Summary: Ichirou Kodama is known around Maijima High as a mean teacher. Only one woman ever learned that he is thrice the cruel person, and she's dead.
Takes place before the events of TWGOK.
Disclaimer: The World God Only Knows is owned by Tamiki Wakaki. I own absolutely nothing in relation to this work, except for the plot of this particular story.
She only knew him because they were the only kids at their apartment complex.
As a result, despite the gender and three-year age differences, whenever their parents told them to "play outside" they always meant "play with each other". Both had objected, Kodama because she was weak, and she because Kodama was an ugly and selfish brute who used every advantage his physical superiority offered. When playing soccer, she was the forced goalkeeper dodging the boy's hardest kicks. At the playground, he would scramble to the top and laugh as her skirt got stuck. With tag, he lazily stayed just out of reach – running backwards – and taunted her as she struggled to close the distance.
"Little kids should know their place," he would sneer. "Didn't your mommy ever tell you to respect your elders?"
Mommy also happened to tell her that he was an idiot, so she just shut up and bore with it.
To her delight, his comeuppance came rather often.
The first time happened after the surely not too stupid venture of placing a four-year-old onto a bicycle and sending her down a hill. Admirably, she managed not to fall for the first dozen tries, but she was still a four-year-old, and the unavoidable crash ensued, resulting in badly scraped hands and a trip to the hospital.
The adults' opinions varied – his own parents, for example, refused to believe that their sweet child would set a little girl up for injury. The eventual consensus, however, was that as the elder he was ultimately responsible for looking after her. The verdict was no TV, no games, and chores galore.
"Little wench!" he had shouted at her, the next time they saw each other. "Look what you got me into!"
"Quiet, child," an elderly nurse had reprimanded. "Say no more, and we'll all leave happy."
"But she started it!"
In technicality, he had started everything, but she wasn't going to let a little thing like the truth interrupt the beautiful scolding Kodama received.
Kodama one day managed to learn that physical bullying granted him no favours, so he turned to the method the parents almost seemed to encourage: educational.
"Fifteen plus seven is twenty-two," he childishly said. "So what's nine plus thirteen?"
The five-year-old girl would struggle to answer. "Twenty?" she eventually tried, and Kodama had laughed his face off.
"No, idiot! It's still twenty-two! What's one plus five?"
Even she, not yet graduated preschool, could do this one. "Six!"
"Nope," he would answer, his grin smug. "Strawberry.*"
She briefly considered stuffing his stupid strawberry down his stupid gullet, but then decided that that was a waste of a perfectly good fruit.
The showdown occurred on the cultural festival. It consisted of a science fair, a classroom, two stalls, fifty votes, and a blue ribbon.
It had all started with the pseudo-quizzes Kodama had given in her youth, which eventually turned into nothing short of an all-out war with education as the bullets. The adults found it endearing, and the other children found it annoying, but she took it as serious business, firing off several nuclear warheads' worth of facts and concepts to outdo him whenever she had the chance.
"Idiot girls should close their idiot mouths and look the idiot they are" was Kodama's most recent reply.
And so, it was on.
In the end, her exhibit surpassed Kodama's admittedly subpar showing. She even managed to snag third place in the overall contest. "I got a nice blue ribbon," she had bragged, proudly displaying her prize to her adversary. "All you got was a pat on the head and a few pitying looks."
Kodama's only response was to flick a bottle cap at her head.
She would not be caught dead giving him a lunchbox.
That was what she had promised herself when her parents apologetically asked this of her. Said promise had been pretty easy to uphold; Kodama never had friends, so she did not have to worry about people seeing them together once she reached him. Plus, the passage to the middle school was largely unfrequented, as one might expect on a day with a yakisoba bread special. On the other hand, committing the act in itself made her nauseous. She wondered why she hadn't just chucked the box to begin with – and then decided that she hadn't reached that low.
Yet. Kodama made an art out of grinding others' nerves, and even if it was possible to have immunity to it, it hadn't been bestowed upon her.
He had flushed angrily when she handed him the bentou. "Little girls should stay at home and play dumb games," he had snarled. In his view, that was all children and women were good for: being dumb.
"Stupid boys should shut up and be grateful," she had retorted. In her view, Kodama was stupid because – well, he was stupid, period.
He gave no reply, instead turning his back on her and beginning to eat. That was it. No "Thank you". As if it had been obligation, not a favour.
No less than she expected from a self-centered brute. She, too, turned, and then left.
The picture made her smile, despite its contents. It had been a sight to behold.
She always had been small for her age, so the rather thick textbooks she cradled contrasted with her almost-elementary-school look. Contrarily, Kodama, almost a grown man even then, was stuck with Engrish for Dummies in his hands, a paper-thin version at that. With the oddities put together in the same frame, in spite of the row they were having – it made her smile at the sight.
They had been bitterly clashing over the results of a test from the cram school they both attended – something about Japanese grammar structure, if she remembered right. Her father must have seen them, taken the picture, and developed it. Why he put it in the family photobook was beyond her, however.
Oh, and Kodama had lost that argument.
She reminisced that sometimes, Kodama acted like this didn't get to him. "Marks aren't everything," he had simpered, in the tone of one who thought he understood the world, when in fact he hadn't been given a good beating yet. "What really matters is application – and you can't measure that with tests! No one cares about your average!"
The missing pencils she would discover later contradicted this claim.
More often, his anger would boil over. "Know your place, brat," he would spit out, and then switch over to English, as if proving a point. "Little kid stupid is! I English better speak!"
She never did bother correcting this. She let the idiots be idiots; it was their only quality left, albeit not a redeeming one.
Amusedly, she shook her head and chuckled, one last time – and then tossed the picture into the garbage bin.
For the first time, she felt truly furious.
"You forgot." Her rage was barely contained in the words that caged them. "First, do you mind telling me in what definition of the word 'forget' does it involve telling me the wrong date for the pre-entrance exams!?"
"I'm a busy man," Kodama snidely replied. "Am I really supposed to babysit little girls? I have too much work to do!"
Technically, he was correct. He was a college student now, after all. But on the other hand, Kodama had said this in exactly the tone that suggested he was not going to bother with the very work he was using as an excuse.
No matter; it was too late to change anything now. With the exam done and over with, there was no way she was getting into her choice university anymore. She'd probably be stuck with the local, abysmal Maijima College that Kodama attended. Her chances at a flexible, opportunistic future had just contracted like shrink-wrap. All because of one stupid, stupid stunt.
She had no words to say. She just spun and marched off.
It was petty, she had told herself. It was just petty, childish, immature, juvenile – it was petty! But it was also what she should have expected of Kodama, since it was the only reason he didn't have an indictable offense on his criminal record. After all, he was just too stupid to be truly malevolent – and unfortunately, stupidity was not yet a crime. Regardless of the consequences. And regardless of collateral damage.
And that was when she swore – she will never become as low as Ichirou Kodama.
(*) A Japanese word play. One is ichi and five is go; therefore, one plus five is ichigo, or strawberry.