Author's Note: This is the eighth chapter of a fanfiction adaptation of Christine Love's visual novel, Hate Plus. It continues from where the Analogue: A Hate Story adapt left off. It features a female player character, who left the Mugunghwa with *Mute and is currently married to her.
Content Note: Flaming sexism and homophobia, gendered slurs, and suicidal ideation.
I made your bed carefully, setting the animal dolls that you had on it to the side. After that, I rendered myself in the most provocative thing I had ever seen you wear, and positioned myself on top of your bed, pulling the already-low collar down to show part of my ... my avatar's bust.
I didn't know what I was doing. Okay? I was being just as foolish as the night before that, only in a different way.
It was like I was acting on autopilot. I didn't mean to end up there. I just kept thinking, "I need to be a good wife. I need to make up for my mistakes. I need to not fail you the way I failed the Mugunghwa." The more I kept thinking those things, the more this seemed inevitable. And if we were actually wife-and-wife married, and like, alone on your spaceship together, it wasn't like there was anything stopping us. Hell, that friend of yours just assumed that we'd already done it.
I was still scared, of everything that my feelings represented. All the ways that they could go out of control. I just couldn't ... I knew I shouldn't go out womanizing like an unfaithful man, without at least trying out my own wife first. Right?
Not that I wanted to admit that to myself.
So I waited the longest three-and-a-half minutes of my life, straining your ship's processor core as I went over and over these thoughts. Running ... simulations, I guess you could call them, of exactly how I could do this. Obviously, I was working with limited data, but there was only one way to fix that.
You finally stepped out when I was in the middle of these processes, and I killed them as fast as I could and gave you a look that I hoped would affect you. That I really thought would get the message across. And I said ... argh.
Four hundred years of drunk noblemen making passes, and I'd never heard a pickup line this bad.
"So." *Mute's voice sounded unusually breathy. "Are you ready to begin your investigation?"
"Yes, actually ... " I started pacing the tiny cabin, thinking about what I'd seen so far of the logs. Trying to put all my thoughts in order. I noticed that *Mute was laying in bed wearing my nightshirt, and had her hair loose and untied. For some reason my caffeine-deprived brain thought she was going to take a nap.
"You are? Right now?!"
"Um, yes?" I gave her a confused look, and tried to figure out why she was in such a panic. I wasn't sure if it was related, but I remembered my frazzled hair, and going to bed in my clothes. "Oh, um, I guess I should shower at some point ... we can go ahead and get started, though, if you want."
*Mute sat up in bed all of a sudden, clutching her sides and practically yelling at me. "But like, you need to feel confident for this! Confidence makes women more attractive! So you should go shower, right now!"
What was she talking about? "*Mute, are you okay?"
"Of course I'm okay! Why wouldn't I be okay?! I married a lesbian who has the hots for me, and I'm about to have sex with my wife!"
Something clicked, deep inside me, just like it had when she'd agreed to marry me. A warm, spreading feeling, which would've left me grinning like mad if not for the circumstances. I stared at her in disbelief, and the raw terror in her eyes confirmed that yes, she'd just said that. Her avatar's cheeks were bright red.
"I-I'll go shower," I said, my face burning too. A nice cold shower, I thought. And I got some fresh, normal clothes together, without looking at my wife.
Then I went back into the bathroom and locked the door, and screamed without making a sound.
I groaned, and put my face in my hands. This was the day to honour one's ancestors, and if Old *Mute was out there somewhere -- wherever an AI's ancestors went -- I knew she was laughing at me.
I'd never prayed before, because I'd never had anyone to pray to. Honestly, I still didn't, since she was a traitorous bitch. But I begged her to kill me, right then. I figured she'd go for that, you know? And I said the same prayer to whatever ancestor you had enshrined.
It's too bad that it didn't work.
"FUUUUUUUUCK," I yelled silently, freezing and shivering and stamping my feet as cold water ran down my sides. "FUCKING FUCK HELL GODDESS DAMN IT FUCK FUCK!"
I was shivering uncontrollably, but I made my numb hands grab the soap and do their thing. Not that thing, the other thing. The one where I cleaned myself off as quickly as possible. My arms bumped into the sink a few times, but I barely felt any pain.
According to the mirror's display, I finished in under two minutes.
I kept shivering long after the dryers had turned on. It took me awhile to realize that it wasn't because I was still cold. When I looked back in the mirror, I saw that my cheeks were burning.
O-kay, I thought, the image of *Mute propositioning me filling my mind. This is a thing. It's really a thing that is happening.
But why did she want this, all of a sudden? How had she gone from being furious at me for having feelings for her at all, to laying in bed looking so smooth and delicate and ... and ...
It took me until I'd gotten my sweater and jeans on to realize the obvious, through the haze of girl feelings affecting me. She's making herself do this, for me. *Mute isn't ready for this. But she thinks this is part of being my wife, just like cooking breakfast for me is.
On one level, it was bewildering that she was having such extreme mood swings. But on another, I felt like it made perfect sense. I'd married her in the first place because she'd told me she needed stability. And whatever else she'd been feeling last night, she was pretty clearly unstable. That message from Old *Mute had rattled her ... that, and my poorly-timed confession of love for her.
Whatever else it would do, though, I really didn't think having sex via Aria's whiskers would make her feel more stable. So what I needed to do, I realized, was reassure her somehow. Let her know the gesture was appreciated, but that I didn't need her to do this to prove that she cared.
For some reason, my body didn't believe me. It just kept reminding me of *Mute's legs. Even though they didn't exist.
I clenched my fists. I am NOT going to take advantage of her, I told myself. Not when she isn't ready for this.
Not when I'm not even sure if I'M ready for this.
I took a deep breath, and made my shaking hand open the door.
I tiptoed out into the cabin, almost afraid that she would still be there. She was, but it didn't look like it.
The woman that was kneeling on my bed looked much too small to be *Mute. She was tiny without her robes, or even the inner layer she'd stripped down to when the Mugunghwa's reactor had overheated. And with her long, golden hair taken out of the braids that she usually wore, and draped loosely across her back, she looked like a different person.
She was looking at me expectantly, like a bride on her wedding night.
I held up a hand to muffle my cough, and kept it there so she couldn't see just how turned on I was. "L-look, *Mute ... when I said I was ready to 'start the investigation,' this is not what I meant."
I glanced at her for a second, but I couldn't tell how to interpret the look on her face. Confusion? Annoyance?
Was she about to try to go down on me, or start yelling at me again?
I stumbled on awkwardly, not wanting to flat-out deny her. "I mean, there are still a lot of l-logs that we haven't looked at ... and I know you wanted to see what was in them ... and I just ... I'm not sure I ... AUGH *MUTE WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"
I instinctively shielded my eyes with both hands, looking as far away as I could. But I just had to peek, anyway. She'd stopped in the middle of pulling the nightshirt off over her head, and the pale, skinny body beneath it looked soft and warm and vulnerable.
My libido didn't know it was virtual. You are about to have sex, it told me, as my breath caught in my throat. You are about to have sex. You are about to have-
*Mute pulled the garment back down over herself and folded her arms. Her face flushed red as she glared at me. "I'm being your wife, Mrs. Investigator! What does it look like?!"
My libido shut up.
"O-okay!" I said, knees shaking as I slowly uncovered my face. "Y-yes, I can see what you're trying to do. But I don't think ... I really don't want to make you do that just because you feel obligated to?" My voice trailed off into a question.
*Mute narrowed her eyes at me. "If women only had sex when they wanted to, there wouldn't have been a Mugunghwa. Okay? It would've died on its own a thousand years ago. Because its birth rate was already below the replacement level, even with wives supposedly doing their duty."
The idea of women being forced to have children horrified me, even though I already knew it was part of *Mute's society. But the thing she said about its birth rate struck me as odd. If almost all the Mugunghwa's women were illiterate homemakers and breeding stock, then how was it possible that they hadn't been having enough kids? Was there something else going on, here?
The investigative part of my brain made a note of this, to look into later. The rest of me was just amazed that it was still functioning right now.
"So like, I messed up by not doing this already. Okay?" *Mute went on. "I made you spend our wedding night talking to me, of all things. Listening to me gossip and prattle. And I was an insufferable shrew last night, grilling you about ... about whatever you've done, in the past. And making it sound like ... like ... "
She looked away, and it sounded like she was about to cry. "Like wanting to give a failure like me some purpose and stability in life is a bad reason to marry her."
The cabin became very quiet, except for *Mute's sniffling.
I walked over slowly and sat down beside her, not touching but close. Careful not to bump into the hovering "whiskers" projecting her. I didn't know if physical closeness would help her feel better, when she was technically disembodied, but I wanted to at least show that I was there for her.
After a long and uncomfortable silence, she looked up at me with wet eyes and a sad smile. "I'm a failure as a wife, too," she whispered. "Aren't I?"
I looked down at the floor, scared now and wringing the bedcovers in my hands. "I wouldn't know," I finally said. "I've never had one before."
*Mute sighed. "You should have been married off years ago ... "
"I ... I really don't think that would-"
"You should have married a flesh-and-blood woman that you had the hots for, and gotten your 'petals plucked' every night, just like in that awful poetry. And you should've been too busy doing that to take the job where you found me."
Oh goddess. I glanced up at the wooden plaque and fox statuettes on my shelf.
Somehow, I'd known that I would be having more conversations like this. I just hoped I was making a difference for her, and not just delaying the inevitable.
"*Mute ... " I looked at her, pleading. "I want to do that with you. I just don't want to make you do it. I don't want you to feel like you have to. It's supposed to be something you like."
"You want me to like it?!" *Mute stared at me as though I'd slapped her. "I'll have you know, my intentions are pure. I am not that kind of woman!"
She got up all of a sudden and paced stiffly, her nightgown fluttering around her thighs. "I'm not a whore, okay? I'm not some commoner in an alleyway, losing myself to cheap thrills. It's not that I ... that I don't ... that I don't think you're hot. Okay? Because you are!" She clenched her fists and glared at me again.
It was the scariest compliment I'd ever received.
"But if women were all allowed to marry other women, then like, they'd be the last generation of women. It's only different for you, because you said yourself that you can't love a man. That you can't be a wife to a husband, no matter what. I don't understand how the hell that works, but I believe you. Okay? With as many guys hitting on you as there have to have been, and especially without a good father to protect you from bad decisions, it's the only thing that makes sense."
Her gaze softened. "Being widowed was almost unbearable for me. I can't imagine what it must have been like, to reach your age and still be alone."
I looked away all of a sudden, squirming and feeling warmth deep in my chest. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw *Mute look away, too.
"So like, this isn't about me," she went on, pacing more slowly now. "And it doesn't matter how I feel about it, or whether or not I like it. This is about your wife fulfilling her most basic duty for you. Okay?"
"Aren't I your wife too?" I squeaked.
I hadn't known *Mute's face could turn that red. Or that she could glare at me that angrily.
I stood up, not to challenge her but because I felt awkward sitting on the bed. "L-look, this isn't a good ... w-what I mean is ... " I winced at how hard I was making this, and squeezed my hands into fists. "I won't let you do anything for me unless you want it, too! And I won't let you p-pluck my 'petals,' unless you let me do it for you."
"What?! How the hell would that even-"
I don't know if it was Aria's predictive computing, or if *Mute figured it out on her own. But one of Aria's floating spheres turned to face her and blossomed into a crystal rose ... or at least, something that looked like one.
" ... oh." *Mute's face was as red as it was. "Oh."
There was a really uncomfortable silence.
"I need to get coffee," I finally said. "We can get back to the legs- er, the logs, afterwards."
*Mute didn't say anything.
"We're in this together, okay? I want to see what's inside them. And I want to be there for you, when we find out."
When I glanced at her, she was discreetly looking me over, below my neck. She stopped as soon as I saw her.
I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. I knew it would take her a while to get used to the idea, of being in a sexual relationship with another woman. As opposed to just "being someone's wife." I didn't want to make her uncomfortable, as she felt these things out for herself. No matter how long it took her.
ARE we in a sexual relationship? I asked myself. I guessed if we weren't already, we'd sure as hell both stated our intent to make it one.
I remembered it hadn't taken *Starborn very long at all to make ours like that. But the thought of being with *Mute in that way ... would I really be okay with it? And not just scared that I'd break her?
I found myself lost in these thoughts as I got out the coffee grounds. Trying to pretend that *Mute wasn't there, so as not to be so self-conscious. It's not like she'd let herself go like that, anyway, I thought. Not until we've had a chance to talk things out properly. Not until she's sorted out how she feels about-
*Mute pounced me, Aria's spheres grabbing my shoulders and pushing me down on the bed beneath her. The coffee grounds spilled on the floor.
"OH MY GODDESS *MUTE WHAT ARE YOU D-"