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“Damn it, Osomatsu. That’s the second time this month,” cursed Ichimatsu when he discovered his allowance envelope devoid of the cash he saved. No matter where he hid his money, his eldest brother would somehow find it. Even when he placed it within the walls of the bathroom, his brother still found his stash by removing a very specific tile behind the toilet. He was especially unamused by the note he left him. “I owe you again!” it said with his signature at the bottom corner, and out of rage, the younger brother crumpled it in his hands. That money was gone, lost at a pachinko parlor or a horse racing venue. Of course, there was no chance that Osomatsu would ever pay him back, even if he had won. All Ichimatsu could do was groan, holding his head as he mentally kicked himself for not using his money sooner. He needed it for his cats, his only friends, and the only forms of life that would come near him without fear. But after going a whole week without food, he was worried that they would stop visiting him altogether if this continued for another week. The alley between a convenience store and a ramen shop was their favorite hang-out spot, but the cats would only appear if he brought food. Whenever he would try visiting them empty handed, it was like they were never there, and he was alone again. The loneliness that had been following him for years would consume him once again, and it was the worst feeling he had ever experienced. It was like a mixture of feeling crushed beneath a great weight, in addition to the unbridled anger stemming from sheer jealousy of others with friends. Finally, the worst of it all: the feeling of numbness.

Ichimatsu patted the pockets of his purple sweatshirt and navy sweatpants and found a little bit of change stored inside. He tirelessly searched every nook and cranny of his house, finding small bits of lost change hidden under the furniture and in his brothers’ dirty clothes. Holding all the change he collected, it must have totaled to five hundred yen, which should just be enough for a small bag of dried anchovies. Luckily, anchovies were his friends’ favorite, and just maybe he could see them today if he brought it.

When he arrived at the convenience store, he quickly grabbed the dried anchovies and waited in line. Once it was his turn, the total came to just under five hundred yen, and he paid by piling a mound of coins onto the cashier’s counter. The sighs and groans from the customers behind him were rudely loud, and even the cashier seemed irked by the amount of change she had to count to complete just a single purchase. He was not sure if it was his own insecurities, but he was hearing the words “scary”, “poor”, “pitiful”, and “trash” in all directions.

“Just keep the change,” he hissed, as he just left with the bag. The cashier, too frightened by his tone to argue, just let him go.

For years he had accepted those words to his own person, and it still hurt as much as the first time he heard them. He still could not remember where it all went wrong, or why he could not make any friends. Somehow, it just started in high school, growing into an endless cycle of fear and seclusion. People naturally assumed him to be frightening, which then led him to adopt a dark demeanor, and thus force more people to be fearful of him. He never wanted anyone to be afraid of him, but it somehow ended up that way. To make matters even worse, he developed a fear of his own, fear of other people. Years of isolation nurtured his phobia, which greatly worsened his ability to form relationships with others. His fear of rejection and disappointment crippled him from making friends outside of just cats. Like the stray cats thrown out by people, he felt like a stray as well, cast out by society and left to fend on his own. He never wanted anyone else to feel the same as he did, and thus he took it upon himself to help other strays. At the very least, the stray cats did not judge him.

He entered the alley adjacent to the convenience store he left and could already hear the adorable mews from the cats all the way towards the darkness. This was a good sign; they were already here waiting for him, and he could not wait to see them. Pulling up his cough mask to ward off the intense smell of piss and rotting trash, he was getting closer and closer to the food bowls he left for them. Usually midway inside, the cats would come up to him with their begging calls, but they all were still occupied at the very end of the alley. This puzzled him, but he thought maybe they caught a mouse, since he failed to bring them food last time.

“Hey, guys,” he called out, opening the bag of dried anchovies, “I’m sorry about last week. I brought your favorite treats, though. Don’t hate me too much.” He stopped in shock, seeing his friends eating from the brimming bowls. It was full of cat food, and judging by the shape of the chow and how enthusiastically the cats were eating, it was a premium brand. Someone had fed his cats, and though he should be relieved, he was not. There was outrage as well as panic that grew within him as he watched his friends happily eat their meal. His paranoia and loneliness forced him to believe that someone was trying to take his friends away from him, by absolving him of his only form of responsibility. Taking care of his cats was the only thing in the world that gave him purpose. To have someone else interfere and take that away from him meant he was completely useless. He could manage living his NEET lifestyle without a higher education, or a job, or a girlfriend, but to take his friends away would make him disappear. It was unforgivable; who was cruel enough to do this to him?

As hatred filled him, he planned to confront whoever was meddling with his relationship with his only friends. It did not matter to him what age or gender the person was, but he or she would feel his wrath. He was in no way a strong man in the physical sense, but his dead pan stare and almost psychopathic demeanor could scare off even the yakuza. Even his brothers would quake under him when he was this upset. With anger in every step, he stormed home to plan out how to get rid of the intruder. No one would ever get between him and his cats.

The very next day, after waking up with his five identical brothers, he skipped breakfast just to be able to catch whoever was feeding his cats. He left abruptly, without saying a single word to his five brothers, who just watched him leave their room as breakfast was served. It was concerning to them since he would never skip a free meal, no matter how upset he was.

“I wonder what’s got him so bothered,” the third brother, Choromatsu, inquired.

The youngest brother, Todomatsu, joked, “Maybe he’s on the hunt for his next murder victim?”

With a mouth full of food, the fifth brother, Jyushimatsu, replied, “Or maybe it’s a girl!”

“Hmph!” the second brother, Karamatsu, scoffed while crossing his arms, “It’s refreshing to see my little brother find lo-”

“Ichimatsu and a girl?” the eldest brother laughed, completely interrupting his second brother, “Even if she consented, it’d probably be rape!”

The joke was so crude and uncalled for, but it made all five brothers laugh loudly and uncontrollably as they were slamming their hands on their table. They were laughing themselves to tears, but that slowly died as the thought of their fourth brother raping a girl grew more and more vivid in their minds. In their silence, they agreed that it was not completely implausible for their brother of darkness to commit such a heinous crime, especially since all six of them were virgins in their late-twenties. Desperation was a powerful motivator, and if Ichimatsu became a sex offender, that meant the rest of his brothers, being identical sextuplets, were also sex offenders from sharing the same face. All of them lost their appetite, and they rose from their table to follow their fourth brother.

The antisocial brother stopped at the entrance of the alley way and waited in front of the convenience store. He squatted patiently with his surgical mask over his face, trying to look as inconspicuous as he could for a man waiting by an alley. His brothers were close, but not close enough for him to notice, since he was quite focused on catching the culprit who was trying to take his friends away. The other five sextuplets were gathered behind a mailbox across the street, receiving confused stares from passersby.

“He is up to something,” the youngest brother whispered, “Like a serial killer.”

“We’ll just wait here. He can’t do anything if all of us are on watch,” the third brother assured.

The eldest yawned after only a minute of watching and said, “I’m bored. I’ll see you guys later. Let me know if Ichimatsu rapes anyone.”

“W-wait! Big brother Osomatsu!” Choromatsu called out, but he could only watch the eldest brother walk away without a care.

Then Karamatsu patted his back and said, “It’s alright, burazaa. Us four will make sure Ichimatsu doesn’t attack any girls and ruin it for the rest of us.”

“Big brother Jyushimatsu’s octopus hold is more than enough to subdue him,” Todomatsu added.

“Right,” the third brother nodded and all four carefully watched.

  An hour had passed, and while Ichimatsu remained vigilant, the determination of the other four brothers was wearing thin. It was slowly becoming apparent to them that their creepy brother was simply just a creep, not a rapist.

“What a waste of time!” the youngest complained, “I’m going home!”

“How foolish of me to think that my own brother would try to rape anyone. I should have more trust in mai burazaa!”  the dramatic second brother exclaimed.

The reasonable third brother sighed, “I guess we just think too little of him. Come on, let’s go home.”

As the three were about to leave their hiding spot, their hyperactive fifth brother screamed out to Ichimatsu, “We’re going home now! Don’t rape anyone!”

Immediately, the three dogpiled the energetic brother back into their hiding spot before the fourth brother could react. Hearing the shout, Ichimatsu turned towards the source, but quickly shrugged it off to focus on finding that person. For him, there was too much at stake, and he was not going to let anything stop him. The coast was clear for the other four as they carefully snuck off before their dark brother could notice them. They could be making a ruckus for all that was worth, because their brother had his eyes fixated on a girl around his age carrying premium cat food. Being in a hurry, she took no notice of the creep waiting by the alley as she entered, but that creep slowly followed after her.

The other four brothers were quite a distance away, but Jyushimatsu was lagging behind. His attention was towards the cute girl that appeared, but he jumped to panic as he watched his dark brother get up and follow her down the equally dark path.

“Ichimatsu is in the alley with a girl!” he shouted towards the rest of his brothers, forcing them to freeze in place. Quickly, they turned back and rushed towards the alley with their reputation at stake.

The girl reached the end of the alley, and she poured the expensive cat food into the three bowls, allowing the cats to come out of their hiding places to eat. Too focused on tending to the cats, she did not notice a dark entity creeping up behind her. Suddenly he stopped in place, just a few feet away from her and his friends. He never expected such a cute girl to be the culprit, and his virgin urges were making him have second thoughts. Letting his desires take hold, he admitted to himself how pretty her crème colored dress was, and how nice it looked paired with her lavender jacket. Her hair was so long and so black, definitely his type, and the fact that she liked cats enough to feed the stray ones was also a plus. He felt his anger completely leave him as he grew more and more infatuated with her, but he shook off the foolish thought.

“As if she would even consider me,” he chastised, “She’s way too good for trash like me. I’ll just chase her off, so she doesn’t come back here anymore.” Before he could say anything to her, he felt his arms and legs being twisted, and his body was bent forward and locked in an awkward manner. This was a familiar position, and then he realized that this was the octopus hold. “Ah! Jyushimatsu, let go of me!” he shouted while squirming in his brother’s grasp.

Alarmed by the sudden shouting, the girl yelped when she saw five figures in the darkness behind her. Five grown men and one small woman in an alley was as suspicious as they come, and the situation the brothers were in grew worse the longer they stayed. At this point, if she were to scream and catch the attention of anyone passing by, and then got the police involved, all five brothers would get charged. But she remained silent, yet in awe as if she was still surprised to have discovered them.

“W-wait! We weren’t going to do anything, I swear!” the second brother quickly spoke, trying to diffuse the awkward situation.

The youngest lied, “We took a wrong shortcut home! Sorry, miss!”

“We’ll be on our way now,” the third brother bowed profusely as the hyper brother dragged out the dark one.

Ichimatsu yelled and struggled in the overpowered grip of his younger brother as he was getting dragged away. When trying to get one more glance at the girl, their eyes locked, and he peered deep into her familiar dark eyes. It was as if he was peering into the abyss that also existed within him, and he would willingly be lost in them forever. The look she had on her pretty face was just pure astonishment without even a trace of fear, and he had no idea why. The way she tucked her long, dark hair behind her right ear with a smile in such a flirty manner beckoned him to say something, but he honestly had no idea what to say. All she did was feed his cats.

“Thank you!” he managed to shout, and then was stunned to see her expression change to a genuine, appreciative smile.

“It was nothing at all!” she replied, and her voice was burned into his memories. It was so foreign for someone to reply to him with such sincerity.

The five brothers returned home, letting their angered fourth brother scream obscenities at them during the trip back. Once they were in their room, Jyushimatsu kept him locked in the submission hold, as the other brothers surrounded him.

“What’s the big idea?” Ichimatsu snarled.

“We should be asking the questions!” Karamatsu spouted, and crossed his arms, “What were you going to do to that girl, huh?”

“She was…” he trailed off, deciding against explaining why. “I wasn’t going to do anything. I just wanted to feed the cats.”

“Is that so? Then where’s the cat food? HUH, RAPEYMATSU?” Todomatsu shouted.

“R-R-Rapeymatsu?” he responded in bewilderment, “I wasn’t- I wasn’t- WHAT?”

“I know you’re upset that you’re still a virgin. We all are still virgins, and I get that you’re just sexually frustrated,” Choromatsu sighed, and tried to console him, “But if you do any sort of criminal activities, then it affects all of us! We’re sextuplets! We all have the same face, for crying out loud, Ichimatsu!”

Growing weary of their outrageous accusations, he responded, “I wasn’t going to do that! Is this how you guys really think of me?”

“I’ll let you borrow some of my dirty mags if it’ll help, Rapeymatsu,” the hyper brother said as he shuffled towards his stash.

“We’ll even give you more time alone in our room, so you can vent out some of that frustration, burazaa,” the pain-inducing brother added.

“I don’t need that,” he flustered, even though he does rub one out in their room every so often. It was growing futile to convince them that he had no violent intentions towards that girl, but they seemed more relieved that they were able to stop him, patting themselves and each other’s backs.

“Cat food girl was really cute though,” sighed the youngest brother.

“She would’ve been a great addition to my Karamatsu gaarusu,” the second brother commented, though there were no other girls in his fantasy harem.

“Too bad she thinks we’re perverts,” the fifth brother shrugged, while still maintaining his permanent smile.

The third brother sighed, “Yeah, she’s a total loss now.”

Ichimatsu said nothing in his corner, as he held his knees close to his body. He could not stop thinking about her. Her hair, her dress, and her eyes were vivid in his mind as well as her voice. It carried a prominent accent, suggesting that Japanese was not her first language. However, she did look Japanese, but it did not make sense for someone to not know their own native language. Perhaps, she was Korean or Chinese, he thought. Even if she was not Japanese, she was still really pretty. It was so strange for him to be constantly thinking about her. Even his heavy crush on Totoko, a girl he had known since childhood, was not this overbearing. His mind that was usually occupied by porn and cats was now fully overrun by a nameless foreign girl, just because she looked directly at him and smiled. He wondered why she was not afraid of him like the others. Perhaps this was a sign that maybe there was someone out there for him. Someone that would want to get to know him. Someone that would want to be with him long enough for a relationship to blossom.

“She would never want me,” he thought to himself clutching his knees tighter, “I want to see her, though.”