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Requiem of the Hummingbird, Chapter 8

 Here's chapter 8!

Title: Requiem of the Hummingbird
Chapter #: 8
Rating: PG-13/R
Genre: Romance, Drama, Shounen-ai/Yaoi

CHAPTER 8: Mild Confrontations, Happy Times

(flashback)

I'm sitting in a dark, dingy room in the attic with nothing but a flashlight, a hard and dingy-looking bed, a bunch of boxes stacked against the wooden walls, and cobwebs all over the place. I'm sitting on the floor writing my first short story. Y'know, about the girl whose family dies in World War I and is adopted and treated like a slave by a rich and noble family until a guy saves her from that cruel life. I wrote that story because I was being treated the exact same way and I wanted to let my misery out in a way that doesn't require me to do things like do drugs or drink alcohol or even kill myself. I was only 12 back then, but I knew about that stuff through TV and books and from some classmates whose older brothers or sisters did those things. Well...before I was taken into this wretched place.

I wanted to express myself and let all my sad feelings out. So I did it through writing. In that house, I had nothing but the old tattered clothes on my back, a dingy-looking notebook, and a pencil. So, I decided to use them to my advantage and write with them. I kept myself in that attic all through the night. I used the flashlight so I could see. I wanted to let all my misery out. All the feelings of sadness and abandonment that I was forced to keep inside because of what this family was doing to me. I couldn't stand being around them! Whenever I'm around them, it's always
"Boy, do this! Boy, do that!" and "You didn't do this right, boy! Get back to work or you'll have no dinner!" and all that nonsense. They never call me by my name. Just 'boy' and nothing else, as if I wasn't even a human at all.

Writing became my solace. Writing became my way of expressing my inner feelings and thoughts. Writing saved me from caving in. Writing lets me be myself. Even if my hands are scratched and red and plotchy from all that work I have to do, I don't care. As long as I'm holding a pen and writing something down, I'm happy. It became pretty late at night, and I finally finished my short story and was about to put it away and go to sleep when suddenly...
BAM! The door was violently flung open and the woman, the same old hag who adopted me, came inside my room in the attic, looking very choleric and showing nothing but rancor and vehement hostility. Her sharp eyes burned with hate and her polished finger nails looked sharp and could easily draw blood if you provoked her.

"You wicked, wicked boy!! Not only did you not polish my daughter's shoes properly, you clearly forgot to get firewood and put it into the fireplace!!" The woman yelled angrily.

"You said nothing about getting firewood!" I barked back, but she got mad as she stomped into the room.

"Don't talk back to me, you stripling! You should be grateful that I saved you from the orphan asylum! It's time you earned your keep!!" The stupid woman yelled, but I didn't flinch. But then I saw her eyes shift and she notices my notebook. She quickly snatches it from me and I get frantic.

"Hey! That's mine! Give it back!" I yell, but she slaps me so hard I fall onto the floor. She looks at my book, then grabs me by the hair so hard it feels like it's about to be yanked off any minute.

"OW!" I yelp in pain.

"Hmph! It's no wonder you're so lazy and ungrateful! Your disgraceful parents allow you to do such plebeian things like write stories and laze around all day! What an embarrassment! What nonsense!" The woman sneers wickedly as she skims my notebook.

I officially snap as I kick her and grab my notebook.

"DON'T TALK ABOUT MY PARENTS THAT WAY!! You know absolutely nothing about them! You can't decide what they're like just because you haven't met them, you old witch!" I yell angrily. I know this was a reckless thing to do, but I absolutely loathe when people claim my parents are horrible people just because they were disabled. The woman stares at me with an appalled look.

"Why--of all the brazen--!! How dare you talk back to me with such vulgar language, you whelp! I'll show you what real discipline is like!!" The woman yells angrily. Her sharp fingernails dig deep into my wrists as she drags me out of the attic. She gets one of her daughters, throws my book into the burning fireplace
(why in the world would she care about firewood in the first place? She talks about it as if it were the cardinal law of having a fireplace! This isn't the Victorian era!), throws me into the basement, pins me down, and whips me with a black whip.

I bite deep down on my lip as I try to keep myself from crying out. If I cry out, she'll love it. I don't want to beg for mercy. I want to show her that I can handle anything! No matter how much she beats me and insults me, I'm not going to abdicate to her stupidity!

"My children have beautiful manners. It's such a shame you weren't born a noble like I. If it hadn't been for me, you would be trapped in the orphan asylum with all those other pathetic guttersnipes who have no place in the world! My children are fulfilling my expectations beautifully! Aren't you ashamed?" The woman sneers wickedly and maliciously as she whips me.

"Beg for mercy, stripling! Acknowledge your status as my servant! You're a servant to this house and nothing more! Beg for my mercy! Beg me!" The woman screams as she continues to whip me with that black whip.

But even though I feel the stinging fire on my back and hands, I absolutely refuse to concede defeat!

Soon, I don't hear her wicked, poisonous, and dagger-sharp voice anymore. Everything begins to fade.


(end flashback)

I wake up to the sight of white walls, the smell of medicine coming from the cabinet that's on the other side of the room, the feeling of soft blankets and pillows surrounding me and wrapping me up like an egg roll, and the sound of a sweet and cute voice right next to me. My chest grows warm from hearing the sound of it.

"Sojiro! Are you okay?"

I look to my left and I see Anri of all people, staring down at me with a very concerned and worried look in his large malachite eyes. When he sees me open my eyes and look at him, he immediately beams with happiness.

"Sojiro! Thank goodness you're okay!" Anri beamed happily as he joyfully wrapped his arms around me. I smile as I get hugged by this little child. I feel warm and pleasant, and my heart is fluttering like the wings of a bird that hasn't yet learned how to fly.

"What are you doing here, Anri?" I ask.

"I was on my way to the bathroom when I saw some teachers carry you here. I insisted that I stay with you and take care of you. It's only been about 20 minutes since you supposedly collapsed so the period's not over yet!" Anri explains with a smile. I sit up and put a hand on my head. I don't feel queasy and nauseuous anymore, so I think I'm feeling better.

"Ummm...Sojiro. Are...are you still okay with...coming to my house today? I mean...well, if you're still sick and feel like going home, that's totally fine! Your health comes first, so it's okay!" Anri murmured a bit until I smiled at him and rubbed his fluffy mop of hair with my hand.

"It's alright, Anri. I appreciate your concern. Thank you very much. And I'll still come to your house today! I'm not THAT sick! And besides, it's not like I have much to do after school!" I tell him with a smile. In turn, Anri smiles at me.

I don't know why, but I seem to love the way he smiles at me. The way his cute little dimples would appear on his chin, the way his plump, tender cheeks would develop two little soft pink areas, the way his eyes light up, the way his little nose would krinkle up, the way this cute and childlike innocence appears on his face...I love all of it. My heart feels warm and fluttery as if I was being tickled and teased by one of those fluffy dusters you see on most commercials. I don't think I can say no to this innocent, scrawny little moppet.

"Thanks..." Anri whispers softly.

"Thanks for staying with me. You should probably get back to class. I'm sure they're worried about you by now," I tell him. He complies and he leaves the nurse's office. I do too. Thankfully, the nurse agrees that I'm feeling better too, so I decide to go back to study hall.

The school day goes by, and before I know it, Anri is happily holding my hand and guiding me to his house. He takes me into his house with a smile on his face. Before we go inside the house though, I call grandmother and let her know where I am. She's okay with it, so I hang up while Anri drags me into his house.

"Hi, Mom! I'm back!" Anri exclaims while I'm processing his living room again.

Soon, his mother comes in. She's rather tall and prim-looking, even though she looks to be in her late 30's and early 40's. She has shoulder length pale blonde hair that's curled at the tips and green eyes that are lighter than Anri's malachite eyes. She has perfectly peachy skin and a nice-looking stature. She's wearing a short-sleeved light yellow shirt, long blue jeans, and black shoes. When she came in and saw me, she looked a little confused.

"Oh. Hello Anri...umm...who is this?" She asks in a slightly confused voice.

"This is one of my new friends from school I told you about! Shibuki Sojiro-san! Sojiro, this is my mom, Muranaka Akemi!" Anri exclaims as he introduces me to his mother and his mother to me. We're both kinda confused.

"Oh dear! You should've told me sooner, Anri!" Akemi exclaims.

"Sorry. He didn't have much to do, so he asked if he could hop on my bus and come over," Anri replied. I start feeling a little nervous.

"Ummm...i-i-it's a pleasure...to meet you...Mu-Muranaka-san..." I stammer nervously. Shortly after, she chuckles a bit.

"Well, you're here now so I guess it's too late for me to argue, now is it? Nice to meet you, Sojiro-kun. Anri's talked a lot about you," Akemi told me.

I'm surprised. Nobody really talks about me much. For me, it's kinda rare to have a friend who talks about you in such high regard on such a regular basis. I guess it's because Anri's autistic and doesn't really socialize much. I wonder if he doesn't have many friends? That could probably be why.

"Sojiro-kun? Would you like anything to drink? I have some tea if you would like some," Akemi said.

"Oh...tea would be lovely. Thank you," I reply. Grandmother often says this at home, so I guess I kind of picked it up from her. Akemi smiles and gets a pitcher of tea out from the refridgerator and pours me some in a glass.

"Thank you," I reply. Both Anri and Akemi sit at the table as I drink the tea from the glass.

"So...dare I ask how you two found each other?" Akemi asked.

I was about to explain, but Anri darted first.

"Remember when Patrasche died and you and Nakai-san were having that brouhaha? I ran all the way to the beach and he found me crying. He's the one who treated my cuts and scratches! He cheered me up and helped me feel better! That's how we met! But I never knew he went to Wakaba until the day after!" Anri exclaimed.

"The beach!? All the way to the beach!? So THAT'S where you ran off to! I was worried sick about you when the police came and took Nenji away! They were looking for you too!" Akemi exclaimed with shock. Anri flinched a bit and covered his ears. Soon, Akemi spoke softly again. "But...I can understand why you did."

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to hear all that yelling and screaming," Anri murmured softly.

"Just wanted a quiet place to let off all your steam, eh? I'm like that too. I don't like to keep sad feelings bottled up inside. I don't like being told to clam up," I tell them.

"We probably shouldn't be talking about such sad things, now should we? So, Sojiro-kun...do you do anything fun on the weekends?" Akemi asks while she's mending her hands into a closed fist and smiles at me.

I look up at the ceiling fan and ruminate while drinking my tea.

"Hmmm...I don't really do much. Sometimes I go to the park, read, check out books from the library, search for a job..." I reply.

"You're looking for a job?" Anri asks innocently.

"Yeah. I'm at that age where a job is important. And besides, I can't have my grandmother doing everything around the house, now can I? She's not getting any younger," I reply.

"You live with your grandmother?" Akemi asks.

"Yep," I reply. Then I finish my glass and I let out a nice, refreshed gasp.

"Good tea! Thanks a lot!" I exclaim.

"You're very welcome, Sojiro-kun," Akemi said.

"Hey Sojiro! I have something neat I wanna show you!" Anri exclaims innocently as he takes my hand and gently drags me into his room.

This very encounter began the very blossoming of a newborn friendship and kinship between Anri and I.

Soon, Anri and I began hanging out much more often than ever before. We go to the library, the park, this little cafe that opened up about a week ago, lots of places. I'm starting to feel as though I can really trust Anri and confide my innermost soul into him. He's certainly trustworthy and innocent enough. As we hang out together, I learn more about him in the process.

For starters, Anri absolutely hates wearing leather. It's fine with furniture and purses and those things, but on clothes? For Anri, that's an absolute no-no. He doesn't like how rough it feels and he hates it because lots of bad people wear it, including that Nakai bastard. He loves vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, iced tea (the ShopRite kind that doesn't have strong amounts of lemon), carrots, broccoli, and his mother's special pinwheel noodle recipe. He tells me that it's so good it tastes like heaven. I should try it some day. He also likes playing games, watching anime, reading manga and some traditional books, drawing, playing on the computer, etc. He's sensitive to loud noises such as motorcycles, elephants, trains (when he's up close), loud rap music (he loathes rap with a passion), people yelling/screaming, sudden banging noises, etc. He doesn't partake in activities akin to a boy his age, such as playing sports or trying to hook up with a pretty girl. He's a bit overly sensitive and is known to cry in front of other people, which is why it's easier for him to associate with girls. He doesn't have many male friends aside from me, Takaya, and this boy he knows named Okudaira Tokio.

Before I knew it, a few weeks had passed! It's now Saturday, June 10, 2010! Today, Anri and I decide to go to the park. Just to absorb the wilderness and the beauty that mother nature gives us. But before that, yesterday I went to our local store to pick up a little something. I got a little yellow and black camera. I'm not talking about those fancy shiny ones that let you put pictures on the computer. Just a simple, old-fashioned one. I can always take it to the store and get the photos developed. The reason this is so is because I feel that if I take pictures of things and hang them on the walls of my room, I can both pick up some nice story ideas from them and have something nice to look at when I feel distressed. Anri and I are walking in the park now, and I'm taking pictures in the process. Anri is innocently looking around at all the trees, the little birds singing and twittering merrily like the songstresses they are, and some little flowers that are sprouting out from the ground. I took pictures of some little flowers that were a plethora of colors like pink, purple, blue, and white.

It seemed one flower caught Anri's attention.

"YEEP! Sojiro! Look!" Anri squealed as he saw something that caught his attention. I followed him and gazed upon what he saw.

"A buttercup!!" Anri exclaimed with a big, bright smile on his face.

Yes, this little flower is indeed a buttercup. It's small and delicate, yet it's as yellow as yellow can be, yellow like the sun up above. The same sun that's emitting it's warm and golden effulgence, even though summer is about to begin and the air is starting to feel rather humid. Anri hates humidity and too much hot weather. But he didn't seem to care as his malachite green eyes were much too focused on the only little buttercup growing in the park. I couldn't help but feel a little happy at the sight of this little flower myself. But then I see Anri's expression change. Now he looks half dejected.

"Sometimes...Dad would take the whole family out to the countryside to this big big buttercup field during the spring. They always bloom during the spring, sometimes throughout the summer too. It was so beautiful. The entire field was just covered with them! Patrasche and I would run around and frolic around and play in it like no tomorrow. Dad and I would play in it too. We would see butterflies flying around, bunnies, and, if we were lucky, even a family of deer! I remember seeing a mother deer and her baby once when I was 11. It was absolutely wonderful. Dad often called me buttercup as a nickname," Anri explains in a soft voice.

I silently start feeling sorry for Anri. Anri won't be able to experience those happy times anymore because of the deaths of both his dad and his dog. I start thinking about my parents and all the fun places they took me and all the wonderful things they did for me.

"...I'm gonna miss being called buttercup. I'm gonna miss sneaking up on him and giving him surprise tickles and hugs and all those things. I don't know what to do from now on..." Anri murmurs again.

All of a sudden, I feel a small fire explode into the biggest flame my heart has even conjured up. It crackled and burned hotly and passionately in the deepest depths of my heart. Anri wants someone who he can rely on in his time of crisis, and I think I might be the one who will help him.

"Anri. You're not alone. I'm always here for you if you ever need any help. I'm practically always available. And if you want, I can call you buttercup or all the nicknames your dad gave you. After all, that's what friends are for, right? They help each other and support each other in their time of need!" I tell him.

Anri averts his gaze from the buttercup and suddenly stares into my eyes. I admit that I never really made much eye contact with Anri, but that's because he never really looked at me directly. Seeing his eyes now...they look rather shocked, but they also look as if they're glimmering with hope.

"You sure? Won't I be a burden?" Anri asked.

"No! Not at all. I enjoy hanging out with you. You're not like most kids your age. I'm kind of the same way. We're both misfits who have been suffering and have been yearning for someone who we can love and cherish and care for with all our heart. You've suffered enough already. I think it's time for you to have some happiness in your life," I tell him. I know it sounds cheesy, but it was all I could think of. But Anri smiled cutely at me.

"Thanks so much...Sojiro..." Anri whispers softly. I rub his thick and fluffy mop of hair with my hand. I can't help but admire how soft and thick it is.

"Nobody deserves to feel alone in the world. Solitude isn't good for anyone," I reply. As I stop rubbing his hair, he suddenly gasps and points.

"AHH! Sojiro! What's that over there!?" Anri exclaimed loudly.

"What!? Where?" I ask as I look the other way. I don't see anything out of the ordinary.

But the response I get...wasn't what I expected at all.

All of a sudden, the feeling of tiny fingers dancing across my bare stomach causes me to explode into a paroxysm of laughter. Anri is tickling me! I'm laughing so hard I actually fall to the ground. But it doesn't last for long. Soon, I grab the mischievous little moppet and scoop him into my arms. I can't help but notice how light he is. I wonder if he's underweight.

"Oh, so what? Did you want to tease me or something? You little prankster!" I tell him. He's showing absolutely no remorse at all. Instead, he laughs like a little child.

"Sometimes when Dad, Patrasche and I were in the mood, we'd sneak up on Dad and jump on him and tickle him so he would play with us. He would tickle me back," Anri retorted cutely.

"Well, it seems you're gonna take a little trip down memory lane once you feel my wrath!" I tell him with a mischievous look on my face as I put him on the grass, pin him down, pull up his shirt and undershirt (yes, he wears undershirts all the time. They're like his bras, even though he has an amazingly flat chest), put my hands on his flat, smooth stomach and give him a good piece of my own personal tickle torture.

This causes Anri to explode into a paroxysm of cute, child-like laughter. His skinny arms are flailing around and he's gripping my shoulders, trying to throw me off. But his diminutive stature and lack of strength don't seem to help him as I playfully torture and tease him. I can't help but feel how soft his skin is. Not just on his abdomen, but on his entire body too. He must take very good care of his skin, as it looks impeccably flawless, like the delicate skin on an apricot. As I'm playfully torturing him, my chest starts feeling warmer and tighter than ever before. I feel my skin tingling and my stomach feeling as if there's a little bird in there that's fluttering it's little wings and trying to fly. I wonder if Anri is feeling that too?

This is when I finally realize...I love Anri.

Not just in a platonic fashion, but almost romantically too. I keep trying to deny it over and over again, but it seems these warm feelings won't go away. I love Anri and everything about him; his fluffy brown hair, his dark malachite green eyes, his pert little nose, his slender arms and legs, his tiny hands and feet, his kind and gentle personality, his innocent mind, his tender heart, his soft cheeks and cute little body, his child-like smile, the way his cheeks would become rosy and pink when he laughed like he's doing now, his girlish stature, his child-like but ever growing vocabulary, his love of anime/manga and games and books and stuffed animals, the love he has for all the small things in life, his choice of lifestyle, the very little awareness he has of everything that's going on in the world around him, his cute and child-like laugh...everything. Could this be...love? Could our relationship be more than just an innocent friendship between us? No! It can't be! I...I can't have feelings like this for such an innocent and tender little boy like Anri! He's been through too much in his short
life! I can't drag him into more hardship and tragedy! What he needs is someone to succor him, someone who will listen to him and help him, someone whom he can confide his secrets and his innermost soul, someone to remind him how wonderful and sweet he is, someone who will accept him for who he is, someone whom he can cry on when he feels sad and frustrated and scared, someone whom he can share his interests with happily and merrily without hesitation, someone whom he can hug and cuddle with when he feels the need to do so, someone...who will love him and cherish him and care about him and protect him from all the bad things in the world. I've often had these things, but bad things have happened to me that caused all the things I experienced to be taken away from me. Since I'm grown up now, it's time I helped someone else. I don't want Anri going through anymore heartbreaking tragedy. He's been through too much of it.

I'm finally done tickling Anri and I decide to let him go. He catches his breath, then he snuggles up to me innocently.

"That felt...nice. I don't know why, but I like how you tickle me, Sojiro. You almost remind me of Dad!" Anri exclaims as sweetly as he always does. I blush from hearing these words.

"Hey! Sojiro! I have an idea! Remember the beach? The place where we first met? We should rendezvous there from now on! It should be our super special secret meeting place! We can meet there twice a week after school!" Anri exclaims with his usual innocent smile.

I remember the day I met him. He was badly injured and crying and mourning the death of his beloved canine companion of many years. I guess I like the idea, since when I'm stressed I walk to the beach to relax there.

"Alright then. It's a deal. Twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we'll rendezvous at the beach and hang out for one hour every time. Knuckle promise?" I told him with a straight look on my face as I present my folded up hand to him. He stares at my hand for a minute, then he touches it with his own knuckle.

"It's a promise!" Anri said with a strangely courageous look in his eyes.

Soon, we start walking in the park again. Anri keeps seeing squirrels and birds while I'm gazing at the trees.

"Look Sojiro! A chickadee! They're so fat and plump. Aren't they cute?" Anri exclaims cutely as he sees a fluffy and plump chickadee singing and twittering on a tree. I look at it and smile.

"Indeed. It is cute!" I tell him and he giggles. The chickadee then flies away into the pristine blue summer sky. Anri's in his own little world. I like him when he's in his little world. He has such a cute mindset even at 13 going on 14. I guess it's because of his autism, but I don't care. I love Anri as he is, and I want him to be happy with the way he is.

We walk around some more and I take some pictures with my new camera. But just as we were about to spend some more quality time together, the worst happens.

A familiar yet wicked voice permeates the air.

"Chaw-haw? Would'cha lookit that! It's Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes and the wimpy little sissy, yo!"

Oh God. No. Please don't let it be true. But my fears were realized. Yamasaki Taichi, aka Shredder, is standing right in front of me and Anri with his scarred face and wicked smirk.

Surprisingly enough, his lackeys aren't with him. Going into guard mode, I stand in front of Anri to make sure Taichi doesn't lay one hand on him.

"What in the world are you doing here, Yamasaki?" I ask. He shrugs his shoulders then spreads his arms out wide.

"I was bored to tears, yo! No sissies to fight, no drugs to deal--" He exclaims when suddenly a scream from Anri cuts him off. Anri points at him.

"AHHH!!! YOU JUST CONFESSED THAT YOU DEAL DRUGS!! THAT MEANS YOU'RE A CRIMIN--Mmph!!" Anri screamed loudly. I quickly put my hand over his mouth so he won't unknowingly tick off Taichi. But I can easily see that Taichi's eyes are getting narrow and choleric.

"Where's your posse? Don't you usually hook up with them?" I ask.

"They's got some business to take care of. I dun got any...well, until now anyway! I still gotta give ya a piece of my fist, ya big nark!" Taichi exclaims.

"I didn't come here to fight you. Alright? Why don't you just go back home and mind your own business before someone gets hurt?" I snap, but he's not budging at all.

"Whuuuut? You chicken? Bok bok bok! You're a big pussy, just like yer wimpy widdle fwend here!" Taichi taunts me, but I make sure not to succumb to his insults and snap at him. Anri is behind me and he's getting antsy.

"Just go already!" I tell him as I'm about to take Anri and leave, but he suddenly grabs me by the shirt and pulls me up to his face.

"Sojiro!!" Anri yells.

"I ain't goin' nowhere 'til I get my revenge! You ratted me out, so I'm gonna pound ya til yer wimpy widdle heart stops beatin'!" Taichi exclaims with a wicked and hostile look on his face. Anri grabs his arm and tries to pry him off of me.

"You leave him alone!" Anri exclaims, but Taichi gets choleric and throws Anri off.

"Shut up, you retarded pussy!" Taichi screams as he throws him off.

"Agh!" Anri cries out as he falls onto the grass. Taichi turns back to look at me.

"Now that we're finally alone, it's time for me to break yer bones, yo!" Taichi says to me with a malicious smirk plastered all over his face.

But I'm not looking at Taichi anymore. I'm staring at a little bush...and apparently someone is watching us with shining eyes. I think there's someone in the bush. It seems Taichi doesn't notice. But in a split second, the figure leaps out from the bush, flies in the air, and is descending upon Taichi. I get a good look at the figure.

"YOU'RE WIDE OPEN!!!"

Much to my, and Anri's, surprise, it's a girl! A young girl of about 12 with straight black hair going to her upper back and gleaming dark brown eyes like chocolate. She's wearing a dark midnight blue school uniform with a long skirt, an orange bow tie, white stockings, black tap shoes, a beige-colored backpack and...a silver, gleaming and wickedly sharp naginata!?

I watch in awe as she strikes Taichi down with the naginata with such force and mettle that I still find it hard to process the whole brouhaha!

"OWWW!!" Taichi yelps as he's struck on the head by the naginata. He's so overcome with pain that he actually lets me go and falls onto the ground. The girl sits on top of him and continues to strike him with the naginata, but not to a point where she's trying to murder him. Blood wasn't coming out, but he's still being beaten by a girl who's four years younger than him.

"Owowowowow!!" Taichi yelps as he's being mercilessly beaten by this strange girl. Anri clings to me and hides behind me as he watches this strange girl beat Taichi. Then, she decides she's had enough by flipping her hair and standing up.

"Really, Yamasaki! Picking on two innocent boys and trying to pick a fight with them!? Honestly, how much lower can you go!? It's no wonder you're such a low-life disgrace! How utterly disappointing!" The girl exclaims loudly, with gleaming eyes and a strong grip on her naginata.

Taichi struggles to get up.

"Na-Na-Na-Natsuko...what the hell are you--!?" Taichi growls angrily, calling the girl Natsuko. But Natsuko points her naginata at him again.

"Do you seriously make a living out of picking fights with innocent boys or something!? What's next!? Raping innocent girls, selling drugs, committing murder, what next!? You're such a disgrace to me and my family it's unbelievable! A real man would never do such horrible, terrible things to the innocent!" Natsuko yelled as she threatened Taichi with the gleaming sharp end of her naginata.

"When are you gonna get the fuck outta my business, you piece of shit!!?" Taichi yelled angrily, but what he got back was another smack on the head with her naginata.

"Not until you decide to change yourself for the better and to stop being cruel to every single human being around you!" Natsuko yelled in retaliation. Taichi finally pushed her naginata away, stood up, and proceeded to walk away.

"You ain't the boss of me, ya goddamn wimp! I ain't gonna forget 'dis, yo! And I'm still gonna get you back someday, Shibukiiiiii!!!" Taichi
screamed as he ran, or, more precisely, staggered, away. Now it was just me, Anri, and this strange girl named Natsuko all alone in the park.
It became halcyon and peaceful again.

Soon, Natsuko's mettle-ridden eyes finally changed, and now she looked sympathetic and concerned upon seeing a surprised me and an anxious Anri clinging to me and hiding behind me.

"Oh dear! Are you both okay?" Natsuko asked with worry in her voice. I tried to smile a bit, even though I was still processing what had just happened.

"We're fine, though Anri's a bit antsy and frightened right now," I told her.

"I'm so truly sorry about Yamasaki! My big brother never ceases to try and attack every single human being he comes into contact with. He simply never gives up, no matter how much I castigate and discipline him!" Natsuko exclaimed.

Wait...did she just say...Taichi is her BIG BROTHER!?

"Big...brother?" I ask, even more shocked then I ever was before. She let out a big, passionate sigh.

"As much as I loathe admitting it, yes. Yamasaki Taichi is my older brother. Why don't we discuss this somewhere else? How about that cafe? I remember seeing you two go in there once. How about that?" Natsuko explains.

So, we decide to go to that little cafe. We're sitting at a neat little table next to a window with crimson red curtains. Classical music conducted by Vivaldi played lovingly in the background. Anri seemed to like it as he's staring up at the ceiling in a strange but merry daze. He swung very slowly back and forth as he got lost in the music. It seemed to be calming him down quite nicely. He didn't seem to touch his dinner much. He ordered spaghetti with lots of meat balls. I ordered curry. Natsuko ordered seafood medley.

"So...if he's your brother, why do you call him Yamasaki?" I ask out of innocent curiosity. She didn't seem to mind.

"Our parents divorced, so now I'm Yoshida Natsuko instead of Yamasaki. Plus I call him Yamasaki as a way of cutting him off from me and my mother. I live with my mother now. They divorced because of all the trouble he's caused. To tell you the truth, my mother wanted sole custody of Yamasaki so she could send him off to a correctional facility down in Kagoshima Prefecture. But the court gave him to our dad instead, and that's the worst thing they did because HE'S the one who encourages him to do all these bad things! It's not right!" Natsuko explained while getting a little vocal when she mentions her father.

It's this sentence that causes Anri to come out of his little reverie.

"Kagoshima!? ALL the way down there? That's very far south!" Anri exclaimed.

"Exactly! Mother thinks he's better off being really far away from everyone he knows so that way he won't mess with them. She's still giving the court a hard time," Natsuko replied.

"So...do you happen to know why he hasn't even been sent to jail yet?" I know this wasn't a nice thing to ask, but I just couldn't help it. She let out another passionate sigh as she took a bite of her seafood medley.

"Part of it is because the courthouses here are run by a bunch of bozos who keep letting Yamasaki off the hook for everything, even if the police have enough evidence to convict him. Another part of it is because Yamasaki is REALLY REALLY good at making sure people don't say anything about what he does. He'll threaten them with both murder AND rape if they tell. He hasn't done any raping and killing yet, but I think it's so stupid! He doesn't have any right to threaten every single innocent person he comes into contact with! No matter how much I scold him, he absolutely refuses to change no matter what! That's why mother wants sole custody of him! It's so she can set him straight! Mother is REALLY good at setting people straight when she's angry enough, but father never lets her when it comes to big brother. He's always encouraging his bad behavior, another reason why mother wants custody of him! The battle just goes on and on and on. I simply hate it. He's even antagonized a lot of my good friends from school!" Natsuko explained.

Wow. This poor girl has a lot to deal with. I guess this is why she's so good at using the naginata.

"He's beaten me up a few times too, even as I was young. That's why I'm learning the naginata. I'm also doing karate, tae kwon do, and judo too! I'm also taking self-defense classes at this program I go to when school ends. Who knows when he might lash out at me or my friends or any other innocent person who has nothing to do with him!" Natsuko said as she took another bite of her seafood medley. Anri looks up at me with his round, innocent eyes as he takes a bite of his meatball.

"Sojiro...forgive me if I shouldn't ask this, but Yamasaki-san said something about you ratting him out. What did you do that caused him to hold such a strong grudge against you?" Anri asked innocently. I normally don't mention this to people, but Anri means well so I decide to tell him.

"I was a freshman in high school. I was on my way to the bathroom once when I went inside and saw Yamasaki having a sexual affair with another girl. They were naked and everything!" I told them. They became very surprised, but since they were in a public place, they couldn't scream it out so they managed to control themselves with aplomb.

"The vice-principal was nearby, so I took him to the scene and he, along with some other people, handled the rest of it. I thought he was committing statutory rape, but it turned out the girl consented so no charges were filed against him, even though lots of people protested. He got suspended for a while, and the girl was taken out of the school. But he found out my name and has been trying to get back at me ever since. It also didn't help that I stopped him from sexually harassing my friend once," I explained again.

"How did you never get beat up by him?" Anri asked.

"During the 8th grade I took some self-defense classes of my own. I knew that someday I was going to need to learn how to defend myself in these types of situations. I don't like fighting, but I know I have to if I want to defend myself," I told him.

"Wow...that's very admirable," Anri said.

"I hate admitting this too, but Yamasaki's always trying to hook up with girls, both pretty ones and ones who he thinks are 'retarded' and 'should be taught a lesson on living'," Natsuko said.

"I know he's always harassing my friend. She's profoundly autistic. Another reason he keeps trying to get back at me is because I caught him sexually harassing her once. I saved her," I told her.

"You're so heroic!" Anri exclaims as he takes a bite of his spaghetti.

"I have some autistic friends and he gives them a hard time too. It's really ticking me off!" Natsuko exclaimed.

I wanted to say something, but Anri got to do it instead.

"Ummm...Natsuko-chan...thanks for helping us and treating us to dinner today. We feel kinda bad that we can't pay you back," Anri said shyly and softly.

"No no! It's alright! It's no trouble at all!" Natsuko said as she waved her hand a bit.

Soon, the three of us finally finished dinner and Natsuko paid the bill. Like Anri, I also felt bad about not being able to pay her back, but she said it's alright so I don't get all persistent about it. I decide to take Anri home, since it's getting a little late. As we stop in front of his house, he turns around.

"Sojiro...thanks for being my friend. I don't get to do stuff like this very often. We should hang out more!" Anri exclaims with a sweet smile on his face.

"You're welcome. And we have our little rendezvous spot, remember? The beach? On Tuesdays and Thursdays?" I tell him.

"I'll look forward to it! Thanks! Bye-bye!" Anri replies cutely as he goes inside his house. I decide to leave and go back home.

I leap on my bed, feeling strangely refreshed and happy inside. I wonder if it's because of Anri? I haven't felt this good since I finally convinced myself that grandmother finally got full custody of me. Maybe I really can trust Anri. He seems kind and innocent enough, so I wonder if I can reveal...that secret to him? I don't want to drag him into more unnecessary drama and hardship. He's been through enough of that. The night comes and I'm finally snug in bed. I'm much too excited about hanging out with Anri on Tuesday. The thought of it is keeping me awake. But soon, I fall asleep feeling happy and content.

But...it all changed briefly when I woke up the next morning to find something appallingly frightening and horrible on my bed.
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