Itou Residence, Kurosuoba, Japan
April 3, 2018 | 5:45 am
In what was otherwise darkness, a small box cast a dim, red glow upon a small mountain of blankets, comforters, pillows, stuffed animals, and slightly used clothes. The box, as harmless as it may seem, held a deep loathing for the mountain. It yearned for the carefree existence of the Mountain, unbeholden to dates or times. Yet fate had other plans for the poor light, who was tasked with watching the mountain, carefully, until…
Yes. The box quivered with anticipation. It was almost time…
The strange symbols upon the small box shifted and all at once, the dim light grew stronger and it let loose a loud, high screech. It followed this twice more before catching a small rest. Then, it was time to screech again.
The Mountain stirred. The box had succeeded! Maybe now it could finally pursue it’s dreams? Perhaps now it could - oh no. From underneath the Mountain shot out a pale, fleshy arm. It came straight for the box who, despite its best attempt, was immobilized with fear. All it could do was screech again. This only angered the Beast Beneath the Mountain. The arm flailed about, crashing down all around the box.
For a brief moment, the box considered going completely silent. Perhaps then it could trick the Beast into thinking it had fled? Then it could live! It could...no. The box had been given a task. It was given purpose. As much as the box wanted so desperately to fight against it, the box was powerless against fate. And so it screeched. Once. Twice. And before the third could echo out from the box’s strangely powerful speaker, the Beast struck it from above. Dazed and confused, the box found itself unable to scream. The Beast struck it once more and the box finally came to terms with the inevitable...it was going to die.
But...then again...we all have to die sometime...right?
The box had no time to even muse over its final thought before the Beast spread its fingers over the top and flick a switch, causing the box to go dark as well as silent.
The Beast’s arm went limp as it slid off the box, striking the wood of the nightstand before finally coming to rest dangling off the side of the bed. For it moment, it seemed as if the Beast would stir no more...but finally the Mountain began to rise, with parts of it tumbling aside.
Itou Yuuki sat upright in her bed and let out an exaggerated yawn, throwing her arms out to either side and twisting her spine in such a way as to get an oh-so-satisfying pop from most of her joints. Casting off the lingering remnants of sleep, Yuuki scooted her way to the edge of her bed.
Beside the bed sat the girl’s wheelchair, facing the bed at an angle. She pushed on the armrest to test whether or not the brake was set and when she was satisfied that it was, she transferred herself onto the chair. With that chore done, the girl was free to flip on the light, gather her clothes and towel, and head off to the bathroom, and go through the rest of her morning routine.
“Morning, kiddo. Hurry up and get ready; breakfast is almost done.” her father’s gruff voice rumbled from the kitchen as she rolled by. Yuuki answered with complete and utter gibberish. Hiroshi nodded at his daughter’s sagely wisdom. “Good point. I WILL have another strip of bacon.”
“Meat is murder.” Yuuki slurred in English as she wheeled her way into the bathroom and closed the door.
“Well, murder is delicious.” Hiroshi fired back as he added another strip to the pan. When he heard the sound of the shower starting, the father grinned. Honestly, when Yuuki had just out of the blue claimed that she was “done with meat” a few months ago, he figured that it would only last a couple days, maybe a week or two at the most before she broke. Yet here they were.
“Stubborn brat.” he muttered as he flipped the girl’s pancake. “Definitely didn’t get that from me. No sir.”
A short while later, the bathroom door opened once more and out rolled a much fresher and much more alert Yuuki ready to take on the day.
After some breakfast.
She began to roll down the hall towards her room, but when she saw that her father had already set out the table and food, she couldn’t help but stop right in the perfect spot to block his view of the television.
“Tousan…” she called out, feigning concern.
“You’re going bald.” she lied. Hiroshi’s jaw about hit the floor. He wasn’t really, but the look on his face in the moment was priceless.
“Whaaa?” he replied, dumbstruck, scrambling to his feet and hurrying off to the bathroom. Snickering, Yuuki made her way into her room. Inside, she pulled her chair back up against the bed and grabbed her legs which had been leaning up against the nightstand. She placed them on the bed then opened her nightstand exposing her collection of socks. It was about this time that Yuuki heard her father chaining together a string of profanity that would make a sailor blush. The girl simply giggled and slid the sheaths over her residual limbs. Then came the sock, the liner, the actual leg itself, then finally the sleeve. Once both legs were fully secure, Yuuki locked her chair and pushed herself up. For a moment, she thought she would topple forward, but her legs locked and she was steady. Even after a couple years of using them, she still wasn’t used to that feeling. She trusted that her legs would hold but...there would always be that uneasiness, she supposed.
Yuuki exited her room once again and immediately saw her father grinning at her from the table. Uh-oh. Before she said anything, she scanned the table…
Her eyes widened and pancake panic flooded the girl. She finally met his gaze and it was all she could do to mouth the word ‘no’.
Hiroshi donned his best Big Bad Wolf grin and leaned back, patting his tummy.
Yuuki’s eye narrowed. “You’ve gone too far this time, Ojisan…” she muttered as she trotted down the hall towards the kitchen, keeping her gaze locked on him the entire time.
“Oh yeah?” Hiroshi replied chuckling. “And what are you going to do about it, Obaachan?”
When she didn’t reply, he found himself amused. When he heard the fridge crack, he got concerned.
“Err...?” he started. When the girl appeared around the corner again holding a can, it was Hiroshi’s turn to utter a helpless “no.”
Yuuki replied by mouthing “Oh yeah.”
“But...but you don’t even LIKE coffee!” he muttered, staring at the precious can.
“I like justice.” the defiant daughter fired back, hovering a hand over the tab.
No sooner did the words leave the frightened father did the sound of a tab popping flood the room.
“Watch me.” she offered before bringing the can to her lips and throwing it back. Yuuki killed off half the can before she had to stop. “Yuuuck.” she complained. Her father’s head dropped as he whined.
“That was my last caaan...and you didn’t even enjoy it, you little brat.”
“It’s not my fault! You ate my pancake!”
“Check the bookshelf.” he muttered, pointing a limp arm towards the smallish bookshelf in the corner of the room.
Confused, Yuuki glanced over - and immediately saw her little golden trophy sitting neatly upon an otherwise empty shelf. “Ohh…” Turning back to her father, Yuuki offered him her most sheepish grin. “W-would you want the rest of this?”
Hiroshi shot the girl his best ‘I-can’t-believe-you’re-my-daughter’ look which got another uneasy laugh from her. She strolled over to pick up her pancake plate and then made her way to the table in the center of the room. Placing both down by the utensils and glass of juice laid out for her, Yuuki pulled out her chair opposite her father and slid into it.
She then attacked the pancake.
Hiroshi sighed then sat back up, a genuine smile on his face now. He reached over and grabbed the can of coffee. “Better hope there’s no backwash, brat.” Yuuki repeated the same thing in mocking tone. And, after a moment, they both laughed.
With a mood settling down, the father regarded his child with a weary gaze. “So...excited yet?” he asked, taking a sip from the tainted can.
“Mmm...” Yuuki considered it while sipping from her juice, then shrugged before cutting into her pancake. “Guess so.” And after a moment, “How was work?” was asked before a healthy sized pancake bite was shoved into her mouth.
“Long.” the man shrugged. Yuuki could tell by his face that he was exhausted. Working all night then staying up to make her breakfast? He was pushing himself way too hard. Of course, saying that would do jack-all to make him take it easy. Her father was a stubborn old man, alright. She was just glad that SHE didn’t end up as stubborn as he was.
“You want me to walk you to school today?” he asked, but Yuuki quickly refused, speeding up her chewing so that she could explain.
“You’re fine. I was going to walk with Kaede-kun. You should get some rest.” she finally managed to spit out.
Hiroshi scoffed, puffing out his chest. “‘Kaede-kun’, eh? Well, just remind ‘Kaede-kun’ that if he tries anything funny...I’ll kill him.”
Yuuki rolled her eyes. “Really, Tousan? You’re worried about Kaede-kun trying something?”
“...no...but I never get to threaten your friends.” Hiroshi whined, deflating.
Having finished most of her pancake, Yuuki dropped her utensils onto the plate and wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Sorry. I’ll work on getting some sketchy friends with bad intentions this year.” She said earnestly as she got out of her chair and carried her dishes to the sink.
“You better.” Hiroshi muttered as his daughter passed back by, this time heading back into her room for her bag. When she finally emerged for the last time, the exhausted laborer wished her a good day and out the door she went.
His little girl was growing up.
It took everything in Hiroshi to not break down crying right then and there.
Ishikawa Residence, Kurosuoba, Japan
April 3, 2018 | 5:00 am
Kaede glanced at the dull blue hazy numbers again just to be double sure.
He sighed and attempted to find a more comfortable position. No luck. He tried closing his eyes. Surely he could will himself to sleep?
After what seemed like an eternity, Kaede opened one eye and hesitantly glanced once more at the clock.
Kaede groaned and threw off his covers. Sleep was a lost cause. That was fine. He reached over and turned off his alarm before rising to his feet. Crossing the dark room, Kaede eventually came to the light switch. He flipped it then left the room.
Heading down the hall towards the kitchen, Kaede could hear the distinct rumbling of Ojii snoring. It would be pretty early for either of the oldies to be awake. Well...maybe not Obaa. The woman was nocturnal...but he hadn’t seen her yet. Oh well.
In the kitchen, Kaede readied the coffee maker and put in some grounds. Once that was going, Kaede felt the urge hit him, so he headed back to his room. Once inside, he opened a lower drawer on his dresser and underneath a pair of underwear was a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. The boy took the lighter and a single cigarette and headed outside. He was careful not to be too loud. Wouldn’t want to wake anyway.
The air outside was cold. It cut into his bare chest and exposed legs. He considered, for a moment, heading back inside for a shirt or some pants but...well he was already lit the cigarette. He took a drag and leaned on the half wall opposite his door. There was one more apartment to his left, then four more to his right. The building went up two floors as well, so there plenty of space for people...but…
Kaede knew that most of the apartments were empty. They weren’t exactly the nicest apartments in the world. His grandparents only stayed in them because they were handicap accessible. With their advanced ages, it helped. Ojiisan couldn’t make it up and down stairs all day. Kaede frowned for a moment.
Too dark. Brighten it up.
He took another drag. In smooth. Out smooth. He couldn’t sleep well. Not that he ever could, but last night was particularly rough. He was super excited. And nervous. But mostly excited. Yet still nervous.
The cigarettes helped. A bit. They killed some stress, so that was nice. Definitely not good for him, and he’d probably be in a ton of trouble if he was caught but...still worth. He glanced around the complex. It was still super early, so it was highly unlikely that anyone would be around just yet...although…
Kaede got a weird feeling. He was forgetting about something. He started to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away. So he put out the cigarette on the outer side of the half wall. Just before he turned to go back inside, he saw a figure appear around the next building down the road. It was heading towards the complex. It took Kaede a minute, but then it hit him: Itou-san next door would just be getting home around this time. Kaede knew that, of course, but...well he was just glad he had listened to his gut on this one. Itou-san was a cool guy but, he’d definitely say something if he had caught him.
Not wanting to risk any awkward interactions like “Heya, Ishikawa-san, why are you out here naked?”, Kaede went back inside. He could smell the coffee brewing and decided to use this time to go ahead with a shower.
With a quick pitstop in his room to get his clothes, Kaede headed off to go through his morning routine: shit, step on the scale, angst at the scale, cry in the shower, angst in the mirror for a bit, resist the urge to pluck the eyebrows away, resist the urge to cake on literally all the make-up to hide every single flaw, angst at said flaws in the mirror for another bit, angst at the stupid school rules on makeup usage, vigorously brush and floss teeth, angst over imperfections in teeth after vigorously brushing and flossing, mess with hair to get it to sit just right, angst at hair when it just won’t sit right, tie tie, untie tie, tie tie again, untie tie again, retie tie once more, angst at tie, give up and just throw the rest of the clothes on.
Finally, with his short morning ritual complete, Kaede stepped out of the bathroom a new man. His first act as new Kaede was obvious: drown himself in coffee.
After downing a cup Kaede sat it in the sink. Before he stepped away, however, he glanced around. Still no Obaasan. He waited a moment. Two. Then, when he was satisfied that she wasn’t coming, he opened a cabinet and pulled out a bowl. He inspected it, then put it in the sink with the cup. He then grabbed a spoon from the drawer and added it to the mix. He gave another glance around to see if the coast is clear.
Satisfied again, Kaede turned the water on and rinsed the three. After a few moments of the water running, he grabbed the dish soap and got the water nice and sudsy. He then grabbed a sponge and slowly scrubbed and washed everything. Once he was done, Kaede laid out a large dishrag and placed the bowl, spoon, and mug out on it to dry after wiping them with yet another rag.
With all of that done, Kaede returned to his room to finish packing up and getting everything ready for school.
After awhile, Kaede left his room, bag in tow. He headed to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water for the go. When he got there though, Obaa was cooking away. She offered up a good morning before turning to see who it was. Upon seeing her grandson, however, she beamed.
“Oh my...looking handsome as ever, my dear. Come, take a seat. Let ol’ Obaa whip you up a nice hearty breakfast before school, eh?” she cooed. Kaede smiled. She really was a kind woman. Kaede loved her and Ojiisan dearly.
“Good morning, Obaa! And thanks, but I’ve got to get going. I promised Yuuki-chan that I’d walk with her today.”
“Bah! Nonsense. School’s just down the road. You’ve got plenty of time. Don’tcha try to skip out on Obaa’s cooking. I fed a family of six for decades and not a single one of them ever complained.” the older woman boasted, throwing her shoulders back and chin up in a sort of Superwoman pose.
Kaede laughed. “You’re a great cook. But…” he trailed off as he gestured towards the drying dinnerware. “And besides, she’s got that whole ‘no-legs’ thing going on, so she’s kinda slow.” Obaa regarded him with her all-knowing grandmother’s eyes that could see through any and all lies.
“Oh...I see...Obaa sees now. Flattery won’t save you, my boy...you just wanna blow off your own dear Obaa to go spend time with your little girlfriend. Don’t have any time for dear, sweet Obaa anymore” she ribbed kindly.
“She’s not my girlfriend. Just a friend. Who’s a girl. Friendgirl.” Kaede corrected, but Obaa just laughed.
“Mmhmm, suuuure...fine, fine, you may go. Who am I to stand in the way of young love?” Obaa chuckled. She obviously wasn’t convinced but...eh, what can you do? “But, y’know, you CAN invite your little girlfriend over for a meal sometime. I know Ojii and I would just love to have her.”
Kaede shook his head. It was hopeless. “Still not my girlfriend. Friendgirl. There’s a difference.” He protested, scooting past his elder. “But I’ll pass along the offer.” Having grabbed his bottle of water, Kaede took a quick swig and passed Obaa again.
“I’ll see you later. Tell Ojii good morning for me, okay?”
“Alright, dear. Have a good day.”
And with that, Kaede headed down the hall and out the door.
Obaa simply watched him go, holding the bowl in her hands.
- Parking Lot - Apartment Complex, Kurosuoba, Japan
April 3, 2018 | 6:30 am
By the time Yuuki had left her home, Kaede was already down by the street, having another smoke. She had noticed the smoke rising from him pretty quickly. She sighed. What a dumbass.
Kaede heard her when she got fairly close. He turned and waved, cigarette hanging loosely out of his mouth. Yuuki shook her head and did a goofy, exaggerated march up to the young lad. She couldn't help but notice how tired he looked. More so than usual anyway. And he was a bit on the pale side - perhaps he was coming down with something?
Or maybe this was just how Kaede always looked when he wasn't completely glammed out. She couldn't think of a single time over the entire break that she saw him not wearing makeup, now that she thought about it. Huh.
“Those things will kill you, y’know.” she said all matter-of-factly.
“Here’s hoping. Want one?” he offered, holding the pack towards her with a stick already extended.
“Definitely.” the girl accepted, holding the cigarette up to her lips while Kaede lit it.
“Your Dad would kill you if he found out about this. And me. Just saying.” warned Kaede as he put the lighter away and took a drag.
“Here’s hoping.” Yuuki spit back.
For a few moments the two silently enjoyed their smoke break. They were childhood friends, having known each other since they were practically in diapers. Yuuki’s family had pretty much always lived in the little apartment complex, granted they used to be a bit higher up and had a much bigger apartment. And Kaede...well, Obaa and Ojii did more than their fair share of babysitting.
After a few more minutes of smoking and bullshitting, some smoke went down the wrong way in Yuuki, causing the girl to hack up a lung.
“Err...you good? Should I call the paramedics?”
“No, I’m-” Yuuki paused to get some coughing done. “I’m oka-” More coughing. “I’ll be-” Even more coughing.
The girl stopped for a moment to catch her breath, while Kaede laughed himself out of breath.
“Okay...Okay I’m good.” she managed to spit out in between wheezing.
“You good? Kaede asked again, catching his own breath.
“I’m good.” Yuuki tossed the remains of her cigarette to the curb and Kaede stomped it out for her.
“Because I’m pretty sure I could still call those paramedics if you need them.” he teased, taking one last drag on his own cigarette before tossing and stomping it out.
“DNR, bitch.” Yuuki fired, taking off down the sidewalk in the general direction of the school.
“Pfft.” Kaede scoffed and then let out a short cough.. “Shove your DNR. I’m not letting my best friend die, Cyborg.” he claimed as he caught up with her and matched her speed.
“Aww...does that mean that you would give me CPR?” Yuuki cooed.
“And catch your girl cooties? Pfft no. Not happening” Kaede scoffed, throwing his hands behind his head. “I was going to say that I wouldn’t let my best friend die without getting her some hot paramedic action. ”
“Wow. That might just be the sweetest thing anybody has ever said to me. You really are the greatest friend a girl could have, Kaede.” Yuuki replied, practically oozing sarcasm.
“Aren’t I?” he smirked. Yuuki gave him a playful shove and the two shared a laugh.
Fujioka Senior High, Kurosuoba, Japan
April 3, 2018 | 6:55 am
In a surprise to both of them, Yuuki and Kaede somehow managed to get to Fujioka before the gates opened. They had made some decent time all things considered. Granted, it wasn’t all that far of a walk, but Yuuki had actually held her own. Kaede couldn’t help but be a little proud of his waddling friend.
When they got there, there was already a good amount of people standing at the gates. There were quite a few unfamiliar faces in the crowd, but both Yuuki and Kaede thought they had saw a couple that they recognized.
“I hope we end up in the same class this year.” Yuuki muttered.
Kaede nodded but wasn’t about to hold his breath. When it came to academics, Yuuki smoked him. She was actually pretty smart...when she actually applied herself. But she was pretty lazy, so it was really in the air whether or not that would happen. And he…
Well, Kaede wouldn’t exactly call himself stupid, but academics were not his strong suit. He’d put in the hours studying no problem but tests…
He shuddered, earning a weird look from both Yuuki and a couple of students who were having a conversation nearby. When he noticed, he gave the unfamiliar students a big, cheesy grin. They promptly relocated. It was understandable, really.
Oh well. Kaede was a pretty hopeful guy. Maybe some sort of miracle could happen. He really would like to be with his friend this year...or really any of his friends - if they came to Fujioka that is. It was getting kind of old starting over nearly every year.
A little consistency would be nice.
“We'll see, I guess.” he muttered, hugging himself tightly. Now that they weren't talking anymore, the cold was starting to bite. The gates would be open soon enough.
They had to be.