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Chapter 11-2: The Vexing Vixen


It’s unfathomable that all of that happened. I honestly can’t believe it. If my memory didn’t get jogged when Monika connected her lips to mine just now, I’d think I made it all up.

Monika pulls away from the kiss. The tip of her tongue leaves mine. Between the kiss itself and remembering what lead up to our first one, I’m left bewildered. Thankfully, I’m more aware than I was last time.

“I guess Sayori didn’t tell you to step up your game, huh?”

It’s been a week and I don’t know what I’m doing!

“Ahaha!” Monika scoots back. “I’m only teasing you.”

“Gotta lighten up, Sweetie!” Sayori, seated next to me, collapses into my lap. Heh. Col-lap-ses. Holy crap I’m dumb.

“Yeah, uh, duly noted.” I feel… jittery. I guess the events of yesterday are still affecting me. I hope I didn’t actually get concussed. Nah, I’m fine. My memory should have gotten worse with a hard enough blow to the head, but for the second day in a row I’ve been recalling pieces of the weekend. I mean, sure, yesterday’s were both before I got my ass beat, but still.

Up until a few minutes ago, today had been uneventful. Sayori, Natsuki, and I woke up snuggled against each other. We had breakfast and carted ourselves off to school. Classes were whatever. Club time was unusually inactive, as was Natsuki. I guess she had a lot to think about. Her silence shaped our club meeting. We all had agreed that just spending time amongst each other was more important than actually doing things or talking. Even in a quiet room with everyone doing different things, sharing the air helps bonds strengthen. Natsuki had asked Yuri if they could walk together on their ways home, and Monika had asked if she could join us at home as well. We both went for it, I especially because I want to figure out the puzzle that is Monika.

We hadn’t moved the mattresses back after last night since we didn’t have time before school, so the living room had plenty of comfortable space to sit that wasn’t a couch. It’s a bit odd sitting on what is essentially the floor, but it’s easier to spread out at a moment’s notice. We had laid out some disassembled trays so we could put our drinks down. Coffee for Monika, apple juice for Sayori, and I stuck with some soda. Clearly, I am the healthiest here.

You know what? Since it’s on my mind, I guess there’s no harm in asking… “So, Monika, when you visited last time…”

“Hm?”

“You really meant everything you said, huh?”

“Of course! Would I lie about something so important?”

“I guess there’s no reason for me to suspect a thing like that.” Besides the fact that she admitted to lying about the ‘being a traditional girl’ thing, but I guess she had her reasons. “I was just… reflecting on what happened. It came to the front of my mind during our kiss.”

Sayori looked up at me and raised her eyebrows. I, looking down in thought, gave a slight nod in her direction. I guess she picked up on my insinuation that the memories of Sunday had come back to me, just as I had remembered some stuff from the weekend during yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t about to blurt out my memory issues in front of Monika, hence the subtle communication in Sayori’s direction. Lord help me if Monika thought I was simply being ignorant and not paying attention when she laid out so many crucial details.

“I meant every word.”

“Good. I ought to be grateful. I don’t consider myself anything special. Even with those brief interactions in our shared class last year, I knew that you were way out of my league.”

“Mhmhm… Sayori, may I have some space?” With Monika’s simple request, Sayori scrambles out of my lap. Once again, Monika brought herself closer to me. Instead of crawling over on all fours like she had when coming in for our kiss, she straddled my lap and took my face into her hands. Those enrapturing emerald-greens peered down at me, putting my own gaze to shame. I can’t say I’m not anxious as all hell when faced with such an accomplished girl. Er, accomplished lady. “Popularity isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to anything about anything, honestly. You may consider yourself just a loner, but I’ve gotten to know you pretty well over the past two months.”

“R-Really?” My hands, shaking a little, come up and gently place themselves on hers. “We’ve barely spent any time together compared to the other girls and I.”

“Well, you aren’t wrong. However, I have those same girls telling me nothing but good things. Plus, I see the way you interact with them in club. Like a chameleon, you’ve been able to adapt to each of their personalities and act accordingly. Different variations of friendliness are apparent in your words, attitudes, and body language when you speak with each of them. Natsuki is rough around the edges, but you two have a strong friendship. Yuri is comparatively shy, but you’ve been able to talk with her and bring out her inner personality. With Sayori, well, there’s so many obvious giveaways as to how much you care about her that it’s exceedingly admirable.”

Man, I never knew Monika paid that much attention to me. My cheeks feel warm. She surely feels that in her palms. “You really are omniscient, aren’t you?”

“Ahaha! No! You really like to hold onto some jokes, don’t you?” Monika pinches my cheeks. I fluster even more. “You’ve even recently brought up some from the first week of the club. You sure have a memory for those sorts of things.”

“Heh, I guess…” I take a quick glance over at Sayori. She sips her apple juice but keeps her eyes locked on us. When she sets her drink back down, I can see she’s easily smiling bright. Oddly enough, I feel like she’s been something of a mystery since this whole relationship stuff started. I can’t understand what’s behind that smile. It doesn’t seem like she’s hiding anything negative. Her smile is genuine. I guess she really loves seeing me bond with her friends. She was worried about me becoming a permanent shut-in the day I joined the Literature Club, after all.

And, there’s… the way she acted in the first few days I was in the club. Ugh. I was hoping I’d forget about the notion that she was setting me up with her friends for when she was… gone…

No. No, brain. Don’t do this to me. To hell with you. I’m able to shove the thoughts out of my head when I focus back in on Sayori’s smile. It makes me smile seeing her happy face.

Suddenly, I remember that Monika is this close to me. My attention is refocused on her and my smile is whisked away by the sudden onslaught of nervousness. Conveniently, she had followed my gaze to look at Sayori instead of continuing to speak. I didn’t miss anything she had said. Super. I’d like to retain any information she relays the first time through on this and all subsequent conversations.

“In any case, the biggest thing I need to know about you is that you treat people well. You don’t have much in the way of ulterior motives, or at least negative ones. I’ve spoken briefly about similar things in the past. You’re being… real with me, with all of us.” A nod to her last poem, no doubt. “You didn’t give up on any of us when our problems came to light. You didn’t come to just one of us seeking something. You weren’t looking to take advantage of Natsuki or Yuri for being estranged from their peers. You took an interest in being our friend exceptionally quickly. You’re a good person. You may still be put off some by my position among the school, but you treat me just like you do the rest of my club members.”

“…” I’ve gone flushed. “W-Wow, uh… Thanks, Monika. It’s… I gotta say, it’s kind of an ego boost to hear something like that coming from you. Before the Literature Club and The Festival I was just skating by in life. I didn’t even know I had it in me to be such a decent person and good friend because it had been so long since I tried.”

And I’ve come to regret that in so many ways…

“It’s as I said!” Sayori beams at us. “You’re not capable of being a bad person even if you gave it your all!”

“And it shows,” Monika tacked on for good measure. She hunches over so that we’re eye-to-eye. “I, on the other hand, intend to take full advantage of your pleasant nature.”

“Huh? Th-That sounds so… odd, to say the least…”

“Ahaha! I don’t mean in a bad way!” Another pinch, this time to one cheek while she cradles my face with her other hand. “You’ve got a lot to offer. I simply want to make the most of the opportunities bestowed upon me. You’ve made the most of yours, after all.”

“I guess when you put it that way, it makes sense…” I’m not irked by the way she phrased her previous statement or anything. I just didn’t think of Monika to be this kind of person. Well, she saw an opening and took it. I guess I did as well. Haven’t we all? More like Ultimate Opportunist Club. Except Natsuki, I guess. She’s got a very different vibe from how Yuri and Monika are. “So, here’s a question.”

“Yes?”

I purse my lips and bring a hand up to hers. “You’ve been so forward with me, yet after our first kiss you seemed to do a total 180 and came off more like Yuri. What’s up with that?”

Monika twirls a finger in my hair dramatically. After just a moment, she scoots back to the other side of the mattress. “Well…” A sip of her coffee occurs while she thinks of how to phrase things, perhaps. “I’ve mentioned before how I may appear confident even when I’m really not. It comes down to acting. On some level, I’m winging what’s happened between us.” Another sip. She motions to Sayori. “This lovely lady has also talked about and shown how fun it is to tease you. To be honest, it’s been a breath of fresh air to be able to socialize with someone on a relaxed level, and I’ve been messing with you since prior to this multi-person relationship. Now, I just have more reason to screw around.”

Sayori seems quite content to sip her own drink while observing the conversation. She bobs her head a little when mentioned. Monika finishes her coffee and swipes some hair away from her face. “All part of our journey through life, and so on and so forth. We’ve covered that. It also helps that I have a dominant personality in general and know how to get things accomplished. When all is said and done, however, I want to make sure things are good between myself and whoever I’m engaged in activities with. In this case, it means making sure you aren’t being scared away. It’s also a lot easier to admit a bout of anxiety to someone when they’ve just mentioned their own, which is what happened after that kiss. I may have dived into the deep end quite early with that kiss to see where things can start and show what you’re in for, but I won’t stay there until I know both of us can handle it, you know?”

“Why does everything you say make so much sense?” I sip my soda and lean forward.

“Because I’m me! Duh!”

I stifle a laugh. “Full of yourself, huh?”

“I’d rather be full of something else, if you—”

Holy kitten-caboodle, you just referenced his noodle!

Part of me wants to laugh at Sayori’s response but I’m now curled up on the mattress hiding the hell out of my face. Monika is laughing.

“You are too easy!!!

“Hey, I did the work this time!”

I feel motion. Sure enough, I’m being approached by the vexing vixen. “Ahaha… There, there. I’m not making you uncomfortable, am I?”

What? N-No, of course not!” I don’t know how to describe just how badly my voice failed to sound normal, but it was enough to get Sayori giggling. Monika tugs me back up into a seated position and pulls me into a consoling hug.

“I’m sorry for picking on you so much. Here, relax. Rest your head on Mommy’s shoulder.”

ON WHAT?!” I practically throw myself away from Monika. I escape her loose grasp with ease, flopping down onto the mattress again. Bouts of hysterical laughter fill the room.

PFFFAAAAAHAAHAAHAA! Aaaha, aahaha! I told you he’d freak!

“Hahaha, aaahaha! Aaah~ Sayori, where do you come up with this stuff?”

Ehehehehe~ I’m— Ehehe~ I know him too well!” While Sayori lauds her victory, I cover my face with my hands and attempt cessation of existence via sinking into the mattress. If I become one with the sleeping apparatus, I will have a more stable foundation upon which I will certainly not be teased as easily.

Nope, still corporeal. Not furniture. “Uuuaaaaaggghhh, whhyyy?!” I feel more movement and hear a soft plop. I can practically feel Monika’s face inches from mine.

“Because~”

Th-That’s not an answer! Aaaaahhhhh I didn’t know you-you were such a…” I fail to come up with something. “…whatever you’re being right now!

“Oh, my poor little Dear. Can’t even think of something to call me, hmm? Sayori tells me you spend ample amounts of time with a controller in your hands, but I’m not impressed with your skills. Let me tell you exactly what I am.” Her lips must be hovering dangerously close to my ear. I can feel the edges of her breath heat my ear.

I am the game, and I want to play~

“Uuuuu…” I quickly become Yuri and try to hide my entire everything. Again, I am met with relative failure.

“Ehehe, ehe… I can’t believe you kept such a straight face for that! You’re something else, Monika!”

“Ahaha, you don’t have to tell me twice! But thank you! It’s always nice to put on a good performance for my adoring fans~” I’m still curled up. I may not move for a little bit. Monika, on the other hand, doesn’t remain close for long. I can feel her scooch back across the mattress. Do I hear… whispering? I am filled with dread when I feel movement approaching my side of the mattress again.

“Wuh?!” With relative ease, I’m sat up and repositioned. Monika is stronger than she looks, or at least I’m pretty sure that’s Monika. Then again, so is Natsuki. Yuri probably is, too, besides the whole back pain thing. Even Sayori was carrying Natsuki relatively easily. Am I physically the weakest club member?

“And now, a moment of rezbit!”

“Doll Face, do you mean ‘respite’?”

“Oops! Yeah, that!”

“Silly girl…”

It seems I’m in Monika’s clutches again. She’s got herself seated behind me, legs wrapped around my waist. I guess Sayori is kneeling over my outstretched legs. Almost at once, I feel four hands messing with my hair. My arms go a little weak. Another plan by Sayori, no doubt. This girl can really go the distance when it comes to teasing me. Well, by now I guess it’s both of these girls. The way their fingers are gliding through my hair makes me feel limp. A slight hum of comfort escapes me.

“Oh, this is a precious scenario.” Monika’s words echo through my head. I can practically feel myself being lulled into ease until her fingers push a little too hard against a certain spot. My shoulders hunch and I hiss a little in pain.

“Oh! Sorry! Did I scratch you?” Monika’s hands leave my head almost immediately. Sayori’s pause where they are on top of me.

“N-No, I just…” It’s best not to bring up private matters. Before I can come up with something of an excuse, Sayori speaks up.

“He and Natsuki were sparring yesterday when I came back from therapy!”

I can practically feel Monika’s surprise emanating from behind me. “…Sparring? I didn’t peg you for that kind of guy.”

“Uh…” Well, I’m not, not to mention this is just a cover story. I guess I’ve not really thought about stuff like that, though. I also never really fathomed being a very physical or loving kind of person until recently, but you are never too late to divulge in self-discovery. As for this moment in time, I wrack my brain. Sayori’s doing that thing with her fingers. Cute. I can’t get distracted though.

“He isn’t. Well, that’s what I thought, anyhow.” Sayori buys me a little more time to think. Monika not being able to see my expression helps this charade.

“Natsuki is a very… curious case, I guess. She brings out something different in me.” I shrug and groan a little. After having been reminded of my aches for but a moment, my body jumped at the chance to elaborate. This morning’s medicine decided to stop being effective at the wrong time. Ugh.

The time spent interacting with these two has been all kinds of embarrassing, but that’s not to say I can’t enjoy it. Embarrassment amongst friends and having fun with said emotions is just more proof of strong friendships. I’m just not used to being messed with by more than Sayori, who has gone into overdrive with her prankster ways. I guess I can count on her to keep things entertaining in my life, but the point is that I can count on her. “Angel, could you get me some acetaminophen?”

“Sure!” Sayori jumps to her feet and carts herself off to the bathroom. Huh. I was expecting some kind of silly joke.

“Thanks.” I exhale stiffly through my nose and lean forward. Monika’s hand rests gingerly on my shoulder.

“Got beat up, huh? Natsuki is a feisty girl, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah…” I shake my head. I haven’t seen my back, but Sayori and Natsuki did after that whole thing. I wonder what it looks like now, but I’d rather no one else see it. I’d need help to set my eyes on the damage, so I think I’ll just forget about it for the time being. “When Sayori said we were sparring, it was honestly more like Natsuki was constantly getting the upper hand. Part of me wants to use the excuse that I just wasn’t comfortable with beating up on someone smaller than me, or hurting a girl or whatever, but like… that just isn’t the case.” Wait… “I’m not gonna go up to her and start slamming fists into her face, but like, I guess I don’t have an issue with mutually-assured grappling and smacking each other around a bit…”

“Woop-woop-woop! Paramedics pulling in!” Sayori’s back. She trots out to the living room energetically. “It’s like an aquarium in your medicine cabinet!”

“…Huh?”

“I see the many fin!” Sayori deposits a single pill into my hand.

“Medicine puns, Sayori? Sometimes I wonder about you,” Monika chides. She leans away from me. Her legs remain wrapped around my waist, though her grip is significantly loosened.

“I always wonder about her,” I say, shaking my head. “What I wonder about more right now is that… fin? Just one? Singular? Especially after using the word ‘many’?” I hold up my hand and point at the lone pill she gave me. With her face as proud as a new mother’s— Whoa now. Maybe I should refrain from that line of thinking after earlier. As proud as ever, she deposits two more pills into my hand.

“Another fin, and another fin! Now it’s plural!”

“Thanks, Sayori, you dork among dorks.” I spot my cup of soda hovering into view, clutched by the President behind me. So that’s what she was doing. “Thanks, Monika.” Once I down the pills with the rest of my drink, Sayori takes back her spot straddling my legs. There’s no respite from the moment of respite. She’s the one taking my cup into hand now, depositing it on the nearby tray.

“As I was saying, Natsuki can’t be trifled with. Feisty isn’t her limit; she’s absolutely fierce.” Am I making this convincing enough? She absolutely did beat my ass. Even if we were fighting for real on equal terms, I am sure the result would have been the same

“Maybe I’ll have to experience that ferocity myself at some point…”

“Eh?” I turn my head just a bit but can’t get a good glimpse at Monika. I don’t want to strain my neck too much, lest a hurting muscle get tugged too much in the wrong direction.

“Easy, Sweetie,” Sayori coos, grasping my face and rotating it to face forward. Her motion is precise and deliberate, a stark contrast to how she usually is. “Don’t risk hurting yourself again. Just relax~” Knowing that most of my ass-whooping had come from behind, she isn’t shy about playing with my hair from the front. I ease up and lower my head a tad.

“Mmm…” I hum softly. Well, if I can’t get a good look at Monika’s expression, I’ll just have to use my words to prod at her. “Experience Natsuki’s ferocity?”

“You heard me, bucko! I might have to get physical with her at one point.”

“M-Monika! Are… Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“Mmmaybe!”

“You’re…”

Sayori’s voice lowers. I close my eyes and let her fingernails brush against my scalp, lulling me into a relaxed state.

“You’re gonna frick Natsuki?”

It takes all of my strength to not fall back laughing. Monika’s hands help me stay steady. Her reflexes are on point, something I can’t say for my own. As my laughter dissipates and becomes replaced with quieted, achy grunts, I can hear that Monika had been giggling.

“Haahaha, aha! No, you goofball! But that was the joke I was presenting, yes. Thank you.” As I recover, Monika helps me get steady. For someone so dominant in life as well as her new relationship, she can have an unexpectedly soft touch. “Nothing against Natsuki, but I don’t think she and I are each other’s types. Perhaps I could be wrong, but that’s not something that would come up anytime soon.”

Huh… you know, Sayori makes a good point. Well, not that anyone is about to get it on in bed with anyone else. Rather, I hadn’t really thought too hard about the other girls getting… intimate with each other. Sure, Sayori seems to have a particular interest in Natsuki, but that seems a lot more innocuous, right? Or have I thought about maybe there being something more between them? The lack of certainty in my head causes it to hurt in a different way than it already does.

“In any case, I’ll spell it out for you both so no one gets the wrong idea, especially the perverted mind of a barely-legal boy.” Monika is teasing me again. Unfair. I blow a raspberry in the air. It isn’t aimed at her or anything. In fact, I merely manage to get a bit of spittle on the hands resting in my lap doing so. At least they’re my own hands. No one else would take kindly to that. “If Natsuki is looking for a good sparring buddy, then I’d be happy to… trifle with her, ahaha~” Cute. “Considering you both know just how great and amazing I am at life, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve taken self-defense classes over the years. I’m already the athletic type but knowing how to protect yourself is valuable.”

“Mmm…” I coo, something of an agreeing acknowledgement while Sayori tends to me. “Hmmnnn…” My mind gets fuzzy. Perhaps I’m enjoying this a little too much. That bout of laughter not too long ago sapped me of even more of my strength, which is already lacking due to, well, recent events. I sigh and let my head slump down.

“My poor little Sweetie’s exhausted. Monika, we tuckered him out!”

“Oops! Ahaha, silly us~”

“Ehehe~”

“Ahaha~”

“Eeeheeheehee~”

“Aaahaahaahaa~”

These girls, I swear to God… You know what, though? I’m glad that for all her technical prowess and exceptional life prowess, Monika does not shy away from engaging in even the dumbest of moments with someone like Sayori.

Eeeheeheehee~

Aaahaahaahaa~

Is this Sayori’s doing? Does she give off, like, a silliness aura that helps others let loose and have more fun than usual?

Eeeheeheehee~

Aaahaah—ahack!

Deep into the girls’ battle of the vocal cords, Monika starts coughing. The surprise causes me to lean forward, headbutting Sayori in the chest. She lets out a small grunt and steadies herself from falling back by holding onto my head. “Sorry…” We come to a halt while Monika has a surprisingly lengthy fit.

“Aha, haaaagh… Oh Jesus, I’m so sorry! Please excuse me. That… Whew, that came out of nowhere! I’m sorry you had to witness that.” Thankfully, Monika seems unfazed as soon as it leaves.

“Sorry! That’s my fault. I persisted with that little thing, and… uh… ehe, I um…” Naturally, Sayori attempts to take ownership of the incident.

“Uh-uh. I’m fine! And you can’t be blamed for my actions.” Monika clears her throat and finally removes herself from behind me. “Excuse me for a moment. I need some water.”

“Plenty of bottles in the fridge,” I offer. Monika stands and makes her way into the kitchen. With a moment to ourselves, I straighten up and take a look at Sayori. “Surely she isn’t sick or anything like that.”

“Nah, Monika wouldn’t risk doing that to someone else anyhow.” The moments of our activities had finally faded, and we relax where we are. “Her immune system is probably stronger than all of ours combined.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” On top of Monika’s physical health, physiologically she is probably pristine. She’s made no bones about being a vegetarian. Her diet would straighten us all out. Greens, fruits, and vitamins galore. “That reminds me, actually. Natsuki said she was having an issue yesterday that caused her to skip out on the club. Something about medicine gone wrong, right…?”

“Yeah. We should ask about that.”

“Yeah…”

“I still feel bad. I guess I shouldn’t have egged her on.”

“Bun,” I say, short for Cinnabun, “people cough. It happens.”

“But still!”

“Are you feeling bad in there, Sayori?” As expected, it doesn’t take Monika long to return. It seems she’d already taken plenty of sips from her water bottle. Half of it was gone. “I’m fine! You’re making too much of a big deal about this.”

“But!!!”

“Ah-ah-ah! No buts!” With a sway of her hips, Monika perches herself next to us and leans down. “Little Missy, you can’t try to take responsibility for someone else’s involuntary bodily actions. Be reasonable.”

“But!!!!!” The urgency at which Sayori responded kept escalating in dramatic fashion, so I get the feeling she’s at least partially messing around.

“Sayori.” A stern expression crosses Monika’s face. “Say ‘but’ one more time and you’ll pay for it.”

I’m not sure what to make of Monika’s threat. Can it be called a threat? Surely, she is joking around. Sayori must think that too, as I see her face scrunch up in deep thought. Her eyes squint.

“…But.”

Monika whirls around and bumps her hip against Sayori’s head. A squeal of surprise flees my girlfriend as she tumbles over. “There’s your ‘but’, you butt!” Monika looks awfully proud of herself. Sayori simply sticks her tongue out towards the standing girl.

“So, like, are you actually okay, Monika?” I pose my question to her. “Not just about the coughing fit but about missing club yesterday.” She doesn’t look enthralled for it to have come up, but I guess I wouldn’t if I was being asked why I may have been having issues in the bathroom.

“Yeah, don’t worry about that. It wasn’t urgent enough to require attention, but I felt I should take it easy. You two wanted me to, anyhow. ” I think I see her trying to deflect attention away from the issue by also reassuring us and saying how she was trying to not stress herself out. “Unfortunately, I suppose I ought to get going. Home beckons this simple school star.” Oy, she would follow up with something like that.

“Abominable. Awesome alliteration as always, ahaha~” Did… Did Sayori come up with that on the fly? Since when does she use language like that? Seriously, not only does she display grammatical skills that Yuri would blush at, but she herself belted out a more alliterative sentence than Monika as well as, erm, stealing our President’s typical giggle for extra points. I’m stunned.

“Thanks, Doll Face!” Monika tosses her words behind her as she heads towards the door. With shoes slipped on, her bag is taken up into her arms. I’m not totally satisfied about her answer regarding the medicine thing, but I get the feeling she will just double down on her defense. Perhaps we can ask another time.

As Sayori and I get to our feet, I a little slower due to my aches, I hear Monika clear her throat. She finishes her bottle of water and tosses it at me. “Catch!”

I don’t even try. It bonks off my head harmlessly. Sayori snatches it out of midair before it can fall too far. “Got it!”

“Good job!” Now equipped to leave, Monika slings her bag over her shoulder. “Thanks for having me, you two. I had fun!”

“Eee~ Glad to hear!”

“As am I. I’m still not used to having anyone besides Sayori over here, but it’s nice to know that nothing but positives have been happening so far.”

Sort of.

“Being beaten down counts as a positive?”

“Even if I was on the receiving end of an ass-whoopin’, it’s still time well-spent with another friend… partner… person…”

“Hm… You know what? I can understand and respect that stance. Good on you for looking at it that way.”

“Thanks, Monika.”

Monika steps into the now-open front doorway. “You must know that Natsuki appreciates you not holding back when you interact, right?”

More than you know, Monika. “Yeah, she’s said as much lately.”

“Others might be put off by the idea of engaging in friendly fisticuffs with someone of a fairer sex, but it just means you aren’t treating us like fragile works of art or putting us on a pedestal.”

Ugh… As much as we did a fine job of hiding what really happened so suddenly, I’m starting to get uncomfortable with the praise Monika is feeding me. I know this is essentially a lie, so it feels dishonest accepting the good things she’s saying. I didn’t expect this much out of her. Boy, would she be disappointed to learn that this has been a farce. I mean, I did put my hands on Natsuki first so in a way she’s right, but it wasn’t for the reasons she’s thinking. “Alright, alright. I appreciate the positive words. You’ll overwhelm me.”

“Sorry! I guess I just— Ah, I should shut up now! Sorry sorry!” Monika leans in and grabs my face with both hands. Without warning, I’m pulled into a pretty strong lip-lock. It takes me a moment to reciprocate, but Monika hums in delight when she feels it. Our lips part and I think my face may look sunburnt. “Get better at that. You’ll find it’s more fun for all involved when you know what you’re doing.”

“Ah, r-right.” Even though I’m not used to such attention, at least Monika is independent enough to not fear going after what she wants.

“Ehehe, don’t worry~ I’ll make sure he gets in lots of practice.”

“You and I both know that you’re more of a cuddle monster than a make-out artist, Doll Face.”

“Shhh! That can change!”

“Aha, I guess so.” Finally, Monika starts backing out of the house, giving a small wave as she does so. “Take care, you two~ See you during club time tomorrow!”

Sayori gives a silly little salute. “Later, tater!” Dork.

“Be safe,” I say to conclude our interactions for the day. Once Monika is off my property, I close the door. Turning, I notice Sayori giving me a coy look.

“I know you just closed that but do me a favor and open it back up.” Once she starts kicking her shoes on, I understand why. Back open the door goes.


”Yooo, long time no see!”

Monika had only gotten yards away when she heard Sayori call out from behind her. “Maybe when talking about the lifespan of insects. What’s up?”

“The door was closed for maybe half a second when I realized I still had to go do my daily romp around my place.” The shorter girl gave a nod to her house, which was within spitting distance by now. “Give Mr. Cow a hug, ask Mrs. Bird what is ‘the word’, and grab a change of clothes.”

“You haven’t just brought your whole wardrobe with you already?”

“I may be doing better lately, but I’m still kinda lazy.”

Monika shrugs, ignoring the sound of her text tone going off in her bag. “Understandable. Glad you’re doing better.”

“Thanks! I won’t keep you since we just said goodbye. Plus, I’m eager to get back. I wanna do some… kissing… ehehe~”

“That’s my fault, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, you hornball!”

Pffaaahaha! Didn’t expect something like that out of your mouth. You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“Always!” As they neared the front gate to Sayori’s house, she turned away and started skipping towards her destination. “Take care~”

“Stay sweet, Doll Face!” Proceeding past Sayori’s house, Monika reached into her bag and unlocked her phone.

Mom: [There is a rumor going around that you have a boyfriend. Is that true?]

Well, this is about to be a conversation. Monika’s fingers start tap-tap-tapping away.

Monika: [A rumor going around where? I’d understand school but wouldn’t expect you to know what the latest gossip there is.]
Mom: [Some of your peers may have it out for you. A social media profile with obvious fake info decided to send us messages. I know you’ve mentioned that the Debate Club has been irritated that you haven’t returned to them even though your club hasn’t been flourishing.]

Monika: [Being the star of the school is becoming tiring. I guess those disgruntled by my leaving more prestigious positions in the school to do my own thing will try to make an example out of me as a message to not cross them. I thought they were not going to surpass being just annoying. Clearly, they have no problem being spiteful, vindictive creeps as well. I’m glad I left them in the dust. I’m doing what I would prefer to. As for this boyfriend business, this is a very recent development.]
Mom: [As long as it doesn’t interfere with your responsibilities.]

Monika sighed. She had always been exceptionally independent. It came naturally due to being so charismatic, talented, and putting together events for whatever educational facility she stepped into. However, she didn’t appreciate her parents trying to push her more towards what they wanted her to do, as has been verbalized to others. Even in the few months before The Festival, Sayori had grown knowledgeable about Monika moving in the direction of her passions rather than accomplishment for the sake of accomplishment and offered support. It nicely counteracted her parents’ skepticism. That silly girl, always trying to help. Surely, expending that much energy on others wasn’t great for her mental health.

“…

Well, as long as she was being sincere just a moment ago.

Monika: [Even if it does, I would much rather figure out my personal life while I’m still young. Having a decent partner in your youth, even if you don’t go the distance, is a good feeling-out experience for all involved so you can figure out what you want and need in a relationship. I haven’t exactly had the chance to ponder on these things thanks to you and Dad. Don’t get me wrong; your motivation and encouragement have helped me build a wonderful resume at such a young age. On the other hand, I wonder if I come off as sincere when interacting with my peers on a more simplistic, casual level. Presenting as a consummate professional all the time has its drawbacks, and one of those is stunting my ability to relate to even my friends. I say what I feel is correct but can’t be sure that they’re not just humoring me when they seem to appreciate what I have to say.]
Mom: [We just don’t want you to lose sight of what’s important professionally.]

Monika: [I could get into any school I wanted to and probably bring prestige to it with my name alone.]
Mom: [Perhaps we didn’t do a good enough job at teaching you to be humble.]

Monika: [At this point, I have to believe I’m the best, that I bring something to the table just by existing near a given establishment. It’s what literally half my life has revolved around. Don’t tell me you and Dad don’t know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you do wonderfully in your corresponding professions and do just as much there as I am with my accomplishments so far. There’s a difference between ego and knowing that you’re maybe a little too good at the majority of what you put work into. I’m not going to swagger about as though I own the place, but I haven’t gotten to this point in my life while merely thinking I’m just above average.]
Mom: [I wish I could better tell whether you have a complex or not. I sincerely hope you don’t. You absolutely deserve accolades; avoiding blowback from others thinking you’re getting too big for your britches is also ideal.]

Monika shakes her head and grows more visibly stern as she types.

Monika: [This is not megalomania. I am not perfect, but I am that damn good. I’m smug, but not to a point that is detrimental. I’m the most self-aware person in the district, if not beyond.]

Monika grimaces and hesitates as she types her last sentence.

Monika: [If I wasn’t, then it’s at that point I’d lose sight of how much of an asset I am. I may have to believe I’m the best but I don’t let it truly get in the way of what I do. I may be getting ahead of myself trying to psychoanalyze my own brain, but the fact is that I was brought up right. Surely, I was brought up better than most. I keep a steady sense of morality and professionalism in the face of those who may look at me as though I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. Frankly, if anyone thinks that I’m full of myself, that’s their problem.]
Mom: [If you truly know what you’re doing, then I suppose we can’t offer much else in the way of advice.]

Monika: [I haven’t led you astray yet. I think. Right?]
Mom: [You raise a good point. We are proud of you.]

Even though Monika has been a little at odds with her parents since forming the Literature Club, it was reassuring to find words like those come from them. She only wished she could trust it more. She knew that sad truth about phenomenal overachievers in the early years leads to higher expectations than even the most dedicated and selfless workhorse can fail to live up to, lest it cause them distress in the real world. She couldn’t shake the feeling that they would some day stop being proud of her. Considering she was leaving out some details about her relationship and the fact that some of her former Debate Club mates may have been behind this little rumor, she wondered if the day they stop being proud is closing in. The idea of expecting increasingly invasive, spiteful, and perhaps even hostile things to circulate the school doesn’t sit well with her, but she can’t stand for their crap. She also is not going to back down from the chances she’s been given as of late. The school faculty was not likely to care about her personal life per se, but her fellow classmates might finally decide to revolt and make it known through unsavory actions how jealous they are of her drive and accomplishments once a little push is given. Being the best was not always the best, and that leads to the best trying to actively avoid being the best. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it. She doesn’t look down at those who haven’t accomplished as much as her, but she does look down on those who look up at others’ successes and sneer.

Mom: [Are you close to home?]
Monika: [I just left my boyfriend’s house. Club was quiet so we decided to spend more time at his place with his friend, my Vice President.]
Mom: [That Sayori girl, right?]
Monika: [Yes. She’s doing good. Well, better is the more appropriate term.]
Mom: [That is reassuring to hear.]

Monika: [It’s reassuring to experience. Her personality is infectious. To have less of her kind in the world is a travesty humanity should not have to bear.]
Mom: [I cannot agree with you more.]
Monika: [I’m not closing much distance on home standing here typing this, so I’ll see you when I get there.]
Mom: [Okay. Enjoy the nice breeze. Maybe this is a little odd to hear from your mother, but days like these are perfect for wearing the kind of skirts you have to for school.]

Sounds like something Sayori might say.

With that conversation out of the way, Monika started off in the direction of her home. Even though talking with her mother had gone better than expected, she nonetheless felt stressed. Once she was safely out of sight from Sayori’s house, she tossed her phone back into her bag. Keeping it open, she fumbled with something from within while she kept her eyes on the sidewalk. After a moment, her slender fingers wrapped around what she was looking for.

Hopefully that coughing fit remains a product of overexertion and doesn’t become a mainstay of everyday life for a while, Monika thought as she flicked open the pack of cigarettes in her hand. It was barely a day old, much like her foray into this new habit, but the pack was already half-empty. Snagging one cig and the green lighter from within, she deposited the pack into her bag and lit the nicotine cylinder. I am not sure if I should want these to be relieving my stress or fail so I’m forced to find a healthier alternative, but oh well…

With the soft, fiery glow of potential addiction on the outskirts of Monika’s vision, she set off towards home.


End Chapter 11-2


Next time… “If it was just us two, would you still be happy?”

Doki Doki: Proof Of Loving You can be found on:
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2. DeviantArt (dot com)
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4. WattPad (dot com)

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Notes & Responses


I don’t know if I’ve said it here but Sayori is my favorite Doki despite me being an All Dokis Best Doki kind of person. Part of why I relate to her so much is because depression is a bitch and I know her all too well. I think summer and winter also do me in more powerfully than more middling seasons, but I can’t be sure of that. I know y’all will say nothing but positive reassurances in my direction for taking a month to get another chapter out, but I will nonetheless apologize. To solidify my All Dokis Best Doki position, I’ve cried over stuff relating to all of them so far from various sources (base game, mods, my own thoughts) for varying reasons, including MC. You’ll come to understand why as the story goes on.

Next chapter will probably be quite short. Short and sweet. Theoretically, that means getting it out sooner. I know what I’m doing with it. Originally it was going to be the last part of this chapter, but I came up with something else and also wanted to get this chapter finished and out while I was doing well.

TarrasqueSorcerer (AO3) – Yuri may be shy, but as with other introverts she can act almost like a different person when she’s comfortable with someone. I had more “fun” writing Natsuki’s breakdown than you might think, especially knowing that the comfort was going to come almost immediately and it was something she desperately needed to get out of her system. As far as Dadsuki is concerned, I wanted to do something less usual with him because I mean of course. The usual has been done too many times. And yeah, I cut down on all of those pairing tags.

Kuro (AO3) – No worries about not necessarily commenting in the future. I know you’re invested, and I know based on what pairings you like that you will greatly enjoy some of the things in this fic. Lol, yes F for MC. Earlier conflicts are easier to get happier resolutions to because they tend to be less complex. As for as Dadsuki, as I said in the above comment, I’m doing something different with him than most fics do. It’s certainly less straightforward.

Natan R. (FF) – Glad you enjoyed it so much! Natsuki does have some things simpler comparatively, but this is not where that simplicity is displayed. I haven’t commented on MC’s biological responses to certain things yet, or rather his inner narration has avoided being explicit, but I mean just take a wild guess lmao.

RandomIdiot1816 (FF) – I lol’d quite heartily. And about that hiatusi writers thing WHOOPS a MONTH went by.

O’Diver (FF) – MC not having a name was something I wanted to do for a good while. Unfortunately, the further in I get the less feasible it will be to keep things up, especially once I decided that the story will include sections that take place from points of view that aren’t his. I’d like to have been able to do it the whole way through and even tossed around some ideas as to how it would work in those third-person POV segments, but it will become glaringly unbelievable for no one to refer to him by name at some point. I’m glad I was able to do it for this long without it coming off too awkward (and hell, with some people enjoying it!). It was a pleasant exercise. Thank you for the kind words! As I keep saying, this story will reach its completion at some point.

The Beyond Unstable Crew (FF)

A Starlit Drive, content creators receiving constructive criticism and having a fit is the mark of someone young, immature, both, or off their rocker. But this ain’t most people. This is AS. AND I TOLD Y’ALL CHAPTER 10 WAS GOING TO BE THE NEXT “BEST CHAPTER.” I think I mentioned it, anyhow. Encountering people with such low standards and self-respect to harass their commenters elsewhere is all kinds of messed up. For it to be THAT BAD though, Christ. Fucking stalkerish shit. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

As for how much is improv, I’ve got most scenarios simply scripted out and even had Natsuki’s breakdown mostly scripted out months ago. Then, when it came time to do the scenario, I used the previous script as a springboard to improv something along the lines but much more in-depth. Chapter 9 is and will continue to be awkward, I think, but I felt like dropping the foreshadowing seeds I did would have come off as more awkward if I put them in the beginning of a chapter in which MC’s issues were touched upon and he even recovered a bit of his memory, circumventing the issue as soon as it arrived. Unless I changed how things were rather than where they went, no one was going to be satisfied with that Monika scenario anyhow, but as I said, I knew I wasn’t going to keep everyone in the dark for long. Chapter 10 was also not going to be where Natsuki’s breakdown happened, but the response to Chapter 9 as well as what I came up with mid-chapter allowed me to fit it in seamlessly and make it work even better than my previous plan.

I’m glad Natsuki is growing on ya, and I’m glad you dig all the fluff with Yuri and such. As for Monika, well she’s the resident enigma, but all in due time. I will give some new questions but also give… The Goods ™. Cheers for the feedback!

MrsMistyEyes, yeah Chapter 9 is going to have been my weakest chapter by far. With any luck I don’t make new weakest chapters. Only new strongest ones. I’m glad Talking and Melancholy had my back, ahaha! I’m glad you are enjoying the Dokis as well. You know, I always kind of worried about writing someone else’s characters in the past, but I think I’m over that now with how much people seem to love their personalities and interactions. The phone idea was inspired by the fact that some people go non-verbal when they have attacks and the like, and Natsuki is a highly emotional person. That is also something I came up with on the fly as I was writing it. Improv! Cheers for the compliments. I’m glad I am badass enough to un-fuck what I fucked lmao.

IHateMyselfAndIWantToDie, yeah, I ain’t no egotistical dipshit when it comes to criticism. Cheers for the kind words! And Starlit commented on such. Disgusting! People suck. I should be more worried that I almost lost the majority of my commenting userbase with one bad chapter, but I decided I’m not going to worry too much about it. Bless Talking, and I’m glad everyone enjoyed it and was turned back on to the story. Even if I am bad for a minute, if I am good enough for an hour then I will keep people interested. Monika’s screen time will be ballin’. Hell, I’ll say upfront that this entire chapter is also improv. A decent amount of fluff is going to wind up being like that. It’s the big plot points that have the most thought put into them long before I start on them. And, as I mentioned somewhat in my response to Starlit, there’s plenty of improv and differences to the breakdown that I changed from what I had originally planned. I have this uncanny ability to just… do that. Get used to it lmao. Thankfully I hit more often than I miss. I go from pretty detailed (for a summary) first draft and then do the final when I’m making what I intend to publish. Even Natsuki going non-verbal was something I came up with on the spot, and I’m glad I did because of how well people seem to have enjoyed it. Glad to hear you are excited for the future!

MelancholyFactory, cheers for those kind words! Also, thank you for helping get the crew to read this chapter and get them back into the story. Ahaha, and thank you about my screenname! I initially came up with Aimless Shenanigans as a username for a friend group Let’s Play channel, but we went with something else. I was like, “I’m keeping this one though lmao.” It’s too good, so I was like, I’ll just rebrand my solo LP channel with this name (and then proceed to do nothing with it for years). I’ve even got the tagline, “You are now engaging in Aimless Shenanigans.”

Anyhow, never mind that shit ahaha! I have more relevant things to say, namely I appreciate the kind words! I’m glad Natsuki seems to have been beloved. As I mentioned above to Misty, I felt like Natsuki going non-verbal after such an emotional episode just made sense. I’m also glad you’re enjoying Yuri. As I’ve said, I’m an All Dokis Best Doki kind of guy, but my order of favorites goes Sayori, Natsuki, Yuri, and Monika (coincidentally it’s also the order of the Dokis when MC thinks about them at the end of Day 1 in the base game). This also happens to be the order in which the major character arcs go from simplest to most complicated/weird. I’m sure some people have questioned how Yuri has been able to be almost a completely different person when they aren’t fawning over how brave she is being and, well, that’s part of the point.

This chapter in particular had such a title because I’m sometimes good at coming up with symbolic relevance to what’s going on, this one in particular. Ironically, I’m TERRIBLE at coming up with original character names, both first and last, but titles are much easier to deal with. Sometimes I search up things specifically for relevant symbolism (“Limbic” was named “Something is Different” for the first number of chapters until I decided that was lame as shit). Sometimes my own imagination and creativity come up with it without needing external help. Sometimes there’s also a tiny wrestling reference in there (From The Heart) that simply happens to also be very relevant to the content of the chapter. Thank you for the kind words my dude!

TalkingsForFunctioningPeople, I owe you thanks for being the biggest aid in getting the others to come back. Yeah Chapter 9 sucks. First fic meme, Chapter 9 worst Doki lmao. Goodness, the praise you are giving me regarding the characters, especially Natsuki, is, like, big big thanks for such words! As for Dadsuki, I’ve stated in other comments that I’m doing things a little different with him. Considering I keep saying “Oh this was improv,” his small offscreen appearance was also something I came up with on the fly. The Act 2 stuff about Natsuki being neglected, malnourished, and all that hit hard and are a different kind of horror because it’s a very real sort of horror as opposed to, well, the rest of the game. Plus the way both things are casually brought up without any other context is, like, yeah.

Hell yeah, All Dokis deserve love. I’m glad you were entertained by yet another fragment of my dumb sense of humor with the restarting puberty thing lmao. Again, thank you for the kind words about my portrayal of these characters. Many blessings, my dude. I need to put together a more organized file of all my big plot points, medium scenarios, and smaller things so that I can more readily plan things out. I am confident that things will never come down to Chapter 9 levels of bad. As for a revision, I’m not sure, but I’m also not focused on it. I’d almost contemplate taking it out entirely lmao, but I doubt it. We will see, though. The problem is that I think I wrote it well, but the issue of postponing Monika’s first big scene as well as Cee and Em being too much of a focus to help get MC realizing that something’s wrong with him are going to continue to be weak. I’d have to cut the whole ream twins section out for it to be better, but then again chopping the chapter in half so people can get to Chapter 10 quicker might be the exact improvement it needs lmao. Shrug though. In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, and again, thank you for reigning the others back in!


Chapter 11-1: The Vexing Vixen


“Ahaha~ Oh my gosh, you are just the most adorable thing, aren’t you?”

“Uuuhhh… N-No?”

Damnit, I should have answered yes. Or should I have? If we are talking about the most adorable, that has to go to Sayori or Natsuki. Does Monika want me to be modest or forward? She’s definitely the latter…

“Somehow, I don’t think you’re entirely sure. If only you could see your face right now. Oh!”

Please don’t bring out your phone, please don’t bring out your phone, pleasedon’tbringouty-ACK!

“Sayori, would you mind assisting me?”

“My pleasure!”

My attempts to hide my face are in vain; Sayori’s hands suddenly take my wrists and yank them above my head. I’m not this much of a weakling, but I also can’t gather enough energy and focus to fight off the shenanigans and hide my face. Not to mention, I can’t break away from Monika’s gaze. Her smile takes me prisoner, and her phone camera going off steals a piece of my soul.

“Perfect! Messing with a good boy is so fun~”

“Ehehe~ Monika, I didn’t know you could be this flirty!”

“Well, I’m after far more now than I am when it comes to anyone else. The pursuit is mine for once, rather than me being the pursued.”

“Okay… It wouldn’t have hurt to toss a few words my way, you know!”

“I’m sorry, Sayori! I suppose my mind was in other places at the time.”

“Weeeeell, I’ll forgive you. That’s what friends are for, right?”

“Ahaha, yes. Friends. That’s what we are at this point.”

“Eh? Are you saying I’m not a friend?”

“Of course I’m not saying that! But, well, usually there are more specific terms in place for when people do what we did.”

“… Best friends?”

“No, Sayori. That’s not… Ahaha, maybe we should talk about that next time we are in private.”

“Super best friends!”

“Sayori, I’m afraid you—”

“Besties at our behesties!”

“… Ahaha, have you always been this… Ah, who am I kidding? You’ve always been even sillier than this. You’re precious, Doll Face.”

“Ehehe~”

“So, I think an apology is in order. We may have broken your sweet little toy!”

“Buh?! He’s not my toy!”

“You play with him, isn’t that correct?”

“I… Maybe you’re right, but he plays with me, too! Sometimes we even play with each other at the same time!”

“Oh my, Sayori! How… dirty~”

Tha-That’s not what I mean and you know it!

“Ahaha! I’m only teasing! If we went solely based on how easy you two are to fluster, you would still be a perfect fit for each other.”

“Meanie…”

“Hey now, isn’t that a unique nickname for only one person?”

“Ehehe, I’ve got a bunch of other ones for him. He will always know how special he is to me.”

“Urk!”

Sayori’s arms being thrown around me yank me out of the stupor I was just in.

“Ahaha~ Fifteen years you said you’ve known each other, is that right? I must be looking at soulmates right now, huh?”

“I sure hope so!”

“Heh, heh-heh… M-Must be, right?”

“Hey, you spoke! So I didn’t break you after all, ahaha!”

“N-Nope!”

“Eeeee~ You said we must be soulmates! I love you so much!”

Ack! Sayori I need to breathe!

“Oopsie! Sorry!”

Hah, hah, hah… It’s okay.”

“Recovered from your little episode there, have you?”

“Huh? Uh, yeah! I guess when you said the, uh… that thing… I kind of—”

“I said many things, Mister! You’ll have to be more specific!”

“Um… All of it…”

“Is he always this easy to mess with?”

“I think he’s just intimidated!”

“I guess I just have that effect on people!”

“Yep! Not even I’m immune!”

“Curiously enough, I thought you would have been! I guess I can’t be right about everything, now can I?”

“Guess not!”

“Girls, am I missing something?”

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it! And we’re ladies, buster!”

“Hmm… Ladies… I like the sound of that, ehehe! I wanna be your lady!”

“S-Sweetie, you already… uh… am.”

“Yay! Wait… ‘You already am’? Did you forget how to talk or something?”

“Huh? Oh… Uh, I guess…”

What?! You’re not supposed to agree to having forgotten how to talk. You’re supposed to play if off like a joke…”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were distracted. Isn’t that right, Sayori?”

“My influence is rubbing off on him! Ehe, ehe… I hope that’s what it is, anyhow… People who are close to each other start being influenced by their personality, speech patterns, stuff like that. Right?”

“Yeah, that’s a side effect of socializing and developing strong bonds with others. Even you don’t usually mess up simple things like that unless it’s on purpose.”

“In which case it wasn’t a mess-up, it was a successful plan!”

“Poor guy just can’t help being confounded by us!”

“You’re a conniving little wench, you know that, Angel?”

“Don’t call me a bench! You aren’t supposed to sit on me!”

Dork…

“Ahaha! Hahaha, haha, you two are almost more than I can handle!”

“Ehehe~”

“Well, if you’re getting entertainment out of me, then that’s good.”

“Oh, you have no idea~”

“So, I don’t mean to admit how… distracted I’ve been, but how did this all start?”

“Well, on Thursday we went to school, and we had the big talk about our topics of choice, and—”

Not that far back, Dummy!

“Well, you’ve been acting kinda weird the past few days. I just wanted to make sure!”

“If I may ask, when did this start?”

“Umm… Friday!”

“Ahaha~ I guess that’s my fault. I did request this little visit the day before.”

“Aww, it’s okay! Sweetie here’s just a goofy goober!”

“I guess I can’t deny that. Uh, anyhow! How did we get this far in the conversation? Have you two just been picking on me the whole time?”

“… Maybe!

Gah, what the hell?! I get enough of that simultaneous speech from the twins! “Y’all suck, you know that?”

“Affirmative, captain!”

“Ahaha, I’m so glad I’m able to bear witness to you two. I can tell that being part of this relationship is going to be a blast! With all of the responsibilities I’ve had and needing to be the mature person wherever I go, it’s nice to let loose and mess around with friends.”

“So you’re serious about joining us. I didn’t expect you to take to this idea, honestly. You did mention that you were… Hey, wait a minute. You said you were a more traditional person not too long ago, right? This is absolutely not a traditional relationship. What gives?”

“I lied.”

PFFT! You lied. That’s… That’s it?”

“Yep! After all, some secrets don’t need to be shared unless they involve the right people.”

“Ehehe~”

“Ahaha~”

“… Riiight. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself to hide too much, Prez. That could stress you out. This is supposed to be a relaxing time for you.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about me. I’d pay more attention to what you can handle.”

“Huh? And just what is that supposed to mean?”

“Ever since I brought up how I’m interested in exploring the physical aspects of a relationship first and foremost earlier, you’ve been an embarrassed mess. Something tells me you can’t handle what I can dish out.”

“Uuuhhh… I mean, Sayori and I have been getting… more… physical… since we got together.”

“Sweetie, I don’t think you know what you’re dealing with. We’ve been cuddly and snuggly and smoochy, but this girl—I mean—lady right here will blow what we do together out of the water! She’ll make it seem like we haven’t even held hands before!”

“How would you know, Sayori?”

“Ehehe… Monika, you wanna give him an example? I know you said you wanted to test the waters.”

“You two have been planning something, haven’t you?”

“Maybe~”

“Ahaha! Well, before I do anything brash, let me ask again: are you really prepared to try meeting the needs of someone like me?”

“Um… I-I mean…”

“I know you said you’re just a nerdy virgin, but—”

Whe-When did I s-sssay tha-tha-that?!

Thud! “HEEEEEheeheehee!

“Oh dear! Are you okay, Sayori?”

“Pehehe— Peeheeheeachy~ Ehe, ehehe! Ihi, I’ll stand up in a sec, ehe…”

“Sweetie, did you really just fall over laughing?”

“I couldn’t help it! I went weak in the knees!”

“You’re such a klutz…”

“What a kook that girl is! Anyhow, I’m sure you said something like that of your own volition.”

“Aha, n-nonsense…”

“Well, if you didn’t, then maybe you’re feeling more confident now?”

“…Something like that.

“Your voice tells me otherwise.”

Cough cough!

Ho-how—” COUGH! “How ab-about now?”

“That’s better. The way I understand it, you feel like the Literature Club is meant to be together as something more than as simple friends. What are you after?”

“… Um…”

“Yes?”

“I, uh…”

“Uh-huh…?”

“…”

“Oh dear, you must be getting cold feet about all this, hm?”

“N-No! I’m just… thinking… Um, I kind of got myself into a bind, you know? I went ahead with all this… so early… without a plan…”

“Um…”

“Sorry! Um… I don’t know the details about what I want the end to look like. All I know is I want to be with all of you. More than friends. I guess I’m not picky about what we are. If you’re interested in me for God knows why, and I’m interested in you, then figuring out what we are to one-another is part of the adventure. Uh… R-Right?”

“For seeming so distracted, you managed to put that so eloquently, yet so simply. Sayori, what do you think about this, honestly?”

“As far as he’s concerned? Whatever makes him happy. Maybe that sounds silly or naive, but I put my full trust in him. As long as he and I are together, I’m satisfied. Anything else just adds to the fun, right? We’ve all got such varying personalities. We can love and spend time with and enjoy each other’s company until the cows come home!”

“And what I’m about to do isn’t going to sit negatively with you, right?”

“Right!”

“Promise?”

“Abso-tively posi-lutely! Besides, you’re doing me a huge favor.”

“A favor? What do you mean? You two really are in on something, aren’t you?”

“Ehehe~ Hey, don’t forget that I said I was getting something out of all of this, too! I just came to realize lately that I’m getting more than I knew!”

“Maybe you’ll find out at some point. I can assure you, it’s nothing bad. Apparently, it’s for the best for all involved.”

“…?”

“You trust Sayori, right?”

“…Yes. I do. She won’t steer me wrong.”

“She’s probably the most trustworthy person in the club, maybe even the whole school! You’ve invested your faith in the right place. I can second that she wants the best for you. It just so happens that the best for you lines up with what’s best for her as well! And… well, I’m in the right place at the right time.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll sum it up for you: you two wanted me to stop putting so much pressure on myself. If I can find some of my needs fulfilled in ways they never have been before, then those positives will lighten the load on my shoulders. You get what you want in more ways than one, and I get what I need just the same.”

“Where…”

“Hm?”

“Where did all this come from? I’ve never heard anything about you being… this way.”

“It’s as I said just a bit ago! When you get into the public eye, you learn to keep certain things about yourself hidden. I’ve built myself a metropolis compared to most, but there will always be alleyways filled with what society looks down upon. I don’t intend to be irresponsible. All I aim for is to explore a different side of who I am. I’m not here just to please you. I’m not here on some weak-willed wish for love. On the contrary; you will be doing far more for me than I am for you.”

“…?!”

Monika’s face is incredibly close to mine…

“You’ll understand in due time. After all, figuring it out is part of the adventure, right?”

“Uh… Y-Yeah…”

“And you want something from me, is that correct?”

“Y-You could sss-sssay that…”

“Well, to get what you want, I need to get what I want.”

She’s right there…

“It’s on-only f-fa-fair…”

And Monika always gets what she wants~

Gulp!

“You ought to meet me halfway before the nerves catch up with us…”

She… She want a kiss?!

“I… Um… I-I…”

“Mhmhm… Good.”

!!!


End Chapter 11-1

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Chapter 10-2: Charred Confectionery/Coal Cupcake


“I’m worried about Natsuki.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No. Well… I just want her in our little fun group.”

“Heh. Little fun group. Sayori, it’s more than simply that.”

“But it is fun! Wouldn’t you call earlier with Yuri fun?”

“I… I can’t deny that.”

“That’s a side you’ve never seen of her, right?”

Well, except for that one time…

“Yeah, it is. It’s refreshing. It reminds me that no matter how much you know someone, there’s always more to them that you can fathom.”

“That sounds deep! Even though, you know, you’ve known her for like a month.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just such a jarring change from how she usually is. Is that healthy?”

“Sweetie, I go to therapy now. I’m less qualified to answer that. Try asking someone like Monika. Tomorrow.”

“I’m not going to do that. To begin with, the first visit Monika is making here isn’t going to be about one of the other girls. Second, maybe I shouldn’t, you know, blab about what’s been going on between Yuri and I before we know if Monika even wants in on this. Lastly, Yuri might not appreciate that.”

“Ehehe, I guess you’re right.”

“Besides, as long as Yuri is enjoying herself and is doing well, I’m happy.”

“Good boy!”

“Gee, thanks, ya butt.”

Poke.

“Eep!”

“Heh, hehehe… Anyway, we got sidetracked. So, about Natsuki…”

“I want her in our fun gro— in our relationship.”

“I want her in, too… any particular reason? Or is it just because Monika might be joining and Natsuki would be the only one left out?”

“Both.”

“Wanna tell me what your particular reason is?”

“Nope!”

“Sayori…”

“Not gonna tell! Yet! You can’t make me.”

“Oh, can’t I?”

“Nope! And uh… ehehe, I’m serious about that. I don’t wanna jinx anything.”

Again, I’m lacking the intestinal fortitude right now to dig deeper.

“… Hm… Alright, fair enough. I’ll hope that things work out for you. Just tell me one thing.”

“Yeah?”

“Is anything bad happening?”

“Nah. The only bad thing is Natsuki not joining. If she does, then things will be amazing!”

“So be it.”


Knock knock knock!

I’m startled by someone at the door. Guess I fell asleep. At least I’m catching glimpses into my memory. How does work anyhow? Maybe zoning out earlier restarted the process of… accessing those… memories— This sounds like a load of shit. I wouldn’t know how this all works, though. For all I know, now that I’m back to a more decent level of mental stability, the fog inside my head is clearing up. I guess that means I at least retained some knowledge of what was happening rather than having full-on amnesia. I shrug and go to open the door.

“You have a key, you—” I expect to see Sayori back from her appointment since I didn’t check my phone before standing up. Instead, it’s Natsuki.

“…” She is wearing a particular look on her face. I can’t fathom what it may be. I step aside and motion for her to enter. She does so in silence and haphazardly lets her bag drop to the floor.

“Um… Are you ready to talk?”

“Not really.”

“Come on, let’s sit down at least.” I snag my water off the TV tray and take a swig. Room temperature. I’m not sure how long I was out for. When I look towards Natsuki, she hasn’t moved. In fact, she seems to be staring off into space. Hey, space is Yuri’s thing!

“Look,” I start as I approach her, “I already know there’s no way you’re okay, so since you’re here let’s— Ow!

Without warning, Natsuki turns and punches me in the shoulder. It isn’t particularly hard, but it isn’t light either. I take a step back and put a hand up to cover it. A quick glance down and a roll of my shoulder tells me that I’m fine. When I look up, I see that Natsuki is looking away again.

“Natsuki, what’s going on?”

Silence is my only answer.

“You know, this whole mysterious silence thing doesn’t serve a purpose besides— OW!” Another punch, this one to the other shoulder. At least she’s being considerate not to hit the same spot twice.

“I’m not being silent for no reason, idiot! I’m thinking about what I want to do.”

“… Heh… Heh heh…”

“What do you think you’re laughing at?”

“You are here to beat me up.”

“…”

I didn’t think it would actually come to this. She wouldn’t punch me for no apparent reason, and she isn’t denying my accusation. This… has turned into a difficult situation. What the hell do I do? I really screwed myself. I mean, I suppose it’s unreasonable for her to expect me to actually go through with something like this, but I did say twice that she was welcome to beat me up if it would help her. Why the hesitation?

Did she come back to test my word since it got brought up earlier? Ugh, I know she has the capacity to hit like a truck. As much as I never cared about being in any sort of shape, it would help to not be as frail as I am. With the right motivations like anger or adrenaline, someone can hit pretty hard even without much behind it, but that doesn’t help when you’re on the receiving end.

It seems my silence has kept her at bay. A statue couldn’t be more still and tense than her right now, though I’m kind of worried that she will do something if I blink. What do I do? Will I look like a coward if I submit to her? Will I also look like a coward if I say I’m not going to accept this? I’ll definitely look like an asshole if I try to retaliate, and I do not want to exert force unless necessary. This is not one of those times. Nothing in the safety of my own home would require that.

I slowly lower myself down onto my knees. “Well, come on. Let’s get it over with.”

Wha-What?!

Natsuki takes a step back. I must have grown a few heads because her expression is contorted into… something. Is she experiencing horror? Disgust? I swear, sometimes reading her is harder than understanding fictional languages.

“I’m not gonna do that!”

“Well, then what did you come back for if not to talk?”

“I…” Her fists are clenched tight. They’re discolored due to the pressure being exerted right now. I think life just got bumped up in difficulty for her. “You’re right. I did come back. I had to know if you were serious or not.”

“Well, I am. Come on.”

“…” Since I’m on my knees, she utilizes her legs. A kick across the chest makes me recoil. I grunt in pain but keep myself from falling onto my back. “Dumbass.” Another kick targets an arm, earning a hiss from me. While I’m dealing with the pain, I hadn’t realized she moved to my side until a considerably harder kick lands across my back, sending me flopping forward onto the floor. I may be feeling that in the morning.

“Eurgh…” Yeah, so this was a bad idea. Oh well, I guess I got myself into this mess. As I rise back up to a kneeling position, Natsuki wanders back in front of me.

“Alright. You’ve proven your point. That’s enough.”

Thank goodness. I mean, at this point I guess I would absolutely suck it up if need be, but I can be grateful that she’s showing mercy.

“…” I don’t move. Neither does she. She’s looking away again.

No…

Something’s still bothering her. She got her answer. Okay, this part is obvious.

“It’s okay, Natsuki. I don’t think anything less of you for seeking an answer like this. If I hadn’t meant it, I wouldn’t have said it. Why do you think I’m down here?”

She looks in my general direction but says nothing. Again. Why, why must you be such a difficult nut to crack?

“Were you seeking trust?”

“…” She shrugs.

“To blow off steam?”

She shakes her head. She’s tensed up once again.

“Then what?”

Natsuki starts to head towards the exit. “Maybe I’ll tell you some other time.”

Ignoring some of the pain, I jump to my feet and put myself between her and the door.

“I’m not ready to do this right now.” Her tone is hushed, and her insistence on not tackling her issues when they’ve already been on her mind irks me. “I’m sorry. Please move.”

“No. We’re doing this now.”

What am I saying? I must have a death wish.

Ugh! That wording was horrible.

And yet… It motivates me. Being reminded of Sayori’s troubles fills my mind with all sorts of negative thoughts. I was this close to losing Sayori because she feared telling me not just about her depression but about her love for me.

I can’t risk something like that happen again. I’m not backing down. Even if I can’t get her to talk, I can convince her that I care.

Natsuki stares at me warily. Clearly, she isn’t sure how to process what I just said, but nonetheless she opens her mouth:

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. I want to do this now. You’re already here and there’s no one else around.”

“…” Natsuki tries to move around me. I simply step in front of her. Again, she tries to juke but I’m too fast. My legs are longer and she isn’t as fast as she needs to be to compensate.

“You aren’t leaving. We’re getting through this. Please, trust me.” I fold my arms across my chest. “Sayori’s worried about you. I’m worried about you, too.”

“You shouldn’t.”

“Bull.” She’s looking away again. “Hey!” That got her attention. My irritation may have showed a little too much there. “This is important. Look at me. I…”

I take a deep breath. Well, she brought it up earlier, so it’s my turn.

“If I didn’t worry about Sayori, she wouldn’t be here right now. I won’t stop worrying about you, and neither will the rest of the girls.”

“I ain’t gonna hurt myself, or anything like that.”

“That’s great, but…”

At this point, I’m winging things. Well, no time like the present.

I get back down onto my knees. “I want you to take your frustrations out on me.”

“That’s stupid! Not to mention screwed up!”

“This is what I want. Clearly you don’t have other avenues to explore when it comes to relieving the mountains of stress you are dealing with.”

Shut up!” Natsuki tries to force herself past me, but I rise up and stop her again. She bumps my outstretched arm. I bring her back in front of me, hands on her shoulders.

“You wouldn’t be getting so wound up about this if there wasn’t something.” I keep a firm, but not harsh, grip on her. We’re close enough that she can’t really deter her eyes from mine. “You might be able to hide behind a mask most of the time, but that façade was let down the moment we were alone. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”

“I knew you’d notice! I just couldn’t help it at the time! Some of the things we talked about beforehand…”

“Exactly! You were bothered. If it was just a small thing, you wouldn’t be acting like this.”

“I told you not to worry!

“I can’t help it! I care about you!”

Maybe you shouldn’t!” Natsuki grabs my wrists. Instead of trying to remove my hands from her shoulders, I can feel her nails dig into my skin. She’s livid, and her anger is only helping to fuel my current state. “You shouldn’t care about someone who tests whether their friend would let themselves get beat up! I’m not a pleasant person! Put your energy into someone who is worth it.”

I growl and tighten my grip on her shoulders. She doesn’t appear to be affected. “That’s why I’m doing this! You don’t get to determine who I care about or who is worth my time. I told all of you that day that I cared about you. I wanted to be with all of you. We may not be together, but we’re still friends. I know you’d help Sayori if she came to you. Well, I’m coming to you instead. Help me help you!”

“Oh, fuck off with your savior complex!” Natsuki finally shakes my hands off of her. “Just because you saved Sayori, you feel like you have to help everyone with their big bad problems and give them lots of love so they don’t have to suffer, right? You’re not this… pariah, or whatever. You’re just acting like a schmuck!”

“Wanting to help friends is not this savior complex thing you’re so hung up about!” I take her fists into my hands. She doesn’t resist. Yet. “Seeking help is not a sign of weakness! Having emotions is not a sign of weakness! You are in the presence of someone who has done everything they can for a girl he loves to show her that it’s okay to be vulnerable around him. Sayori allowing herself to be vulnerable is how so much progress has been made!”

“Yeah, well, that’s Sayori, and I’m not her!”

“You don’t have to be Sayori to let yourself be helped. I swear, it’s easier than you think it is!”

“You’re not me! You don’t know how hard it is!”

“Whether I do or not isn’t the point. The point is that you have someone who is willing to get beaten to a pulp if it means helping his friend. You came to test my word and it held up. Doesn’t that mean something to you? Doesn’t that speak volumes?”

I draw even closer to her. As much as it would have pained me, I was hoping to see tears in her eyes. I want her to crack now. I want this shell to shatter. She has long since outgrown her current one. The bottled emotions need to be emptied so she doesn’t become more volatile. Bits of moving around has displaced us away from the door. She has a clear dash to the exit, but now she isn’t taking it. Maybe I can do this after all. I take her head into my hands.

“You don’t want this blowing up on you. I bet not even Sayori anticipated that she would come close to taking her own life. When you say you won’t do something like that, I don’t trust it. When you refuse to let me be here for you in a docile way, I have to figure out how else to get through to you. Therefore, I’m ordering you to release all that emotion on me. You’re not leaving until you do.”

“You better quit before you get your ass beat!”

That’s still what I want you to do!

Are you fucking dense?!

Yes! That’s why I want you to hand me my ass on a silver platter! I know I can take it!

If I wasn’t so pumped up right now, I’d dispute that based on how this went earlier.

“You’re a giant prick, you know that?! You’re not invincible! I know I’m not, and I’m tough, so I know you of all people aren’t!”

“Try me, then!”

No!

Do it. Hurt me more. Why can’t you be a hard-ass when I want you to?

Because I said so!

Do it.

NO!

DO IT!

Without thinking, I release her head and bounce my palms off of her shoulders. She stumbles back harder than I could have anticipated and collides with the wall. She’s remains standing, but I swear she hit her head. Her eyes are wide and her breathing escalates. My stomach turns inside-out as I come to terms with what I just did.

Oh no.

No, please no.

I fucked up.

She’s going to hate me. I put my hands on her. She’ll never speak to me again. She’ll leave the Literature Club and stop talking to her friends because of me.

“Natsuki, I’m sorry! So, so sorry! I’ve never lost my temper like that before. I—”

A knee to the gut sends me reeling. “How fucking dare you put your hands on me!” As I stand back up straight, I feel her arm wrap under and around my head. She drops down with my neck in tow; my jaw and throat impact her shoulder. I’m sent rolling away from the assault, gingerly holding the affected areas. Whatever just happened stunned me hard. “You will never, ever do that again unless you want to lose my respect as well as your arms!” As miraculous as it is that I’m on all fours, I don’t feel good about the sudden pressure on the back of my head.

Aaagh…

Suddenly, I’m on my back. The pain seems like it’s wrapped around my skull. I groan and mutter curses under my breath, holding my head in my hands. I think she stomped my head into the floor, and I think I suffered a blackout for a split second.

Is this what you wanted? Huh?!” I’m disoriented, but a kick to the ribs brings me back down to reality. It feels like I got hit with a girder. A coughing fit starts up. “You won’t have the chance to back out now!” Another shot to the ribs. I instinctively use the momentum from the kick to roll as far away as I can. “I’m not finished with you!

As I struggle to regain my bearings, my attempts to get further than simply on my hands and knees is thwarted. Natsuki kneels over my waist, planting me on the ground. She isn’t terribly heavy, but being on your stomach is the worst position to be in. She’s throwing punches, forearms, elbows into my back and shoulders. I do my best to cover up and it practically does nothing. My arms can’t reach around to do anything.

This is bad. Not only did I piss her off and potentially screw up our friendship, but she may break something.

You wanna”—Whack—know what”—Whack—“my problem is?”—Whack—“You were nice to me”—Whack—“and I don’t know how to handle it!”—Whack—I’m afraid of getting hurt!”—Whack—“I’m afraid of hurting you!”—Whack—“I’m afraid of fucking everything up because I am a fuck-up!

If I wasn’t ailing physically, my stomach would be doing very dangerous acrobatics. The brief reprieve from her strikes doesn’t last long. To make matters worse, she’s targeting my head now. Natsuki has gotten absolutely vicious. She will actually injure me if she doesn’t stop soon. I regret getting myself into this situation.

I’m a stubborn, hot-headed bitch!”—Whack—“I’m waiting for all my friends to turn on me!”—Whack—“I’m waiting for everyone I care about to leave me without anyone again!”—Whack—“And I do things like this!”—Whack—“Beating the shit out of the only guy to show interest in me like this! I’ve… Haaah… haaaah… I’ve—”

Natsuki’s attempt to catch her breath is interrupted by her own coughing. Thank God. I regret that she’s being affected like this since it’s absolutely my fault. The only thing I can take solace in right now is that she isn’t caving my skull in as fast.

I’ve never fit in! I’m not mature enough to interact with Monika on any meaningful level, and Yuri only puts up with me because she has to!” When the next blow comes down onto my skull, I am able to tell—somehow—that it’s the heel of her fist. Instead of a composed strike, she’s pounding like someone who just forgot how to fight. Her voice is already hoarse from her yelling. “Now that you four are all together, it’s only a matter of time before they try to make you see why I’m such a bad influence!” She keeps hitting the same spot over and over. When I finally manage to block her hand, she still remains in the same spot. My hands suffer, but that’s a blessing right now.

You and Sayori are the only people who treat me right no matter what! She isn’t afraid to make me feel worth something because she can see past me somehow, and you interact with me like an equal instead of something lesser!” She’s leaning on both of my shoulders. It aches from her earlier strikes, but it’s still better than nothing. Well, nothing would be better I suppose. “am childish—way too childish to handle a relationship! I just can’t trust even you two like that, and I don’t want to be what screws up your chances with the other girls! You are great people that deserve happiness! I can’t risk losing you all, but I can’t risk being the reason the rest of you can’t be together!

The strikes have stopped completely now.

“I’m the weakest link out of the whole club—out of everyone I know! I don’t act like an adult on my own, and the only times I do are when I messed something up! Even that isn’t a guarantee when I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong! All I ever want to do is throw myself into my hobbies so I can forget how lonely and incompatible with others I am! I don’t have anything to offer! I’m not smart! I’m not pretty! I’m an overly-sensitive asshole who can’t take criticism! When someone doesn’t enjoy something that I like or do, I take it as a personal offense and devolve into a five-year-old! People dismiss me because they don’t take me seriously, especially when anything I just said is involved! I can’t even joke around with my best friend without another supposed friend thinking I’m genuinely being a dick!

I’m… her best friend?

“Sayori’s been non-stop trying to get me to join this relationship, but sooner or later Yuri and I are gonna get into a fight that screws it all up. If it isn’t her, then Monika will have finally had enough of me and tell me off for always challenging her as the alpha! When she won’t have to worry about being unprofessional on school grounds, I just know she’s gonna let me have it! Somehow, you and I will come to blows over… some…someth—”

She’s hyperventilating. No doubt she cut herself off when she realized we technically just came to blows. She’s still on me, and I don’t have the nerve or energy to try to turn over to comfort her physically while my vocal cords are dedicated to grunts of pain.

“A-And if— If I los-l-lost S-Sa-Sayori as a friend, if— If I ever upsss-ssset or hurrr-hurt her, no one w-would ffffff— Haaah, haaaaah, haaaffffforgive me, especially myself!

Natsuki’s grip on my shoulders tighten. I cringe and hiss from her nails digging into me.

I’m such a temperamental dipshit! I just beat the hell out of you! How do I come back from that?! You’ll hate me! She’ll hate me! I know how much she loves you! This isn’t like last time! I came here with the intentions of hurting you to any degree, even if you try to take the blame on this! I could have seriously injured you or worse!

It feels like her forehead is buried in my upper back. I couldn’t protest if I wanted to.

See?! I’m a fuck-up! It only took less than two months to reveal my true colors to you! Close to half a year knowing Sayori and she’ll regret ever placing her faith in me! I’m a selfish, pissy brat with no good excuse for being this way! I just want to be loved by someone other than family, but I ruin every good thing I’ve ever had!

A pained laugh escapes her.

How did Yuri describe that one poem when we shared those privately after our fight? Something about… ghost symbolism? The last comforting place, a-and… soon to be left with nothing? That’s me. I’m the ghost. The horrible things I know I’ve done will catch up to me and I’ll be forced away from the last place, the last people, that… that matter to… Haaah… Haaaaahhh… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry! I-I’m… s-sssorry! I… Haaah, haaaaahhh…

I don’t think any action I could take would be able to help Natsuki now. I pushed her too far in more ways than one. Maybe she needs this, but there is no way I could have predicted just how much all her insecurities weighed on her conscience. Everything is coming out now.

 

 

 

“HaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

 

 

 

Natsuki’s last gasp of energy is a sickening wail of utter despair. Now that she’s done verbally mutilating herself, she collapses on top of me. She doesn’t even have the wherewithal to clutch my shoulders; her fingers lay limply on my battered joints while she becomes a quivering pile of flesh and tears on top of me.

The scream she let out reminds me of what I’ve heard from Sayori during her worst moments…

I tremble involuntarily and hope with all my might that Natsuki is serious about not hurting herself.

I hear the front door get thrown open. Even though Natsuki just spent nearly every ounce of her energy, she dug deep to find something to use and scrambles off of me. The door slams shut.

I heard a scream—

Sayori cries out and I hear a thud. Natsuki all but flung herself at the returning angel. They’re on the ground.

I’m so sorry! Sayori, I’m sorry! I’m s-s…

Natsuki’s voice gets muffled. Her apologies get absorbed into Sayori’s blazer, soon devolving into the convulsive crying she was beginning on me. I get shot a look of confoundedness and shake my head to go with my pained expression, half from physical pain and half from bearing the brunt of the breakdown.

Once Sayori sees my response, she wastes no time throwing everything she has into comforting Natsuki. “It’s okay! It’s okay, Sweetums. No matter what happened, it’ll be okay. I promise.”

Having been on my stomach for a significant amount of time, I roll over onto my back and immediately regret it. The hard floor is not an ideal place to recover from blunt force trauma. I roll back over and push myself up to my knees. Christ, my head is throbbing. I was distracted from the pain while Natsuki’s “the reason I suck” speech went on, but now my pain receptors are being swarmed. Sitting up was enough to do it for my head, while using my muscles got my shoulders and back pitching a fit. I hope I don’t have to do anything physically-demanding anytime soon.

Sayori’s wordlessly trying to get my attention. She waves me over.

“Come on, Sweetums. We’re gonna get to the couch, okay?”

She wants my help with that, I bet. Well, it’s not like she knows what happened. She doesn’t know I got beaten down, but I’m not about to fail her. Standing would have been so much worse if my legs had come under fire, but thankfully that was not the case. I don’t think Natsuki even acknowledged what Sayori said. Once I stagger raggedly over to the girls, I help pull Sayori up. She tries her damnedest to maneuver without disturbing Natsuki’s bawling. With my assistance pulling her up by her hands, we get her from laying on her back, to seated, to kneeling, and finally standing. The last part is a pain, particularly for my freshly-aching back, but we manage.

Once Sayori is on her feet, she surprises me by outright lifting Natsuki by her waist and carrying her over to the nearest couch. Natsuki’s feet are mere inches from the floor, but it’s still incredible. I never see Sayori have to exert much power. To help explain this feat of strength, I see that Natsuki’s arms are clutched tighter than ever around Sayori’s shoulders and neck. I help Sayori get seated without plopping down suddenly from the extra weight she’s carrying. Natsuki is relegated to kneeling over Sayori’s lap, face buried in the not-aching shoulders of her consoler. With that out of the way, I steadily make my way into the bathroom.

After fumbling with trying to get the right number of pills from the bottle of painkillers, I say screw it and bring the whole bottle out with me. In the kitchen, I grab a water bottle for Sayori and assemble a cup of ice water for Natsuki. In her condition, drinking from a straw would probably be preferred. Whatever it takes to make any action Natsuki has to perform easier. I toss one in her cup and return to them.

Once I gingerly move a tray close to the girls with their waters and some pills for Natsuki, I grab my own water from earlier. It gets practically chugged along with another half-dose of medicine. I set the water and the pill bottles down on the tray and ease myself down on the free couch. Natsuki is still very audibly distressed, maybe worse than before. The poor girl is shaking now. Sayori, paying firm attention to Natsuki’s fragile state, is now whispering her comfort. I can’t pick up what’s being said, but I know it’s the best reassurance in the world.

I feel like shit seeing Natsuki like this, and I know that I’m the reason it happened.

So this is the sort of stuff that was going through Natsuki’s head when I made my confession to the club. No wonder she flipped out. I know that, objectively, a person’s problems don’t excuse their actions, but to hell with that right now. She would detest being seen as pitiable, as someone to whom sympathies would be given even in the worst of circumstances, but I genuinely feel bad. If I was like her, if I was seriously afraid of losing everything important to me because of my own personality…

Natsuki deserves better. Yuri and I are introverts. I think Monika is an extrovert. Sayori is definitely an ambivert, and I think that’s where Natsuki is as well. She can do okay on her own but interacting with others and creating meaningful bonds is vital to her needs as a human being. Clearly, her shortcomings in the social department have shattered her real sense of confidence and self-worth. It’s made her critically aware of who she is and how she acts, but she’s relied so much on her mask that it became a part of her that isn’t easy to change. Her defense against being hurt only damaged her standings with peers.

I hate that I learn so much about these girls by bearing witness to them losing control of themselves. I suppose you do learn the most about someone when you see them at their lowest. When they are vulnerable, they can’t hide who they truly are. When they are suffering and the walls come down for even a little bit, you’ll come to understand them better than you could have hoped to otherwise. Maybe that’s only a tiny bit more than you did before, but it’s still something. I’m still not an expert on Sayori’s depression but gaining even a sliver of insight has assisted in helping her directly. You can’t help if you don’t know. Sometimes, when they don’t let you know, you need to make them tell you.

I still regret pushing her earlier. God, I hope that sort of shit doesn’t become a trend. I really do have pent-up aggression from over the years, but to accidentally let it out on any of the girls would be disastrous. It’s unacceptable that it happened here to begin with. I could have surely gotten through to her without that shove.

It’s clear Natsuki was holding this all in for a long time, but it remains to be seen how much it will help her, if at all. I zone back in from my thoughts. Natsuki seems to be recovering and is not crying anywhere near as hard. Sayori is simply cradling her and stroking her back. She looks grief-stricken. I’m in no position to help, and Natsuki is better off being tended to by the person she barreled over in desperation anyway.

Sayori has a healing touch when it comes to emotional issues, but I really wish it affected one’s body as well. I could use it when we inevitably wind up cuddling later tonight. I’m definitely the big spoon come bedtime.

Now that all of the excitement has died down, I am absolutely exhausted. I stay prepared to assist but I’ll rest my weary body for now.


“Are you feeling any better, Sweetums?”

“…”

“That’s good to know. Can I do anything else for you?”

“…!”

“Alright. It’s okay. I won’t let you go.”

“…”

“Look! Here comes the nice boy with some of his secret chocolate stash.”

“Special delivery. And hey, it isn’t very secret if you already know about it.”

“Ehehe… Thanks, Sweetie. Some for you and some for us.”

“Painkillers help for some things, but chocolate is eternal.”

“Your Mom did always say to keep some dark chocolate around in case of emergencies ‘cuz it helps you feel better, and that’s what we want. Here, have some.”

“…”

“It’ll melt in my fingers if you don’t hurry! Then someone will have to lick it off.”

“…?”

“Ehehe, I’m only teasing. I’d probably do that myself.”

“…”

“There we go.”

“…”

“Eh? Are you making phone typing motions? Sweetie, can you get her bag?”

“Sure.”

“So, you aren’t in the mood to talk, huh? Well, that’s okay. We can skirt around that. I guess you wanna use your phone to type? Smart cupcake.”

“Here you are, Princess.”

“…”

“Strawberry…? Ooh! Sweetie, do you have strawberry syrup? She’s asking for strawberry milk.”

“Weehhh I just sat dooowwwn. Nnngh! I’ll be back in a minute.”

“So, uh… It’s still kind of early, but would you like to stay over?”

“?!”

“Oh wow, you’re writing a novel now, huh? Well, take your time. I’ll read as you go along.”

“There you go.”

“Thanks. Nattie says thanks, too.”

“You’re welcome. I’m gonna lay down over here, but I’ll be listening.”

“…”

“Left, came back, tested beating him up, confli— Oh.”

“Ugh. Hey, uh… Natsuki…”

“…?”

“I really am sorry for pushing you, both figuratively and literally. I’ve never been aggressive or the type to be easily agitated. I guess I’d finally had enough of you trying to ignore what was going on, and my brain jumped to realizing in hindsight how Sayori was doing the same for all this time. I let my emotions get the best of me because I was sick of you refusing to face what you needed to so you could get help, whatever that may entail. I didn’t want to see you go through what Sayori did. I still shouldn’t have put my hands on you and it’s unacceptable that I did.”

“…”

“She says she forgives you, even though the apology is undeser— Hey! Just ‘cuz you came back to test his word doesn’t mean anything bad about you! I guess I would have been curious, too. And, I mean, if someone put their hands on me…”

“You’re as soft as they come, Sayori. You wouldn’t be able to retaliate like she did, and I absolutely deserved some retribution for trying to get her to spill it and pushing her into the wall.”

“Revolution?”

“Still on that one, huh?”

“Ehehe, I was trying to get a smile out of her. Guess it didn’t work so well.”

“…”

“It’s… It’s okay. Friends, family, and even lovers fight sometimes. Maybe they don’t beat each other up, but it happens. Plus, if he said multiple times…”

“I did. And I still mean it. It sucked, but I’d do it again if it meant being able to help.”

“Whaddaya mean, ‘Who does a thing like that?’ That guy right there! I’m serious when I tell you he’s the best person I’ve ever known.”

“Princess, I would do battle with a dragon, in nothing but heart-print boxer shorts, wielding a stick, if it meant you could escape to safety amidst the distraction.”

“Hmhm…”

“Ehe, I guess she liked that. Also, she says you’re stupid for even joking about something like that.”

“Well, I mean, I’d do the same for you. I’d do the same for all my loved ones.”

“…”

“You’re a loved one to us and you can’t change our mind, Nattie!”

“…!”

“What you did will only be temporary.”

“Yeah. Nothing’s broken, and I don’t think I have a concussion or anything like that. Just some bruises.”

“Speaking of which… Sweetie, I hate to bother you, but could you come over here? Turn around and take off your shirt.”

“Uh… Okay…?”

“Look at it this way, Nattie: these bruises you have inflicted are a representation of what’s going on inside your head. They are the injuries of a war you’ve been fighting inside yourself for a long time, and all that pent-up anguish finally came out. Your wounds may not heal as fast as these here, but we can still try to help.”

“…”

“No, we can’t just wave a magic wand and fix your problems. What we can do is be here for you. Something else to keep in mind is that we can’t always treat the damage directly, but we can help make the person that is hurting feel better through other means. Think of it like you’ve got a broken arm. Loved ones may come and sign the cast. They’ll aid you with things that are harder because you’ve only got one good arm to work with for some time. They’ll be there for you in… in your time of need. My depression is a brain chemical thing. Love may not be able to cure what’s ailing me, but it sure helps knowing that I’m appreciated and cared for.”

“…”

“That war I mentioned is one that has raged on long enough for you to have experienced a lifetime of suffering. It is an epic struggle to keep yourself composed against your own worst enemy, and that happens to be yourself a lot of the time. I’ve been there. I’m really proud of you for holding up as long as you have. You’re incredibly strong and brave. Here, some more snacks.”

“…”

“Do you remember my poem about the bottles? You haven’t been doing anything with the ones you have. They’re just sitting there collecting dust because you locked them away. When other people came and started shattering them, you wanted to protect the ones you had left. I’ve started to realize lately that it’s okay to use those bottles on yourself. Even if you can’t bring yourself to use them on others for a long time, it’s okay to want the things you do. Others will spend their own bottles on you because they think you’re worth it, and those who are truly worth it won’t expect anything in return. All they hope is that their bottles give you something positive, even if it’s only a tiny bit.”

“That’s… really well-said. I second this. You said you can’t trust us, uh, I guess in the way that you’d like to. I can’t speak for Sayori, but I’m not concerned about that. I’ll spend however long I need to earn that level of trust because I care about you and I think you’re worth it.”

“I’ll spend all the time in the world if I need to. Happiness can be found, and you happened to find your route to it in the Literature Club. We’re here to pump you so full of affection and love that nothing but happy thoughts will dance around inside your pretty little pink head.”

“…”

“Everyone deserves happiness, even if you think you don’t. It’s not selfish. I’m trying to get that through my head from my therapist. And Sweetie. He can take a more personal and hands-on approach, but both help. Let me tell you, when he puts his lips on me—”

“Hey!”

“Ehehe… When I told him about my depression, he told me that if I wanted to be selfish or think I was selfish, I had to allow him to be selfish about what he wanted to do for me. So, whether you want us to or not, we are both going to be selfish in our attempts to show you our love and care. Therefore, you are perfectly justified in being selfish in your own ways because we are, too.”

“…”

“And, just so you know, Yuri and Monika care about you. I know you may think they don’t, but you’re not the only person who can be rough around the edges. If they don’t understand, we will make them. You are just radically different from them, and that’s okay.”

“…”

“I know we’ve talked a lot, Sweetums. I’m sorry if this is too much, or if it’s hard for you to absorb. If words won’t work, we will prove it to you through our actions. Now, about staying with us for tonight…”

“When did that come up?”

“You were getting her drink and I kind of… asked… ehehe…”

“… Do you want to, Natsuki? If it would help you feel better, then we’d love to. Hell, even if you didn’t explicitly want to, we’d still be happy to have you.”

“…”

“Alright. Text your father, then.”


As Sayori and I finish bringing my parents’ mattress down to the living room from the second floor, Natsuki re-enters the house with some things in tow.

“We would have come out with you if you wanted,” Sayori says. Natsuki gives a shake of her head and a shrug. Her father drove by to give her a change of clothes and check up on her. I’m not sure how I feel about him having my address, but I’m more concerned about her.

Natsuki’s never been anything besides kind of vague about their bond, but she is insistent that they care about each other even through hard times. Apparently, he has problems as well. They even share some, not that I know what they are. It’s disappointing to hear, but as long as they are on good terms more often than not…

“Right here. Nnngh!” I grunt from the exertion. This mattress is large and unwieldy. I’d already gotten the guest room mattress down by myself since it is smaller, but I needed help for this one. I felt weird about the idea of all of us in my parents’ room, but I was fine about stealing their mattress since they’ve been abroad again. Sayori and I both wanted to be able to share a bed with Natsuki so we could keep her company, and this was the next best thing. My bed or the guest bed wouldn’t fit all three of us comfortably, and at least this way we have plenty of room to spread out if we choose.

“Hah. Alright, glad that’s done. Sayori, can you get all the pillows and stuff from upstairs?”

“Sure thing! I’m gonna change while I’m up there.”

“Okay. Natsuki, bathroom’s down the hall if you want to change. Hell, if you want to shower, Sayori’s bathing stuff is in the upstairs bathroom so follow her. You might like her products more than my simpler ones.”

With a nod, Natsuki hurries after Sayori. I figured that’d be the case. Cleaning myself up after a humongous episode like that is a must to get rid of all the grossness.

Sayori had moved the far couch earlier so we could fit the mattresses comfortably between them. We can still use the couches, but our sleeping arrangement is settled. Just as I slowly rest my weary carcass on a couch, I hear a knock at the door.

Couldn’t have made it like 30 seconds earlier?

I pay for the takeout we ordered and set it down in the kitchen. I’m not eating without the others, so the waiting game is now engaged. After today, comfort food was a must. I am hungry for my General Tso’s. It gives me ideas. Even thinking about it helped rev up my brain for what we’d do for bed.

Sayori plops the pillows and blankets down on the mattresses and heads next door to do the daily check-in on her place. She’d been on her way to do that coming off the bus but Natsuki’s scream—ugh, I can still hear it—caused her to come running.

With a ton of luck, the rest of the evening is uneventful. Sayori doesn’t take too long, and a clean Natsuki comes down from upstairs eventually. She continues to be nonverbal, but we aren’t doing much talking anymore. We settle down in the living room, watching food and game shows while fattening ourselves. It’s a wonderful contrast to everything else that’s happened.

Even though today was kind of shitty and emotional, we are all able to agree that it was for the best that it happened. Natsuki is apprehensive because, as she types out to us, she still feels bad about beating me to a pulp. Losing control of her emotions is also unfavorable for her, as it typically goes for most anyone, but doing it in front of others is worse. We assure her that we aren’t here to judge. We’re here to take care of her. Thankfully, it seems that we are going to be drawn closer because of it.

It isn’t terribly late, but we collectively decide to turn in. The TV is left on for background noise and a small bit of light while we get comfortable. We will get up and have breakfast together before heading to school. Natsuki will return home tomorrow after club. All of us already like the idea of sleeping over, so this won’t be the last time. There will be far less chaos then.

As I had hoped earlier, I was the big spoon. Well, biggest spoon in this case. Sayori faces away from me while my arms are around her waist. Natsuki faces Sayori and keeps her hands in front of her. It’s so strange seeing Natsuki affectionate and vulnerable, but it is a relief to see. I am indebted to Sayori for being someone that Natsuki feels comfortable being like this with. I can only hope to achieve that level of a bond with her. Based on how she reacted whenever Sayori was brought up between us and how effective Sayori was at placating her, there seems to be a lot I don’t know about them. One thing that I picked up without a doubt is that Sayori means a lot to Natsuki. She may be hesitant to trust us more than she does, but she has placed some level of faith in Sayori.

Before we fall asleep, I have something to address. “Natsuki…”

“Mmm…?” That’s an improvement over earlier.

“I’m glad we got to spend time like this tonight. I mean, less so regarding the afternoon, but as long as you’re doing better now, that’s all I care about. I still ache, but it’s worth it if we can improve your mood, your life, anything. That’s what friends are for. If you can’t deal with a relationship, I won’t pester or pressure you. If you’re afraid but want to deep down, you go at your own pace. If it’s love and affection you need, I’d like to try to help you warm up to stuff like that. Nothing at risk, no strings attached. Just a friend helping another with her emotional needs.”

“Agreed! I talked about friendship alongside platonic love and affection last week for a reason, you know. I couldn’t have seen this coming, but still!” I hear a noise that sounds suspiciously like a kiss. “And here’s a little sample of it for the top of your noggin. A little something to help your brain stop being so mean, like how a parent will give their child a kiss on their booboos! We may have only known each other for so long, but we’ve come so far in just a short amount of time. We really do love you. You can interpret that in any way you’d like. We just hope you can find it in you to accept it at all.”

“…”

“And…”

“…”

If you can give us a chance… I’ll be your beach.”

“…!”

“And I’ll be your sunshine!”

“…”

Feeling brave, I blindly seek Natsuki’s hand and give it a bit of a squeeze. It’s not very hard, and not for more than a second. I don’t want to push it, but I want to give some kind of physical indicator to back up my words.

“That was… my hand, ehehe…”

“Heehee…”

“Whoops. I guess this is the opposite of what happened earlier with your hand.”

“…”

As I take my hand back, I feel a delicate squeeze on it.

“Thank you. Both of you.”

A firmer squeeze joins our hands.

“Of course!”

“You’re welcome.”


End Chapter 10-2


Doki Doki: Proof Of Loving You can be found on:
1. AO3/Archive Of Our Own (dot org)
2. DeviantArt (dot com)
3. FanFiction (dot net)
4. WattPad (dot com)

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Notes & Responses


IMPORTANT – PLEASE READ!!!

If anyone ever thinks they are writing an essay for a comment and that they’re talking too much, I’m going to outshine you right now.

Last chapter wasn’t so well-received. I can assure all of you that I have a plan. I am 100% glad that the vocal of you lot are expressing disappointment, actually, because it means you are invested and want to fully see what’s going on. I don’t LIKE disappointing you, but ultimately it helps when it does happen. Constructive criticism and all that.

For the sake of reassuring those who want to know what happened with Monika, MC, and Sayori, Chapter 11 will display that memory early on as well as have some more fresh interactions between them. Additionally, part of the reason MC is brushing off his own issues and trying to forget about it is because he’s too focused on the others and is less interested in his own health. His seeming indifference to the missing events is another symptom of what’s going on with him, not a reflection of his character. DDLC doesn’t give much of a look inside of his head, but it seems like he’s lived a pretty alright life without issues clogging his head, so he isn’t used to these recent developments. Maybe being so blatant about this stuff outside of the story itself is poor of me but I don’t care lmao. I don’t want to keep anyone turned off. You want it? It’s yours, my friend, as long as you have enough patience. Plus, I want to reassure those concerned and put you at ease so you can focus on this very important chapter.

Ultimately, this work is for me. It is a labor of love and that is what inspired me in the first place. The fact that others enjoy it is merely a bonus. A huge, huge bonus. I won’t do you all dirty 😉 And I will not lose my love for it. The kiss and MC’s mental health were seeds that needed to be planted and I came up with the idea to do it then when I sat down to write. That chapter was 100% on-the-spot improv past literally those ideas, and that’s a lot of what made it fall flat since some answers wouldn’t come immediately.

I had hoped that the kiss would have brought intrigue and while some hoped I’d revisit it to see what led to it (which I will, as stated above), it did nothing to help the immediate reception. Whoopsie! Biggest oof goes to me. I will say that the kiss is definitely not supposed to be an emotional payoff. It is just the beginning and sets the tone for some things between them. It is supposed to come off as confusing because one should wonder how that happened and why it did when there doesn’t seem to be much between them. The truth at this point is that there really isn’t much between the two of them right now compared to the other girls, leading to questions rather than answers. After all, Monika wasn’t terribly focused on MC in the base game, so I felt it made sense for things to be much different compared to what I’m doing with Natsuki and Yuri. Having said that, their bonding and what develops of their relationship will not be ignored because of the whole “Monika was focused on The Player” thing. Since I’ve said I’m going to revisit the kiss scene in the next chapter I will point out that I wrote it that way on purpose. I did not skip out because I simply didn’t want to write it. I skipped it with the intention of bringing it to light later. I’m going to be writing some things down the line that go beyond a simple kiss. One kiss, even their first one, is not how Monika shows a passionate amount of affection, as will be revealed.

From here on out, though, begins the meat of the scenarios I’ve had planned out for twice as long as I’ve been writing this fic. If the biggest gripe most have had so far is what I’ve covered up there, then that will be easily rectified and the higher-quality stuff will start pouring in. Before the response to Chapter 9, I intended Chapter 10 to be an important one with something I came up with only a few days before I updated. I switched some things around, however, and now it’s even more important. I was super excited to write it because it contains a large scene that was fleshed out months ago.

With this chapter, the “Introductory” stage of this fic will be complete, which thus far will have been the slowest part of the story. Part of why I’ve been going slower is because the build-up was a lot of complete improv that I came up with as I wrote, and it was a slog. Chapter 1 was 100% improv, Chapter 2 all I knew what would happen was poems, bonding, and “Wassup, bitches?” Chapters 3 and 4 were improv. Chapter 5 was the first plot point planned out from before I began writing. Chapter 6 was partially planned due to Chapter 5. Chapter 7 was improv. The general topics of Chapter 8 were planned but it was all stream of consciousness, and 9 was complete improv as stated.

I don’t know exactly how long or how many chapters this story will be, but it is not an insignificant amount. I’m reaching over 100K words with this chapter and that number will multiply quite a number of times before the end is in sight. Everyone has major character arcs. There will be so, so much, and I cannot overstate my confidence about my readers enjoying what is to come. This fic is playing the long game, and no one will get left out in the rain.

Kuro lol (AO3) – Thank you. So far this has been the weakest chapter, as said above. I’m glad you enjoyed it though. This next one… Uhuhu~

Guest (FF) – Nope. As said above, I did things a bit differently for deliberate purposes.

TheForgottenRune (FF) – Yep haha, he’s commented. And yeah, MC’s mental predicament is peculiar, eh?

The Beyond Unstable Crew (FF) – I really fucked it up this time, eh? Sorry to the lot of you. Hey, if you need to be honest, be honest. I’m glad y’all still seem to enjoy MC and Sayori shenanigans. Em & Cee will be used more sparingly. I’ve got to center their focus on helping MC navigate things, but in a much more efficient way. Monika indeed has had the least interaction with MC thus far, but oh, don’t you worry. That will change. I’m doing the most… out-there things with Monika’s character arc. Most of what you lot addressed is actually highlighted above because I felt it was more important for it to be something everyone would pay attention to instead of located in a response that most won’t read on their own because it isn’t a reply to them.

ThePersonThatIsAGuy (WP) – That’d be him lmao. MC sure is going through a mental thing, ahaha! The kiss will be revisited as stated above, and I’m doing the oddest, most out-there things with Monika compared to the other girls IMO so there will be… more things on the horizon. I’m glad you enjoy MCyori fluff <3 I do, too. And yes, you are the first person to point it out in the comments I’ve gotten lol.


Chapter 10-1: Charred Confectionery/Coal Cupcake


The Literature Club’s collective members have been slower to get to the club room lately. Well, I guess everyone else would seem slow by comparison. I have nowhere else to be and was quickly joined by Sayori. We push two desks together and sit facing each other.

Perhaps it is because there’s now less pressure on club activities that the others aren’t as quick to get here. Monika herself never set a great precedent as President for showing up in a timely manner. Oh well, it isn’t anything to be concerned about. What is to be concerned about, however…

“I’m sorry I waited this long to tell you.”

“It’s Tuesday! Why would—” Sayori practically smacks her hand against her forehead. An uneasy feeling fills my stomach. Seeing her disappointed is not something I’m accustomed to. Because of the past month’s worth of events, I feel creeping regret for hiding something concerning my health from her when I was upset that she did the same. Granted, there is a vast difference between being suicidally depressed and having some memory loss, but still.

Sayori reaches out and takes one of my hands. “Sweetie, I don’t want you to hide these things from me! I’m worried about you! Don’t think I didn’t notice what was going on, either! I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. I thought it was because of the past month’s worth of sleeping issues.”

“Yeah, I’m not surprised.” My head lowers down, coming to a rest on top of my other arm. “I thought it would pass but I’m missing like three days.” A slight pause. “Well, I guess it did stop. I haven’t had any problems since… Uh… When did Monika come over?”

“Sunday.”

“Sunday, right. So, yeah. I’m doing better.”

“And I’m really thankful for that. Just remember that I’m here for you. I may not know what I’m doing, just as you aren’t sure what you’re doing with me, but we have to put our faith in each other.” I can sense that Sayori is winding down. She places my hand gently down on her desk and starts idly toying with my fingers. “We both know you’re smarter than this.”

“Yeah… Yeah, I am, I guess. Logic would dictate that I’ve become more aware of what’s going on in life lately.” I sigh into my arm. “Logic doesn’t mean a thing in the wake of emotion, though.”

“…” Her silence means she knows what I’m going on about. You can have all the answers in the world, but when emotions are involved things can get messy. That’s how all of this came to be. If emotions didn’t screw up someone so bad, then Sayori would have never been at risk.

A harsh pang of guilt stabs me in the chest when I feel her shift my hand back into her grip and hold it tightly. I just indirectly brought that horrible night to mind. Will she despise me for making her feel foolish about trying to kill herself? “Shit. Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say something like that.”

“Don’t you worry about it. It’s clear you’ve got some fog in your head. Plus, you’re right. I didn’t see the bigger picture until after all was said and done. I should’ve brought my problems up way sooner. I was blinded by my conflicting emotions.” Her grip relaxes. She brings my hand up and nuzzles it against what I assume must be her cheek. “But I’m trying to get better at that now, and I want you to understand the same thing. It’ll help us both in the long run.”

“Yeah…” Really, I’m kind of skating by on this topic. The lack of effort I’m putting forth bothers me. I can only hope it’s just a temporary thing, as though Thursday through Sunday’s missing memories drained me and I’m playing catch-up. I do remember bits and pieces of that timeframe now. I guess it’ll come back to me more as time goes on. Does amnesia work that way? I guess I wouldn’t know. There’s a lot in this world that I just know nothing about, but my imagination will be there to fill in the blanks with something. I just hope it doesn’t conjure up things that didn’t actually happen.

When Sayori goes from nuzzling the top of my hand to the inside of it, I put in a little energy into caressing her cheek. My reward is a soft hum. At this point, I raise my head just enough to see her soothing smile. It may not be a miracle cure but it sure makes me feel a little better.

“Do you want to talk about the nightmare you had Thursday night now?”

So that confirms that I did have a nightmare. The fact that I couldn’t recall having one in the first place makes it no surprise that I lack any sense of what happened. “Actually… I can’t remember.”

“…” Sayori’s expression falters for a bit. The concern I felt is just what I need to sit back up properly. She notices my movement and resumes functioning. “It's probably better that way.”

“Huh?”

“Well…” Instead of Sayori’s grip simply tightening, her fingers intertwine with mine. “I had woken up from a nightmare of my own and curled up against you for comfort. Call it hypocritical of me but I didn’t want to bother you then. Maybe I would have brought it up to you later on, but it wasn’t anything either of us aren’t used to by now. It was typical stuff.” The fact that she can allude to something like that so casually is unnerving. I know it has been a decent amount of time since the incident, but still.

Sayori’s nostrils flare out as she exhales deeply. “Just as I was on the cusp of falling back asleep, I heard you whimpering. It escalated quicker than I could react, and before I knew it you were clinging to me like your life depended on it.” That choice of wording makes my insides hurt. “You were hysterical. Inconsolable. When I tried to ask, you wailed out about how you just wanted to forget about it. I didn’t pry further at the time; I almost didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want you to get worse.”

A bitter smile crosses my face. “Heh, well I guess I got what I wanted.”

Sayori narrows her eyes at me. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it. Still, though!”

A pause puts the conversation on hold. I’ve seen Sayori dead in so many nightmares over the last month. What could be worse? It’s almost nightmarish in and of itself that something more heartbreaking could exist. If my reaction was really that bad, then I’m with her. I’m relieved to not know, and I will be lucky to never recall such a thing. If only it hadn’t screwed me up so badly for three days.

“Um…” A sullen expression falls over Sayori. She looks like she doesn’t want to say something, but she nevertheless persists. “I don’t know if this is right or not but… I really am glad you don’t remember. That night, you looked more messed up than when you saved me. I can’t put into words what I felt seeing you like that, so…”

Well, at least that makes two of us. “It’ll be okay.” I connect our free hands. “We don’t need to linger on this. Instead, let me ask you about the past few days. I started regaining myself midway through Monika’s kiss” You know, something about that mystifies me. “I’m most curious about that, but just give me a quick summary from Friday on, I guess. Best to stay in chronological order so I don’t get confused.”

“Eh, I mean…” Sayori’s face scrunches some as she revs up her brain. “Nothing out of the ordinary for Friday. Saturday, we made plans for Yuri to come over on a whim.” Her expression relaxes. “We each cuddled up to one side of you and just talked about random stuff. Good things, like teasing you and how adorable you are! It was a nice time!” I’d blush, but I’m not feeling the energy. Instead, I give a small smile. “… Sorry you had to miss it.”

“Forget it,” I say dismissively.

Wait.

“Uh, no pun intended.”

“Ehehe… Got’cha.” We collectively ease up a little. “Yuri was kind of getting affectionate with you, actually. I’d say I was jealous but I can have you whenever I want, my little sugar-booger!”

“Is that your idea of flirting?”

“Mmmmmaybe!” Oh Sayori, whatever will I do with you? “Actually, she pointed out how you steadily became less and less attentive. You looked like you were enjoying yourself, so I didn’t think anything of it. I thought you were just becoming a shy tortoise from not being used to Yuri.”

“That sounds like me.” My vision lowers. I spot our handholding taking place and I shake mine free, opting to hold hers inside of mine.

“Even though the last time Yuri spent time with us, you acted all unfazed by her face buried in your stomach? It can’t be both.”

“Her face wasn’t buried, she was just… resting it there…” Sayori is right, though. “Maybe I was more high-strung on Saturday, then, or maybe I was more susceptible to the shy introvert side of me while I was out of it. Maybe I was simply more relaxed that previous time. Hell, I had just woken up during that. I had time to get used to it while we were talking.” My eyes rise back up to meet hers. “If she started loving on me randomly—”

I shudder a little—strictly a spine-tingling shiver of relative excitement—imagining what kinds of things may or may not be included in Yuri loving on me. Despite Natsuki’s behavior after my confession and despite the fact that Monika is the person I know the least, I feel like Yuri is the most unpredictable. After all, I wasn’t expecting her to be the first to want into this relationship. There’s also the thing from festival weekend where she licked my finger. I mean, I did that to Natsuki just the following day, but Yuri did it because I had pricked my finger on her knife like an idiot. Now, if she were to be doing that when blood wasn’t involved…

My cheeks heat up. Sayori notices. Of course she does. “Oooh, is my Sweetie smitten?”

“I-I mean the wording choice that I made, ummm, I made it sound weird and it go-got me wondering…”

“Does imagining Yuri giving you some smoochie-smoochies on your cheekie-cheekies make you all warm and fuzzy inside?”

“Sayoooriiiii!” I groan, cradling my head in my hands. How could she possibly tease me like this? How cruel! How indecent! How… something else similar! I don’t have the brain power to chronicle the other ways in which my girlfriend pokes fun at me. My body is putting priority into the climate control of my face.

Sayori’s giggling at my embarrassment is interrupted by the sliding of the classroom door. I take the time to recover. Instead of investigating, I fold one arm across the desk, rest my forehead on it, and close my eyes.

“Ah, greetings, you two.”

“Heya, Yuri!” Sayori exclaims. I give a wave and a grunt of acknowledgement.

“I’m not interrupting something, am I? I heard commotion just before opening the door.”

“Nope! In fact, we were just talking about you!”

“Uh…” To the surprise of not me, Yuri sounds worried. “N-nothing but goo-good things, I hope?”

“Of course! I was just teasing him.”

“Oh. Ah, aha, and hooow ar-are you doing tha-that, I wonder…?”

“Bringing up how cute you two were when you were nuzzling him~”

Aah!” Yeah, sounds like Yuri is flustered now, too. I detect movement.

“Come on over and join us! If you want, you can hold his haaa~nd!”

Sayori, we’re in public!

“So? Hasn’t stopped us!”

Yuri goes silent, as does Sayori. I can hear the sound of shoes on the floor. Both approach. I feel a hand snag my wrist, with another hand inserting itself into mine.

“Hmm… That isn’t Yuri’s hand.”

“Aww, heck!”

I glance up. Sure enough, Yuri is standing off to the side. Her cheeks are pink, but she looks at least somewhat amused. Sayori is the one holding my hand. Now that the jig is up, she looks on with a coy expression and releases it.

“It seems you are always so full of vigor when it comes to teasing him, Sayori. Why do you do it, anyhow?”

“It’s fun to see what I can get away with. Plus, it’s fun-ny and entertaining being a sneaky little scamp!”

“Tell me about it.” I sit up and run my hands through my hair. “Never a dull moment, but I suppose that’s part of her charm.”

“I’ve gotten a bit of a taste so far. No doubt, I will experience more of it as time goes on.” Coming down from her small flustered episode, Yuri closes in on our desks. “If I didn’t know better, Sayori, I’d think you are trying to accelerate how quickly he and I bond. If you’re trying to be subtle, it isn’t working.”

“Whoops!” Sayori sure doesn’t say that as though it’s a bad thing. It isn’t defensive at all; she says it like she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “Well if I don’t have to be subtle anymore~” Without warning and with surprising speed, Sayori snags one of each of our wrists. Before I know it, I’m holding Yuri’s hand.

Aah!” Both Yuri and I are shocked, but neither of us move. I don’t think I can move anything below that shoulder. Yuri, on the other hand, is twitching. I have to admit; her slender hand is soft to the touch. Sayori looks on from beside us.

“Yes! I am the ultimate wing-woman!” She is so proud of herself. It honestly is a mystery as to what goes through her head. I’ve never heard of someone so eager to set their significant other up with someone else. Well, I guess since we are all in a relationship, I suppose Yuri also counts as a significant other. That makes it less bizarre. Sayori really wants this to work out, doesn’t she? Maybe I should be suspicious. I can do that later. Ugh, so much stuff to do and it’s always later. I mean, I am indisposed at the moment, but still.

Um… Ah… Uuu, I hope this isn’t weird for you!” Yuri is surprisingly kept-together in her words, even though her voice is wavering.

No, n-not at all!” I seem to have inadvertently restarted puberty with how cracked my voice got.

“Okay, you two! I guess that’s enough.” With just as much mystification as her earlier actions contained, Sayori gently tugs our hands apart. “Don’t want you to explode, ehehe! But now that that’s happened, next time will be easier!” When Sayori said she was being the ultimate wing-woman, I didn’t think that’s what she was actually going for. Funnily enough, Yuri hasn’t seemed as though she needed the help to come out of her shell. Sure, she questions things after the fact, but her actions come first.

With full possession of my hand resumed, I rest it in my other and try to remember how to function. During my thoughts, it occurs to me how much peppier Sayori got when Yuri joined the conversation. I hope that isn’t a sign that she’s masking something. Well, actually, that’s kind of my fault huh? We did just have a serious conversation about my memory. Ah, and we didn’t finish it, I just realized. Was I always this bird-brained? It seems like my ability to focus on one thing is being challenged lately.

Sayori’s weirdness is making recovering from the hand-holding easy. When I take a look at Yuri, she seems to be even more shocked at what just happened than while it was actually happening. Her hand is in front of her face and she’s staring at it as though experiencing an alien sensation. I guess something new on an emotional level could do that to you. Well, assuming this is something new to Yuri. For her to have never held someone’s hand yet in life would be a crying shame. I mean, I guess I hadn’t in a romantic way until recently myself but Yuri is such a beauty that most should have lined up at the opportunity.

“Oh, and about Monika…” Suddenly, Sayori’s whispering into my ear earns my attention. “I really wish you remembered this, but it’ll be funny to see your reaction again: when you agreed to Monika entering the relationship, she was talking about the prospect of it being physical.” What?! “I mean, obviously it’d be an emotional thing too, but she said how you were right and that she needed to find some way to relax and unstressify—that’s my word, not hers—and figured there was no harm in asking.”

The harm? The harm will be to my fragile self-esteem! Of all the people to come to while emphasizing the physical proponents of a relationship, why would Monika come to me?! I may have been able to bullshit my way through a month of poems punctuated by a sentimental and emotional ending, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at being tender! Or, at least, whatever Monika is looking for. Sayori and I may be content with my assuredly lackluster lovemaking skills but I am a mere mortal compared to Monika! I couldn’t get on her level if I was born that way!

“Who knows, maybe you two will even spend time in bed and— Hrrr!” My hands quickly found Sayori’s face and covered her mouth. In the past, it has been said that my dull, golden eyes made for a hell of a soul-piercing stare. Sayori didn’t seem to be affected. She never had been. In fact, she stepped away and started giggling. I sigh and try to chill out, looking to see if Yuri was paying attention. Instead, the hand that had held mine was caressing her cheek. I’m… not sure what to make of that. I guess she enjoyed holding my hand? When Yuri notices my gaze, she seems to freak out a little and whirls around to face the opposite direction.

And I agreed to that?!” I hiss in Sayori’s direction.

“Well, not the sex part”—I groan in embarrassment, not ready to tackle the idea of that at all—“I made that up. But yeah, Monika was like, ‘I’m looking for an outlet for physical tension and I trust you.’ ”

“What was I thinking?! I can’t please Monika!”

“How do you know? You haven’t tried! Well, there was the kiss…” Sayori does the finger thing. “Oh, Monika said you need to step your kissing game up.”

PFFT!” Okay, well no surprise there. I take great amusement in my own self-deprecation when it comes to anything physical with someone other than Sayori. She and I have chemistry because we’ve known each other for so long. The other girls? Not so much. “We’re not going to count that. Even without any memory issues, I would have been too dumbfounded to respond correctly.”

“Aren’t you such a lucky guy though~? You got two of the most beautiful girls in the school after your affection.”

“Hah. Yeah. It’s like a dream come true…” When Sayori puts it like that, I feel a pressure on me. This was just more evidence that I didn’t know what to expect when I confessed to the club. I absolutely didn’t think things through. How shortsighted of me. Again, emotion before reason. “Wait, come on now. You’re beautiful too!”

“Uh, w-well…” Sayori, don’t you dare say you aren’t. “If that’s what you think, then I’ll accept that. Besides, I can’t be after your affection when I already have it! I still think they’re better-looking than I am.”

“Is this about your b—” No. Don’t say it. There’s been so many times they’ve been brought up. I can think it instead: is this about her boobs not being as big? She did seem excited the last time it was addressed that they grew. Come on Sayori, you should know that there’s more to someone than the size of their chest. Take Natsuki, for example; you’re always so eager to interact with her even though she—WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT THIS?!

“Sayori,” Yuri interjects, freeing me from my thought process. “You’ve been so eager to point out how others can bond with him. You aren’t trying to get rid of him, are you?”

Time seems to come to a standstill. Sayori’s expression freezes. What a question to ask. I mean, surely Yuri isn’t serious, but still. After a moment, it seems Yuri realized what she said.

“Ah, I di-didn’t mean—” This poor girl deals with so much from her own self-criticism. I suppose if she really wanted to prevent saying things she regretted, she would have to put a little more thought into what she’s about to say before it leaves her lips. She has said in the past that she can wind up too absorbed in her own thoughts to pay attention to others. This is just an extension of that, right? “What a horrible thi-thing to joke about! I’m so s-sss-sssorry!”

A look of absolute sternness crosses Sayori’s face for just a moment. She shakes her head and suddenly it has disappeared. “Nope!” Her chipper tone makes it feel like I imagined that change of expression, but I know I saw it. “Look at it this way: when he’s with me, I feel better than I usually can on my own. Since he’s interested in all of us, I want you all to get to that level where he makes you feel better just because you’re close to him.”

I feel Sayori’s arms wrap around my shoulders from behind. She leans into me and rests her chin on top of my head. “I just want good things for all of you.” Okay, that’s a noble cause, I suppose.

“How can you possibly be so nonchalant when I say things like that?”

“Because I know you don’t mean it.” Sayori nuzzles the top of my head. “My therapist has said before that one’s first thoughts aren’t always a reflection of their true self. I’ll think bad things about myself, but it’s because of weirdness happening in my brain. I don’t want to think those things. It’s what you do after, how you react to what you just said or think, that is a better reflection of you as a person.” I am eternally grateful to Sayori’s therapist. She’s taking a bunch of this advice to heart, it seems, and has become a bit of a philosopher to boot. Maybe Monika or Yuri are helping influence her.

“You said something without thinking. Then, you were not pleased with yourself and you made that clear. That says to me that you are not trying to say bad things. I’m learning to give myself some leeway when it comes to my own thoughts, so I won’t hold it against you.”

Yuri still looks unsure. “I don’t know how you can possibly look at it that way.”

“Magic!”

“That is not how that works… Ah… I just raised my…”

It’s okay!” And now both of us raised our voice to Yuri. She gets spooked, but oddly enough it seems to quell her. I guess snapping her to attention helped get her out of her own head.

“Ah. Aha, r-right…” You know, for all that I wish I knew more about my own head, I kind of wish that I could see into everyone else’s. That would help solve a lot of problems and give me so many answers. Of course, it could never be that easy.

A thought occurs to me. “Hey, Yuri. You’re smart, right?”

“Ah…” Yuri’s expression turns timid.

“Of course she is!”

“Sayori, don’t be so frank…”

“Aw come on, give yourself some credit!”

“She’s right, you know,” I tack on. “Anyhow, before you entered, we were talking about some issues I’ve been having recently. According to Sayori, I had what was apparently the worst nightmare ever a few nights ago. Most of my memory of a few days is missing, including the contents of that nightmare. Can they really do something like that?”

“Hmm…” Yuri moves a desk closer to ours and takes a seat. Sayori hops back into the desk she was occupying before. “Obviously I am not an expert, but my experiences with—” A moment of hesitation leads to a grim expression from her. “—um, learning about what negative experiences can do to you, I mean…” I almost want to ask about what she just said but like with other things she’s let slip in the past, I shouldn’t pry. As long as she is okay now and assuming she comes to us when she is ready, then all will be okay.

Yuri composes herself a bit and resumes. “If you had, say, a night terror about something emotionally devastating, it could lead to a panic episode. It can be worse when you’re just waking up because of how disorienting it is. Dreams have a habit of feeling all too real in the moment, especially those of the surreal variety.”

Yuri’s expression turns a bit glum. Her eyes lower themselves to examine the surface of her desk. “Short-term memory issues can either come after the fact, an example being that you forgot whatever caused your episode, or you can simply have not retained the events of a few days due to heavy dissociation.”

“Dissociation?”

“To put it simply, not all of your mental faculties would be operating on the same wavelength due to some kind of issue with your mind. You may feel distracted, zone out, fail to react or respond to much.” Yuri begins to list things off on her fingers one-by-one. “Feeling disconnected from yourself, problems handling intense emotions, memory problems as has been covered, trouble with cognitive awareness which is linked with concentration and memory. Just don’t take this as a diagnosis. It’s only what I can give you off the top of my head since you asked.”

Suddenly, Yuri’s expression shifts. “That explains some of your behavior the other day, doesn’t it? Oh dear, I’m so sorry!”

Eh? “Sorry for what?”

“For not noticing how bad things were! I was so absorbed in my own actions that I neglected to ascertain your mental state!”

“Yuri, it’s okay. Not even I was aware of what my brain was doing.”

“But still, I—”

Yuri.” I’ll admit, I was getting a bit frustrated with her. It wasn’t out of annoyance, no; my agitation was because of how much she was second-guessing herself and placing the blame in her hands. I will admit that it was cute how she would respond like this when we first met, but now it makes me worried that she will trip over herself and cause herself way more problems than is necessary. Humility can be an endearing quality, but this is not that. It’s like she’s on a self-sabotage mission. “If you regret, then do something about it going forward. Don’t be caught up in what has already passed. These are extraneous circumstances. Shit happens. We pick ourselves up and move forward.”

“… Yes, I suppose… you are correct. Extraneous circumstances.” I can tell that it’s difficult for her to keep composed when she feels she’s overstepped boundaries. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before she opens up more to me. To us. “Please accept my apologies.”

“Of course.”

“Done and done!”

“Thank you both. I can tell that I am in a lucky position.” Yuri’s focus is on me now. She reaches out and takes my hand in hers. The smile she flashes me is enrapturing. Sayori’s eyes are like looking into the most gorgeous sky. Yuri’s, conversely, are like staring into the far reaches of space. Her soul is like a vast galaxy filled with complexities and intricacies waiting to be discovered. Heh, how appropriate given the contents of her last poem. Our shared gaze is broken when Sayori gives Yuri’s other hand a squeeze. Yuri smiles back at Sayori, but it is a different smile. Not lesser. Just different.

When we hear the classroom door slide open, Yuri frantically pulls her hands back to herself. We look to see Natsuki entering.

“Hey,” she greets us. We respond with a litany of our own brief hellos. “I bumped into Monika in the bathroom. She said she isn’t coming to the club today. Something about screwing up taking a medicine.”

“Oh, I hope she’s gonna be okay,” Sayori audibly worries, whipping out her phone.

“She looked okay, but sometimes you can’t tell. I’d say it could be that time of the month, but since when has that ever kept her from doing anything?”

“Even if that were the case, it would still be rather indecent to mention,” Yuri speaks softly, though just loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Aw, come on. We’re all girls here!” Natsuki eyes me. “M-Mostly.” I throw up a peace sign of acknowledgement.

“She came to school, but is skipping club?” My question is rhetorical and I provide a potential answer immediately. “I guess she really is trying to take it easy. The club is important to her, but I guess we’re getting through to her.” As far as I know, only Sayori and I have talked to her. “Not like Sayori can’t stand in, being Vice President and all.”

“So hey, I’ve got an idea!” Sayori doesn’t even look up from her phone. The way her fingers are going, it seems she’s texting someone. “Since Monika isn’t feeling well, how about we all go home?”

“And skip out on the time here? No way!”

“Oh, uh… Not home home, Nattie. Ehehe… Not your home. Or Yuri’s home. It’s kinda like… my home.” Sayori glances up to me expectantly.

“Um… Well…” Okay, so that wasn’t a bad idea. Having two girls over at the same time? Three, technically, but Sayori is always there now, so that’s nothing new. “Sure, if that’s what everyone wants to do…” Admittedly, I’m a little sheepish. This is on very short notice, I would have thought that Yuri would share my apprehension, but Natsuki looks to be the one frustrated.

“Yesss!” So Sayori is excited.

“I wouldn’t mind that at all,” Yuri adds, “what with having been there recently. It does offer us a modicum of privacy and a more relaxed environment…”

“…” Natsuki raises an eyebrow at Yuri, which the tallest girl doesn’t catch. “Go over to some boy’s house? How gross, but…” She slings her bag over her shoulder. “I’m not about to stay here by myself. You better not live like a slob!”

“I can assure you, Natsuki, that the place is well-kept.”

“If you’re saying that, then you clearly haven’t seen his room yet!”

“H-Hey!”

“Heeheehee! Gotta get in at least one jab before we leave!” Natsuki spins around on one foot and heads towards the door. “Well, what are we waiting for?” For someone who appeared so hesitant a moment before, Natsuki is showing unparalleled excitement now.

“Aww heck!” Sayori stands up, her exclamation drawing our attention. “I asked Monika about the idea since she wouldn’t have to be stressed out by leading the club, but she declined to join. She just wants to go home and sleep. I wished her better from all of us.”

Damn. I was really hoping to spend more time with Monika after my fiasco this weekend. I feel like the universe is keeping us separated. Even when I first joined, she wound up being too busy, or I too nervous, for us to get anywhere. Hell, I’ve spent more time with her since the last poem day than in the entire previous month of being in the club! Yuri might be unpredictable as our resident Maiden of Mystery, but Monika is a curious case. She is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

“Well, what are we waiting for now?” Natsuki taps her foot impatiently. No one else has an answer, so we quickly return the desks to their positions and head out.


I find myself seated between Yuri and Sayori. I swear those two are teaming up on me now, and with how these couches are more for two people rather than three, the girls are in very close proximity to me.

“Isn’t this nice, Yuri? Just you, me, and a cutie-patootie!”

Come now, if anyone here is the cutie-patootie, it’s you!

“I must admit, this is quite quaint. The… cutie… His shoulder is very comfortable.”

She’s resting her head there oh my goodness.

“Yeah it is!”

And now Sayori as well. I feel heat flooding my cheeks. I am afraid to move because I might disturb them and make them stop. As embarrassed as I am, this is nice. What attracted Yuri to a loser like me? Man, why am I having second thoughts about all this? I’m so… average at best.

“I fear that we may be putting too much pressure on our poor Darling. He looks petrified.”

“Sweetie, you okay?”

“Huh? Yeah! Just… Put yourself in my shoes. Your inner shyness would come out, too.”

“You’re not even wearing shoes!”

“You know what I mean, you dork!”

“Ehehe…”

“As long as you’re okay. And, um… Uuuuu, as long as you don’t mind this.”

“No worries, Yuri!”

“I’m not overstepping any boundaries, am I?”

“Not at all!”

“…And now?”

She’s nuzzling her head against my shoulder.

Nope!

“That is pleasing to hear.”

“Ehehe, how long until you two kiss, I wonder.”

S-Sayori!

“Pffahaha! Sorry! I’m just teasing. You two look sooo adorable! It’s really nice watching my friends get along and be comfy with each other!”

“Aha, aha, right, you goober…”

AAH! I-Is that… I swear Yuri’s lips just grazed the base of my neck! Sayori, stop giving her ideas!!!

“Ehehe, your face is getting sooo red right now!”

And it’s only gonna get redder when you point it out!

“Yuri, look at him! Doesn’t he look like a tomato?”

“Mmm, yes, he does…”

“Huh? You’re not looking.”

“A-Ah! I mean, I-I can feel the heat of his cheeks from here… Um, uuuhhh… Are you sure you’re okay with this?

Oh my lord, she really just whispered in my ear like that! I’m going to have an aneurysm!

I’m… I-I’m enj-enjo-enjoying… th-this. Ple-Please continue!

Why am I so uptight? Is it because it’s Yuri? I never thought her to be the physically affectionate type, or at least not like this! Will I be this way when Monika comes over tomorrow?

“…Aha… Ahaha… Uhuhu~ If you insist!”

And now she seems so confident. Is it because I outright told her to resume? AAH! That was definitely her lips touching my neck!

“You’re never like this with me. What gives? I wanna see you all blushy like this more often!”

I always get like this when you tease me unexpectedly!

“Yeah, but like, not when we’re cuddling and stuff!”

“You just don’t pay attention enough. You’re still a bit of a ditz, you know.”

“Meanie~”

“Y-Yeah…”

“Whaaa? You just agreed to being a meanie?!”

“I mean, um! N-No! I just wasn’t paying attention.”

“Ehehe, you got a big ol’ distraction, huh? Are you afraid of beautiful girls? You look scared stiff!”

“Uhuhu, I bet he’s scared stiff… AH! I-I-I— I didn’t mean— I-I’m…

PFFT!

“Aha, aha… I-It’s okay, Yuri. We’re all adults he-here. We can handle a double entendre…”

“I never thought you could be like this, Yuri! Getting to learn more about you is fun!”

“Ah, w-well there’s a lot you don’t know about me, I guess… Aha, aha…”

“Is this really so enjoyable for you, Yuri. I’m not exactly… well… the pinnacle of attractiveness.”

“You aren’t exactly a dominant force either, but I’ve found you to be an irresistible one.”

“I know the feeling, ehehe!”

“In more ways than you could hope to experience, Sayori.”

“Ehehe, is that so?”

“Oh, I think you know. That’s just one of the differences between you and me. As I’ve assured you, though, that isn’t a bad thing.”

“Uh, you wanna fill me in on what you’re talking about?”

“Nope!”

“It’s nothing at all, Darling.”

I don’t have the mental capacity to pursue this further. I feel… I can’t place it. Not my best.

“I’m, uh, really glad you’ve gotten so comfortable with me so quickly.”

“Are you enjoying our time together?”

“O-Of course!”

“I am elated to hear that. Perhaps it is embarrassing to admit, but I have been experiencing touch-starvation for far too long. Despite my impressive vocabulary, I can’t hope to express how euphoric this is. To be able to indulge in this is comforting. No matter how I connect with characters in my books, nothing can replace the touch of a human. The idea that someone is enjoying your physical presence, the warmth of one’s body, the intimate sensation of touch with someone you care for…”

“Wow, Yuri. That was really well-said! Don’t you think, Sweetie?”

“…”

“Sweetie?”

“Eh! Uh, oh yeah. Sorry. Perhaps I’m enjoying this a bit too much. Plenty of guys would be incredibly envious right now. Um, as far as what Yuri said… It… I could never hope to describe something like you just did. It isn’t embarrassing at all! Sayori and I both realized recently that our need for physical interaction was higher than we could have thought. We, uh, engage in plenty of casual intimacy throughout the days.”

“I’m always a slut for cuddles!”

“NNNGH— Hahaha, holy crap.”

“Some of the things… that come out of your mouth… make it seem as though Natsuki… is influencing your speech.”

Is Yuri losing focus? Or is she more focused? Her face has not left the crook of my neck, and—

“Haa~aah!

That was definitely the tip of her tongue!

“Hm? What’s up?”

“No-n-nnn-nothing!

Uhuhu~

“Mhmhm~ As long as you’re enjoying yourselves!”

Of all the things I’d have to focus on when it came to bonding with the girls, I didn’t account for how hard it would be to tame Yuri. When I called her intense during festival weekend, I guess I had no idea she would live up to that.


“Hellooo~o? Earth to dumbass?” A small flick to the forehead brings me back to the present. I grunt and defend my face. “Oh please! Your skull is thick enough to withstand even the mightiest of blows!”

“Thanks, Natsuki. Love you, too.” The sarcasm dripping from my voice could flood a cavern.

“Hmph! Yeah, I bet you do!” Natsuki returns to her seat. Right, we’re in my living room. Sayori is next to me on one couch. Yuri and Natsuki are on the opposite couch.

“Are you okay?” Sayori’s concern is obviously about—

“Geez, it was just a flick! I’m not a monster, yanno!”

“N-No, it isn’t about that,” Sayori responds. “Hey, talk to me. You aren’t zoning out, are you?” I lean back in my seat, my hands falling into my lap.

“Well, I was, but I wasn’t forgetting things. I kinda daydreamed about the… significant portions of Saturday with Yuri.”

“Sat-yur-day?” Sayori’s moment of silliness got Natsuki snickering. “So your memory isn’t being a doodoo-head?”

“Well, it was only Saturday, but that gives me hope towards this being a temporary thing. It’d be nice to remember what happened with Monika.”

“Geez, sounds like you had a busy weekend with girls flinging themselves into your house. Before you know it, you’ll be cleaning your bedsheets more often… PFFT!” Oh, here we go. Natsuki’s got a sick burn for me. “I almost couldn’t say that with a straight face! Like you could please a woman like that.”

“Natsuki…” Yuri doesn’t look too pleased at Natsuki’s comment. Odd, I would have figured she’d be embarrassed by such insinuation. I guess I’m doing the blushing for both of us.

“Eh? Oh! I get it.” And Sayori says it so nonchalantly. Her sense of shame is— "Hey! I’m responsible with my periods, and I’m sure the others are, too!”

Well, that stopped the conversation in its tracks. Now everyone that isn’t Sayori is flustered. Yuri is looking away and toying with her hair. Natsuki looks dumbfounded.

“Uh. Yeah. I was referring to blood. Thanks, Sayori.”

“You’re welcome!” A ditz she may be sometimes, but Sayori absolutely knows what she’s doing. There’s no more reasonable doubt in my mind that’s she’s as meticulous as they come. Without warning, I feel Sayori lean against me and nearly topple over as a result. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, Sweetie! I never want you to miss out on affection with the others.”

“Wuh! Heh, thanks. So am I.” I reach up and ruffle her hair. Realizing that this may be a bit off-putting, I stop and glance up. Natsuki is who I’m worried about since she isn’t in on this. When she notices I’m looking at her, she looks away in a hurry. Yuri doesn’t seem bothered. In fact, she looks like she’s the one off in her own little world now. Is she still blushing? She is fidgeting with her fingers.

“Sorry about all that. Yeah, long story, but I kind of slogged through the weekend. I’m fine now.”

“You better be! I’ll kick your ass if you aren’t!”

“You’d kick my ass for any reason.”

“Yeah, and you said you’d let me. What kind of idiot are you to say something like that?” Natsuki leans forward. “You better not have said that because you underestimate me, ‘cuz then I won’t even feel bad about knocking your block off!”

“No, no, I don’t underestimate you at all. I’d be a fool to do that.”

“Good! And it better not be some kinda masochistic thing either!” Natsuki’s words seem to have caused Yuri to hide her face to the best of her abilities. I’m unfazed. Maybe it’s because it’s Natsuki and I exchanging jabs that I’m not bothered.

“Why? I mean, it’s not. That wouldn’t matter unless you were planning to beat me up anyhow.” Now it’s my turn to lean forward. I put my soul-piercing gaze to good use. “Were you planning to do that?”

“Get real! You just want another girl to touch you! Such a desperate pervert! Guh-rooo~oss!” I can hear Sayori giggling next to me. Yuri, again, doesn’t look amused. I guess she snapped out of whatever daydreaming she was doing.

“Trust me, I can give him all the attention he would ever need. Your childish attitude towards showing affection would simply turn him away.”

Natsuki seems taken back for a moment. I can feel the tension settling in. Natsuki is bothered and shows it, but nonetheless fires back. “Wow, big talk coming from the shyest girl in the district!”

“Whoa. Whoa now.” I have to step in. Unlike with conflicts about poems or anything of the sort, this directly involves me and I feel less awkward about coming forward. “Please don’t fight. Yuri, you gotta understand that Natsuki and I just have that kind of friendship. Nothing’s changing for the worse, and neither of us take any offense to the other’s words.”

“Yeah,” Sayori chimes in. “That’s why I was giggling. I can just feel when there’s something uncomfortable in the air between people, and there hasn’t been with them.”

“… Ah…” The regret on Yuri’s face tells the whole story. “I’m sorry for speaking out of line. I just… felt bad for staying silent the last time there was a conflict.”

“Well, there isn’t one. I may be childish but—”

“Nattie…” Though soft, Sayori’s words cut through whatever remark Natsuki was about to fire back with. Natsuki goes quiet and looks away.

“No, it’s okay, Sayori.” Yuri’s the one speaking up now. “I insulted her. She has a right to be angry at me. Natsuki…” Yuri turns towards the shorter girl, who is still facing away. “I’m sorry for saying such harsh things. It was incredibly rude and, dare I say, childish of me.”

“…” The room goes silent. It’s hard to tell what Natsuki is thinking. Her body is still and her demeanor is stiff. I can hear a loud, drawn-out breath leave her body. “… Whatever. Don’t worry about it. I know I can show affection when I want to. Besides, we’re just friends, so I don’t have to worry about that anyway.”

“Hey, platonic friends can still show affection for each other, you know!” Sayori’s right, but I’m unable to get a supportive word in before Natsuki responds.

“I meant physical affection, Dumdum…” Natsuki resumes sitting normally. She only partly glances in Yuri’s general direction. “It’s all good.” She raises a fist and gently bumps it against Yuri’s shoulder. Utter relief fills Yuri’s face, who returns Natsuki’s gesture with a pat on the shoulder.

“I will treasure your forgiveness.”

We all take a moment to lean back and collect ourselves. Conflict, no matter how small, takes a lot out of us. I’m just glad it’s over.

Bzzt! A phone vibrates. Yuri picks hers up.

“AH!” Yuri suddenly stands up. “I’m so sorry! Mother is here! We were going shopping and to the book store downtown after school and I told her earlier I’d be here at a friend’s house and my phone accidentally got put on vibrate and I missed an earlier text because of our talking and I have to go!”

The amount of energy Yuri put into her rushed explanation almost gives me whiplash. She fumbles with her shoes, grabs her bag, and swings open the front door. “Please do take care!” We hastily say our own farewells—Natsuki quieter than Sayori’s or mine—as Yuri bows and takes her leave.

“Oh, crud!” Now Sayori is the one standing up with her phone in hand. “I gotta get to the bus stop!” Ah, right, it’s Tuesday. Therapy time. I guess everyone lost track of the clock. That’s what happens when the day is less than ordinary.

“You haven’t even changed.”

“No time! If I miss the bus, I’m fricked!” I hear a faint snicker come from Natsuki. Sayori follows Yuri’s example, kicking her shoes on and snagging her bag. “Bye, Sweetie!” She rushes over to give me a hug, the bag whacking me in the shoulders. “Sorry!” I shrug it off. “Bye, Cutie!” Sayori adjusts her bag so it won’t hit Natsuki and falls into a hug. Natsuki looks utterly surprised but remains silent until Sayori is practically out the door. We both call out a goodbye as she closes the door.

Well, now it’s just Natsuki and me. Considering she’s the only one I’m not in a relationship with, I feel like merely existing in the same place with just her is enough to cause tension and awkwardness.

“So—”

“I’m… gonna go.”

“What? No, you don’t have to.”

“I feel like I should, so I’m going to.”

That’s… rather disappointing, but not unexpected. I let out a sigh.

“Alright. Um, I’m sorry. I would have liked to spend time with you alone since the opportunity arose.”

“You don’t have anything to apologize for.” Something’s definitely up. She’s acting weird again now that we’re alone. I want to stop her but instead I put my hands on my head. What do I do? I don’t want to screw things up. I don’t want her to wind up being the only girl ostracized. At the same time, I don’t want to anger her.

“But I caused this rift in our friendship.”

“For Chri— What were you meant to do, keep your feelings hidden and just suffer in silence?” Natsuki powerwalks over and leans over me. “You did what you had to do. You did what was best for you. So what if things didn’t turn out how you wanted? You tried, and that’s what matters! You’re a lucky boy with some lucky girls.”

“If I didn’t—”

Shut up! ‘If I didn’t! If I didn’t!’ Yeah, and if Sayori didn’t confess to you—”

If Sayori didn’t confess to me, she may have died before I could do anything about it.

“…”

“Natsuki…”

Without another word, Natsuki starts to make a distraught exit with her things. As she opens the door, I call out to her:

“You can always talk to me. I’ll listen.”

She hesitates, but ultimately closes the door behind her.

I deposit another sigh into the filling frustration jar that resides in the living room. Must be some kind of record. I can feel a headache coming on so I snag some OTC painkillers from the bathroom and head to the kitchen. Water bottle fresh from the fridge, I return to my spot on the couch and down the half-dose.

Cool. Man, I wish Natsuki was easier to get through to. I’ve now had some practice with Sayori, both with seeing through the mask and dealing with the pain underneath, but Natsuki fortifies her walls when she senses emotions bubbling to the surface. Maybe Sayori can do something about this. Natsuki seems to soften up when it comes to her, after all. A more delicate touch may be required, and they’ve known each other longer than I’ve known Natsuki.

I close my eyes and try to ignore the complexity of emotions.


End Chapter 10-1

I rediscovered Evanescence tonight. A double-edged sword. On one hand it gave me massive inspiration. On the other, My Last Breath is the saddest song in existence and I’m a crying mess because on top of the song in general, I immediately associated it with inspiration-involved stuff, which means linking it to a fictional character. That always makes it one hundred times more emotional. The Vitamin Piano tribute cover isn’t any better.

I had a breakdown. This is the aftermath, to the melody of My Last Breath by Evanescence.

Don't grieve for me, dear
I know it's for the best
I've hurt you and everyone else, now I will atone for my sins, my darling
I know you'll miss me
You'll see me again some day
With my peaceful face
Blessed with divine grace
Past my despairing plight
Bathing in white
We will take our flight
My journey's complete
Heaven looks so sweet
That immaculate sight
All will be right
When we reunite
When we reunite
When we reunite
When we reunite
When
We
Re
U
Nite

Just as an aside, I am perfectly safe. I merely channeled all the emotion I could muster into this. I'm feeling much better.

deviantID

Jason-Alan
Jason Alan
United States
Current Residence: Middletown, CT, USA
Favourite genre of music: Rock/Metal, but I'll listen to anything
Operating System: Windows 7
MP3 player of choice: 3DS
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