He has taken to sitting in the back of the room to avoid them, all their taunts and jeers and their wordless threats, but Kantarou knows that nothing he does is really of much use. As soon as the teacher returns to the chalkboard, scribbling meticulously on his tiny black space, they turn around to face him with their menacing glares, and all Kantarou can do is pretend.
There is an easy escape though, to be lulled by the tranquil warmth of summer heat when it isn't enough to pretend to read page sixteen of a book about Christian mythology or something for the fifth time. It is almost too easy, he thinks, and he will not be weak—he will not take the easy way out.
But when his tormenters' piercing eyes are fixed so intently that there is no other escape, Kantarou lets himself sleep, lets himself dream of something better than what he has.
In his dreams, Kantarou has a family, people who care for him, who are nothing like the relatives that have abandoned him, the ones who are tied to him by blood. Though it is small, with only himself and two others, bound together by nothing more than the thin threads of their affection for each other, he is content with this. It is enough for Kantarou.
There is a brown-haired kitsune-girl in a red kimono who smiles at him, laughs with him, chastises him when he ignores his work. The name he picked for her is Youko, and that is something she distains him for. She is the girl of his dreams and he loves her, but he never dreams of her like that or loves her as anything more. And when she hugs him, though it is never anything more than the airy touch of a dream, she is always warm and comforting, strong and protective like an older sister looking after her younger brother.
There is a handsome dark-haired man who wears a dark suit and always looks carelessly at Kantarou with a cold indifference during the day. But, within the heat of the night, he embraces him so passionately that there is no distance between them, no gaps, and Kantarou can hardly breathe.
And this is where Kantarou truly feels alive, though he knows in the back of his mind that it is nothing more than a dream, this place with Youko and this mysterious man whose name always leaves his lips as "Haruka". This dream he has created for himself.
In his dreams, Kantarou is always loved.
Still, it is never anything more than a dream, the subtle edges of his consciousness always pulling him back into his cruel reality.
Ichinomiya-kun, please answer me as to who the last emperor was before the end of the Shogunate era, his teacher says, voice disapproving, and 'onigui tengu' slips his tongue before he can even register the question.
-They- turn around and stare at him, laughing, their voices full of ridicule, never missing a chance, and his teacher's face is full of angry disappointment. Even Hasumi, the occasional victim of their scorn, is smirking at him with a mocking, condescending look.
'Anywhere but here,' Kantarou thinks to himself, his face buried in his arms. 'Anywhere but here.'
The dreams are becoming longer, the distance between each of them shorter, and it's getting harder for Kantarou to wake up. The reality which he was always made to believe in slowly disintigrades before his eyes...
...and the dream he worked so hard in creating to protect himself was slowly becoming his reality...
He notices the subtle touches of details in this world, the slight intricacies that make it more real than everything else outside.
The elaborate pattern of falling leaves gracing Youko's beautiful crimson kimono. (The way Haruka's eyes followed him as he dressed in his new shifuku, barest candlelight outlining the shimmering gold threads of the complex design.)
The way Youko's fingers always held onto the teapot, elegant yet steady, as she poured them tea. (The smoothness of Haruka's silk necktie between his fingers as he unraveled it and slowly pulled it off Haruka's neck.)
The warmth of the sun as it beamed down in his room, his mind vaguely registering Youko's complaints about his laziness in the background. (The moist heat of Haruka's breath against his neck, sensual and promising.)
The slight weight of Youko's weight as she hugs him tightly. (The weight that Haruka held him down with as he pressed Kantarou deep into the futon.)
The smile on Youko's face as she excitedly planned about what to do with the money Kantarou earned for finally finishing his work. (The wholeness he feels when Haruka holds him gently after they make love, the other's smile that he feels against his skin, but is not allowed to see...)
At some point, Kantarou forgets that this reality doesn't exist, that it is just his dream, though it stops mattering to him. But in some dark corner of his mind, the part that still remembers, the part that still fears, he wonders if a teacher will come around the corner and shake him awake or if one of them will slam his fist against Kantarou's desk loud enough that it will shake him.
Still, all Kantarou can do is hope, and if he hopes enough, he can pretend it away because he never wants to leave.
After all, it's the best dream he's ever had.