3, 2, 1, killshot! Let's discuss One Punch Man!


August 26, 2013

I Hraet You (86)

Beat 86: Pulling Two Out of a Hat

Lloyd took another deep breath, resting his palms on the desk as he inhaled and exhaled.  Just a few moments ago his heart would have thumped louder than anything the ladies onstage could have produced -- even if they’d started shouting at full blast.  But now he could hear everything clearly.  The hum of their failing stars.  Their muted yet panicked whimpers -- from the recoiling Sheila as well as the humbled Deirdre.  And most of all, the thoughts whirling about inside his head -- a storm of words, linking together into a single chain of reason.

He took one last breath, and looked up at the pair.  It’s time to bring this audition to an end.

“Miss O’Leary,” he began.  He shifted his eyes from Sheila to Deirdre.  “And Miss O’Leary.  I understand what plagues you so -- why my words have dealt you both a critical blow.  I had originally assumed that the reason for an imaginary friend was to honor and idealize the mother figure.  But I was mistaken; the true intention was to carry out revenge, and make a target out of the woman who had slighted you so dearly.  That was the reason for your original form being the madam.  And the reason for your current form -- the reason for your reaction -- is an understandable one.”

Sheila and Deirdre stared at Lloyd with probing gazes.  He knew they wanted an answer.  And he was happy to give one.

“It’s guilt.”

Lloyd crossed his arms.  “I genuinely believe that Miss O’Leary is a good person.  Perhaps a bit misguided at times, but still more than understandable.  Admirable, even.  But it’s precisely because of that inner goodness that her guilt plagued her so.  It’s one thing to create a weaker, incorporeal version of one’s mother, but another to attack her at one’s leisure.  It’s the sort of act that can make one reflect on what sort of person they truly are…and if the person is possessed of a good heart, it can only lead to anguish.  Inner turmoil.  And ultimately, despair.”

He turned to Deirdre.  “The means for redemption, then, were simple -- at least in the mind of an elementary schoolgirl.  Rather than abuse the mother any longer, she had to make a substitution.  She would elect not to batter someone who had merely played a joke on her, but the one who would go so far as to strike at her imagined effigy.   Therefore, the reason you’ve taken the form of Miss O’Leary is because she wanted to punish herself.  It was merely happy coincidence that she grew the way she did, and you grew to reflect that…at least, one would think.

“With all that said, I’ll refrain from judging either of you as harshly as you would have expected.”  Lloyd nodded at Sheila and Deirdre in turn.  “You needn’t worry.  You are absolved of your guilt.  And you are forgiven for your inlaid, justified rage.  The real once mistreated the unreal, and the unreal schemed against the real -- but I will accept both of you here and now.  I’ll welcome the two of you into my heart, that you may find the healing you so require.  And by my violet crown, I swear upon you, with everything that I am, I WILL mend both your broken hearts.  Soon enough, you shall be as one.”

Sheila and Deirdre gasped in unison, and exchanged a look.  As they did, their stars vibrated; the light within them solidified and ceased to leak out.  Both of them, simultaneously, stopped at the halfway mark.  One half-star for the both of them, orbiting cautiously around their owners.

“I’m not done yet.”

The two girls looked back at Lloyd, who gave them both a heated stare.  “Did you think we were done?  No.  Not until I’ve done my duty.  Not until I unravel all that I can, and make good on my promise to the two of you.  Now then, allow me to continue.”

Sheila gave him a nod.  At that point, that might have been all he could do.

“If my understanding is correct, then it was thanks to the imaginary Miss O’Leary that the real Miss O’Leary was able to find such boons in her life.  The jokes, the actions, even the very lines constructed and carried out were all the work of the imaginary being.  As such there was a bond forged between them -- a level of trust that no living being could understand or break.  However…”  Lloyd clapped his hands together, and spread them apart slowly.  “Somewhere along the line, a schism appeared.  A gap emerged between the two of you, giving rise to some semblance of independence.  The unreal gained a sense of self, and a presence all her own -- all while remembering the horrors inflicted upon her in the past, nursing them until they became an incurable grudge.”

“So what are you trying to say?” Deirdre asked.  “Because I’m pretty sure I already knew that.”

“Simple.  All three of us have been wrongly classifying you since your inception.  Or if not that far, then at least up to a certain point.”

“Wait, what?  Wh-what the hell are you going on about?”

Lloyd held out a hand.  “I won’t deny your uniqueness, but it’s precisely that uniqueness that makes you an anomaly.  The circumstances of this conversation may not exactly be commonplace, but even so this is the first time I’ve ever even thought a meeting with an imaginary friend was possible.  By that logic, you could argue that doing so in full is actually impossible -- barring special circumstances.  Even circumstances that I can create with my power.  But what if it’s a different set of circumstances that’s allowing it?  What if, in fact, you’re no imaginary friend at all?”

“Then…what am I?”

Lloyd pressed a hand to his chin.  “I believe it’s precisely what you were alluding to earlier.  You are -- or at least WERE -- a part of the original Miss O’Leary.  But a gap began to open between you from the moment of your birth and abuse to this very moment.  You began to split apart from her, and gained your own sense of self to confirm your independence.  Yet I’d like to take it a step further.”  He pointed at Sheila, and then at Deirdre, and bounced his finger back and forth between them.  “As you are, you’re more than capable of giving the real Miss O’Leary instruction and advice.  But what if the reverse is also true?  What if she can affect you, just as you affect her?  Even if we go beyond your status as an imaginary friend -- one who, by nature, has certain design characteristics and flaws -- then is it not possible that, as a part of her, you’re taking on elements that you yourself can’t divorce yourself from?  Elements that have slipped past your recognition, but make you into whom you are?”

His finger stopped on Deirdre.  “I would think that I’ve spent enough time with you to make some claims about what sort of person you are.  Proud.  Feisty.  Confident.  More than a little salacious.  Yet I’ve seen you recoil at the mere thought of feet, and show a level of timidity more expected of your other half.  But that’s to be expected.  My theory is that you’re not only a consul to Miss O’Leary, but a confidant -- a collector and container of her innermost thoughts, emotions, and ideas.  You hold within you what the lady herself could never begin to reveal to others…and to some extent, that’s what makes you who you are today.”

His eyes ran up and down her form -- Deirdre’s as well as Sheila’s.  “It was happy circumstance that led to Miss O’Leary developing the way she did.  But while the real version of her may have lamented at her blossoming form, the unreal took it on with aplomb and gusto.  Why?  Because it was what she chose to do -- what she was meant to do.  You hold within you everything that the real Miss O’Leary rejected.  Her courage.  Her esteem.  Her pride.  She split off all those emotions and thoughts, and embedded them inside you -- so when she began, and continued to grow, you were rewarded for the crimes committed against you.  You had something to celebrate…and thanks to your pride and lack of inhibitions, you shifted into the person that stands before me.”

“W-wait a second,” said Sheila. “So what-- what are you saying here?  Deirdre is a part of me?  But she’s --!”

“Yes, that’s exactly right, Miss O’Leary.  You are indeed her other half.  And she is yours.  She may have started as a simple imaginary friend, but she became something more shortly after -- if not immediately after.”

He smiled at them.  “She’s your split personality.”

Both girls looked as if they might topple over -- and Sheila very nearly did.  “She’s my what?!” she shouted.

“I’m her what?!” Deirdre shouted.

“That’s the one and only conclusion I can come to,” Lloyd said with a nod.  “You’re both conflicting aspects of one another -- separated into larger-than-life approximations of certain moods and ideas.  The line between real and imaginary has long since eroded, to the point where either one of you could play the role of ‘the real Miss O’Leary’.  But you’re not.  Neither of you are working as efficiently as you can -- and that’s because the two of you, as the same person cleaved in two, are simultaneously working at half-capacity.  In other words, unless the two of you decide to reconcile and become one, BOTH OF YOU will fall into despair.”

Deirdre bit her lip.  “And that’s exactly why you’re here, isn’t it?  To fix us all up?”

“You know me well.  My intent is to set right what has gone wrong -- to do what neither of you might ever have done on your own.  It’s the least I can do for those who could become so dear to me.”

Sheila and Deidre exchanged a look.  Lloyd watched them from below, maintaining his composure but unable to suppress a twinge of doubt.  They weren’t speaking to each other, but he wondered if they needed to; they looked as if they’d just taken to staring at each other, but they could have been engaging in any number of silent conversations.  What would come of it?  An agreement to cooperate?  A united front against him?  If nothing else, he’d at least kept their half-stars stable.  He just had to --

“I don’t believe you,” said Sheila.

Lloyd glanced aside.  I’d say this is unexpected, but that would fly in the face of everything up to this point.

“You can’t be serious, can you?” Deirdre asked, crossing her arms and looking down upon Lloyd.  “That’s not how this relationship of ours works.  She made me.  I became myself.  She can’t be herself.  And now it’s time for me to take command.  It’s that simple.”

“Sh-she’s right,” Sheila said with a jerky nod.  “I don’t…I just don’t see how someone like her could be a part of me.  She’s just so…she’s all brave, and nasty, and out of control.  How could she be me?  Especially since she’s better than me?  It’s t-t-totally impossible.”

“It’s not impossible,” said Lloyd.

“Then prove it.”

Deirdre spread her hands wide.  “I’m gonna have to agree with her, Lloyd.  All you’ve got is a train of thought.  A bunch of ideas -- nothing more, nothing less.  Without proof, there’s no way for you to make either of us believe that you’ve got the answer.  Nothing can change with something as flimsy as a thought.”

“She’s right,” said Sheila.  She sucked a bowl’s worth of snot back up her nose.  “I-if you can’t give us something major, then…then I guess this’ll all have been for nothing.  In the end, there was nothing you could do for me…for either of us.  And your train of thought’s gonna hit a brick wall.”

Lloyd pursed his lips.  He could hear his heartbeat pick up speed once more, and his fingers started to chill.  But in spite of that -- in spite of the ultimatum given to him by the O’Leary ladies -- he could still stand his ground.  Stand, and breathe, and think.  And form his final strategy.

I have them on the ropes.  I can feel it; even if they won’t -- or can’t -- acknowledge it yet, I can.  If it’s a matter of proof, then I’ll be sure to provide.  I’ll show them the power of a thought with this.  This is the final blow.

Lloyd couldn’t help but smile.  “Very well, then.  My proof is…”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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