Chapter 1:

Even Being Happy Gets Old

I Woke Up in a Light Novel or Giant Expanding Robot Bear Devil Prince and the Invasion of the Secret Legion Brigade Army

Kaori sat up and drew the curtains. It was a day like any other. Exactly like every other was a better way of putting it, the cloudless blue sky and blazing sunlight that filled her window like a painting that someone had hung on her wall and she couldn’t change. Every night, she put the world in the oven, closed the door, and woke the next morning to the same freshly baked sky. Yamada-san was washing his car again outside the garage opposite, the red paint shining as suds ran all over its body and stretched like fingers across the pavement toward the edge of the road. She wondered if other cars would find this arousing.

She walked downstairs and picked her bag and box from the hook by the door, still half-asleep. Noise was coming from the lounge as Tano, her little brother, lay on his front eating from a bowl of Magic Warrior O’s with the tv on full blast. His eyes were fixed on the screen. He’d been shoveling himself full of that cereal like mad all week. Every day the kitchen would be full of the empty red packets. There was no question that he was now fortified with vitamins A and B12 as well as an abundance of riboflavin. It was in aid of some competition where one in every ten boxes contained a plastic figurine of the magic warrior himself, and if you were very lucky, a rare gold version. One in a million, the ads said, though she had some doubt whether there were any in circulation at all. Kids all over the country were losing their minds for it, and so as a consequence were young mothers and the owners of small neighbourhood grocery stores.

‘Greetings Princess Bikini! So it was the demon mage that possessed you at the banquet of Enthronia, and that’s why you decroglified the royal guard?’ Said the tv. A tv could pull many faces. Today’s was Princess Bikini, evidently.

Her eyes fell into the flat expression that was her greatest magical sigil, the ward of unimpressed-ness.

This dialogue is so lame. How is this show even popular?

She looked down at Tano. His mouth hung open, his eyes reflecting miniature tv screens as the spoon hung idle in his hand, milk and a few stray O’s threatening to spill onto the carpet. Undoubtedly, he had been decroglified. She shook her head. Perhaps she was just jealous.

‘Hey Tano. Mom said that this afternoon the world’s gonna be invaded by repto-demons, so dont forget to wear your undead repellant stirrups if you go out.’

‘Uhhhhuh…’ he grunted, though there was no other sign of life.

Ah, sweet Tano. Another casualty of the demon mage.

She took her keys from the bowl beside the front door, and as she made to leave the house saw their cat Momo sitting like a hen incubating an egg on the window sill (for some reason her parents had rejected her naming suggestion, Lord Humphrey Bartholemew - mew, get it - the Third, The Alabaster Prince, though on occasion she still called him Humph as a form of protest). It was his usual spot, the faded patch of wood where the sun always fell.

‘Hey, Momo.’ Momo looked up and squinted at her. She stroked his warm flat head and he looked back out the window, satisfied. ‘You’re such a nosey boy. What are you looking at Momo?’

He made a crackly squeaking noise. Momo didn’t have the most beautiful voice, but that was ok because he had a very cute nose.

She looked out the window across the yard. The black and brown cat that lived opposite was sitting upright on a table in the window of Yamada-san’s house staring right back at them, like an evil Qing dynasty vase.

‘Ooohhh. Enemy cat, huh?’

Momo made a low growl.

Enemy cat sat perfectly still, regarding them coldly.

‘Ok, well you guard the house alright. I’m leaving you in charge.’

As she closed the door behind her, there was a scuffling of footsteps and her mom’s face appeared at the crack in the doorway. ‘Ohhh Kaori, did you—‘

Yes, mom. I’ve been going to school for ten years now. I remembered to take my lunch.’ She held the bento box up in her hand.

Her dad’s face appeared over her mom’s shoulder. ‘—ahh, our girl is sooooo smart.’ Both of their faces were overflowing with joy, like bowls filled to the brim with Magic Warrior O’s.


Her dad’s hands were clutched into little fists of delight.


Their smiles looked like they were about to explode, their faces landmines upon which her eyes must not tread.

Must escape.

Must not look back.

She shut the door and spun on her heel.


She would often recite the names of fruit or candy in her head in order to stop an unwanted memory from forming. She’d seen it on a show somewhere though ironically she couldn’t remember where.

—lemonlime… what was next? Ah, too late. There it is. Another mentally scarring image.

Even being happy gets old.

Xan Ti