about your father shortly after reading from the diary. Maybe your memories are slowly starting to come back?"

Anzu nodded. "Yeah, I guess so. It was like recovering from memory loss and recognizing someone you'd completely forgotten."

"Well...I mean...that's exactly what just happened, isn't it?" Giuseppe asked.

"Not quite." Anzu said. "I can't remember who my mom and dad were or even what they looked like. I wonder if they're still out there, somewhere."

"If they are, I know they miss you sorely." Giuseppe said. "It must've been hard for them, having to bury their daughter at such a young age. Not only that, but you had a sister too. It sounded like she was about your age."

"I've got to be stronger than this, Giuseppe." Anzu said, drying the last of her tears. "As scary and overwhelming as it may feel, I've got to get through that diary. I have to remember what happened to me, who my parents were, and who my sister is. This really isn't just about me anymore."

"We won't rush though, okay?" Giuseppe said. "We'll take it a step at a time. I'll help you do it."

Anzu smiled as held Giuseppe's arm. "Thank you."

They made their way to the dirt path where they could see the church up on the hill, the moon shining upon it from the left side of the building.

"Giuseppe?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you wanna share my Mochi with me?"

"Of course, I haven't had some in a while!" Giuseppe sang.

"Okay but leave the strawberry ones for me! I love strawberries!" Anzu squealed.

"Whatever you say, princess."

With the night growing colder and darker, Anzu and Giuseppe went back inside of the church. They sat on their beds with the lantern between the heads of the mattresses, far up enough so that it wouldn't melt the mochi. They ate the entire box of mochi together, but Giuseppe made sure to let Anzu have most of it.

Her stomach full of frozen, strawberry flavored bliss, Anzu yawned and stretched her arms into the air.

"Sounds like it's time for bed." Giuseppe said.

"No way, I'm still up!" Anzu protested. "C'mon let's do something else, like play tic-tac-toe or something!"

"Don't try to hide it, your eyes look tired as all hell. It was a big day for you after all."

"Was it? We didn't really do anything." Anzu said.

"Of course we did! We read your diary, learned more about your past, you remembered something about your father, and you got to eat mochi for the very first time, as a dead girl I might add. I'm sure all the other dead girls are crying from the heavens."

"What are you talking about? When did any of that happen?"

Giuseppe's eyes widened in shock. He sat frozen for what felt like an eternity, gazing into Anzu's empty, neutral stare.

"...Anzu? You didn't forget everything, did you?"

Anzu made a finger gun with her left hand and clicked her tongue. "Gotcha!"

Giuseppe groaned as Anzu erupted into a fit of laughter. His heart had nearly stopped, all for a joke at his expense.

"You should've seen your face!" Anzu chuckled.

"Yeah yeah, I'll let you have that one." Giuseppe sighed. "Well, I'm getting sleepy. Goodnight, Anzu."

Giuseppe turned off the lantern and got comfortable in the covers. Anzu sat on her futon on her knees, pouting at the sudden dropping of the conversation.

"Hey!" Anzu said.

Giuseppe got up from his bed. "What? I said goodnight."

Anzu inched her way over to Giuseppe on her knees, hugging him tightly. Giuseppe was too surprised to hug her back. Though Anzu was a ghost, her embrace felt just as warm and genuine as anyone else's.

"Thank god I met you." Anzu said. "That was the first time someone has held me while I was crying since I died. Thank you for that."

"Of course...we're friends, after all." Giuseppe said.

Anzu smiled,  put her hands on Giuseppe's cheeks, and kissed his forehead. She crawled back over to her bed, said goodnight, and the two went to sleep.

They slept in that day and were awoken by the sun shining directly through the colored windows. The rainbow of heavenly light was almost blindingly bright. Giuseppe shook out his hair and checked the time on his phone. As he checked, Anzu moved and moaned in her bed as she woke up as well.

"What time is it?" Anzu yawned.

"11:02" Giuseppe said.

"Crap, really?! I always get up early but I slept in this time around." Anzu yawned again.

"It's alright. I don't have work today or tomorrow. If you're still tired we could go back to sleep." Giuseppe said.

"Nah, I'd feel like such a douchebag. Let's get up and get out of here, get our day started." Anzu said.

Anzu staggered onto her feet and offered Giuseppe her hand, helping him get out of bed. The two of them rolled up their futons, the colored shade of the windows veiling them in a purple shine.

"Did you still want to eat breakfast?" Giuseppe asked.

"Can we? I'm starving. Natto and a fried egg on rice sounds delicious right about now." Anzu said.

"Sure, let's go get that for you."

Giuseppe smiled and held the church door open for Anzu, letting her go out first.

Anzu walked by and smiled back, impressed yet again by his politesse. "My my, how chivalrous of you!"

It was another beautiful day for Giuseppe and Anzu, a great day to have a late breakfast and a chat with a friend. Though she was dead, Anzu felt as if she was very much alive. And now, she understood what it felt like to have someone to count on.

9
Alright, reworked the first chapter  :thumbsup:

I'll try to keep this standard of quality throughout the rest of the story

10
Oooh yes, these delicious notes. I'm going to implement the heck out of these  :clapping: I definitely wanted to add a ton more content to this first chapter but it was already 5k words and I was super tired. Will expand upon this for sure.

The thing I remember most about this story is how fun it was to write it. There was at least one new chapter everyday because I loved writing all of the cozy, funny, and tragic scenes. Can't wait to make everyone go through the heartache again (though I don't think anything I write will ever top Inari Standoff from DbEG, as hard as I may try).

Definitely intend on publishing this once it's all cleaned up.

11
I've had a lot of fun and a ton of success with Death by Ex-Girlfriend and its much darker sister series, Senkumo War Stories. I consider it to be my best work, by far. Bit of an awkward start, but it was written with a lot of heart and it ended up developing into an emotional rollercoaster of sorts. It dealt with themes of altruistic heroism, familial curses, and the different ways in which people deal with loss.

However, some of you may remember my first story written way back when, during a writing contest or something of the sort. It was Anzu: A Friend From The Grave

Anzu came about after a very pleasant reading of the manga Ane Doki, a manga I still come back to read almost every winter. It was a relatively short, mildly ecchi story about a 13 year old boy (Kouta) who encounters an alluring 17 year old girl (Natsuki) one hot summer day. The two share an indirect kiss when Natsuki takes Kouta's ice cream for a little relief from the heat. Of course, Kouta can't stop thinking about the fact he's sharing an indirect kiss with a beautiful, older girl, and Natsuki sees right through him for this. She calls him out about it, and he responds by running away.

Later that day, when Kouta is returning home, he finds his father has to go overseas suddenly, leaving him all alone in the house. That is, until Natsuki catches up with him again, offering to take care of Kouta while his father is out (more like she took advantage of the situation so she could have a place to stay)

Initial annoyance and sexual hijinks aside, Kouta and Natsuki develop a sincere friendship over the course of the manga (along with Natsuki's younger sister Chiaki, who also ends up living with them.) Natsuki seems to be acting selfishly, but Kouta soon sees that she's helping him become more of a man. She teaches him to stand up for himself and those he loves, how to swim, and how to be confident in his own abilities as a young man.

Something Chiaki brings up later in the story is that their living situation can only really last until Kouta's father gets back. There's going to have to be a point where they have to separate. The seasons change in this manga. Starts in summer, goes through fall, and ends around the wintertime. Kouta's father returns during the winter and thanks the girls for taking care of Kouta for all of that time, but soon announces that he's being transferred to a different regional branch of his company, meaning they're going to be moving really soon.

Kouta and the girls suddenly realize that their dreaded time of separation was close, and they'd have to say goodbye in just a few days. Since the girls lived with Kouta for the past six months, they of course decide to stay and help clean/pack the house, but Kouta is too devastated by the news to help, since he's also coming to grips with the fact that he's in love with Natsuki, not the girl he thought he loved.

It's a bittersweet ending as Kouta struggles to confess on the final night, and still struggles even as the girls accompany him and his father to the train station. But, he does make his confession at the last minute and scores a well-deserved goodbye kiss from Natsuki. If it's any consolation, there's a four-page epilogue chapter that takes place four years later. Kouta walks down the street with some ice cream and encounters an older girl with wavy, raven hair. The girl turns around, revealing herself to be Natsuki. The ending mirrors the very beginning when they met, ending the story with them reuniting.

Ane Doki was a very pleasant and heartfelt read, but I also enjoyed its depiction of changing seasons and the homely atmosphere it had, seeing as most of it takes place in Kouta's house rather than just at school. The changing seasons made the story feel way longer, which was necessary for the emotional impact of the winter chapters. It also gave me a taste for bittersweet endings.

I learned quite a lot from that humble little manga and I wanted to employ some of what I gathered in my own story.

It was that combined with the aesthetic and artistic inspiration of Sankarea that I wrote the initial chapter of Anzu. Sankarea's anime did a really amazing job with its art and general aesthetic. Studio DEEN turned what used to be a drab, abandoned hotel room into some otherworldly slice of dilapidated paradise. An abandoned bowling alley fitted with a row of colored windows. (I REALLY fell in love with this aesthetic after seeing the ED)









Vivid descriptions involving colored glass still permeate in my writing. Even Death by Ex-Girlfriend had a similar abandoned bowling alley with a very similar row of colored glass. So, with quite a lot of inspiration going around at the time, the homely, bittersweet, and heartfelt atmosphere of Anzu was born. I promised a long time ago that I would come back to this story.

I'll be giving it the DbEG treatment in my spare time. Hope you all enjoy.

Chapter 1: Fallen Apricots
Spoiler
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Sapporo, or at least it was for all but one man who stayed in his apartment and didn't even bother to open the blinds after waking up. That sorry, sorry man is Giuseppe Himura. If you were to look upon his frizzy, curly mess of a hairstyle, you'd weep for his lack of care and grooming.

If you were to look into his dark, baggy eyes, you'd cry out in agony for his criminally poor sleeping habits. If you were to look through his closet, only to find shirts and shorts, you'd scream in anger for his savagely disgusting sense of fashion. The truth is, Giuseppe is just a normal, working man like everyone else. And today, he had no reason to be happy. He promised to visit his father today, early in the morning. In prison.

And so, the corpse named Giuseppe arose from his bed. His bare feet landed on a pile of clothes he had neglected to put away. He judged that the tedium and monotony of folding one's own laundry was something he would not suffer today, either. He threw his clothes back into the hamper inside of his sliding closet, preferring to just pretend they're still dirty.

He dragged his feet over to the bathroom, yawning as he nearly tripped over himself. Sharp, radiant beams of cyan light sliced through the gaps in his closed blinds, shining upon his pale face in stripes. He turned on the faucet and gathered a pool of ice-cold water in his hands, splashing his face with it. He repeated this a few times before drying himself off.

He looked in his mirror for just a split second, only to recoil at what he saw staring back at him. He continued his daily routine of brushing his teeth and other grooming practices with same amount of dejected autonomy. After making himself look presentable, he threw on some clothes—a white, long-sleeved shirt and black pants, and grabbed his car keys.

Giuseppe slid his feet into his worn out, grey flat tops and stepped outside, shutting the door behind him. The air of the early morning made his breath visible. After locking the front door, Giuseppe descended the orange tile steps beside him. He ended up in the apartment complex's courtyard, surrounded by legions of shrubs and succulents nestled in earthenware pots. He slithered down the walkway towards the door in the rear of the courtyard, which took him down to the garage.

Giuseppe looked around as he marched towards his car, noticing that the garage was almost entirely empty. The observation only made him wish he had to work on Sundays. He released a sigh of dread as he approached his cherry-red sedan, dreading the drive to the prison. Nonetheless, Giuseppe plopped down in the black leather driver seat, turned on his car, and hit the road.

The scenery of Sapporo may as well have been a greyscale void to him. The various antique shops, cafes, and high-rise corporate offices all blended themselves into a fuzzy, abstract painting. Stopping at a red light, he saw clusters of people marching through the crosswalk. Their cacophony of youthful laughter and conversation made Giuseppe impatiently stare at the traffic signal. Just as one flock of people made their way to the other side of the street, another would line up at the other end, waiting for their turn to cross.

There were far more people in Sapporo that walked rather than drove. Most of them headed towards the huge shopping mall across the street, while others diverged to make their way to other places. If Giuseppe didn't have to travel a considerable distance, he would've been part of the colony of people cluttering the streets. Prison was the only place he actually drove to, besides for work.

After a quiet, forty-five minute drive, Giuseppe had arrived at the prison. The prison complex consisted of six large, grey buildings all connected to one another. They were featureless, rectangular buildings that could be considered the only true eyesore of Sapporo. A blob of formless grey maintained by mannequins in blue—that was the prison to Giuseppe.

Arriving at the prison gate, he stopped to talk with the guards posted outside. After giving them his name and his purpose for his visit, the guards allowed him through and into the parking lot. He found a spot close to the prison's entrance and parked there. He felt like a ghost as he exited the car and went through the prison's front office, dealing with more of the soul-sucking bureaucracy of the prison staff.

The young lady managing the front desk had her eyes glued to the computer as she spoke to Giuseppe. Judging by the sour expression on her face and the dark bags under her eyes, Giusepped gathered her job was a miserable one.

"Here for visitation?" the young lady asked.

"Yeah. My father, Nori Himura." Giuseppe answered.

"Ah, I see the appointment." she said. "Go down the hall to the left. The guard will take you to where you need to go."

 After going through all the proper procedures, he was guided into the visiting room.

When he sat down behind the glass barrier between him and his father, he immediately wanted to get out. Nori's face was scarred with wrinkles. His hair was straight and neat unlike his son's, and it was kept at a short length. He was a fairly muscular man with a gentle smile, giving off the aura of a gentle giant.

"Hey." Giuseppe said in a flat tone. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm doing alright. What about you?" Nori responded.

"I'm alright I guess." Giuseppe said, staring down at his heavily worn shoes.

"Make any friends lately?" Nori asked.

"No..."

Nori sighed. "Twenty-two years old is the prime of a man's life, son. You should take advantage of it while you can."

"Don't call me that." Giuseppe hissed.

Nori's smile wilted into a frown. "I know you can never forgive me. But I swear on every vein in my body that I....I love you deeply."

"So did Mom..." Giuseppe retorted beneath his breath.

"Just....just promise me you'll make some friends, okay? Just go out into the world. Laugh, cry, get angry, get jealous, fall in love, accomplish your dreams. Don't let my mistakes stop you from being you."

Giuseppe nodded. "I'll try."

"You still haven't visited her, huh?" Nori questioned.

Giuseppe shook his head as he bit his lip.

"I understand." Nori said. "There's no need to rush. Someday, you'll find the strength to go see her again. Once you do, you might be able to see the world in a whole different light."

Giuseppe dug the nails of his left hand into his palm. "A different light is just another shade of grey."

Giuseppe left the prison, happy he no longer had to look his father in the eye. Giuseppe returned home and spent most of the day watching television, flipping between mildly interesting cooking shows and oddly soothing news stations. The cooking shows only made him hungry, and he no longer had the energy nor will to cook. So, he settled for the news.

"Patrons of this Sapporo bar were greeted by a wandering deer on Saturday night." the newsman read aloud. " The deer was spotted crossing the street before he made his way into the bar. If you're wondering, he ordered a milk stout and a lager."

The newsman's attempt at humor almost made Giuseppe wish for more news about murders, wars, and plagues. At least then, there'd be nothing to joke about. Even with the mindless distraction of television, Giuseppe couldn't shake his father's image out of his head. He had photos of his mother, himself, and his father laying around the house, snapshots of a much happier time in his life.

Giuseppe took one of the photos off the kitchen counter. He was just ten years old in the photo, sitting atop on father's shoulders while his mother posed with a smile on the side. They were ankle deep in the sapphire waters of Positano, a small, coastal village in Italy built along a seaside hill. Giuseppe remembered the smell of salt on the ocean breeze and the sunlight bouncing against the vibrant, green trees along the hill. The color of the ocean reflected off of the shore, giving every nearby shadow a shade of blue.

Giuseppe took the picture out of its frame. He carefully tore the picture from the left side, coming in towards the center of the photo before tearing downwards. He managed to tear most of his father out of the photo, crumpling his section of it and tossing it in the garbage.

He set the picture down and looked at it again. A mournful sigh escaped his lips.

"That didn't work..."

The sun was close to setting. Even someone as miserable as Giuseppe could see that despite the negative events of the day, it was still a beautiful day, and beautiful days, in his mind, deserved walks. And so, he put his worn out shoes back on, leaving the ripped photo at the counter, and left the house again. He slinked and slithered through the cluttered Sapporo streets and into the more secluded areas of the neighborhood.

"What kind of father tries to say sorry after all these years for what he's done?" Giuseppe murmured, using nature as his confessional. "I can't wait until he's put down."

Giuseppe stopped walking when he realized he was completely alone now. He had walked into a jagged, hilly area covered with meadows of pink milkweed flowers and yellow dandelions. Curiously, there was a dirt road leading up the hill to an old, abandoned church. From the angle where he stood, the blazing afternoon sun reflected against the rows of colored glass lining the outside of the church.

"Is that a church? Hmm...Well, I'm all the way out here, may as well check it out. At the very worst, it will be a messy building. At best, I'll get to sit alone in church like I used to do." Giuseppe said.

Giuseppe plodded up the hill and arrived at the creaky doors of the abandoned church. He opened them up and let himself on, immediately taken aback by the beauty and aesthetic of the abandoned building. There were pristine statues of the Virgin Mary, of child angels, a Pieta replica, and high, vaulted ceilings bearing the faded Renaissance artwork of Jesus, Saint Paul, and other religious figures. The pews were separated by a long, red rug that led all the way down to the podium. Behind the podium was a large statue of Jesus nailed to the cross, and an organ that sat facing the podium.

The church's stained glass betrayed convention. Instead of being more of a mosaic of bold, interwoven colors, each window was, for the most part, a solid color. Both sides of the sanctuary had a row of massive, solid-colored windows. Bright greens, deep purple, vivid reds, cool blues, and fiery oranges. Sunlight gushed through the west-facing windows to the right, its natural color filtered by each window. The result was a breathtaking outpouring of radiant color, a rainbow shining through the windows and onto the pews, podium, and Giuseppe himself. It had an immediate, calming effect on Giuseppe, as if he had walked into a private and sacred world, one of serene silence and multi-colored beauty.

The church itself was wide, with plenty of space between the walls. The beige, marble floors made Giuseppe's first few steps in the building echo throughout the sanctuary. It looked as if the church could hold about several hundred people at once. The floor was messy, as some bits of the roof had fallen off. Being abandoned, this was never cleaned up. There were some plastic sheets draped in the back section of the church, as well as some crucifixes and other religious ornaments next to the podium.

Giuseppe liked this building. It wasn't overly filthy, and the glass made the sunlight colorful and beautiful to look at . He walked down the aisle and sat down on one of the pews.

"It's so peaceful here." Giuseppe said, the spacious church echoing his voice back at him.

Giuseppe took a seat at one of the pews, only to find he had rudely sat on what looked like a diary.

"Anzu's diary, do not steal?" Giuseppe said, reading the lazily scribbled title of the diary. "Who's Anzu?"

Suddenly, there was a loud yell in the church, a frightful shriek that blared out right in front of Giuseppe. A girl appeared out of nowhere and tackled him to the ground, wrestling him for the diary.

"Give it back! Give it back you clumsy idiot!"

"I'm sorry, I'm very sorry!" Giuseppe shouted in a panic as he was tackled right off the pew.

Giuseppe caught his breath and let go of the diary. He sat up and was able to look at the girl. She wore an unbuttoned, floral cardigan with a black shirt underneath and black jeans. Her hair was long, black, and curly, adorning her face and blue eyes beautifully as it continued down to the end of her back. She wore a silver, sparkly choker around her neck, and had very mild freckles on her face, particularly around her nose.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know that was yours! My sincerest apologies, lady!"

"It's Anzu! You literally just had the diary in your hands! You read my name out loud and you couldn't even call me by it!"

"Why the hell would I call you by your first god damned name!?"

Realizing he had just cursed in a church, and on a Sunday, no less, Giuseppe slapped his hand over his mouth.

"Wow, cursing on a church on a Sunday? Man, you're pathetic!" Anzu scorned.

"It's not my fault! I'm just a little surprised to see someone else in here. I thought I was here alone." Giuseppe said, his right hand monitoring the rhythm of his calming heart.

"Well, your certainly not, are you? I'm here too!" Anzu said, poking her thumb into her chest. "Wait a minute..."

"What?" Giuseppe questioned.

Anzu brought her face closer to Giuseppe's face, inspecting him up close. "How exactly are you able to see me and talk to me right now? Are you dead too?"

"Well, I'm certainly dead inside if that's what you mean."

Anzu shook her head. "No no no. I mean, have you passed away recently or something?"

"Well if I had, I wouldn't be here, would I?" Giuseppe retorted, feeling as though this young girl was playing him for a fool.

Anzu crossed her arms and arched her eyebrows. "Hmmmm...."

Anzu turned around to think, turned around again, and delivered a swift and mighty kick to Giuseppe's testicles.

"Why did you do that?!?!?" Giuseppe cried with tears in his eyes.

"I'm so confused...you actually felt that?" Anzu questioned, her head slightly tilted to the side.

"Of course I could feel it, anyone could've felt that!"

Anzu kept her thoughts to herself as Giuseppe struggled to get back onto his feet, his pale face still red with pain.

"Why are you so perplexed to see another human being here?" Giuseppe groaned.

"It's just...I'm dead." Anzu answered. "You shouldn't be able to see, hear, or feel me."

"Hold on, red light. You're dead? What do you mean?"

Anzu began stroking an imaginary phallic object in the air. "It means I'm in love with you, and I want to do all those bad things those naughty girls do in those JAV films."

"Whoa, what?!?!" Giuseppe recoiled.

"It means I'm dead, you idiot! Deceased! I'm a ghost!"

"Are you trying to pull a fast one on me or something? This isn't Yotsuya Kaidan." Giuseppe said.

"Ugh!" Anzu groaned. "Just forget it! How did you even end up here anyway? Nobody's come up here, ever!"

"Well, I uh...I just kinda took a walk, made some turns, and then whoosh! I was here all of a sudden. Haha, funny right?"

"More like pathetic."

"Yeah, I know." Giuseppe shrugged. "But wait, how would you know if people come here often? Do you stay here frequently?"

"I live here." Anzu answered.

"Really? How old are you?" Giuseppe asked.

"Seventeen years and not counting! Ghosts don't age, you know."

"Right...ghosts..." Giuseppe sighed, seeing the young girl was insistent on keeping her ghost story going.

"Oh hey, you have my name, but I don't have yours." Anzu said.

"Ah, right! It's Giuseppe, nice to meet you. Sorry again, about your diary."

Giuseppe extended his hand, and Anzu smiled as she properly greeted him with a gentle handshake.

"It's a pleasure to meet you too, Giuseppe. Sorry about tackling you earlier. I just don't like it when people touch my stuff."

Having introduced themselves properly, Anzu and Giuseppe sat down together in the empty, abandoned church, adorned by the colors of the window panels.

Giuseppe closed his eyes and brushed off the tackling like a gentleman. "It's no biggie, honestly. So, do you like sitting in empty churches too?"

"Yeah, I love it!" Anzu smiled. "It's so peaceful, isn't it?"

"Absolutely!" Giuseppe agreed. "I used to do it all the time when I was a child, when my mother.....my mother......"

"What's wrong?" Anzu asked with a worried expression.

Giuseppe smiled. "Ah! Nothing! Lost my train of thought."

"No worries. It happens to me, too." Anzu said.

"So, what do you do here?" Giuseppe asked.

"Well, I like to spend my time watching the dust gather on the wall over there, and the artwork on the ceiling fade up there." Anzu explained. "Oh, and sometimes I watch the wood rot on the podium!"

"...Are you serious?"

"Of course not. There's nothing to do here, genius. Nothing other than hanging out."

"I guess that's true."

"So, Giuseppe, was it? Are you some sort of homeless person or do you like to make a habit of looking like one?"

"No, dressing like I don't fit into the lowest the tax bracket is a hobby of mine."

"Really?"

"Of course not."

Both Anzu and Giuseppe let out amused giggles that reverberated throughout the sanctuary.

"Well played, sir." Anzu complimented as she caught her breath. "Let's see, are you an artist type?"

"Nah, I used to be, but I stopped a while ago." Giuseppe said. "I used to do sketches for a while, but I grew out of my artist phase and got a boring office job like everyone else."

"How boring are we talking here?" Anzu asked.

"It's a PR firm."

Anzu gasped in horror. "You poor thing! I don't have to deal with getting a job because I'm dead!"

Giuseppe sighed. "Except you're very clearly alive."

Anzu balled her fist as she pouted at Giuseppe. "I'm being serious!"

"Yeah, yeah." Giuseppe scoffed. "One day you'll have responsibilities and more bills than money, just like the rest of us. Boredom is a certainty in life, like death and taxes."

"At least I can be bored here and unemployed." Anzu replied

"Yep, you've got it better than me, at least."

"Do you hate your job?" Anzu asked.

"No, it's just not what I really wanted to be when I was growing up."

"What was it you wanted to be? A mobster? A chef?"

"Do you think Italians can only be gangsters or foodies?"

Anzu nodded. "Yeah, pretty much."

Giuseppe snickered at her unyielding honesty. "Well, I'm only half Italian. My father's Japanese."

"Oh! That's pretty cool!" Anzu complimented.

"What about you?" What's your ancestry look like?"

"Uhm..." Anzu groaned, trying to think. "Now that you ask, I don't really know. I can't remember anything about my parents."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Were your parents not around?" Giuseppe asked worriedly.

"I don't know." Anzu answered. "I can't really recall who my parents were, if I had siblings, nothing about my life."

"I see...Sorry to hear that."

"Eh, it's alright. I'm pretty certain most of those answers are in this diary, though." Anzu said, holding up her small, pocketbook diary.

"Hmm? That makes it sound like you don't know for sure. It's your diary, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah, but like I said, I don't remember anything about my life. I'm kind of scared to read through this."

"What can possibly be so scary about a girl's diary?"

"You clearly haven't read any horror novels." Anzu scolded. "There's always a dead girl and a diary involved, and with those two combined come curses!"

"Unfortunately, real life is far too boring to have anything as exciting as supernatural curses." Giuseppe frowned.

"Oh yeah?" Anzu asked with a smug grin. "Have you tried standing in your bathroom at night and chanting Bloody Mary in the mirror?"

"I..." Giuseppe paused, recalling that the rumors around that silly superstition was more than enough to deter him from actually trying it.

"See?!" Anzu shouted, pointing at Giuseppe. "Even if curses don't exist, they exist because they don't!"

"I'm sorry, what?" Giuseppe recoiled.

"Well, think of it like this. Let's say a curse doesn't really exist."

"They don't. Don't present that fact as if it's hypothetical."

"Okay, but the mere idea of the curse is enough to scare people! The very concept of it is what's scary!" Anzu explained as she stood from the pew. "That's why it exists even though it doesn't! People give life to their fears, regardless if the thing they're scared of is real or not! It's all a state of mind!"

Giuseppe laughed. "You're giving me flashbacks to my high school philosophy class. It was as silly and roundabout as your explanation just now."

"I took a philosophy class once and it sucked hard ass. Don't compare me to those losers!" Anzu groaned.

"Oh?" Giuseppe said. "Looks like you remembered something!"

Anzu's eyes widened in surprise. She held her hand over her mouth as her eyebrows arched downwards. For some reason, her face went pale with horror, and her blue eyes glistened with sorrow.

"I...I really did. That's strange. How did I do that?"

"Sometimes, small conversation can help jog your memory."

"But how can a memory go for a jog? It doesn't need to lose weight."

"You're messing with me again, aren't you?" Giuseppe asked.

Giuseppe sincerely wondered if Anzu was some sort of amnesiac or if she suffered from memory loss. Anzu seemed to speak of her life like it was distant, something that had already passed her by. If she really was pretending to be a dead girl, her acting was starting to work on Giuseppe.

What should've been a quick, albeit bizarre meeting of two people, turned into several hours of conversation. The sun had fallen and the moon had risen. Moonlight shone through the colored window panels, and the church grew cold and dark.

"Ah crap! I didn't realize I stayed here so long. I should get going. It was wonderful meeting you, Anzu."

Anzu's smile momentarily faded. "You're going?"

"Yeah, I've got work tomorrow. I'll stop by again sometime though, I hope to...to..."

Giuseppe yawned, his eyelids starting to close on their own. "Oh, I'm sorry. Do you live near here? I can walk you home if you'd like."

"No, that's fine. As I said. I live here." Anzu's said, her expression and tone seemingly deflated and tired out.

"There's no way a girl as young as you seriously lives in an abandoned building all by yourself, with no power or anything." Giuseppe said.

"I do, though. I wasn't lying to you." Anzu assured.

Giuseppe yawned again. He was clearly on the verge of falling asleep. He could practically hear his bed back at home calling out to him.

"Are you sure you want to walk all the way back?" Anzu asked. "You can sleep here if you want. I have extra blankets and pillows."

"Oh, no. That's kind of you but..."

"Please?" Anzu begged. "I haven't...I haven't had company in a while."

Giuseppe really didn't like the idea of sleeping with an underage girl in abandoned building, but he also didn't really enjoy the idea of leaving her there all by herself.

"I like to sleep with two pillows." Giuseppe said.

Anzu looked up at Giuseppe and grinned with renewed energy and happiness. "You'll sleep over?! I'll go get the blankets and pillows right now! Come up on the podium!"

Giuseppe stepped up on the podium, and Anzu brought out a portable lantern to illuminate the area. She laid down two sets of blankets and two pillows for each set. She even had a spare mattress to share with Giuseppe.

"I don't even remember the last time I had a sleepover!" Anzu squirmed with glee.

"Really? Girls your age tend to do that a lot now though, don't they?" Giuseppe asked.

"Yeah, I suppose, but I don't recall having a whole lot of friends."

"Yeah, I get where you're coming from there."

"Alright, we're all set for sleepy time!" Anzu said like an overenthusiastic host of a game show. "I think this is better than making you walk home in the middle of the night like this, since I'm the one that kept you here so late."

"Don't worry about it....uhhh..."

"It's Anzu!" Anzu cried with a pout.

"Oh! Right! Sorry about that! Goodnight Anzu."

Anzu jumped on her mattress and pulled the sheets over her head, facing the opposite direction of Giuseppe. "Turn off the lantern!"

Her blanket muffled her voice, but Giuseppe could still understand what she was saying.

"Alright. Good night, Anzu. Thanks for letting me sleep here tonight."

With that, the light was turned off and the two went to sleep. Giuseppe thought nothing of the nonsense Anzu was spouting about being dead. A young girl always does tend to have a good imagination anyway. Giuseppe awoke and checked the time on his leather wristwatch. It was 5:45 AM. The sky was turning into a deep blue as the sun began to rise. He reached over to Anzu to wake her from her slumber.

"Hey, Anzu. You gotta get up, I have to go soon." Giuseppe said.

Anzu slowly opened her eyes and sprung up out of bed faster than lightning can strike. "Alright! Let's go! Wait....I don't even live anywhere besides for here."

Giuseppe sighed. "Not this again. Listen, you have a great imagination, but you really should get home now."

"I told you I wasn't lying to you! What do I have to do to prove to you that I'm dead?"

"Well, first of all..."

"Don't answer that!" Anzu ordered. "I know exactly how to prove it to you! Let me follow you home."

"What? Damn, I think you got up way too fast."

"I'm serious! Let me follow you around. Watch how people walk right through me! They can't even hear me when I scream!"

"If you somehow manage to pull that off, I'll bake you brownies. How about that?" Giuseppe offered, feeling pretty confident in his betting luck.

Anzu gasped in delightful excitement. "They don't have nuts in them do they?"

"No, I hate nuts."

Anzu's face grew closer to Giuseppe's face. "And they'll be crusted on the top and soft and moist in the middle, right?"

"Of course they will." Giuseppe answered.

Anzu's forehead was now just inches away from Giuseppe's. "And I can have vanilla ice cream on top, right?"

Giuseppe was clearly uncomfortable with the lack of respect for one's personal space. "Y-yes..."

"Then let's go! You're gonna make me those brownies once you see I'm telling the truth!"

Anzu opened the door to the church, letting in a powerful gust of morning wind that blew around her voluminous hair. At least Anzu had a better sense of hair care than Giuseppe ever did. Anzu and Giuseppe marched down the hill, heading back towards town. On their way there, Anzu yelled and screamed at the people walking by.

"Help, help! This man is sexually harassing me!"

Giuseppe quickly threw his hand over Anzu's mouth, shutting her up instantly. "What the hell are you doing?!"

"Rhmphh!" Anzu mumbled, pointing downhill at the people walking by. Not a single person batted an eye at the girl screaming for help.

Giuseppe was utterly confused. Surely someone had to have heard her scream, right?

"Oh look! Someone's coming my way! If this doesn't prove to you that I'm dead, I don't know what will!" Anzu said with gusto and confidence.

A jogging woman came down the path, directly towards Anzu.

Giuseppe pinched the bridge of his nose. "Enough games, you should move out of—"

To his dumbfounded astonishment, the woman quite literally ran right through Anzu, as if she wasn't even there.

"See?!" Anzu asked, raising her arms.

"No...no no no no." Giuseppe muttered, unable to believe what he just saw. "No way! I must still be tired. There's no way any of that just happened because it's just not even possible."

"Why are you such a nonbeliever? I really am dead, Giuseppe." Anzu said. "I guess this means you can worship me now and do stuff like give me food tributes!"

"Like hell!" Giuseppe angrily shouted.

Another civilian was passing by them, and Giuseppe initiated the final test to see if Anzu was telling the truth.

"Uh, excuse me, sir! Do you see this young girl right next to me?" Giuseppe asked.

"He can't see me, idiot." Anzu insulted.

Looking perplexed, the man exchanged a confused stare with Giuseppe. "Hmm? What girl?"

And there he had it. No one heard her scream. A woman ran right through her, and the man before him now coudln't even see the seventeen year old girl standing right next to him. Giuseppe began to truly accept that Anzu was telling the truth. Perhaps she truly was dead, invisible to those who were still alive.

"Oh! Uh, nevermind. Sorry to bother you." Giuseppe said.

Giuseppe walked onwards with Anzu, his heart beating faster than a drum solo at a rock concert.

"Are you okay? You look like you're about to give birth or something." Anzu said with a worrisome tone.

Giuseppe tugged at the collar of his shirt, suddenly feeling as though it were strangling him. "You're....you're really dead. Hang on, I need a minute to catch my breath."

"Oh come on, it's not that big a deal." Anzu assured with a relaxed giggle.

"You're dead! It's a huge deal!" Giuseppe answered.

"Well I wouldn't have even told you if I knew you were gonna be such a biggity-bitch about it."

Giuseppe and Anzu finally arrived back at Giuseppe's apartment. He unlocked the door and allowed Anzu to enter first, since she was a lady.

"My my, how chivalrous of you! I appreciate it." Anzu complimented.

Giuseppe shut the door, locked it, and stared at the doorknob like a madman stuck staring at the walls of a prison cell.

"Wow! You made good use of the square footage of the apartment." Anzu sang, looking around at Giuseppe's humble, yet decent apartment.

"Anzu...."

"Yep?"

Giuseppe grabbed Anzu by the shoulders and pushed her against the wall. "If you're dead then how come you're still here in the world of the living?!?! Don't spirits pass on somewhere else when they die? You know, heaven, hell, or even reincarnation?!?!"

"Your breath smells like cocks." Anzu said, pinching her nose.

Giuseppe backed away and covered his mouth "You just did that to trip me out, didn't you!"

"Yep! And to answer your question, I honestly don't know why I'm still here. But then again, I don't even remember much about my life before I died, or even how I died in the first place."

Giuseppe's shock began to turn into sympathy for the young girl. If Anzu truly was a ghost, she died at a mere seventeen years of age. She probably didn't get to experience much in life other than school.

"All I know is that I awoke in the graveyard next to the church three years ago, and I stayed there ever since. I tried talking to people, but they never even looked at me. I tried singing to people, but they couldn't hear me. I even saw a woman crying in the park once, but she didn't respond when I tried to console her. I realized I was dead, and that nobody cares about me. It's been that way for three years. But the good news is, I met you! And for some reason, you can see me."

"I noticed you immediately after I sat on your diary." Giuseppe recalled. "Maybe that has something to do with it? If so, we could run around making everyone touch the diary if you want."

Anzu crossed her arms and gave Giuseppe a sour look. "Oh hey, I have a great idea! Let's just go ahead and let a bunch of strangers touch a seventeen year old girl's diary! Wow, I'm so smart!"

It couldn't be more obvious Anzu was insulting Giuseppe.

"That's exactly what you just sounded like!" Anzu insulted. "And what if this diary gets reported to the news or something! Everyone from every corner of the world would see it! It's bad being completely alone, but it's just as bad being completely surrounded by people who can only make you feel alone!"

Giuseppe felt those words hit him in his heart. It seemed that he and Anzu were alone in different ways. It's possible to be surrounded by people and still be just as miserable as being in solitude. That perfectly summed up how Giuseppe felt about his own life. In Anzu's case, however, she wouldn't have the choice. She couldn't interact with anyone even if she wanted to, at least not before knowing about the diary.

"You're right. It was a stupid idea. Sorry." Giuseppe lamented.

"Well, don't be too hard on yourself. I didn't even know I could talk to anyone until yesterday. I wonder if it really is the diary that allowed me do meet you." Anzu said. "Oh, and by the way, you owe me brownies."

Taking another glance at his wristwatch, Giuseppe realized it was almost seven. "Crap, I have to get ready for work. The brownies will have to wait. Stay here, alright?"

"I can't come with you?" Anzu asked.

"No! You'll be a distraction! I still need to grasp the fact that you're not actually alive right now. Feel free to use my T.V., listen to my music, and eat my snacks. Just don't break anything, alright?"

"Aww! But being home alone for so long is boring!" Anzu pouted.

"I'll be back soon, alright? I just don't feel comfortable leaving you in an abandoned building like that." Giuseppe admitted.

Anzu crossed her arms and puffed her cheeks in a pout. "Fine. Well, alright then. Have a good day at work and do your best out there! I'll hold the fort down for ya!"

Giuseppe got his suit on, fixed his tie, and headed off for work. Anzu took the time to get used to her surroundings. She noticed the stacks of records on Giuseppe's desk, as well as an extensive digital music collection.

"Hmm....what's this? Buffalo-Shylock? I hope he won't mind if I play something off of his computer."

Anzu hit play on the song Shylock, and was blown away the instant she heard it. She had never heard music quiet like this, at least not in the time she's been dead. When the song kicked in, she couldn't help but rock her head and dance around to the powerful drums and the dark, distorted guitar.

"Oh, hell yes!" Anzu cheered.

Perhaps Anzu took it too far when she began to do an air guitar solo, but for a girl that's been dead, she had never felt so alive. Besides, who was there to judge her? For hours, she listened to that one song, and even managed to learn the lyrics just from repeated listening. Giuseppe finally returned home, able to hear the music before even opening the door.

"Hmm? Is that Shylock? She must've found my music collection."

Giuseppe stepped inside and shut the door, but Anzu seemed to be more caught up in the music.

"Giuseppe! You didn't tell me you had such awesome music! Oh wait, wait! Here comes the best part!"

"Ohh...the false ending before it picks up again!" Giuseppe smiled.

When the song picked up again, Anzu rocked her head and jumped on top of the couch. Giuseppe had taken off his tie and shoes and joined her on Mount Sofa, where they sang the final part of the song together.

"Pay me! Oh Shylock! Pay me! Oh Shylock, babe!"

Did their neighbors wonder why someone was playing music so loudly in the evening? Perhaps. But it didn't seem to matter at all to Giuseppe and Anzu. The both of them felt as alive as ever for that one, precious moment. With the song over, they both sat their bottoms on the couch, both of them out of breath from their energetic singing.

"Whew! So then! What should we eat?" Anzu asked.

"I don't know. I've got left over chicken salad. Wait a minute, do dead girls really need to eat anything?"

"I sure do. I still get hungry."

"Seriously? Hmm. Are you alright with chicken salad, or do you want something else?"

"Chicken salad is fine if you have potato bread."

"Aha! Even you know that potato bread is the best kind of bread there is! Well done, Anzu."

That night blissful, windy night was consummated by nothing more simple and straightforward than chicken salad sandwiches and cheesy horror films on television. Before they knew it, the time to go to sleep again had come. Anzu and Giuseppe took turns brushing their teeth and taking showers, even though Anzu probably didn't have to take showers anymore. Giuseppe really began to wonder what Anzu's actions would look like to everyone else who couldn't see her. Were her clothes visible? Did the food she eat just seem to disappear? It was all very strange.

After Anzu took her shower, she got back into her clothes and met with Giuseppe in his bedroom.

"Did you want to head back to the church? You said you lived there." Giuseppe asked.

"Oh, right! Well...I mean...the church is nice and all, but...well, I don't really have anywhere else to go."

"I can only imagine." Giuseppe said. "Wait, if you're a ghost, can't just just phase through walls? You'd probably be able to live in someone's mansion without them even noticing."

Anzu shrugged. "Wouldn't know. Never tried phasing through stuff. I'd be scared of phasing through much more than walls, like falling through the street and finding myself underground, or maybe falling all the way down to the center of the earth!"

"That...does sound horrifying." Giuseppe shivered. "Well, listen...why don't you just live here? You said that you've been alone for three years since you died, right? It wouldn't be fair if you went back to the church after having so much fun here today, even when I wasn't home."

"Is that really okay then? Can I live here?" Anzu asked, her eyes sparkling with hope.

"Of course you can live here. But if you're gonna live here, and especially if you're gonna listen to my music, you'll also be responsible for the upkeep of the house, understood?"

Anzu smiled and blushed. "Of course! I know how to do housework, I think!"

"Well, that's halfway reassuring..." Giuseppe said.

"But....I'd still like to visit the church from time to time, with you, if that's possible. Just to break up any monotony." Anzu suggested.

Giuseppe nodded. "Alright, sure. I like that church anyway. I've got some extra pillows and blankets here but I don't have a mattress to share with you."

"Oh! Don't worry about that, I'm fine sleeping on the floor." Anzu assured.

"Hmm...Nope. That certainly won't do. My mother would curse me from the grave if she ever found out I made a seventeen year old girl sleep on the floor. You can have my bed. I'll be the one to sleep on the floor."

"Really?! I feel terrible now!" Anzu replied.

"Oh, okay then. I'll just keep the bed."

"No! I want it!" Anzu shouted.

Anzu leaped up and spread her arms and legs wide as she landed on Giuseppe's soft and comfortable queen-sized bed and dug herself into the covers. Giuseppe snickered quietly as he turned out the light and prepared to go to sleep.

"Hey, Giuseppe?"

"Yeah?"

Her fingers curled over the top of the blanket, Anzu spoke in a genuine and grateful tone. "Thanks for letting me stay with you."

"Anytime. Now get to sleep. We do it all again tomorrow."

"Yes sir! Power sleep, activate!" Anzu announced, again, like an overacting game show host.

As childish and playful as it was, it seemed as if Anzu seriously went to sleep the minute she activated her power sleep'.

"Anzu? Anzu? Wow, she's really sleeping." Giuseppe whispered in astonishment. "Lucky her. I still can't believe she's dead. She's pretty lively for someone who's supposed to be deceased. Though, I wonder. She said she was seventeen, right? What on earth, or who on earth would kill a seventeen year old girl?"

Two souls, one living and one dead, were now bound together. There was still much for Giuseppe to discover in Anzu and vice versa. Perhaps they were both too caught up in their happiness to realize it, but this day and the day before were the only times in a long time that they had both enjoyed the company of someone else. Two different kinds of solitude broken by one friendship.

It was a beautiful Monday night in Sapporo, especially for Giuseppe Himura. Iff you were to look upon his frizzy, curly mess of a hairstyle, you'd weep for his lack of care and grooming. If you were to look into his dark, baggy eyes, you'd cry out in agony for his criminally poor sleeping habits. If you were to look through his closet, only to find shirts and shorts, you'd scream in anger for his savagely disgusting sense of fashion. The truth is, Giuseppe is just a normal, working man like everyone else. And today, he had every reason to be happy.

Against his best efforts, he had made a friend.

12
So. Quarantine. Kinda sucks. Soul crushingly boring too. I know I'm bored to tears waiting for Persona 5 Royal to come out so I have something to do while all of this goes on.

Anyway, I'm going to work on getting a cover for Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud. It's already done and just needs the cover. Dawn and Dusk is already partially done.

In the meantime, I figured I'd make The Senkumo War Stories Collection 99 cents!. (Maybe then I can buy some damned bread, you hoarders.)

I don't think I told you guys, but there are a ton of added chapters in the collection version Book of Betrayal Part 2, and two extra chapters towards the end of Book of Revenge that better deals with Inari's banishment from the Shinto pantheon.

I'm very proud of what I did with Senkumo War Stories. It was nice being able to do a much darker story and give a full telling of everything Tsukiakari endured during the Warring States era. I quite enjoyed the concept of the Senkumo clan as well.

But now...I'm really glad to be back in the much more light hearted and humorous world of DbEG. At least until that too gets dark.

13
Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: March 19, 2020, 04:08:46 AM »
Made a few touches to the EP.

Here it is for your listening pleasure

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYkBHKtZ6-I

14
Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: March 13, 2020, 01:49:24 AM »
Had a hell of a journey with this song. It took me forever to put it together, and I figured I'd remaster it since I actually know what I'm doing in terms of mixing now. Only, I realized that I somehow deleted the original. I spent weeks trying to find it, constantly cursing myself for deleting a song that took so long to build.

Then, digging through some of my cloud archives, I found a partially finish project file of the song. Plus, I still had the individual tracks saved on my computer from way back when I ported them from my phone. So, I took the original project and used the individual tracks to fill in whatever was missing. I retouched every single track and I'm very happy with the final result.

The intro was added after a very inspiration visit to my local and empty church. It's meant to be a kind of funeral march for this fictional "Laila"


Laila's Funeral March/Here's To You My Dearest Laila
https://soundcloud.com/tonbogiri/heres-to-you-my-dearest-laila/s-097hO


15
Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: February 29, 2020, 01:14:36 AM »
Aside from writing, I like to play music. I recorded all of the songs in this thread.

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