"Koganei no baka!" exclaimed Ganko, clutching the salvaged pieces of her Uruha Barbie to herself. "Raiha said play nice!"
"You're such a kid," I scoffed. "I'm only having fun."
"Don't hurt my dolls!" She tried unsuccessfully to reattach Uruha Barbie's head.
"They're not real. Even with your madougu, they're not alive."
"Are not! They act like they're alive… but it's just you."
"You don't know anything! They're my friends!" said Ganko, and there were tears in her eyes. "But you're not my friend!"
"Like I'd want to be friends with a crybaby like you," I scoffed again. "I'm leaving… I'm going to go have fun by myself." I picked up my Kougan Anki and left the room angrily. Just because I was closer to Ganko's age than any of the other Uruha didn't make me her babysitter…
I made sure to slam the door behind myself.
As soon as the door had shut, though, my expression softened somewhat. I didn't want to admit it to myself… but I was envious of Ganko-chan. Ganko had it good. Ganko was a girl… girls could cry. It was okay for her to show weakness… she was little, she had lost her mother. But me? I had to be strong… I had to pretend I didn't care, that being here was just as good as being with my family. When my family was still alive.
Ganko had her dolls. Even though they weren't for real, they were her friends… she got to pretend. They kept her from being lonely. She played with them… they played back. All _I _ had was my Rubix cube. I had solved it a hundred times, yet never tired of it… but it still, it wasn't the same as having a real friend. Kurei was my big brother, but Kurei was always busy doing whatever he spent his time doing. Raiha was nice to me, but what interest would Raiha have in a kid like me?
So I tried to be strong. I tried to show the others that even though I wasn't as old as they were, I was still smart. I was capable of doing anything they could do. Often times, they would seem to forget that I was still just a kid, when they would send me on a mission. If I didn't get my results, I'd be reprimanded as harshly and punished as severely as any other member of the Uruha. But when it came to the day-to-day relationships between me and the others, there was always an invisible chasm separating me from them. Anecdotes would trail off into silence if I got too close. Conversations punctuated with smirks and raucous laughter would turn out to be about the weather by the time I was close enough to hear. And yet I kept up the charade. Because even though I'm little… I'm strong. And smart. And just as much Uruha as they were. But I had more to prove.
It was hard… it was really hard, pretending to be an adult. Sure, it was fun. The Kougan Anki was cool. There was a satisfying sense of power behind being able to reduce grown men into terrified babies. Not to mention how neat it was, having a secret life as part of a real-life assassin group. I've watched Weiss and Kenshin and all those shows… it's really cool being in a real assassin organization. But secretly… I yearned to be an ordinary kid… play like a kid… goof off in a treehouse, watch cartoons while eating cocoa-frosted cereal, play Little League. I scoffed at those who participated in such activities, but only because I was secretly jealous. It's hard, growing up too fast.
My eyes fell guiltily on the handkerchief kept wrapped around my wrist.
There was a certain stigma attached to being labeled "the kid who was attempting suicide when he came here". Being so weak as to not want to face life anymore… I had tried to overcome that, to put it in the past, but they still remembered that day when I showed up at the mansion to get my wounds tended to. I remembered how horribly lonely I had been when Kurei had found me. I had been tired of everything. I had lost everyone I loved, and everyone who had loved me back… no one could fathom my misery. It had been the first time I'd ever stolen anything… that knife. And Kurei had stopped me. And I had gone home with him… where else did I have to go?
And I was happy, right? Being here was just as good as being with my family, right? Only I had a new family now, a bigger family… one who could count on me to do anything they asked. I had my own room and I earned my keep. I had the coolest toy in the world-the Kougan Anki-and was probably the strongest, smartest, most capable kid my age in Japan right now.
So why wasn't I the happiest?
Ganko has it good….
I hesitated, and then walked back towards the room.
Barbie's head just wasn't going on right. I couldn't make it fit. Stupid Koganei… why'd he have to be so mean to me?
Koganei is so lucky… he doesn't know how difficult it is to be me. He's got it good. He lost his family, too, but he never cries. He's strong. I'm not. My madougu helps me pretend, though. I know Reiran's not really my Mom… but it makes me happy to pretend that she is. And I know that my dolls, my stuffed animals, my mannequins… they're all my friends, even though they're not alive. But they keep me from getting lonely.
Koganei never gets lonely.
I'm Uruha, but I've never had a mission. Which is probably a good thing… I don't want to hurt people. I don't like getting hurt… how can I hurt someone else? And yet… if they asked me to, I would. I'd probably cry afterwards, though, because I'd feel sorry for them.
Koganei never cries.
Koganei's right. He calls me a baby. I am a baby. It's hard, though. Koganei's a big kid… even though he's younger than the others, they accept him. We're both Uruha, but he's moreso than I am. He gets to laugh and joke and talk with them, but somehow, their conversations always seem to change abruptly whenever I'm too near. Why can't I hear what they're really saying? Is it so bad that I want to be a part of them? Don't they think I'm a person, too? Then why do they treat me so differently? Is it so horrible to be young?
But I can't be one of them. Not yet. And so I'm stuck in my little make-believe world until they think I'm old enough to be one of them. Koganei has real friends… I just have my dolls. Kurei likes Koganei. Kurei likes me, too. He saved me and let me make my dolls come alive. He got Reiran for me from the store window. But he's too busy to play with me. Kurei calls Koganei into his office all the time, though. For missions and stuff. But I'm sure they have fun when I'm not around… I know Kurei's really important, and he's too busy to play with me. But he's not too busy to spend time with Koganei. He likes Koganei better. Koganei's older, and he's a boy, so I guess that's why.
Raiha's nice, too. He's always looking out for me and Koganei, telling us to play nicely. Sometimes, he'll play Parcheesi with us, but not often. Because he's important, too. And he's always busy. I wonder what he does… I wish he could play more games with me.
See? I'm such a kid. None of the others want to play games. Koganei tells me how stupid I am because I always want to play. He says that's not how things work for big people. Big people don't play. How boring, I think. If I didn't play… I'd start thinking about how sad I was. How much I missed my real Mom. And then I'd cry. And then Koganei would see me, and he'd make fun of me, and be mean and call me names like cry-baby. And he'd be right… and so I would cry even more.
Because as much as I want to be big like him, I can't be. I'm too weak. I wish I was strong like him… I'd be so happy!
Koganei has it good…
I heard a knock on the door.
"Come in!" I called, wiping my face on my sleeve. I sent Reiran over to see who it was.
Koganei had come back, and he had a bored look on his face.
"Hey, Ganko. Not that I care, but I was wondering if you wanted to go down to the tv room and watch 'Anastasia' or something. I was going to watch 'The Evil Dead', but was wondering if you wanted to watch an animated movie or something."
"That would be good!" I said, jumping up. "I don't want to watch a scary movie… they scare me."
"You're such a kid," he said, as we walked together down the hallway.
"So are you," I returned.
"Not as much as you are…"