Six year old Rin Okumura held an important piece of paper in his hand. Though if it really was that important, the kind of important which really shouldn't be touched or destroyed accidentally, then he wouldn't be holding it. So it wasn't that important of a paper, but it was important to Rin.
School wasn't interesting to him. Sitting in one place for long periods of time, listening to a teacher that habitually talked to them in that baby oh aren't you just the cutest thing? voice even though everyone In the class was already older than five(Rin and Yukio, being born in December, were consequently the youngest), and learning to read and write things he didn't care to read or write about generally didn't have him enthused about his education. So Rin generally spent most of his time in class daydreaming about things like what he could convince Maruta to teach him how to cook in the evening.
And it wasn't like Rin had many friends or anything in the class to encourage him to participate. Most of the students were already, in their second or third year of schooling, absolutely terrified of the young boy. Yukio was the only one brave enough to sit next to him; the rest of the class kept a safe distance from the older twin amidst their whispers of 'demon' and 'devil'. Even the teacher was wary of the boy's strength and temper. She'd heard of the last teacher who had tried to control the boy. Normally one wouldn't believe that such small, cute boy could send an adult to the hospital, but anything was possible with Rin.
Despite all this, Rin found most of the stuff the teacher taught in class to be pretty easy. Adding, subtracting, and writing correct characters weren't that difficult, though whenever they had a special art class he felt as though the teacher was speaking a different language. In fact, Rin found the subject matter to be one of the reasons he disliked the place so much. How could he enjoy being lectured, given assignments, and tested again and again on things that he already knew? It was extremely repetitive and slow. He usually understood things the first time but was still stuck listening to much of the same because the other students were too slow.
This time was different for him, though, and the very important paper that Rin held proved it. It was the last test of the grading period, and Rin…had gotten a 100%, the highest grade in the class, according to the surprised red pen markings on the top margin of the page.
See, the week before the test, Rin had gotten hold of some of the books his father, Shiro Fujimoto, who would later become known by the epithet 'Old Man' to him, had stacked a bit higher than his rather stubby arms could reach on the shelves. The step stool was conveniently place for him close by and he didn't know where Yukio was at the time so he went for it. He could only carry two of the heavy tomes with him, but he toted them to a quiet and usually unused section of the church, just in case his father did get angry that Rin was touching his stuff, and started leafing through the dusty pages. Now, Rin usually didn't like reading anything, since in class most of the books were about trivial things like cats that got wet in the rain or a mouse that snuck into the house, but halfway through the first page of the first book, titled History of the Modern Christ, he decided that, even though some of the words were too complicated and he'd ended up having to lug a dictionary down with him to painstakingly sort through the print, he liked the book. Three hours later, his eyes drooping a bit and his neck a bit sore, he'd finished the books, just in time to hear the arrival of his father back from work, and he slipped the books back into their spot on the shelf so he wouldn't get caught. The next day, and every day after that when he found himself alone, he snuck over to the shelf and borrowed another book.
So on the test, which simply asked the students to write a page about anything they'd done recently so the teacher could grade their grammar and vocabulary, Rin decided to write about what he'd read. He scribbled down the most interesting parts, eager to share what he'd learned about the effects of Christianity, among other religions, on nearly every government since its birth and the downfall of faith in most people, and what that had to do with the insurgence of immorality (though Rin had to confess a lack complete understanding on what was meant by immorality-didn't everybody have some kind of morals?). His somewhat lopsided scrawl, befitting a boy of his age, was too inefficient and large to convey everything he'd wanted to on the mortal number of lines on the page, and he was forced to finish with a 'paper should come with more space to write' barely squeezed in midsentence on the very bottom corner of the page. He was afraid to talk about the books with anyone at home, even Yukio, who was likely too honest to partake in an dishonest gathering of information as Rin was, so he felt it was necessary to say as much as he could in the limited opportunity he had. So upon receiving the important piece of paper and discovering the result, Rin was absolutely ecstatic. He had done something he'd enjoyed, and had gotten a form of praise because of it. He couldn't ever recall that ever happening before.
Rin turned with an enthusiastic grin to his brother, eager to share the news of his score, but halted when he the saw quiet approval in his twin's expression. The slightly smaller boy's face was brightened with a soft smile, only enhanced by the matching spots of joyous blush on each cheek. He looked so happy. Rin recalled the hours his twin had spent accosting Kyodo for help with his homework, which he had likely been occupied with when Rin was busy with the books. He had worked hard for his grade, and always took his schoolwork very seriously.
"Good job as always, Yukio," the teacher commended, patting the shoulder of the young glasses-wearing boy lightly. Yukio's light smile turned into an illuminatingly full expression of happiness as he uttered quiet thanks. Rin could see only a single mark on his brother's test, a small but simple grammatical error that he'd most likely made in accidental haste, along with the score of 99% at the top.
Whenever the other kids started to pick on him, Yukio would stop smiling for a while, sometimes days at a time, until Rin managed to find the identity of the perpetrator. Yukio would come home with cuts and bruises and tears because of his glasses or his size, things he couldn't control, but at the sight of this test, even though it didn't receive a perfect, he found a visible happiness that his older brother just didn't see often enough.
Suddenly Rin's paper didn't seem so important to him anymore.
"Rin, I'd like to talk to you during the break, okay?" The teacher had a small daring fire of hope flickering at the performance of the child, but was still internally relieved when he easily agreed with a nod. Maybe his past behavior was just that, in the past.
"What did you get, Rin?" Yukio managed to contain his blinding happiness, but Rin could tell he was just holding himself back. The darker haired boy folded his paper unevenly, hiding the marks on it from anyone's view.
"Mmm, it doesn't matter." Rin's easy grin reassured the other, and he didn't press further.
With the bell that signaled their break, Rin reluctantly made his way to the teacher's desk. Usually when he was called in during the recess it was to be scolded for getting into a fight.
"First of all, congratulations on your score," the teacher began once all the other students had left.
"Rin, what you wrote on the last test is several grades above what we expect anyone your age to do. Considering the last few months with you, I'm actually very surprised." The teacher made sure to stick with compliments, searching for Rin's reaction. He blinked.
"Rin, do you dislike school because you aren't challenged enough?" she asked, hitting the nail on the head. Rin flinched a little and shrank into himself at the abrupt truth of it. Almost everyone else thought he hated school because he was too dumb, even his family, though they were too humane to say it outright, and yet this new teacher, called in to replace the one he'd sent to the hospital months prior, was able to figure it out in that time? He didn't even know her name!
At his silence, the teacher continued. "Because of this, I'm recommending for you to skip the next grade."
"NO!" He slammed his hands down on her desk, startling her. The wood groaned from the abuse. What kind of child has this strength?
"I won't leave Yukio!"
"Rin, calm down, I-" She reached out, misunderstood.
"You can't make me!" He slapped away her hands, falling away from her in tears. "I refuse!" He was already confused with what to do about his grade, he didn't want to deal with anything else.
"Okay, it's okay Rin." She kept her distance from him, slightly concerned for her own wellbeing, but nonetheless her voice was soothing to the overreacting child. She cautiously knelt to his level, cupping the boy's face and using her thumbs to wipe away his tears. Even through the all the brute strength he had, he still was a kid.
"No one's making you do anything, it's just a suggestion," she reassured. "You don't have to separate from you brother. I won't even mention it to him if you don't want me to." He sniffed, surprised yet again.
"R-really? You're not lying so I won't get mad?" That's what everyone else did. They were afraid of his anger, and didn't mind hurting him emotionally to get what they wanted, or what they thought was best. People didn't care about someone like Rin, who expressed himself more with his fists so much that his words were unheeded.
"Of course, Rin. I only want what's best for you."
"Why?" Wide, wide blue eyes, now free of tears, looked to her suspiciously.
"Well, a teacher's job is to make sure the students are growing in a good environment, right? If you're unhappy then you won't be able to learn as well."
"...the other teacher said I would probably be held back because I kept getting in fights, and cus I was stupid." Still suspicious. Rin's hands, rough when they should be smooth, his nails cracked and bitten to the nub until just before they bled, firmly grasped hers and removed them from his face. His hands were small and a little grubby, like the rest of him, and the teacher felt something like empathy at the sight. He had to go through a lot more than most kids his age, and it wasn't his fault, but he still had to deal with it. And he wasn't complaining. He bore his cross, even when it weighed him down to the point of collapse.
"Rin, you are not stupid."
Sapphire solemnly locked onto her. "If everyone says it, then it must be true."
"Well then 'everyone' is wrong! Rin, you proved to me on the last test that you are far more capable than what you've done the rest of the time I've been here. You're not stupid!"
"Why do you care! You're just afraid of me, like everyone else is!"
"That doesn't mean I shouldn't at least give you a chance!"
Miraculously, Rin didn't react harmfully. If anything, he seemed to understand what she was trying to convey.
"I still don't want to jump a grade." She was actually considering multiple years. Even in the twenty minutes during break, she was able to converse with him on almost an equal level.
"And…don't tell Dad about this, okay?"
The teacher was confused. "About the grade change? I was only going to mention it if you agreed."
"And the test." His face was downcast in shame. "I wasn't supposed to be going through his books."
"Well, you know if he saw your score he probably wouldn't care about that."
He started shaking his head even before she finished her sentence.
"It wouldn't be fair to Yukio."
She didn't understand what his words meant, but…
"Could it be, you want to hide the fact that you can write something like that?" A reluctant affirmative. "But why?"
"Rin, I can't say I understand, but you can't let yourself be stunted by something like this, especially at so important an age. Please, especially if you decide not to skip a year, promise to come to me if you ever need anything like this, okay?"
He said yes, and the bell rang. Everything went on as usual for the rest of the semester.
Rin didn't skip the next school year. And he kept his promise to the teacher, if only so he wouldn't have to lie to his brother again.
But the next year Yukio started his special cram school. They began to see each other less and less, despite Rin's decision to stay with him. Rin never told him about the test, or the teacher, the year before, and he never would.