Disclaimer: The Ichijouji family is the property of Saban. There. That was easy, wasn't it?
Feel So Good
An alarm shrieked next to Osamu Ichijouji's ear, making him twitch. He rolled over and
wrapped his blankets around him more closely, trying to muffle the noise. No good - he could still
hear the wailing noise no matter even when he shoved his head under the pillow. That was, after
all, why he had bought the clock in the first place. His whole life was less a series of events and
more like a jigsaw puzzle, with each appointment fitting so closely to the next one that there was
hardly anything separating the two. Every moment he had was booked solid. So were a few
minutes he didn't have; he had stayed up until well past midnight the night before trying
desperately to finish up the extra credit homework he'd taken on.
"I know it won't be any problem for you, Osamu," his teacher had said. "You're such a
clever boy. You need an extra challenge to keep your mind occupied."
Osamu had nodded and offered up his best smile as the teacher handed him a stack of
books to read and report on, but inside, he'd been groaning. One extra assignment was nothing -
he could manage that with one hand behind his back - and two, well, two were still no big deal,
but when every teacher at school was giving him out of class work, plus the regular homework,
plus soccer practice, plus... everything, really... it was a little much.
*But I can't turn them down,* he thought to himself. *They think I can do
anything. If I stop working, they'll think I'm being lazy.*
That may have been so, but right now, being lazy would have been a lot of fun. Osamu
finally gave up the struggle to ignore the alarm clock and rolled over and turned it off. The silence
was welcome, tempting him to go back to sleep again. He shoved the thought away with a
supreme burst of will, making himself sit up and stretch his stiff limbs. He winced as a dull pain
ran up and down one leg; he must have pulled something in soccer practice. He stretched again,
more carefully, and rubbed at his bleary eyes in an attempt to make them clear. They didn't, but
that was all right, and putting on his glasses helped.
Hauling himself out of bed, he went and picked up his school uniform, already neatly
pressed and folded over his desk chair by his loving mother. That was a small blessing. Besides
being expected to be a genius and an athlete, he was also expected to look like a celebrity at all
times, and it was a relief to always know exactly what he was going to wear. All he needed to do
was try to keep his spiky hair combed halfway neatly, brush his teeth, and keep his face clean.
This morning, he couldn't get his hair completely settled after his uneasy night's sleep, but since it
never looked completely straight, he decided it didn't matter.
Having completed his morning's grooming, he wandered into the kitchen and found his
brother wolfing down toast and jam.
"Morning, Kenny-boy!" said Osamu. "How's it going, sport?"
"Hi, Osamu!" Ken chirped. "Mom's not up yet, but I made toast. Want some?"
"Love some." Osamu dropped into his usual chair, the one facing across from his younger
brother, and scooped a few pieces of bread onto a plate, picking one up and smearing it liberally
with butter and jelly. He took a bite out of it, making a show of enjoyment.
"It's good," he said. "You're a good cook. Does mom know you're learning to be a
Ken shook his head. "No, this is just for us."
Osamu smiled at his little brother. He felt bad, at times, that he got the lion's share of the
attention in the Ichijouji household. He might have been a mathematical wizard and could speak
five different languages, but Ken was the really creative one. He was the one who had filled
Osamu's room with construction-paper ornaments last Christmas, the one who'd gotten in trouble
for making a kite out his mother's ceremonial chopsticks and a newspaper, and who had once
found a way to wire the stereo to the front door so it would play a fanfare whenever anyone
walked through the door. The first time it had been put to use, it startled his father into dropping
a grocery bag on the floor and smashing half a dozen eggs. The mischief got Ken in trouble from
time to time, but his intentions were never bad. He was a kind hearted boy who loved doing
things for people, and his desire to give his family the best he could create sometimes sent him
wandering outside the boundaries of what his parents considered appropriate behavior.
*I can make the grades, and that'll keep my folks happy,* Osamu mused, *but
what am I going to do after I get out of school? I memorize stuff and spit it out on demand, that's
all, but if I don't do something spectacular after I graduate, everyone will be so disappointed in
me.* Once again, he felt the specter of stress squeezing its cold hand around his insides.
"You know, Ken, it's days like this that I envy you," he said aloud.
"It means I wish I could be like you."
"But why would you want to be like me?" asked Ken, blinking his wide purple eyes in
"Because you don't have any worries," Osamu replied. "Nobody expects anything out of
you. No matter what you do, you aren't going to disappoint anyone. You really have a chance to
make everyone happy... You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
Ken shook his head. "But everyone loves you, Osamu. I'm just nobody. I'd rather
be like you than me."
"Believe me, you don't," said Osamu. "Trust me, it's not as much fun as it looks."
"If you say so," answered the little boy dubiously.
"Trust me," Osamu replied. "You're better off with nothing more important to worry
about than burning the toast."
Ken blushed a little. "Well, about that toaster, um... You know how it gets mad if you try
to toast more toast before it cools off? Well, I didn't want to wait for it to cool, 'cause I heard
your clock go off and I knew you'd be up soon, so I tried to make it work anyway and... now it
Osamu tried to suppress a smile. "It's okay, Kenny-boy. I'll fix the toaster when I get
home from school. Convince Mom and Dad they want sausage and eggs for breakfast instead."
"Okay!" said Ken, all smiles again. "They don't like toast that much, anyway. Dad likes
coffee and doughnuts better."
"Fine, then. Don't worry, I won't let you get in trouble," Osamu promised. He gulped
down the last of the toast and got up. "I've got to get going or I'll be late. Long walk to school,
you know." He went around the table to give his brother a quick hug. "Love you, Kenny-boy."
The little boy hugged him back. "Love you, Sam."
Osamu grinned; only Ken was allowed to call him by that pet name - not even his parents
would have dared. Osamu lost his temper with Ken, even fought with him from time to time, but
deep down inside, he had a soft spot for his younger sibling that nothing else in his life even came
close to. One of his greatest regrets was that he didn't have as much time as he would have liked
to spend with Ken. That made breakfast one of the high points of his day.
Unfortunately, as much as he would have loved to hang around all morning and chat with
his brother, he did have things he needed to do. He shouldered his bookbag, already loaded down
with the books and papers he'd need for another day of school. How depressing. He tried to walk
as slowly as he could get away with on the trip to school. He couldn't take all the time he would
have liked, but since he had been able to get out of bed on time today, he could at least
enjoy the morning breezes as they brushed his face and undid his earlier work with comb. The
trees were putting out their new leaves, and the petals of their flowers swirled around him until he
felt like he was in a romantic anime, and he laughed. All around him, early birds flittered and
chirped. People were out, too, and one of them waved to him as they passed in the other
direction. Osamu smiled contentedly.
*This is the life for me,* he reflected. *No pressure, no worries... I don't think
anyone out here even knows who I am. I wish I could just turn into a bird and fly off. I'm getting
sick of all this school stuff.*
For a moment, he fantasized about skipping school, running off and doing something else
for a while, but that was impossible. Everyone in the city, he sometimes thought, knew his name
and face. They would know what he was up to, and they would send him back in shame. His
parents would be so disappointed, and his mother would start to cry and say she couldn't believe
her son would do such a thing, and Ken would stare at him with those big round eyes as if he
were some kind of alien stranger. The scene had played itself out before, on those few times when
Osamu did make a score that was less than perfect, when his team lost a soccer game, or when he
managed to get in trouble with a teacher for being late or falling asleep in class. He'd been
scolded then - how much worse would it be if he really did something deviant? No, better to stay
respectable. He could handle it, even if the other options did look awfully tempting.
Osamu arrived in class - early, as usual - and settled himself into his desk to wait for the
others to arrive, opening a book and pretending to stare at its pages. It was part of his image, that
he always had to be doing something scholarly. Then the others would stare at him and whisper to
each other. "Look at Ichijouji - doesn't he ever stop studying?" "He's the perfect student. No
wonder he has better than perfect scores in everything!" "I don't even think he's real. Can an
ordinary human keep working all the time?" "Osamu's not ordinary. He's some kind of superman.
Have you seen the way he plays soccer?" But no one ever whispered to Osamu. It didn't
matter if he would have been glad to tell them the answer to number twelve or explain the
Pythagorean theorem so even his little brother could understand it. They wanted to talk to real
people, not superhuman beings.
*Whether I am one or not,* he reflected sadly, watching the other students coming
in and walking around him and talking about him as if he wasn't even there. It was like he was off
in some other world where he couldn't hear them, or if he was just something interesting they'd
seen on television the night before.
The teacher came in and class began, but Osamu was having a hard time paying attention.
He couldn't help it; he was tired, and this teacher wasn't one of the more interesting ones. Some
of them could make him sit up and pay attention, the way he'd done when he was younger and
school was actually fun. This one talked in a monotone, making it all feel like nothing more
interesting than a computer printout, utterly dry, factual, devoid of emotion, and unintelligible to
*I'm not going to fall asleep, I'm not going to fall asleep,* he told himself sternly.
He moved his pencil across the pages of his notebook, taking down the teacher's words. The
mantra helped for a while, but his pencil began to slow as its rhythm began to lull him into a
trance. He pinched himself. That helped a little, but if the rest of the day was going to be like this,
he was in trouble.
It would have helped, he reflected, if he'd actually been able to get a decent night's rest
the night before. He'd always been able to get by on short sleep rations when he had to, but he'd
learned that nightmares wore him out as badly as staying up all night did. He would have
preferred the all-nighter to having a dream stuck in his mind, one that reasserted itself every time
his eyes started slipping closed. In his dream, he was in a classroom like this one, and a stern-
faced teacher stood before him, asking questions.
"How many pears are equal to six oranges and eleven apples?"
"How much is nineteen plus a taxicab?"
"Is it further to Kyoto or by bus?"
"When you jump to a conclusion, how far do you travel?"
"What's the square root of an oak tree?"
Osamu stood before the teacher, struggling to think of answers to these nonsense
questions. Nothing would satisfy his inquisitor.
"This is impossible!" he screamed. "You can't expect me to answer those! This isn't fair!"
"You could answer them if you'd studied," the teacher replied sternly. "This is simple!
Child's play! Any idiot could do it. I have no choice but to fail you, Ichijouji."
"No! You can't do this to me!"
The teacher gave him a malevolent look, pulling out a test paper with his name on it, his
answers written in neatly in his own handwriting... and yet when he looked, the letters blurred and
ran until they made no sense.
"Failure," said the teacher, and marked the paper with a big red F. "Failure." She marked
another paper. "Failure. Failure. Failure."
Over and over, she marked the papers, until they fell from the sky like snow. Osamu
screamed, grabbing at the papers and tearing them to shreds in defiance, but they continued to
fall, with the teacher laughing maniacally in the background. He couldn't even see her any more.
He couldn't see anything but papers and red ink... they were burying him... choking him... he
"Mr. Ichijouji, this is not the place to take a nap."
"Huh?" Osamu jerked awake, blushing as he realized that he had, after all, fallen asleep in
class. "Oh. Sorry, teacher. I guess I didn't get enough rest last night."
The teacher clicked his tongue. "Osamu, I'm disappointed in you! I didn't think you were
the kind to hang out all night."
"No buts, young man. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior. You want to grow up
better than that, don't you?"
Osamu hung his head. "Yes, teacher. I won't do it again."
When the bell finally rang, Osamu left his classroom with a red face. His peers were
giggling at him surreptitiously, filled with glee at the sight of the oh-so-perfect Osamu Ichijouji
getting in trouble with the teacher. They might have been celebrating a personal victory.
*What? Can't I make a mistake every once in a while?* he thought. Then he
quickly squelched it. *No, I can't. I know that. Everyone's so used to thinking of me as a
genius, they don't even think I can make mistakes anymore. This isn't the real me they're seeing,
this is just a fluke. Yeah, right.*
At least his next class was physical education. That at least didn't require any brain power,
and he couldn't fall asleep if he was up an moving around. That was what he told himself,
anyway, as he changed into his gym uniform. Following his peers out onto the volleyball court, he
noticed a few of the girls on the other side of the fence glancing at him quickly and then looking
away, blushing a bit. He was just reaching the age where dating was starting to become an
interesting idea, and no girl could help but notice his athlete's build and intense amethyst gaze and
glossy dark hair, and on those rare occasions when he smiled, his kind nature would come shining
through, and they could forget for an instant that he was Osamu the genius. Then reality would hit
them, and the curtain would go down. It was always the same.
*Look at me, really look at me!* he mentally urged the girl on the other side of the
fence. *I'm not what you think I am! If you would just talk to me, then you'd see...*
The coach blew the whistle, and the teams formed up. Volleyball wasn't Osamu's best
sport, but he could play almost anything well. Ken still beat him at chess, but that was because
Osamu always forgot which direction a rook could move and that knights could jump over the
other pieces. He could do this, though - all it required was a little coordination, enough to whack
the ball in the right direction. He stared through the net at the other team. They seemed to be
having difficulty deciding which person was going to serve the ball; two of the players were
having an argument. Osamu yawned, then closed his eyes and yawned wider. The volleyball came
down and smacked him over the head.
"Foul!" somebody yelled. "You do that in soccer, not volleyball!"
The coach ruled it was indeed a foul and gave the other team a free shot. Osamu's
teammates glared at him.
"What'd you do that for, Ichijouji?"
"Yeah, quit goofing around!"
"I wasn't goofing around!" Osamu protested. "I just yawned! Can't a guy yawn without
someone jumping down his throat about it?"
"Man, he's touchy," said someone.
"He just doesn't want to talk to us," another boy replied. "Think you're too good for us,
"I don't think that! I just-"
"Huh?" Osamu looked around, and the volleyball fell down and hit him again, this time
smacking his face. He yelped in pain, and he heard a snap as his glasses cracked. The other kids
around him laughed.
"Not so hot now, are you?" someone jeered.
"What's your problem? Are you trying to mess us up on purpose?" someone else asked.
Osamu kept his mouth shut, crouching to collect what was left of his glasses. As he'd
thought, one lens had cracked down the middle, and the frames were now slightly bent. When he
put them on, they rested cockeyed on his nose, and no amount of adjusting would make them lay
"Are you all right?" asked the coach.
"To tell the truth, I don't feel so great," he said. "Can I lie down, please?"
"Sure," the coach agreed. "Are you sick? Do you want to go home?"
*Yes, please!* the voice inside him said, but his mouth formed the words, "No,
I'm all right. I just want to sit this one out."
"All right, then," said the coach.
Osamu took a seat on the nearest bench and stared at the game without really watching it.
He was too awake now, too tense with anger and adrenaline to fall asleep, much as he would have
loved to. Here was his chance to take a nap, and he couldn't take it! Sighing deeply, he looked
around and realized the girls were back. They were looking at him, pointing and giggling. He
flushed, feeling like something at a zoo, or a freak show. Here he was, the great Osamu Ichijouji,
making a fool of himself for all the world to see. He felt tears of frustration welling up, and he
pressed a hand over his eyes, feigning a headache, wishing the day would end, that everything
would end, that he could just go home and hide under his blankets for the rest of his life.
But the day did not end. He had to go to lunch and try to eat it with the hostile stares of
his volleyball team resting on him, listening to their whispers and laughs. Then he had more
classes to get through, propping his eyes open as the teachers droned on and on. He dozed off
again in his history, only to be rudely awakened as the class dropped their books on the floor
under the guidance of an annoyed professor. He had to take a test in last block, staring at it with
heavy eyes that he had to force to process the questions, reading them over and over without
understanding them. His brain refused to give him answers; he dragged them out slowly, painfully,
and piecemeal. He had to rewrite an essay question when he found himself sleep-writing, jotting
down the events of a dream instead of the answers. When the last bell rang, it was like the
trumpets of angels and the coming of heaven. The only thing that prevented him from running out
of the school was the sheer weight of tiredness.
Outside, he heaved a sigh of relief. He was free, and if he hurried, he would have a little
bit of time to go home and rest before he moved on to his next activity. Maybe he could even
convince his mother that he was sick and stay home... but no. He was going to live up to their
expectations if it killed him. He tried to resettle his glasses on the bridge of his nose; it was hard
to see straight out of crooked glasses. While he was dealing with this, he stepped up to a
crosswalk and began crossing the street just as another yawn hit him. He was so tired, so
completely tired. It felt so good just to close his eyes...
That was why he never saw it coming. He heard it, though - the screech of tires, the
sounds of someone screaming, but it was already too late. Something smashed into him, throwing
him off his feet, smashing him into the pavement, and his world reeled. He lay there on the
ground, eyes closed. He could feel a pain, but it was very far away, as if it wasn't even part of
him. More important to him than that was a feeling of something running out of him, as if he was
being drained. Everything was trickling away from him, all his tension, all his worries... all the
world. Slowly, he smiled, realizing that it was all over and he never had to do anything ever again.
Someone came running up to him and knelt down. He knew they were there, but he didn't
feel like opening his eyes.
"Are you okay? Are you still alive?" asked the anxious voice. "Just hang in there! I'm
going to call an ambulance!"
"No... no... it's okay," said Sam, still smiling. "I'm just going to go to sleep, that's all...
and it's going to feel so good...."