"I didn't think you'd come in again, Kii. Last session was hard."
"I wasn't planning on it either, 'Dr.' Hier.."
"Even if you're here as a patient, you can call me Noc, like you always do."
"But it feels like you're not a psychologist when I call you that."
"But.. I'm still a psychologist?.."
Even though his purpose wasn't leisurely in the slightest, Kii still felt a sense of comfort when entering this quiet place. The 'place' was a spacious office suite designed with peace in mind. There were bamboo fountains sloshing water into crystal bowls, and muted colors of pale gray, cream, and tan. The carpeting was plush, the seats were cashmere and a hint of sandalwood wafted around from a wooden diffuser.
Kii scanned the wall that was decorated with degrees and accolades his best friend had acquired over the years.The luxury floor within a posh high rise was just what he deserved for all his hard work. He was grateful to have been a part of that journey and incidentally could now reap the benefits as free of charge services.
"No. Just thinking how you should use better glass for the windows. What if patients jump through?"
"That's morbid. Quit thinking of things you shouldn't and lie on the couch. Are you stalling?"
Making a face between disgruntled and resigned, Kii sighed and made his way to the cream colored couch in an act of surrender. There was an adjacent chair for Noc, who loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves. Despite his words, the brown eyes behind black square glasses were gentle. He placed a metronome on the glass coffee table beside the couch and turned it on. A rhythmic 'tick-tock' slowly and steadily filled the intimate space.
Whenever Kii heard this sound, he instinctively knew to relax fully. Shoes were kicked off and his feet rested bare on the couch while his head melted into the cushioned arm.
"Can we just stop here?"
Noc looked at his relaxed companion and smiled. A digital recorder was produced from his pocket and he brought it to his lips. "Unfortunately not. Hypnotherapy involves more than just relaxing the time away."
Kii turned his head to face the doctor and swallowed hard. Despite the depths of murky gray in his eyes, the concern bubbling to the surface could be plainly seen.
"Not sure I can do this, Noc.."
"I know. But though the road to recovery is not easy, on the other side of that road, is your freedom, Kii. Now, your body is already relaxed from the metronome, and I can see your brain is in alpha...can you count down?"
"Okay. Say that thing you always say.."
"..When you can face the pain in your memories and accept it as real, then you can work through your emotions and slowly wash away the stain on your heart. You are not the same person you were back then. And no matter what happened, you are still you; Unblemished."
Pressing the record button, Noc began to speak with a soft and soothing cadence.
"Session 5. Today is May 21st, year 2099, Friday, 6pm. This is doctor Nocturne A. Hier of Delta Clinic in Zin City, Ward B, presenting patient #3056, Kii Tun."
With eyes closed, Kii went into a calm and hypnotic state. Noc watched the rapid movement of his eyelids for a bit and then began to speak as one would to a child.
"Can you hear me, Kii?"
"Is this 'day time' Kii or 'dream time' Kii?"
"Hello, dream Kii. Can we talk about the things you remember again? You have such a great memory and tell things so vividly. I really want to hear them all. Whatever you say here will help 'day time' Kii to remember. He can't remember many things without getting really hurt. Will you help?"
"So, let's go back to the place you called the Maple Pavilion. What was that?"
"A old and special place with a shrine and temple house. Grandpa put me there to live. Maple trees were everywhere so it was pretty, and there was a pond with purple fish, frogs, and berry bushes." Kii recounted the location in a voice that was about 10 years old, and even with closed lids and lying down, became animated by gesturing with his hands.
Nocturne smiled. "Sounds like the Maple Pavillion was a good place."
"It wasn't a good place?"
"Not after the first day."
The doctor paused and took a breath, seeing the clenched fists of his best friend and the beads of sweat forming on his shapely thin brows. As a friend, he wished to stop, but as a doctor, he knew he could not.
"Can you tell me what made it a bad place? Start with one thing at a time."
"Grandpa came and threw me down the stairs."
"Why did he do that?"
"He said father died and mother was sick because of me. Since I couldn't bring out the power and take the mantle, she got sick, and the family was cursed."
Nocturne swallowed hard against a knot in his throat.
"Was he the only one who said that?"
"No. My uncles came. They said it too. And used the pond..and the berries.."
"To do what?"
The tick-tock of the metronome echoed in an otherwise calming space, but the storm of emotions that had overtaken Nocturne could not be soothed. Hunching over, he buried his face in his hands and his shoulders trembled. After several moments, he once again sat up, removing his glasses to rub at red eyes and sat them to the side. This was why he couldn't have more than one personal friend as a patient. It was just too hard.
Continuing on, he delved deeper into the cause of his friend's abuse.
"So everyday, your uncles and grandpa came by to hurt you in the Maple Pavilion?"
"Did you tell on them? To other big people?"
"I couldn't leave. People came to feed me and dress me and wash me. But they would never talk and their eyes were gone so they couldn't see I was really hurt and had cuts."
"They cut you?"
"..And put fire on me. And beat me with sticks. And gave me bad food..and threw me down stairs..and drew on me.."
"They drew what on you?"
"I don't know, but I bleed when they draw them. I bleed gold stuff."
"And what do they do then?"
"Put it in a cup..and feed mother."
"Sick bastards!" Rising from his seat abruptly, Nocturne swore and raged at the ceiling. "I'm glad those psychopaths died in that fire..What 'ancient, gifted, and noble' Tun family? They were devils!"
After the outburst, he sat back down and smoothed his pants.
"Did your mother...ever find out?"
"No. If I said anything, they would never let me see her again. I could see her on the morning of a new year. I didn't want to lose that one time. And she was very sick. How could she help me? My gold stuff kept her alive so I had to keep being hurt. And if I awakened the power then everything would be okay."
"Were you ever angry?"
"No. It hurt too much to be angry. I was sad. And lonely. For a while."
"Only for a while?"
"Did something good happen?"
"Mm. I made Kai.."
The doctor nodded quietly to himself. It was quite normal for youth under extreme psychological and physical stress, to disassociate and create fictional personas to accompany them through trauma. Still, this was the first time Kii had mentioned him and wasn't exhibiting pain responses to the abuse from his memories. Perhaps it was best to dwell on this 'Kai' for a while.
"How did you make him?"
"Grandpa really messed up my room when he beat me one day. All the ink was knocked over so I didn't have anything to write with. If I write, I can be anywhere and do anything. I can be free so I was really sad all the ink was gone. But I had some gold stuff come out of me and saved a little in a jar. I used it to write something special..a story about me and a friend who was strong and made me happy."
"Did you always write stories about yourself and friends?"
"No, this was the first time. But when I started to write, I couldn't stop. I kept writing for a long time about this friend until I fell asleep."
"What happened the next day?"
"When I woke up, a kid was in the room with me. Kind of bigger than me. He was wet and smelled like the peach blossoms from the pond by the shrine. I was never allowed to go in that pond. He was naked and shaking and gold letters were on his body but they disappeared."
The doctor paused for the nth time during the session, wondering if he should continue with the delusions of his friend's younger self. If the person named Kai was real, then he was likely a stray abandoned for having abilities and stumbled upon the isolated temple in search of shelter.
The world of the past was obsessed with science, logic, and technology, so when humans began manifesting abilities all over the world that defied the golden age of scientific models, an age of harvesting them and studying without consent was in full flux. Many years had passed since that period of time though, and with the millions of humans with abilities born, it became a part of life and they no longer suffered persecution or exploitation. In the past however, this would not be the case.
"From that day on, did Kai live with you?"
"Mm. I taught him letters and he read all the old books in the temple house by himself! He taught me how to grow food in the yard, and how to throw up the bad food my uncles gave, and what to put on cuts to make them disappear. He was super strong and brave. We did everything together for a long time.."
"So where did Kai go? At some point, did he disappear?"
This was common for 'imaginary friends' but the reply given shocked Nocturne to his core.
"No... I ruined everything!"
With little notice, the Kii who spoke as a ten year old now had the voice of an older teenager. The mannerisms were more emotionally charged and Kii began to shake. This was the Kii he had met many moons ago. And those days were the most chaotic.
"It's okay, Kii. What happened? You're not a kid anymore, right?"
"No. They found out about Kai. I still couldn't leave, but they didn't hit me anymore. They said I was finally pulling my own weight in the family. But they said I couldn't see mom anymore!"
"Calm down. What would Kai have to do with your mother or pulling your weight?"
"I don't know! But I got mad at Kai, for being an obstacle. I was finally going to see her after a few years of being denied because she was convalescing in our other house. She came back and they said no..."
"When you got mad at Kai, did things change?"
"Yes. He got quiet and didn't talk to me anymore. I also was feeling strange around him and then he caught me doing something embarrassing and I pushed him away. I..said he wasn't real and would never be my muse.."
Kii sobbed helplessly, appearing to be for all intents and purposes, a teenager in the grips of puberty with the weight of his emotions and life spiraling out of control. Nocturne stood up and crouched beside his struggling friend, resting a hand on his shoulder in support.
"What happened then?"
"When I woke up from a nap, he was gone, and then.. I escaped to find my mother…"
The room grew silent. Kii stiffened.
"She's dead..dead..dead..She's dead.."
"Kii..Listen to me.."
"..Writing on the walls, writing on the table, why is it sticky? Why is it red?.."
"Kii, that's enough."
"A story in red, a letter, in red, to me..but it stinks..like iron..it's not ink.."
The doctor paled as he whispered the words. He had never been able to piece together what happened to his friend's mother, and Kii could not consciously remember either. If the woman had been murdered or committed suicide, then he had seen the aftermath in person and right after losing someone who had become his lifeline. Nocturne had accidentally stumbled on the root of all triggers.
"She wrote for me, to me, a story..in red..she needed me..she wanted me.."
"Kii, please! We're stopping here today! It's too soon for you to-
"WRITING ON THE WALLS! WRITING ON THE TABLE! WHY IS IT RED??!!"
Eyes flying open, Kii leaped from the couch and tackled the unsuspecting doctor off his chair and to the floor. Brain rattling around as he was violently shaken, Nocturne held on to the smaller man for dear life while he raged and repeated the ragged refrain until his throat was raw. Eventually throwing him hard to the floor, Kii went around the room having a fit as he transitioned through the years.
"So he's a prodigy! He can write the books of creation! Give him awards! Give him roses! I wanna be just like you when I grow up! What's your inspiration Mr. Tun?! You could be the next literary god! Oh how sad! I heard he had a nervous breakdown while writing the 10th volume! What did he see? What did he see?! It's no big deal! Just writing! It's just writing! No big deal!"
Nocturne got to his feet, shirt overly loose and hanging from his shoulders thanks to all the pulling. He also had a searing headache, and his heart and mind were wearing thin. But none of this mattered to him. Watching as Kii yelled in a disjointed manner, rambling inner thoughts and events, knees to the floor as he stabbed into the carpet with a black pen whose body was bent and black ink squirting all over. The doctor swallowed, straightened his back and schooled his features into a semblance of calm.
"It's not just writing, though, is it, Kii.."
Kii whipped around violently and pointed the mangled pen towards his friend. His eyes were bloodshot.
"NO! IT'S NOT JUST WRITING! IT'S NEVER 'JUST' WRITING!"
Stalking across the room towards Nocturne, Kii continued to shout, but with more clarity and purpose.
"It's our soul on the page! It's our blood! It's our life we're giving to these worlds!"
When the distance between them was only an arm's length away, Nocturne couldn't help the tears that blurred his vision.
"That's right, Kii. You're completely right."
Soothed by the agreement, Kii walked ever closer to his friend and planted his forehead on his chest with slumped shoulders. "It is a big deal.."
Resting a hand on his tuft of fluffed dark hair, the doctor lightly ruffled it and spoke low and deliberately in his ear. "Now..when I tug your earlobe thrice, you will return to the Kii you are today, leaving the child and adolescent self to sleep peacefully in your sea of unconsciousness. You will remember everything you experienced today but it will be as though watching a movie, detached and without emotional involvement. Do you understand?"
Nocturne gently reached for his friend's earlobe and tugged it once, twice, and once more.
"Ouch! Stop yelling right in my ear! And you're squeezing me too tight! What's wrong with y-"
"Are the memories flooding in?"