I know…an update? Is this guy for real? Yep, no joke - here's another chapter. But it wouldn't be here if not for Warui-Usagi (Who has helped quite a bit in the making of this segment) and all of those reviewers who reminded me just when I was forgetting all about it.
Hm. That's it I guess. So what are you waiting for? Read! (And review, of course!)
Disclaimer: Nope. Still don't own nothin'.
"All right everybody! Please enjoy!" Mayu smiled proudly as she sat down another serving dish onto the already-crowded table with a noticeable clink.
"Yes! We did our best!" chimed in a cautiously optimistic voice from the hallway. "Oof, this is heavy…"
Kouta stared dumbfounded. In front of him was the largest amount of foodstuffs he had ever seen. The unfortunate piece of furniture with the task of supporting everything was straining with the burden, its poor legs looked like they were about to snap like four ornately carved toothpicks. Every square inch of the wooden slab was over laden with food, food, food! Or at least Kouta assumed it was food…he had never seen anything like the spread in front of him. Sure, there were recognizable dishes here and there – that plate dangling precariously off the edge was stacked to the sky with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, that bowl by the floral vase had soggy cereal slowly turning to mush while moaning snap, crackle, pop; that flowerpot was brimming with macaroni and cheese.
But for the most part, the culinary fare appeared to be…original creations. Pasta with a sauce the hue of Nyuu's hair, homemade bread that had been stuffed with what looked like cheddar cheese, pieces of fish wrapped in lunchmeat, salads with chocolate sauce…
Nyuu was shoveling it in indiscriminately with a smile of satisfaction and many festive colors on her face.
"Okay, this is the last one!" Nana called as she dragged in a pot quite a bit larger than herself. The pot was actually intended for strictly ornamental purposes and was placed in the living room. Nevertheless, it had been filled to the very tip-top with a smoking, crimson batch of something that smelled vaguely of fruit. She plopped it down next to the table and wiped her brow that was damp with perspiration from the task. Looking at the meal laid out before her she contemplated, "Do you think we made enough, Mayu?"
"Actually, we made way too much Nana," Mayu admitted, "But it's better to have too much than not enough. After all, we promised we'd do a good job on dinner tonight - wouldn't want to let anyone go hungry!" Wanta yipped happily in-between bites from his overflowing dish; Nyuu did the same.
But all of the warmth and positive vibes fizzled and died a quick death. Yuka saw to that. She looked straight ahead into Kouta's forehead, burning a hole, glaring, biding her time. She was angry. The fact that all the planned meals for the next couple of days were on the table in an alternate form weren't helping her mood either. Mayu, Nana, Kouta, Nyuu, the damn dog, they were all against her. They didn't have any respect for her, or her wishes. They thought she was an idiot, didn't they? They were just going to walk all over her, ignore the fact that she was there, no they weren't no no no not if she had anything to say about it. But she had to wait, let Kouta squirm for a minute, figure out how to explain sleeping in the bathroom, the damn bathroom, with Nyuu…They could have done anything!
"Girls, I think you may have gone overboard." Kouta said gently, "And maybe you should have stuck to the recipes that Yuka and I taught you. I told you to be careful…" Yuka could not be ignored; a thing he normally would have laughed off was suddenly a problem with this dark cloud over his head. How was he going to explain?
"Ah…I did it again…" Nana began to say, her voice wavering, but Mayu stopped her.
"Oh, I know that some of them look a little scary," Mayu joked, "I had doubts myself when Nana made some of these suggestions, but they're really quite tasty! I've tried everything, and, even though it may seem weird, I think Nana did a great job. Please try some, Kouta." The look in the girl's eyes chided him, saying Be sensitive, she tried hard. You know by now… Mayu picked up a platter that had some kind of casserole in it and put it under Kouta's nose.
The young man felt a little bad about what he said, but he was also getting rubbed the wrong way by Mayu's obvious scolding. Just who was the one in charge here? If he wanted to be blunt for a change he could! He was literally sweating and couldn't get his leg to stop twitching. "Okay, let me just see how it tastes…" It made a squelching noise when he scooped into it with his spoon, like the sound of someone squishing a fat slug…slowly. It actually tasted much better than he had expected, but the compliments and cries of encouragement that he normally would have given, the jubilant support he wanted to give was instead replaced by a feeble, "That's not bad." And Yuka just kept glaring, not even looking at the food in front of her.
"Just…'Not bad?'" Mayu looked despairingly at Nana, but instead of seeing a crestfallen diclonius, she saw instead a distracted one. Nana was noticing the look in Yuka's fiery eyes as well.
"Yuka?" She ventured, "Is everything okay? You look a little…" Nana scooted closer to her guardian.
"I'm fine." Yuka smoothly clipped, lingering her eyes on her cousin's forehead a bit longer before swinging her gaze around, a little softer, but still steely. "I'm just not hungry tonight; I think I may be a little under the weather."
Nana thought about asking, but decided against it.
"Oh." She turned to Mayu and Kouta questioningly. "She is, 'under the weather.'" No one made a noise; even Wanta and Nyuu looked up from their plates, confused at the silence.
"Well, there will probably be plenty of yummy leftovers for Yuka tomorrow," Kouta tried. Nyuu giggled and started eating again, (even though she didn't know what he was saying) and everyone else sat down. The screeching of their chairs as they pushed them in was prominent. "This all does looks fantastic, so let's enjoy. Thanks girls. You're really turning out to be little chefs! Watch out, Yuka might put you on permanent kitchen duty… " He picked up a sandwich and ate slowly. He didn't raise his eyes from his plate for the entire meal.
No Kouta…not again…don't say this to me again.
But it's the truth - I was just…
You were just lying with…with her in the bathroom. You were just dressing her up…
No, I wasn't dressing her up! I was…well, there was this fire in the kitchen and the curtains…
A fire? How the hell did you start a fire?
It's kinda dumb really; I was trying to cook…
You couldn't care less if you burned the whole house down, could you! We could probably be living in the gutter and you wouldn't lift a finger! Why don't you take some damn responsibility, Kouta?
Responsibility? What are you…?
Don't play dumb with me! You always sidestep any situation where you have to lay down discipline or restraint. I'm always the bad guy Kouta! Do you think I like being the only one who…
This isn't about that!
No Kouta, this is about you! This is about all of the…
Nana lifted her ear off the bedroom door; she didn't want to hear any more.
"They're fighting again, aren't they?"
Nana nodded her head in conformation.
"But I thought things were better now." Mayu gritted her teeth and balled her fists. "It isn't fair. Kouta finally snaps out of his weird mood, Nyuu comes home… the fights were supposed to stop!"
"Shh!" Nana held a finger up to her lips worriedly, "Do you want them to know we're here?" Both girls held their breath, but the argument on the other side of the wall hadn't missed a beat. "It's probably just one of the little spats they've always had. She's talking to Kouta about the fire."
"But it sounds like they're really into it," Mayu whispered sadly. "Something little like some burned curtains wouldn't make Yuka this angry would it?"
"I guess you're right…"
"Something must have happened before dinner, I mean; they were both acting strange the entire time."
"Wait, they're…they're saying something about Nyuu." Nana pressed her ear close to the door again and concentrated.
"Let me hear too, scoot over."Well I…
Well nothing! Kouta, in case you haven't noticed, she has the mindset of a damn preschooler! What you're doing is practically pedophilia!
What? I mean, I never-
Let me finish!
Nyuu is – Kouta, she is a good person, and she has been through a lot. More than any one person should have to. I think she's been traumatized; she isn't…mentally well. Kouta, we found her naked on a beach! She very well could have been abused her entire life! You need to take care of her, protect her. You can't treat her like you would any other girl. You can't do what you've been doing. It isn't right.
But you've got it all wrong!
How? How do I have it wrong Kouta?
Nyuu isn't…she isn't retarded! She isn't 'mentally unwell'! It's just complicated-
WHAT? You can look me in the eyes and tell me that girl is normal? Do you take me for a complete idiot? If you're going to lie to me, at least have the respect to fabricate something-
Look Yuka, you don't understand-
No Kouta, I do understand. I get it.
Kouta, if you're going to completely lie to me, then there is nothing to say. You're a grown man; you make your own decisions. I just thought you were a little better a person than this. Just…do what you like.
Yuka, listen to me!
Get away from me.
Get the hell away from me!
"What was that crash Nana?" Mayu jumped back in surprise at the sudden, crisp sound of glass and porcelain breaking.
"I think the lamp must have fallen over…"
Mayu bit her bottom lip. "Maybe we should go…"
"Do you think Nyuu is still outside with Wanta? We should go and check up on them…"
"Yeah…" They walked away from the bedroom door quickly; hand tightly in hand, huddled together for strength. The girls were not frightened easily, both had faced horrors; but now the thing they both held dearest – their new family – was being hurt; torn like a dry flower in the idle hands of a careless child.
Kouta grimaced as he pulled out another jagged shard from his forehead and threw it into the mottled sink. With the obstruction out of the way, a fresh trickle of blood dripped down and almost got into his eye before he instinctively bowed his head and let it dribble down the drain. The sight of it made him fell sick and he opened the cabinets below him in search of a cloth to stop it…he felt weak in the knees.
How unwholesome it all seemed. Fighting, yelling, bleeding. Yuka believed he was lying to her bald faced. And it was true…Nyuu was like a child. But he didn't try anything, he didn't. He knew that it wasn't right to take advantage of Nyuu so he hadn't. Had he? There were those times where…he had been tempted. What normal man wouldn't have been? But he hadn't – Well, that one time in the hallway while they were cleaning, but that wasn't…
He found the washcloth and pressed it to his forehead, giving out a hiss of pain. The prickle of tiny foreign objects against the rag told him that he would be in the bathroom for a while more. He began a search through the drawers for the tweezers.
He still couldn't believe that Yuka had thrown the lamp at him. He could have been seriously hurt. Sure she had slapped him on occasion, but she wasn't normally this violent a person. All he had done was move in to hold her wrist, get her to stay, to listen. But it seemed the very thought of being touched enraged Yuka to the point of belligerence. She grabbed the nearest object, the bedside light unfortunately, and flung it squarely at Kouta's head. Thankfully it was a cheap model, or he might have gotten a concussion. Pieces of it were all over the Master bedroom now, flung wall-to-wall, hiding under sheets, carpets, and furniture waiting patiently to pierce some hapless passersby. He would have to clean that up, spending hours on his hands and knees searching, and would still prick himself two weeks from now when he least expected. Removing the rag, Kouta leaned in close to the distorted mirror to inspect the damage.
"I look like ground beef." He lamented out loud. All the cuts were minor, all very shallow and would heal fairly quickly, but as it was, he looked awful. Luckily he hadn't got around to that haircut he was meaning to get; he would need all of it to cover up the damage. And it wasn't just his forehead that looked bad; his eyes were dark, bloodshot and looked like those of a drug addict, or a lush the day after a big binge. Groaning, he set to work with the tweezers.
He carefully plucked a miniscule fragment out and watched a new rivet of blood wind its way down all the way to his chin, where a red drop hung for just a second before falling.
What if he really had taken advantage of her? Sure, he believed himself to be sincere, having never thought that he was the kind of guy that would ever even think of doing that to a girl. But this didn't necessarily mean that his body agreed. Had he crossed the line somewhere? Yuka seemed to think so when she walked on them sleeping, but he had run over the bathroom scene a thousand times by now and he still couldn't find anything that could be described as 'immoral'.
"After all, I love her…even if I did go a bit further than I would have with someone else…It's okay." But even as Kouta said it, he felt strangely unclean. "I do love her," he told his reflection, "She's one of the greatest things that ever happened to me…"
But is she who you want to spend your life with? His mirror image asked.
"Of course! All of my best memories are with her… The long bus rides, the zoo, the stream, the rainstorm, the happiest moments of my life!"
Those are childish things. Might simply be juvenile infatuation.
"You mean to tell me that that night before she left, the night I thought she would die, the night we held each other and shared our souls with each other…" He paused to glare at himself, "That's childish? No. That's love! I love Nyuu!"
His reflection seemed to hold the whisper of a sad smirk on its foggy lips. But Nyuu wasn't there on that night was she…? When you held her, did she sigh 'Nyuu'? When you kissed her, did she sigh out your name, or hers? Was it Nyuu, really?
Kouta looked away.
He did love Nyuu, he knew. But at that moment he realized that his love for her could never turn into what he wanted, needed from the pink haired girl. She was a child. She didn't have the understanding, the complexity, or the maturity that had so intrigued Kouta with the horned girl he knew as a child. And he would always be feeling guilty when the thought of intimacy sprung up as it often did, simply because of the unsettling paternal twinge in the back of his mind. Nyuu was so much like Mayu and Nana; she seemed like another little girl he needed to protect, another naïve innocent. The thought of intimacy seemed dirty when he thought of Nyuu. He didn't want that.
He wanted to have what he had on that starry night by the sea…
But he couldn't worry about himself now. Immediate problems needed to be fixed. He winced in pain when the anti-bacterial lotion seeped into the cuts. Yuka had to be reassured and Nyuu…
"Me and Nyuu aren't… Maybe I should apologize?" He turned back to his reflection, but it had no better idea than he.
Kouta felt like he should apologize, but what would that accomplish? He doubted that Nyuu would understand what he was trying to say, but maybe his conscience would stop bothering him if he got it off his chest…
The room started to spin, the air began to swim. Kouta blinked a few times, but it didn't change. His head began to unexpectedly and uncontrollably throb, almost causing Kouta to collapse. He caught himself by grabbing the sink, but his left hand slipped on water, blood, or a mixture of the two, and his face crashed into the hard porcelain of the nearby tub, then the hard tile of the floor.
The jarring blow rattled his bones and cut his tongue. He wanted to scream, but it hurt too much. He just let the tears and any other fluid that wanted to flow. He closed his eyes as tight as he could, trying to escape from this cruel circumstance. He wanted to go back, back when everyone was happy. Back to the beach with his sister. Back to when he played with Yuka at the fair. Back to yesterday, anywhere.
Kouta cried for a time, and in due course stopped. He got up eventually.
Then he faced the mirror and started all over again.
Nyuu giggled as she watched Wanta run around the back yard, weaving in between trees, grass, and garbage that thoughtless people had thrown over the fence surrounding the inn. The muscles at the corners of her mouth tugged gently at her lips until she was practically beaming. Nyuu loved watching Wanta run…it looked like so much fun to be able to go that fast on all fours. In fact, Nyuu betted that she could…
Oh, Yuka had scolded her for doing that last time.
The little dog yapped happily as he chased away a flock of birds that had wrongfully roosted in his tree. The diclonius gave him a 'well done' pat as she crouched on her knees. She stayed like that for a while, happily indulging the little dog in some well-deserved playtime.
She suddenly shivered in the warm night air as an unnaturally cool breeze whipped her fragile frame, stopping her games with Wanta instantly. It must have been getting late and she knew that back inside the house would be warm…Kouta would be warm. Her decision made, she rose to her feet, arms clamped around her sides in attempt to keep her body heat from escaping when suddenly Wanta, (obviously unable to bear the thought that playtime was over) darted in-between her legs. Nyuu hopped away in an instinctive attempt to avoid kicking her small playmate, but her surprise and lack of balance skills sent her sprawling too far backwards. A small yelp of protest barely left her lips before her head squarely smacked a rock concealed in the tall grass.
Geez…I sure did hurt a lot of people in this installment. I feel bad. But a story needs conflict…
Plenty darker than usual, as promised. And now Nyuu has clonked her head…wonder what that'll do…? Well, ya better review if you want to know! Hit me! Keep that motivation going!