Hello. My name is Ninomiya Kazunari, but everyone call me Nino so you should too. I’m five years old, and I spend my day at Johnny’s Pre-School until 6 when my Mum pick me up. My favourite food is hamburger and my Mum always give me extra whenever she’s cooking one. I like playing games a lot so I make sure I always have my Nintendo DS anywhere I go. But when I’m bored with the games, I sometimes play on the little piano we have in class. The teacher always praised me when I’m playing and tell me I can be a great musician someday. My favourite time at the school is when I play with my friends though. I don’t have that many friends, but there are these four boys I always play with. They are Oh-chan, Sho-kun, Masaki, and J.
The oldest one is Oh-chan. He loves to draw and watch the goldfish on our fish tank. He often looks like he’s sleepy, and he doesn’t talk much. We all appoint him as our leader because he’s the oldest, though he seems unreliable most of the times. But on a rare times, like when Sho-kun was trapped in a tree, or when Masaki hurt his finger, or when J was bullied by another kid, or when I’m so so tired, he will be all cool and helped Sho-kun down from a tree, put a bandage on Masaki’s wound and kissed it better, protected J and glared at the bullies, and let me lean on his shoulder to take a short nap.
There is Sho-kun who is a few months younger than Oh-chan. The teacher always praise him for being able to solve the quiz quickly and he’s always kind and polite to everyone. Despite so, he’s actually a scaredy-cat who is afraid of high places and ghosts. He’s strict when it comes to our belongings, always telling everyone to take care of our things properly. He likes to organize, and always the one to plan our little adventure within the school ground. He also often share his bento with us, especially when he knows that the bento he brought has our favourite food on it. He told us he’s happy to look at us eating happily.
Out of the four, I’m closest with Masaki. He’s younger than Oh-chan and Sho-kun, but older than me and J. Masaki always giggles and smiles, always moving around from place to place and talk about random things endlessly. Masaki loves to play a lot, and has a soft spot for animals. But he get sick often that he sometimes has to miss school. His Mum told us that Masaki’s immune system is weaker than most children and asked us to watch over Masaki when he’s with us, and we had agreed eventhough I don’t really understand her. All I know is that Masaki’s Mum had gave us a mission to protect Masaki.
J is the youngest of us five, but he’s more mature than Masaki or even Oh-chan. He knows a lot about trivial facts and always boast on how his parents are a pair of busy business people who travel around the world often. But despite his arrogance, we all know that J is just lonely. One day, he came to school looking sad and down and when we asked him what’s wrong, he just cried and told us he missed his parents. Later on, we found out that it was J’s birthday and his parents already promised him that they will be home on his birthday, but they couldn’t come in the end because of some urgent jobs they had to attend. Most the boys in class bullied him, because he has permy hair and they thought it was hilarious. But J never really care about them, most probably because on the contrary, he’s very popular among the girls.
Okay, now I have told you guys about my friends. And now, I will tell you about one of our little adventure which, did or did not end badly.
It was a normal day when Masaki suddenly yelled in an excited voice that we should go for an adventure, with a snot running down his nose. He just recovered from his hayfever and seems giddy that he’s finally back. J suffers from hayfever too, but it’s not as bad as it affects Masaki, and J always make sure that his runny nose is properly cleaned.
I shrug as I continue my game. I’m almost at the boss level, mind you.
“What do you want to do, Ma-chan ?” Sho-kun approached the boy and ask him softly.
“Hnn.” Masaki put his hand under his chin, face scrunched up as he think. “I know ! Let’s venture the small forest behind the school ! I heard a lot of squirrels live there, I want to find a squirrel !”
“We have a squirrel at school, why should we go to the forest to find one ?” Oh-chan frown, clearly confused as to why they have to look for a squirrel inside the forest when they have one here.
“It’s different, Oh-chan.” Masaki shook his head, as if stating the obvious. “The squirrel we have at school is from a petshop. The squirrel we are about to find is a wild one. It’s different.”
Oh-chan just mouthed an ‘Oh’ as he nod his head in understanding.
“But isn’t it dangerous ? I mean, we can get lost inside the forest ! And you might worsen your allergy.” Sho-kun looked worried.
“Don’t worry, Sho-chan ! MatsuJun has a compass and he also knows how to read map. He also prepared a mask just in case, so we’ll be fine !” Masaki beamed widely. “Right, MatsuJun ?”
“Of course.” J flipped his hair daintily. “Who do you think am I ?”
I sigh again. Now it’s three against one. Even if I sided with Sho-kun and decided not to go, we already lose in number. I send a final blow and kill the boss immediately before saving the game and close my DS. Better do it while it’s still early so we can return before my Mum pick me up.
“Alright, let’s pack up before we go for the journey !” I announced, receiving an incredulous look from Sho-kun and an excited squeal from Masaki.
“It will be fine, Sho-kun. We won’t go far anyway.” I tell him. Really. Sho-kun is older but he acts like a baby sometimes.
And off we go. Masaki only bring his water bottle which he hung around his neck, much like Oh-chan who has a small box Masaki thrusted at earlier. It’s for the squirrel we find, he said. J pack his bottle and a few snacks, also a map and the compass Masaki mentioned earlier. Sho-kun on the other hand, pack too much inside his backpack, and I don’t even want to ask just what is the content of his bag because I’m sure there won’t be an end to it. I don’t pack much myself, only taking my bottle and bento box and of course, my DS in case Masaki insist to watch the squirrels a little longer. I rummage through Masaki’s bag and pull out his inhaler for if he gets an attack. Masaki’s Mum told Masaki to always bring his inhaler, but Masaki is just that clumsy that he left it away most of the times, and for such times, it’s my task to bring it instead.
The five of us sneaked out of the school ground carefully, making sure that none of the caretaker will notice us leaving. Sho-kun left a letter back in his chair just in case though. He said by doing so the teacher will know where to go if something were to happen to us and we cannot return.
Once we are on the entrance of the forest, the five of us all gape in awe. It’s a small forest, really. But to children like us (yes, I admit that I’m still a child, duh !) it sure look so huge I almost hesitate to go further. But Masaki already pulled me by the arm and literally dragging me inside the forest. J is walking slightly ahead of us, acting as a guide with his oversized map and a compass on his hands. Sho-kun walk a little too carefully, and Oh-chan simply goes ‘Oh’ and ‘Ah’ at everything he sees.
It’s a few minutes after we enter the forest when Masaki suddenly notice the small movement from the bush. Being a curious guy he is, he approached the bushes to find out the source of the noise.
“Ma-chan ! Don’t touch it ! It could be a dangerous animal !” Sho-kun warned him but Masaki doesn’t listen and proceed to rummage through the bushes.
“Oh, look !” He suddenly exclaimed. “It’s a squirrel !”
The four of us come closer to where Masaki is, but before we could get a good view of the said animal, the little creature decided to jump out off the bushes and away from us.
“Squirrel-chan ! Wait !” Masaki called out as he goes for the squirrel as fast as he could.
“Masaki, wait ! Don’t stray away !” J called out exasperately, obviously annoyed that he stranded off of the path he had chosen.
But instead of returning, Masaki runs even further, as if our voices fell to deaf ears.
“Masaki, don’t run !” I decided that Masaki won’t stop unless we stop him by force, so I run after him to bring him back to the original path. Behind me, I can hear the other three following closely, with Sho-kun yelling in panic, and J complaining outloud that ‘we’re so getting lost this way’.
After what seemed like forever, Masaki suddenly came to a stop from his run. And as he stand still unmoving on his spot, hands on his front, I can’t help but worry so I run faster.
“Masaki, what’s wrong ?” I ask immediately as soon as I’m by his side, the other three coming a second later, face flushed with sweats.
“Nino...” Masaki whined as he turned to face me. “My chest hurts.” He added while clutching the front of his shirt, face almost blue.
“That’s why I told you not to run, didn’t I ?” I sigh as I fished inside my pocket and take out Masaki’s inhaler. “Come on, let’s sit down for a while.” I lead him to sit by the tree trunk where Masaki inhaled deeply from his inhaler and calm himself down.
I take his water bottle and open it for him.
“Here, Masaki. Drink something.” I hand him the water bottle after his breathing has turned normal and colour returning to his face.
“Thanks, Nino.” He said with a weak smile as he gulp the water down.
“Are you okay now, Ma-chan ?” Sho-kun ask, face contorted in worry.
“I’m okay, Sho-chan. Sorry to worry you.” Masaki looked down apologetically.
“It’s okay, Masaki-chan.” Oh-chan smile at Masaki. “We should rest for a while.”
“Uhm, guys ?” J suddenly speak, his voice is unlikely weak. “I think, I think we’re lost.”
“Eeeh ?!” Sho-kun quickly yelled in shock. “You’re lying, right ?”
“I’m not !” J send the older boy a glare, as if offended to be accused of lying. “When we get here, I tried to check on the map but I don’t know where we are !”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a map expert, Jun-chan ?” Oh-chan ask the boy, face indifferent as always.
“I am ! But Masaki suddenly ran and we strayed from the path and we ran too far and I just don’t know where we went to !” J exclaimed angrily.
“I’m sorry.” Masaki say in a soft voice. “It’s my fault.”
J’s face suddenly softened at this. “I’m sorry, Masaki. I don’t mean to blame you. It’s not your fault. I mean, of course we would get excited after looking at the squirrel, right ?” He crouched down and smile in front of the sulking boy who smile back at him.
Honestly, Masaki is one miraculous boy. Everyone likes to spoil him. Even the stoic and sarcastic J who usually has no mercy against something which annoy him, never really get mad at Masaki. The same applied to Sho-kun. Sho-kun who easily snap at the most trivial thing, doesn’t blow out whenever Masaki left his bento box messily. He will only sigh as he tell Masaki to take care of his things properly softly. But that’s not the problem now. We’re lost and I simply want to get out of this stupid forest before the night comes. It’s not that I’m afraid of the dark or something, mind you. It’s just that I’m afraid that Masaki’s hayfever (and J’s too) will come back in full force that we’re surrounded by trees.
“Let’s just rest for a while. We will figure something out after we fill our stomachs.” Oh-chan motioned calmly as he sat down on the grass and fished out a chocolate bar from his pocket. “Masaki-chan, you want some ?” He kindly offered the other boy. Again, a miracle work of Masaki. Oh-chan NEVER share his food to anyone but Masaki and me. Why me ? Because I’m special, duh!
But Masaki only shook his head softly. “It’s okay, Oh-chan. You can have them. I’m not that hungry anyway.” And as if on cue, a loud grumble is heard coming from his stomach, which quickly make his cheeks as red as tomato.
“Being considerate, aren’t you ?” I tease him as I, too, sat down and open my backpack. “Here, eat some, Masaki. I bring a lot.” I take my bento box out and offer it to Masaki.
“Yeay ! I always love Nino’s Mum’s tamagoyaki !” He suddenly exclaimed childishly as he pick the said tamagoyaki from my lunchbox.
“I bring a lot of foods, too.” Sho-kun said with a smile. “I think it’s enough for everyone.”
“As expected from Sho-kun ! He’s always ready for every possibilities !” J commented with a smirk as he sat down and fish his water bottle from his backpack.
“Thank you, Sho-kun.” Oh-chan offered a small thanks as he took the onigiri Sho-kun handed at him.
“Ma-chan, what do you want to eat first ?” Sho-kun asked Masaki who scrunched up his face in deep thought.
“I don’t know, Sho-chan. You pick for me !”
A smile is formed at Sho-kun’s lips at Masaki’s reply. “Then have this onigiri first. It’s karaage with mayonaisse. Your favourite.”
“Yeay ! Sho-chan knows me best !” Masaki cheered delightfully as he took the food from Sho-kun’s hands and bite on it. “It’s delicious !”
I smile at the view before munching at my own food. Mum made me hamburger today. And I’m determined to eat it all by myself. It’s not that I don’t want to share, but it’s a hamburger !
It’s thirty minutes later (or so J said after checking at his watch) that we finally finished eating and put the empty bento boxes back inside our backpack. Well, Sho-kun did most of the job but that was only because he brought the most. Dusting at the back of my pants as I stood, I look at J and he look back at me before letting out a loud sigh.
“For the time being, let’s just try to walk back until we reach our previous path. I properly put a patch before we stranded here so we should be fine as long as we find the mark.” J said in an almost smug voice while flipping his hair.
“Ma-chan, are you feeling okay already ?” Sho-kun ask in worry as he helped Masaki up.
“I’m okay now, Sho-chan ! Don’t worry !” Masaki grin widely before proceeding to where J is. “Let’s go, MatsuJun !”
J simply nod before he lead us back to (hopefully) our previous path. The run felt so short before, but as we traced back our path, it’s actually quite far.
After walking for what feels like hours, I call a break. It’s not like I’m feeling that tired, it’s just that I feel Masaki has exhausted himself, because he talk less and less as time passes, and he barely said a word since a couple of minutes ago (and Masaki never stop talking for more than ten seconds, trust me). Beside, I can see that J is tired himself too, but was too proud to admit it.
“Masaki-chan, are you okay ?”
The worried voice of our Leader brought me back from my thought as I divert my gaze back at Masaki, who could only nod while offering a weak smile. I’m sure none of us is convinced, that’s why Sho-kun lean closer to him and place his palm at Masaki’s forehead.
“Ma-chan, you’re sick !”
I immediately scrambled closer to feel Masaki’s temperature too and found him burning. This journey to the forest was a mistake for sure. Masaki has yet to regain his full health and walking around the forest didn’t do him any good. And after that previous attack he had, I should have seen this coming.
“Oh, no ! What do we do now ?”
I turn around at the panicking J and shushed him to sit down.
“Don’t panic, J ! You’re not making it easier. If anything, you will only trigger your hayfever back as well ! Calm down and drink your water. We’ll find something out, I’m sure.”
Even as I said it, I couldn’t help but feeling the dread washing over me. If we don’t find a way out of this forest before the day is closing, we might have to spend the night at the forest and I don’t even want to think about the worst possibilities.
“Jun-chan ? Are you feeling good ?” Oh-chan suddenly speak, eyes looking at J intently.
“Uhm, yeah. I’m okay.” J nodded his head uncertainly.
“Okay then. You and I will go find a way out. Nino, you stay with Masaki-chan. Sho-kun, you stay here and protect them, okay ?”
And Oh-chan sent his message well, because Sho-kun nod his head with determined look before sending Oh-chan and J off –reminding them about placing the mark properly so they could find them back easily after finding the right path.
“Masaki ? Are you feeling okay ? Do you feel cold or something ?”
But Masaki only shook his head, lips puckered into a stubborn pout. But it seems that his body betrayed him, because he involuntarily let out an obvious shudder as a soft breeze passed through.
“This little stubborn brat.” I muttered under my breath before pulling the sweater I wrapped around my waist and handed it over to Masaki. “Wear this so you will feel warmer.”
“I’m okay, Nino.” Masaki insisted stubbornly.
I let out a sigh before sitting on Masaki’s side. “I know you are not, Masaki. So stop being stubborn and put the sweater.”
“Nino is right, Ma-chan. We don’t want you getting any sicker than this.” Sho-kun said before Masaki could retort back at me. “Get some rest. We will be here by your side.” He added as he sat on Masaki’s other side.
Masaki let out a soft smile before nodding his head and took the sweater from my hand and pulled it over himself. It’s a little small for him, but it’s enough to keep him warm.
“Sleep, Masaki. We’ll wake you up when Oh-chan and J return.”
Masaki gave another nod before leaning his head on my shoulder, slowly closing his eyes. I took a side look and saw Sho-kun sending us a gentle smile.
And I know that everything is going to be alright.
We don’t know how long we’ve waited until the familiar sound of our caretaker is heard. Sho-kun quickly stood and yelled back to tell the adults our whereabout. It was then that I decided it was time for Masaki to wake up.
Masaki rubbed his eyes sleepily as I helped him stand on his feet, just in time when our caretaker came into view, with Oh-chan and J trailing not far behind him.
“Sho-kun, Kazunari-kun, Masaki-kun, are you alright ?” The man asked as he crouched down in front of us and inspected the possible damage.
“We are fine, Sensei. But Ma-chan is sick here.” Sho-kun reported and our caretaker immediately checked on Masaki.
“You poor thing. How are you feeling now ?” The man asked after feeling Masaki’s temperature.
“I’m feeling better. Nino and Sho-chan let me sleep for a bit just now.” Masaki grinned before giving our caretaker a bear hug. “Thank you for saving us, Sensei.”
“Always, Masaki-kun, always.” The caretaker returned the hug before smiling widely at us. “Shall we return then ? Sensei will make you some hot chocolates once we’re back. Who wants hot chocolates ?”
The five of us cheered at the prospect of having a warm treat before following the caretaker out of the forest and back into the safety of our school. We received a scolding later on though, and Masaki has to miss school again because of his fever, but we’re all saved, and that’s what matters.
P.S. : I know I’m a little too smart for a pre-schooler but I was born smart so please bear with it !