Chapter 6:

The DeLightfuls

My Government-Issued Girlfriend Can't Be This Cute!

"Well that was stupid," Asagiri said as the theater room's lights brightened. She sucked the last bits of soda out of her cup.

“Huh? Why?" I stretched myself out on the red chair. "It wasn't that bad at all."

“Too much fanservice. They should’ve just gone with a bee girl isekai.”

“It probably would’ve had even more fanservice then.”

Dominion’s Paradise didn’t have any in its first few chapters.”

My eyes lit up like a giddy child's. “Oh, you actually read ahead!”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you what I think so far later.” She wiped her hand on her shorts. “Also, you got sweaty while we were holding hands again.”

“Sorry, haha."

A cute blush spread across her face. "It's fine. I get nervous sometimes too, maybe."

Awkward silence enveloped both of us as credits continued rolling ahead. We'd earlier held hands for most of the movie, and her touch had felt like pure softness I never wanted to let go.

And I just wanted more of her.

Instinctively, like some buried carnal desire, I felt my body closing into hers from my seat. She turned towards me but didn’t move back, apparently aware of my intentions.

She’ll yell at me if she doesn’t want this, right? Any moment now?

My face neared hers. Ocean-blue eyes and succulent lips invited me further in as Asagiri's sweet, labored breaths hastened my heart. The aphrodisiac of her flustered face tossed away all self-restraint, and I reached the point of no return.

Two centimeters. One centimeter—

"N-N-NO! Back off!"

Asagiri's hand shot out and pushed my shoulder away. A shrill jitter in her voice amplified palpable unease as she shrank bank into her seat, turning her back towards me and had her arms crossed.

Guess I went a little too far. "Sorry about that. But could’ve stopped me earlier though." I rubbed my head to look modest.

Her pouty face finally looked in my direction. "I-I just wanted to give a little practice! For when you get a real girlfriend! Yeah! That!"

"Really?" I chuckled. "Well, you'd be surprised how many good stories start with a 'practice' plot."

"Shut up! Kill Switch! Kill Switch!" She threateningly reached down her shirt.

"Alright, alright Asagiri. Let's just pretend it never happened."

After we cooled off for a bit, I checked my phone: no new messages, as usual. Well, the only person who'd probably text me at this point is sitting right next to me.

I looked in my girlfriend's direction. "So, do you wanna pick where we head next?"

She was shoveling the last bits of popcorn into her mouth. "Hnng? Day's 'snot ovur yeet?"

"Only if you want it to be." I could barely understand her garbled words, but it was oddly seductive.

A huge swallow went down her throat and she unleashed a satisfied sigh. "Hmmm . . . How about something new, something not involving bees."

"There's a bee plushie wrapped around your back."

"Yeah well, Bubbly isn't gonna try to fuck me, unlike some people." She glared at me.

"It would've just been a kiss. You've had a boyfriend before, right?"

Asagiri reached into the popcorn bucket and flicked a kernel right at my forehead. 

"Ow! Hey! Not cool!" I soothed the impact crater with my thumb. 

"We only 'practice' on my say so from now on." Another kernel got threateningly loaded between her fingers. "Got it?"

"Yes, ma'am . . ."

With a pout, she stood and slammed the tray full of trash between my armrests. "Now I need to go to the bathroom. Nishikata, be a good 'boyfriend' and take care of our mess, would you?"

I regret things. "Yeah fine, I'll meet you outside then."

She shimmied through the seat aisle and ran down the left corridor, disappearing from sight below. Her face looked just the slightest bit satisfied. 

"Mission failed." I rested my chin on my knuckles. "Hmmm, should I even bother next time?"

Movie credits on the screen ceased playing and a common courtesy video started. Chibi animal mascots joined forces to help make sure their theater room was left spotless after a packed, rowdy showing. Even the big-headed lion shared a laugh with hyenas as they helped each other pick up trash.

Just like the chibi creatures on screen, I neatly pooled all our garbage so it wouldn't fall off my tray. Asagiri made way more trash than me somehow!

As I finished cleaning and the courtesy video ended, I noticed the couple far ahead in the front row still sitting in silence, motionless, stiller than mannequins. They were facing straight forward in their seats as if watching the now blank screen. 

Well that's a bit creepy, I thought. Wonder why they’re still here though?

I grabbed my trash-filled tray and started shimmying down the seat aisle. At that same moment, the couple synchronized to stand with one another, all while still facing forward and silent.

"Huh?" I murmured. Goosebumps surfaced on my arms. A dead quiet room echoed even the smallest movements or shifts of trash on my tray. I reached and descended the side stairs, but the couple far below walked in lockstep with me, step by slow step—approaching. 

No way. Why now of all times? My heartbeat hastened. I wasn't ready to deal with this—to deal with them. I hurried my pace, jogging down the theater steps as trash careened off my tray from panic. Only escape mattered now. 

The couple was already on the bottom level, waiting by my corridor exit. They held hands as their cold, uncaring glares stared at me from below. 

Escape. No. That wouldn’t help. I could use the opposite exit, but then their dogmas would just follow me home. Confrontation was the only viable path forward to fully alleviate myself from their asinine ideology.

I reached my exit corridor, careful to avoid making eye contact with them. As I tried turning the corner, the black-haired girl broke away from her boyfriend and got in my face.

“Hey, hey,” she said with a twisted smile. “That woman you were with—she’s not your real girlfriend, is she?”

Buzz off! I resisted hurling my trash tray in her face. She had vividly golden but maniacal, warped eyes, as if trying to see directly into me. A quaint, pink blouse adorned on her was the equivalent of wolf in sheep's clothing. 

“None of your business,” I calmly replied, avoiding her gaze.

The girl's smile widened. She opened her pink parasol and sheltered us both under it. “Asagiri's one of those GiG’s, right? Right?"

My eyes deadlocked into hers. "How do you know her?"

Chuckles turned cackles soon filled the air as both of the crazies laughed.

"Well," the girl said near my ear, "maybe we just have good hearing, or maybe, your partner is hiding something from you."

"Cut the crap!" I yelled and whipped her parasol away. "Stay out of her life and mine!"

Without hesitation, she shot the open parasol back around me and blocked off my escape.

"Asagiri is only a fake girlfriend, right? Right?" she grinned. "That means all your needs can't be satisfied. Why not ditch her and come join our seminars? If you open yourself to death, surely someone could humor your libido.”

“I’ve moved on from your stupid ideals already.”

The girl’s face contorted into a snarl. “Unfortunately—death isn’t something you ‘move on’ from—only eventually accept. Do not hide from its light."

Those decrepit words, that twisted ideology—were the same axioms that had been haunting me for almost a decade. The suicidal thoughts, the feelings of inferiority, the PTSD, all stem back from a chance encounter with their cult's co-founder. Even now, I was still living under their shadow and suffering the consequences of her contributions to the downfall of society.

All I could do was remain silent, and hope no one noticed my trembling. Please, just leave!

The blonde-haired boyfriend, clad in church-appropriate clothes, circled around his girlfriend and nudged her parasol away. He was now right in front of me.

"GiGs only seek to deceive,” he craned his neck down to meet my eyes. “They preach a glorified, sweet lie over a sweeter truth. Don't let yourself be swayed by their saccharine words. Death is this world's only truth."

My trembling hands had the tray clenched, ready to weaponize it. "You're all lunatics! If death is so beautiful, why don't you all kill yourselves and stop convincing people to do the same?"

"What we preach is neither fear nor salvation." The girl's breaths behind me were near enough to tickle my neck. "Rather, we declare a calm before the beautiful storm. Peace, tranquility, and ataraxia—people choose their fates, we simply guide to one that best suits them."

Images of Asagiri flashed in my mind. She'd already saved me from these people—from their bullshit drenched in snake oil. I came to my own philosophies, but DeLightfuls helped fuel the fire that convinced me to buy those sleeping pills, in case I ever sought a quick escape from the promise I could not keep. 

"Those most in need of a GiG are the most vulnerable," the boyfriend said. "Even if she succeeds in rectifying your mental state, who's to say you won't regress as soon as she departs?"

Huh? I'd never even considered that: what happens when Asagiri eventually leaves me? Wouldn't I be worse off than before? No, no. I pushed those thoughts away. I wouldn't let myself be led astray by nonsense again. My life was almost taken once, and I'd be damned if these thugs shattered my new resolve to live.

The girl's finger grazed my chin as she strolled by me. "When you sink back into darkness, DeLightfuls will always welcome you with open arms; just come find us." She giggled and skipped down the theater's corridor exit.

"Even if you reject our words, who's to say your family, your friends, won't one day see our light?" the boyfriend said as he followed behind his partner. "Don't get left behind, Nishikata."

After the girl folded in her parasol, the couple turned the corridor corner and disappeared from sight together. Gone, like ghosts. 

. . .