Academic Prowess

By: Aviantei

A The World Ends With You One Shot

[Twelve Shots of Summer 1/12]


I.


When it comes down to it, Neku doesn't see much sense in proving that he's smart. All that really matters is proving that he's not stupid.

It never seems to work out that way, though. He doesn't get why other people get so worked up over tests and things—once you figure out the patterns, it's easy. Neku finishes up his homework every day, always has the right answer when he's called on in class, and usually scores pretty good on his tests without much need for studying. It gets him through school, and his parents give him a decent allowance when he scores high on tests, so it works out.

The other kids at school probably talk about him, when he thinks about it. He can't hear them through his headphones, but he can guess. It's probably better that they don't know just how little effort he puts into his school work. It would just make them possibly more annoying. They chatter enough already as it is.

Neku doesn't want to be smart—sure, it's nice to not have to worry about school, but it seems like a burden. His parents really don't pressure him, but he can tell that some of his teachers do, and it's just so annoying.

Every now and then he thinks about what it would be like if he just completely stopped trying, if his grades suddenly plummeted. He lets the thought go because it would just cause way too much trouble—his parents might panic, he'd get dragged into lectures by his teachers. There's no way he's dealing with that.

Besides, even if he says that he doesn't care what other people think about him, Neku has too much pride to actually go through with it.


II.


In the end, he's the only one that doesn't seem to mind, doesn't seem to be intimidated. He keeps coming around, no matter how hard Neku tries to shake him off the idiot just sticks around anyway.

It's kind of nice for once, not having to worry about keeping his smarts under wraps. Neku is no stranger to watching his classmates pester their smarter peers for help with their work, and he wants nothing to do with that. However, his own personal idiot doesn't want anything to do with that, and just seems to hang around for no real reason at all.

"You know, I'm useless enough as it is. I doubt that even you could help me get any better, Sakuraba-kun."

Neku knows it's not meant that way, but he takes those words as a personal freakin' challenge. Soon enough, he's become the idiot's own personal tutor, and he wastes his afternoons and weekends on pulling up the idiot's grades. It's a pain because someone doesn't know how to focus properly, but it slowly starts to work, making his grades somewhat acceptable.

"You know, Sakuraba-kun, I'm rather impressed by how hard you've been trying to help me out. I mean, considering how much you pushed me away at first…"

"Just shut up and solve the equation, you idiot."

"Ah…Yes, Senpai."

"And don't call me that. We're in the same grade."

"Sorry."

As annoying as he is, though, Neku realizes that it's nice to have a friend.


III.


Sometimes smarts don't make a difference, though. It's hard to realize that.

It's hard to accept that he's gone, and there's nothing Neku can do about it.

Because if being smart can't change anything, then what's the point?


IV.


Neku thinks that life would be a whole lot easier if he didn't understand Minamimoto Sho, but there's not really anything that's going to make the boy forget his math knowledge, so he just has to deal with it.

"Too zeta slow!"

Is this guy serious?

"Hectopascals!"

This dude really needs to get out more often.

"Well, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally."

I'm so done.

It's a hassle really, and Neku thinks trying to wrap his brain around exactly why the math obsessed Reaper talks like he does would pose the same level of challenge as trying to figure out what Minamimoto's even saying for people who don't have any understand of math in the first place. Both of them seem like they'd cause the same level of headache at the very least.

Neku tries to ignore it though, but it gets pretty hard at times. By the time they get the seventh day's mission, he swears he's never going to touch another math problem again, even if he knows it's not too likely.

Sure enough, whenever he gets back to school after the Game and has to sit down for another math lecture, Neku cringes, and it has nothing with his capability to solve the material.


V.


At the end of summer vacation, all of his newfound friends decide that it's necessary to get together to finish up their homework. Neku doesn't get why they didn't just get it over with at the start of summer, but he concedes to letting them use his house. They all gather in their living room, clustered around their assignments, while Neku sits on the side.

Rhyme is the most responsible out of the three of them, having taking her assignments bit by bit, one day at a time, and as a result is almost done. Shiki's staring down a set of Chemistry problems, her eyebrows scrunched up with a pout on her lips. Beat, predictably, hasn't done a single ounce of work all summer, and is scribbling between several notebooks at once, not making an ounce of progress.

"Ugh, I don't get this at all!" Beat groans, his forehead colliding with the table and sending his pencil rolling. Rhyme catches it before offering it back to her brother. "Ain't no use, Rhyme. There's no way I can finish all this in time!"

"'Slow and steady wins the race,'" Rhyme recites. "If you keep going, you'll be able to get done." She frowns. "Though you really should have started working earlier in the summer…"

"Unngh… Yeah, yeah, I know. Doesn't help me now, tho…"

"I just can't believe that Neku finished all his work in a few days," Shiki says, using the conversation as a distraction as an excuse to stop working. She smiles, and Neku looks away. Maybe he should have pretended to have some work left so the others wouldn't notice. It's embarrassing to have them looking at him like that. "You must be really smart."

"Not really," Neku mumbles.

Shiki lightly punches his arm. "Oh, don't be so modest. There's no way I could've done that."

"It's just easier if you get it all out of the way early." Really, that's all Neku was thinking of. There's no need to make it such a big deal. Even so, now everyone is staring at him instead of their notebooks.

"Yo, Phones, if you's so smart, why don't chu help me out here?" Beat asks. It's the last thing that Neku wants to here, and he backs up from the table without thinking. In an instant, Beat latches onto his arm. "Come on, man, don't leave me hangin'!"

Shiki claps her hands together, eyes shining behind her glasses. "Yeah! Come on, Neku, I could really use your help with balancing these chemical equations out…"

"And I don't get any of this…" Beat frowns at his papers. "…anythin'."

This is getting out of hand way too quickly. Neku can't physically escape, but he can still try to verbally diffuse the situation. "No, no, no," he says. "It's not like that. Come on, guys, just 'cause I finished my homework early…"

"Then at least lemme copy off of yours, Phones," Beat tries. He clasps his hands together in front of his chest. "I'm serious. I'm beggin' you!"

"Beat, we don't even go to the same school!"

Beat's head drops back down to the table, and he groans in despair. Rhyme, smiling despite her brother's state, is the next to turn her attention on Neku. Neku tries to look away but he can't. "If you don't mind, could you perhaps check my work for me?" she asks. Neku flinches, and Rhyme is quick to follow through with her proposal. "You don't have to show me how to do it, just tell me if it's right or wrong and I'll go back and fix it if I need to. What's the product of seventy-six and eighty-four?"

"6384," Neku answers before he can remember to shut his stupid mouth.

"Oh, no way," Shiki says, her mouth open even after she finishes speaking her words. "Is that right?"

"Yup," Rhyme reports after dutifully punching the numbers into her calculator. It was a trick. Note to self: Rhyme is more devious than she looks. "Down to the last digit." Her smile fades as she looks back to her brother. "And shame on you, Beat. You shouldn't try and make Neku do work that you procrastinated on."

"Forget that!" Shiki accents her words by nearly breaking her mechanical pencil on the side of the table. "That was incredible, Neku. Did you do that in your head? Did you memorize it? What's the trick? Spill!"

With each chunk of sentence, Shiki leans closer to Neku. The boy is forced to recognize that he can't get out of it any longer, and his face flushes. "It's nothing special. I just figured out how to remember the patterns and it was kind of like memorization after that…" Neku rambles a bit. This is stupid, why am I even talking about this. "Um, just to be clear, I don't think I could teach it to anyone. I just kinda do it."

Shiki's expression drops into a pout, and Neku knows this is it. He can't escape the feeling in his stomach, the one that says it was silly to show off his smarts, even if it was an accident. Part of him wonders if this is the thing that's going to break the friendships he has, or maybe even make them think of him as a resource—

"That's a bit disappointing," Shiki mumbles. "Oh, well, nothing to do about it. That's still really cool, though, Neku. Maybe you should be on TV or somethin'." Neku grimaces a bit at the idea, and Shiki waves her hands in front of her, like the gesture will make the idea disappear. "Not that you have to if you don't want to!" Her panic disperses as quickly as it arrived. "Though, I mean, like Rhyme said, if you could maybe look over my assignments and see if they're right, I'll do the rest myself…"

"Yeah, me, too, Phones!" Beat jumps in. Rhyme shrugs in apology, and Neku looks at all of his friends, relieved that they just accept him as he is.

"Yeah, sure," he answers. Despite how apprehensive the words sound, by the time Neku's finished speaking, he realizes just how much he really means them.


Um, I don't know if this really counts as a "one shot" per say, but it's what happened when I followed the prompt, so...

Anyway, this is my first entry for the Twelve Shots of Summer challenge. The goal is to write twelve one shots over the course of the summer based off of the given prompts. If this sounds like your kind of thing, go and check out the forum!

The first prompt was supposed to be "secret genius." While playing TWEWY, I kind of got the vibe that Neku is a lot smarter than he lets on (Week 2, Day 2 anyone?), so I just kind of rolled with it for this. In the end, the sections don't really form a cohesive plot, so they're more like "moments"... Oh well, at least I wrote something.

I'm also not quite satisfied with the title, but I couldn't come up with a better one, so...

This was also my first time writing Beat's dialogue. It was exhausting for me. Does it sound in character at least?

The next prompt should be interesting, though. Definitely looking forward to writing that one.

Thanks for reading!

[POST] 061114