This is the first story I wrote starring the Ouendan in all their glory. Mostly, I wanted to write about Hajime and include the others so I would get used to their personalities. Over time, they continue to evolve, so much so that "What the World Calls Love" seems almost "Uncanon" in this universe I've been working on. It's almost weird...
but anyway, a little thing you may need to know: Seijin Day is the day when Japan celebrates those who have become adults (that is, have turned 20 the past year). It's always celebrated on the first Monday of each January. I assume that the Ouendan are all proud of their adult members, and throw elaborate parties for people on Seijin Day. Or summin...
Also, the title comes from the Japanese word for "Twenty years old", Hatachi. Usually, you just say your age by saying the number and "sai", but 20 is an important age. You're an adult at 20! So therefore, a special word is needed. Thus, Hatachi.
Anyway, hope you guys enjoy the beginning! Please don't mind the Tanaka OCs. They won't be too overbearing, I promise.
From the beginning of his life, Tanaka Hajime was special. Tanaka Chouko was sure as well, even when he was in the womb. She smiled brightly at the way he jumped whenever the smallest musical beat was heard. He would kick in time, but what amazed her most was that he tended to summersault on the dominant beats. She knew he was going to be a musical genius when he got older.
"A boy…" Tanaka Susumu said the moment he heard the news in their home on the outskirts of Yuuhi town, "Our first is a boy."
"I'm so happy, my husband…" Chouko said with a smile that was filled with tears.
"His name…?" Susumu thought for a moment as the two sat for tea, "He is our first. He is to be called Hajime." Hajime kicked lightly to the rhythm of his mother's beating heart. He was to be special. It was obvious.
"So…" Tanaka Hajime flipped through his book, halfway ignoring his friend and superior, Ouendan Leader Ippongi Ryuuta. Ryuuta always went off on inane tangents at some point, and it seemed like he was on one right now, "it's January now."
"I noticed," Hajime said halfheartedly, focusing instead on the book. Ryuuta almost wondered why it was called "PiHKAL". Almost.
"How old are you again, Hajime-kun?"
Hajime flipped the page, "twenty. So?"
"So…" The Ouendan recruit sighed. Ryuuta was stuck in a loop it seemed, "it's January now."
"So shouldn't we be like… celebrating or something?"
"Celebrating what?" Ryuuta groaned. He'd never get Hajime to realize it when he had his nose stuck in a book. He lifted himself from the chair, walked over to where his subordinate was reclining, and wrenched PiHKAL from Hajime's hands, "Hey!" He protested, "I was reading that!"
"Listen up, Hajime-kun," Ryuuta said, pointing at Hajime, "it's January; we need to celebrate." Hajime blinked, "You're twenty, and it's almost Seijin Day. Therefore, you need to stop pretending that nothing special is happening, dress up in something nice, and be happy about yourself for once, dammit!"
The two Ouendan glared at each other, and the moment Ryuuta thought that perhaps he had gotten through to the young man, Hajime lifted his hand, "Give me back my book, please." Ryuuta gave a "che" and dropped it on his lap, tromping from the room. Hajime groaned about creased pages, but let it slide and continued reading.
Ryuuta left Hajime alone and entered the break room, muttering angrily under his breath, "Well, I tried…" he grumbled, "That's got to count for something."
"Oh, we know you did, Ryuuta-san…" Amemiya Sayaka said as Ryuuta plopped down in a chair and Anna Lindhurst handed him a can of cola, "I just bet you didn't try hard enough."
Ryuuta cast Sayaka a glare through his cola gulping, and Kanda Aoi sighed lightly, "Well," she muttered, frowning a bit, "Does that mean we won't be having a party for Haji-kun…?"
"I wouldn't doubt it," Doumeki Kai, Squad Director, said, "But he does seem intent on letting the entire day slide."
"I remember when you all threw a party for Ryuuta-kun and I on Seijin Day…" Anna said; a faraway look was in her eye as she remembered the festivities, "It was one of the happiest days of my life."
"I think there's something hiding in Hajime-san," Suzuki Ittetsu said, "perhaps he is too humble to accept our elaborate party? How silly!"
"Or perhaps he doesn't want to be reminded that he's an adult," Sayaka said, placing her hands on her hips, "He'd rather we all cater to him just because he's still a child."
"What if Hajime-san is afraid of getting older?" Saitou Atsushi suddenly said. Everyone looked up at him, "I was just thinking, he might just be afraid of being an adult."
"But why?" The others wondered, thinking about the supposition only because it could actually be true, "What would Hajime fear about adulthood?"
"The need to get a wife?" Everyone sighed. No matter how hard they thought, Hajime just didn't seem the type to be afraid of getting older for those reasons.
Aoi looked at all the Ouendan as they furrowed their brows and thought hard about how to get their recruit to feel good about himself, and she smiled, "I'll go try cheering him up now! He's around my age, so he'll probably listen," She said happily, sailing from the room. Everyone stared silently after her, turned to each other, shrugged, and waited for her to return.
Hajime flipped a page of his book when Aoi slunk into the room, tiptoeing up to the recruit. He looked up when the Cheer Girl poked her head at him, looking at his face upside down, "What are you doing, Haji-kun?"
"Reading about the effects of psychedelic drugs on the Human Body, cleverly disguised in a fictional novel about a married couple," Hajime said with a shrug, "In a nutshell. What are you doing, Aoi-san?"
"Smiling at your cute face," Aoi said with a giggle. Hajime's face exploded in red, and the Cheer Girl laughed aloud, "Just kidding. I wanted to talk to you."
"If it's about Seijin Day, I don't want to hear it," The flustered Ouendan said as he continued to look at her face.
"Haji-kun is stiiiiiingy!" Aoi said with a frown, sticking her tongue out at him.
"Fine with me…" he muttered, returning to his book.
"Haji-kun, why do you not want to celebrate Seijin Day? Do you not like it?" Aoi left Hajime's face and moved to sit on the edge of the couch (as most of it was taken up by the recruit's reclining figure), "Did a giant Seijin Day Monster attack you when you were little?"
"Not funny," Hajime said, continuing to read the book and attempting to ignore the fact that he was being interrogated, most likely for the assistance of the rest of the Ouendan, "I just don't want to think about it right now, alright?"
"Come on, Haji-kun, you can tell Aoi-chaaaan, I'm your age too! Can't we talk a bit?"
Hajime looked at Aoi's pleading face, and looked at his book, "First of all, you're not my age. If you were, you'd be celebrating it along with me."
"AHA!" Aoi suddenly shouted, making Hajime jump as she stood up and pointed an accusing finger at her friend, "That's the reason you don't want to celebrate Seijin Day! You won't have any peers to celebrate with! All you have is a bunch of old wrinkly old men celebrating for you! Is that it?"
Hajime was too busy trying to restart his heart to register what Aoi had said. When he finally looked up at Aoi, she smiled, "I'm right, right?"
The recruit stared at the Cheer Girl, and he sighed. Placing a bookmark in his book, he closed it and shifted so he could sit up. Aoi took that as an invitation to sit next to him, and he looked over at her, "I suppose… part of it is because of that…" He muttered, "But there are other reasons I don't want to go through with this." He looked at Aoi, and she smiled back as if asking him to continue, "It's just… if I get older…"
The Ouendan clutched the book tighter in his lap so hard that his knuckles turned white, "I'll probably have to leave the Ouendan…"
The two sat in silence for a long while, and Aoi looked up to notice that many of the other Ouendan were trying to get a peek through the door. She glared at them and their peeking faces disappeared, and the Cheer Girl returned to tending to the recruit, "What do you mean, Haji-kun? You can't just… QUIT being an Ouendan…"
She thought about it, "Can you…?"
"Well, ever since I was young, my father had always told me… that since I was the oldest son… it was my job to protect my family in times of need. At first, it was alright, just me and my siblings. I cheered them on and cleaned up any scrapes they sustained…" Hajime smiled at the fond memories, "My brother and sister, Jirou and Shinju, were everything to me… but Father…"
Aoi listened intently as Hajime continued, "Father said that if I was going to be any good at protecting the family in his stead… I would have to be a professional… He said a doctor is a respectable job and it would pay any bills that Mother would get after he passed on." Hajime turned to Aoi with a smile, "Or something to that effect, I guess…"
"So being an Ouendan is everything your father wouldn't want you to be?" Aoi said, "Wow, it's like something out of a romance manga…"
"Yeah, like when the daughter brings her lover to meet her parents, and the father is vehemently against it! 'No! You're not good enough for my daughter!' and then the lover has to carry the beautiful daughter away on a manly motorcycle and off into the sunset!" Hajime smiled halfheartedly at Aoi as she daydreamed in the middle of a pep talk. Since when did cheering turn into a marriage proposal?
"Either way…" Hajime continued, adjusting his glasses and trying to hide the confused sweat that was falling down his face, "I don't want to think about my turning twenty… if I do… then it'll only remind me of my leaving the squad."
"But I already, said, you can't leave the squad…!"
"I can," Hajime said, standing up suddenly and adjusting his glasses, "And for my family, I will. Mother will need me a whole lot more than any of you." He gave her a respectful bow, "When Seijin Day comes, I'll be resigning. The cram school I was in before I joined has expressed their desire for me to return. So I suggest you get used to this notion about me leaving." And with that, he strode from the room.
Aoi was at a loss for words. The moment Hajime was out of earshot, the entire squad exploded inside the room, "What happened, Aoi-chan, Aoi-chan? What happened?" Sayaka asked.
"Aoi-chan, it can't be that bad, can it?" Ryuuta asked. Aoi looked up at the group, a rare frown placed on her face.
"Haji-kun… Haji-kun's leaving forever…!" And with that, the Cheer Girl broke down into sobs.
"We're home, Mama, Papa!" Tanaka Shinju, Hajime's little sister (age 6) proclaimed, tearing into the house at breakneck speed, her arms spread out as if she were an airplane. Tanaka Jirou, Hajime's little brother (age 9) and Hajime himself (age 14) followed in quietly. It was a good idea, as at that moment Tanaka Susumu, Hajime's father, gave his daughter "the glare". She immediately stopped running and calmed down, as a young girl should.
"Good afternoon, Father. How are you today?" Hajime asked, approaching his father with a light bow.
"Hajime, may I speak with you?"
"Of course, Father." Hajime turned to his siblings and shrugged lightly. The two turned and shuffled dejectedly from the house to play by themselves. Hajime waited until his father allowed him to sit before him, and he took a seat next to Susumu, "Is there something wrong, Father?"
Susumu adjusted some papers in front of him, and Hajime noticed that there were plenty of large books in front of him, "Hajime, have you ever considered what you shall do when you grow older?"
"It is best that you specialize yourself now so you will be prepared for the rest of your life, do you understand?" Susumu asked.
Hajime adjusted his glasses, and thought about what his father said, "Yes, I do, Father. Do you have anything in mind?"
Susumu smiled. Hajime always knew exactly what to say to him, "As a matter of fact…" Hajime waited for his father, who pulled the large books up and placed them rather harshly on the table before the young man. Hajime adjusted his glasses, the same way he did when he was nervous.
"This is…?" He inspected the first book, and blinked, "medical books…" He murmured, placing the first one down and picking up the next.
"Hajime, have you ever considered becoming a doctor?" the father asked. Hajime looked up at the man, "It is a good, stable profession. If I cannot take care of your mother at some point in time, it will be up to you to take care of her and your siblings."
Hajime thought of his mother, Tanaka Chouko, and turned to Susumu, "Father… surely you are not suggesting that you…"
"Hajime, it is the easiest, smartest thing for you to do. You must be able to take care of your family if need be, do you understand?"
Hajime looked down at the medical book in his hand, and placed them in a neat pile before him. Heaving them up, he nodded at his father, "I understand, Father. I will do what I can for you, for Mother, and for Jirou and Shinju."
Susumu smiled, "You're such a good son, Hajime. Thank you."
"Anything you wish, Father," Hajime replied, heaving the books towards his room. He was sure he would have a lot of studying ahead of him if he wanted to get into a prestigious collage. There was nothing worse than being a ronin!
Hajime entered his room silently, wondering if he really should have been so sharp with Aoi. She was only trying to help, and he pushed her away. He slammed the back of his head against the door and internally berated himself. Some Ouendan! He wasn't supposed to make people sad!
"But what was I supposed to do…?" He groaned inwardly, "Pretend everything's alright and then just leave…?" No… he should have told everyone beforehand. With a sigh, the young Ouendan looked down at the book in his hand. He decided to do the one thing that always cheered him up, no matter what.
Study under the blankets with a flashlight.
"Group conference! Group conference!" Ryuuta shouted through the Ouendan HQ.
"We're already here." Atsushi said, arms crossed.
"Yeah, Ryuuta-san, no need to be loud about it," Sayaka said as Anna comforted the sniveling Aoi. Ryuuta sighed. He just liked yelling…
"Well then, what do we do?" Kai asked, "Shall we let Hajime-san leave?" Atsushi looked firmly against it. Once an Ouendan, always an Ouendan. It was just the way things were.
"Personally, I don't mind," Anna said, "I would have done anything for my uncle, and I know exactly how he feels. Let him help his family."
People began giving the Cheer Girl traitorous glares, and Ryuuta calmed them with a wave of his hand, "Look, look people, this is Hajime-kun's choice. If he'd rather be a boring ol' doctor rather than an awesome as hell Ouendan, it's his choice and his mistake."
People then gave the Ouendan Leader "never speak drivel again" glares, "I say he stays. I mean, we spent all this time training him and planning festivities in his honor and he ups and decides to leave that very moment? How uncouth can you be?" Sayaka said, "We'll just break his shins or something. That'll teach him to think about leaving us."
"People, please," Kai said as Atsushi rubbed his temples, "Let's think about this like rational people for once."
"…I…" Aoi suddenly spoke up, and looked at everyone, "I agree with Ryuuta-kun…" She continued, "I mean, Ryuuta-kun was the one who found Haji-kun, right?"
"What about us…?" Ittetsu and Atsushi said in unison, furthering destroying any hope that they could ever do anything on their own.
"I was the one who recruited him, too," Kai said, "His father was not the nicest man in the world. He was polite, but very strict."
"Hajime-san is doing the right thing overall," Ryuuta assured the squad, "Blood is thicker than water and all that, after all." Anna nodded. She assumed Ryuuta got that from her devotion to her uncle. Ryuuta held his hands out, "Everyone, we won't speak of this anymore. All we'll do is cherish the time we have with Hajime-kun. Besides, it's best that we all leave with smiles on our faces. When he needs help, we'll want to take care of him the way we always have."
The Ouendan frowned lightly as their favorite memories of the Ouendan recruit floated to the forefront of their thoughts. They couldn't possibly imagine Ouen life without him now. However, they would have to accept it...
To Be Continued...
Hope you guys enjoyed it. Hajime is by far my favorite Squad Member, so I hope I did him justice...
Anyway, reviews are appreciated. Please help me out with anything I need to improve on, I beg of you. Thanks.