Lately, I've been itching to do stories with mentally ill and/or traumatized characters that don't depict them as scary or antagonistic, but also doesn't depict them as being without fault. That, and Tumblr's mindset that mentally ill and/or traumatized people can't be in relationships without being abusive drives me up the wall. So I figured that the best characters to work with would be the DR characters since their personal issues are usually played for laughs (ex. Akane canonically said she had been felt up by her mother's drunk boyfriends). Although this story primarily focuses on only two characters, I hope that I depicted all of the DR characters correctly since I'm not very experienced with writing characters that are not my own.
A few things to note:
-This is based on Weeby Newz's character analysis videos of Nagito and Mikan.
-I have only seen playthroughs of DR and SDR2. I have not seen any games ahead of that or read the manga.
-There is no "despair outbreak", Future Foundation, or Hope's Peak Academy.
-This is the first story I've ever written that is actually set in Japan. However, I'll be writing it the same way DR was translated in English (ex. no honorifics, no "first name/last name" basis, no military time, etc.).
Warnings/Possible Triggers: ableism, (referenced) child abuse/neglect, (referenced) bullying, mental illness, profanity, (referenced) self-harm, (referenced) sexual abuse.
"You need a man who can support you financially."
"You need a strong man."
"You need a man who isn't afraid of anything."
"You need a man to protect you."
These were the things I had overheard girls tell each other all of the time. That hasn't changed since school, because those statements still follow in my adult life. Mahiru was the main culprit of this. She would often push her beliefs on our male peers as well. I didn't agree with these ideals, but I didn't dare say anything about it, especially with Hiyoko constantly at her side. The blonde only reached 5'0, but she always knew how to scare me. Her insults dug deep into me, and pushed me to the point of tears. Back in high school, I definitely would have cried and apologized to her for being a nuisance, but after years of treatment, I've been able to take her insults with nothing but a whimper. It sounds pitiful to most, but to me, it was great progress. Even when I did come home to cry into my pillow, it was still progress.
Regardless of Hiyoko's teasing, I told myself that I liked her because she was a part of our friendship circle, which consisted of her, Mahiru, Ibuki, and myself.
Ibuki was the first friend I had ever made since she was so cheerful and friendly. Her hyperactive personality intimidated me at first and it got some getting used to, but Dr. Aiko said that I should give people like her a chance. Even if she hadn't told me that, I would have pursued her friendship, anyway. Along with her came Ibuki's friend, Mahiru, and Mahiru's friend, Hiyoko.
"Rise n' shine! Rise n' shine!"
I shrieked at the sudden burst of sound, accompanied by the blisteringly white sunlight pouring into my room. By instinct, I ducked and covered my head with my pillow, awaiting some form of attack, but it never came.
"Come on, Mimi! We're gonna be late!"
I carefully lifted my head up when I recognized the voice as Ibuki. She was standing beside my bed, fully dressed in her typical day clothes, which normally wouldn't be seen as "typical" by others.
"Ah! Ibuki? How did you get in here?" I squeaked.
"I jimmied the lock."
"Well I wouldn't dare break the lock!" she declared, puffing out her chest with a delighted grin on her face.
"Uh-h…what will we be late for, exactly?" I asked.
"The block party, duh!"
I looked at the clock on my nightstand, which read "9:17 A.M."
"B-But the party doesn't start until…3:30," I told her.
A disappointed expression crossed her features "Aw man, really?"
A sinking feeling rested in my gut. I didn't like bringing people bad news, no matter how small "Unfortunately," I murmured.
"Ah well," waved off Ibuki "I think I'll hit up McDonald's. They have all-day breakfast now, y'know?"
I sat up in bed "You're going to stay at McDonald's f-for six hours?"
Ibuki shrugged "Maybe. I didn't plan that far ahead yet," she then made her way out of my room "Bye Mikan!"
I listened to her exit my house and close the front door behind her. It was always so strange having a home so quiet, so peaceful. It was nice.
I lied back down in my bed.
The knot of fear that always settled in my stomach tightened. I would have to go out today. Even though I liked socializing, I always have this lingering fear that I might make someone angry with me, and that they'll end up hurting me. Dr. Aiko said it would be good for me to go to a social event close to home like this so I could overcome that fear. I hope that she's right. I don't want to revert back to that girl who would cry in public and make a scene.
"I'm going to live a normal, happy life," I thought as I held the second pill in my hand. I had already taken one, but my dosage required two "And…it's going to be great!"
After finishing my morning routine, I pondered what I would do for the next six hours. I considered going online, but sometimes the hateful comments and bitter conflicts triggered me. It would be safer for me to watch television. At least the conflicts on that screen were fictional.
"What kind of shows do you like to watch, Mikan?"
A friendly-looking woman sat across from Mikan. She had a mixture of Asian and ebonic features with fair brown skin to match. Her wavy black hair was held in a simple ponytail, and her bespectacled almond eyes fluttered between the notebook in her hands and the patient before her.
Mikan had been picky in choosing her therapists. Out of all of the ones that could accommodate her needs, she chose the one that seemed the least intimidating to her.
"Oh…mostly older sitcoms," Mikan answered "Like M-Magnolia Girls and-d The Maid."
Dr. Aiko nodded with a polite smile "My mother and I like to watch those shows together sometimes," she said "I'm surprised you didn't say you liked to watch medical shows."
Mikan softly scratched at her cheek, a nervous habit of hers "Surprisingly e-enough, shows like that d-don't entertain me…"
"Yes…" Mikan confirmed "I work as a nurse…but it's not something I'm passionate about."
Dr. Aiko's pen moved across her notepad "Understandable," she said "Then may I ask what you are passionate about?"
Mikan swallowed, trembling a bit "I-I…I don't know…"
The therapist gave a motherly smile "That's alright, Mikan. It's okay not to know yet," she said "Nursing may not be your passion, but it's something you do so well, and for that, you should be proud."
Red flushed to the pale woman's cheeks as an unsure smile crossed her lips "Th-Thank you, Dr. Aiko…that's the nicest thing anyone h-has ever said to me," she uttered.
The therapist nodded, studying Mikan's disposition "Only twenty-six and you already have such a nice job," she said "Do you have any thoughts on other things in adulthood like marriage? Perhaps even children?"
Mikan's orchid eyes widened "I…I never even thought of m-m-marriage," she squeaked "I mean, I've always w-wanted someone to love m-me, but…I don't think it's possible…"
And then Dr. Aiko declared a phrase that had now become hackneyed in that office space: "Anything is possible, Mikan. You just have to believe."
The residents of Jabberwock street were a close-knit bunch. We were part of the generation of young adults who moved into the East side of Yokoyama after graduating from college and searching for residency. As a result, most of us had known one another for years. That's why having a block party such as this one was normal.
It was summer, so I put on a pair of lilac high-waisted jean shorts, a light pink blouse, and pink sneakers. As always, I pinned my hair up in a bun to hide the uneven lengths of it all. I double-checked my purse to make sure it still had everything I needed. Even though I would only be a brisk walk away from my house, it was nice to be prepared.
I could hear the people gathering outside and setting things up. When I opened my window, the scent of Teruteru's dishes wafted into my house. I had forgotten how hungry I was.
"I suppose now would be a good time to join in," I thought to myself.
I closed the window back down and moved to the front door. I could feel the warm embrace of the afternoon heat as I passed the threshold of the door. The subtle taste of grass and humidity wasn't very pleasant compared to the crisp, air-conditioned atmosphere of my house, but it was hardly a bother.
Already, I could see people flooding the streets. Some sat in sun chairs chairs while some stood by the tables of food. I could pick out a few faces amongst the crowd. Akane and Aoi were scarfing down their own platefuls of food. Though, the volume of Aoi's plate consisted mainly of donuts and other sweets. Gundham smiled in pride as Chihiro coddled his hamsters like newborn babies. Yasuhiro could be seen waving his fingers around a crystal ball before Peko, probably trying to predict her future.
I turned my gaze to see Mahiru in the distant. Judging by the group of people huddled in front of her, I assumed that she had been taking a group picture for them.
I made my way to her "Mahiru, hi!" I greeted.
"Isn't this party amazing?" asked the redhead.
"It s-seems everyone is having a good time," I said "And it's the perfect w-weather for a block party, too."
"Yeah," agreed Mahiru as she looked out at the street around us "So what have you been up to?"
Hiyoko's voice severed my words, leaving them sliding back into my throat.
The blonde hurried to us, her sandals making hard clicks on the street as the sleeves of her orange kimono flapped in the wind.
Mahiru embraced her open arms in a tight hug. I smiled at the sight. I liked seeing people get along.
"You're still in your kimono?" questioned Mahiru "Don't tell me you forgot how to tie it after all these years."
Hiyoko pouted "Pfft, no! I just got back from a show!"
"Huh? You mean you didn't even have time to change?" asked Mahiru.
"Aren't you tired?" I questioned.
"Nah, I'm not a lazy cow like you, Mikan!" teased Hiyoko.
I bit my lip and fought back the tears that wanted to spring. As usual, Mahiru didn't say anything in regards to the remark, so I did my best not to make anything of it.
Our conversation went on like that. Whenever the opportunity would arise, I would bring up a conversation topic that I had rehearsed in the shower that morning. Though, most times, Hiyoko would just shoot them down. We worried about Ibuki's whereabouts, especially after an entire hour had passed. Her appearance was very sudden, especially since the sun had already begun setting by then.
"Hey guys!" Ibuki greeted.
Mahiru placed her hands on her hips "There you are! Where have you been?"
"Were you still at McDonald's…?" I asked.
"Don't be stupid, Mikan!" snorted Hiyoko "Why would she be at a dump like McDonald's? Only a pig like you would be caught there."
"I did go to McDonald's this morning," defended Ibuki "But that's not where I was all day. I was here with Byakuya since this party started."
"This whole time?" questioned Hiyoko.
"Well not really. Just now, I was chatting it up with the new neighbor," she then pointed with both of her hands over to the side in a fashion not unlike a TV show host.
The three of us looked in that direction.
Towards the end of the street was a young man around our age if not younger. He had tousled off-white hair that seemed to go in all directions. Despite being the summertime, he wore a medium-length forest green jacket over a white shirt, black skinny jeans, and grey sneakers. His defined olive green eyes and heart chin gave him a somewhat feminine look.
He was unaware of our stares, as he was busy drinking from a plastic cup and looking elsewhere.
Suddenly, Mahiru scoffed "Ugh, it's that creep!"
"Creep?" repeated Hiyoko, pursing her lips in curiosity.
Mahiru frowned like a scolding mother "Ibuki, why would you talk to someone like him?"
The perky girl gave a guilty smile as she pressed her fingers together "Ehh, he's a little strange, but nothing's wrong with talking to him."
Mahiru's eyes widened "Everything is wrong with talking to him. In fact, everything is wrong with him!" she criticized.
"Uh…if you don't m-mind me asking, could you…clarify?" I asked.
"Haven't you heard?" questioned the redhead "When Hajime met him, he found out that the guy has some kind of twisted obsession with luck. He considers himself to be the luckiest man in existence. He told Hajime that he would be okay with any horrible situation because it would "be a foundation for hope to bloom"."
"Oh…" I uttered "Well, that's a pretty optimistic w-way to see things."
"It would be if it wasn't taken as far as this," said Mahiru "But Hajime said he meant situations like death and disaster. He's literally okay with others being hurt because he thinks it will be followed by a good event!"
"Geez, sounds like a total nutcase," Hiyoko chortled "Someone that naive must be psycho if not downright stupid."
Ibuki probably made a witty remark at this, but I wasn't listening. I looked at the man in curiosity. I'm not sure that I can say Mahiru's description was what drew me to him. I guess it could be called…a sense of deja vu. Seeing him casually standing while a person told me about his problems rang familiarity in me. I knew this hadn't happened to me before, but I couldn't help feeling that it had.
"Mikan, where are you going?" asked Mahiru.
"I-I'm, uh, going to get some fruit salad," I lied.
With that, they let me go without any more questioning.
I could feel my heart pounding as I made my way towards the man's direction. In my mind, I rehearsed the introductions that I always had planned for when I meet new people. I hoped that my stutter wouldn't annoy him.
""Hi, my name is"—no, that's too forward. I need to give a reason to approach him before I give him my name. "Hi, I noticed you from"—no, he'll think I'm a stalker. "Hi, my friend told me"—no, then he'll expect me to tell him what I know, and all I know is what Mahiru told me. I don't want to hurt his feelings by telling him what she said!"
Before I realized it, the man and I were standing before each other.
"Well hello there. My name's Nagito," the man casually greeted.
His smile was bright and cheerful. I almost couldn't believe such an expression was being directed my way.
"Sorry, was I too forward? I know I can be a bit direct," he said.
I hadn't even realized that I had paused "N-no, it's okay. I was being rude by not replying," I reassured "I'm Mikan."
"Well it's nice to meet you, Mikan," chirped Nagito "It sure turned out to be a lovely evening, huh?"
I looked around us, just now noticing the wondrous violet the sky had turned. The horizon behind Nagito remained pink from the setting sun.
"You're r-right. It really is beautiful…!" I agreed.
"That's why I moved to a more rural area like this. You can see more stars without the flashy city lights," he continued "On nights like this, I love to just take a walk through the neighborhood."
"W-Walk through the neighborhood? A-At night?" I echoed "Isn't that…dangerous?"
"Yep," said Nagito "In fact, one time I was kidnapped while walking down the street."
I gasped in horror "R-Really…?!"
Regardless, Nagito only seemed slightly discouraged at the memory "But it's okay. I found a lottery ticket in the bag he kept me in. So when I escaped, I became rich!"
"Still…th-that's so scary…" I worried.
"I'll admit, I was scared at the moment," said Nagito "But that's just how my luck cycle works. A miracle always succeeds a disaster. And that's why no matter what life throws at me, I know not to be afraid, because I have luck on my side."
"Wow that's so…brave. I couldn't imagine m-myself surviving something like that," I admired "I'm s-so glad you made it out safely, Nagito…"
"Why thank you, Mikan," he said "I'm glad my luck worked out and allowed me to see all these lovely people here tonight."
We talked all night. It felt so natural speaking to Nagito that it bordered surrealism. I didn't feel judged or fear his responses. I didn't have to calculate exactly what I should say to please him. I was sure I was dreaming.
Eventually, nearly everyone had taken back their sun chairs and returned to their homes. Sakura, Nekomaru, and other hefty neighbors helped put away the tables that once held Teruteru's food.
I checked my watch, and let out a gasp.
"Is something wrong?" asked Nagito.
It was well past the time for my nightly dosage of medicine. I was supposed to take it two hours ago "I-I just…I'm just surprised by how late it is," I said "I have to go t-to work tomorrow."
"Oh, I guess time just slipped away from us," he said "It was nice meeting you, Mikan. I hope we can see each other again soon."
"Really?—I mean, I hope so, too!" I corrected.
As I started to walk away, Nagito gave one last "Goodnight, Mikan," to which I replied with a "Goodnight!" of my own.
I went home, took a brief shower, took my medicine, and went to bed. I could feel a smile resting on my cheeks even as I fell asleep.
Time for some disclaimers:
Dr. Aiko is a minor OC (who is totally not Jhene Aiko or anything pfft what no-)
Magnolia Girls and The Maid are just fictional titles I ripped-off Golden Girls and The Nanny.
Yokoyama is a fictional Japanese town (I use a lot of fictional towns in my works).