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AnimeCon Harem pt. 03
By
FortySixtyFour

AnimeCon Harem pt. 03

Brian attends AnimeCon with a special charm that has a mysterious influence over girls it touches.

“Hey, s’your foot actually on the gas, Rebecca? Or... are we just idling forward?” Emily grumbled, rhythmically tapping the armrest of her friend’s station wagon in irritation. “‘Cause we’re movin’ a little slow.”

“Really?” Rebecca asked sleepily, squinting through her unruly tangle of auburn curls. “No one’s going faster than us, though.”

“Maybe ’cause they’re all stuck behind us? Like, right behind us. That huge line of cars breathing down our exhaust pipe. See all the angry little faces in your rear-view mirror?” Emily pointed, exasperated.

“Then, that means we’re allll going a safe speed,” Rebecca concluded, smiling contentedly and nodding to herself. She was a hazel-eyed, freckled, unkempt, and drowsy-looking girl with a rather plain figure hidden beneath a baggy blue sweater with kittens knitted onto it. She seemed like an awkward but affable girl in her twenties, one who’d spent half of every year of her life raised by her grandparents, a serene and old-fashioned elderly couple.

Few knew, but the other half of every year was spent travelling with her parents, prominent medieval and renaissance-fair enthusiasts active in every reenactment and historical combat organization in the country. There Rebecca was known instead as Mara, old Russian for ‘Nightmare,’ and since the age of seven she’d participated in field combat with sword and shield and spear. Of course, no one but her closest friends and the geeks in their local LARP group suspected her to be anything but some harmless, frumpy, crazy cat lady in the making.

“Seriously? Safe? If we don’t drop off the Package by four-thirty, I’m gonna be late for work. That pedal needs to hit the floor and I need to see all this,” Emily gestured towards the parking lots slowly crawling along outside her window, “turn into a hellish blur. Please, Rebecca? A little faster?”

“Oh-kay, here we go!” Rebecca said, twisting her grip on the steering wheel and accelerating. The sedate hum of her car’s engine rose to a sleepy grumble.

“Aaaaaaaah,” Emily croaked in mock terror as she watched the speedometer needle climb from fifteen all the way up to hold at nineteen miles per hour. She slumped down in defeat.

“Um, could you try not referring to me as the ‘Package?’ It’s kind of demeaning?” a voice chided from the seat behind them in the station wagon.

Repressing a grimace, Emily slowly craned her neck towards the back seats, and the third occupant of Rebecca’s car, the ‘Package.’

Chloe. Brian’s now ex-girlfriend, currently couch-hopping between the apartments of all of her friends. She was tall and well-proportioned, with a dancer’s figure and graceful, doe-eyed features. Yoga pants clung tightly to her slender, coltish legs, and a stylish blouse was fastened snugly around her with an equally fashionable leather belt. She wore her long brown hair in a sexy, loose tousle down one shoulder, and, as usual, wore her typical disapproving frown.

Everything a girl wants to have, in one sexy... package, Emily thought, feeling an envious pang. And she’s such a rotten bitch. It really isn’t fair.

“You’d better step on it, Rebecca. The Package is getting hostile, I repeat—the Package is getting hostile,” Emily said bitterly. Rebecca let out an unladylike snort, but it had always been easy to make her laugh.

“This is a really important text,” Chloe snapped, shooting a cold glare up at Emily. “Could you both just... not?”

“If it’s that important, should you really be texting it instead of, oh I dunno, calling them?” Somehow lately every little thing Chloe did was getting under Emily’s skin, and she hadn’t been able to keep herself from antagonizing the girl.

“Uh-huh... cute,” Chloe said dismissively, not looking up from her phone.

“Annnyways,” Emily said, “Rebecca, I was thinking. Do you want to head down to the convention early, like, Saturday night maybe?”

“But, we both work Saturday? And you work Saturday night?”

“Yeah, but if I switch my night shift tomorrow and take Karen’s morning shift, we could head out early, like as soon as you’re off work. Which is what, like, six-ish? I’m sure Brian’d let us room with him that night.”

“So, we’d have an earlier start Sunday morning? I’m cool with that, yeah. I can just ask Grandpa to feed Prince for me that night, too. I guess just... call me soon as you find out if you and Karen can switch shifts,” Rebecca affirmed, giving a thumbs-up.

“You two are still going to that con?” Chloe mumbled, not sharing their enthusiasm.

“Well yeah... why wouldn’t we?” Emily challenged. “Single-day passes are only twenty-five bucks, and we both have all of Sunday off for sure.”

“Uh, ’cause you both made me fork over my pass to Brian,” Chloe muttered, crossing her arms.

“We made you make a decision,” Emily corrected. “You can’t honestly say you’d be okay with breaking up with him, and then having him pay for your pass and your hotel stay.”

“Why not? Why should I have to pay for either of those things?” Chloe retorted, twisting her lovely brown hair in her fingertips distractedly without taking her eyes off her phone.

“...Uh-huh,” Emily grumbled, trying to stay composed. Her tongue was getting slick with nasty words that were hard to bite back. “Well, all of that’s between you two, it doesn’t mean me and Rebecca aren’t going to hang out with him,” Emily said decisively. “He’s still our friend, okay?”

“Yeah... well, whatever,” Chloe replied, disgusted, and tossed her phone across the seat. “Let me guess; you’re dressing up as the titty ninja again?”

Rebecca and Emily exchanged glances, and Emily comically pantomimed looking at her own meager chest in surprise.

“Guess not, I’ll just have to be the itty bitty ninja instead,” Emily said dryly, prompting a giggle from Rebecca.

“Funny. But, kinda sad that you feel the need to dress so provocatively. You don’t need to slut yourself up to please those nerds, you don’t need that kind of... dehumanizing attention,” Chloe decided. “You don’t need to please anyone, you’re not a slab of meat for them to gawk at and drool over.”

“Dehumanizing...?” Emily made a face.

“You do realize Akane Kurokawa was obviously written and drawn by a man? And, because of that, she’s not a real character, with real choices. She’s a caricature, a commodity, a checklist collection of sexual traits that exist to be desired, obtained, and then... ew, used.”

“Whoa, champ. Easy on the feminist buzzwords... you’re not on your blog. Besides, what happened to feeling empowered by wearing whatever I please? Who doesn’t want to be a sexy badass? Akane was my hero all throughout high school, and I wanna cosplay her,” Emily said resolutely, batting her eyelashes innocently.

“And—I’ve been single for a while now. So what if a little of that kind of attention is just what I’m lookin’ for?” I always wanted Brian to see me that way, Emily thought, her mood darkening. I didn’t ask my body to stop fucking developing at fourteen, you know.

“Hah, that kind of attention,” Rebecca chuckled.

“Emily, seriously now. Don’t you think the Akane Kurokawa outfit is a little too... well, revealing to wear, in public?” Chloe chided.

“What’s to reveal?” Emily snorted, grabbing her tiny breasts in her palms. “You think someone’ll notice mah bumps?”

“Haha, mah bumps,” Rebecca echoed.

“So, that’s it, you think it’s okay that women get objectified like that? This is an important issue, and you’re just gonna brush it off with your little jokes, like you do with everything else that matters.”

“Well, you know how it goes. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Akane Kurokawa, master kunoichi, well, she’s definitely got it.”

“But, we don’t got it,” Rebecca said in mock disappointment, pouting. Although taller and more athletic, she had a pair of tiny breasts as well.

“I know. But, we still wanna flaunt it,” Emily said, her own pout breaking into a grin. “I think Chloe’s just bothered by Akane being a strong, independent woman, who also happens to feel confident wearing outfits that are... well, a little revealing.”

Rebecca snorted. “Yeah, just a little revealing.”

“Doesn’t she get raped by tentacles, like, four times? And rescued, by the male characters?” Chloe asked.

“That was... only one or two times,” Emily rolled her eyes. “And, she didn’t actually get raped. Just tied up, groped, and maaaybe had a tentacle shoved in her mouth. They always save her just before the real penetration starts. Frikkin’ teases. Those episodes were hot.”

“That’s... absolutely disgusting, Emily. Even if you’re joking, that’s really, just... absolutely the worst. The fact that they could even air that in an anime is degrading to women everywhere.” The look of pure revulsion on Chloe’s face cheered Emily up a bit.

Oh, of course. Sex and fetishes are just for deviant male scumbags. Chloe, you’d blow out a vein if you saw some of the folders on my hard drive, Emily thought, hiding a smirk.

“Rebecca, did I tell you about all the progress I made improving last year’s Kurokawa cosplay?” Emily asked. “So, last year I got the basic yukata from that online retailer with measurements to my size—but the body fishnet that came with it was positively enormous, their customer service guy said they only had it in a ‘one-size-fits-most’ sorta thing.”

“Hmm,” Rebecca nodded. “I do remember the body stocking thing you wore underneath last year was kinda... weird and baggy.”

“Exactly! And, that netting was some cheap, wiry plastic shit. Big square weaves. Felt awful on my bare skin. This year, I got a fishnet body stocking from this lingerie website, and it’s perfect. It’s this tight little nylon diamond-weave pattern that fits snug everywhere, and it’s comfy as hell. Looks just like it should, too, like in the anime. Well, except that I don’t have her double D’s, o’course.”

“...Lingerie website?” Rebecca wondered aloud, theatrically giggling into her hand. “Oooh.”

“And, you’re really wearing it for your costume? Chloe deadpanned, glancing over. “Some fetish-wear fishnet thing from a lingerie site?”

“Yeppers!” Emily answered with a wolfish grin.

“Disgusting.” Chloe declared, rolling her eyes. “I wouldn’t trust anything from a website that sells lingerie in children’s sizes.”

That stung. Inwardly seething, Emily instead turned back to Rebecca. “Anyways, last year I covered up my nips with band-aids. This year I’ll have actual flesh-tone pasties. They’ll help keep me going from indecent to... well, explicit. Hopefully. I mean, it’s in case some kinda accident happens, since the yukata I wear over it’s so loose.”

“Pasties? That’s like, professional,” Rebecca said appreciatively. “Like, professional cosplayers would wear those. Well, not professional. Uh... famous cosplayers? The good ones. Like models.”

Chloe rolled her eyes. “Are you going to dress up this year, Rebecca?”

“Mmm-hmm!” Rebecca hummed, nodding sagaciously. “Just my normal summer soft-kit, though, and my fancy new sword and board.”

“Your—what?” Chloe said, already lost.

“Well, my soft kit is fighting garb,” Rebecca said, a slow smile spreading across her features. “My summer fighting garb. Viking stuff; boots, winnigas, kirtle, a linen undertunic. None o’ my armor, we’d call that hard kit, and none of my lovely wool stuff, this time of year.”

“And, ‘sword and board,’meaning ‘sword and shield,’” Emily added. “Rebecca has the most gorgeous viking round shield I’ve ever seen at a LARP.”

“You’re doing a... LARP roleplay thing, then?” Chloe asked.

“No, no, I can’t do much in-character stuff this time. Pretty much all that’s on Sunday is the tournament. Still, there should be some worthwhile fights.”

“Wait, you’re fighting at the convention?” Chloe asked, aghast. “I thought that wasn’t allowed?”

“Well, it was some kind of big legal or liability issue that didn’t mesh well with the convention’s safety standards. So, instead we created a new group specifically for AnimeCon this year, called the Order of the Sovereign Swords. There’s gonna be a lot of problems and drama, for sure. Fantasy geeks who don’t know a halberd from a hauberk, stick-jocks complaining about using padded weapons, you know, yadda yadda yadda,” Rebecca murmured, a dreamy look in her eyes.

“It’s... well, it’s hard to picture you fighting with people, even if it’s just pretend.” Chloe stated. Emily and Rebecca turned to each other and burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Chloe demanded, giving them both a pout.

“Chloe... calling what Rebecca does with padded weapons ‘pretend’ doesn’t quite cover it,” Emily said, grinning widely. “I mean, you’re talking about Mara, the Nightmare. Daughter of Thorferra the Tall?”

The last time Emily had seen Rebecca get serious was at a medieval LARPing campout. She’d stormed a formation of five enemy soldiers, and in a flurry of surgically accurate sword-strikes, ‘killed’ all of them. Two of them didn’t take her strikes, however, ‘brushing off’ the hits. It was a way of bending the game’s rules to claim that hits weren’t ‘solid’ enough to count.

The girl’s cheerful, lethargic look had given way in that moment and the cold, terrifying face of Mara was revealed. So, she had struck them again. And again, and again, and again, too fast and fierce for them to block or counterattack, a terrifying clockwork frenzy of slashes. Even though the weapons were thoroughly padded with safety foam, Rebecca had the skill and leverage with a sword to use the kind of devastating force of a pro boxer wearing boxing gloves. Those two players were too bruised to crawl out of their sleeping bags the next day.

“You’re joking,” Chloe said, grabbing her phone and checking it again. “Really. I can’t picture Rebecca even swatting at her cat.”

“That’s ‘cause I wouldn’t, he’s my little fluffeh angel!” Rebecca gushed.

“...By the way, Chloe, I ran into Brian when I stopped by the apartment to check for your stuff,” Emily said snidely.

“And, I would care... why?” Chloe asked flatly. “What did he say?”

Emily answered only with a teasing grin. He asked if you were okay, because he still cared about you. But you don’t deserve to know that.

“Did he say anything about me, or not?”

“Nah, I gave him the con badge and he was pretty blasé about the whole breakup. Ugh, and he’s having fun at the convention right now... that jerk.” Emily said glibly. “While I’m stuck here, about to be late for my hellish job.” As if to punctuate her statement, one of the cars trapped behind them honked its horn.

“Blasé?” Rebecca asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I coulda just said ‘he was all like whateva,’ like you guys expected, but sometimes I gotta remind you simpletons that I’m also hellishly smart,” Emily declared, winking and flashing her infectiously cute smile into the mirror of the passenger-side sun visor.

“Who cares what he’s doing? And, what’s with you saying hellish all the time?” Chloe griped, tapping at her phone absentmindedly.

“Shove off, I relish my ’hellish’,” Emily grumbled.

“Uh, Is ’heckish’ a word, then?” Rebecca wondered out loud.

“Of course, Rebecca,” Emily cried in exasperation. “It describes the special rated-PG hell for children and little old ladies, where the fires are only lukewarm, nobody swears, and the blood is censored. People who drive too slowly miss out on heaven and wind up there, in heck.”

Oh, dear.” Rebecca slipped Emily a sly smile and the passing scenery outside their windows seemed to perceptibly slow again.

Emily struggled to resist the urge to strangle her friend with her seat belt.

“Hmph. You gave Brian my apartment key back too, right?” Chloe grunted.

Eyes widening, Emily jammed her hand into the tiny front pocket of her jeans, feeling the cold metal of the key. Shit.

“...Of course,” Emily lied, fuming at her mistake. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rebecca’s sly smile reappear. Shiiiiit. “Oh! And, I gave him Sammie’s harem charm too.”

“Oh no, the harem chaaaa—” Rebecca’s sentence was overtaken by a yawn.

“Yep, you said it. He’s probably neck-deep in fine chicas by now,” Emily sighed with a smile.

“That’s not what I said,” Rebecca protested weakly.

“Harem charm...” Chloe muttered in vexation. “The mentality behind the whole harem thing is disgusting. It’s the same male power fantasy they cram into everything to pander to these horny losers. Gives them these expectations of women that are horribly skewed, and reduces the women to... things, empty stereotypes. I can’t stand it. That’s why the birthrates in Japan are so bad. Instead of going out and meeting women, the men stay in their tiny little rooms and whack off to sexist cartoon pornography.”

“Uh... hey, I’m going to have a harem of kitties someday,” Rebecca chimed in, trying to diffuse what she knew was going to become yet another argument between her friends. No one was listening. “A calico, for sure, a Siamese and—”

“What’s so wrong with harems?” Emily said. “It’s pretty standard sorta wish-fulfillment kind of romantic drama. Weren’t you all into those awful teen drama Dusk books back in the day? And didn’t you force us all to watch your Vampire Crusader anime?”

“It’s not the same, at all,” Chloe said icily. “Harems perpetuate this rotten culture that teaches men that it’s okay to collect women. It shows women that their lives center around impressing and servicing a man, or being discarded on that man’s whim. It implies that one man is worth many women, and nothing could be further from the truth.”

Chloe clapped her hands together in amusement, chuckling. “In fact, you think Brian is talking to girls right now? Hah! A hundred bucks says Brian holes himself up in his hotel room the whole weekend, whacking off to cartoon porn. Alone.”

A blue mist rolled through Emily’s mind for a moment, clouding her thoughts with salacious ideas. Brian alone in that hotel room, sensually stroking himself... I’d love to catch him like that. Tried to, a couple times back in high school. I want to see him, out of breath and eyes glazed with lust, Emily imagined. I want to catch him in that unguarded moment, want to see his cock, rigid and huge. Would he stop, embarrassed... or maybe he’ll just keep pumping away, working that dick with his eyes locked on me...

Back in high school, she’d sometimes gotten off on simply imagining that Brian masturbated to the thought of her. What better way was there to wipe away the insecurities she felt in her short stature and petite, underdeveloped body? Yeah, count on me to have the most perverse sense of validation, she thought with a sigh.

“Haha, would Brian actually, you know... whack off?” Rebecca asked doubtfully. Both Chloe and Emily gave her a blank look. Sometimes, it was easy to forget how sheltered in some ways their friend was.

“You know what, Chloe?” Emily insisted, shifting her tiny butt against the cushion of her seat. “I’ll take that bet of yours. You don’t know Brian like you think you do. Never did. And, it’s called ‘hentai,’ not ‘cartoon porn.’”

“Same thing, doesn’t matter,” Chloe said indifferently. “Besides, do you even have a hundred bucks, Emily?”

“Weellll, I will when you lose the bet and pay up,” Emily said with confidence. “He has the harem charm, and besides, he’s single now. You’ve forgotten what he was like when he was single.”

“Well, I’ll never forget now, since I’m sure he’ll be single for the rest of his sad life,” Chloe said, laughing airily. “You don’t know how awkward and weird he was when he was dating. Let me put it this way—he’s the kind of guy who thinks it’s romantic to quote nerdy movies.”

“Welllll, that’d depend on the quote. And the movie,” Emily argued. “The right reference at the right time would be really sweet. Besides, he’s at an anime convention. If that’ll work anywhere, it’ll work there.”

“Something from a kid’s movie, though? Like Goblin Labyrinth?” Chloe scoffed. “How do you even—”

“Which line?” Rebecca interrupted immediately.

“What?” Chloe asked, surprised.

“I’m asking, which line did he quote?” Rebecca enunciated carefully, her smile fading and her soporific expression draining away.

“Uh,” Chloe struggled to remember. “It was stupid. Something like, ‘I’m not asking for much’... or no wait, ‘I’m asking for so little—’”

“—I ask for so little... just fear me. Love me. Do as I ask, and I shall be your slave,” Rebecca recited breathlessly.

“Yeah, that,” Chloe affirmed, irritated. “So, what? It never made any sense.”

Rebecca slumped down in the driver’s seat, giving out a long sigh. “If a guy ever said that to me, I’d melt. I never knew he said that to you, why didn’t you tell us?! Haven’t you seen Goblin Labyrinth?! The meaning behind that moment, what was going on? What he was offering her?!”

“And how hot the Faerie King was?” Emily added excitedly. “I mean, he was played by David B—”

“Yeah yeah, Brian made me watch it, once.” Chloe said with disdain. “It didn’t exactl—”

“I’ve seen it hundreds of times,” Rebecca said proudly. “It’s my absolute favorite fantasy movie, of all time. In fact, we’re watching it tonight after work.”

“Sweet!” Emily said, smiling brilliantly. “Seems like Goblin Labyrinth lines didn’t work on his lady, but we still gotta give him points for trying it, at least, right?”

“Yeah, ‘his lady,’ great,” Chloe said, scowling and turning to glance at the column of cars backed up behind them. “Because, obviously, I belonged to him. I was only there to satisfy his urges, fulfill his sense of male superiority, and stroke his ego. Guess I forgot for a moment how brainwashed you two still are. No wonder nobody’s on my side anymore.”

Little blue droplets danced across Emily’s vision for a moment, and she blinked quickly. The thought of Brian using Chloe for satisfaction was, well—kinda hot. Taking this haughty bitch down a peg or two, and wiping the damn smug superior look off her face... with his dick, of course.

Humiliating her... degrading her. Pulling an indignant Chloe over his knee and spanking her across that pert bottom of hers in steady, deliberate strokes that she’s helpless to struggle against. Teasing and stroking her to the edge of desire, leaving her panting with lust like a simple bitch in heat. Until she’s absolutely begging for it... Condensation was forming on the inside of Emily’s mind, and when the blue beads of moisture began to run down the panes of her thoughts Emily jerked, shifting her thighs against one another. D-damn. I know what tune my vibrator’s gonna be humming to tonight. Have I developed a new fetish?

“Satisfying urges, superiority, and ego... that sounds just like the relationship I have with Prince,” Rebecca interjected, trying to lighten the mood.

“Except, Prince Charming isn’t a boyfriend or a man. He’s your cat. There’s a little bit of a difference,” Chloe reminded her friend.

“...Is there, though?” Rebecca wondered aloud, tapping her lip. “Is there?”

“She’s got a point,” Emily said. “Prince Charming is the textbook example of an oppressive patriarchal male.“

“Prince Charming,” Rebecca sighed, “My little butterstuff fluffylumpkin.”

“Well, whatever. Did I tell either of you about the new guy I’ve been talking to?” Chloe asked casually.

“What? ...Who?” Emily said, taken aback.

“Ryan, at Seabrooks, that little indie coffee place. He’s the one with the pink hair?”

“Hipster mister!” Rebecca exclaimed, remembering him. “But, isn’t he..?”

“Turns out he’s bisexual, not just gay,” Chloe said defensively. “It’d be nice to experience someone with that kind of open mindset. Someone who isn’t... well, trapped up in prehistoric ideas of what genders should be. I really need to get away from all of that casual misogyny.”

“...And, who’s a misogynist, then?” Emily asked through her teeth.

“You know who I mean,” Chloe scoffed. “A certain cis-gendered assho—well, guy we all know,” glancing guiltily at Rebecca, who didn’t like her friends using bad language in her car.

“Brian actually cared about you, you know? He really tried to... make you happy. And, he tried so hard to put up with your... well, you. ” Emily managed, trying not to raise her voice.

“Yeah, okay.” Chloe snorted. “He tried to put up with us actually becoming progressive. He tolerated my little game of fighting for equality, in a culture of oppression. But caring? He didn’t care, couldn’t care. Because, he’s a man, so everything’s just fine as it is in his little world at the top, living in privilege.”

“Alright, now you’re bullshitting me.” Emily laughed, not caring what swears slipped out.

Excuse me?” Chloe asked.

“Privilege? Did you forget every fuckin’ thing you know about Brian? How rough he had it with his parents? His dad trying to beat the shit out of him all the time? How he had to stash his games and anime at my place, so that his stepmom wouldn’t throw them out while he was at school?”

“Wow, so terrible, his mommy took away his video games...”

“Games he paid for, with money from his job! Chloe, your parents paid your tuition and bought your car for you. Brian left home when he turned eighteen with nothing but the clothes on his back. He got a job, an apartment, supported himself, supported you—”

“So, you’re making Brian out to be some kind of hero for being abused, and leaving home, but when I leave Brian for the same reasons and circumstances, everyone jumps down my throat with criticism? What, because I’m a woman? How’s that fair? I did pity him for the way they treated him, at first. I think he learned a lot of his abusive behaviors from them. But, I can’t be expect-”

“Abusive behaviors? So, what? Brian abused you?”

“...Yeah, he did. He abused me.” An awkward silence filled the car for a few long moments.

“What, he hit you? What did he do?” Emily demanded in disbelief.

“...No. He didn’t physically hurt me. He didn’t have the guts,” Chloe declared proudly. “Deep down men are all cowards. They always talk big and then lose their head when a woman challenges the status quo.”

“So, he’s abusive, but he never hurt you?” Emily asked incredulously. “But, he’s a coward, for not abusing you? How can—”

“Real abuse isn’t bruises or a black eye anymore,” Chloe interrupted. “It’s not being able to speak your mind because he’s too eager to shut me down. To pick apart every little thing I say and... twist the meanings around. Having him always going against me, opposing—no, oppressing me. When you don’t feel safe in an apartment with your boyfriend, then, hello? You are being abused. Psychological abuse leaves trauma that lasts—”

“Wow, so terrible, he tried to politely reason with his entitled feminist girlfriend,” Emily mocked. “Always seemed to me like you were the one oppressing him.”

“He can’t be oppressed, retard,” Chloe interrupted. “He’s a man, and we live in his culture, a patriarchal culture. He’s the one in power and the one that’s oppressing. And, if he ever really is abused, then he should appreciate the goddamn experience, because then he’ll understand what women everywhere go through every single day.”

“Are you fucking out of your—”

AHEM.” Rebecca exclaimed rigidly, her soporific expression draining away. “Both of you, just chill down, okay? Seriously, you guys? We’re all friends here. Friends.”

Chill out, Emily had almost corrected her, but instead, she blanched sheepishly and held her tongue. Besides, she’s right. Arguing with Chloe never gets anyone anywhere. How long did my poor Brian put up with that?

As the oncoming traffic finally dwindled, the long line of cars behind them now accelerated and began to pass them on the two-lane stretch of blacktop. A little ashamed, Emily sunk down further in her seat as withering stares were directed at them by the passing cars. Rebecca stuck her tongue out at them, and her station wagon continued ponderously puttering along at the same tepid pace.

• • •

The last strips of daylight crawled up the high-rise hotels as the sun sank beneath the silhouette of the distant cityscape, painting the horizon brilliant shades of orange and pink. The downtown area surrounding the convention center had become a gala of convention-goers and cosplayers. They trickled out from beneath the gigantic AnimeCon banner and spread through the streets to seek out restaurants or the comfort of their nearby hotel rooms.

Otaku were chatting with animated expressions, collectors showed off their purchases, and photographers paused for a few last photos. Ordinary pedestrians looked on with curiosity at the procession of unexpected costumes and unusual pageantry, and drivers honked their horns across the crosswalks. Fully armored space troopers strode casually, the stifling helmets they’d worn all day now tucked under their arms, and tired but smiling magical girls began to remove their brightly-colored wigs and let down their real hair.

As the streetlights began to flicker on, still more latecomers were just arriving at the convention, pulling into the empty spaces and piling out of their vehicles. Although the vendor’s room had already closed and AnimeCon’s major Friday events had concluded, smaller events, meetups, and viewing rooms would continue on through the night and into the next morning.

Since the big nighttime events, such as the rave, the J-rock concert, and the eighteen-and-older hentai panels weren’t until Saturday, the dwindling Friday-night volunteer staff relaxed their badge-checking discipline. Unofficial policy was to simply wave people through the few checkpoints that were still manned, after all, most of the arrivals this late in the evening were simply fans coming to the convention for the weekend who hadn’t been able to finagle their way out of Friday work shifts, or couldn’t afford to skip out on classes.

A scant three city blocks away from the convention, a slim cutie with blond-and-pink hair plodded out of the fifth floor elevator within one of the towering hotel buildings. She wore a strange pink-and-red sundress, long pink gloves and matching pink vinyl costume boots that rose all the way up to the middle of her thighs. A pair rabbit ears hung, slightly askew now, from a hidden headband.

Almost there, Stephanie thought as she wobbled, exhausted, on aching feet down the silent hotel corridor towards the welcome refuge of the room she shared with Megan. Though she appeared weary and frazzled, inwardly, her heart was racing with excitement. After all, she’d been wrestling back and forth with a dilemma for the latter half of the day and finally arrived at a big decision.

I’m going to really do it tonight. I’m going to try—masturbating. It seemed silly and embarrassing to be excited over such a... thing. Her familiarity with her own private parts, after all, was somewhat equivalent to the interest she’d previously had in sex itself. Once or twice she’d... inspected herself to affirm that everything down there appeared normal, and she slipped a fingertip delicately inside herself every time she washed, but that was it, and it was always strictly platonic. She’d never played upon her own womanhood in that direct and intimate manner that seemed so... fascinating to her now.

She was now certainly intent on changing that, and in a bold way. Brilliant pink wildfire had burned away the last vestiges of that shroud of ignorant indifference which had somehow prevented her from delving into her own pandora’s box. Her sex, glistening with heat and arousal, was about to make its debut into a new world of stimulation and pleasure. Blood was rushing to these new places, endorphins filled her with that nervous pink energy, she felt positively soaked down there, and her recollection of the day was becoming a fiery pink blur.

Stephanie grinned weakly and smoothed her outfit against her legs with shaking hands. What will it feel like to actually... masturbate? She wondered giddily, as she now scanned the hotel room doors for her room’s number. I’m going to... play with myself. I’m gonna frig myself. Finger-fuck. Even just thinking lewd phrases she would never dare to utter out loud was... fun, in a positively titillating way she’d never imagined.

Megan will probably be in the room, though, Stephanie realized with trepidation. After all, where else could she be? She’d never found Megan in the convention hall after parting ways with Brian, having slightly underestimated the size of the con and number of attendees.

AnimeCon is the fourteenth-largest anime convention in the nation, with an average attendance of over sixteen thousand fans, Stephanie had read from the booklet while reviewing the scheduled events for places she might encounter her friend. ...Great.

After she’d spent two frustrating hours searching for the familiar shape of her friend’s Pandape cosplay in the immense crowds, and even staked out the last voice acting panel in hopes of catching her, Stephanie had given up. Of course, she hadn’t spotted Brian again either, although she did seem to run into every single other guy that was wearing a similar Fantasy Wars costume.

In the end, Stephanie had gone ronin and wandered the convention alone, slightly mollified, but remaining cautiously optimistic about experiencing AnimeCon on her own. So, Stephanie had squeezed through crowds, explored the convention center and even retraced the path she’d taken with Brian. She had peeked into viewing rooms, sat through a panel on Japanese street fashion, and even perused the vendor’s room for a while. There was a booth with an amazing selection of Monster Battlers plush dolls she feared she might start collecting, as well as some fabric wall-scrolls that would look amazing in her little dorm room. She did enjoy herself, to her own surprise... but her heart just wasn’t really in it. The real fun she’d had was with Brian, and so her thoughts wandered unchecked, occasionally melting into whimsical, sensual fantasies. Some were innocent and naive; others bold enough to bring color to her face.

What does Brian look like... out of that jacket, that costume? Or out of his clothes entirely... She wanted to undress him, drink in the sight of his naked skin. To splay her hands out across the breadth of his chest and discover how sexily solid and masculine his body was. She needed to grip his bare shoulders, taste them, trace her lips down every rugged bit of manly musculature that was foreign to her. Well, foreign to me for now, at least.

When her imagination began to dare... lower, she abruptly aborted her daydreams, grinning idiotically. She knew—roughly, the anatomy he must have down there, but simply couldn’t picture it. Like all girls, she’d looked with curiosity at the diagram of a flaccid penis in her Health Studies textbook. She’d seen crudely drawn cocks-and-balls scribbled with sharpie on bathroom stalls, and even run into pictures of erect ones accidentally on the internet once or twice. They seem kind of grotesque, she’d thought at the time, wondering how couples were able to overcome such an obstacle and still become intimate.

Wouldn’t it be different with Brian, though? She felt that all of those barely remembered abstracts, and any concept she could dream up independently, for that matter, would fall short of Brian’s actual... reality.

If I ever do become... acquainted with his... you-know-what, there’ll be no going back. I won’t be able to... UNSEE it then, stop picturing it, thinking about it, that it’s his, that it physically represents his lust, and oh my, what it can DO to me, what it’s made to do to me... That’ll be the point of no return. She bit her lip in anticipation. Because then, I will have to suppose Brian’s THING will be on my mind all the time.

Pale skin blushing scarlet, Stephanie shivered. He promised he’d show me what he thinks of my butt, she remembered. I wouldn’t mind. I want him to show me a lot of things; I want him to show me everything.

She envisioned Brian standing behind her, strong arms enveloping her in an affectionate embrace. His face nuzzling against hers, then slowly planting a line of warm kisses down her neck. Somehow each kiss will be a little wet, somehow each kiss will be an explosion upon her senses, and her body will quake against him in need. The sound of his lips gently suckling and the sensation of his breath on her skin would drive her mad. Her chest would rise and fall with her every quickening breath as his hands slide down her sides, and in her passionate haze she wouldn’t be able to tell if those fingers were squeezing down on her—or if she was pressing up desperately into them. Hot pink sparks sputtered somewhere deep in her abdomen, and something clenched reflexively.

When they reach her hips, his hands would clamp down tightly and he would pull, tugging the plush curve of her bottom roughly against him. Stephanie’s lips could part in surprise and allow an inarticulate, breathless cry to escape. Her hips would buck back against him at the sensation against her bare cheeks, that curious but somehow unfathomable male part pressing insistently against them—

She shook her head to clear the fantasies threatening to spiral out of her control, that dizzying distraction of fluttering flame that was burning trails deeper and deeper down inside of her.

Almost there, Steph, hold that thought. Hah... haha, I’ve never been this HORNY before. She couldn’t wait to get inside, exchange the fewest possible pleasantries with Megan—and then excuse herself, seclude herself in the hotel bathroom to draw a warm, relaxing bath. Peel off her costume, shuck off these painful boots, and ease her naked body into tub, where she would... finally let loose.

502. This was it, her room number! She slid her keycard through the slot, heard the mechanical clack of the lock disengaging, swung the heavy door open, and—

The dazed, happy expression on her face drained away, and Stephanie’s hopes began to fall.

...What is that?

The room was dimly lit by the warm hues of the bedside lamps, and the TV was running commercials. The air conditioning unit built into the wall below the window was steadily blowing air across the room.

...What IS that?

A putrid stench, drifting from out of the room and into the hallway. Old sweat. Nasty sweat. Sweat, so strong and pungent that a dry pain crept from the back of her throat all the way up her nasal cavity, and Stephanie covered her face with the back of her gloved hand in disgust. It’s Megan. Dear god... that’s Megan.

She’d smelled Megan before occasionally, but it had always been just a faint, unpleasant fragrance of body odor. Not this. Never like this. Forcing herself to uncover her nose and compose her face, she stepped the rest of the way into the room, a little terrified at just what it was she might find.

Megan, still wearing her Pandape cosplay, was sprawled out on one of the beds. An open bag of chips had scattered across the comforter, and crumbs were everywhere. Megan’s hair was a greasy tangle, and the overripe, sour smell of perspiration wafting off of her twisted Stephanie’s stomach into a knot.

“Hiii...” Stephanie said weakly, waving.

“Steph!” Megan exclaimed, bounced up off the mattress. “Where the hell were ya?! I looked everywhere for you! I was so worried!” She advanced forward, moving to envelope her friend in one of her usual bear-like hugs.

“No no,” Stephanie called out in sudden alarm, retreating a step and raising her hands, “I, uh. I probably smell. You know. I was down at the convention this whole time.” She thought she’d get used to the stink, but it was stronger now, fumes seeming to drift off of Megan in waves. It was overpowering, and Stephanie felt her eyes water and her throat close, choking her up with nausea.

“Oh, pssh, I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Megan said, waving her hand dismissively. A line of sweat was clearly visible down the inside of her arm. “You disappeared for forever! Did you hang out with that cute guy? How’d it go? What, were you two off makin’ out, or what?”

“I tried texting you,” Stephanie explained in a wavering voice, “And then, I tried to call you...”

“Oh, haha! Yeah, sorry Steph—turns out I forgot to pack my phone charger.” Megan tugged her phone out of her bra to show her, and the smeared screen was indeed dark and lifeless. “So, tell me, c’mon, spill! What happened?!”

“I-I’ll tell you after I... shower real quick. Or maybe a bath. A long soak. Sorry, I’m real self-conscious sometimes. About this, uh, I mean, my smell. I m-must be sweaty. I’ll tell you all about what happened right afterwards though, I promise. I’m not used to being on my feet all day, so—”

“Oh, no, you really don’t wanna go into the bathroom right now, if ya know what I mean? I was just in there,” Megan said, chuckling.

Stephanie paled as her imagined sanctuary in the hotel room’s bathtub evaporated, just another mirage. I am not going in there. At all. Ever. The taste of bile rose in her throat for a moment, and she let out a sputtering cough, trying not to vomit.

“But, c’mon, tell me about that guy! You gotta gimme all the raunchy details!” Megan called, waggling her eyebrows and advancing forward a pace. “...Did you do something with your hair?”

“He, uhm. I’m.” Stephanie began, trying to keep her composure. The stench of body odor seemed to be intensifying, as if Megan’s excitement was literally bleeding into the air. Is this what bad hygiene is really like? Is she always like this... is that even possible?!

I can’t do this, Stephanie thought in horror, stifling the urge to gag. She was mortified to have walked face-first into this situation, and now she couldn’t muster the courage to tell her only friend how terrible she smelled. Like she was fermenting in her own sweat. She fought back the urge to gag again.

“I—I have to go,” she murmured, terrified, and hid her face in shame as she haphazardly tossed the few items she’d unpacked back into her travel bag.

“Go? You’re going?” Megan said in confusion, her attention dividing as the Shinobi Souls anime returned from commercial. “Where are you going? Are you... going to see that guy?”

“...Y-yes!” Stephanie lied, “I don’t feel so good, so he invited, uh, invited me to stay with him. Just for the night. Nights. The rest of the nights. I’ll b-be okay. I’ll tell you about all of it later. I just came to take a quick shower and uhm, g-grab my stuff. But, I should really just get going. I-I have to go.”

“Hey, hold on, are you really sure?” Megan said, glancing between Stephanie zipping her bag and Sousuke beheading zombies on the television with his ninja arts. “Wait, ...did you color your hair today?! Steph—”

Her voice was cut off as the heavy hotel room door slammed closed behind Stephanie, and as before, the hallway was as quiet as a tomb. Walking briskly towards the elevators, the reek of sweat faded, and finally... disappeared. Stephanie gasped in deep gulps of clean air, clutching her big travel bag awkwardly. It was heavy, the soles of her feet ached, and now she wanted a shower in earnest. A scrub, honestly. Vigorous and scathing, with lots of soap and lather. She had to consciously work at slowing her breathing back down, pacing herself, to stop from hyperventilating.

...I shouldn’t have done that, Stephanie berated herself, scrunching up her cute features. But... just how do I tell her that she smells so terribly? Stephanie had led a meek and quiet life, and the prospect of offending Megan, of raising an argument or inviting trouble, was frightfully intimidating. Avoiding the situation, however, put her in a new predicament.

What am I going to do now? she realized, slapping a hand against her forehead. It’s not like I’ll just be able to get a new room. We had to buy our room so far in advance because all the hotels get completely booked for the convention...

“I should go back,” she whispered. I can’t just run out on her like this. So what if she smells? I’ll have gotten used to it before I know it.

No, wait, what if I DO get used to it, and I run into Brian tomorrow, and he smells it on ME? Stephanie frowned, recalling the malignant miasma she’d just escaped, and imagined simmering in it all night. That sharp, acrid scent of sweat permeating into her costume outfit and the rest of her clothes like campfire smoke. ...It’s possible. I can’t go back into that.

Trudging slowly back towards the elevator with her bulging travel bag, she tried to determine what she could do. I could sleep in the car? No, Megan’s got the keys. And her car’s kind of... well... not too much better. The battered little car Megan had brought them here in was a junkheap of the worst kind. Stephanie remembered holding her legs carefully back from the mountain of discarded fast food wrappers, cartons, cups, and soiled napkins that were heaped on the passenger side floor, and not daring to touch the syrupy spatter stains of spilled soda that decorated the molded plastic of her door’s armrest.

Yet another in what now seems to be an obvious series of warning flags regarding my friend, Stephanie thought to herself with a bitter smile. Though her thoughts were growing darker by the moment, a dancing pink flame intruded, illuminating a consideration she’d overlooked.

I could call Brian, she realized suddenly. In fact, I told him that I would. Maybe he could... no, no, what am I thinking?! I’m not imposing on him. That’s... that’s moving too fast with things, anyways. I’d be alone in his hotel room with him…

Her face turned red, and she frowned, shaking her head. No no no no, not going there. Besides, I haven’t showered, what if I smell, even a little bit? She worried self-consciously. Fantasizing is one thing... and this is completely another. I really do want to see him again. But, not like this, under these circumstances. If I ever do, erm, VISIT HIS ROOM, I want the... encounter to be on equal terms. To show him that I WANT and CHOOSE to be with him, not simply because I’m out of places to stay. I want to impress him, I want him to really like me...

Impress him? Just how would I impress him? her mind rebuked grimly. As she stepped heavily back into the elevator and thumbed the button for the ground floor, rabbit-ears wilting and shoulders sagging, she didn’t feel very impressive at all.

I... could call Mom, she realized, with a grimace. But, she’s on the other side of the state... she’ll be heading to bed by now—and she didn’t even know I was going to an anime convention. And, of course, nothing would make her feel like more of a helpless child than crying to her mother for help. The idea sat unpleasantly in the pit of her stomach as the elevator descended, and she couldn’t help but reject it, for better or worse.

“Excuse me?” Stephanie asked timidly, thinking the eerily quiet lobby was empty until she spotted a receptionist half-hidden behind the counter. “I was wondering if there were any rooms still available...?”

The night receptionist, a dour-looking young woman in a uniform blazer, looked up from a book she held in her lap and stared blankly at Stephanie’s costume dress for a moment before responding. “I don’t think we do, but I can check?”

“Please,” Stephanie asked, embarrassed. If I spend the money I set aside for souvenirs, and... yeah, maybe run up my card a little bit, I should be able to get a room for two nights... I think? If there is any, Stephanie hoped, biting her lip and twisting the travel bag’s strap in her grip. It would be expensive, but she convinced herself that the cost was just what she deserved for being unable to speak up to Megan about her deficit hygiene.

“...We have openings next on the twenty-third,” the receptionist said unapologetically.

The twenty-third... Monday. The day after the whole convention ends, Stephanie thought, forcing a weak smile. “Ah, uh, thank you for checking for me.”

As expected. I guess there isn’t anything to do but head back to the convention? That was one more plan, but it was even less palatable. I’ll stay up as late as I can, occupy myself with the little overnight events until Saturday morning. When I’m fairly sure Megan has woken up tomorrow and left the room, I’ll head back there and... uh... air the room out, somehow. I still have my keycard, after all. And, then I’ll sleep. The obvious downside to the plan was that if she forced herself to stay awake all the way until mid-morning tomorrow, she was almost sure to sleep through the rest of the convention for the day. I’ll miss out seeing Brian again, probably... she realized, disheartened.

When she’d entered the hotel some fifteen minutes ago, beneath the warm glow of a sunset, Stephanie had been fatigued, but still bubbling with enthusiasm and anticipation. Fittingly, when she now trudged out through lobby’s automatic doors with her bag in tow, defeated and subdued, night had fallen in earnest. And the night was chilly.

The fresh air has finally gotten that cloying smell out of my nose, at least, Stephanie decided, struggling to remain optimistic. The convention center was three city blocks away, her bag was heavy, and the soles of her feet were swollen and angry.

Thankfully, there were still scattered groups of what she thought of as convention people coming and going, or she would have been too scared to make the trip by herself after dark. And, who knows, maybe I won’t be that sleepy, even after staying up all night. Caffeine could keep me going? Or, maybe I’ll just have a short nap tomorrow and still catch him at the convention?

Though reduced to the barest embers, something pink inside her was still smoldering, and as her boots tapped a somber rhythm along the city sidewalks, Stephanie’s mind began to lazily drift towards Brian again.

He said that if I’d wanted him to go down on me, I should have just... asked...? He was only joking, right? What would that entail, exactly...? Stephanie’s uncertain grasp of the idea was somewhere between an assumption and a misunderstanding. Going down on someone means putting their... stuff in your mouth.

I’m a girl. Without, um, external genitalia, there isn’t any way to ‘go down on’ me, is there? There isn’t anything down there. Just my—you know, my um. My vagina. So, he can’t go down on me... right? It really was only a joke, I shouldn’t be dwelling on it, she decided.

“Maybe he’ll be able to explain it,” Stephanie mumbled out loud, to no one in particular. “Or, maybe he’ll be able to show me...?”

 

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