Apparently, the last time Kouma Yon saw Ryo cry was when the latter’s father passed away.
They were in elementary school’s first grade at the time, so Ryo must have suffered a lot. I don’t know if I could cope with that kind of feeling if something like that happened to me today and I don’t want to think about how I would have turned out without one or both of my parents. Being slightly absent is one thing, being separated by six feet of earth and spiritual/material world issues is a completely different one.
I really shouldn’t joke about this.
Anyway, it seems Ryo was truly worried about me. Worried to the point of crying after years of keeping a façade, worried to the point of making Kouma worry about her. Thankfully, they are not the most popular girls in school. Otherwise we’d have a mass domino effect situation fueled by a little bit of ghostly influence but mostly by teen drama.
I shouldn’t joke about this either.
However, humor is my only available weapon to deal with the guilt. It would be hard not to notice. Besides me and Kouma, no one in class seemed to be particularly fond of Ryo. The fact she is a walking nerd stereotype surely doesn’t get her any popularity points, except for the middle-aged otaku guys at the maid café. Let’s face it: just like me, she probably doesn’t have many real friends. Based on the unreasonable amount of time she spends connected to the Internet dealing mostly with sheer data for her projects, it’s not something that would surprise anyone.
A few things in life work proportionally. For a common person with several friends, seeing one of them having a hard time and moving to God knows where is certainly stressful and might be the source of many, many tears. Think about how it feels like, having fifty-percent of your friends moving to your town and, when everything seems to be starting to get better, wanting to go away from the town (and incidentally, from you) after telling a rather fantastical story. When you already are, according to the other half of your friends, a complete, massive emotional wreck.
Please ponder it for a while.
Kouma might as well punish me, for I am guilty. I was too careless, too selfish. After Kouma’s warning/menace, I shouldn’t have told that occurrence to Ryo (or, at least, thought twice about doing so), but I really felt like telling it to someone. I thought I would explode if I didn’t, yet by doing so, I almost made my best and only friend explode herself.
I am officially an idiot.
“You really are an idiot.” Kouma said, bringing me back to the real world.
“I don’t remember saying that out loud. How on Earth could you reply to that? Do you have some kind of mind powers?”
She looked quite disturbed.
“Reply to what?”
First a wave of shock. Then everything feels normal and you get used to that once odd feeling. Pretty much like listening to mathcore for the very first time.
“…I see.” I said, a little less devastated. “You’re just being the usual Kouma Yon.”
Her eyes rolled so quickly that for one second I thought they were going to pop out of her face.
“Seriously; you are very, very weird.” She made what I can only think of as a calculated pause. “So, tell me what happened to you that made Ryo worry so much.”
“Hasn’t she told you already?”
“I am assuming you never heard Ryo’s voice while she is crying.” Kouma sighed like an old man remembering the tough days of war. “Good for you. I could barely understand your name in the middle of that mess.”
“Go on. Talking to a friend might not have helped much, but talking about it to a semi-stranger won’t do any worse.”
I was not sure of how I should feel about her statement. First, she made it very clear: we are not friends. Then, she offered her attention to a problem of mine with the cool attitude of a manga-like big brother. Maybe she does have a personality disorder.
Still, she is the sanest person I have seen all day and, even better than that, she is here. With that in mind, I proceed to tell Kouma the dreadful story that happened to me, both before coming to this town and today.
“Is that all?” Kouma said when I finished my minimalist summary. After three hours. Despite her expressionless face being the same from the beginning to the very end, I’m betting no one would enjoy listening to the Director’s Cut.
“...yeah.” Breathless and feeling my throat becoming sore, I can only think about never having to talk again. A dream that won’t come true unless the author finds a way to make a dialogue-based story with a mute main character work. If only this was a console RPG, my hopes and dreams could become true. “Pretty much.”
She stood up and started clapping her hands, and I noticed it was the second time I received a standing ovation since I came to this city. It must be one of those cultural things.
“You, sir, are either insane or the best liar I have ever met. Either way, you are completely mental.”
No, you’re mental! Even the same sentence! How dare you invade my mind without my permission? No, wait, that was a conceptual mistake of mine. It can only be considered an ‘invasion’ if the affected party does not agree, so please go on. Wait a minute, there’s something wrong here!
“You couldn’t possibly expect me to believe all that nonsense. This was not wasted time, however.”
“Really?” I firmly protested. “You claim you don’t believe a single word of what I told you and yet you say we were not wasting our time. How so?”
“I just found out why Ryo is interested in you.”
“May I ask why?”
“Sure. It’s all about Sigmund Freud.”
That’s what I thought.
“Sigmund Freud.” Kouma answered, breaking the noir novel depressing ping-pong monologue mood at once. “Jewish-Austrian neurologist? Father of Psychoanalysis? Born in May 6th of 1856?”
“I know who Freud was! I’m just trying to see the relation between him and Ryo’s interest in me!”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Actually, every time you say that it just means your line of thought is not obvious at all. “Electra Complex.”
“What are you, a parrot?” Deep. Sigh. “Let me make it easy to you: her father was a storyteller too, except he made money out of it. He was a fairly decent novelist, specialized in urban fantasy stories. You are, without a trace of doubt, a great storyteller; you told me the most unbelievable story I have ever heard, yet you pronounced every word like it was an absolute truth you based your life on. Sort of.”
While her cold attitude remained the same (no sudden dramatic changes like before, thank Heavens), but Kouma seemed to be rather discomfited now that she unwillingly complimented me. “Her affection towards you is but a children’s; she is just looking for a replacement for her dad’s figure.”
There was indeed a little bit of sense in what Kouma was saying, except she almost completely lost the track: giving it some thought, I noticed that it’s very unlikely that Shiina Ryo became friends with me just to fill a gap in her heart; I mean, we have around ten years between that incident and now. Some people do take longer times than others to get over something, but ten years is more than enough time for anyone to decide if they are either going to sink or swim. Ryo’s decision of becoming a novelist was most likely the only influence in her attitude directly left by her father’s death. Plus, only Jung would have said Electra Complex, since Freud himself rejected the term, as it emphasized the analogy between the attitude of the two sexes.
The girls are not the only ones who read around here, you know.
“So, what are you going to do now?” Kouma Yon asked, not giving me any chances to point out obvious flaws in her logic. “Run away like you presumably always did?”
“…I’m not sure.” I finally said.
Disappointment was the only thing showing in Kouma’s eyes.
“You’d better decide soon. I cannot pretend Ryo is going to be alright without you here right now, especially if you leave under these circumstances, but I won’t stop you if that’s what you want. It’s your life, after all. If you choose to go, I hope you are wise enough to never talk to her again. Cleaning up the mess you made will already be a tough job, but I guess I can take it. However, if you stay I will certainly make you take responsibility for your actions. It will not be just your life, but hers as well.”
I think it’s the first time I have seen Kouma being truly mature instead of acting cool. I mean, it’s easy to see why she turned out like that now. She probably wasn’t creepy like that when she was younger. She most likely forced herself to become like that in order to help her only friend. Sounds weird, but I’ve seen that kind of thing happen before. People often change as they get closer to another. This evolution is their form to adapt and achieve equilibrium together.
I, too, have lost my balance.
Ryo might not be the only one seeking for a replacement or a savior here. Who am I fooling, really? I have been living like a damsel in distress, hopelessly running around crying and expecting to find something that worked as a magical hero that would bring me my happy ending when I should be the one seeking that. I ran for my whole life and it never changed my situation. If anything, it only changed the shape of the enemy and the background; the battle remained the same.
I, too, need to grow up, and there is only one way of doing so, the right way for me. I need to fight Mystery and solve it, once and for all.
Standing up, focusing on my target.
Walking to the kitchen, every step a small revolution.
Grabbing a matchbox, not looking back once.
“I am not running away. Not anymore.”
The sudden friction generated a blue spark of pure burning energy, a flame so weak and surreal when compared to the light inside my soul. Like our Sun in comparison to the Pistol Star; no, V382 Carinae. Maybe not VY Canis Majoris, but certainly V382 Carinae.
I set fire on the paperboard moving boxes to make sure I would not look back or feel any temptations. This is it; I'm standing my ground and I'm going to earn the peace I longed for so long with my very own hands.
Like a man.
A manly man.
...gosh, this is getting old so quickly.
"Burning inanimate objects as a symbolic gesture for revolution is really, really lame. Even for you,” spoke the fashionista. “Worst than that, the boxes you burned down could be easily be replaced after a single stop at a convenience store, so there is nothing epic about it. And you might end up buying the same kind of objects, since burning something that holds you down is but a standard graphical representation and you need the dreadful objects anyway." She shook her head. "Boy, are we feeling feminist today."
Now, I'm not sure if I became angry because she ruined my turning point moment or simply because she sort of mocked the feminist ideals I believe so strongly in. Wait, what?
"Why is everyone always trying to judge my actions? Stop acting like a psychoanalyst and just go home, Kouma!" I only realized what I had done when I had already screamed at her without a good reason.
“People often do that, so get used to it. Also, stop screaming at the ones who are going to help you on your personal coming-of-age issues. We’re going to solve that case and go back to our mediocre, boring teenager lives.” Once again, she seemed flustered. “And don’t get any weird ideas, I’m doing this for Ryo-chan’s sake.”
"I'm sorry.” I reflexively bow, not because of respect but mostly to avoid Kouma’s gaze. If she found out I was almost laughing, I’d be done for. “Just leave me alone for now, please. We’ll discuss that at school tomorrow," I added in a murmur, faux-shamefully.
Kouma Yon just looked at me, contemplating the situation. After a while she sighed and opened her petite mouth.
"...excuse me, what?"
"No, I'm not going home. I’m sorry, but that is not going to happen.” She pondered about it for a while. “Well, actually, no. I am going home eventually. ‘Youngsters living together’ is not the kind of development we’re going to have in this story, at least not now. That would be too uncalled for and would most likely turn this into a harem situation.” Wait, then she knows about this being a novel! “What I mean is: right now, I'm staying here with you."
Fine, I admit it; that was kind of cute.
Don’t tell her.
"...I could just throw you out, you know," I say, pretending to be upset. Truth is, I don’t really want to be alone right now, but I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Specially Kouma. If half of what I think I know about her is true, she already has enough of that with Ryo.
She gave one of those evil grins, and I couldn't help but notice the contrast between her way of smiling and Ryo's. To be honest, I would think about anything to keep her smile out of my mind. It's really, really scary."I guess you could try." Oh my, she even winked at me while smiling in that awful way of hers. Surely. Not. Cute. "For now, don't you think it's better to stop the fire before it burns your house down?"