Kimi to Ai

Chapter 2: I'm a Robot

-Tachibana Kouki-

Waking up this morning had been a pain. Styling my hair had been a pain. Dressing had been a pain. Yawning and stretching had been a pain. Showering had been a pain. Eating had been a pain. With so many pains, I wished none too secretly that I wouldn't have to go through another day of monotonous school. Though it was interesting on most days, I felt that today would be one of those days I wouldn't enjoy myself, where I'd have to deal with the same appalling things I had to tolerate with every day. I didn't want to have to see the same faces again, hear the same gossip, perform the same play. I didn't want girls chasing after me like some kind of superstar, begging me to sleep with them or take them on a date. I didn't want to have to act like everything was okay, not today.

My mother was eating breakfast in the kitchen when I came stumbling down, my clothes wrinkled and my eyes half closed. I was sure my complexion and my hair looked a mess. I caught the glare on my mother's face when I entered, and so quickly exited as suddenly as I'd come. One of the family maids, Kikenai Yume, was waiting just outside the doors for me. Without a word, she walked me to my room and sat me down, working quickly but efficiently on everything about me that needed to be fixed. I always had to be fixed; I was always broken. I was always unsatisfactory. When would the time come when I was allowed to relax and become myself only, when my unaltered form would be accepted?

By the time I re-entered the kitchen my mother was gone, nothing left in her place for me to remember her former presence by. She never left anything after her presence was gone except for a brief, cool blast of wind, which was rather appropriate. She was the mistress of the house of Tachibana, but she acted like a ghost. She didn't talk to me but for insults or commands, and her steps were as silent as a ballerina's, but with half the grace and abandon. My mother, though I had no reason to think her as such, was a very frigid, business-like, controlled individual. I didn't think of her even as female, with her tailored business suits and short hairstyle. To me, she was more like a person who came and left at will, who spoke to me only when she wanted to express her desire for me to take over the family business. In my eyes, that meant becoming as frigid and lackadaisical as she was.

In that respect, I didn't dislike her for the decisions she forced upon me. I wanted to impress her, impress her, astound her to the point of laconism. I wanted her to turn to someone, eyes wide with awe, and say to them, "That's my son! That's my wonderful, amazing son, and he's saved us all from destruction."

It's such a childish dream. I know in my heart that she will never say such a thing; I know that I will command the Tachibana Corporation, but it will not be with heroism and stealth. I'll be another nameless face, the kind of boss my future workers will point at laughingly and say, "What a spineless bastard, to let his parents control his life's course."

My mother was rarely home, except to throw gargantuan social extravagances. She was, as much as my father, a part of the Tachibana Corporation, a large contribution to both Kobe's and Japan's financial status. We dominated every part of business in Japan, from the small fish stores to the largest cell phone companies. Lately, my mother and father were obsessed with the idea of taking the Tachibana Corporation over to America and expressing their creativity, which actually wasn't very creative in my eyes, and ideas to foreign soil and making more profit. All my parents cared about was profit. Profit, power, and control and in their eyes, that meant everything. My elder sister and I had been controlled since we were born, brought up to be perfect and polite and social and business-minded. Even at seventeen, I still wasn't certain how to think for myself. I'd been taught how to overthrow rebellious companies, buy out small corporations, stomp on the current enemies, make a million yen in a day—but I hadn't yet learned how to be myself.

I think that's the saddest thing about my life.

After eating at my usual slow pace, dreading another lackluster day at the education center I spent most of my days, a maid came into the dining room and, as she cleared away my breakfast dishes, announced that my limousine was out front. Carelessly swinging my side bag over my shoulder, I trudged outside and into the limousine without looking behind me. Not for the first time, I began to wonder if I would ever escape from this suffocating world of politics and dirty business methods.

Getting out of my family's limousine had been the same event as it always was, with girls from Kobe Gakuen's sister school, Sakuranbo Gakuen, screaming at my door and reaching out to touch all parts of me as I made my way slowly into my school building. As a hand grazed my thigh, I couldn't help but wonder if this was how life was destined to be forever. Would I always have girls screaming after me as if I were some sort of god? Would I always have this cloud of uncertainty around my feelings on my future?

Though their screaming was pounding through my head in such an annoying fashion, I stopped to kiss a few girls on the cheek and to kiss their hands that were extended in my direction. They cried for me, held out autographs that I disobligingly signed. I wished I could stand in the middle of this crowd of girls and just scream out my feelings: that I wasn't a superstar, nor was I worth their time, but my mouth wouldn't let me. Some deeply buried part of me liked this attention, liked this ego boost every morning. In a way, it was better than a cup or hot coffee or tea.

Brushing my blue scarf behind my head, my head held high and proud, my spine straight with steel, I tried to take pleasure in how the girls cried out for me as I disappeared into the giant building.

I paced the hallways after my first class, my hands shoved into the pockets of my plaid pants. I felt restless, this early in the day. I liked this school, but how was it that we were forced to get here at seven in the morning? My schools in France and Germany and England had been so much more relaxed, one of them actually starting at noon. I didn't miss any of them in particular, but I did miss my late bedtime and the lack of bags under my eyes. I couldn't focus this early in the morning.

"Hey, Kouki!" Kiritani Akira, one of my closest friends, strolled up behind me. We'd been in the same class together but he'd decided to sleep through it, as I would've done were there not an interesting new subject in class.

He'd stolen my seat, that new boy. He looked nice enough, with long auburn colored hair, pale skin, puffed lips, and wide slit eyes, but there was something I didn't like about his expression, about the way he carried himself. As he was clambering away from my seat when I came into class, I caught a glimpse of his fingernails; they were questionably short and somewhat dirty. When he was sitting in Hanazawa's desk and later, his own, I noticed his bad posture. Also, while he was watching the teacher, he had this weird way of squinting his eyes and turning his head slightly, so an ear was pointed directly at the teacher. He'd push his hair away from his ear, sit like that for a moment or two, and then return to sitting like normal. He also gazed around the classroom every now and then, mostly toward me. His expression remained neutral most of the time, but twice I caught a ghost of a smile on his puffy lips. I wondered then what he was thinking about.

"Did Mokomichi-sensei give you a detention, Akira?" I inquired, asking of the teacher from the previous class. Akira laughed and began to saunter by my side, out the doors to the building we were in and outside into the fresh sunlight.

"Of course not; I'm his favorite student," he declared in a quiet voice, as Akira often did. I rarely heard him speak above normal volume; his brother, Daiki, was another story. I'd never heard him speak under normal volume. Come to think of it, maybe he'd never spoken normal volume at all.

"Sure you are." I smirked, glancing shortly around the campus to see my three other good friends coming toward Akira and I. Kamiyama Shunsuke and Kiritani Daiki, the latter Akira's younger brother, were racing toward Akira and I while Kagurazaka Aoisuke trailed slowly behind. By the look of his sleep-sealed eyes, he was as tired as I felt.

Shunsuke and Daiki were best friends, as were Aoisuke and Shunsuke. I liked to call the three of them 'T3', which stood for 'Troublesome Three'. One of them was always planning something, from the initiation of a new student to a joke on the principal to elaborate pranks on their fellow students. Nonetheless, despite the bad things they'd done throughout their years, all three of them were still popular with both the students and the teachers. Of course, all five of us were exceptional in this way, but I thought those three were more superb than Akira and I.

"Hurry up, Ao-iiiiiii!" Daiki whined once he'd reached the spot where Akira and I were standing. Shunsuke joined in the chant, and finally the lethargic Aoisuke had reached us. He started to sit down in the grass, but Shunsuke grabbed his shoulder and stabilized him while Daiki poked at his cheeks. Finally, Aoisuke's eyes opened and he looked around shortly, focusing on me in the end and then behind me.

"Is that a new student?" he asked in a hoarse tone, wiping a bit of drool away from the corner of his lip. Shunsuke and Daiki immediately turned around in interest, their eyes gleaming with mischief. Daiki's hand crept behind him to pull at a silver wallet chain, producing a black, red, and purple wallet at the end of it. He slipped a piece of paper from it without looking at it, and then held it up in his vision while replacing the wallet in his back pocket. I caught a glimpse of it; the title at the top of the small piece of paper said 'Initiation Methods'. I sighed, shaking my head at his childish. I'd never hesitated to think Akira took all the maturity when they were young; I wouldn't stop thinking that now. Daiki never failed to amaze me with his childishness… but at least he was entertaining.

"What method do you say we use, Shunsuke?" he asked the other boy, finding it necessary to ignore the half asleep boy behind him who was trying to get a glimpse of the paper he was holding. Aoisuke looked rather annoyed, craned his head to get a view of the paper. Once he had, he thrust his arms between the boys to poke at one of the items written on the page, to which I turned away. Akira noticed the little smirk on my face and looked over at my shoulder at the suggestion Aoisuke had made, and then made eye contact with me and shrugged.

"We'll see you three later," he said, shaking his head. Daiki barely acknowledged his brother, instead choosing to stroke at his chin like a maniacal scientist as Shunsuke and Aoisuke, the latter now wide awake like magic, threw out suggestions.

As we made our way across campus, Akira looked at me with a grin. "They're using the method they used on Sasoi Manabu," he told me. I sighed, stopping in my tracks to stretch my arms over my head and crack my back. My eyes caught the glimmering reddish hair of the new student, who would be initiated soon enough. I couldn't help but feel terrible for him.

Sasoi Manabu was a student who'd come to Kobe Gakuen about half a year ago from Okinawa. He was hopeful, young, and naïve to the inner workings of his fellow sadistic students. He'd pranced the hallways like a cherub, in effect accidentally attracting the attention of Aoisuke's then-girlfriend, Suzuki Mizue. Aoisuke isn't the type of person to take something like that without defending his pride, so he and the other two of T3 plotted against Manabu. He ended up dropping out of Kobe Gakuen the day Aoisuke pulled his prank, and I heard he moved away from Japan that same week.

"Let's hope this new boy doesn't take the same path Sasoi took," I replied. Akira nodded in agreement, cracking his knuckles, and then we walked into the Science building for our next class.

Author's Notes: Well! Have the second chapter, tax-free! D

It's a little short, but I'm just starting! I'm going to try and make my updates more frequent as the seasons change, because warm weather makes me happy and write-y. XD

Next chapter is from Shunsuke's point of view! BTW, the webpage design is going slow—I've been busy lately—but hopefully by the time I'm finished with all the introductions I'll have all or most of it done.

In addition, I must add that my original 35 side-main characters have been added to, leaving me with a hopefully permanent fifty-nine characters. (I hope I just counted wrong, and the number really isn't so high Oo). Either way, I'm sure you'll be flocking to the webpage to keep track of everyone.

The third chapter's about half done, so expect it within a month or two! I'm writing this un-beta'd, so please bear with my mistakes.