13. Breaking Boundaries

"Pirika!" Tao Ren who had been making a half-hearted attempt at small talk with Lyserg stood up straight as he spied the nurse who was currently engrossed in reading her next patient's file. Her head recoiled back as she heard her name being called, froze, widened her eyes, and walked the fastest anyone has ever walked in the entire history of the universe back into the elevator, all without saying a single word.

"God damn…" she sighed as the elevator light indicated that she had safely made it to the floor above Ren and Lyserg.

"Pirika?" The elevator opened its doors to reveal a patiently waiting Jeanne on the other side.

"Oh, God, Jeanne, sorry you scared me," she replied breathily, her hand clasped at her racing heart.

The girl frowned as Pirika stepped out of the elevator. "Why have you been avoiding Ren lately?" she asked slowly, hoping not to evoke a negative reaction from her friend.

"What?" Pirika's voice cracked. (So much for not evoking a negative reaction). "Why…why would you say that? I'm not avoiding him," she said defensively. "I'm…I'm a very busy woman, you know that! I don't have time to cater to him whenever he feels a sudden whim or fancy to talk to me," she rambled on, not able to stop herself.

Jeanne simply looked at her.

"Why? Has he…has he said anything?" Pirika croaked out, hoping to God that he didn't.

Jeanne shook her head. "I was just wondering. It seems like you've been doing everything within your power to prevent any encounter with him." She pressed her lips together firmly before breaking into a sunny, plastic smile. "But then again, what do I know? You avoiding Ren? What a novel idea!" She laughed hollowly as if to dismiss the notion, drawing her face uncomfortably close to Pirika's.

"Er, yeah…can you imagine?" Pirika laughed weakly in return, backing away slowly from Jeanne who was quite reminiscent of Ren's mother at the moment. Just less bitchy.

Jeanne's face reverted back to its…normal state. "Oh! By the way, Dr. Tao left something for you." She glided over to the receptionist desk and pressed play on the voicemail.

Hi, Jeanne, this message is for Asakura and Usui and…hold on a second…

Someone in the background of the message began yelling.

It's about Pailong…would you quit it already? Anyways—

The message was cut off.

"What…what do you think it means?" Jeanne asked in concern.

"The person yelling was probably Nichrom. It's probably about Pailong," Pirika concluded.

"Is she going to be okay?" the other girl asked softly.

Pirika laughed, genuinely this time. "Oh, I think Tao can handle herself. And then some, if you know what I mean."

Jeanne grinned uncertainly, indicating that she didn't, in fact, know what Pirika meant.

"Well, I'm actually kinda surprised that she went down there. I mean, she had been putting up appearances this entire time to make everyone believe that she didn't care but… Then she goes and heads over to St. Luke's."

"It is nice to see that she is finally reaching out…" Jeanne murmured, lost in thought.

"Hmm? What was that?" Pirika quirked an eyebrow.

"Oh…ah, it's…it's nothing…I just said that it is nice to see that she is finally reaching out of her isolation."

Pirika nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I mean, Tao is the center of the hospital which is basically one of the life forces of the entire community here in Funbari. You can't want to be a doctor and not participate as a member of the community which you are serving. I suppose it was only a matter of time before she started to reach out back towards her home."

"Her…home?" Jeanne inquired quizzically.

"Her home, you know, everyone here in the hospital, all her patients; we're like her family since to be honest, she doesn't have much to go home to every night." Pirika shrugged. "I guess it's kind of a cheesy comparison now that I think about it—"

Jeanne shook her head vehemently and waved her hands. "No, no, no, I like it. The comparison I mean. It's…nice to think about." She smiled and pressed her palms together as if it truly made her happy.

"So…what exactly did you want to talk to me about…" Yoh looked down at the text Jun had sent him a few days ago. "Amidamaru?"

The man sitting across from him smiled. "Well, Dr. Tao had informed me of your…er, situation and she has some very compelling evidence to make quite an adequate argument to keep Miss Kyoyama from receiving the death penalty."

Yoh was so surprised that he nearly dropped his phone as he leaned forward. "W-Wait, really? But…God…Dr. Tao is always looking out for me," he gave a tired laugh in gratitude. "But what would this evidence be?" he asked.

Amidamaru, the lawyer Jun had sent over for Yoh, pulled out a piece of paper from his briefcase. "I believe Anna gave this to you a couple of months ago?" He opened the severely creased paper. "And then you gave it to Dr. Tao…"

Yoh took the paper from him and nodded in recognition. "Yeah, it was to help persuade her to let Anna live… But what does this have to do with anything?"

Amidamaru could barely contain himself. "This is the missing piece!"

Yoh merely blinked. "E-Excuse me?"

The lawyer went through the paper that was riddled with newspaper articles. "All these different articles are documenting a homicide that occurred about sixteen years ago. It was pretty well known, even I heard about it despite the fact it happened in Osore. Anna…was witness to her own mother's death. She was there when someone murdered her mother in cold blood, a bloody gunshot to the head."

Yoh frowned. Where exactly is he going with this?

"And according to her patient file, prior to her mugging, she suffers from deep set psychological problems that manifest themselves physiologically, correct? Seizures, uncontrollable rage, and such. I think that we might have a legitimate plea of insanity on our hands." The man smiled triumphantly.

"Do those…actually work?" Yoh asked slowly.

"Most them do not…due to the sole cause that the accused making the plea are faking insanity. Anna's mother was shot by the villagers of Osore. Anna then in turn, mentally unstable and continuously exposed to said villagers of Osore…well, you know. Her mental condition, since it has been unaddressed for all these years and thus she hasn't received adequate counseling and psychiatric help, prevented her from knowing right from wrong."

"But…that sounds so convoluted. I'm sure the public, especially those whose relatives and loved ones died during the Osore killing spree because of Anna, will be outraged over this…"

Amidamaru held up a finger. "On the contrary. It is embedded in the very definition and fiber of a crime. A crime is comprised of two elements: the illegal act and the intent to commit the act. Wishing that you could break into someone's house and stealing their valuables is not a crime because no illegal act was committed. Accidentally hitting someone while backing out your car from a parking lot is not a crime as well because you hadn't planned or intended to cause physical harm. Though Anna did commit an illegal act, her mental instability prevented her from actively having the intent to cause harm. Therefore, what she did cannot be called a crime and she cannot be found guilty."

Yoh nodded half-heartedly as he stared at the aged newspaper clipping of a terrified young Anna, five years old at the time, as she watched police officers and paramedics take her mother's murdered body away from the crime scene. A bloody bullet hole dripped down her mother's otherwise pale forehead.

"You stupid bitch, we have already told you repeatedly that you are not allowed in the village."

"How can you expect me to comply with that? I have a five year old daughter that I need to feed and care for—" her mother shot back defiantly. "Do you expect us to starve in the middle of winter?" She stood protectively in front of Anna.

The lack of response confirmed that the villagers did, indeed, expect Anna and her mother to starve in the middle of winter.

"What is wrong with all of you? How can you still be labeling people as outcasts? Don't you see that you all are the barbaric ones here? And yet you damn people according to your sacred shrines and because of the days that they're born on."

"How dare you question the gods!"

Anna's mother shook her head. "It doesn't matter. I'm going to continue to go into the village to procure food until it is at least spring. You can try to get rid of us but you can't ever break us."

"If you step into that village, you're putting everyone at risk. You're going to defile us all—" The voice broke. "T-Take one more step and I'll shoot."

She halted in her tracks and stared at him unfeelingly. "Are you really going to shoot?" She shook her head in disgust. Anna bit her lip as she saw the man's finger twitching on the trigger. "Do you even know how to use a—"

Her mother's body crumpled to the ground, her voice rudely cut off by the loud explosion from the weapon. Anna saw it. She saw the man flinch, his hand accidentally pulling the gun's trigger. She saw the sheer fear that blossomed on the man's face as he dropped the gun and ran. She saw her mother's eyes go wide for a split second right before the lead bullet entered her skull. She saw blood beginning to bloom like a disgusting, unwanted flower from her mother's forehead as her body first went rigid and then limp as she fell, splayed out on the cold, frozen ground.

She didn't realize that she was screaming until the police arrived. She stood transfixed in the exact same spot, hearing the murmurings of the crows that had formed to watch the spectacle.

"It was only a matter of time—"

"She had it coming—"

"How did she not know better? We made it clear that she was no longer welcome—"

"That poor man now has to live with the guilt of shooting her—"

"Her death is going to make quite the scene. And all because she wanted to feed that bastard, unclean child of hers—"

Her mother died because of Anna. If it wasn't for her, if she didn't exist, her mother would still be alive.

The little girl's arms were still pinned to her sides, fear paralyzing her body.

"What is going to happen to her daughter?" a nearby policeman asked one of the villagers.

The woman merely shrugged. "It doesn't matter. She was one of the outcasts. We could care less what happens to her. It might just be for the best if she fends for herself and starves to death."

The policeman frowned but didn't do anything. It wasn't within the police department's jurisdiction. The village was outside of any department's authority and he wasn't one to interfere with anybody's traditions or beliefs, no matter how outdated they were. "What do you want us to do with the body?"

"Leave it to us." She dismissed the officer.

The woman called a man over. "Dump the outcast's body in the mountains where the rest of the scum are."

Mount Osore, Mount Fear. They say the gates of hell are there.

Anna looked around, looked at the deep seated repulsion all over the villagers' faces, looked at how some were even overjoyed at the prospect of her mother being dead, looked as they took her mother's slain body and dumped it in the back of a cart as they went towards the ragged mountain range.

They say the gates of hell are here.

I need you to make sure no one notices. Keep everyone calm.

Pirika pursed her lips at the text that had showed up on her phone as soon as she began charging it and it came back to life. "Keep…everyone…calm…"

"And boy, Tao picked the wrong person to do that," Lyserg mused out loud.

Pirika hopped off of the reception desk she was sitting on, sauntered over to the water cooler, dispensed some of the beverage into a disposable cup she plucked from the table next to it, and walked back to the reception desk.

And then she threw all of the liquid-y contents of the cup in Lyserg's face.

"This is no joking matter!" she exclaimed shrilly, throwing her hands up and whacking the already sopping wet nurse's face.

"Yes and blatant slapstick comedy is definitely going to instate some sort of serious atmosphere, right?" Lyserg asked, shaking his fist at the fourth wall.

"Shut up. Wait…hold on…no, never mind. Shut up. No one cares." Pirika tapped her fingers against the counter. "Keep everyone calm…"

Redseb and Seyram came barreling out of their room. "Pirika? Where is Dr. Tao? We've looked all over the hospital for—"

Her eyes grew to rival the size of that of saucers. "No! Shhhhh, kids. Everything is going to be all right. Don't be scared. Dr. Tao is definitely here and definitely not attending to some life threatening matters because, you know why? That would require not being here. While she definitely is here. So keep calm!"

The two kids looked at her as if she had proclaimed to the world that she had unleashed the Kraken into the warm, troubled waters of Greece and that the world was going to end unless they sacrificed their princess.

"Pirika, what the heck are you doing?" Lyserg hissed.

"I'm keeping everyone calm," she explained as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"No you're not. You're deeply scarring them, emotionally and psychologically. Next thing you know, the only way to communicate with them is using sock puppets in the local therapist's office."

Seyram whispered something to Redseb who whispered something to Lyserg. "And now look, the kids want to know if you are possibly abusing substances of the illegal variation," he informed her dryly.

She laughed louder than she had intended to and tried smiling at the kids which came out more as a scared, shaky contorted scowl, further frightening the children. "What would give you that idea?" she asked, her voice cracking a bit in the end. She sighed, seeing that Lyserg was indeed correct and that she was doing quite a good job at scaring the Munzer children. "Sorry guys, it's just that this has been a nerve-racking week—"

"Month," Lyserg interrupted her.

"How about I tell you a story? Haven't done one of those in a while, huh?"

The kids heaved a huge breath of relief now that Pirika was acting somewhat sane again and they nodded enthusiastically.

"So once upon a time, when the gods first created the earth, they didn't create humans as we know them today. Instead, they created these scary, all powerful, domineering beasts that had two heads, four arms, and four legs."

Redseb and Seyram clung to each other. Nope, Pirika still wasn't sane yet. "Erm…Pirika?"


"Can you tell us something that isn't so freaky because you are definitely freaking us out."

Never again. Never again should I be asked to keep anyone calm, Pirika thought to herself.

"Al…right…" She paused and frowned, trying to think of a less "freaky" way of telling the story to the kids and still be conveying the same message. "Okay. So here we go. Once upon a time, when the gods first created the earth, they didn't create humans as we know them today. Instead, souls, these bright, pure souls that were made out of the essence of light with the clarity of crystals roamed the lands. The gods saw this and they were pleased that they had created things that were so beautiful."

"Those do sound beautiful," Redseb agreed while Seyram yawned contentedly and rested her head on her brother's shoulder.

"However, the gods, since they were so pleased with their creation, didn't stop with making them beautiful. They were so encouraged with the perfection of these souls that they gave them everything they could: intelligence, power, agility. And over time, the gods saw that this, their pride in thinking that they could concoct something so perfect, would be their downfall. They did indeed make the perfect being, so perfect that they were more powerful than the gods themselves. In fear, the gods enslaved the souls instead of peacefully coexisting with them and ordered that the souls praise the gods constantly. Gradually, the souls saw the fear of the gods, they saw that they were more powerful than the gods and began resenting why they are being treated so badly. Why, they asked, why should they be the ones to be enslaved? Why should the gods be the one receiving praise? Shouldn't the souls be getting praised since they are the perfect ones? The stronger, smarter ones? They rose up and began to revolt. However, seeing that they would fall from the heavens if they were overcome by the souls, the gods banded together in a last ditch attempt. While it was nighttime on earth, the gods snuck down and split all of the sleeping souls into two halves. That way, the souls would still be perfect but would each half would take half of the original soul's power, thus making them weaker than the gods. For their insolence, the gods banished these half complete souls to roam the earth who were constantly in search of their other half so that they could finally be—"

"Complete," Redseb breathed.

"Yup." She smiled.

"I think…I think I heard something like this before. But the person before said that the gods split the souls into two halves, one male and one female. How come you didn't say that?"

Pirika blinked, surprised that Redseb had picked up on a small detail like that. "W-Well… I'd like to think that whoever we find that makes us 'complete' isn't going to be limited by gender. And it isn't necessarily just romantic love. It can be love between friends, familial love, you know. And I'd like to think that my guy friends and my brother make me just as happy as my girl friends." She smiled. "Not to mention, romantic love doesn't have to be just between a male and female."

Redseb laughed and clapped his hands together. "You know, I actually like that explanation a ton more than the other one I heard. It's nice. It's like…like…breakin' boundaries and stuff."

"Since love is love is love, no matter what kind, it will transcend all differences, all conflicts and bring us together as a family." Pirika tucked the two kids in.

"Say, Pirika, who's your other half then?" Redseb asked innocently.

She was caught off guard yet again, never having been asked this question before. "I…ah…"

But before she could answer, Redseb cut in. "Is it that Ren guy?"

Pirika's jaw locked in place as she remembered her less than pleasant initial encounters, then getting a huge donation from him for the fundraiser, then getting to know Ren, then seeing him with that infant, then swimming in abandoned hotel pools with him, then with giving him advice, then realizing that he actually listened to the advice, then getting severely threatened by Tao Ran. "I don't…I don't…No," she said mechanically.

Redseb cocked his head to the side and studied her. "Are you sure?"

"I honestly don't know but I do know someone who is my other half for sure," she said confidently.

"Really? Who is it?" he asked, bouncing up and down in his bed, ready to get some gossip.

She pointed at him.

He looked at her in confusion. "Me?"

She nodded and then pointed at Seyram.

"Seyram too?"

"Yup and Yoh and Anna and my brother and Lyserg and Jeanne and even Dr. Tao and Tamao and just about everyone here."

"But I thought that the gods split the souls in half…"

"I think…I-I think that more than one person can make us feel complete. That more than person can make us feel happy. How saddening would it be if only one person existed that could complete us, that could make us feel whole? I feel like a whole person around you guys and everyone in the hospital. Everyone in my home. Yes, I just called the hospital my home but you know what, it's totally true despite how lame and sad and cheesy it is. I love coming here. I love working here. I love everything about everyone, even if it is bad or good."

"It's not cheesy," Redseb declared. "I like it!"

She smiled. "That's good." Before leaving the two kids to sleep for the night, she said one last thing to him. "You know why it's important that the original souls were pure and beautiful?"

Redseb thought about it and then shook his head.

"It's because when we're rejoined with people who make us feel complete and whole and wonderful and happy and break down all the awkward, angry barriers that we might have erected during our isolation and sadness and then they make us feel like everything and nothing at the same time and the only thing we're sure of is that it feels absolutely right…then it's as beautiful and pure as the souls." She stopped by the door before opening it and going outside.

"Then it's perfect."

"Please, Dr. Tao, today is probably the worst day to be here!" Manta exclaimed, trying to block the doctor from entering Nichrom's office. "There is a boundary here and you're about to cross it…!"

"Oyamada, don't get involved with this. You know…you know how important this is to me," she said, hesitating a bit.

He frowned and then shook his head. "No, I don't. But I do know how important he is to you."

She sighed and sidestepped the shorter nurse. "Nichrom!"

She had envisioned this in her head dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times. How she would thunder into his office and slam her hands down on the other doctor's well organized desk because Nichrom was meticulous like that. How he would look shocked at first and then begin smirking up at her. How she would yell at him the most eloquent thing anyone has ever heard in their entire life. How they would duke it out in at least an hour long debate about morals and ethics and in the end, Jun would win because Jun had good intentions, because she was the better person, because she had the better morals. In each of these hundreds of scenarios, she would be the one who won in the end. In each of these hundreds of scenarios, Pailong would've been alive and Jun would've been able to catch Nichrom in his office mere seconds before he went down to pull the plug on Pailong's life.

But none of these endless scenarios that had flashed through the brilliant Tao lady's mind, that had been worked on and reworked out until it reached perfection in her mind could've prepared her for this.

Nichrom was just as disheveled as she had been when she found out that Anna was involved in the Osorezan killing spree. His coat had several…dozen stains on it, his usually neatly fixed hair looked as if it had been through several natural disasters all at the same time. His eye bags hinted that the last time he had a decent amount of sleep was when hell had frozen over. His room looked as if a bull had been loosed inside of it as papers were strewn about everywhere, pencils, utensils, files were everywhere on the floor. Nothing on the shelves was upright. Even the blinds on the windows were crooked. Nichrom himself was pacing about madly, not caring if he stepped on the most painstakingly organized patient files in the world, as he muttered to himself like he was a lunatic plagued by incessantly talking voices.

"Nichrom!" Jun repeated, more out of shock than out of anger.

His entire body spun about as he turned to face the source of the intruding voice. "What."

"What…What happened here?"

It took him several seconds to realize who she was. "You…you…You!" he shouted as he recognized her face. "It's all because of you!"

"I'm not the one who diagnosed him too quickly," she replied snidely.

He began spewing out gibberish and jargon.

"You are not being coherent in the slightest. What is going on here?" she demanded.

"I'm ruined…This hospital is ruined…Everything is ruined because of you." He scrambled towards her but stepped on several loose sheets of paper and slipped.

Jun steadied him but he promptly yanked his arm barbarically away from her. "Don't touch me. Don't look at me. Death. Death is everywhere. Why? Everything is collapsing around us as we speak but lucky you, you, you, you…you're deaf and you don't have to hear it!" His voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "This wasn't how it was supposed to turn out. It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to win. I was supposed to win. Now everything is lost. Everything I've worked. It wasn't supposed to work out like this. This wasn't goddamn planned!" he roared.

She shook her head, aware that Nichrom was beyond any point of saving and her only hope was to try to extract what had happened to Pailong. "Did you pull the plug yet?"

"There was no need to pull the plug. No need. What don't you understand, it wasn't necessary, we didn't have to, it wasn't required of us. No, his body decided to act up on its own. There you go. Go, go, go away." His body began shaking. "Everything is burning and all you're doing is playing the violin, aren't you? Aren't you? Too many boundaries. We thought there were none in our way. We thought that we had given them all to you. Too many barriers that we didn't realize that we had ran into wall, after wall, after wall and were only skimming off of them, impacting them then stepping away fazed, disoriented, dazed, confused. We sat on top of them as that proverbial egg did, triumphant and victorious, thinking that we, we, us humans had conquered the barrier. We were fooling around with forces beyond our control. We sat there thinking it was gone and all we needed to have done was look down to see we hadn't overcome the boundaries. And now we're going to have a great fall…and we can't be put back together again. We never broke the barriers, Tao."

Her eyes widened, realizing what he was talking about. "You never did. From all the rules and restrictions and self-imposed isolation because of you, I was able to break through them. Demolish them. Because I understand humanity, Nichrom. Because I understand what it was like to be caged in because I already had been boxed in before because of you. So it wasn't a big deal, I was used to it. I was used to fences and boundaries and bars and cages. I was used to not winning. But not Nichrom. Not Dr. Patch, extraordinaire, progressive, modern, American education, M.D. So when he was put between a wall and a hard place, he couldn't recognize them and thus he went insane, not knowing what was what, which was which, who was who. You've hit your head against to many boundaries to even learn how to break through them."

His body went rigid and he began shaking violently, causing a whole mountain of files on his desk to come tumbling down like the Tower of Babel.

One slid from the very top and landed at her feet, its contents spreading out as if welcoming her, wanting her to read them.

Name: Li, Pailong

Current Age: 32

Prior Status: Permanent Vegetative State

Current Status: Dead

Over the entirety of the file were huge letters written in angry red ink that formed one singular word underlined seven times on each page: PREMATURE.

"No…He…He died before you even…before you even pulled the plug." Jun felt her legs buckle underneath her.

"Everything is ruined…"

"Do you think you're strong?"

"Uhm…" To be completely frank, the intensity with which Chocolove was staring at Horohoro was becoming very unsettling to the Ainu boy, only further worsened by the proximity in which they were sitting. "I guess?"

"So if you heard that you're father died, would you go back to Hokkaido?" he asked casually.

Horohoro snorted. "Hell no."

"Why is that?"

He simply gaped at the younger boy. "A-Are you kidding? Were you not present at our last, if not forced, meeting? He physically, mentally, emotionally, everything-ly abused me!" He shook his head in disbelief. "'Why is that?' Please."

"So you would not attend his funeral. Interesting." Chocolove nodded. "A common enough response but the reasons are wrong."

"Reasons? Do I really need to explain to you why I wouldn't respectfully attend the funeral of someone who used to be beat me on a regular basis and degrade me daily? I don't need to justify this to you." He crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"However, the explanation you just gave is not the primary motivator in your situation."

He looked at Chocolove snidely. "Really? Okay then, since you obviously are psychic and shit, tell me my real reason."

"Because you feel that it is a symbol of your strength. You feel that by not showing up to the funeral is going to prove something to your father who would already be dead. Why do you need affirmation from a corpse? Why do you assign so much of your self-worth to a person who is about to be six feet under the ground? You think that by not attending his funeral will make you into a man since it shows that you don't care about what he thinks and what he has done when in reality, it makes you more of a child."

Horohoro gawked at him. "Excuse me? No it does not."

Chocolove smirked. "Sure."

He rolled his eyes. "Psh, you're one to talk. No one even knows anything about you. So what gives you the license to psychoanalyzediagnoseevaluate me, huh?"

The younger boy smiled and nodded. "Fair enough. I will tell you of my past. But you must break through your own boundaries first before trying to tackle anyone else's. Otherwise, you're going to make things even worse because you are blinded by your own barriers."

"Whatever," Horohoro said in resignation. "Then what do you propose that I do?"

"Do something that truly shows that you are the bigger person. Do something that he would never do for you because he is too scared."

"And what would that be?"

"Show up to his funeral."

Horohoro tilted his head back. "And why would he never go to my funeral if I died?" he asked, actually somewhat intrigued by the answer since he never actually thought of it before.

"Because it shows that you and Pirika were right and that he was wrong. And from what you have told me, he never would want to be wrong."

He blinked. "What would we be right about?"

"That he actually loved you."

Horohoro fixed his gaze on the singular cloud in the sky. "Huh…"

"He would be forced to acknowledge his mistakes, he would be forced to face you and accept the fact that you have finally escaped him: through death. You would still remain untouchable through death and he would have to live with that knowledge; that you have been able to outdo him yet again. He would be too scared to endure all of that, hence he would take the coward's way out." He paused. "Would you…Would you want to be considered his son again?"

Horohoro frowned. "Before you brought all of that up, I would've replied, again, 'Hell no.' But now…I don't know."

"Try it."


"Ask him if you could be recognized as part of the family again. I know that the chances of you doing that are slim but at least you can tell yourself that you did everything within your power to break down that boundary he put up. And if he says no, then he'll be the one to live with the knowledge that he chose to keep that barrier between you—"

"Okay." He shrugged.

Now it was Chocolove's turn to be surprised. "Really? Interesting yet again…"

"Eh, I mean, I've just been bullshitting my way through life for the past…I don't even know how many years. It's nice to finally get some guidance. You know, I've missed structure in my life. And I trust you." He bobbed his head up and down. "Erm…how's Tamao by the way? And the orphanage. You told me to stay away until I learned about myself enough…"

"She probably thinks I killed you."

Horohoro narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Chocolve. "No…No…Really?"

Chocolove shrugged. "I'm probably exaggerating but the last time she did see you was when I was disarming you in that chokehold, thus rendering you unconscious…"

Horohoro's face fell and he began nervously picking at the old, cheap wood of the park bench they had been sitting on.

"What's wrong?" Chocolove observed his mannerisms for a moment. "Oh…I see…"

"What?" Horohoro looked up as if he had been brought out of a daze. "What do you see?"

"You want to see her, don't you? You…miss her."

"Yeah, and what's it to you if I do?" Horohoro swiped at a low branch of a tree they were sitting next to, causing the branch to give a shudder and a few leaves to shakily fall off. "It's not like it's a crime…" he muttered.

"Of course not, of course not." Chocolove smiled in amusement. "In any case, she is concerned about you and feels horrid and is blaming herself what had transpired between the two of you the last time."

"How do you know that?" Horohoro demanded.


"Hmm…" Tamao balanced the pen she was writing with on the tip of her finger.

"What's wrong, Tamao?" he asked even though he already knew the answer.

"I'm concerned about Horohoro…" she said sadly. "I feel horrid about what happened last time we saw each other. It's all my fault…"

Chocolove shook his head. "No, it's not. And perhaps this is a good thing. You both need some time to grow before seeing each other."

"Do you think he's going to come back? He hasn't been back since," she said worriedly. "I hope I didn't scare him off for good…"

"I wouldn't be too concerned about him," Chocolove said carefully. "If I were you, I'd be more concerned about myself and my own work. You have been distracted for days."

She reddened and looked at the tower of paperwork that loomed above her. "Er…yeah…I'm two weeks behind all the form processing."

He smiled. "You might want to get a move on that."

"Huh. Alright, I guess." Horohoro stood up to leave but then caught himself. "Chocolove…er… I know this isn't my place but… what's Orona?"

"Who's," Chocolove said automatically. "I…"

A full thirty seconds passed before Horohoro realized that he wasn't going to finish his statement. "Oh…okay then." He shrugged to let the younger boy know that it was alright. "So you're really not going to tell me about your past?" he asked teasingly.

"Your boundaries are my boundaries."

"No, we haven't," Lyserg said, his face reddening as he fended off yet another of Ryu's endless questions.

"What's going on?" Yoh asked as he joined his two friends.

"Ryu is interrogating me!" Lyserg exclaimed as if he were tattling to his mommy.

"Lyserg is not answering me!" Ryu said with a mocking, amused tone.

Yoh smiled. "What is this little interview session about?"

"Oh, I was just curious as to how far Lyserg and Jeanne have gotten in terms of…you know…" Cue trademark creepy Umemiya smile. "Canoodling."

"Canoodling?" Yoh asked, evidently not familiar with the term.

"Canoodling." Ryu nodded in affirmation.

"Canoodling…" Lyserg groaned. "Stop with the questions already."

Yoh laughed. "If that means what I think it means, I'd advise you to stop too, if not for saving your time. Lyserg and Jeanne are…different."

Ryu pursed his lips in disapproval. "Don't tell me as soon as that silver haired princess broke off her engagement to that dastardly, disgusting Tao boy, you didn't get on that as soon as you could?"

Lyserg shook his head angrily. "No, there was absolutely no 'getting on' of anything that happened between me and Jeanne," he growled as if offended by the notion.

"Hmph. How boring. No making out? No kissing? No holding hands? No hugging?"

"No, no, no, and no." Lyserg accentuated each no with a shake of his head.

"How do you live?" Ryu gaped at him.

"How do you live?" Lyserg shot back.

"Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that you're a virgin." Ryu clucked his tongue in pity.

Lyserg remained silent, consoled only by Yoh patting him on the back.

Ryu froze. He slowly turned to face Lyserg. He looked at the expression on Lyserg's face.

"Oh in the name of all that is pure, holy, and sacred!" he cried.


"Don't tell me that…that…that…" His voice dropped to a whisper. "You haven't done…it yet?"

"Done what, Ryu?" Lyserg growled, trying his best not to sever the new cafeteria cook's head.

"You know. It. The deed. The nasty. Got rid of the big V. Have sex."

"…And so what if I haven't."

Ryu looked like he was on the verge of tears. "Lyserg, Lyserg, Lyserg…how old are you?"

"I'm twenty-one."

"Twenty…! Twenty-one! Goddamnit, it's time to man up?" He seized Lyserg by the shoulders.

Lyserg appeared to be caught between dying and killing (Ryu that is). "Oh my God, let go of me. I don't want to have sex, especially if it's mandated by you!"

"Am I…Am I interrupting something?" Jeanne blinked rapidly as she was frozen in her tracks on her way from the elevator.

"Jeanne!" All the color from his face drained away.

"I…I…I think I'll…come back…later…" She walked away in a daze.

"What have you done!" Lyserg yelled. "I'm perfectly fine being a virgin. I'm perfectly fine with never having touched Jeanne or doing anything with her asides from data entry or paperwork. I'm perfectly fine with everything. We both have boundaries, so of course I'm not going to make a move on her right after she gets out of an engagement. She is super religious so of course we're not going to be doing any amount of 'canoodling' or whatnot. And to top it off, I want to wait until I'm married to have sex so of course I'd want you to stop asking me about it!" he fumed before storming off.

"Wow. I've never seen him get that angry before. Though, it is kind of funny. Just let him calm down for a few minutes. I think it's embarrassment more than being mad though," Yoh explained.

"Heh, I know. I just wanted to see him get riled up is all." Ryu happily put his hands behind his head.

"Huh, why though? Lyserg isn't too much fun to tease…"

"No, no, no, that's not it. Though she and that Tao boy say that they're not engaged anymore, I have a sneaking suspicion that their families aren't going to be too thrilled. Now that I have sufficiently flustered Lyserg on the topic of Jeanne, he is going to do one of two things: extremely distance himself from her or become much more protective of her. However, he is far in too deep to isolate himself at this point from her, so that leaves the latter option." He smiled. "When, and I mean when, not if, the Tao family and Marco force them back into the engagement…Lyserg won't let go of her without a fight. Not again."

Yoh grinned and nodded. "Wow, that was surprising elaborate and effective, Ryu."

"I have my moments." The cook flashed him a thumbs up.

They both sat, enjoying the silence until Yoh spoke up again. "So, when did you lose your virginity?"

Ryu blanched and fell into silence. "I…um…We don't talk about that anymore—"

Yoh laughed long and hard. "Oh boy, Ryu."

"Marco, what are you doing here?" Ren asked angrily.

"Silence, you do not have the right to address me or look at me now that you have broken off the engagement with Jeanne, hmm?" Marco said lazily.

Ren scoffed. "For the purposes of being in the hospital when you're obviously not welcome here, you are required to answer."

"I am not required to do anything, Tao…" Marco looked around. "And it is rather unfortunate that I happen to have partial ownership of this hospital, hmm?"

"Why you—"

"Attention ICU nurses, ICU nurses, please report to the fifth floor to attend to Kyoyama. Again, ICU nurses please report to the fifth floor to attend to Kyoyama Anna."

Marco's eyes narrowed. "Ky…oyam…a?" he said slowly.

"Yes. What, do you have a problem with her too? Want to pull the plug on Kyoyama just like you're doing with Pailong?" Ren snapped.

"Kyoyama Anna?" he asked again. "Interesting…"

"That's what the PA system said, isn't it?" He walked away. "Bastard…" he muttered under his breath. However, before he went back into the hallway, he heard Marco say angrily on the phone:

"You were supposed to make sure Kyoyama Anna was dead."

"Can I help you?" Yoh blinked in surprise as he was surrounded by members of the Gandhara once again.

"We...have some news concerning Kyoyama." The officers looked at one another as if they themselves were unable to believe the news they were about to share.

"Okay, go ahead…" Yoh gave them his full attention.

"I…" The officer frowned and instead simply handed him a printout of a police report. "Here."

"Must I tolerate you again?" Anna asked, looking witheringly at the cat.

The cat simply smiled back up at her. "It is rather nice to see you too."

"Go away." She began walking down a path that appeared in front of her.

"Now is that any way to speak to the one who is about to free you?" the cat replied offhandedly.

She froze. "Wh…What?"

"Your time here is nearly done," he explained. "Everything is about to be disassembled. The boundaries, the barriers, the questions, the lies, the deception, the manipulation…they're all about to be unraveled and torn down." He snapped and the path disappeared and were immediately transported to an open field. "And because of that, we must hurry. We are rather late you know." He seized her by the hand and the two began running.

She was caught off guard by their sudden sprinting. "L-Late? Late for what? What do we have to hurry for?"

"We're behind schedule. You must find out the truth before you return."

"The truth about what?" They went out of the field and entered a grove of trees.

"Yourself. Everything. Nothing."

They came to a skidding stop. When she looked up after she regained her breath, she saw an ornately set table. "What is this?"

"This is where you will learn." He pushed her lightly on the shoulder and it felt as if he had dropped a huge weight on her back. She sunk into the chair. "I'm irrational, am I not?"

She rolled her eyes. "Now you realize this? Of course you are."

"No, you're irrational."

She glared at him. "What are you talking about? You're the irrational one."

"Yes and no. I'm irrational because through my convoluted logic-that-is-not-logic, you are able to find the truth. In my madness, you find method. And the message you have been looking for. Am I insane? Or am I the only sane person here? There really is no point of reference. Just what you deem to be insane. But what if you were mad yourself? Does that mean that those you think are mad are twice as mad or are they not mad at all?"

"You're making my head hurt," she growled, massaging her forehead.

"You are irrational as well using my point-of-reference-not-point-of-reference."

"You're the one speaking gibberish!" she accused.

"You're the one who fell in love with someone in a month. Is that logical? You barely know him. In fact, you know nothing about him." The cat smiled. "But in that way, you know everything about him."

"Oh shush," she groaned, resting her arm on the table and closing her eyes.

"At least you acknowledge that you love him."

Her face reddened but her eyes remained closed. "Why do I even bother…"

"You bother because you care. Anyways, by not knowing anything about him allows you to be totally unbiased in your observations of him. You can watch him, see how he acts, what he says, because as everyone knows, one's character is best derived from that. You get to know him because you didn't know him. There were no preconceived mental barriers or biased boundaries that limited your sight of him. It is by being irrational that you are able to see the light."

Anna nodded slowly, understanding flooding her eyes. "That…that actually make sense for once."

The cat smiled. "Good! You are learning! Perhaps we are not running behind schedule then." The animals' face grew dark. "But then there is one last kind of irrationality…"

She frowned, seeing the cat's negative reaction. "What is it?"

"It is irrationality for the sake of irrationality. It does not exist to tell the truth or provide enlightenment or understanding. It exists as the pure antithesis to logic and illogical logic. Though we can see this irrationality for the sake of irrationality as being pure anarchy…It can sometimes masquerade as being rational. This is hostile, harmful madness, insanity for the sake of hurting others. Many will say that it makes sense but once you dig deeper you see that it doesn't at all."

Anna drew her eyebrows together. "Who…who has this kind of irrationality?"

The cat removed the top of one of the teapots on the table and plucked something out of it. "This."

It was the man, granted he had been shrunken, she had seen in her previous dream, the one with the lethal injection who wanted to erase her history.

It was the man with the glasses.

"Are you one hundred percent sure that this is accurate?" Yoh heard his voice ask roughly.

"Of course one must allow for a margin of error, but…the discrepancy is too big."

"So then this means…" Yoh looked up from the report at the officers.

"Yes. Huge boundaries have been broken down in this criminal case. A breakdown of epic proportions that is going to turn everything on its head."

"We die containing the richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography- to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps."

- Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

A/N: yes, I am shamelessly copying and pasting this author's note to all my updates today (count 'em: FOUR UPDATES, GUYS)

other things I'm updating tonight:

1. Blackbird Singing: a piece on what it means to have a sibling (Hao/Yoh...sorry guys, I don't ship them so it's more family oriented)

2. The Mismatched Adventures of Tao Boy and Ainu Girl: HOLY SHIT, I'M BACK FROM FIVE MONTH HIATUS.


PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW. I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER (mind you, I'm running on one piece of toast....I probably should go and eat something now. meh.)

Check out Testimonies and Strangers and that will make me happy.


And...if you're interested in the contest, please go to my profile and clink on the contest info link there. it would be awesome if you commented on the LJ post so it'll be easier to see who is participating (people who don't have a livejournal can still comment! I've enabled anonymous commenting)

KTHANKS. and thank you for all the offers to help out with the prizes guys! I'll personally respond to all your reviews on all my stories after AP's.

I'm so proud of myself. So productive.

Don't forget to leave a review!

happy days! and check me out!: shatteredlyre . livejournal . com