Rating: Totally G
Dated: Way back when, when Kouji was still crashing over at Keipi's.
Summary: A typical day at the Ashiwara residence, with a nod to the edibility of birds and the wonderfulness of Japanese game shows. ♥ Rikkai sacrifices kittens, Seigaku's Fuji-san is definitely suss and SeiRu is just fear. It's always fun and games in Keipi's head.
After the hubbub that ensued after classes let out for the day, Takayama Kouji went in an entirely separate direction than the rest of his classmates. Confusion made a very nice cover, he had come to realise over the past few days. He wasn't sure, at first, how well he'd be able to slip off the St Rudolph campus undetected (after all, his initial escape had been facilitated by three of his co-conspirators), but if he timed it right, nobody had seemed to notice that he'd been sneaking out.
He wondered, shouldering his schoolbag, why he hadn't just walked out in the first place. Some amount of paranoia must have gotten to him, or something, some ingrained need to maybe, maybe do the right thing … but really, it wasn't as though anyone could punish him worse than they already had. So it wouldn't matter much.
Strange logic, but it seemed to work well enough for the moment. The bus ride back to familiar territory wasn't particularly long - he'd gotten kind of used to it, actually, even if he didn't entirely enjoy it.
And with a sigh he stepped off the bus about a block from Ashiwara Keisuke's apartment, where he'd been staying in lieu of dorm life at school.
To be almost bowled over by the enthusiastic greeting of said Ashiwara Keisuke, who had been waiting at the bus stop - almost on the road, really, as he had been too impatient to wait at a respectable distance decided to keep a look-out.
Keisuke ran up to Kouji, rudely ducking past a few people but stopped short of actually touching his friend. "Kouji! You escaped all right! No-one came after you? Tried to catch you? Tried to brainwash you? How was school? Did you eat lunch? Are you hungry? We have food that isn't babies at home." He gestured enthusiastically in the general direction of the apartment block. "Come on, already!"
Although Kouji wasn't actually dragged along, he really felt like he was, if only because Keisuke was so damn enthusiastic. About everything. It wasn't really a bad thing. Someone had to be.
He avoided the barrage of questions by responding with a noncommital "Fine," hoping that that answer would suffice for everything he'd been asked.
"Fine they tried to catch you and eat you and made you eat babies and and and-" Keisuke repeated himself for a few seconds, trying to remember what he'd said before, but finally gave up and settled for just gesturing broadly with an arm again. "All that stuff! With the babies! And the stuff!"
Even if no one else knew what he was saying, Keisuke always made sense in his mind - sometimes, anyway. But he was special in the thinking department; everyone said so, even though he wasn't sure that they all meant it in the same way.
Kouji couldn't help but crack a smile, even if a very small one. He knew perfectly well that the St Rudolph cafeteria didn't serve babies, that there was no cult, that none of the things that he'd said about his situation were true.
Except, of course, that he didn't want to be there, and that he hated the nuns, and that he thought the curriculum was stupid and the tennis team was lame. And that was enough to matter, really. "Oh, that," he said, "I think they served kittens today. But it's okay, I just ate the rice."
"Kittens, too?" Keisuke's face was almost comically dismayed, his tone approaching a wail. "Kittens wouldn't even be worth eating! Not that you should eat kittens, anyway, or babies, but at least babies can be all round and fat when they aren't all tiny and wrinkly and red except that babies are smelly and stuff and cats are always really, really clean so I suppose it makes sense like that, but it's still awfully wrong!"
Half a second pause to take in a quick breath but sometimes it seemed through a strange evolutionary trait or mutation, Keisuke didn't really need oxygen. "I talked to this guy from Rikkai and he said that he ate kittens and SeiRu has kittens and maybe it's like a conspiracy. Of kittens!"
"Maybe it is," Kouji agreed, deadpan. "Maybe Rikkai's sent offerings and sacrifices to them and that's why they've had such a strong track record." Didn't need to specify 'them', it was easily understood from all of Kouji's prior comments just who 'they' were.
Keisuke stopped in his tracks and turned to stare at Kouji. "You think? It could explain a lot! An awful lot, really, thought that didn't really work last year or maybe Seigaku and Fudoumine made better sacrifices that weren't just kittens. I wouldn't put it past Seigaku's Fuji-san, with all those rumours and Fudoumine's Tachibana-san and I'm glad our team isn't so weird. Well. My team. But you're still one of us, because."
"Yeah," Kouji agreed, although he didn't really believe it. He'd wanted to. And although some part of him still clung to a hope that he'd get to go back to Hyoutei, the larger part really didn't think he'd be anything but stuck at St Rudolph for the next two years. Which sucked. For various reasons. "But if that was the case," he continued, "SeiRu should have made it to Nationals, too. I mean, babies are better sacrifices than kittens. I hear. And there's a Fuji there, too."
"But maybe that Fuji wasn't as powerful as the other Fuji and there's some big connection and thing! Like, you know? Yeah." Keisuke nodded enthusiastically. "But, you would know more than me, and how is that tennis team? Is it as good as ours? It can't be, can it?"
"It's crap. There's no way it could be as good as ours." SeiRu had recruited players from other schools, but none of the really good ones would want to leave their own teams. And the people that Kouji had seen were … okay players, decent players, even, but nowhere near approaching the strength of anyone he'd seen at Hyoutei.
"That sucks!" Not that tennis was the be-all and end-all, but still. There was something about being among the best of the best that even Keisuke could appreciate. "Can't you tell your parents that? Because, like, sucky sports is a sign of sucky organisation which means your classes will suffer and it all interconnects like that! Really!"
"They won't hear it." Kouji was pretty sure that they wouldn't, anyway. "School's got a good enough track record for them. They don't care as long as I'm out of the house and not causing trouble." He issued another heavy sigh and kicked at the ground.
Keisuke echoed the sigh, though not as deeply. "You didn't cause trouble at Hyoutei! None of us ever cause trouble, really, except for maybe Shozo and senpai and everyone else but they don't count." He turned to Kouji and gave him a puppy-eyed look. "Nothing will convince them at all?"
Kouji shrugged, making another noncommital noise which might have been a mumbled 'I don't know'. "But whatever," he concluded. "Anything fun going on today?"
"Kazuto-senpai tried to hit on Ohtori-senpai, but I threw a tennis ball at him," Keisuke chirped in reply. "But that's nothing really new or fun. Buchou sorta got annoyed, though, so I have to figure out how to do it more subtlely, but that's okay! I can do subtle."
Kouji actually chuckled at that. "Subtle like a mallet," he said, rolling his eyes. "Nice to hear things are kinda normal, at least…." He wondered, idly, if maybe he could at least visit the team when practice was in session. It wouldn't hurt to see how they were doing in person. Maybe.
The look that Keisuke turned on Kouji was distinctly injured - for all of two seconds, before he got distracted. "I can do subtle! But, yeah, nothing new's really happening, except that Shozo was bitching about all the interschool socialising and stuff, but I don't see why he's so angry about it since he was talking to them, too."
He led the way through the slightly dilapidated foyer - no doormen or security - and towards the stairs. The lifts tended to stop every now and then and besides, the exercise was good for them.
Though he'd been to Keisuke's place tons of times before, he didn't think he'd ever not be surprised at the state of the building. It just wasn't the kind of place that someone going to Hyoutei would live in - even scholarship kids had to have some standards.
It was alright for a temporary residence, though, and that was all that he really needed. Even if it did get kind of crowded when everyone was home. He made a mental note to talk to Shozo later and see if he might be able to move over there for a while ….
"You mean the Rikkai kids online?"
"The Rikkai kids and the SeiRu kids and I think they dragged the Seigaku kids and there was that guy from Rokkaku in the chatrooms sometimes and it's mostly senpai's fault, I swear!" Keisuke said cheerfully as he bounced up the stairs.
Slightly dingy, the concrete stairwell didn't look the safest of places even though it was scrupulously clean. There were no signs of trash and while the paint was faded and peeling, there was no graffiti, but the occasional inexpertly painted mural, a splash of colour to add variation.
"What was that about knowing your enemy?" Kouji asked, plodding up the stairs behind Keisuke. He didn't believe the old saying, not really - not well enough to put it into practice. "Or maybe Kazuto-senpai's just being himself." Flirty. Which was much more likely.
"They can't all be our enemy, can they? Do we just attract tennis players, or something, or are they stalking us and trying to get data already? We need a data-person on our team, who can stalk everyone back, too, because senpai would stalk, but not exactly for data-retrieval." Keisuke looked back over his shoulder dolefully, not stopping his upward climb. "And some of them are nice, except Rikkai has too much time on their hands, if they can come down and visit Tokyo so often."
"Oh, he'd get some kind of data, alright," Kouji muttered. "Just probably nothing really useful. To us, anyway." Another sigh, and he switched the shoulder he carried his bag on. Just a few more days of this.
With his usual energy, Keisuke spilled out of the stairwell and into the corridor, leading the way towards the apartment. Unlocked the doors - one steel mesh security door, the other a normal wooden door - and kicked them open.
"We're home!" he yelled out, despite the fact that it was obviously empty at a glance. Keisuke kicked off his shoes and bounced into the 'living space,' proper. The flat was too small for there to be clearly defined areas, the living space filled up with the couch set facing opposite to the TV and the dinner table almost directly behind it, joined to the kitchenette. A small corridor led off the space towards the bathroom and the rooms - almost three of them, the converted study Keisuke's own room.
Kouji toes off his own shoes, and refrained from depositing is schoolbag near the door. It wasn't his house, and there wasn't much room as it was without his crap taking up extra space. "Don't think anyone's around," he pointed out.
"Doesn't matter." Keisuke shrugged and smiled blindingly. "It's still nice. Come on, you can shove that into my room. Do you want a drink? Food? Help yourself, you can be like family except not!" While he was rambling, he'd already started to move towards his room.
Like the rest of the house, Keisuke's room was tiny - a bunk bed, the bottom usually stacked with books and clothing and stuff while he slept on the top, stacked shelving where ever it was possible to fit and his desk so close to the bed that it was almost possible for one to sit on the bed and be at the desk. Not quite, though. There was minimal space to get around, if one were as small as he was.
Kouji followed him in, and dropped his stuff on the bottom bunk, where it blended pretty easily with the mountains of stuff that was already there. He shoved a portion of the mess off to the side, clearing a space for himself to sit and at least try to make himself comfortable. He didn't have much to say, himself, but was pretty sure that left to his own devices, Keisuke would scroll through topics of conversation until he landed on something that Kouji would respond to.
An assumption perfectly justified, as Keisuke straddled his desk chair and spun it around, idly talking about this and that. "... and then sensei threw the eraser at him, which really wasn't that nice, because not only did he get hit but there was also chalk dust all over his lunch which was awful, because if you were eating during class, you must've been really hungry and so the poor guy ended up with no lunch at all. Aaaaand, oh! Have you gotten the new Jump? Do you read Jump? I think everyone does but then again, you might now, but you're everyone but I guess everyone includes everyone really and I know that not everyone does buuuut. Hey! Look at the window! Bird!"
Keisuke jumped off his chair, stumbling slightly since there really wasn't enough room and crawled/battled his way over the mess towards his window. "No, wait. Now it's gone. I like birds, don't you?"
"They're delicious," Kouji replied, deadpan, even though he wasn't really paying as much attention to what Keisuke was saying as what was in his room. He didn't think it was possible to cram so much stuff into one small space … It'd take days, he thought, to be able to sort through all of it. Hopefully he'd get used to it, since he'd be staying here … pretty much indefinitely ….
"Really? I always thought that they wouldn't have much meat on them because they're so light and feathery and you can't even eat the feathers, even though they're half the bird." Keisuke rambled on, hardly registering what he said even as he said it. The bird was long gone by that stage, causing him to wrinkle his nose and throw himself backwards on the bed, uncaring of the various papers that crinkled beneath him. "I wonder what's for dinner tonight."
"Doesn't matter to me as long as it's not babies." Kouji was pretty grateful that the Ashiwara parents were kind enough to let him eat with them, too, in addition to taking up extra space.
"I don't think we're that desperate yet!" Keisuke flopped and floundered around for a few seconds before righting himself. "But you must be getting bored of the rice and miso and more rice and sometimes fish and more rice and it must not be what you're used to." He sounded half apologetic, half defiantly defensive.
While the routine was getting a little old, it was a small price to pay for not having the collective watchful eye of SeiRu on him constantly. Kouji made a noncommital noise in his throat, shrugging. Food wasn't really as big of a deal to him as it was to most boys his age.
"It'd probably be..." Better. "Different at Shozo's, but he has a spider and he might try to kill you," Keisuke said cheerfully.
Kouji laughed. "Most likely." He wasn't sure exactly why he'd accepted Keisuke's invitation over Shozo's. The spider didn't creep him out that much, and Shozo was more than just a little strange, but they were both his friends. Kouji knew, too, that Shozo's place would have been slightly more accommodating.
He kind of almost felt bad for imposing, but brushed the thought aside with another short laugh. "Maybe he'd kill me with the spider."
"Oh no, he'd never do that!" Wide-eyed and sincere, Keisuke rushed to assure him. "Shozo would never do anything that would put Mister Creepy into danger, even if he wanted to kill you. And all you'd need to do is seek shelter near a fence. Hey! There's that game show on, about now. With the pies! And the pit and the hurting and the public humiliation and we should go watch."
Kouji really had no idea what show Keisuke was talking about. "If there's pies and public humiliation, I'm there," he agreed, and followed him into the living room to go see exactly what this was all about.