Tsugiyoshi didn't have much time to think before he was unceremoniously deposed from his upright walking position to hurtling towards the concrete. However, as opposed to smashing face first into the ground, he was rather roughly yanked upward by his left arm, nearly dislocating his shoulder.
"Ahg!" He hissed as his eyes screwed shut with the jolt of pain. As it faded, he became aware of the chilly solid distinctly hand-feeling appendage wrapped around his wrist. Oh, and the fact that he was no longer connected to the ground. He opened his eyes and was met with... well, he had to take a few seconds to process it, because it didn't seem real for a moment that an absurdly muscled albino man with an emo haircut and a rabbit's foot dangling around his neck could be holding him a little over an inch off the ground by the wrist.
"You okay?" The guy asked in a strangely lilting voice that Tsugi wasn't sure if it fit him or not. He took note of the sharp teeth the man had.
"Uhh... yeah? Though I'd be better if you could put me down?"
"Oh. Okay." The stranger immediately released Tsugiyoshi's wrist and he nearly fell a second time after the sudden contact with the sidewalk. Tsugiyoshi looked the person in front of him up and down and was further baffled by his choice of dress. He had a too-small blue plaid button up on with crazy short cutoffs that left little to the imagination and black stiletto heels. Tsugiyoshi had no idea what to think and they stared at each-other a while before Tsugi just decided to end this exceedingly strange interaction and possibly write about it in the diary he totally did not keep.
"Well, thanks for making me not eat pavement. That was nice of you." He promptly turned on his heel and was about to resume starting home when he was frozen with pure bafflement at the next words out of the other's mouth.
"So we're friends now?"
"Wh-" Tsugiyoshi turned his head back to the man. "I- I mean no? That's... creepy?"
"How?" He pouted. He was pouting.
"Well- because... I mean, how old are you?"
"Oh!" He spoke like a five-year-old and his eyes practically sparkled. "I've seen 252 rabbits in the sky! And that means I'm 252 months old. I learned that from Takeyasu!" His face switched over to a more thoughtful expression as he brought his immaculately manicured index finger to his chin. "Or maybe it was Nagayuki..."
"Uhh..." Tsugiyoshi hated big numbers, they were always such a pain to crunch. "So you're... 12? No, 21."
"21 years old."
"Woah! That's a lot of animals."
"Two rats, oxes, tigers, rabbits, dragons, and snakes, then a horse, a sheep, a monkey, a chicken, a dog, and a boar!"
"Aren't years supposed to be animals?"
"Wh-" It took Tsugiyoshi a few seconds to make the zodiac connection. "Oh. Yeah."
"You never said."
"Never said what?"
"You never said why it was creepy. I mean I've been called creepy a lot and I dunno why, but you weren't really talking about me, you were talking about being friends. How is being my friend creepy?"
Maybe because you're an unsettling person? Although, as he thought this, Tsugiyoshi immediately redacted the internal statement. He's definitely not all there. It's almost adorable. Great, now who's being creepy?
"Well... If a person... is younger and weaker than you are, it's easy to take advantage of them."
"But friends aren't supposed to take advantage of each-other."
"... No. No they're not."
"So why would it be creepy if we were friends?"
"... I guess it wouldn't."
"So does that mean we're friends?" The man's heels clicked as he stepped closer with that same childish sparkle is his ruby red eyes. Tsugiyoshi had to force himself to think through his next words.
"Yaay!" The other very quickly swept Tsugiyoshi into a bone-crushing hug and the boy wondered what he'd gotten himself into.
"Okay." He wheezed. "One thing. Friends. Do not do. Is commit manslaughter. When they hug."
"Oh. Okay." The man relinquished his hold on Tsugi and settled for excitedly gripping his biceps, possibly cutting off the circulation to parts of his arms. "Oh oh oh! I never told you my name!"
"No you did not."
"I'm Usagi. What's your name?"
"Ooo, that's a neat name."
"It is! How'd you choose it?"
"How'd I... I didn't, whoever was there when they were making my birth certificate did."
"Because that's how names work? Whoever contributes to you being born picks out your name."
"Because... I dunno, because babies don't have the mental capacity to choose their own names."
"But you're not a baby."
"So you can pick your own name."
"That's not-- Okay, my name is Nezumi then."
"I like it! Now what do we do?"
"Well we're friends. Friends do things together."
"Uh... I guess? But my parents are kind of expecting me home? And I can't exactly get home until you let-"
"THERE you are!" Shouted a tight oral voice. Tsugiyoshi craned his neck to see a young man who was probably only a few years older than him with vibrant golden eyes that had dark shadows beneath them wearing an earthy brown tank top stomping up behind Usagi. "You idiot, what're you doing now? Do you want to get charged with assault again?"
"I made a friend!" Usagi chimed, smiling and shoving Tsugiyoshi toward the newcomer.
"Dude. That's what you said when we found you in an alley with that short lady with the glasses who looked like she was about to kick your ass."
Tsugiyoshi's mind floated to Misaki at the words 'short' 'glasses' and 'kick your ass'. All of which were good descriptors for his mom.
"No buts!" Apparently-Takeyasu turned his head to Tsugiyoshi. "Sorry about this guy. He didn't break your arms or anything, did he?"
"Friends don't break friends' arms." Usagi said.
"Yeah, and that's why you have none." Takeyasu snarked.
"But Nezumi is my friend."
Tsugiyoshi raised his hand.
"Nezumi." Usagi repeated to Takeyasu smugly, who looked at Tsugiyoshi like he was insane.
"He must be lying."
"Is 'nope' and 'yup' all you can say?"
Takeyasu groaned and turned to Usagi. "Just remember curfew is 8:30."
"But I'm not an elephant."
"Whatever, god you are weird. Curfew is 8:30 dumbass."
"I'm not a donkey either."
"Shut up and be back at the mansion by 8:30."
And just like that, Takeyasu turned and left their field of vision.
"He wasn't acting like himself. Takeyasu doesn't usually talk like that. Maybe it was actually Nagayuki, but they switched clothes. They do that sometimes."
"'They twins?" Tsugiyoshi wondered idly.
"Uhuh. So, what did you wanna do?"
"I... I wanted to walk home? My parents tend to worry when I don't get home on time."
"You have parents?"
"... Why wouldn't I?"
"I didn't think anyone but Toshiko had parents." He mused, tilting his head.
"Well, they're not technically my parents," Tsugiyoshi explained as he resumed walking towards the apartment complex. Usagi's heels clicked eagerly as he followed. "But they raised me and they take care of me, so that kind of makes them my parents anyway."
"Does that mean Takeyasu and Nagayuki are kind of my parents?"
"Uh... I don't quite think that's how it works."
"How does it work then?"
"Uh... usually parents are married. And not related."
"Oh. So they're not my parents." Usagi's shoulders slumped and Tsugiyoshi was suddenly filled with the need to reassure him.
"I mean, that's how it is usually. Parents are really just whoever takes care of you and keeps you out of trouble."
"Like Takeyasu and Nagayuki!"
"Yep. But you probably shouldn't tell them that. I don't think they'd like it."
"They don't like a lot of things."
The two of them stopped at the crosswalk and Tsugiyoshi noticed a few people rubbernecking to get a good look and confirm that, yes, this weird albino dude in daisy dukes and stilettos was standing next to this high schooler and neither of them were batting an eye. Tsugi shrank back a little.
"People don't pull themselves in like that unless something's wrong." Usagi stated. "What's wrong?"
"I don't like it when people stare."
The signal turned green and, as the two of them crossed, Usagi looked around; all the oglers quickly busied themselves with other things.
"I don't think they're staring anymore."
Yeah, because when someone like you notices, everyone pretends they aren't.
"People don't like being caught doing things they aren't supposed to do." Tsugiyoshi responded simply.
"Why aren't people supposed to stare?"
"It's rude and it makes whoever they're staring at uncomfortable."
"Isn't staring just looking at someone? Why is it rude to look at someone when people look at each-other all the time?"
For the second time in the past ten minutes, Tsugiyoshi wondered how he'd gotten himself into this conversation with this person.
"Because... well, I guess staring at strangers is the thing. The less you know each-other, the less acceptable it is to stare. Especially if you're not talking to the person and are just looking for whatever reason you have to look at them that long."
Tsugiyoshi could see the complex up in the distance a block or two away.
"We're coming close to my place."
"You think we should have a sleepover?"
No, my dear Usagi, no I do not. How does this man function?
"I think it would be better to save the sleepovers until we know each-other a little better. And also until after my parents have approved it."
"Oh. Well, alright. What about coming over to my place?"
"You sure your 'parents' would be okay with that?"
"There's lotsa people who go in and out all the time."
"Yeah. They're bounty hunters and thieves, and so they've got lotsa people asking them for stuff."
"What do your parents do?"
"Dad pushes pencils to pay the rent, mom cooks at a bakery to feed us. Kinda boring, but boring can be nice."
"Are they home a lot?"
"They're home as much as they need to be. They've... always been home for me."
"My parents are home really randomly. One time they were gone for a whole month. My bunnies almost starved because I ran out of rabbit food."
"You have rabbits?"
"Uhuh. Lots. They all live around the mansion."
"I used to have a pet rat, but it got old and ended up dying two years ago."
"Oh no! That's just awful."
"Oh yeah. That critter was my whole world. I honestly never knew if it was a boy or a girl, so I just imagined it was genderfluid. I never did name it, it was just my pet, and I liked having it around."
"There are too many bunnies for me to name, but I like having them around. The only thing is, rabbits are quiet. They only make noise when they're hurting."
"It's kinda the same with rats."
"Not with people though."
"Most of the time, at least."
"What's the bakery?"
"Huh? Oh, it's Lucky Monkey. Stupid name for a bakery, but-"
"Does she have short brown hair and glasses?"
"... Yes, you know her?"
"She was that lady from the alley who was about to kick my ass!"
Tsugiyoshi blinked up at his new friend, not knowing what to say other than,
"That phrase does not sound right coming from you."