Thursday, June 27, 2013

Insert Peaceful Change of Mind Here

Ever since Chrys had entered the Society, Aster's room had undergone a massive decorational upheaval.

Well, it was actually now Chrys and Aster's room. The two were sharing and the two had entered the room one day to find that it had expanded twice in size to accommodate the two. But Chrys had scolded Aster for having a messy, disorganized room, so Aster had cleaned it.

The room now had two very distinct sides. The left side, Aster's, had a bookcase with manga books, anime DVDs, and video games, along with a desk complete with television and computer. The wall had several posters of anime/manga figures along with some J-pop singers. The bed was white, next to the bookcase.

The right side, Chrys's, had pale pink walls (Aster wouldn't let Chrys paint it a pink that would scar her eyes) that sparkled occasionally. Chrys kept some more stuff of magical importance, but the most remarkable thing was her bed: not only was it filled with plushies of various anime figures, she had also maximized it to ensure maximum sleeping comfort (even though she could sleep virtually anywhere) with a down pillow and a memory foam mattress. She also had a television and computer on a small table.

The two sub-rooms were separated by a small strip of carpet in which they probably played out card or board games. Both of them knew if Akai joined the Society she would demand the room next door instead of moving in, so they got used to their privacy; they did, however, often spend nights talking to each other or even having friendly bickers.

This also meant that now Chrys had to deal with an insane roommate.

Chrys was remarkably resilient, and sometimes she noticed her desu-sparkles would have some effect, temporarily stopping Aster's rambling or such. Chrys was afraid to overload Aster with it, because it might make her condition worse, but it seemed to do something.

In the end it turned out to be like an ineffective cold medicine.

Chrys knew something was very, very wrong the moment she woke up that day. Aster was sleeping. Chrys had never caught Aster sleeping for more than short periods of time during her bout of insanity.

Now Aster wouldn't even wake up.

Chrys tried shaking her but it had no effect; she knew it too. Using all of her strength she piled Aster onto her back and headed for the medical ward.


Oh, she'd tried, oh so hard!

She'd wanted to reject everything about reality; it just wasn't working for her, and she didn't feel capable of facing it. So she tried to block it all off. For weeks it had been an internal battle between herself and whatever was trying to make her feel. It was disorienting. She had never known that there could be such internal forces driving her mad. She was definitely feeling something uneasy, something she wasn't used to feelings.

Of course they weren't real emotions – she couldn't feel. But something was strange.

She had focused so much time struggling with what was inside her that she'd left no time to concentrate on what she was doing in real life. But it was struggling harder and harder and eventually her only choice was to close all connections.

It still fought more.

And she decided she'd have to shut herself from the world entirely and get rid of this thing forever.

The fact she could see anything at all in her head clearly was proof she had something in her head. She did dream, but they were only repetitions of what she'd gone through in real life. Just memories repeating over and over again. What she saw now – she'd never seen before.

But she knew what it was.

A place with sun where all different types of places existed from grass to an oasis in the desert to a mountain where it wasn't cold or hot; there she could feel the earth and the sun and everything and feel with what she had. And anyone could be innovative and create what they wanted and they'd have all the resources, anything they wanted, with no greed or sadness.

An ideal world she'd thought of for years.

Aster was more suspicious than accepting; even though this was such a nice place and she had this strange feeling that somehow compelled her that she liked this place; that it was a good place to be; she'd never felt it before, but it felt like it calmed her –

"Who are you?" she yelled. She pulled out a fighting stance and a few turned to look but went back to their business. "Is this some kind of lotus-eater-island? I know of Odysseus!"

She turned around and went back, startled.


"This is a serious case."

Valerie sighed and turned to Chrys, shaking her head.

"You'd better leave her in the medical ward. There's only one thing I can do. It may take hours."

Chrys left after saying goodbye and hoping the best for Aster. Valerie turned around and pulled out some magical books. She hoped she was wrong. She might need to even consult some Counter Guardians.

Because otherwise she'd be left to only one choice. And if that one choice didn't work the way she wanted it to, Aster could be left brain-dead for eternity.


"So this is an illusory world…"

Aster could only just stand and stare as she saw Adrian training with a sword, dancing gracefully around with the blade. It was a little entrancing.

Shaking her head, Aster gritted her teeth, knowing this was a trap – something was encasing her in this world. She lunged at Adrian.

He deflected her off with his sword easily, perhaps on instinct. It did not hurt Aster but threw her back. Adrian looked at her, startled.

"Whoa, whoa," he said. "What was that for? You know it's me."

Aster shook her head. "I'm smarter than that. Why would you be here? Where the hell are we? And how can you prove you're Adrian?"

Adrian said smartly, "You knocked down part of your wall to used the next room as manga storage. That wall is nothing but manga volumes. You also stuffed some in my office, too."

"How do I not know there's a Stu using your memories? Like – like Death?"

Aster had an idea just then.

"How many main paths are there in Fate/stay night?"


"How many volumes are there in Ruruoni Kenshin?"


"Name of the opening song of Elfen Lied?"

He visibly struggled with this one. "Lilium."

"Number of characters in Lucky Star?"

"…oh, crap."

"Well, that proves you're Adrian. A bad guy would expect me to expect you to know that."


"Never mind." Aster went ahead and tackled Adrian in a deep hug.


"I have a large heaping pile of homework, you know…"

"I don't care about that!" Chrys pulled Akai through the Library. "We'll get that done later! Aster's at risk of permanently being a vegetable!"

"I know you're telling the truth, but it's a little hard for me to believe, given that I was talking to her ten minutes ago…"

"It's not the same Aster!" yelled Chrys…until suddenly she stopped in her tracks. "That's it," she said. "That's it. The Aster we know…gets a constant feed of memories from Society!Aster. She knows what's going on with the Aster here and maybe she'll know what's wrong with her and how to cure her…"


"I missed you! I… I… Why did you not talk to me earlier?"

"I tried. You wouldn't let me."

"Well, I wasn't quite aware it was you!"

"Never mind the countless hints?"

"Oh, just… just stop it."

Aster laid back and put her head back in the grass. "Where are we, anyway? I like this place. I'd like to stay here…"

"I think you know where you are."

Aster looked up.

"It's my world, isn't it?"

"It's the one you always wanted, yes."

"How nice." Aster blinked and smiled. "It's really pretty…"

"You want to stay here?"

"Oh, of course."

Adrian looked at her sadly. "You can't do that, you know."


"They need you out there. They need all the help they can get. I know it's hard for you to leave someplace you've always wanted to stay in, but you can't be selfish. None of us can be selfish."

He gazed outward. "I was selfish… to leave you all alone with no warning. But I know I needed it and everyone needed it and I hope you understand."

"I don't want to leave," said Aster, shaking her head. "I don't want to leave this wonderful place… I don't want to leave…"

Her eyes were wet.

"…I don't want to leave you."

Tears streamed down her cheeks.



"You never visit me, kyaa," fretted Aster. It was the original Aster, the one from the light novel series yet to be published sometime around July, the one all other Asters were based on. "It gets really lonely around here without you guys…"

"Oh shut up. You have me," said Akai.

"Yeah, well, if you ever happen to pass that test," said Aster, "you're going to end up a member of the Society and you'll have to visit there regularly and I won't see anyone anymore. I'd love to go myself, but nooooo, my Author has to give excuses like 'it's too dangerous' and 'you're not meant for that branch of work' and 'there are continuity issues'."

"But maybe it's a good thing," said Chrys. "At least you're – you're nice and safe here while the other Aster is – is – "

"A vegetable, I know."

Aster sighed.

"Yes, I have access to her memories, but how would you feel if you probed into someone else's head kyaa? If she wants to keep it a secret, why shouldn't I? Technically, I am her."

"But – " Chrys protested.

"Honestly, don't worry about it too much," said Aster. "She'll come along. She'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" said Akai.

"Really. Do you think the Author would permanently smack her in a coma? That's equivalent to killing off her own character. And how many Authors do you know who will do that?"

"Oh, I know one," said Chrys sadly.

"I know you're talking about Adrian," said Aster, "but let me put it bluntly. She's not Adrian."


"It's hard for you," said Adrian, "to go through it again."

"I…" Aster sobbed.

Adrian got it.

For this girl who had grown up without a family, she'd been rather lonely. Eventually she'd made two friends, but even then that had to drag her down at times. With the Society she had been able to interact with everyone and understand people deeply – it was the only familial connection she ever had.

So Adrian was what? Father? Brother? Distant uncle?

Whatever it was…

"I'm sorry," said Aster. "But you and Tash-san…"

She sniffled. "It's like you two took care of all of us. Or maybe not all of us. But it felt like all of us to me."

There was a long silence.

"You know," said Adrian, "you know it's not me. I'm not really… well, here."

"I know," said Aster, "but I can pretend a little longer, can't I?"


"I'm going to have to do it soon," said Valerie.

Chrys gulped. Possibly one of the most risky things for Valerie to do…and it could have dire consequences. "How long will it take?"

"I don't know."

Valerie looked at the unconscious form of Aster. Forcibly breaking into Aster's head and trying to fix whatever was wrong with her – it could permanently damage her head. Even worse, Valerie could potentially break her open and find whatever it was and have no idea how to fix it – and she'd be forced to leave Aster open and exposed while she tried to find the solution.

Chrys was clutching Aster's hand tightly.


"You can accept it, right?" said Adrian. "You won't have a hard time letting go?"

"I can accept it," replied Aster.

"Good. Face the world. Act normal. Be a normal person. Help the Society, and who knows, you may be more helpful to the multiverse than you think."

Aster nodded and wiped her tears, smiling. "Goodbye. I guess this is the last time I get to say this."

Adrian let go of Aster's hands. "You know how to go back."

Aster nodded.

And she started to dissolve and disappear, and said, "This is all in my head, isn't it, Adrian-kun?"

Adrian sighed. "Do I have to quote Harry Potter? Or have you not read Harry Potter?"

"Oh, I read it. And it's okay, I know what you want to quote."

"Was there a manga made out of it?"

"No." Aster giggled. "Everyone reads Harry Potter."

The last part of her vanished.

Adrian blinked. "Well, that ought to give credit to J.K. Rowling."

And he dissolved and vanished, too.



Aster shifted. Chrys yelped and jumped up.

"…eh…" Aster opened her eyes and rubbed them. Shakily, she sat up.

"Ah – " Valerie gasped. "She's back."

Chrys started to glomp Aster but Valerie pulled her off. "Be careful. She may not be ready for that yet."

Aster coughed once from the hug and put in, "What'd I miss?"

"She's back," said Chrys, and she proceeded to finish the glomp.


"I'm still going to have to check over you. Is that okay with you?"


Aster wasn't quite back to using her catchphrase yet, but she was in definitely high spirits. Whatever had gone on inside her was a secret, but news of her miraculous return had spread through the Society. The medical ward was now closed off to only Valerie and Aster, however, for the moment.

"Good. At least I don't have to enter forcibly anymore."

Aster sat up straight and Valerie put her hands on Aster's back. Steadily…she had to find out what was in there, or what had been in there (if Aster had gotten it out). They couldn't risk a relapse.

"Aster, relax," said Valerie. "I think you're still a little tense."

"Oh, sorry," said Aster, and she tried to relax her head, whatever that felt like.

Valerie pushed a little more and reached in, looking for something that might –

Suddenly Valerie's eyes widened and she let go, Aster turning around to see what was wrong.

"Valerie-chan?" Aster blinked. "Is something going on? Something wrong?"

Valerie backed slowly against the wall, panting a little.

"Aster," she said finally, "you – "

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