Chapter 4:

Butterflies Don't Feel Pain

With Oasis (Vol. 1)


A Saturday. 

Considering the day of the week, it was no surprise that I was hanging out with Lou.

It was at last cold enough that you needed to wear some kind of jacket to go outside. Lou was wearing a pink hoodie with a cartoon drawing of a cat on it. She had also finally eschewed her usual dresses and skirts in favor of not exposing her legs to the cold, although for whatever reason she chose to wear pajama pants today. Her pajama pants, combined with the graphic hoodie and her ever-messy hair, gave Lou an unparalleled casual, nay, even sloppy vibe. It didn’t help that today was an ahoge day.

As for me, I just rocked my usual attire with a black hoodie on top of it. Even in Winter, you’d have to pay a pretty penny to get me to ditch the bucket hat. It’s part of my character design at this point.

Me and Lou were standing around talking to each other… right next to a giant concrete slab.

“A few days ago, I realized one of my wisdom teeth was coming in,” Lou said. Her ahoge was swaying in the wind. “My top right one.”

“Huh…” I replied. “Mine haven’t come in yet, but I know my Mom had to get hers removed.”

“Well, right now it’s just barely in. It’s like this tiny little point jutting out the back of my mouth. I can feel it with my tongue.”

“Does it hurt at all?”

“Not really. It stung a tiny bit when it first poked through my gums, which is how I figured out it was there in the first place, but right now it’s kinda just chillin’ there. Existing. Vibing. Living life.”

“It’s so Lou-like of you to personify your wisdom tooth.”

Lou’s ahoge curled up a little bit. “Hey… Rocco… Do you wanna feel it?”

“...’It’ as in…”

Lou clasped her hands together behind her back, averted her gaze from mine, and blushed. “You know… my wisdom tooth.”

Is wanting your boyfriend to touch your wisdom tooth a normal thing? I get the feeling it’s more of a Lou thing than a normal thing. And she looks weirdly embarrassed about it… But, “Sure, I don’t see why not.”

I stepped towards Lou, my shoes hitting a mix of sand and sharp shards, until I closed what little distance there had been between me and Lou. She was still averting her gaze from mine, and her cheeks were red as a canyon at sunset.

Her mouth was shut tight. “You need to open your mouth for me to touch it,” I told her.

“A- Ah- Ahhhhh…”

“You don’t need to say ‘Ah’ like you’re at the dentist either.”

She promptly made herself quiet, with her jaw still open. Well… it was just barely open, really. A tiny slit that could just barely allow passage, like she was still hesitant about my finger being in there.

…That description makes it sound lewd, but in reality, it’s nothing. I don’t understand her nervousness at all. I mean, I guess I’m her boyfriend, and one’s mouth is at least a little bit of a sensitive area, but this reaction seems overkill for just touching a wisdom tooth.

Ah, whatever.

I put my finger close to her mouth… Closer… Closer… Closer…

Suddenly, Lou jerked her face away. “A- Actually, on second thought…”

All I could do was blink in perplexity.

Lou focused on steadying her shivery breathing for a few seconds, before finally looking me in the eyes again. “I- I- I-” she stammered. “I need to tell you something before you put your hand in my mouth!”


“W- Well you see…” She occupied her gaze with the sand again, instead of my face. “I… I think that stuff is hot.”

“What stuff?”

“Like, w- when-” Her cheeks were practically red dwarfs at this point. She spent another second or few steadying her breath before meeting my gaze again. “The idea of you putting your finger in my mouth is hot!” She finally got it out. “And I like the idea of like, you having your finger in my mouth, and I nip it gently. It makes me feel cute, or something, and like… it’s…” Her voice quickly lost its steam, and her gaze drifted back to the comfort of the ground. “So basically,” she said quietly, “I thought it’d be wrong for you to put your hand in my mouth without you knowing how I felt about it…”

“I don’t really mind,” I said. “I mean,” I scratched the back of my head. “I don’t really get it, but I also don’t mind it.” Lou’s cheeks finally dimmed again, and she was able to look in the vague direction of my face again. “Here, open your mouth, I guess.”

“A… Ahhhhhh…”

“You still don’t need to say ‘Ah’.”

Lou was right. Her wisdom tooth was a wee point at the very back of her mouth. It was also oddly sharp, considering it was a molar.

Lou seemed… oddly relaxed the entire time my finger was in her mouth. Sure, she was blushing off and on the entire time, but she didn’t seem on edge, and despite the red-faced explanation she gave of how hot she finds it, she didn’t seem to be taking it erotically or anything. She just seemed to be enjoying the sensation. I guess it’s more attractive to her than sexual; the nuance is slightly different.

As for me, I didn’t really know what to feel, or even what I was supposed to feel.

Some people get grossed out by the idea of spit, even if it’s their girlfriend’s. I used to find the idea of french kissing disgusting. Then I found it hot. Now I’m neutral about it. The same holds true for feeling Lou’s tongue against my finger and having her saliva on my skin. I didn’t feel much of anything. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d somehow climbed up to the next rung on the ladder of romance, though I have a feeling we’re part of a very niche segment of humanity that hit this particular rung.

True to her preferences, she did indeed nip my finger in the short time it was in there. The nipping part in particular seemed to make her happy.

“So, what did you think of Vivi?” Lou asked, as I wiped my finger on my hoodie. Her tone was a blend of glee and relief.


“It’s her name!”

“Why did you give her a name, why is it a her, and what is wrong with you?”

“Well, she’s too cute to not have a name. She’s like a tiny fang at the back of my mouth! Like in the anime!”

“Your comparison to fangs in anime is oddly apt here…”

“Is it a skin fang or a tooth fang?”

“Tooth fang, but purely because back when I was an otaku, I hated skin fangs with a passion.”

“That is true, normal fangs are definitely better. Oh, do you think my fang is cute?”

“I guess it makes you more unique, which is something.”

“I wish Vivi could stay a tiny fang of mine forever, honestly. But… Well, some day I’ll have to get her removed, won’t I?” She looked genuinely sad about having to get Vivi removed.

“Most likely, I imagine.”

“Hey, Rocco,” she perked back up. “You’ll put your finger in my mouth again sometime, right??”

“Uh, sure, I guess.”


I guess it was inevitable that I’d learn about some of my girlfriend’s odd desires. Most people have something particular and perhaps even abnormal that they find attractive, be it in a romantic sense or sexual sense. Or maybe even in the general sense of finding it pleasant. I guess I used to have some too, so it’s hard for me to judge. Like, I used to think drawing on people was hot. Don’t even ask, I don’t know what my past self was thinking.

“On another note…” Lou pried her gaze away from mine, and beheld the concrete slab at our side. “This place looks like it was bombed to shit.”

I turned towards the sight too.

Debris. Debris everywhere. Thin, white shards, frayed coils, eroded bricks, corroded metal, twisted bits of steel, metallic netting of some sort, nails and screws spilling out everywhere, and that was just what I could recognize. The rest of it was rubble reduced to rubble; impossible to deduce the original form of. All of this rested upon a concrete base.

It was originally a house of some sort. At least, that’s what we reckoned. But obviously, some 95% of the house was missing in action. All that remained was this concrete slab, and the leavings it carried.

I found this concrete slab some time ago, long before I began dating Lou. It’s on a country road north of Charlais. Actually, I originally found it while biking— though on bike it takes an hour to get there and another hour back, so the only practical way to travel to it is by car.

Anyway, you go down a country road from the north end of Charlais, and then you turn right onto a thin, poorly traveled gravel road that seemingly goes nowhere. But surprisingly, at the end of this road lies the base of a house that no longer stands… in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, so I guess it really is a road to nowhere.

However, even though I found this abandoned place some time ago, I never actually explored it beyond brief glances. Why?

It’s a concrete square.

What’s so interesting about that???

Well, I eventually decided to go here with the one person who would find it interesting: Lou.

Although now that I’m here…

Twisting, sharp materials that contorted every which way in order to poke a hole in all who dare approach, no matter the direction. Scraps of metal sharp enough to decapitate a man. Steel that glistened like blood in sunlight. Alloys of risk and excitement.

This place may not be so bad after all.

I hopped onto an elevated bit of concrete, overlooking daggers. I couldn’t help but smile. “This place is cool as hell!”

“Oooo~!” Lou said. “You actually seem excited for once! Like, normally you’re all nonchalant and stuff, but right now, dude, you’re actually smiling!!

I looked down at her from above, the wind ruffling bits of my hair that poked out from underneath my hat. “I guess I am,” I said, still smiling. I looked back towards the serrated scene before us. “You know, this place would make a nice obstacle course. Like, that clearing right there could be the beginning…” I pointed to where I was talking about. “And the end would be right there!” I pointed to a mountain on the other side of the concrete slab. A mountain… made of the sharpest edges this place had to offer. At the very top was a small, smooth square of concrete that was safe to step on. That small square of concrete was safe, but you had to go through danger first.

Lou laughed. “That seems just a tad dangerous.” She put her thumb and index finger close together. “Just a teensy bit.”

I looked back at her with a giddy smile. “Wanna try it?”

“Of course not!” Lou retorted with a giggle.

“Fair enough,” I said. “If you won’t, then,” I lifted my finger into the air, “I will.”

Suuuuure you will, dude,” Lou said with a teasing stare. “Sure, you’ll definitely just fucking impale yourself for the meme.”

I hopped down from my concrete precipice and started towards the clearing I’d earlier denoted as the starting point. I kicked a rusted nail as I walked. Kicked it forward, caught up to it, then kicked it again. You know, like elementary school kids do. Except I’m in highschool, so maybe I shouldn’t.

Crap… this is exciting. I’ve done risky stuff in front of Lou, but it’s never been at this level before. It’s always been small stuff, like jumping out a window or something. I’ve never been in such imminent risk in front of her before. Hell, if I actually go through with this, it’ll definitely be in the top three on the list of riskiest stunts I’ve ever pulled! That wicked looking tower, the finish line, glistening so… It’s so steep, so sharp… It seems so difficult to scale. I’ll at least get a few cuts while climbing that.

“Uh, Rocco…?” There was just the slightest undercurrent of anxiety in Lou’s tone. “Uhh… This is a bit, right? It’s all a joke, yeah?”

I winked at her. “I’m a bad boy. So I’m just doing a bad thing right now.”

“Yeah, but that’s like, really bad. Like, maybe don’t actually do this???”

“Oh please, all I’m risking is life and limb.”

“Life and limb are kind of important though!” Lou fired back.

Suddenly I felt a crunch underfoot. I lowered my gaze towards the ground. My foot had gone through a picture frame, shattering the outer glass. And inside that picture frame…

I could see some of its contents around the area my foot took up. Pinned butterflies. Pinned butterflies of beautiful varieties. How this thing got here, I couldn’t even begin to speculate on, but perhaps wrecking balls and atom bombs were unable rip beauty to shreds.

“Hey, Lou…” I said, lifting my foot from the glass, then pressing onward. “Did you know that butterflies can’t feel pain?” I gazed back at Lou.

She picked up the frame I had stepped on, and stared at the butterflies. Each neatly aligned, skewered, pinned to the wall in their respective place. “Why does it matter if butterflies can’t feel pain?”

“I dunno, seeing them pinned like that just made me remember that fact,” I said.

“Rocco, you’re like, really scaring me right now. I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not.”

“I’m being serious,” I said, coming to a standstill at the starting line. “Completely serious.”

“ROCCO!” Lou dashed towards me. “What do you mean you’re being serious?? D- Do you want to die? Do you need help?”

Maybe I do.

But right now, I couldn’t stand thinking about something as boring as therapy. Not when the adrenaline is screaming at the top of its lungs in my eardrums.

I did the sort of stretches the track kids do before they run, as Lou caught up to me. “Rocco, please don’t do this!!”

“Come on,” I said, stretching my quads. “It’s not something to be so worried about. I know from experience! It’ll just be a small, fun thing. ”

“I- EXPERIENCE!? Rocco, this is like, absolutely something to be worried about!”

“I beg to differ.” I placed both my hands on the ground and bent my knees like I vaguely recalled professional runners doing on television. “Welp, here goes nothing!” I exclaimed. And with that—

Lou belly flopped onto my back, hugged me tight around my waist with her arms, twined her legs around mine the best she could, put her mouth to my ear, and whispered “If you don’t do this, I’ll kiss you.


In the end, Lou had checkmated me.

I basically want this relationship to continue. It’s common knowledge: having a girlfriend is better than not having one. Even if I’m not emotionally invested in our relationship, that basic fact is enough for me to want to keep it going. And if I want to keep the relationship going… intentionally avoiding our first kiss is a no-go.

Of course, our relationship is doomed regardless. I’m merely delaying the inevitable here. And in delaying the inevitable, I’m inevitably causing Lou long term pain for short term contentment. In every regard, me allowing us to have our first kiss is an irrational, scummy idea. What’s rational is climbing that wicked sharp mountain and cutting this relationship into shreds.

Well… being emotionless doesn’t mean your actions get any more logical.

So, upon Lou telling me she’d kiss me, I replied “I guess I won’t then.”

“What won’t you do?” Lou replied to me broodingly. “Clarify. Make it as clear as possible.”

“Fine. I won’t do the obstacle course thing.” It was hard to hide the disappointment in my voice. “Now could you get off my back? I need to stand back up.”

Lou’s response made the wind go silent. “No.”

“Why not though? My back is starting to get sore like this.”

Lou clung to me even harder. It was kinda painful. “I don’t… trust… I want to make sure you don’t go off running the second I let go of you.”

“I promise I won’t run the obstacle course.”

“Give me a piggyback ride,” she demanded.

I sighed. “Alright.”

We stayed at the concrete slab for only around five more minutes after that. I walked around carrying Lou on my back, and we both surveyed the area a bit more, soaking in the view of the debris one last time.

Lou didn’t talk much.

I couldn’t see her face, since it was behind mine, but I somehow thought it was better that I couldn’t see it. She held onto me really hard, pressing both her arms and legs against me. Like she couldn’t bear to let go.

If the goal was to keep the relationship going, I can’t help but think I messed up.

A few minutes into our silent walk, for once, I was the one to initiate conversation. “You said you were gonna kiss me, right?”

“HUH!?” Lou said in an infuriated tone. “You’re the man of the relationship, you’re gonna kiss me, right?”

Ah… I knew our relationship would end up at this point. Does this count as our first fight?

We continued walking as one in silence, each and every step heralding the crunching and clacking of various materials underfoot. If Lou had any questions about why I acted the way I did, she kept them to herself. Until finally—

“Rocco,” Lou said in a quiet, miserable tone. “Let’s go home.”

And so, I began driving us back to Charlais.

There was another minute of silence as scenic desert vista passed us by through the windows of the car.

Crap. What should I do?

Do I promise her I’ll never risk myself that way again? No, I can’t do that. That risk was so exciting it made the hairs on my arm stand on end. There’s no way I can sacrifice that. If I promised her I’d never risk myself again, it’d be a lie on my end.

Do I apologize for making her see it? I guess I did get a bit carried away back there… But to be honest, my heart really isn’t in apologizing. If I apologized, it’d be not out of guilt, but rather a purely cold and calculated move. Psychopathic, in other words. But it’s probably the best option-

“Rocco.” I let myself be distracted from the road for a bit— to turn towards Lou, who was turned towards me. Our eyes met. “Hand.” She made a motion like she was beckoning me to come towards her.

I took my right hand off the steering wheel and gave it to Lou, who took it without hesitation.

“You know,” she continued. “We’ve been dating for some time now, and I know you’re a bad boy, and that you’re part of the deadpan archetype, and that you're really chill and nonjudgemental, and that you kinda like anime, but other than that I don’t know much about you.”

“I guess we’ve only known each other for a month and a half,” I replied, as Lou caressed my hand with her thumb.

“What do you do in your free time?” she asked me.


“Well I knew that. I mean stuff I don’t know about already.”

Stuff Lou doesn’t know about… I struggle to come up with anything. “Well, I don’t really do this anymore, but my Mom used to take me out on the weekends, because her job stops us from really seeing each other on school days.”

“That’s interesting…” Lou rested her head against my shoulder, straining her seatbelt against her neck. “I’ve never felt something like that in my life,” she said, with a thoughtful tone. “My Mom is a stay-at-home housewife/ Sasha’s homeschool teacher, and my Dad works a normal shift, so he gets home an hour after I’m back from school.”

“Well, I don’t really hang out with my Mom that much anymore.”

“Why is that?”

“I’m not really sure. I guess I grew out of it?”

“What, do you have a mommy complex?”

“That’s horrible.”

“Oh, I mean, do you have a complex about being seen as close with your Mom? Do you care about what other kids think of that?”

“It’s hard to say why I don’t hang out with her anymore… it just kinda happened. We were distant before I realized it.”

At this part of the semi-arid pseudo-desert, buttes and the like— basically anything elevated off the ground, was relegated to the skylines. We were surrounded by flat land. The area we were driving over was also lower in elevation than most places around here.

“I’m the opposite,” Lou said. “My family and I are really close. Especially me and Sasha. I love talking to them all... Oh, do you have any siblings?”

“Nope, I’m an only child.”

“Ahh…” There was a period where all I heard was the rumble of the car engine, and then “Are you working on anything super dee duper awesome? Like, mega cool?? Ultra epic???”

“...What does that even begin to mean?”

“Projects. Hobbies. Stuff that is undeniably swag.”

I cast her a look of confusion. “I still don’t follow.”

“Do you write books? Or paint? Or do sports? Or follow a passion passionately?”

“Ah. I don’t really have any passion projects. I used to dabble in writing, but all my prose was basically a carbon copy of Nisio Isin’s stuff, so I quit.”

“I’d read your stuff! I bet your prose tics would make me fall in love with you all over again! Every sentence you’d write would have the undeniable odor of nonchalance!”

“Nonchalance isn’t a smell,” I countered. “Oh, do you have any passion projects?”

“Hmmm…” Lou made a show of having to think on it for a bit. “You know, it’s small, not really a big deal, but I’m working on a video game.”

She’s trying way too hard to seem humble. How clumsy. “What’s it about?”

“Well, I don’t have much programming experience. I mostly learned this stuff during homeschooling with my Mom’s supervision, and since Mom doesn’t know programming either, it was really just her watching me watch Youtube tutorials. So the game has to be small in scale, but currently, I’m working on a simplistic platformer where the main character is an Axolotl in a top hat!”

“An Axolotl in a top hat? A more Lou-esque concept has never existed before.”

Lou giggled. “I wanted to make a platformer that feels unique from all the others, and since everyone always complains about water controls in platformers, I wanted to see if I could make a mostly water-based platformer that was actually fun. So that’s how I came up with having an Axolotl as the main character. That, and the fact that Axolotls are adorable.”

“Does the game have a story?”

“Well, the main character is a boy Axolotl who’s trying to ask out his crush, who is a cute pink girl Axolotl with a bow on her head. But, the main character is shy, and he doesn’t know how to ask out his crush, so he goes through seven different levels in order to talk to the seven romance masters of the world, who each give him advice on how to ask out his crush.”

“Why is this concept actually super unique and good?? I’m impressed.”

“Right? Tee-hee~” Lou put her right hand behind her head with a bashful expression.

I may be dead inside (by my own assessment), but my saying I was impressed by Lou’s game concept was no lie. From top to bottom, I thought her ideas were genuinely good. No, more than that, the gal knows how to code. Even if it’s a simple game, the fact that she even can make a game is impressive. And the fact that she’s working on something hard, that she’s indeed passionate about something…

I felt something. It wasn’t happiness, or anger, or sadness— it wasn’t the type of emotion that gets you directly involved in it, and makes you feel like you’re in an action scene. It was a more passive type of emotion, one that you experience more on a cognitive level than an experiential level; one that my dead, bored being can still muster.


I’ve admired her before, but never as much as now.

This silly, idiot girl… She’s actually kind of cool.

I almost felt envious, but that’s an emotion too involved for me to feel anymore.

But there was another reason I admired her so much. Another thing she had that I didn’t, and that I admired her for indeed having.

“Hey, Lou…” I said.


“Were you nervous when you asked me out?”

“Huh?? Where’s this coming from??”

“Well, you were kinda deadpan when you asked me out, but your arms and legs were also shivering.”



"DAMN IT ALL! Oh, but yeah, I was trying to put on a show and seem more stoic than I really was." Her head sunk deeper into my shoulder. “In actuality, my heart was about to leap out of my chest.”

“That sounds pretty gorey.”

“Only you would immediately think of gore upon hearing that, Rocco.”

“Treasure that nervousness,” I firmly declared.


“Treasure it with everything you have.”

“Where is this coming from?”

I rested my head against the top of Lou’s. “I just thought you needed to know.”

“But why should I treasure nervousness of all things? Those sorts of feelings seem like more of a hindrance than anything to me.”

“Your nervousness is proof that you’re still human.”

Lou chuckled. “You sound like an alien when you say it like that!”

“I guess I do.”

There was a brief, voiceless moment. “...If you’re ever hurting, tell me,” Lou said— in a tone like flowers in a thunderstorm.

“Same to you,” I replied— nonchalant as ever.

Charlais was visible in the distance. We’d be there in less than five minutes.

“Hey, wanna make a quick stop at the butte?” I asked her.

Lou pushed her head even deeper into my shoulder, seemingly tilting her head in confusion. “Sure, but why?”

“We’re gonna have our first kiss up there.”

Her ahoge shot straight up. “YOU’RE SO BLUNT!”

Charlais’ geographical layout goes something like this: to the south is a big ol’ mesa, the kind of mesa so big you can’t miss it. To our east there’s nothing but flat land for what seems from the perspective of being at ground level to be a couple trillion miles. Of course, if you were to somehow get on top of the mesa, I’m sure you’d be able to see far enough to find where the flat land ends. To the west, the land gradually turns into a more mountainous area.

And then, to the north, there’s a cluster of buttes. Most of them are too steep to climb. Well, that’s what a loser would say. I for one have climbed quite a few of the “too steep” buttes. But since Lou is here, the too steep buttes are definitely off limits. She’s always ranting about how much she hates exercise.

Then there’s “the butte”, as it’s colloquially known. It’s the shortest of the bunch, and if you know the right path, even a grade schooler can make their way to the top. Of course, it’s still dangerous, however low the level of danger is, so we’re technically not allowed on it.

But, uh, since when have Lou and I cared about rules?

I’m not exactly sure why I decided to have our first kiss at that moment. Maybe I’m a psychopath, and realized that the best way to make Lou forget about our “fight” (if you can even call it that) is to progress our relationship. Maybe I just felt like the time was right. Maybe I felt that doing it now was simply convenient. Maybe I saw Lou telling me to “be the man of the relationship” as a challenge, and decided to take her on. Or maybe—

None of those reasons mattered in the first place because in the end, the decision carried no emotional weight for me.

Sunset was nigh.

Pretty soon, the already red landscape would turn redder yet. Although it’d still be far outmatched by the red of Lou’s cheeks right now.

Me and her were sitting right next to each other, our legs hanging over the edge of the butte. The sides of our legs were touching. The sides of our shoulders were touching. Pretty soon, our lips would be touching.

Beneath us was the town of Charlais. Even having escaped village status, it was tiny, and from our vantage point, it looked even tinier than usual. Of course, I’m used to seeing Charlais from here. I’ve been sneaking onto this butte since I was in the third grade. Really, if you ask me, this view is old, tired, and boring. But it’s a place that’s high up at sunset, so it’ll work as the backdrop of a first kiss.

“Do you think someone in town will see us kiss?” Lou asked.

“If they squint, maybe.”

“Haha…” she kicked her legs back and forth. “That’s a little embarrassing! But it’s a pretty view, so I don’t mind. Will this be your first kiss?”

“Discounting my Mom, yes.”

“Yeah, you obviously discount your parents. Oh, and same here. You’ll be taking my first in that department, then.

“We’ll probably have a lot of other firsts,” Lou continued. “Together. Obviously, there’s our first time, which will come later, but there’ll also be, what, first time making out? Then first time laying in bed together, and first time kissing my neck, and my forehead, and my cheek, and all the other places you’re supposed to kiss… Oh, and you’ve never given me a head pat before, so that’s another first we’ll have. Haha…” She laughed nervously.

“The way you’re talking about the future is giving me major death flag vibes.”

“Pessimistic as ever, huh?”

“I guess that’s my thing… Still,” I cast my gaze skyward. Wispy clouds, thin as breath frozen by the cold, set against a pale orange sky. “It’s not bad to dream, I guess. If I had to choose between having hopes and not having hopes, I suppose the former is the better option.”


“Oh.” I smacked my right fist against my left hand like I was winding up for rock-paper-scissors. “It’s time to kiss.”

“Heh!?? Aren’t you supposed to be like, smooth with that? Subtle, or something? How blunt can you be??”

“Hmm, how about this then?” I said. “Uh, stand up for no particular reason.”

Lou fell back onto the flat of the butte, cackling. “AHAHAHAHAHA!”


“Rocco, never change! Absolutely never change!! Your romantic ineptitude is so moe!”

I’m a moe character now. I never thought I’d see the day.

After Lou calmed down, she stood up and declared— “I’m ready!” Her nervousness— was on full display.

Despite her confident-sounding proclamation, her legs were shivering, her hands were clasped together tightly, the blush in her cheeks was rapidly spreading to her entire face, and even in her declaration of readiness, there was a distinct unreadiness in her tone. Though I guess what ‘I’m ready’ really means here is ‘Ready as I’ll ever be’. If I had to guess, her soul was probably quivering too.

I stood up as well. Heartbeat, expression, all that, just the same as always. “I am too,” I replied.

I wrapped my arms around her, placed my hands on her lower back, and held her snug against me. I could feel her trembling breaths against my chest and her heartbeat just below mine, hers beating twice as fast as my own. She was blazing hot against me.

Lou cocked her head up towards mine. “Well… G- Go ahead…” She closed her eyes tight, while keeping her lips in their usual position.

It’s striking me a little late, but how do I even kiss someone? It’s been way too long since I’ve tried it, and I don’t want to make any disgusting noises. And hold on, I didn’t have the chance to put on chapstick or brush my teeth either… Ah well, I guess I’ll just wing it. It doesn’t really matter.

I closed my eyes in turn.

Lou growing ever warmer against me—

Her shaking intensifying with the second—

Our lips met.

At first, I simply felt her lips against mine. No emotions; just static. I was somewhat taken aback by the softness of her lips, although they were also partially chapped. I don’t bring this up as a negative. The fact they were partially chapped was simply a part of the experience.

And then.

It was about when I was remarking in my head about her chapped lips that it hit me.

The rush.

It caught me unawares.

That all too unfamiliar surge of electrifying excitement.

I felt it everywhere, in every inch of my body. Genuine, real excitement! Something that broke through the boredom! No, actually, it didn’t just break through it— I couldn’t even feel boredom right now!

What surprised me even more though was that it was an adrenaline rush on par with risk. Easily, easily on par. That overwhelming sense of feeling something, of having the sorts of emotions you feel in an action scene, of getting invested in something… it wasn’t risk, but it was just as good.

But there was something else too. A realization buried deep below my excitement, nay, feeling more like a foundation for my excitement.

Lou Clemente. She’s a goofy, ditzy, numbskull; a complete doofus in every sense of the word. She finds herself emotionally invested in everything. Every small thing I say to her, she genuinely hangs onto and makes hers. She transforms my words into her own happiness. She can program, and she can come up with some really charming concepts for video games. She’s nice, she’s brave, she’s imaginative and smart, she’s basically just cool.

And while I was kissing her, I realized.

My lips are touching those of someone who’s pretty damn cool.

And that realization felt fuzzy and soft.

Well, a kiss can only last so long. In real time, our kiss probably only lasted ten seconds or so. I pulled my lips away from hers and instinctively wiped her spit from my face. I get the feeling that wiping away her saliva after our first kiss is a bit unromantic, but in my defense, it was an automatic response. Besides, we can kiss again, and the second time I can opt not to wipe my face.

At least, I was ready to kiss her a second time in a row. Right there, right then.

Lou was not.

The first thing I noticed was the twinkle. A twinkling, dim light that had a certain beauty to it— before it fell to the ground. She was hyperventilating. She was shaking so hard. She was leaning against me for support. She was crying. And she was smiling.

“I- I-” she stammered. “I don’t really know what’s happening right now.” She looked up at me. “It was really exciting, and I really liked it, and I’m so glad you were my first kiss, but my God… I was so nervous! For some reason I still feel nervous! I can’t stop shaking!! And hyperventilating! And…” her smile dissipated. “Crying. I- I’m so sorry.”

I had the feeling Lou wasn’t in any state for round two.

So instead, I hugged her harder and said “It’s alright, you don’t need to apologize. Take your time… It’s okay…” in a sweet sort of voice. Or at least, what I hoped was a sweet voice. In the end, I’m never sure about these things.

“For the record…” Lou said, her face still buried in my hoodie. “I- It’s not like anything’s wrong. I know you’re pessimistic… it’s not anything like that. It’s just… well… I’m really fragile. I break easy. So even happiness makes me cry.

I wasn’t sure I understood, but I sensed that Lou wasn’t in any state to clarify what she meant. So, I just continued stroking her back.

I felt Lou smile once more against my chest. In a trembling, teasing tone, she said “You’re not so nonchalant now, are ya? I was afraid you’d just look stone-faced the entire time during our first kiss… that’s two smiles from you in one day! That’s like, a new record or something.”

I looked back out to Charlais. The wind in my hair, our hair, I looked down at that tiny town. A view I’m so used to. A view I’ve seen consistently since the third grade.

“I guess you’re right,” I responded.

What nostalgia.