Chapter 1: Confusion in the Ranks
Sitting in the arcade with all the lit screens behind her, the diminutive pink haired girl in the Shishiku boy’s school uniform recalls, “Once Rintarou called me out on the rooftop, I knew my secret couldn’t be kept for long. Not after what he said, with my friends hovering over me asking what was wrong.
Now I see that he was forcing my hand. He knew they’d be with me to confront him.
What he didn't know was that Hikaru had secretly had a DNA test done and confirmed we were twins, then asked his father about it. So I know I’m an Onigashima by blood.
But still my deception posing as my twin, Hikaru Onigashima, weighed heavily on me every time I saw my friends.”
“Totomaru? Konparu-kun?” Big violet eyes quickly squeezed tight as her friends came in closer.
“Hikaru, what went down there? Did he just beat you, man?” her bestie asked, with hope in his voice that it didn’t just happen.
“N..No. It’s support, I think. But I need to be sure.” She takes a thought cleansing breath to steady her nerves. “He was my Nii-chan when I was little. We adopted each other, because I was alone then. That was so long ago - I didn’t realize it was him...”
“But..” Konparu interrupts and demands as he and Totomaru assist her up, “he got to you somehow. What did he mean? What was that name?”
Biting her lip for a moment, she realizes there’s no cover up good enough at this point. Gathering her nerves, she lets go of their helping hands and stands clenching her fists at her sides. A bare whisper is all she can manage. “Because he knows who I am and what I’ve hidden.”
Konparu crosses his arms bracing himself, but Totomaru - the loyal puppy that he is - puts a hand on her shoulder and insists it’s gonna be ok, “We’re dachi*. Come on Hikaru. Just spill it so we can move on!”
Gulping, she realizes Totomaru will be the one most shocked. “Well… you see..” She feels their eyes intent on her and almost chickens out. “I just found out I’m an Onigashima. Hikaru’s twin.”
A skeptical eyebrow raises on Konparu’s otherwise passive face.
“That wasn’t so bad. So you’re his brother. So what?” Totomaru slaps his dachi on the back.
Her head hangs, “There’s more…”
“And it’s a doozy…” Konparu deduces.
She nods and forges ahead, her voice just a tad louder than the wind around them. “I’m sorry! My name is really Nakayama… Hinako. I’m so, so, so sorry!”
“See? No prob! You’re his brother.” Totomaru, just wanting the best for his friend, gleefully pipes up, but gets a slap upside the head from his green haired friend.
Konparu scolds under his breath so it doesn’t carry in the wind, “Dumb ass! For being so book smart, you really have no common sense! Hinako is a girl’s name!”
Mid rub of his head, Totomaru’s eyes go wide and he blinks. In a flash of anger he shakes her and shouts - the pitch of his voice rising, “Shit! That means when you fought me, you were a g…” He leaves off in a string of swear words and turns around to vent.
Another nod from her. She wraps her arms around herself protectively and chides inside her head. ‘Get a hold of yourself. Boys don’t cry, and you can’t let the mask down here at school.’
Totomaru is still dealing with the fact that he got beat by a girl, when Konparu purses his lips in concentration as he slides the last piece into the puzzle, “So you and Hikaru traded places. And you chose to attend the most notorious fight school in the country. Do you realize how bad it could be if ...” He leaves off, not wanting to think about what a school of punks and delinquents would do if they found out.
That gets Totomaru’s attention and he whips back around then wipes his hand over his face, “Geeze la-weeze, this is so damn messed up.”
“Three of us at school know. It can’t get beyond that,” Konparu states matter-of-factly as he shoves his hands into his pockets. “And I need some time to deal with this. Minowa, you stay to watch over he….the problem child.” He stomps off. Growling and mumbling under his breath about ‘damned weak girls’, he slams his fist into the wall as he goes by then shakes it out and keeps going.
Hinako just watches him go.
Running his hands through his hair, Totomaru sighs and leans against the fence. “So where do we go from here, dachi?”
Her eyes dart to him in surprise and hope.
Resigned he admits, “Yeah, I meant it when I said I’d follow you. I’ll adjust to the truth. And Konparu will too.”
The next day, Hinako steels her nerves and hunts Rintarou down.
“Kira-Senpai! I need you to hear me out! Please!” she hollers in her most commanding voice.
He won’t face her, but his head turns and she sees his raised eyebrow.
Pointing with one hand, she drops her bag with the other. “It was because of you that I trained and pushed myself so hard! I didn’t come here to be protected! I came here to fight you!” **
Tsking, he crosses his arms. “You don’t have anything to prove. I’ve been watching over you.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said? I can take care of myself, now! Fight me!” She issues the challenge again.
Waving her off, he continues down the hall, “Baka. I’m on your side already.”
Joy filling her heart, she bows quickly. “Onii-chan... thank you. I always wondered where you went after you left.”
Hinako was forgiven, that much was evident. With her still going by her alias, the first year trio still hung out together all the time - training, video games, studying, and of course sticking up for each other at fights. But the dynamic between them wasn’t quite the same. The two guys seemed to fight among each other more. Though, she couldn’t quite put a finger on why. But, it made her even more determined to keep them reconciled and grew a tad bolder with the experience.
3 weeks later…
“Did you hear our school is actually going on a field trip to Kyoto this year?” Hinako exclaims excitedly clapping her hands as she walks with her two dachi.
“They’re taking a bunch of delinquents on a trip? And not just the 4th years?” Konparu shows his skepticism.
Totomaru does a fist pump. “Hell yeah! I can’t believe we get outta this joint!”
Always the practical one Konparu points out, “You two do realize we’re going to have to bribe the guy in charge of room assignments. No one gets single rooms.”
Suddenly somber Totomaru and Hinako mouth an “Oh.” at the same time.
Shaking his head, Konparu adds, “It’ll have to be the three of us together. Totomaru and I aren’t going to let the other be alone with you and you wouldn’t be safe alone…”
Her lips purse in consternation, “I’m not gonna have to beat you both up again to get this through your thick heads, am I? I can take care...”
Konparu waves his hands in front of himself to ward off the common complaint from her and explains, “Yeah, yeah… you can take care of yourself. But this is the best way. We have your back.”
Grabbing her in a headlock and ruffling her hair, Totomaru chimes in, “He’s right! Besides, it’ll be fun! A party in our room! This is gonna rock!”
She wriggles out of his grasp and fixes her hair, but smiles, “Yeah. I wouldn’t have it any other way…”
Konparu punches her in the shoulder playfully. “No getting sappy on us.”
Jumping up and putting an arm around each of their necks, she scoffs, “Not a chance.”
As it turns out, Rintarou is the one voted to assign rooms for the whole school. Over the next couple of days, every time the trio tries to approach their senpai, another group beats them to it and they see the bribes being handed over like water flows in a river. How the heck are they gonna get that kind of cash? Looks of apprehension flash between them.
On the third day, they’re finally able to corner him.
“Oy! Kira-senpai!” Totomaru waves as he bellows across the courtyard and the crew scampers over to their quarry. Panting as they arrive, he demands, “We have a room assignment request. How much is it gonna cost us?”
“You’re dissatisfied with what was posted?” Rintarou asks incredulously.
The trio shrugs and Konparu dares asking, “How were we supposed to know assignments were posted?”
Rolling his eyes, their senpai spells it out, “The first and second year leaders are sharing a set of connecting rooms. Same for third and fourth years. It should minimize attacks on the leaders. Problem for anyone?”
Totomaru does a little stompy dance of glee. “Ye-yas!”
Hinako laughs at him, but quickly bows. “That’s perfect Senpai. Thank you.” The two others quickly follow suit.
“Those at the top watch out for each other, or we don’t stay top dogs for long,” Rintarou winks and joins Yuta who waves a greeting to them all.
After a long day of sightseeing temples, shrines, castles, and getting kicked out of Nishi Markett, the trio is exhausted and trudges up to their room - which only has two queen beds. Unable to agree on who sleeps where before the school tour, uneasy glances are exchanged.
Konparu flop-sits on one of the beds and pulls off his socks to free and wiggle his toes. “I see it like this. Hinako sleeps there in that one and Totomaru and I share. I don’t like it, but it makes the most sense.”
“I’m sorry,” Hinako expresses sympathy for their plight.
With an index finger raised to the ceiling and a light bulb figuratively shining above his head, he exclaims, “We don’t have to!”
“I’m NOT sleeping on the floor,” Konparu grumbles.
“Get up and help me move this,” Totomaru starts pushing one bed toward the other. “Just like I said - a party!”
“Might be the first thing I’ve ever agreed with you on!” Konparu joins him enthusiastically.
Hinako protests “But…”
“What? With one of us on each side, neither can try anything funny.” Totomaru’s grin is infectious.
She looks to each of them with a little apprehension, but relaxes knowing her dachi are right. “Ok. But I don’t plan on sleeping much anyway.”
The guys both stare open mouthed, unable to believe what she just said.
Innocently she responds, “What?! I brought some card games and have anime to share on my new phone.”
Konparu picks his jaw up off the floor first and smacks Totomaru upside the back of the head. “Baka!”
“Ow! Geeze! You thought the exact same thing!” He rubs his head, then returns the smack.
Her blush quickly covers her whole face.
“Look what you did! You embarrassed her!” Totomaru points j’accuse style.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Konparu brings some sense back to the situation, “We both did. Sorry.”
Totomaru runs his hand through his hair and looks at his feet, “Yeah.”
Recovering, she whips out her card deck from her luggage, holding it in the air triumphantly. “Who’s up for Buta No Shippo?” *
“Me! I brought melon Ramune to share!” Totomaru rallies and digs around in his bag.
Konparu moves the table to where they can all sit. “Where the hell did you find room to pack that?”
“We have access to a washer, why not pack clothes-light?” he shrugs.
“Well, I brought anpan. My family tried to sneak some, but I hid it well!” Konparu offers.
In no time they have a roaring card slapping fest going.
All curled up together in their PJs for the anime marathon, Hinako (in the middle) is the first to yawn. Despite her best efforts she can’t suppress it. “Sor-wy.”
“Maybe we should save a few episodes for tomorrow night?” Totomaru offers.
Konparu corrects with a chuckle, “You mean tonight?”
“Evidently…” Totomaru flops into his pillow.
“This is what I always imagined a sleepover party to be like.” She snuggles down into her pillow and takes one of their hands in each of hers. “A fun night with my best friends!”
“Wouldn’t trade it for the world.” Totomaru squeezes her hand and a goofy happy grin covers his face.
“Yeah,” Konparu agrees and tucks his head into her shoulder.
When Rintarou hears quiet from the other room, he checks on the little sister he adopted all those years ago. The guys are each curled up on one side of her and holding one of her hands. Never has he seen them all so content. The brawling Shishiku High School doesn’t allow them many moments like these. So, he can’t resist snapping a picture, despite the wish to have joined them.
* a party card game, kind of like slap jack. Literally means pig’s tail.