Disclaimer:

I do not own ef - a fairy tale of the two. This is work of fan fiction.


Chapter 1: The Tale of the Diary

Last night Chihiro Asou had died in her sleep.

The next morning Chihiro Shindou awoke in her bed and stretched her arms.

She knew it would be a pleasant day. It was a Saturday, so there would be no middle-school today. She was planning to visit her friend, Hiro, later that morning. They were going to collaborate on writing a manga together - not a real one, just a pretend one - and she was very much looking forward to it.

Chihiro herself had suggested the idea. It was for two reasons. First, it was because Chihiro wanted to have some alone-time with Hiro without her twin sister, Kei, always hanging around. Second, it was because Chihiro genuinely admired Hiro as a gifted sketch artist. Even though he was only 13, he already had considerable talent. He aspired to one day become a great artist like his famous father, the internationally known painter. Hiro's older sister was a gifted painter as well. They were a whole family of artists, all of whom devoted themselves to their passion for artistic creation.

She knew that social relationships in the Hirono family were strictly secondary, and Hiro was no exception. He had never felt lonely; it was just who he was: a quiet and introspective boy who always had a sketchpad in his hand. While the other boys played soccer down on the field, Hiro would simply sit on the sideline and draw sketches of them playing. His sports sketches impressed his father, and he complimented his son for capturing the essence of the game in his sketchbook. That was no idle complement. His father could be harsh and unforgiving in his art criticism of his own children, just like he was with the graduate students that he tutored at the college.

With her eyes still closed, 12 year-old Chihiro smiled as she thought about Hiro. It was she and her sister, Kei, who had been Hiro's closest friends in early childhood. In elementary school the twins vied for his attention, each of them begging to be portrait subjects for his 'cool' sketches. It was because the twins competed in everything they did: They raced each other, or played basketball hoops against each other, or tried to see which could build the tallest sand castle at the beach. So it was only natural that they competed for Hiro's attention too.

The three of them were inseperable. They had played together for as long as Chihiro could remember, ever since the death of Hiro's mother when the twins had only just entered kindergarten and Hiro was in 1st grade.

Chihiro smiled again as she lay in her bed with her eyes still closed. Yes, today would be a pleasant day. She knew that she would have Hiro all to herself.

After Hiro's mother died, Chihiro's mother had started calling Hiro's father "Uncle Hirono". To save money, Hiro's older sister, Nagi - who was attending a private Christian high school (because it had the best arts program) - would often baby-sit the trio while the two adults went out. Uncle Hirono and Chihiro's mother often went out for evenings together, sometimes for the whole weekend, with Nagi watching the trio while their parents were out doing whatever it was that people who were having secret love affairs usually did.

The twins saw so much of Hiro that they started calling him their big brother, their onii-chan. Later, after Nagi had graduated from high school and went to study painting in Australia, Yuu Himura, a close friend of Nagi's and a fellow art student, had begun to baby-sit the trio in her stead. He had kept an eye on the trio as they played in front of him (or in another room), while he sat alone on the couch with a stack of textbooks to study for his college architecture and art classes. He rarely played with the children himself.

Sometimes, Uncle Himura took the trio on special outings to the amusement center or to the park, much to their delight. He would often make a small smile as he watched Chihiro and Kei drag Hiro around.

One day, Chihiro - who was always more observant than Kei or Hiro - had asked Uncle Himura why he seemed to always look so sad. He explained to her that it was because he missed someone named Aunt Yuuko. Chihiro asked him who Aunt Yuuko was, and he said that she was someone whom he had loved very much once, but who was now gone.

Chihiro wanted to know what Aunt Yuuko looked like, so Uncle Himura pulled out his sketchbook and invited Chihiro to sit on his lap. He slowly turned the pages of his sketchbook as he showed Chihiro his exquisite and loving pencil drawings of Aunt Yuuko. Chihiro told him that she looked very beautiful, and she asked him where Aunt Yuuko was now. Uncle Himura told her that she was now in Heaven. Chihiro then asked him if that meant that Aunt Yuuko was like Usagi Tsukino in Sailor Moon, a magical girl who flew through the air as she rescued people. He said that indeed she was, and that she was now flying through the air, finding and helping people in need, just like Sailor Moon did. This made Chihiro very excited, and she told Uncle Himura that she wanted to grow up to become just like Aunt Yuuko one day. He smiled at her. Then she asked Uncle Himura if he was crying and he said no, that it was only something stuck in his eye.

It was early morning. Chihiro was still waking up. She blinked her eyes open, but her left eyelid felt funny and she couldn't see anything in that eye. It didn't bother her because it had happened before. Her ragweed allergies were probably acting up again. She knew that a moist cotton swab would clear out any sleep gunk that had probably glued the eyelashes down.

But wait, what day was it?

Was today Saturday, or was today Sunday?

She tried to remember what day it was.

She remembered going to Hiro's house the day before. So today must be Sunday. They were going to work on writing their pretend manga story together, but Hiro was not at home. Hiro's father had told Chihiro that she had just missed him. It was because Kei had just dragged Hiro out of the house to go to the beach with her. Chihiro remembered getting very upset. She protested that she had already had made plans to be with Hiro herself that day, but Kei had stolen him away.

Hiro's father apologized. He said that he was not aware of their previous plans together, and he said that he would have stopped Hiro from leaving if he had known. He told Chihiro that if she quickly ran after them, that she might be able to catch Hiro and Kei before they arrived at the beach.

She remembered running down the road to go after Hiro and Kei. The road had a steep and windy switchback with no shoulder, and she remembered running down the switchback. There, beyond the railing, she saw Kei and Hiro nearing the beach below her. She remembered yelling and waving at them. Kei turned to face her.

Then a car horn sounded behind her.

And then..

And then..

And then what?

She could not remember.

She yawned again. Her left eyelid still felt funny. Maybe she had slept on it badly? She looked up idly at the ceiling as she began to raise a hand towards her left eye to try to rub the sleep gunk out of it, but then she stopped herself.

It was because she saw that someone had defaced the ceiling tiles directly above her head with a black magic marker.

Huh?

Something was written in the ceiling above her head. She sat up and looked at it. It was written with a heavy magic-marker right on the ceiling tiles.

Do not panic. Read your diary.

She recognized the handwriting. It was her own.

She sat up with a start. What was happening? She checked the digital clock by her bed. Someone had turned the clock's face so that it was pointing away from her bedside. She had to extend out her right arm to turn the clock back around so she could read it.

As she reached out to turn the clock around, she saw that something was written along the inside of her right forearm:

You are married to Renji Asou. He loves you. Trust him.

What kind of prank was this? She tried to rub it off. Then she realized that it was a tattoo.

She was beginning to panic. She fumbled with her tattooed arm to turn the digital clock around. She saw that it was 7:28 a.m. Then she saw a laminated card affixed to the front of the digital clock.

Good morning. You are 22 years old. Read your diary.

Again, she saw that the message was written in her own handwriting.

She jumped up and ran to the bathroom vanity. She saw herself in the mirror.

It was true. She was 22. She touched her face. She was a fully grown woman.

She then spotted a laminated card that was taped to the mirror. It was also written in her own handwriting.

Your left eye is gone. Do not remove the eyepatch. Read your diary.

She had now reached a major branching point in her wakeup cycle: the morning scream.

Over the years, Renji and Yesterday's Chihiro had carefully worked everything out together. They figured out how to guide Today's Chihiro through her morning reboot sequence to avoid that terrified yell. By painstaking trial and error, they had figured out exactly the sequence of messages - their position, number, and content - to prevent that horrible morning scream. Too few messages and she got disoriented and panicked. Too many messages and she disbelieved them. Just enough, and she only poked the eyepatch.

This was it. She was ready to rip off the eyepatch. Then she would see her gory empty left eye socket and scream in abject terror.

She stopped herself. She decided to just gently poke the center of the eyepatch with her index finger. She pushed her finger into the eyepatch and it bent inward. There was nothing behind it. She had no left eye. She pulled her finger away and continued to stare at herself in the mirror.

It worked. In this way, Renji and Yesterday's Chihiro had successfully reduced the morning scream down to less than 50% of her cold reboots.

No, she did not scream. Instead, she relented and turned to find her diary. It was sitting open on a small desk by the window at the foot of her bed.

She carefully sat down at the stool. The diary was open to page one. Again, she recognized her own handwriting.

As she got comfortable on the stool she noticed something else. An object was sitting on the desk next to the diary. It was a shiny black rectangle, about the shape and size of a thin paperback novel, with a glass front. Next to the shiny black object was a pair of what looked to be reading glasses, but with only a single right lens. What was especially odd was that a wire was attached from the shiny black object to the reading glasses. The back arm of the glasses also had what looked like an earpiece affixed to it.

Was it some kind of hearing aid? Was she deaf too? But no, unlike her missing left eye, her hearing in both of her ears seemed to be just fine. It wasn't a hearing aid. Then what was it for?

The strange objects looked like they could have come straight from that old science-fiction TV show, Star Trek. Chihiro imagined Lieutenant Uhura sitting at her communication station on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, wearing the futuristic earpiece, while jotting some notes down on the futuristic shiny black tablet.

Chihiro was about to pick up the shiny black tablet and inspect it more closely, when she spotted a small laminated card affixed to it.

Do not pick these up yet. Read your diary first.

She sighed. She put the shiny black object back down on the desk.

Then she picked up the diary. She began to read it.

This is a message from Yesterday's Me to Today's Me.

Please pay careful attention to everything that I am about to tell you...

She sat alone quietly, for several minutes, as she continued to read.


Interlude

Another place, far away.

Yuu Himura was standing at the front of the empty church sanctuary. Previously, he had laid a bouquet of flowers at the altar. He then lit a candle, as was his custom.

He stood, stepped back, and waited patiently and respectfully. After a few minutes she appeared.

It was Yuuko Amamiya.

As a child, Yuuko was adopted from the orphanage by the Amamiya family, but her adoptive parents died a few years later in a tragic accident, leaving her now-adult step-brother as her sole legal guardian. Yuu, who was a junior in high school, soon discovered that Yuuko, who had just been admitted to the school herself as a freshman, was being terribly sexually molested by her adoptive brother, Yuu's high school art teacher. Yuu confronted the teacher, but he simply laughed at him. Yuuko refused to report her abuse no matter how hard Yuu begged her, for the teacher had successfully hidden it from the authorities. Only Yuu knew, and no one believed him. And so he tried to rescue Yuuko from her step-brother's clutches. He dragged her away and hid her to protect her. He hastily rented a hidden apartment that they then shared under a false married name and a false age.

He did this at a terrible cost to himself. His tuition was paid by the government as a hardship case, and it was conditional on his attendance at school and maintaining good grades. And so, for her sake, he had forsaken it all, and he became a high school drop-out at age 17, hiding an underage girl in a rented apartment, with rapidly dwindling funds and no job and no future prospects.

But despite all the huge sacrifices he made, he could not protect her even then. It was because the teacher had searched and discovered them. And so while Yuu was out looking for a job, the teacher discovered and invaded their secret apartment and reclaimed his adopted sister, as was his legal right.

Yuu panicked. He assumed the worst and rushed to the teacher's large home, where he lived alone with his victim. The last time Yuu went there he was visciously beaten. He didn't care. He had to save her somehow, so he broke into the home and discovered the teacher in the act with Yuuko. Yuu was beaten again, while Yuuko wavered with a knife behind them, unable to decide whether to use it on herself or on her adopted brother.

During the beatings, Yuu's sketchbook fell out and the teacher saw it. The teacher was amazed. The drawings that Yuu had made of Yuuko were so loving, so beautiful, so infused with compassion, for Yuu had captured her beauty, her essence, in ways that the art teacher could not even begin to imagine. His own drawings were pathetic in comparison.

The teacher snapped. He fled to his art gallery and saw all of his worthless drawings, hundreds of them, which were pitiful compared to Yuu's. And so he tossed his burning cigarette down on the floor in disgust. The oil linen rags caught fire and the room began to burn.

He burned himself alive in his own home, along with all his drawings of her, while Yuu and Yuuko watched.

They were free. The nightmare was over.

And so they had at last begun their life together in their hidden shared apartment, in peace. Yuu found a part time job, and he was able to re-enroll in a different high school. He kept Yuuko hidden, determined to never allow her to be hurt, never again. This time he would protect her.

You showed me love no words could explain

Their life had together had begun.

Their love grew.

A love with the power to open the door

Soon they befriended a small girl at the same orphanage where they originally grew up together, Miki, and took her under their wing. She was the intended victim of her late mother, who had committed suicide when she drove the family's car off a cliff into the ocean. Against all odds little Miki was the sole survivor, but she was traumatized and became reclusive, and no one would adopt her.

And so a new ersatz family was created. And the three of them lived happily together.

But it was not to last.

The brave death, the last breath

For on Christmas Eve, while Miki and Yuu were out shopping together for a flower bouquet to give to Yuuko as a shared present (which was all the little ersatz family could afford), Yuuko had gone into the street to pick up a ball. And then, after the hit-and-run driver had fled, she had dragged her broken and bleeding body from the street to a tree, and had whispered the beginning of the song A Moon Filled Sky to herself as she bled out and died alone:

With the courage to live

The future I will embrace

The strength that was given to me

I believe in love

And then she died.

Yuu would never forget that day, for he himself had found her dead body propped up against the tree. He picked her up and took her in a bridal carry to the hospital, all on that terrible Christmas Eve afternoon, with little Miki crying by his side.

Twelve years later just before Christmas, Yuu's old friend, Nagi Hirono, had told him that her brother, Hiro, had seen and talked with the angelic Yuuko in the church back in the real Otowa in Japan. And so Yuu immediately flew from Australia to his native-born country to find her. And there, after waiting twelve long years, he had finally met the love of his life once again on Christmas. He finally gave her the flower bouquet that he was never able to give her on that fateful day.

And when they had said their final goodbyes and she had vanished for the last time, a single white angel feather gently floated into his hand. He clutched it tightly, for he knew that he would never see her again.

All that happened five years ago.

But then, only a month ago, to his complete surprise while he was quietly meditating in a pew in the empty church sanctuary, she had miraculously reappeared to him again above the altar. She had explained to him that she had a new mission, and that several young people now needed her help. But she warned that time was running out, and not just for them but for Yuu himself as well, and that she could only meet him a few more times before she would be forced to leave him forever.

And so she was here once more. Yuu again felt the thrill in his stomach, the sharp release of adrenalin, for although she had started to appear before him regularly again, he had never gotten used to it, and he knew he never would. But there was also another reason.

It was because he was meeting the love of his life for possibly the very last time.


Their meeting was nearing its end.

Yuuko was still sitting complacently on a ledge far above the altar, well out of his reach. She was wearing a box hat and a heavy black frock.

They had been talking for a while. Her face continued to wear a placid expression. Himura was still frowning as he looked down at the church floor.

She replied to him, "But why?"

Himura continued to look down. He said quietly, "Because I don't love Him."

"But Yuu-kun, please understand, it is why He sent me down here in the first place. I love you, and so He loves you too, don't you see? Otherwise I wouldn't be here."

He turned up to face the angel again. "No, your love is different."

She asked, "Is it?"

Himura said bitterly, "Yes, it is."

"But why is it different?"

"Because you aren't responsible for what happened to us. To you. This is all His fault, not yours."

She began to understand. "I see..."

Himura tried to explain his feelings. "Yuuko-chan, I could never love Him. How can I love Him after what He did to you?"

"So you blame Him."

"Yes. If He is as all-powerful and all-knowing as you claim, then I do. Why didn't He prevent all those terrible things from happening to you? I could never love a Creator who was that cruel."

She tilted her head. "You blame Him for making me an angel."

"Well...yes.."

She nodded to herself. "Of course. I see it now." She paused to think. "From your view it seems like a mystery, but from my point of view it seems so simple. Hmm.. how can I explain it..."

After a minute Yuuko came to a decision. She stood up on her high perch above the altar. "I need to make a consultation. Let's meet again. Is that all right?"

He was overjoyed. "So this isn't your final visit? I'll see you again?"

She smiled brightly, "Yes, Yuu-kun, my dearest earthly love. I am so sorry if I upset you earlier. I have just been granted permission to continue to see you, at least for a little while longer."

Himura's heart lept. Although he could not touch her on that high and lofty perch, just the idea of being able to see her again, to see the love of his life just one more time, to be able to talk with her again just one more time.. just one more..

He said with hope, "Then I will see you again."

She smiled. "Yes, Yuu-kun, my love. I promise." She turned to leave. Then she stopped a second time and turned back. "But until then, perhaps I should give you a little homework assignment, something for you to ponder for next time."

Himura chuckled. "An angel giving me homework... You know, you sound like my college architecture professor."

She looked down at him benevolently. "Well, humans are always lifelong learners. We keep learning right up to the day we die: Our experiences, our mistakes, our choices."

Himura smiled back at her. "Now that I do believe."

She laughed. "See? You are learning already."

"I am? I'm usually a pretty poor student." It was because he felt that drawing was the only skill that he as any good at or had any passion for.

She ignored him. "My dearest earthly love, your homework assignment is this: Study the Book of Job." She paused, "Oh, and unless you happen to be an expert in translating ancient Semitic languages, I suggest you consult a modern translation like NIV, not King James."

"How come?"

"Well, admittedly those seventeenth-century Bible translators were quite good for their time, and they used the best source texts available back then, and the best knowledge of ancient Hebrew available, but everybody struggles when trying to translate Job."

"Why?"

"It's because it's so ancient. The language isn't even Hebrew. It was written before even Moses put down Genesis on parchment. It's older. The oldest, actually - the oldest part of the entire Bible."

"No, I mean, why should I read Job?"

She said simply, "Because God made Job suffer even more than I had suffered."

Himura crossed his arms and shook his head sadly. "You know, that doesn't sound like it will help you make your case for Him.."

It was because he knew full well the horrors that she had experienced in her sad short life: The sadistic torture, the beatings, the repeated rapes. It all went on secretly for years as she continued to show a cheery smile to everyone at school.

Shortly before she was killed, she had finally revealed to Yuu the sheer barbarity of what was actually happening to her. She told him everything, every last insult to her person, down to the smallest detail, her first rape on Christmas at age 14, all the way up that very morning's newest cuts and cigarette burns that she had carefully hidden under her white-gloved hands at school. It was because she had blamed him for everything: That if he hadn't rejected her back in the orphanage when they were both small children, that none of it would have happened.

Yuu looked up at Yuuko again. "I'm sorry, but no God that I could ever believe in would have allowed that to be done to you. You were completely innocent. And that's why I'll never love Him. I know you want me to, but I simply can't. I'm sorry."

She smiled again. "I think I understand now. So please read your homework for next time, and we'll talk again."

He sighed, "All right, fine. I'll do it for you, Professor Amamiya. Just don't grade me on a curve when you quiz me."

She laughed. "Oh, no, don't worry! I won't! I am a gentle teacher."

He smiled back at her. "Yes, you are. You taught me everything."

There was a pause. He looked at the cold stone floor then whispered softly, "You taught me how to become human."

She smiled back down at him again. He was a good man.

She said, "Just remember, my love, that learning is lifelong. It never ends." She began to fade. "So until we meet again my darling, goodbye."

She was gone.

Her disappearance shook him. Even though he had seen it happen before, he was never able to fully get over his feeling of despondency whenever she vanished like that. He saw that the bouquet of flowers had also disappeared.

He sighed and exited the church.

He walked out into the bright sunlight of a glorious day.

And there surrounding him, on both the ground and in the air, was the glory of Creation itself. It surrounded him everywhere. Several puffy cumulus clouds drifted slowly overhead as a flock of seabirds flew up to greet and kiss the gentle white pillows. Ahead of him a row of blossoming cherry trees exchanged their secret sighs with each other as they cast they pink petals into the wind. Near his feet, a red tulip with yellow stamens swayed back and forth gently as a large blue butterfly, an Arhopala madytus, extended its tongue to feast on its sweet nectar.

Yuu walked out into that glorious and scenic vista. But he did not see it. It was because the bright sun blinded him, and he had raised his hand to shade his eyes.

He continued walk down the street, lost in thought, seeing nothing around him.

He went home.


Chihiro finished reading her diary. It had told her that due to her anterograde amnesia, she could retain new memories for only 13 hours before losing them. The damage to her brain was permanent, and it could never be cured.

She closed the diary, lost in thought. She started to pick up the black tablet, then she put it down again. She continued to think about what she had read.

Renji knocked on the door. She opened it. He entered the room.

"Good morning, my love."

So this is him. Oh, he's cute!

Renji was not particularly tall or dashing, but he looked kind. Chihiro saw that his face held a gentle expression, and his large brown eyes were caring and deep. Chihiro thought that his appearance was much like what her 12 year-old self had imagined her future husband would look like. Well, everything that is, except for the small knot in his auburn hair that looked like a curled-up fox tail. She thought it seemed a bit foppish, but she decided not to say anything.

Renji showed her a small indulgent smile. "How do you feel this morning?"

She replied, "You must ask me that first thing every time, I bet."

"Yes, I do."

She sighed. "I see. So this is just a ritual, then..."

Renji quickly added, "No, it's not a part of some long wakeup ritual. I do you ask you this question every time. It's the only thing that is always the same."

"It is?"

"Yes."

"Why? Don't we just go through the same motions each time?"

"Oh Chihiro..." His basic instinct was to rush in and embrace the woman that he loved so dearly. But he knew it was too soon.

It was because he had to first know which Chihiro he was talking to.

He explained, "Chihiro, it is because no two mornings are ever the same with you. Each time you are different."

"I am?"

"Oh, yes, you are. And it's wonderful. I never know which version of you I will greet on any given morning. Sometimes you wake up happy, sometimes sad, sometimes wistful, sometimes crying, sometimes bubbly, sometimes bitter, sometimes joyful. Each day you are always different. But the thing is, it's always you. No matter your mood that day, you always are the same person, with the same core personality, the same basic identity. You are you. You are Chihiro. You are a unique and special human being, with a distinctive and wonderful identity that is uniquely yours and yours alone. And you must never forget that. And you are the person that I fell in love with: The person standing right in front of me right now. You."

Then he admitted, "And so, yes, I have been completely and hopelessly in love with you for almost seven years now."

The seventh anniversary of their first meeting would be approaching soon. He knew that she would want to plan a special occasion for it.

She smiled. "Yes, I know."

She approached him, her yellow-brown eyes now only inches away. "I understand." Her diary contained hundreds and hundreds of pages about him, their relationship, and her feelings regarding him.

She said quietly, "We fell in love."

"Yes, we did."

"My husband..." She took a step back and looked him over. "My, you look nice."

He never tired of hearing that compliment from her. "Thank you. And you grow more beautiful each time I see you."

She blushed a little. "Stop it, you're embarrassing me."

She gazed at Renji and studied him, then she glanced at the words that were tattooed on her arm. Yes, he was the type of man that she could easily imagine as her husband. She decided to trust him.

She slowly approached him again. "Yes, I believe this is real."

"It is."

She tentatively raised her arms and put them around him. It felt right. She knew. He really was her husband.

She placed her head on his shoulder. It felt even more right. Her embrace tightened.

She felt a growing warmth flow through her. "Mmm."

He gently stroked her hair as she pressed her head against his shoulder.

Then she realized something and pulled her head back. "Wait, we've been together for seven years?"

He smiled at his wife. "Yes, we have."

"Oh my, you must know me really well by now."

His smile grew wider. "I do."

Then the implication began to hit her.

He made a small chuckle as he said, "Chihiro, my love, I know practically everything that there is to know about you."

She stepped back again. Her blush deepened. "Oh, uh, really? Everything?"

"Yes, sorry. I know about your thing with spiders. And I know you played 'doctor' with Hiro as kids. And I know about that time when you and Kei got caught.."

She interrupted him. "Okay, please stop, I get it."

He put his hand behind his head. "Uh, yeah, sorry about that." Then he quickly added, "But I have never told anyone about any of those things, ever! Honest!"

"I believe you."

Was this all a dream? She smiled and approached him again.

She placed her hand on his chest. There was a twinkle in her eye as she looked up at his face. She spoke to him softly, "Because, after all, if a husband knows his wife so deeply, so intimately, then don't I have the right to know you just as intimately as well?"

Renji grinned inwardly. This might be one of those rare mornings where they didn't leave the bedroom for a while. Usually that didn't happen until the evening.

He tried to helpfully explain, "My love, you are right. You already know me just as intimately as I do you. It's all written down." He pointed at the window. "On that desk is written every secret that I have, written down by you, even my most embarrassing ones." His eyes looked down into her own. "We don't hide anything from each other. Not any more."

Her head turned as she looked back at the diary that was sitting on the little desk. "So that is why you've been appending your own written entries to the bottom of some of my own diary pages."

"Yes. Always with your permission."

Chihiro had read in in her diary's introductory section that she had given Renji permission to append his own entries into her diary. She had recognized his distinctive handwriting style, which was very different than hers.

The reason he was allowed to write in her diary was to prevent any potential misunderstandings between Yesterday's Chihiro and Today's Chihiro. Mainly it was for clarification and explanation. The problem was that she sometimes did not clearly distinguish her feelings from actual events.

For example, on only their third meeting as 16 year-olds, she had rushed up and hugged Renji at the abandoned train station. It was because she thought the relationship was more advanced than it actually was that point. She had written what she felt in her heart, not what they had actually said. And so Renji - a shy person himself - reacted poorly to her surprise hug. She mistakenly believed that he was rejecting her. Later she tried to kiss him unexpectedly, and his surprised reaction had only hurt her even more. It had happened several times in the early phases of their relationship, and she had even tried to break up with him because of it.

To avoid such misunderstandings in the future, she had eventually given Renji permission to review her nightly diary entries. He was allowed, at her discretion, to add a short diary entry for Tomorrow's Chihiro to read. He was strictly forbidden from ever erasing her own entries, no matter how much he objected to something she wrote. He could never erase; he could only append. She could then append a rebuttal entry beneath his, and his to hers, so on. But she always had had the last word.

The system worked well, and it helped to avoid future misunderstandings between them. It also served to create a wonderful written record of their growing love relationship. Renji was a professional novelist, and he asked Chihiro if he could please use her diary as a source in writing his next romance novel. She agreed, subject to changing any self-identifying information, and with her written item-by-item approval, but in principle she had liked the idea, and she had even offered to help him ghostwrite it. He agreed to have her be his stylistic copy-editor and his beta reader. She joked to him that she was a great beta reader, because she could read each chapter "with a fresh mind" every time.

Renji's first published romance novel, A 45 Second Meeting, was moderately successful. Using the royalties that he had earned from its publication they had jointly purchased a home together. It was Yuu Himura's old home, and he had originally offered to just give it to them as a gift, but they insisted on paying market value for it. Himura then bid them adieu and moved away, leaving the happy couple by themselves. The location was ideal, as it was just outside of town (for privacy) and also near the abandoned train station where Chihiro loved to sit and read.

Meanwhile, Yuu Himura had moved from Australia back to Japan. His mission to design and create the new town of Otowa in Australia was now completed.

Standing in Chihiro's bedroom together, Renji and Chihiro kissed. Then Renji went downstairs to finish preparing breakfast. Chihiro said she wanted to read her diary some more and to call her downstairs for breakfast when he was ready.

Renji left.

Chihiro returned and sat down at the stool by the window. She opened her diary again. She turned back to page 3.

That was odd.

It made no sense.

It was a deliberate lie, and she knew it.

Yesterday's Chihiro had deliberately told Today's Chihiro an intentional lie.

But why?


After breakfast, Renji escorted his wife back upstairs to her bedroom. First, he gave her back her wedding ring and she wore it proudly. Previously she had noticed the empty circular indentation behind the second knuckle on her ring finger. Next, he helpfully showed her how to navigate around on the Android device. He explained that the strange eyewear that was attached to it was something called 'Google Glasses'. He said that the glasses contained a small embedded high-definition video camera that could record literally everything that she saw with her right eye. The video was uploaded every night to a computer server in the basement that Himura had configured and installed for them.

Renji told her that the Android device could recognize locations and even recognize faces. Using the earpiece, it would helpfully whisper into her ear a description of anything that she saw. The relevant information could also pop up in written form inside the right lens.

She marveled and thought it was all pure magic. She couldn't believe how far technology had advanced in the ten years since her accident.

Renji cheerfully called the Android her 'brain box', and said that it was part of her basic identity now, just like her old paper diary. Most of her old paper diary had been transcribed into the device (for otherwise it would have grown too large to physically carry anymore). Her old diary was kept only for her morning cold reboots and for recording her own new daily entries, which Renji would then scan into the Android device using an optical reader and archive for her. It was all cross-referenced and cross-indexed. He explained that her full diary was now kept inside a 'self-contained wiki website', whatever that meant. He said, thanks to all of this amazing new technology, that she was now equipped with an infinitely elastic memory that was, in its own way, actually far superior to any human's brain.

Chihiro then asked where all her old books had gone. She loved to read. Renji explained that the black device contained her entire personal library. Over 300 books were somehow crammed into the little device, in something he called an 'Amazon Kindle'.

Android device? Google Glasses? Amazon Kindle? What did all these weird phrases mean? Whatever they meant, she felt it was all simply amazing. She was living in the 21st century. She was living in the future.

She was happy. As she entered the shower in the hallway bathroom, she hummed a pleasant little tune to herself. After she got out of the shower and toweled herself off, she turned to admire her figure in the mirror. She nodded in self-approval. Mother Nature had been kind to her, though she felt that her hips were maybe a little too wide.

She smiled again. She looked forward to going in to town with her husband. She wanted to see just what this Android gizmo could actually do. She felt it was going to be a very interesting day.

After leaving the shower, she returned to the bedroom and changed into a dress that Renji had picked out for her. She twirled in the mirror and giggled. She still felt like she was dreaming.

Renji entered her bedroom, gave her a quick kiss, then helpfully showed her some more about how to navigate around on her Android device. She sat close to him and paid careful attention.

He told her that he would explain how to use the Google Glasses as they walked around town. He said the Android device would verbally describe for her any place or any face that it had recorded previously, and it would record every new thing that she saw for future reference. She marveled at the device and thanked him. Then he left to get showered and dressed himself.

She continued to look at the Android device, then she turned it off and placed it back on the desk.

She continued to think.

Her diary had mentioned how, back in elementary school, she would sometimes sneak into Kei's bedroom and hide under her bed, then jump out and yell "Boo!".

But that wasn't true. She and Kei had always shared a bunk bed, and there wasn't enough clearance underneath it for a person to hide there.

Why did she tell herself a deliberate lie about hiding under the bed?

Wait, hiding under the bed?

She leaned out into the hallway to make sure that Renji was still taking his own shower.

Then she pushed the bed aside. Nothing was hidden under it.

She kneeled and carefully swept her open hand along the square floor tiles. One of them was loose. She lifted up the tile and saw a small dark cubbyhole underneath. She reached in with her hand and felt something inside.

Her guess was right. She had correctly interpreted the clue in her diary. She removed the spiral-ringed notebook that was hidden inside the cubbyhole. It was stenciled with the image of a pair of cats playing over a ball of yarn.

Her hands shook as she slowly opened the notebook to page 1.

She read the introduction, written in her own handwriting.

From Yesterday's Me to Today's Me.

This is your second diary.

It is the real one.

Her eyes widened.

Do not trust anything that you read in your first diary.

Do not trust the device on the desk.

She gasped.

Do not trust Renji Asou.

She held her hand to her mouth.

He is lying to you. He is betraying you.

She dropped the diary on the floor.


A/N:

Please give me reviews! This is the first novella/novel-length fanfic (that I am aware of) for ef - a fairy tale of the two.

If you are unfamiliar with this anime series, it is basically the Cloud Atlas of romantic animes: Five loosely interconnected love stories spanning decades of time and thousands of miles of distance between each mini-story.

The overall framing arc of the entire story is the tale of Yuu and Yuuko, the longest tale, spanning both seasons. The other four stories are told as separate reminiscences (Yuu never meets the angelic Yuuko until the very end of the last episode of season two). Hence the title 'A Fairy Tale of the Two' - two sets of fairy tales each told by the two of them. (The title also refers to a hint about nature of the town they live in.)

Note: The term 'fairy' does not mean fictional or false, but rather it refers to a mysterious supernatural force that is operating within each mini-love story. This force is at the root of a 'fifth kind of love' that goes beyond even agape, which is operating at a very high level in these tales. All the tales are powerful, and this mysterious fifth kind of love is moving very strongly in each one, although it is often subtle. In fact, the whole anime is an exercise in sublime subtlety. (Example: In the last episode, a close-up shot of Yuu's eye blink tips off Yuuko that he is being untruthful, but you need to recall the fact that he blinks whenever he lies from several episodes earlier. Yow.) You'll need to watch it at least twice to properly connect late reveals back to earlier episodes. I'm a bit of a Sherlock and it still took me multiple viewings to work out what was really going on.

ef is a wonderfully deep anime series, very subtle, and sometimes it gives you only the barest hints about what is actually going on. It is a deep and complex anime series, and it can be unsettling to watch at times. I will tell you right up front that although the story skews towards the dark (and the Yuuko arc is the darkest), both seasons have very happy endings. Just stick with it. It is worth the payoff for the two endings. They are as uplifting as it gets. Just remember to keep watching after the credits roll.

And the music soundtrack is simply amazing. The OST is one of the most beautiful in all of romantic anime in my opinion (only CLANNAD beats it).

Where to find ef: The first and second seasons of ef are available on DVD/Blu-Ray (English dub included) from Sentai Filmworks. As this writing, both seasons of ef are licensed by Sentai for legal streaming in the United States on Crunchyroll, on Hulu, and on The Anime Network. (The latter includes the English dub.) I prefer dubs, and this one isn't bad. The dub was done by the same VA team that did CLANNAD, Kanon, and Kokoro Connect.

Please note that the first season is titled ef - a tale of memories (released in 2007) and that the second season is titled ef - a tale of melodies (released in 2008). Many people get it backwards. It is important to keep the order of the two seasons straight if you want to have any hope of understanding this profoundly deep (but difficult to understand) anime about how love actually works.

This is the kind of anime where you need spoilers to have any hope of really understanding it. For instructions on how to watch ef, I have created a wiki that decodes the whole story for you. It exposes and lays bare all of the hidden aspects of the story, unwinds the whole timeline, and lays everything out for you plainly. I explain all of the character inter-relationships, and all the secrets are revealed.

The wiki can be found at ef-a-tale dot wikia dot com. Start with reading the character description for Yuu Himura and go from there.

Thank you for reading,
-HuuskerDu