Chapter 1:

thing, but japanese.

Japan's Truest Hero.

> I’m going to land soon. Don’t message me again unless it’s an apology.

The message was sent into the chatroom, but the recipient, EmiliatheCatLover998, didn’t bother to glance at it. The man, holding his phone in his meaty hands, set it down dejectedly and sighed. “Well, it’s not like it matters anyway. Paradise awaits.”

He stepped out of the plane and was greeted by bright sunshine and gloriously blue skies. It happened to be spring in Japan, and he was visiting Japan as a foreigner in the spring.

Gorgeous petals fell to the earth, unaware of the force that had begun to share the soil.

“Finally, I’m here in the amazing nation of Nippon!” Bartholomew Sagittarius Valentine Reid III, a child of two loving middle-class parents, had made his way to the Japanese City of something-that-the-author-can’t-pronounce. For thirty-eight years of his measly insignificant life, he had saved up the weekly allowance his parents would give him in hopes that he would make something of himself. Of course, he had used the funds in order to achieve his foremost goal- traveling to Japan.

Each step he took shattered the earth below, and despite the springtime air being frigid, the stubble on his neck kept him warm. His stench was like an aura. It was nauseating.

He wore a plain white tee-shirt with a patterned-ahegao stock print on the front. Over it, a grey trench coat draped his towering, bulbous form, and a fedora of the same colour sat on his head. It was his idea of classy fashion. He had no good ideas.

Bartholomew marveled at the sights. It was all he had dreamed of, like a paradise pulled from his greatest fantasies. It had big buildings, multitudes of people, shops, streets, and cars. It had all of the great things that any city would normally have.

But it was Japanese. And that made it cool.

“Wow! It’s like I’m in an anime, but in real life!” His eyes widened. He could barely contain himself. He stared upwards at you. “Sugoi! That’s how they say ‘awesome’ in Japanese! Can you say ‘Sugoi’?”

His poorly-planned Dora reference reached an audience of no-one at all. After all, he was just another fool in the city. There was no one to pay attention to his whimsical nature, and that meant he was free. He was liberated from expectation, and that was dangerous.

Bartholomew pushed up his glasses, brushing up against his greasy, oily cheeks as he did so. “I spent my entire life learning Japanese just for this very moment! I watched tons of anime, and even ordered Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese!”

He smirked. “Nothing and no one can stand in my way now. After all these years, I’ve planned meticulously on what I would accomplish once landing on these shores of paradise. A fool might find themselves in an onsen, visiting a historical landmark, or sample the delicious food sold on the street! But I am no fool!” He cracked his knuckles, of which was quite difficult, and pointed in a general direction, of which he had no idea where it led.

“I’m going to rent a girlfriend! Finally, with the power of Mother and Father’s money, I can accomplish one of my greatest dreams- holding someone’s hand!” Bartholomew’s mood quickly declined. “After all, EmiliatheCatLover998 never wanted to meet in real life… now that I’m actually here where she lives, she’s stopped responding to me entirely.”

Soon, Bartholomew found his way to a small building nestled in between several others, where the only hint that it existed at all was the glass windows that gave him a glimpse into fantasy. Beautiful women in various fancy dresses posed in the windowsill, as if waiting for Bartholomew to arrive. He quickly entered the building, finding an attendant and approaching him.

“Excuse me? Can I hire one of these women as accompaniment on a date?” Of course, Bartholomew had never actually talked to a real person in real life. His human interaction was limited to screaming slurs at children in online video games, saying abhorrent things on online forums, and playing dating simulators with questionably-aged female leads.

The man in the shop looked at him in an odd way. It might have been both a mixture of disbelief at a foreigner speaking perfect Japanese, or the fact that he was doing so while dressed like a complete degenerate. However, it was clear that the person standing before him was an idiot.

The shop attendant pointed at one of the women and asked, “is this what you mean, Sir?”

Bartholomew nodded his head.

“Sir, that’s a mannequin. This is a clothing store.”

“Yes. So, how much per hour?”

The man looked at him, disgusted, before signaling him to leave. Of course, Bartholomew didn’t understand what he had said. He had only ordered the first edition of Genki, never the second. Still, he understood the pointing motion he had made, and so Bartholomew made his way out of the women’s clothing store, disappointed that he was unable to procure a lovely mannequin.

“Wait, do mannequins even have hands?” Bartholomew suddenly became aware of his oversight. “I really was the fool this time!”

“Excuse me!” A voice suddenly called out.

When Bartholomew turned around to ascertain the origin of the voice, his eyes widened. He saw that before them, the very essence of spring had arrived. She was like the wind, light and airy. Her cheeks were round and soft in appearance, like she was made of clay. Her eyes were a gorgeous black, the same as her hair, and she wore a dress that resembled flower blossoms.

“Ah, h-hello M’lady.” Bartholomew managed to stutter, his shaky hand navigating towards his head to tip his fedora. “H-how may I help you?”

Under his breath, he began to repeat his mantra. “Remember the simulations. Remember the simulations. Remember the simulations.

“My name is Elizabeth.” She spoke with a smile. “I saw you from a distance, and thought you looked like a very interesting person to talk to!”

“Elizabeth-chan? That doesn’t sound very Japanese!”

She shook her head. “It’s not my real name. You see, ever since I was a child, I’ve been very interested in America. Seeing you here, I felt extremely excited. Meeting you is like seeing all my dreams come true!”

Bartholomew’s eyes lit up.

“Elizabeth-chan, you’re so sugoi! W-would you consider being my rent-a-girlfriend??”

Elizabeth nodded her head excitedly. “I would! That sounds like fun!”

Having succeeded in his main goal, Bartholomew lifted his fist up in the air, triumphant. In the background, the ff4 battle-end soundtrack began to play. Of course, this was because Bartholomew was standing next to an advertisement panel, not because he was a cool person that deserved a soundtrack.

“Wow! To think that you guys were like us all along! You guys really are true weeaboos! No… you’re Ameriboos! Wow! Sugoi! You’re very cool, Elizabeth-chan!

Elizabeth nodded her head. ‘Yes, I’m an Ameriboo! That sounds very cool!”

Staring up at Bartholomew, Elizabeth became acutely aware that he was much taller than her. So, only one thought crossed her mind. She made him bend down towards her, and whispering in his ear, Bartholomew’s face lit up a bright-red. However, he was happy to comply with her sudden thought.

So, walking through the streets of the big city, Elizabeth had been hoisted onto Bartholomew’s shoulders, watching the goings-on of the city from a great height. “It feels like I’m Hogarth Hughes, and you’re the iron giant!”

Looking up at Elizabeth, Bartholomew’s smile beamed. “You’re right! I am pretty gigantic, aren’t I? My mother always said so!”

Before long, they arrived on a side-street where not many people wandered. Bartholomew glanced time-to-time at his phone, and Elizabeth could barely make out a map on its screen.

“Where are you taking me?” Elizabeth asked curiously.

Bartholomew’s gaze had darkened. He set Elizabeth down behind him and put his phone back in his pocket.

“There were two people I came to meet in this paradise. The first, EmiliatheCatLover998, will no longer respond to me.” He stopped in his tracks, staring up at a tall building cloaked in mist. On a veranda high above, a man with stark-black hair stared down at him with a grin. “The other is someone I have to settle a debt with. A blood debt.”

The man perched atop the railing, staring down at Bartholomew. “So, you’ve finally ventured out from your cave to face me, BartholomewHokageIII?”

“No, you’re wrong, DemontheDemon. It wasn’t a cave. It was my parent’s basement.” Bartholomew smirked.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from, idiot. I was insulting you, not asking for your tale of adventure.” DemontheDemon cracked his fingers and neck, and then all of the individual vertebrae in his back, one-by-one. “I didn’t expect you to bring me a gift, however. That lady behind you sure is beautiful. It would be a shame for you if I were to take her…”

Elizabeth fell forward against Bartholomew’s back, and he held her behind him to keep her safe.

“Fear not, my lady. I shall protect you from harm.” Bartholomew threw off his coat in a cool fashion, revealing a katana that he had concealed underneath. “This is how a true man should act, dattebayo!”

DemontheDemon laughed. “You would think so, wouldn’t you!? However, after traveling to Japan by enrolling as a Japanese teacher, I tried to act as nice as I could! Still, no woman would pay any attention to me! It was like I was invisible! A freak! A picture on the wall!”

Bartholomew bowed his head, adjusting his fedora. “I understand your feelings, DemontheDemon. Men like us… well, women just don’t understand how much of nice guys we are. But still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on you.”

“No, I wouldn’t expect you to.” DemontheDemon’s gaze darkened, and he revealed the katana under his own coat. After pulling it from its sheath, he jumped off of the veranda, landing in the dirt below. He tried to keep a straight face, but his grimace suggested that it hurt. Like, really badly. Even Bartholomew, seeing him reel in silent pain, couldn’t keep silent.

“Do you need a minute?”

DemontheDemon raised his hand. “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me.”

Bartholomew drew his sword in response. When DemontheDemon found himself ready, he stood up, facing Bartholomew with his sword raised. However, the two quickly realised that as basement-dwellers, they had forgotten to understand that facing a blade was different from holding one. So, the two stood facing each other, locked permanently in a stalemate of hesitation.

“I slept with your mother!” DemontheDemon shouted.

“I really hope you didn’t!” Bartholomew grinned. “We buried her last month!”

It was a stalemate of insults.

“You’re a freak!”

“And you’re a loser!”

Bartholomew’s eye twitched.

“Enough talk. It’s time for me to unleash my ultimate shinobi technique!” He smirked, pushing up his glasses before taking a long snort to clear the mountain of phlegm from his throat. “The Seven Slurs seal unleashing! My father always yelled at me for spending so much time on internet forums… but even he would understand now. It wasn’t all for nothing!”

Bartholomew pulled up his sleeve to reveal seven words that would shock any normal person, crudely written in permanent marker. They were vile, horrific words that the author is not allowed to type. Their aura, along with his stench, was enough to make Elizabeth dizzy.

DemontheDemon smirked. “You fool. Did you think that would work on me!? You’ve forgotten, we spent years together in the same forums!”

He raised his hands outwards as if he were proclaiming to the heavens. “In fact, who do you think you’ve been having e-sex with all of these years?”

Bartholomew’s eyes widened, and his gaze froze. His mouth agape, he could only stare at DemontheDemon and whisper. “You were EmiliatheCatLover998 this whole time…?”

There was silence in the air. Elizabeth was confused, DemontheDemon was grinning, and Bartholomew was shocked. He felt his heart drop into his stomach, and his mind began racing, recollecting every moment, every happy emotion, and every memory he had made in the chat room with EmiliatheCatLover998. He couldn’t believe it. Was it all for nothing?

“I really am the fool…”

His katana dropped to the ground, and Elizabeth gasped. “No, you can’t give up! Think about what you came here for!”

“What good is there in continuing this fight? He’s won, Elizabeth-chan… it’s over.”

DemontheDemon laughed maniacally in the background, sheathing his katana. “That’s right. It’s over, BartholomewHokageIII. Over the course of these long years, I have lost many battles against you, but it is I who won the war.”

Bartholomew grimaced, falling to his knees. He could barely contain the tears that pooled at the edge of his eyelids.

Then, he recoiled suddenly, grasping at his face as he cried out. DemontheDemon’s eyes widened, his hand resting on the blade at his side. “What’s wrong with you, fool!?”

“My demons… they’re coming inside me!” Bartholomew shouted. His voice was agonizingly shrill.

Elizabeth’s eyes widened, grasping tight on Bartholomew’s arm. “No, you need to fight it! You can’t let them take control!”

Bartholomew closed his eyes tightly, his head pulsing. “No! I can’t control them! It’s too late for me! Save yourself, you two!”

Elizabeth grasped his hand with her own. Hers were soft, pale, slender. Bartholomew’s eyes shot open, glancing down at his hand, and seeing hers. His mind began to race once more, and his cheeks flushed.

“Elizabeth, are you…?”

Elizabeth realised what she had been doing, and her cheeks blushed as well. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Bartholomew had stopped listening entirely. His other hand shot up into the air as he grinned. “Sugoi! I finally accomplished my goal! It’s all thanks to you, Elizabeth!”

“Is it really?” She was surprised.

“Yes! It is! It doesn’t even matter that EmiliatheCatLover998 was actually DemontheDemon! You’ve fulfilled my greatest dream, and I forgot to remember that life is always filled with hope! This ‘down’ was just preceding an ‘up’, and all I had to do was wait! And to think, my demons almost came… that was close. You’re the greatest, Elizabeth-chan!”

Elizabeth smiled. “I don’t really get it, but I’m glad you’re happy!”

Bartholomew turned towards DemontheDemon. “I won’t ever forgive you, DemontheDemon. But I think I can accept that you’re the victor. After all, in the end, I have no enemies. Anime taught me that.”

“Ha, anime? So you really are a fool! Don’t you know- your parents are supposed to be the ones that teach you important lessons? If you gauge all of your views and ideals from children’s cartoons, then aren’t you the exact sum of what the adults that made them expect of children!?” DemontheDemon pointed his finger at Bartholomew.

Bartholomew’s gaze darkened. He stepped towards DemontheDemon, ignoring that he had drawn his katana once more.

“Anime is not just some cartoon. Only fools would hold that sentiment. Would you say the same about your father having taught you how to fish, or your mother teaching you how to dance? The memories of learning, of laughing, of having fun, would you demean those experiences? Anime was my hope. It became my courage, my way of moving forward, my life’s ideals!” Bartholomew began to shout. His gaze sharpened. “The same way that your parents taught you how amazing life is, anime did the same for me! It taught me pain! Suffering! Friendship! Love! Adventures! It taught me that there’s something worth living for! I won’t let you tarnish what saved me!”

However, he had failed to realise that by approaching DemontheDemon, he had walked straight into his blade. His heart dropped once more, and he watched as his ahegao-plastered tee-shirt erupted with quickly-spreading crimson stains. He looked back up at DemontheDemon, whose eyes had widened. “No… I didn’t mean to… what have I done…?”

He looked over at Elizabeth, whose mouth was agape. She cried out, and by the time she had been able to run over to him, Bartholomew had fallen to the ground.

His vision began to blur.

“No, don’t die! You can’t die! I don’t even know your name!” Elizabeth cried out, trying to cover the wound on his abdomen with her hands.

Bartholomew reached up, touching her soft cheek with his grimy, gigantic hands. “Don’t cry, Elizabeth-chan…” His words were weak, reminiscent of his fading life.

“But… I was supposed to be your rent-a-girlfriend… you can’t leave me… I want to ride on your shoulders again…” Her lip quivered, and tears dripped from her eyes. “You can’t leave me…”

“This place…” Bartholomew whispered in a hoarse voice. “This place…”

In the dark abandoned alleyway, his hand fell from her cheek. In the dark abandoned alleyway, those who remained were frozen with regret, surprise, and sadness. His words, final, echoed through the streets.

“…it really is paradise.”

Bartholomew Sagittarius Valentine Reid III

Japan's Truest Hero.

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