This is generally where I put the disclaimer line, but, first things first…
This story deals with some very serious issues, such as bullying, prejudice, abuse, and suicide. Though I tried to write it artfully, if any of that disturbs you, DO NOT READ.
These are all extremely serious issues that should not be taken lightly, so the rating of the story is "M" (for Mature), as well as for language.
There might be some OOCness in the fic due to situations I created for the sake of the story, but I tried to keep them as IC as possible despite the AU situations.
It's slightly Abe-centric, particularly in later chapters, but deals with other characters, too. Honestly, I was going to try and work in the Nishiura team, but they just didn't quite make the cut or the theme of the story.
So, this story has four central characters:
Ren Mihashi, Shuugo Kanou, Takaya Abe, and Motoki Haruna.
Yes, I sometimes use Japanese words (I try not to), but only when I can't seem to find another substitute word in English that will have the same meanings and emotions. It's hard to explain, but the Japanese put a lot more emotion into their expressions, so it's easier for me to pick up on that and express it in return.
There are no pairings (they're in their fifth year of primary school, and have other things to worry about), and I'd call this more of a "slice of life" story than anything else. I think my purpose in writing this was to mostly raise awareness of some subjects that should really be addressed more often than they are.
Finally…I don't own Ookiku Furikabutte or its characters. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Ren Mihashi
Ren Mihashi was slightly on the short side, but mostly average height for eleven years old. Since it was late summer, he wore a light yellow t-shirt that seemed to accent his light brown hair and hazel eyes. It was unusual for someone in Japan to have that sort of coloring, but it happened once in a while. He wore a pair of light khaki cut-offs and a pair of socks and white sneakers. His brown knapsack was on his back as he smiled at his friend.
"Shuu-chan! M-morning!" Ren waved.
Shuugo Kanou was slightly taller than Ren, but not by much, and had dark brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a light blue t-shirt and a pair of dark khaki shorts with socks and blue/white sneakers. He, too, had his bookbag on since they had school that morning.
The two met in first grade, and then later found out that they lived on the same block. So, they walked to and from school every day. They didn't wind up in the same class until this year, their fifth year of primary school, but that didn't stop them from hanging out together.
"Did you do the science homework?" Shuugo asked.
Ren nearly froze, mid-step, but somehow stumbled his way on. "We had…science homework?"
Shuugo laughed. "Yea. We did. You forgot again?"
Ren whimpered in response.
Shuugo chuckled again. "Don't worry…I think our teacher is used to you not doing your homework by now."
Ren scowled slightly, though it looked more like a pout. "That doesn't…help."
"No worries, no worries!" Shuugo grinned. "I'm sure there are others that didn't do the homework, either!"
Shuugo scowled. "I'd be surprised if that guy even takes his own tests."
Ren blinked. "I…don't think…Abe-kun is a…bad person…"
"He gets into fights all the time, and never gets punished for it!" Shuugo huffed as the two approached the school. "He's a delinquent! How he manages to pass his classes, I don't know!"
Ren decided to drop it, since he learned quickly at the beginning of the year that the topic of the boy that sat next to him in the back was a sore one for Shuugo.
-Flashback; Beginning of the Year-
"We're…in the same…class, Shuu-chan!" Ren cheered as the two walked into the building.
"I know!" Shuugo was too excited to stop Ren from repeating this fact for the umpteenth time. "Maybe we'll get to sit next to each other!"
Seating was like a lottery system, as kids drew a number and then went to the corresponding desk from the diagram drawn on the chalkboard. Some teachers did it differently, but for the most part, they all had plans for when the classes changed and a new batch of students would come in. Most teachers moved with the students, but that only applied for two-year interims with their current school. As such, they had a new teacher that would be their teacher for fifth and sixth grade.
"I hope…so…too!" Ren proclaimed. Yes, it was a lottery, but that didn't mean that he couldn't hope. It was the first time he would be in the same class as Shuu-chan, after all!
Shuugo stopped outside the door that read "5-B". "Well, ready, Ren?"
"Yea!" Ren chirped.
Shuugo grinned, then slid open the door.
The classroom was already starting to fill up, as friends were meeting with each other and determining that they were in the same class.
The two boys stepped in, and Ren practically froze.
"What…?" Shuugo followed his gaze, then frowned deeply. "Hatake…"
Ren nodded nervously and pointed to the taller boy that stood next to the slightly heavyset one named "Hatake". "A-and…Hiiragi-kun…too…"
"Che…two of them in the same room. Teachers weren't smart this year determining the classes." Shuugo nearly cursed when he saw two of the three bullies. It had only been Atsushi Hatake up until two years ago, but then Hiroshi Hiiragi joined him, and Masao Yoshi after that.
Shuugo grabbed Ren's hand and pulled him away from the two boys. "At least Yoshi doesn't seem to be with them. We can deal with two out of three of them in the classroom. The teacher will be here, too."
Ren nodded robotically, then nearly stumbled when Shuugo came to a sudden halt on their way to the back of the room to avoid the two bullies. "Shuu-chan?"
Ren peered around his friend to see what caused such a reaction. It was a boy that he had never seen in any of his classes before, though he did sometimes see the boy for physical education when the classes were combined during Sports Day.
The boy was average height, though also perhaps also on the short side like Ren, with unruly black hair and steel-blue eyes. He wore a navy blue short-sleeve collared shirt that had a darker stripe in the middle, and a pair of blue jeans.
"Shuu-chan?" Ren questioned again. "Who…is that?"
Shuugo tugged Ren towards the front of the room. "Abe Takaya…he's a delinquent, always getting into fights, and the worst thing is, he never gets in trouble for them! He can fight on school grounds and never get even a detention! He doesn't acknowledge anyone else, either…he's a stuck up ice prince that thinks he's better than everyone else!"
Ren was surprised to hear his friend's rant, as usually, Shuugo didn't complain this much about one person…Hatake notwithstanding.
Shuugo leaned up against a desk at the front of the room. "He's sarcastic, and just generally has a nasty personality. He used to hang out by himself in first grade, but started to fight back in second grade, and seems to like being physically violent. Nobody can ever tell what he's thinking, and he has a sharp tongue as well. Yet, somehow…"
Ren sat on a seat opposite his friend.
"…somehow, that good for nothing is always at the top of the class in exam scores! He probably has someone else do his homework for him, and pays someone to give him the test answers beforehand." Shuugo scowled. "Stay away from him, Ren. He's strange. At least with Hatake, we know he's a bully…Abe is a mystery."
Ren nodded fervently, though he spared a glance at the lone boy that sat and stared out the window with a bored expression. He does look a bit scary…well, I'll just stay away from him like Shuu-chan said. No problems, that way.
Of course, the seating roulette had other opinions, and Shuugo later ranted at lunch that Abe must have rigged the system.
Oh, sure, neither Shuugo nor Ren were anywhere near Hatake or Hiiragi, but Abe wound up seated next to the window in the very back…and Ren had the seat next to him.
"…are you listening, Ren?"
Said boy blinked a couple times, and realized that they were now in the classroom. "I…"
Shuugo chuckled. "Spaced out again? Can't you save that for class time?"
Ren flushed, and exclaimed in a scandalized tone, "Shuu-chan!"
Shuugo laughed. "Sorry, sorry. So, talk to you again during physical education, then?"
"Yep! Don't get bitten!" It was a joke Shuugo started when he lost his protest about Ren's seating number.
Ren laughed and nodded, then headed to his seat.
As usual, Takaya was already at his desk, and as usual, just staring out the window.
Ren didn't mind; Takaya was an enigma, and was thus scary. As long as he doesn't pay attention to me, I'm fine with that.
Most of the chatter was dying out, as kids either talked to whomever they had ended up sitting next to or were forced into silence from being separated from their friends.
Ren put his bag on the hook on the desk. Come to think of it…I've never seen Abe-kun with any friends. Even Hatake-kun talks with Hiiragi-kun. Abe-kun is the only one I've never seen interact with someone…
It was puzzling, but Ren's attention was quickly diverted when the teacher walked in.
Their teacher this year, Kumiko Oki, was fairly nondescript, and was easily flustered; something that Hatake and Hiiragi sometimes pushed their luck with and were often scolded by Shuugo. She had a son that was also in their grade, but a different class.
After rising and bowing, it was right into the lesson. From the back, Ren could see Hatake and Hiiragi passing notes to each other since there were only a couple students between them, and those two students didn't want to have the wrath of either bully on their hands by refusing.
There was a status-quo in the classroom with how it functioned; Hatake and Hiiragi would act out, Shuugo would yell at them, then the class would go back to normal. Oki tried to scold sleeping kids or those not paying attention, but didn't often catch all of them.
Ren knew this furthered Shuugo's anger towards Takaya, since the boy rarely ever took notes and either stared out the window or just stared blankly at the board. Today, it was the former.
Apparently, however, Oki was trying to become a more confident teacher, and had enough of her class' antics.
"Hatake-kun! Hiiragi-kun! Don't pass notes in my class!"
Ren blinked in surprise. The two bullies passed notes often, but were rarely pointed out for it because then, they would take out their anger on the teacher during the next class or the next day. Sometimes, I wonder about Oki-sensei…is she trying to make herself a target, or is she trying to gain control of the class?
The latter would be a nice change.
Hatake and Hiiragi acted repentant, but anyone near them could catch the anger in their eyes and bodies, and knew that their teacher was in for some disruption in the near future.
Then, something unthinkable happened.
"Abe-kun! The chalkboard is not out the window, but at the front of the room! Eyes forward, young man!" Oki certainly had enough with how lax she was about the troublemakers in her class. She was the teacher, so she was responsible for discipline. Sure, she never had a class with quite so many kids that were naughty, or sought revenge, but she was slowly learning.
Takaya, for his part, actually ignored the teacher. His gaze flickered to her, then back out the window.
Ren glanced briefly at Shuugo, who was a couple rows up. If he holds his pencil any tighter, it'll break…then, he looked back over at Takaya nervously. Oki-sensei may be lax in her rules, but she's getting better…I don't understand how he can just ignore an adult like that.
Oki clenched her teeth. "Abe-kun! I, as well, am not out the window!"
This time, Takaya didn't even spare her a glance.
Whispers went up around the class about how Takaya was all but snuffing the teacher.
Oki slammed her hand down on her desk, which startled some kids in the class, particularly those in the front row. "Abe-kun! Either eyes front or out in the hall!"
At first, a hush fell over the class.
Then, Takaya closed his eyes and stood up.
Ren tensed as the other walked behind his desk, hands in his pockets, towards the opposite wall.
"What are you doing?" Oki demanded.
Takaya, who had opened his eyes, regarded her with a bored expression. "Going out in the hall."
Oki obviously didn't know how to respond, and was flustered at the situation.
Ren swore he heard a 'snap' sound from Shuugo's desk, and wondered if the boy's pencil had finally met its demise.
"Sensei, are you sure about sending Abe out in the hall?" Hatake spoke loudly as said boy passed by his desk. "He might skip out and not come back!"
A collective cringe ran through the classroom. Hatake was an equal-opportunity bully, but focused primarily on Ren and, when he could, Takaya.
The cringe came again when Takaya stopped walking.
Then, Takaya smirked, which freaked out the students in the first couple rows that were able to see him. "Skip out? Don't lump me in with trash like you."
Oki stammered to try and get control of the situation, but Hatake's voice was louder.
"What was that, freak?" Hatake slammed his hand down on his desk as he stood up. Between being called out for passing notes and this, he was obviously at the end of his short rope.
Takaya shrugged. "Is your hearing bad? I said, don't lump me in with trash like you."
There were some cries of alarm as Hatake stormed over and grabbed Takaya by the shoulder and spun him around, knuckles clenched to the point where they were white.
Takaya just looked at him impassively.
Hatake's eyes narrowed. "You…freaking retard! Looking at people like they're beneath you…when you're just a freaky loner!"
Takaya actually snickered coldly. "Hah? Freak? Retard? Is that the extent of your vocabulary? If that's all you have to say, you should sit back down. I'm on my way out into the hall, after all."
"You…son of a…!" Hatake started, but was interrupted.
"Hatake-kun! Let him go this instant!" Oki had finally made her way over, and had her eyes narrowed at them.
Hiiragi had gotten up to help pull Hatake away, as well. "Chill, dude…I wanna cream him, too, but not in class."
Hatake trembled in repressed anger, while Takaya still didn't appear phased. Finally, he let go of Takaya's shirt.
A collective, silent sigh was breathed from the room.
Ren was one of those that did so.
"Abe-kun, back to your seat. Hatake-kun, out in the hall."
Hatake's jaw all but dropped. "What! But…!"
"Now!" Oki pointed.
"Why!" Hatake demanded.
Ren could see Shuugo's expression, and it frankly scared him. Woa…he looks really angry…
Then again, it seemed as if Takaya was walking away without punishment once again, so no wonder why his friend was upset.
Takaya, meanwhile, had already walked past Hatake and back to his seat.
"You were about to start a fight, that's what! No matter what he says, you shouldn't let yourself get so upset!" Oki indicated to the door. "If I sent the both of you out there, it would turn into a fight."
Ren fiddled with his pencil. At least she understands the dynamics…
Hatake pushed Hiiragi off of him, then stormed over to said door. "Fine! But you know, it's not fair! Everyone knows that!" He paused at the door, then pointed at Takaya, who had resumed his air of indifference. "Watch your back, Abe!"
With that and a loud "SLAM!", Hatake was out the door…and probably wasn't coming back, since Takaya did happen to be right in his assessment of Hatake's class skipping.
Ren said nothing as he slumped over his desk. The lesson is resuming…Shuu-chan looks like he wants to hit someone. It's not the first time something like this has happened. Abe-kun somehow manages to avoid punishment often.
He shook his head quickly, and looked at the board. Better not think about it. By physical education, Shuu-chan should be a little calmer, and then we can have fun, then hang out during lunch and forget about it for now. It has nothing to do with us…just a typical day in the fifth grade, really.
TO BE CONTINUED…