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Deadlines. Oh, how Langston Parker hated deadlines. They always seemed to crawl toward him at first, picking their way leisurely through weeks of plotting and typing and revising and retyping; but then they suddenly screamed, “BOO!” and leaped out from behind his computer monitor to torment him through the final weeks leading up to publication. His editors loved setting them. He was all too adept at breaking them.


He leaned forward in his computer chair, squinting at the screen through eyes clouded from lack of sleep. Four empty mugs stood at easy reach around him, resting on stacks of discarded manuscript. Stacks that were growing taller with every passing hour when they should have been shrinking – the Day of Reckoning was a mere seventy-two hours away, and he still had fourteen chapters to write.


The bags under his eyes twitched, as though encouraging the lids above them to close. Parker blinked them into submission and rested his fingers on the keyboard once more. They spit out a sentence: “And, taking her warm hand in his, he brought it to his lips and kiss it…”


“Excuse me, Mr. Parker.”


He gasped and spun around. He hadn’t thought Margaret was home yet—


There was no one there.


“Please correct your error, Mr. Parker. It is irritating me, which is not something that you should desire to happen.”


He scanned the sentence and caught the mistake. Kissed, he typed instead. Then it occurred to him that a disembodied voice had just ordered him to fix a grammatical mistake, and that he had obeyed. This was not like him; hearing disembodied voices, that is.


“Thank you,” he said hesitantly, just in case.


As he had expected, there was no answer.


Parker turned back to the screen. His fingers flashed across the keyboard once more. “’Oh come away with me.’ she breathed. ’Come away and let me be the one you spend the rest of your life with.’”


“Now I am irritated. There are no less than three errors in those two sentences. If you do not find them, then I shall become angry. My anger is even less desirable than my irritation, Mr. Parker.”


Panicking slightly now, he stared at the sentences. “There’s nothing wrong,” he ventured. “They’re fine.”


There was a silence.


“Mr. Parker. Fix them now, or you are a dead man.”


Cold terror, spurred by caffeine, gripped Parker’s heart. He read and reread what he had written, searching frantically for the mistakes, but they eluded him. “Where are they?”
he cried.


“You have five minutes, Mr. Parker, or in the name of English grammar I will personally purge you from the annals of literary history.”


He leaped up and darted about the room, throwing open doors, flinging cushions aside, but could find no one. “Who are you?” he shouted. “Why are you doing this to me?”


“Those who cannot use proper English have no business writing in it. I would suggest that you correct those sentences now, by the way; you have only three
minutes left.”


Parker raced back to the computer and sat down, his hands trembling on the keys. But he still could see nothing wrong with what he had written. “Please,” he moaned. “Tell me what I did wrong.”


“If you cannot see it, then I do not see why I should correct you, only to allow you to poison the English language even further than you already have.”


“But – but I have editors for this!” he cried. “They’ll find it! They’re there so I don’t have to focus on this!”


There was a silence that carried in it more hostility than any words Langston Parker had ever heard.


“So.” The voice was cold. “That is how you see it. You don’t have to use proper grammar, because there is someone else to do it for you.” The air swelled, and the voice suddenly seemed to come from all around him, pressing against him like a tangible force. “It is imbeciles like you who are responsible for the sickening decline of one of the great tongues of the world! It is you who made English the laughingstock of the Indo-European language family! It is you who has destroyed the credibility of the written word as a preservative force! In a thousand years, one could read your book and believe through your idiocy that there is nothing wrong with a dangling participle! With a comma splice! With a split infinitive!


Parker cowered against this grammatical onslaught. “What’s an infinitive?”
he cried.


“Mr. Parker.” Now, every word was a blatant threat, filled with a righteous fury that seemed to emanate from the air itself. “I have been lenient until now, but that statement completely shredded any integrity as a writer you might have had in my eyes. You have a single minute to redeem yourself. If you do not manage to correct your errors in that time, then you will meet your final deadline. And no editor will be able to save you.”


Parker broke down and wept. “You’re an illusion!” he screamed. “You’re an exhaustion-induced hallucination! A waking dream! I don’t believe in you! I don’t believe in you!
I don’t-“


“Thirty seconds, Mr. Parker.”


“No! No!” He snatched at an empty mug and flung it at the monitor. It plunged through the screen in a shower of sparks. With a whirr, the computer died. “You can’t kill me because you don’t exist! There’s no way for you to really kill me!”


“Your time is up. Let it be known that the last sentence you ever spoke contained a split infinitive – a fitting epitaph for your miserable, word-butchering existence.”


The atmosphere seemed to gather at a single point beside the couch, thickening to give the voice a body: a blurred conglomeration of text, fonts weaving back and forth across a humanoid form that stepped forward menacingly. A very real sword appeared in Times New Roman, its point brushing across a vengeful Century Gothic smile.


“Come and meet your final deadline,” it said. The sword flashed, blood splashed like spilled ink, and Langston Parker died on top of his own misspelled work.


The sword faded, and the being bent over Parker, its mouth questing for the ink that smeared the pages on which he had fallen – but before the errors could meet its tongue, its head jerked up as though it had heard its name called from far away.


Its eyes narrowed into Courier slits. “Rice,” it hissed, and faded back into the air, leaving Parker’s body for the coroners. All it took was the page containing his last ill-fated sentences – food for the journey.

So mebbe it's more humor than horror, but whatever. XD This is a story I randomly wrote about Editor-Sama, who, for those of you who don't know me well, is the rather terrifying, grammar-obsessed persona who inhabits my mind. Other people have muses. I have a serial killer.

XD Tell me what you think. This is the first time I've ever given her anything resembling a corporeal form. This might actually be part of a series; with me, there's no telling, though.
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This episode is a sexy collab with awesome peeps- :iconkris-wilson: and :iconskinpupcoss: from zee Cyanide and Happiness crew.
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A Toy R Us associate’s Christmas Poem

T’was some days before Christmas and all through the store
People were shopping for present galore.
Now by this time Kat’s Christmas spirits were feeling quite poor
From listening to bad Christmas jiggles and picking crap off the floor.
She was finding herself jaded to holiday cheer
Hearing daily professing of customers’ hate for the Yule and New Year.
“Oh why?” I did ask
”did we do this stuff?”
Wasn’t giving the brats presents quite well enough
Why keep up this farce from year to year
Of a fat man in red with a very long beard?
The kids are all spoiled brats who come into this store
Their parents are rude and boorish as the store they do tour.
They treat me like dirt, wishing Christmas depart as fast as it can
And waiting on my line makes them less of my fan
I asked to the heavens how had we gone wrong?
To make the birth of my savior only about selling presents in throngs

Deep into my depression I slipped and I fell
Until the Christmas season to me seemed more like a hell

But in the depths of my mood a lesson was wrought
That lead me never again to question the lessons Christmas has taught.

As closing time came and clean up took place
I found myself re-shelving toys about Star Wars and space

From behind me exclaimed a voice quite filled with glee
So I turned around to see who was shouting at me.

A woman quite happy did race up the aisle
With a stroller she pushed along single file

It was then that I realized right next to my side
Were newly put boxes with Dora talking houses inside

The woman did cheer and gave me a hug
Declaring her appreciation and love for my mug

Confused as I was I did not have much time
As she explained her reaction as I readjusted my spine

It seems her small child as I fixed my eyes down
Wished for this house which her mother had looked all over town.

Her child was sporting both an oxygen mask and an IV tube
She looked as if she just escaped from the hospital, not to sound rude

The mother declared the child’s rough year,
Of seeing all kinds of doctors and made miserable with fear.

A gift would please her poor daughter looking just over two
You would not believe what this poor kid went through

To delight her small daughter she had looked in vane
To acquire the house of one Dora by name.

She had looked and she looked but to no avail
Not even being able to acquire said house by mail

On Christmas day, she did not wish to see her daughter’s sad face
When Santa’s gift so desired was missing, oh what a disgrace

All this child looked forward to through her miserable ways
Was counting and counting all of those days

Till Santa would come and reward her for being a brave little girl
If you heard what this kid had to go through you’d might wish to hurl.

The girl was now happy having spotted the toy
Which Mommy hid in her cart the illusion not to destroy

The girl was so excited she almost pulled out her tubes
Mommy then calmed her down before any more could perturb

”Yes my dear,” the mother did sing
“There are certainly enough of those houses for Santa to bring!”

The last thing she said to me was she came in by chance
She looked about ready to dance and to prance
But she smiled to her girl and I swear she said this and not to get sappy

”Now I’m happy, because I can make you happy!”

So off she did go to the check out at this midnight hour
And I found myself unable for that night to glower.

That’s why we have Christmas and Santa and his reindeer
So that children like her have something to look forward each year.
Well its getting around Christmas time and we already have started our shopping, hopefully and safely. I wrote this poem 2 years ago about my experience as a Toy R US associate during the holiday shopping season. I was going to post it sooner, but for some reason after hearing about some unfortunate events, I was discouraged in posting something about working at this store. Still I hope this poem will be enjoyed, I don't usually write anything. Drawing is more my thing, but I seem to recall my sister wanting me to post this for quite some time, so I decided to take a small break from homework and post it up.

Anyway I got pretty disheartened with Xmas while working there because I had to deal with holiday shopper and some of the nasty things they said to me and about Christmas. Not very "peace on Earth and good will to fellow man" stuff if you know what I mean. I guess I was getting bogged down by how commercial the holidays have become. This is a poetic approach to an actual event that happened while I was working in the store late one night. So if you too are upset by people forgetting what the holidays are really suppose to be about, I hope this is comforting.
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"After What I've Done"
Based on the song "The Opened Way" from "Shadow of the Colossus"

lyrics by Joseph Blanchette


I would turn my soul to see your eyes again
Follow the voice inside so I can feel warmth once more

I'll ride across forbidden lands with sword in hand
Make the mountains bleed until there's nothing left

With every step I take, I'm lost
With every heart I spill, I'm found

I've lost to much only to be lied to
Will you love me after what I've done here?
These lyrics are taken from the first part of the song "The Opened Way" from Shadow of the Colossus"

[link]

The plot of the game is pretty minimal. A young man takes his diseased lover to a temple in the middle of a forbbiden land. Inside a mysterious voice tells him to hunt down and slay the Colossi, and he can bring her back. I won't spoil it, but there's some cool twists in it, and it ties into their previous game ICO quite well.

These lyrics are brief, but i tried to put myself into the mind of the young man, named Wander. I tried to include references to what he does in the game, but I hope its not to vague.
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The Art of Fu: A Legend Begins

I've been lucky for a while.

As a little kid, I wanted to get picked for something in class and the teacher just happened to pick me. I got the winning run in a little league game because the other team committed seventeen errors in a single play. A prize machine once paid out all its tickets to me.

It didn't happen with everything. And sometimes, on the things I wanted the most, it never seemed to work. But when I was really focused and relaxed, it was like things bended my way. It got really weird when I wanted a personal fridge in my bedroom and it just appeared one day. So far as my mom was concerned, I'd had it for years.

I thought of my friend with black hair instead of blond hair (like he always wanted) and he came to school with it one day. I always happened upon the biggest secrets in Zelda, I never died in any of the bullet hell shooters I loved, and I always won in matches verses friends.

I was humble about it with all the dirty looks I got. I tended to keep to myself with a small circle of friends. But I could tell my friends were a little…annoyed sometimes.

My martial arts film friend took a different look at it. He would always tell me that I needed to see "the Old Master" in town to develop my skill.

The Old Master had a real name but most people figured it was Douglas or something normal like that. The Old Master never gave his name. He lived on a hill far in the woods. It had been years since anyone said they had seen him.

After my friend proposed this idea, my other friends quickly picked up on it. I also heard them discussing holding big game tournaments while I was gone. I weighed the idea for a while and figured, since it was the summer and I didn't have much else to do, I would at least give it a try.

I took a walk into the woods, to the place where everyone said the Old Master lived. At the end of the dirt path, I saw the hill with steps cut into the side. The steps were small, barely large enough to plant your foot and almost as far apart as my legs could reach. I peered up but couldn't see the top.

I looked it over, wished I'd packed my brother's old hiking gear and tried the first step. Then, I heard a ding beside me. I turned and saw stone doors sliding open. Out stepped an old man, less than five feet tall. He had what looked like nose hair sideburns along his cheeks (though I hoped that wasn't the case) and a long beard on his chin to his chest. What caught my eye was that his hair (even his facial hair) was brilliant blue.

The same was true of the hair on his head, which was pulled into a tight ponytail at his neck. He was looking away from me and cracked his back like someone splitting a table. He sipped from a coffee mug with what looked to be Bugs Bunny on the side and tapped his pink sandaled feet. He also wore a lavender velvet bathrobe. Other than those oddities, he looked the part. He seemed very old with wrinkled hands but his motions were quick.

Before I could clear my throat, he asked, in a voice deeper than I expected from his small frame, "Why are you here?"

I paused a moment and tried, "Because fate led me here."

He turned from his coffee and scowled at me. "Don't be…a wise ass. I just boot out man who was sent to me by 'fate' last week."

I grimaced and said, "I have this skill. And my friend says, with training, it could really develop into something powerful."

The Old Master eyed me with his dark, steady eyes. "You realize how stupid that sounds?"

I admitted, "Yeah…but I didn't really have anything else planned."

The Old Master's eyes narrowed. He cracked his neck like the slice of a knife and approached me. He set his coffee mug at his feet and looked me in the eye.

I held steady as he reached out and put his hands around my head. His grip was tense. His skin felt strange, like it was tingling next to mine. He brought his head close, his face bulging with veins. He took a long breath in and exhaled.

Then he yelled at the top of his lungs. My ears rung for a moment.

He let go of my head and picked up his mug.

Poking a finger in my ear, I asked, "So what was that for?"

The Old Master shrugged. "It usually scares away the morons and those here on a bet. Guess you're for real. Come on…"

I walked with the Old Master to the steps. He gestured up them with his mug and said, "First test to see if you are worthy of my training. See you at the top." Then he walked back to where he emerged.

I leaned over and watched the hill open in front of the Old Master. I could hear an elevator ding and groan. I was tempted to ask him for a ride to the top but I figured that would not be a good move.

As soon as the mountain closed up, like those sliding doors in Star Trek, I took a breath, eyed the climb, and cracked my neck.

The first couple of steps weren't too bad. I remembered to lean forward so I didn't tumble straight back and to certain death once I got higher. I clawed at the dirt a little when my knees wobbled. I took each step carefully and tried to relax.

I knew my skill was there. I just needed not to think about it and focus on moving upwards. My progress was slow but I soon discovered moving sideways like a mountain goat removed a lot of the problems. It also meant I had an eye-twitching view of the ground way down below me.

I kept going despite feeling wobbly and soon made it over a crest and onto flat land. I panted and laughed to myself as I scanned over the area.

I could see a two-story house in what I could best describe as old, Chinese-style. Although I'd honestly never really seen one of those, except in movies. It had dark tiles with ends poking out at the corners. The roof wasn't particularly ornate, nor was the house itself. It had windows like a normal house. The end I saw was open. What I could see inside looked normal as well.

I took a breath and saw the Old Master approach through the opening. He had a glass of yellow liquid in his hand and was sipping from a straw. He paused in front of me and sighed.

"I guess you are serious. Fine then. But you will abide by my rules. Do you agree?"

I blinked and naturally asked, "What are the rules?"

He scowled. "Do you agree?!"

I grimaced and nodded. "I agree."

He nodded back. "Good start. Rule number the first is --- you will follow everything I say and obey my commands fully. Rule number the second….remember the first. Rule number last…seriously, remember."

That sounded pretty simple to me. Then he said, "Rule number the addendum…you buy all the groceries. And I will addendum any rules I deem…necessary."

I held onto a sigh and nodded. He beckoned me inside. The kitchen looked relatively modern. It even had a fridge and a blender as well as a nice table and a ceiling fan. The next room was a spacious living room with a blue couch, flat-screen TV, and a massive shelf full of DVDs. My eyes arched a little when I noticed all the video game consoles and classic games on a separate shelf. I could identify most of them.

The Old Master turned around, set his drink on a small table, and said, "Are you READY?"

I paused a moment, looked around, and nodded cautiously. He grunted and moved over an NES which was already on. He turned on the TV to reveal Super Mario Bros. 3 paused with Mario on the fifth world airship level. Sky World. He folded his arms and said, "Begin!"

I blinked and unpaused it. I hadn't played this particular level in years so it took a couple of tries. But I soon cleared the airship after taking care of Roy Koopa. I sighed with relief.

I got ready to play more but the Old Master plucked the controller from my hands. He paused it again and stroked his facial hair.

I waited as he walked around me. After a moment, he said, "You did very well."

"Cool. So, is this video game part of my training? Something I'm familiar with to help with focus and concentration?"

The Old Master raised his bushy blue eyebrows. "What the heck are you talking about? How would I guess that? I'm not a mind-reader. Not yet."

I pressed my lips together for a soft 'hmm' before asking, "So then you use video games in your training regularly?"

He shook his head. "I do not."

"Then why did I just play that game?"

He took a deep breath. "Because…I was stuck on that level for three days and it was annoying."

I massaged my forehead and wondered if all this was a bad idea. "Then when will my training begin?"

His eyes focused on me, even more intensely. "No one can be told when their training begins. They must begin the journey themselves."

I scratched my neck a bit. "I suppose. By the way, my name is Kyle Mason."

The Old Master gave me a steady, calm look. "You may call me Tang Fu. I am the master of Fu...and Fu is a part of my spirit. Kung Fu was barely a twinkle in the cosmos when the first Tangs had Fu. Fu is all. Fu is time. Fu can awaken all things. But it can take a long long time. Are you prepared for that commitment?!"

I sat up a little more and nodded vigorously. He watched me a moment and then put the NES aside. "I have a spare room with a roll-out bed. It is quiet and simple."

I figured my accommodations would be simple, so I was fine with that. He set up a few addendum rules. No unauthorized visitors. No loud music (which wasn't in his collection. I noticed he had Megadeth and Hammerfall CDs). Most of it seemed fine. I was here to learn my skill and this 'Fu' stuff. I could deal with some eccentricities. It was odd how much his accent seemed to randomly shift from almost-none to heavy.

Then, he added, "And you must abide by the stick."

"The stick?"

He went upstairs and returned with a long, thin wooden stick. I tensed and asked, "A punishment stick?"

"A reminder stick. Pain in small, precise doses can serve to keep the mind focused. And it makes a really fun sound when swung."

He demonstrated. The sound was halfway between a whip crack and an angry rattlesnake. He had me put out my hand. The stick flicked out. I didn't feel anything at first. Then it burned. Really really burned. Shaking it didn't help. Then it was gone.

For some reason, when the pain cleared, it felt much easier to concentrate than before. He added, "This will be a big part of your training and keeping you focused."

I stretched a bit and took a long breath. "So, this means my training has started?"

He lowered the stick and leaned his head. "Uh...yeah, I suppose so. But not because I told you!"

"Right. Any other lessons you could…impart, Master Tang?"

Tang raised an eyebrow. "Not 'Master Tang'...that sounds stupid. Like a weird cartoon character. Just Tang...or Tang Fu. And I don't have wisdom on command. I'm not a fortune cookie machine. But…you may reflect on this…"

He folded his arms and cleared his throat. "Sometimes...a lesson comes wrapped in many truths...and not truths. And you must decide."

"So I need to…." He darted the stick out and flicked me on the ear. It didn't burn quite as much as the first time but it lasted longer.

"Reflect! No "need to" thiiiis or thaaaaat. Time with reflection."

My shoulders slumped a little. This certainly wasn't going quite the way I hoped for. "Is there any good way for me to avoid getting the stick?"

Tang leaned his head back, set his face, and said, "Duck."

"Duck? As in avoid it?"

He gave me that look again but didn't flick me. "No, cook some duck for me. New addendum rule. You prepare all the meals. And you must wear a special item when you do it…"

He walked upstairs again. I wondered what was coming next. To my surprise, he brought down a pair of tall, soft rabbit ears attached to a headband. Hesitantly, I asked him, "Is this part of my training?"

He snorted. "If you were a cosplay hostess in a café. Mmmm…Ah yes…That was a good trip…" His gaze blanked for a moment. I waved a hand in front of him and he came back with a comment of, "Bunnies mean a lot to me…"

I slipped the ears on. They fit, barely. I wondered at first at the smile on Tang's face. It looked like he was ready to laugh at me. But there was something else in his look. I really hoped it was pride. Then, he sneezed and the look went away. I had to admit the ears were a little dusty.

I looked back towards the kitchen. "So, where's the duck?"

He gestured with a fanning hand and settled into the couch by the tons of shelves. "Lower fridge to the side. It's all ready. Try not to overcook it."

After a few wobbles, I found a positioning of the ears which felt the most comfortable. It was awkward but not bad. It did force me to concentrate on how I walked and moved. Every step I took required conscious effort to keep the ears from feeling unbalanced. I wondered, after all, if this was part of my training. As Tang slurped his drink, I had to have my doubts.

I opened the lower area of the fridge and peered in. A brown, living duck raised its head at me and fluffed its feathers. It had a knit, blue hat on its head. I pulled back from the door, sighed, and glanced around for the cleaver. I found one in a drawer and figured I might as well do it quick so I wouldn't have to think about it.

Out of caution though, I said, "It's not dead."

I could hear Tang jump up and look into the kitchen. He began to speak then he looked at the cleaver in my hand. "What the…were you trying to kill Douglas?"

I set the ears down on the counter along with the cleaver. "You…wanted duck."

He waved his hands with a snarl. "It's leftovers in a little baggy on the side!"

I looked beside 'Douglas' and saw a little baggy. It was a little odd to have a living duck next to a bag of duck meat.

After retrieving the baggy, I had to ask, "What's…Douglas doing in there?"

Tang sighed. "That's his home. And don't you dare take his little hat off. He hates that and he's a chomper when he's mad."

Tang mostly explained that Douglas was an 'arctic duck' he'd rescued. At least he didn't have the stick with him.

Tugging on his longest lock of blue facial hair, Tang sighed, "Alright. For this time only…get out of the kitchen before you kill something." Tang cursed under his breath in a foreign language. It took me a moment, but I soon realized it was Klingon. I wasn't very good at Klingon though, so I headed back to the other room and took a place on the couch. I checked to see that there weren't any other living things hidden around.

Leaning back to look at the rather nice ceiling, I had to wonder if I'd used all my luck with the journey up the steps. I didn't feel like crying but I felt confused, concerned, and not at all any better off here than I would've been just sitting in my room and playing video games by myself. Leaving would require walking out through the door I just came in and down those horrible steps. Or figuring out where Tang's elevator was.

To preoccupy my mind from concerns, I looked around the house a bit. Past the living room area was a narrow hallway. There was one restroom on the left with a tub and a fuzzy toilet. The soap was lavender-scented.

The elevator was rather conspicuous on the other side of the hall. I found of a couple of storage rooms, a book room with quite a bit of shoujo manga, and what seemed to be a small zen garden.

I walked up the stairs and soon found what I figured was the spare room. It was decent. About the size of my bedroom at home. It had a nice window view through a pair of oaks I saw before which were desperately clinging to the edge of the hill.

I didn't get much further before I had a sudden burning sensation on my neck and Tang's voice saying, "I said leave the kitchen…not go wandering. I like giving the whole tour!"

I followed him and the stick back to the room with the TV. He had prepared, in a surprisingly-short time, a steaming feast of duck and veggies. He showed me a scrawled recipe to memorize for when I would be cooking.

I ate cautiously as he turned on the Cartoon Network. Tang seemed to eat cautiously as well but noted, "Smacking of lips would not be an insult…" I made a bit more noise while eating to show my appreciation. The duck was good. I just found myself a little unnerved eating it as Douglas slowly waddled into the room. The look in his eyes seemed almost accusatory.

Halfway through the meal, Tang muted the sound. "I am sorry. It is not often I share this place with anyone…human. Many have said in the past that I am hard to be around."

I gave a quick little nod. Tang glared and muttered, "You didn't have to agree so swiftly…But I shall endeavor to my best effort… to show those many that they were wrong."

That in itself didn't seem to change much. Tang Fu still yelled through dinner and made pointing proclamations while telling me of all my errors. But I felt better.

And Tang still went through with the tour. He noted that keeping things clean would also be a responsibility wherever I went in the house. At the books, he aimed a finger and said, "You may borrow one book at a time. But remember…no dog-earring pages…no food or drink near a book…and don't you ever DARE bend a book on the spine!"

I assured him I shared many of his pet peeves and noted, "I'm a collector of a lot of things. I know how to take care of stuff."

He eyed me a moment and gave a nod.

We returned to the area which I figured would be my area and Tang told me as much. He said I was welcome to bring things from home. "Especially games you may own of…particular interest."

I wished I'd brought my own air mattress but the roll-out looked nice enough. Tang's bedroom was the nicest room so far. He bed looked really soft and he had what looked to be a meditation area set to one side. I saw in front of him there on a spare mat.

Tang rested his wrinkled hands on his legs and breathed out.

"Meditation always brings energy. Good for training. Now…tell me more about your abilities."

I told Tang all my experiences with my luck. He didn't interrupt me at any point, he just stroked his blue facial hair and wore the same, unshifting expression which sometimes looked a bit between concentration and constipation. When I was done, I looked to him expectantly.

He rose from his mat and said, "Excuse me a moment…"

A master bathroom adjoined the bedroom. He closed the door behind him. A few minutes later, I heard a flushing sound and sighed.

Tang returned, cleared his throat, and said, "After due reflection, I see you have much skill. You are untrained but nothing I can't shape into a force of strength and good."

Then, I saw a little twinkle in Tang's eye. "How would you like to see what I can do?"

"Absolutely." I leaned forward on the floor, waiting from some super-fast fight move or manipulation of energy or something.

"Then close your eyes."

I paused a moment but did as he said.

A few moments later, a different voice said, "Open them." The voice sounded so small, soft, and young.

I opened my eyes to a kid, who looked about twelve, standing there with long, flowing blue locks. I assumed it was a girl, or a very girlish boy. She had her arms folded just like Tang and wore a flowing purple dress with short sleeves at her shoulders, a slim form, and a wavy hem ending at her smooth knee. Her socks were long and a light shade of lavender. She brushed at her flowing locks.

"Tang?"

"Noooo….I'm his niece…Of course it's me!" Tang's glare sure felt the same on a younger, girlish body. And her voice grated the same way after that moment of softness. "I am a twelve-year-old girl."

I widened my eyes. "You mean that old man form was just a ruse and you're actually a little kid with mystical powers?"

Tang gave a cute little scowl. "Physical forms are not all that important with the right energy. I am all that you see. I am me. I am Fu…The name can be male or female…and is convenient in all forms."

Fu sat not quite as daintily as I expected for her shape. She folded her arms again. "You may always ask any questions you wish. Except about the color of my underwear! That's private!"

I shook my head and assured her, "Don't worry, Fu. I don't think of you that way in the least." The glare Fu sent me in response to that looked particularly annoyed. She grumbled, "I do have an older form. She's really…developed. But I find this one most relaxing."

I reassured Fu that she was very pretty. I thought for a split second that there would be a moment like from an anime where the younger girl character blushes from the comment of an older boy in a harem sort of show. Instead, Fu leaned her head back a little and said, "Naturally. I am very beautiful. Dainty like a flower. Smooth like silk. And just as quick as always."

I gained some amusement from the idea of hearing Fu say that in his once-rough voice. My amusement showed in a slight smile. Fu glared and drew the stick from wherever it was hiding within her dress. She set it down and said, "But I am slower to annoyance like this. And I have much to teach one as rough and untrained as you. We begin now…"

Fu started me off with breathing exercises for concentration and the rabbit ears returned. Although I had to wonder about them as girl Fu had trouble hiding little snickers as she gazed at them on my head.

Like before in the kitchen though, they were a distraction for my wandering mind to keep my focus up. I felt like I was actually getting somewhere. That first training session was short because little Fu wanted to watch the Powerpuff Girls on DVD. After that, we played Super Smash Brothers Melee (Fu vented for a bit about the changes in Brawl).

During that time, I tried to replicate the focus and wins from competition with my friends. I felt the same as I did then but Fu got all the lucky saves from falling out of bounds. Fu hung on despite a very high percentage. I was KOed several times in a row. And Fu used Pichu to beat me.   

As the victory theme played, I pondered about what other questions to ask Fu. She gave a big, girlish yawn. The light was dimming out the doors and windows. Fu mentioned to me, "If you want to bring anything for the night, you better get it now."

I had packed a bag at home but at the time I wasn't sure if I even had a chance of finding anyone out in the woods. I had to ask, "Can I take the elevator down?"

Fu rubbed her little neck and grunted. I assumed that was about the same as a 'yes'.

It felt so quiet walking home at dusk. At home, mom listened as I told her the situation. Of course, I did characterize Tang Fu more favorably than honestly. She told me to stop by at home if ever needed anything. I gave her a big hug.

I made sure to pack in plenty of really interesting games from my collection. I made sure I had enough everything I could imagine needing for the stay and packed my favorite pillow and toothbrush.

The walk back took longer in the growing night and with all I was hauling. By the time I'd gotten back to the house in the woods and made my way up the elevator (I'd found the wall was motion-activated), I felt pretty tired.

After setting my stuff in my room, I looked for Fu. She was curled up on the sofa with her arms under her head and her legs tight against her. I was tempted to reenact another cliché by carrying her to her bed and tucking her in. But, knowing Fu, she was liable to boot me in the face and whip out a stick by the time I put my arms around her.

Instead, I did a couple of quick stretches and exercises. By the time I was done, Fu sat up and looked around. She watched me a moment and said, "Physical exercise is good for relaxation. Tomorrow, I will show you a number of new exercises for releasing your abilities. For now, what time is it?"

I quoted the time for Fu and she immediately got up and started a new video game (Turtles in Time). I joined in for a bit until I started to get drowsy.

As I was playing, I felt a weird sensation. I was incredibly relaxed. Some of the feeling of exercising remained with me. The actions of jumping and fighting in the game also seemed to have an effect on me. I felt somewhat detached, as though floating in my own body.

Then, a sudden tension pressed at my forehead and nose. It was a little like having a sudden cold, but not sore. Instead, it was like there was a force inside my head, like something that wanted to get out.

In that moment, I looked over to Fu and wondered what it would be like if she actually acted like a girl her age. My vision rippled a little and Fu's expression changed. She smiled a little wider. She actually giggled.

I paused the game suddenly and she pouted at me. "What'd you do that for?"

"Are you okay, Fu?"

She wiggled her feet and said, "Yuppers! But I really really wanna beat this level, so can we?"

Hesitantly, I nodded to her and we worked our way through it. After we finished off Bebop and Rocksteady, Fu jumped up from her controller and did a little dance. She twirled in her dress. I asked her again if she was okay.

She gave a little smirk this time. "Oh? And why wouldn't I be okay? I'm just acting like a girl my age…"

I tensed up for a sticking that never came. Fu cracked her neck and said, "That was very good…for a beginner. I almost changed because of it. But I decided to play along. Now, I have an understanding of your energy focus. It is very much like mine."

I listened but understood very little about what Fu talked about. It was all very abstract and weird and metaphysical. She paused and I asked, "So is this 'Fu' thing kinda like the Force?"

Fu sighed to herself. "Actually…yeah. That probably work better. Only don't go assuming you're the Chosen One or anything. A lot of people have it but they don't wake up to it. So it is probably mere, dumb coincidence that we met. "

Through the rest of the game, I didn't have any further flashes. I was getting very tired and I had a lot of quick deaths. We didn't make to Krang or anywhere near the end of the game. I took a shower first and got ready for bed. Fu was still up with Super Mario Bros. 3.

I tried the roll out. It smelled of lavender. Really nice. Nothing like I expected for something stuck in the corner, almost like it had been prepared for me in advance (unlike the dusty ears). I did ponder whether I somehow unconsciously willed all this with my luck or maybe Fu willed me here because he was lonely.

I paused to think on it but rejected either option. Before long, I was asleep.

I didn't remember my dreams and next thing I knew was the word, "Breakfast."

Tang was standing over me, returned to old man form. I was a little disappointed to see his wrinkled features. He seemed to notice my disappointment as he remarked, with narrowed eyes, "Sorry I'm not as pretty today."

I blushed bright, which was apparently all Tang wanted. He laughed and added, "But seriously…breakfast. I want eggs…over easy. And don't try to take them from Douglas. He's currently male…" I made a note for the rest of Tang's breakfast.

After washing up and dressing, I made my way to the kitchen. Since my brother had always made breakfast and was ever eager to teach me about cooking, it wasn't all that hard. I made something similar for myself with the resources in the fridge. And I gave a little salute to Douglas. He turned his head and glared, bill aimed out.

With both plates in my hands, I walked back to what I considered the gaming room. My eyes widened. Fu was sitting on the couch and she was a girl again. Only she wasn't a kid. She was about my age.

Her hair was still blue and just as long. And she was dressed in sky-blue flannel pants and a t-shirt. The pants looked like the kind someone would wear just out of bed. They were very nice with the mature curve to Fu's hips and her slim legs. Her t-shirt had a high neck-line but the shape of her chest was unmistakable. Naturally, I thought of video game characters to compare her look to. Kula Diamond from King of Fighters sprung to my mind first. Maybe a bit older but close.

Fu brushed her hair back and said, "You better not drop my breakfast…and no eyeballing my boobies!" Her voice was actually still the same as Old Master Tang. The oddity of the situation struck me right then.

Breakfast went as well as could be expected with my curiosity about Fu's new form and my paranoia that a punishing glare or a stick to the head was next.  

Without preamble, Fu said, in Tang's voice, "I relax best in my other form but I use this one as well sometimes. I have many."

I chewed slowly and tried to focus on my meal. "When did you first discover your skills?"

Fu eased back in the couch. "During the Battle of Red Cliffs."

My eyes widened. I knew my Chinese history. Mostly from playing versions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dynasty Warriors.

I stammered out, subtracting in my head, "You're over 1800 year old!?"

Fu laughed and gestured with a fork. "No! I was playing an old video game…and I had this moment…of what can only be described as perfect epiphany. All the world seemed to crystallize into perfect harmony. Like all of heaven was singing. And I beat the game…no problem. But…it took time to master my new skills. Time and patience, as I have said. As 'Fu' is."

After breakfast, Fu rose and beckoned me to rise as well. She faced me and looked me in the eye. I took such an effort not to look her over that she started glaring at me. She put her hands up and said, "Stop…you have my permission. Look and get it out of your system!"

I looked all over Fu's cute form. Several minutes later, Fu grumbled, "Done yet?!"

Eventually, I was.

Fu gripped my hands while facing me. Together, she showed me some tips for meditation. They ranged from stillness to tension. She explained that action worked as well as inaction for focusing the mind. That fit with my experience playing through the video game when I had a flash.

I breathed. I flexed. I even did a little scream session with Fu till my ears were ringing like yesterday.

After that, Fu gave me some books to read. Some of it was poetry. Some of it was manga. And there were even a few strategy guides. Reflecting on the complexity, and yet simplicity, of Street Fighter combos, I found myself floating again.

I settled into it. I let it consume me. Fu had left me alone in my room and I couldn't hear anything else. Not even the expected bird sounds outside. It was like being in my own little world. I breathed so slowly. I concentrated so precisely.

Looking in the corner carefully, so as not to break my focus, I found the rabbit ears from the day before. They found their way to my head despite the fact I couldn't remember picking them up and putting them on. The balance required felt like one of those superpower moments in animes and games. It all flashed.

But not like the last time. And not like the times before. I felt like I was reaching a new level or level-up. I stretched out for it without pressing myself. Like extending my arms, I touched it. I glowed. Everything glowed with light. The light had the tint of a rich field of grass. I embraced the light and it flowed all over me.

As the light began to fade, the sounds returned. Everything else snapped into being.

I stood and smiled. Then something else happened.

I felt it first like a little tickle down my spine. Then it felt like something had sprung a leak and phantom sensations were spilling out all over my body.

I felt a wave that seemed less to be flowing out than stretching inwards from my fingers and toes and radiating towards the center of my body. My fingers seemed more energized and the tingle in my toes was refreshing as well.

I let it flow further inward, though I doubted I could stop it. I looked to my hands. They seemed to undulate inwards, smaller. A few of the fingers shifted in length. My wrist narrowed as well. I could move it a little but I didn't feel the urge to move it more than that.

The undulation spread up my arms and to my shoulder. They looked so soft and small. I noticed down below that my legs had become bare. My pants were gone. None of this seemed to worry me at the time but I felt a rising concern that I couldn't quite place or express.

At my waist, I felt the undulation flow outward at my hips, shifting into the kind of perfect hips I'd seen on Fu. My waist sucked inward and so did something else...something much more important.

The tingle radiated over that area with sensations I'd never felt before. It felt very relaxing right then.

The sensations in my arms joined the ones rising at my waist. A lime skirt fringe formed at my waist and slipped to my knee. The rest of the dress stretched upwards.

What came closest to breaking my relaxation was the pressing sensation of my chest against the dress. The tingles gave me a slow shiver, slipped up my neck, and dissipated into the air above me.

When they rushed out, I immediately returned to my senses and sought out the nearest mirror. My scampering was accompanied by clear, uncomfortable jiggles and a flurry of green locks flowing around my face. And the rabbit ears tumbling on the floor behind me. I left them for the moment.

The mirror confirmed a few suspicions. I was shorter and female. My face was smooth, similar to before, but thoroughly feminized to resemble a girlish version of my dad with a few touches, like mom's dimples and the curve of her nose. My teeth, unfortunately, felt about the same, filled cavities and all.

What stuck out more than anything else, quite literally, was my chest. 'They' were well below the absurdities of Taki and Ivy from Soul Calibur, but were far above what I'd seen on mature Fu. Peeking under my dress, I gulped. I immediately thought of Litchi Faye Ling from BlazBlue.

My hips also looked like something from a video game. They swelled out so much and showed especially in the slim dress I was wearing. I squirmed a bit when I realized that not only had my groin changed to match all the rest but the underwear I wore was a bit too snug.

After some adjustments, I braved my way out of the restroom and down to the game room. Fu was still there. She'd shifted into little girl form again. The expression on her face made me think she'd expected this to happen.

She said, "Didn't expect this. Not so soon. Suppose it is confession time then…"

Fu took a deep breath. "I was an old man, long into my training when I first unlocked my skill. But my first form…not even consciously-formed… related to my essence. The blue of my hair related in some way to my aura or something…like that. My youth related to….whatever influenced that. Uh…but the point is…that first form…I remained in for a good while. Till I learned how to change my body on my own. No matter what after that…I always had blue hair."

It would've been nice for him to tell me about that earlier but I sighed and nodded. "Well, if I got to this point faster, maybe I can get to the shifting skill faster?"

Fu pulled out a Wavebird controller from behind a cushion. "You better get on it. Unless you don't mind being known as 'the boobie lady'." Fu gave a little smirk.

I winced and wondered again if Fu could read my mind about the Litchi thought. Then again, she probably had all versions of BlazBlue somewhere.

Before we settled down to a game of Smash Brothers, Fu shifted the reality of my clothes. Some of my new clothes looked like something which could go with the ears in a fetish café. But Fu did give me plenty of comfortable outfits.

With some good support for my chest, a loose top, and some soft pants, I was ready to begin the next leveling up of my luck. As we sat down, Fu handed me the rabbit ears. I half-wondered if Fu included them as a distraction so she could further hand me my ass. But her expression was calm and friendly.

Her next words were, "Although, I hope you get on it soon…because no way you stay here rent-free forever…Of course, I do have a couple laptops and a good webcam. And there are plenty of people out there willing to watch the right cosplay for a price. Green hair, a cute fuku, and that figure…"

I eyed Fu and she chuckled in her little voice. I grimaced at first but then I smiled and put the ears on. "Plenty of people also wouldn't mind a cute girl with blue hair and the right cosplay."

Fu snorted. "…How do you think I pay for things around here? Douglas lays golden eggs when he's a girl duck? No way! But you know…they might pay more for two cute girls in matching outfits…"

I laughed and steadied my ears. Fu chuckled in her own little way and said, "Later. For now… let's go so I can teach you in how to be schooled by Marth's counter!"

I have been lucky for a while. And I still am.



So ends…The Art of Fu: A Legend Begins.

Next time…

Douglas sails over.

"No sequel! QUAAAAACK!"
This was a lot of fun to write. It kinda spiraled beyond the original kiriban request by :iconsolarismaid: though it still has all the elements they requested.

I really enjoyed it although I think I used all my best jokes in the first half...although it's okay. I wanted it to be funny but not every moment of it. I wanted to give the characters breathing room too ^^.

This is another story rife with references. ^^
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The most glorious collaboration of collaborative-ness episode,
Every panel here is done by different artist and slightly refined by me!

Behold the masters behind this feast of fancy:

1. :iconaddict-se:
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Rose Lalonde is not familiar with adults. Her mother only invites friends for "tea" on occasion, and they all might as well be the same woman. They form a blurred parade in her mind, a never ending procession of socialites toeing the line of middle-age. She sees their different outfits, different press-dried hairstyles, but always, always that same copy-pasted smile fresh from the school of passive aggressive knocks. Oh, what a charming dress, I remember having one like that as a little girl. Oh, you're still writing your little stories? Good for you, it's good to spread out of those dark little horror books you always read. Little, little, little- always the operative word.

Mr. Egbert is different. For one thing he is, as his name may suggest, a man. Her experience with older men is almost non-existent, and from her point of view they might as well be a different species from her entirely: silent, rugged beasts stalking jungles of business suits and automobiles. He does indeed own both, but he doesn't seem dominated by them. He doesn't seem dominated by any particular thing, except perhaps his extensive collection of harlequins.

That's what he's showing her right now, as she offers polite nods and John pulls faces by her side. Another person might have not believed that so many figurines, paintings, and statues could be composed based around one subject-but all she can think of is her mother and her silly wizards.  Well, alright, that's one similarity.

But he's something different entirely from her mother.

She picks it up when he compliments her dress—a modified version of her old black velvet ensemble, with a white bib collar. She casually mentions she's fixed it up herself, opening herself to about a dozen snarky comments her mother could have come up—and all he says is "you knit?" Before she knows it, she's talk animatedly about John's gift and her assorted modified outfits.

By the time dinner rolls around John sarcastically mentions how he should bring his dad for their next date so he can ask her how she's doing, and she blushes. Stupid. How long had she been rambling? Stupid, foolish…and yet, Mr. Egbert had been nothing but polite about her trusting openness. Polite, bringing up her hobbies in order to let her talk as much as she wanted, and not a snarky comment to be found.

In short, he had been kind.

(suspicious)

They sit at the table, the meal laid out in front of them sumptuous- but suspiciously sweet-free. She has an amusing mental image of John standing behind him in the kitchen like a stern teacher trying to catch an unruly pupil cheating. And that's when the questions roll out, all the tried and true inquiries she's run into dozens of times: what does she want to do when she's older (preferably something in psychology), how she's doing in school (almost depressingly well), and so on, and so on.  On the surface she gives polite answers, in her mind she dissects his words from every angle.

And nothing.

No ulterior motive, no silent adult in-jokes, no sarcasm. His questions sound hand-picked from a parenting magazine, but apart from their blandness they're well intentioned. He doesn't prod her one-syllable answers for more information, doesn't push—although, since John is more than eager to fill in her blanks, ("psh, older nothing. She's already giving the teachers advice!") perhaps it's unnecessary.

In short, he had been understanding.

(suspicious)

And when dinner is over and the three sit on the couch lazily listening to the news, John asks him if they can go to his room so he can show her the video game Dave sent him. Rose's ears perk at this, for she has a feeling that this isn't the only game he wants to play—after all, the younger Egbert had been paying more attention to her dress than his father had.  And without raising an eyebrow he nods, letting two teenagers just barely finding their hormones stay in a room. Alone. Far from his eyes or ears.

In short, he had been trustworthy.
(very

suspicious)

Rose Lalonde is not stupid. She knows what to do with unfamiliar data: analyze. And before the pair reaches the top of the stairwell, she reaches her conclusion:

it's a trap.

...

"Wait, what?" John turns away from the searing graphics on the computer screen to look at her. "He's doing what now?"

Rose sighs, smoothing her skirt primly. "It's very simple John. Although I would hate to imply that your guardian would have sinister motives, the facts are that it's impossible for someone of that age to be so shamelessly kind to a teenager. Your father is very obviously trying to get me to lower my defenses, in order to perform a symbolic dissection of sorts— he wants to see if this frog is suitable for the son he is so proud of."

John's mouth twitches—he seems conflicted between smiling and frowning. "Rose." And his voice comes out so solemn she almost laughs. "You are not a frog."

"…That is so far from the point it's helping Dave render JPEG artifacts in Houston. Speaking of which," Rose squints at the wild mishmash of colors on his screen. "What on Earth is this game, anyways?  The music could be used to kill a small dog."

"Oh, I dunno, some conksuck indie thing. Whatever it is, I'm probably losing." He frowns. "Aw crap, I think I caught on fire! Or maybe I'm being eaten by a bunch of red pygmies. " Resetting the game, he leaves his hand tapping thoughtfully on the desk. "But seriously Rose, I think you're overthinking things. Dad seems to really like you! And even if he does have sucky taste in decoration and is a mindless slave to the Crocker crone, he's not that bad a guy."

"While that may be true…"

"Yeah?"

She blows her pale bangs. "It just seems unnatural…I mean, I suppose I understand being polite, but…why nice? Why nice to me?"

John rolls his eyes. "Oh, I dunno Rose, maybe it's cause for all your doom and gloom you're a nice person? A GOOD person? Maybe it's cause you're smart and polite and interesting and those are usually GOOD things?"

He pauses, she blinks. For a moment the two hover in a somewhat shy silence, until he turns to her with a kind (if sheepish) grin. "Maybe you just deserve better than you think you do."

Rose's face may be impassive, but she can feel heat rising in her cheeks. "…flattery aside, John, I'm waiting for when the other shoe drops. I am missing something." John simply sighs and shakes his head, turning back to the computer.

Rose shifts in her rolling chair, bare feet swishing gently at the floor. Could he be right? Could it be possible that a parent could be so supportive and sincere? And if that was the case…well, where could she get one?

She sighs, laying her cheek in her palm. Maybe she did misread him. She hated to think she was losing her touch, but tonight both Egberts had surprised her. The elder had proven himself to being an upfront, non-passive aggressive (!), caring parent. And John…well, it turned out John really had wanted to show her a laughably awful game. Strangely enough, she was finding herself more disappointed in that than her failed psychoanalysis.

"Hey." The voice pulls her from her thoughts. "Besides him being…like, nice and everything, what is it that makes you so suspicious?"

"Too trusting," she says immediately.

"Huh?" He talks without taking his eyes from the screen. Somehow he's gotten the hang of the game. "How?"

She gives her eyes a slight roll. "Well, the fact that we're here right now is a good starting point. Mother wouldn't have…actually, no, she would have let us be in my room alone, but she also would be popping by every five minutes. Dropping off sarcastic little cookies, smiling that condescending little smile..." Oh dear, and now she has a case of the littles as well. "But then there's your father. I'm willing to wager that if you were to march downstairs and request I spend the night, he would give you nothing but a single, masculine tear and the old family heirloom."

"The Colonel Sassacre book?"

"A condom."

John's shoulders jolt, and his character dies nosily in an explosion of Technicolor gore. The game forgotten, he inclines his face very, very slightly towards her. "I…don't follow." He's blushing.

Rose leans back in her chair, eyes on the ceiling. "Well, John. Usually, one has his reasons for inviting a lady to his room, and typically those reasons, even those not involving contraception, are not to try and make each other's eyes bleed via 'conksuck' gamery."

Seconds pass in silence, and Rose begins to worry that's she's insulted him. But when she brings her gaze back to meet his, she is surprised to find a very shrewd expression on the boy's face.

The screen is black.

"Well, Rose." He slides his chair close to hers, the definition of suave. "Usually, one doesn't go being all passive-aggressive towards their awesome boyfriends. But," he leans close, voice going faux-baritone. "For you, I'm willing to overlook sUUDAUGH-."

THUD.

Apparently his swag has been too much, for John's face meets the floor, the movement simultaneously sending Rose's chair wheeling backwards. "John?!" She leaps up. "Are you alright?"

"Y-yeah." He picks up his head with a sheepish grin, and Rose leans down to help him to his feet. "I'm fine, I was just…kinda maybe trying to do something I saw in a movie once."

"…Ah. Color me shocked."

John pouts, but before he can respond she gives him a gentle kiss on the mouth. "I appreciate the gesture, if not the originality." Rose pulls back a bit, pressing her forehead to his and looking into his eyes. "Let's forgo the rising action for the moment, shall we?"

Too dazed to reply out loud, he simply nods with a goofy grin.

They drift to the bed. For a moment they can only look at each other with somewhat nervous smiles, only to break the silence with a simultaneous chuckle.  Surprisingly it's John who takes the initiative, leaning in with a quick kiss, as if he might lose the nerve at any moment. Rose's hands go up in surprise, only to find their place on his cheeks.

She loses herself in the haze of the kiss for a moment, closing her eyes as her mind goes blissfully blank. The contours of his mouths are slowly becoming familiar to her, lips, teeth…tongue, that's certainly new. Her fingers move to tousle messy black hair, making a pleased noise rumble from his throat. John leans in further, so far that they tumble backwards onto the bed.

He pulls back a moment to look down at her, almost as if in shock, almost as if just realizing 'oh yeah, you are my girlfriend and not some amazing dream.' Slowly he grins, almost sultry, and tilts his head to gaze at her over his glasses. "Wow," he says in his best Bruce Willis drawl. "I'd ask you for a light, but looks like you've already lit my fire."

She…stares at him, eyelids lowered.

"No no, wait," he flusters, "…okay, well you're definitely the Seer of Light because you've seared my..." Stare. "Wait, no, because you've lit..." Stare. "No, 'cause...cause...h-hey, quit laughing!" He sputters indignantly, seeing her shaking shoulders. A blush blooms in his cheeks as the chuckles bubble out of her lips. "This is my best material here!"

"My word." Rose manages to put a staunch on her laughter with a near-perfect smirk. "To what do I owe such an honor?" She claps a hand to her mouth in faux-awe. "How many hearts have your words broken? How many starving children run to the streets to offer their starving backs as your soapbox? Why, John, I am….truly, truly touched."

"Oh, HA, Rose. All of my HAs." He rolls his eyes with comic exaggeration. She smiles, suddenly sitting up so that their eyes are level. With a pointer finger she closes his jaw mid-retort.

"I'm already your girlfriend, John. I would say that pickup lines are fairly redundant at this point."

"They're not pickup lines, they're just…!" John's eyes dip. "Just…lines. I dunno, it just feels like I should say something. I just want …oh jeez, this is so corny and you will make fun of me for the rest of our lives." The blush in his cheeks darkens, even touching his ears. "I want to make you as happy as you make me."

Her mouth opens but no words come. For a moment she can do nothing but blink. "I…" Oh lord, and now she's blushing. "Well…I would assure you that you're doing a fairly spectacular job, but I have severe doubts that I could make you as happy as you do for me. As you just did."

"A-ha!" He beams with triumph. "So it did work!"

Rose sighs, giving her head a little shake. "So it did. You win this round, Egbert." Despite herself she smiles. "Claim your reward."

And he does, leaning in so they sit against the headboard. As they kiss one of her hands meets his to lace their fingers together—because the sappiness levels of this night weren't high enough, oh no.  She sighs in her head, half in exasperation, half in happiness. He really was corrupting her.

Minutes pass in content silence. After a time John takes his hand from hers, moving it to place it on her upper arm. The fingers twitch a little there, feeling the soft black material of her sleeve, and slowly his hand scoots to her shoulder, just barely touching. Then lower…lower…

Her eyes snap open in surprise, and he suddenly pulls back, shamefaced. "S-sorry! Is that not-? Oh geez, I'm sorry, that was total-!"

His voice trails away when she guides his hand back to the curve of her chest. A moment of startled blinking later he gets it, and his face lights up. He moves back in eagerly.

Things become slow and warm. His kisses turn slow, almost dreamy, his hand giving gentle rubs. Rose shivers, bringing her own hand back to tangle his black hair. She opens her eyes slowly, wanting to take a moment to gaze intOH MY GOD MR. EGBERT.

For what feels like an eternity he simply stands there, his head just emerging from behind the door. Rose freezes like a rabbit in the eyes of a wolf, her mouth going stiff against John's. And the boy goes on obliviously, kissing and feeling her right under the gaze of his dad. At another time, another place, Rose would have been practically bouncing in her seat at the opportunity to analyze the situation: the unwilling heir, disdainful of the loving father, taking his lady right under the enemy's eyes, a beautifully, nearly Oedipal puzzle…

And yet, somehow, she cannot summon the excitement.

Seconds stretch into hours. Rose's eyes feel as wide as dinner plates, her mouth attempting to form thoughts without a lick of success. Mr. Egbert simply stares. And stares. His face is totally impassive—he might as well not have eyes or a mouth for how much emotion Rose can pick up from him. And finally…time seems to fall back into place, and he steps back. The door clicks shut without a sound.

"…Rose?" John pulls back from her with a frown of concern. "A-are you alright?"

"…" She blinks, as if coming out of a trance. "I…sorry?"

"You stopped all of a sudden…and you look really pale!" He bites his lip anxiously. "Are you feeling okay?"

"No…I mean, no, I feel fine." If "fine" meant "seized up in mortification, eyes still stuck in a saucer-sized stare." She shakes her head. "I'm just…"

"Did I…like, come on too strong or something?" he stutters, bowing his head in a flustered way. "I'm sorry! I just thought you were liking it, a-and, if you didn't I'm really-!"

Oh god, why did he have to be so sincere?  "No, no, please don't apologize, it's not your fault, I…"

"What?"

"…may I lie down for a moment?"


...

The moment apparently lasted longer than she had intended, for by the time Rose awakens the sun has disappeared. Thoughts untangling themselves from the snarls of sleep, she blinks groggily at the darkness. Gradually she comes to an understanding of the situation:  this is not her room. She is still at John's house, specifically, in his room, specifically, in his bed—specifically, in his arms. He holds her close under the sheets, his cheek against hers, chest falling down and up in gentle breathes. Realization washes over Rose slowly, synching up well with the deepening color of her face, and she quickly sits up-

-or makes an attempt to, for as she tries to pull away from John he shifts in his sleep, tightening his hold on her.  For a moment she just lies there as he clings to her, nuzzling her temple.

She sighs. "John."

"mmnghf…"

Rose turns her head to him and taps his forehead with her own. "John…"

With a slight snort he stirs, blinking dully behind his glasses. "Uh…oh…"  It takes him a moment to register the girl in front of him. "…oh." After a moment of surprised (if pleased) silence, he gives a slightly drowsy grin. "Eheh…good morning, I guess."

She ducks her head a bit, concealing most of her face under the sheets. "...evening, you mean. I…I'm assuming I fell asleep?"
"

Yeah, you kinda did." He chuckles as he straightens his glasses. "I actually wanted to watch you and I sorta...joined you "

And she's suddenly thankful for the cover of darkness. "Ugh." She buries her face under the blanket. "You are so—tell me, why are you so insistent in converting me into such a saccharine dope? You're sweet enough for the both of us."

He laughs. "Aw! Well, believe it or not, you're sweeter than you thi…"

Rose frowns, peeking out to find John frozen with a look of vague horror.
"

Sweet…"

"J…John? Is everything alright?"

"The smell." His eyes bulge with horror. "Oh no. OH NO. Oh god, I told him, I TOLD him not to-!" In the space of a second he's untangled himself from the sheets and is on the floor, running out the door. "Daaaah, dammit Dad-!"

She's left utterly perplexed on the bed. Rose straightens up, and after a moment she can hear the sounds of an argument downstairs. Curiously, she picks herself off the bed and walks to the door… to be immediately hit by a powerful, sweet scent.

The scent of baked goods.

...

In the kitchen she finds John gesticulating furiously at his father, his words mangled by utter disbelief. But even with his sputtered angrish, its clear what the source of his annoyance is—the enormous, decadently-frosted cake that stands tall and magnificent on the kitchen table. Mr. Egbert's face is oddly complacent, as if he's used to John's impudence about baked goods. He simply goes about the kitchen, cleaning up various utensils and ingredients all while John goes on with his rant of oh my god you said you weren't and I can't believe you did this when she was still in the house she is going to see this and she will think we're a family of weirdass baking friars or something and AGAIN with the cake what IS it with you and CAKE MAN it's like-

"Excuse me."

The two look up at her. Rose shifts her weight from one foot to the other. "Is…is that red velvet?"

Mr. Egbert smiles.

...

"You know, aside from the color, this is quite good."

"Mmph."

"Did you know red velvet isn't actually a flavor? It's actually just chocolate cake with copious amounts of food dye."

"Suuuper."

Rose smiles, nibbling the bite of cake as she looks over at the table. She's impressed—all this time she had been fearing that John's father was…well, not foolish, but someone too simple or sincere to conspire against their child. Thankfully, her initial theories had been proven correct--for all his kindness, Mr. Egbert was still an adult.

And she has to admit, she's impressed. Even her mother, with all her little antics and displays, had never been able to come up with something like this. And as Rose's eyes skim the frosted message across the cake's top-

(SON—CONGRATULATIONS ON THE COPPING OF YOUR FIRST FEEL

I AM SO PROUD OF YOU)

-she can't help but give a shiver of awe. She truly is dealing with a pro.

"either Rose or Dave are going out with John, and meet Mr Egbert for the first time

and Mr Egbert is so straightforward and NICE to them it completely freaks them the fuck out. Adults aren't supposed to be so supportive and nice and easy to read damnit what is going on"

spoiler: I wrote 3700 words just to make that cake possible
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“Dreyden… We need to talk.”

That was what she said. That was where it all ended. Or where it all began, depending on which way you looked at it.

“This just… isn’t working. I mean-… Listen-… I love you. I’m never going to say that I don’t, but-…”

It was already over, and he knew it.

It wasn’t the first time he’d dealt with a breakup, but it was the first time that it hurt.

Dreyden Blazer hadn’t had a single thing ever turn out right in his life. Twenty-five years of absolute failure, constant disappointment, and an impressive amount of rotten luck.

That was just life, as far as he was concerned.

Ever since he was born, Dreyden believed, it had always been his destiny to be nothing more than a screw-up. Because that’s what he was: a mistake.

His brother was the one they wanted. Brian was the good child. Brian was the successful one. He was thirty-two now; handsome, muscular- and everything, absolutely everything seemed to work out for him somehow. He was the one who would take over the family business (Dreyden wasn’t even sure what his father did- something about sales management? Stock market? Briefcases. Expensive suits and important business meetings. That was all he knew.), he was married to a beautiful woman, he had a beautiful daughter, and a son on the way. He lived in a big expensive house, and drove a big expensive car. He was tall, and well-built. He had nice teeth and nice hair and wore fancy suits that cost more money than some people saw in a year.

Brian got good grades all through school, graduated with honors, and was the beloved captain of the football team in the private high school he had attended. And now Brian’s daughter was the best reader in her class and impressed the grandparents with how brilliant she was. “Such a precious child!” Brian’s father and mother exclaimed. “She’s gorgeous! She’s so creative! She’s a prodigy! She’ll be President one day!”

Dreyden, on the other hand, was the accident. Mom and dad weren’t careful enough one night and there he was, nine months later.

Now, they never told him they didn’t want him. They’d tell their friends he was a “surprise!” and then rapidly change the subject if ever it was brought up.

But Dreyden knew in the way they treated him and the way they looked at him compared to how they looked at Brian- he was as much a “surprise” as coming home to find that your house burned down when you went on vacation, and that was the truth.

Dreyden was tall, too, and maybe not as athletic or well built as his brother, but was used to physical labor (considering most of the jobs he’d had consisted of doing yard work and chopping firewood for the neighbors) and couldn’t be called a weakling, even so. But he wasn’t handsome like Brian.

Dreyden’s skin was greyer; his hair a jumbled black mess sticking out of a grey thrift store beanie, his tired eyes a dull grey, with no life to them at all. He wore the same old stitched-up worn out grey jacket, jagged striped brown and green shirt, and scruffy old cargo pants every single day (though he claimed he washed them- at least sometimes.) His nose was big and unflattering, his eyes seemed to have permanent exhausted bags under them, and he forever smelled of smoke.

He’d started smoking just about when he’d dropped out of high school and filled his ears full of metal piercings. He lived with his parents and couldn’t hold a job for longer than a week, somehow.

He never smiled. He never did anything. The only thing he seemed to enjoy was music. He’d spend hours lost in the wave of sound from his stereo, content just to lie around in the mess of his room and listen.

He went through girlfriend after girlfriend and none of them stayed long. He didn’t seem to mind. They’d leave, and he’d just shrug and move on to find the next one. That was all it was. So long as he had somebody to share his bed with now and then when his parents weren’t home, that was good enough for him.

But Chloe was different.

Chloe Bailey’s arms were all covered in dragon tattoos, and she, too, had piercings all over her face. She’d cut her lovely blonde hair short and dyed it all black as night, and nearly given her mother a heart attack.

But she was sweet and pretty, and she was the first one who believed that Dreyden Blazer was more than just a mistake.

She had tried to believe that, anyway.

She knew there was more to him than that- but no matter how she tried to convince him to try again to get a job, and try again to find an apartment to move to, and try again to do something, anything with his life that wasn’t just listening to music all day long- he never did.

“Dreyden… I tried… to make this work. I wanted this to work. But if you’re-… if you’re never going to try, if you’re never going to get serious… I’m leaving. I don’t ever want us to hate each other, that’s not what I mean at all, I just-…”

She smoothed out her hair, and her silver hoop earrings jangled around as she shook her head.

“I’m done.”

“…A’right…” Dreyden said softly.

“Is that it? Just “alright,” that’s all you’re going to say?”

“What d’ya want me to say?” He looked up, sighing. “I ain’t good enough for ya, I get it.”

“What? That’s not what I-“

“No, I know that’s not what you meant. But it’s true.” Dreyden stood up. “I’m not. And I’m never gonna be, and that’s all there is to it.” He let out a long sigh. “I’m not sayin’ that to be bitter at ya, I’m sayin’ it ‘cause it’s a fact. And I know that.”

He turned to leave.

“I hope y’find a way to be happy, Chlo. S’all I care about.”

-x-

“Son, we need to talk.”

There it was again. Dreyden’s least favorite phrase in the world, back once again to bring more bad news.

He couldn’t look his father in the eyes, somehow.

“You can’t stay here anymore.”

Dreyden still refused to look at him.

“You need to go out and start your own life. We’re not going to hold your hand anymore, you’re an adult, not a child, and it’s time you started living like one. Get out of my house, I don’t care where you go, I don’t care what you do- just find something to do with yourself, Dreyden!”

And that was it.

That was the last time he would see his parents for years to come.

Dreyden didn’t know where he was going. He just knew he had to get as far away from that house as possible, as fast as possible. He got on the first bus out of town and stayed there until the very last stop.

He watched the scenery fly past out the windows. Cities changed to long open stretches of blank highway, and blank highway changed to trees. He found himself venturing on a crowded bus through a forest so dense the trees blocked out the sky. Eventually the wood began to thin out, until the bus stopped one last time, at a little town called Brookton.

He wasn’t sure where he was, exactly, and he’d never heard of the place, but it was away from his parents, and that was all that mattered.

With the little money his father had left him to get started, he got into the cheapest motel he could find for the night, and started to try to form some kind of a plan to survive.
AAAAAH
AAAAAHAHAAHAHAAAAA
IT HAS A BEGINNING
LOOK
A BEGINNING I WROTE A BEGINNING AWW MAAANN
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Who will survive?
:+fav: and read zee next RA comic to find out!
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Read RA webcomic from the beginning at:
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Delicious WWW.ROM.AC([link]) guest comic by ~Engel-of-the-Wired

Want to do a guest comic for Romantically Apocalyptic?
Send me a note!

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Want to draw something fun for captain?
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