Aknol hereby aknowledges that she has no proprietary interest in the characters owned by the late Ishinomori. However, Aknol reserves unto herself any and all proprietary rights in the within submitted fiction.

It rained the day Jiro was born.

For nine months preceding his birth, our area experienced record-breaking waterfall levels. Rivers routinely flooded. Our gardens and lawns were progressively transforming into jungles, much to the delight of my hyper-imaginative brother. The outdoors were a palette of jade grasses and emerald trees. Yet nestled deep within shelter of our overgrown foliage were ticks and other noxious arachnids and insects. Athsmatics and those prone to allergic fits missed an embarrassing number of work days. They sought refuge in the confines of their homes, but to no avail. The mold, and their spores, had crept into the crevices of leaky ceilings.

Every few days, it seemed, I attempted to banish the blight with sponges and a bucket of antiseptic justice. I scoured every recess of our overbearing, meandering house. I knew enough that even if the blossoming black flower of mold did not appear on every wall, it was simply not manifest as visible yet. As suspected, the recrudescent malignancy would always reemerge. And after the final traces of dankness had evaporated, the end result of my labors was the lingering pungency of Lysol emanating from my hands and clothes.

A literary work can attest to the sentiment and beliefs of its times. And in many classical texts, the arrival of the unnatural and immoral is heralded by a strange flux in the weather patterns. How could I have known its truth, when I valued only my own, myopic logic? I didn't comprehend what it was an outcry against. I was oblivious to the lies manufactured, and to the weapons my father had crafted. Even as a child, he had sheltered me under an obscure canopy of deceit. Then, the night my father disappeared, the sky itself breached, and a soul was imparted to a toy.

It was destiny.

Many people have told me they are better off ignorant of the truth. I am writing to attest to this as a falsehood. As painful as it was, if I had never been exposed to the truth, I would never have had the ability to alter my solitary life. It enabled me to find ways to help my friends and to make choices for myself. Without the truth, I would still be powerless, and would have no idea how to handle the seemingly unrelated deluge of traumas I was inflicted with in the ensuing months.

I am free now, even if it is a bought freedom. In our last moments together, Jiro released me to a new life. A life without fear, and a life without Dark, in which I could build a real relationship with my father, and raise my brother in peace. In return, he faced the great adversary of self-doubt without me.

I still dream. The ones in which my mother is featured are invariably nightmares. However, I also dream about my lost brother, Ichiro. When he comes to me, he is unharmed, and smiling with a confidence that is always so elusive to me. In these nocturnal visitations, he indulges my lack of self-esteem and talks to me sometimes. I have not had a dream about Jiro since I last saw him.

Masaru will carry the scars of last year for the rest of his life. There is nothing that can undo the level of trauma he suffered. It is simply a hindrance, like any personal defect, to be dealt with and worked around rather than ignored. He is a quieter and calmer little boy than he used to be, though visions of Mother or the android twins will still rouse him from his sleep. The shrieks and wails that sent me rushing to his bedside occur with a less alarming frequency now. At first, nothing less than infinite weariness could allow us to succumb to the undercurrent of sleep, but we have both learned to trust the signals of lethargy our bodies relay to us again.

The first few weeks following Jiro's departure, Masaru would cling to me through every task I would effectuate around the house. He would haul whatever space ship toy or truck he was playing with from room to room as I performed my daily chores. Occasionally, he would hover around me, so that I would have to delicately maneuver my way about the room, or I would be in danger of tripping over him. I silently observed this, along with other behavioral traits he had abandoned from early childhood now resurfacing. I let it go. At the time, he needed the stable presence of someone he loved. Eventually, he accepted that I would not abruptly leave or return, like the unpredictable entrances and exits of my father and Jiro. His unsettling dependencies lessened, and he found the ability to play on his own again.

Despite the hindrances there are moments of gratitude. I can see in him now an emerging resilience . I look after him sometimes while he is engaged in some mundane task; fetching medicine for Father, or outside slamming his volleyball against the side of house, For a moment, I notice the young man he is supposed to become, locked safely away in frame of my perfect little boy. The first time I saw, I was dumbstruck with realization. Nothing has prevented his upright maturation, as though my every inadequate effort at foster parenting were somehow magnified in him.

My father, I am pleased to say, is thriving. When his mind first reconnected with his body, he was capable of the most basic of bodily functions. He could chew and blink: speech evaded him. When we went overseas, a physical therapist named Brogeen handled his exercises during the day, while I would keep a vigil if he required medicine or some other form of assistance at night. Often, as she greeted me in the morning, I would return her salutations with a wan, bleary-eyed smile, and head back to bed for a few hours. It wouldn't even occur to me that my filial duties had taken a toll on me until dawn broke; then I would feel my eyes start to burn, and my thoughts would slip from me as though I were trying to grasp fistfuls of water. Instead of feeling resentful of my new responsibilities, I was grateful for the silent twilight hours we could spend together.

He managed to overcome every obstacle laid before him. The first task Brogeen insisted was for him to raise his little finger. I would observe these sessions occasionally. His eyes would widen. His muscles would tense. I could hear an unattractive groaning as he clenched his teeth . The sweat would seem to pop out of his pores and careen down his face. After this, I would usually approach closer and would note the darkening of his clothes as he would lay upon his bed, only to realize that he had perspired through them.

"It seems unnecessary, doesn't it?," Brogeen lilted to me once after a session, "all this effort for such minimal result." Her expression softened as she turned her head towards me. "But he has to remember everything again. From the beginning." As she gathered her supplies, she continued speaking freely to me.

"His body was divorced from his mind for far too long. No person was meant to endure such a thing." She shook her head, musing, "I think it's a miracle he survived at all." I may have ordinarily taken offense of her assessment of him as patronizing, but her compassion towards me then was obvious. "I think he'll get there. All the way. It will just take time."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Masaru, Father, and I have now been living back in our homeland for nearly two months. Brogeen's prognosis was correct: Father does indeed talk and move without impediment, though he now uses a walker to get around. Soon, he'll only need a cane.

We have taken up temporary residence in a smaller rental property; there were far too many steps and stairways at our old house, and they would have been problematic for Father in his condition. This house is all on one floor. We're now scheduled to start packing to re-move into our old house in about a week.

My father indicated to me that he wishes to inform the authorities of the former existence of the dissolved Dark, in an attempt to exonerate Jiro. We both know that he may be prosecuted as a result, but neither of us is at ease knowing the public's ignorance of Dark's near dominion over them, or that Jiro was the scapegoat of my father's involvement. We have composed a solid testimony, carefully omitting any detail which could insinuate that Jiro is an android.

The most we can hope for is for Father's absolution. He was, in fact, deceived into working for Gill, and then coerced into submission. A more likely outcome is a plea bargain. And if he were to be placed under house arrest, it would not be much different from the way things are now; he rarely leaves the house as it is. However, it's all conjecture at this point to try and predict what will happen. And I am not a soothsayer.

And so I have allowed the cyclical rythm of the days to guide me. It pushed me past the pain, past the loss, into a thing called "time." There is no special allowance for those who have been wounded; the monotony of a scheduled world is a reality for everyone.

People can no longer read the telltale signs of grief on my face. They never guess what I have been though. "Time" seems to try and force me away from my memories of Jiro. On the surface, it would appear that it has been successful in attempts. And soon, another prenatal period, nine months from the last time I saw him, will have gone by.

Yet suddenly, something will trigger it in me: a note, a smile, a whisper, and he is with me in some startlingly vivid memory. I am there with him all over again, and he has managed to permeate every wall of my heart, seeping into my very soul.