The fifth of September finally arrived in the town of Laika Grove. Kids of all ages along with their families were hustling and bustling, trying to get ready for school. Unfortunately for Kubo, he was one of those kids. He sat quietly at the table eating his breakfast, or at least attempting to.
He and his mother, Sariatu, had finally gotten the chance to find refuge in America only a year ago due to his family's toxic ways. His father, Hanzo, unfortunately had to be left behind in Japan due to not being able to get filed in time and financial issues.
The two try their best to keep in touch with him and make sure he's okay, but for now they sat in a two bedroom house at the far east of the town, trying to keep a low profile.
After a year of adjusting and getting used to his surroundings, Kubo was finally enrolled in Laika Grove Middle School, much to his displeasure.
Picking at his bacon with a fork, he looked up at his mother who pouring herself a cup of tea at the counter. Her face looked lost as usual, her eyes were slightly pink due to her crying earlier in fear of Kubo going into such a social area. This made Kubo feel worse about going to school.
“Can't I stay home with you? Just for today…” the boy finally spoke up.
Sariatu slowly looked to her son, giving a reassuring smile, she spoke, “You need to go out and get a proper education and make friends..”
“I don't think anyone would want to be friends with me..”
The woman walked over and took a seat in front of the boy.
A few seconds passed before Kubo said anything, “I don't think people would like someone with only one eye….or a terrible family..”
Sariatu placed her tea down on the table, her expression becoming more stern. “Now that's nonsense Kubo. I'm sure there's someone out there who'd find you a very interesting. Just keep your chin up.”
Kubo finally ate a piece of bacon that was starting to get cold. “I guess..”
Sariatu glanced at the clock, 10 minutes after 7. “You should get going, the bus will be here in another 10 minutes..”
Hearing this, Kubo got up and carried his remaining food to the garbage disposal.
After cleaning up, he headed to the hall closet and grabbed a dark blue hoodie and slipped it on. Grabbing his bag and shamisen, he turned to his mother, now heading to the backdoor, “Ittekimasu!”
Sariatu turnt to the boy and responded “Itterasshai!”
With that, the boy opened the door and exited the house. Walking slowly to the bus stop, praying the bus never comes.
After what felt like hours, the bus finally appeared around the corner stopping in front of Kubo.
As the doors opened, Kubo took notice at the tall slender man with a red hat on his head sitting at the wheel.
“Good morning, little one! Ready for your first day?” He spoke in a british accent.
Kubo faked a smile and nodded.
As he entered the bus, he instantly regretted it as everyone one on board stared at him.
Staring at his shoes he walked, down the aisle to take a seat at the back, mutters and whispers passed his ears as he passed each seat.
Kubo sat near the window, trying to keep his mind distracted with the town whizzing by. A boy, much taller than him, glanced at the one eyed boy who just sat next to him, curiosity in his eyes. Kubo took notice of this and slowly turned to the lanky boy. Instantly, the boy averted his eyes, muttering a “sorry”.
Kubo remembered what his mother said and thought to himself. The boy didn't seem intimidating, plus he knew no one was gonna be instantly friendly with him.
Taking a deep breath, he turned to his seatmate and gave a friendly “Hi..”
The boy turned to Kubo in surprise, he thought twice before saying, “Hello.”
Kubo raised his hand offering it to be shook, “I'm Kubo..”
The other boy gladly took the hand, shaking it a little hard, “Arthur, but please just call me Eggs.”
“Eggs?” Kubo then noticed the boy was wearing a box with the same name on it. “Oh..”
“Heh, yeah. Everyone calls me it, even my family.”
Kubo smiled, he never thought he'd meet someone so friendly.
“So are you new here? I've never seen you before.”
“Yeah, I moved here last year. Today's my first day..”
“Wow! Well if you'd like, I can give you a tour of the school.”
Kubo’s eye widened, “You'd do that?!”
“Sure! It's the least I could do for a new guy. Nice eyepatch by the way..”
Kubo couldn't feel anymore happy with such a kind gesture Eggs gave him, not to mention a compliment with it, “Thanks..”
The bus pulled up at the front of Laika Grove Middle School. Kubo now felt excited seeing his new school in front of him.
It hadn't even been an hour of the new school year and Norman was already scrubbing off the words 'Freak’ and ‘Weirdo’ off his locker. He wasn't surprised considering only three people in the entire school body cared about him. Neil, Coraline and Eggs. Once in awhile Salma showed sympathy but she never really cared for Norman.
Speaking of Coraline, the blue haired girl was making her way to her locker which was coincidentally right next to Norman's. “Morning Norman.”
She took notice of the smeared 'freak’ on the locker. “Alvin's at it again isn't he?”
The boy turned to the girl giving her a simple nod,
The girl pierced her lips in annoyance, “You'd think after the whole witch’s curse thing he'd treat you better.”
“I'm not even surprised, this is Alvin we're talking about…”
Coraline opened up her locker, “Did you even try telling the principle?”
Norman scoffed, “As if he'd care, Besides, I say let Alvin and his goons have their fun.”
The girl passed him another bottle of cleaner from her locker, seeing as how he was running out of it. “What do you mean?”
Taking the bottle and scrubbing off the last of the letters, Norman simply said, “Alvin can't even spell his name, I think he's got more than karma coming for him in the future.”
Coraline let out a chuckle. Closing her locker she asked, “Hey, what class do you have?” Norman opened his locker and placed his stuff inside, “I have biology now. You?”
“History…” she let out a dreaded groan, causing the boy to giggle.
As the two talked they heard someone greeting them.
“Hi Norman, hi Coraline!”
The two turnt to their waving lanky friend as he passed by them.
“Hi Eggs.” Norman waved.
“Hey Eggs!” Coraline waved, she noticed a small boy with him. His right eye was covered by his hair.
Once the pair were out of sight, she pulled on Norman's sleeve. “Who was that?”
Norman looked at her confused and slightly annoyed, she knew he didn't like being touched but did so anyway, “Who was what?”
“That! There was a boy with Eggs. He looked weird..”
Norman didn't even notice the other boy, “I don't know. I wasn't paying attention..”
The girl groaned, letting go of the boy’s sleeve. “You never pay attention…”
She looked down at her watch. “Well I'm going to class, later..”
“Yeah, bye..” Norman slammed his locker and walked to his biology class.
“Over there is the math room and right here is the library.” Eggs pointed to the double doored room. Kubo’s eye lit up at the entirety of his surroundings. He had no idea that school was like this. So big and filled with so many rooms. He almost felt overwhelmed. “Wow! This place is so huge!”
“It may seem huge now, but trust me, you'll get used to it.”
As the two walked down the hallway they passed by a set of lockers. In front the lockers was a blue haired girl and a spiky headed boy. “Hi Norman, hi Coraline!” Eggs waved as he walked past them.
Kubo looked over at the waving kids, “Who are they?”
Eggs turned to the shorter boy, realizing he never mentioned his other friends. “Oh those are just some friends of mine, they're really ni-”
They two looked up to see a ginger girl waving them over.
The boxboy ran up to the girl and hugged her, spinning her in the process. “How are you? I haven't seen you since July!”
Letting go of the boy, she said, “Sorry, we went to London in August. We just got back last week. How are Fish and the others?”
“They're doing pretty well. My father recently moved all of us into a bigger house so we could be more comfortable.”
“That's good.” She glanced over at the smaller boy a few steps behind Eggs.
“Who's that, Eggs?”
Eggs turned over to the shamisen wielding boy, gesturing him to come over. Kubo slowly walked over to the pair. “Winnie, this Kubo, he's new here. Kubo, this is Miss Winifred Portley-Rind.” Eggs said putting a classy tone in his voice when saying Winnie's name.
The girl looked at her friend with a cocked look, “Ahem, you may call me Winnie. It's a pleasure to meet you.” She shook the small boy's hand. “It's nice to meet you too.” Kubo smiled
“So Kubo, where are you from?” The girl asked.
Kubo shyly muttered “Japan..”
“Oh Japan! I bet it's beautiful over there. I’ve always wanted to go.” Winnie exclaimed, causing the small boy to give a shy smile. “It's really not that great…”
Eggs eyes moved to the shamisen over Kubo’s back. “Oh Kubo, I've been meaning to ask, what's that?” He pointed to the instrument.
Kubo somehow forgotten he even had the shamisen on him. He pulled it in front of him and held it in his hands. “It's my shamisen.”
“A what?” Winnie asked in confusion.
“A shamisen. It's basically a Japanese banjo..”
“Do you play?” She asked now intrigued.
Kubo taken aback. Play here? Now?
“Uh yeah, but-”
“Well play something then!”
“Yeah, Kubo! Play!” Eggs chimed in.
Kubo nervously looked down at the instrument. “I don't know..”
“Oh come on! Please” The girl begged him.
Kubo stared at the two kids, both faces filled with excitement and plea.
Finally Kubo gave in. With a sigh, he took his pick out of his pocket. Just as he rose his hand to strum.
“Aww dang it.” The girl groaned as she saw the hallway began to clear up. “What class do you have Eggs?”
“Math, what about you?”
The boxboy turned to his one eyed friend, “What do you have Kubo?”
Kubo quickly took out a piece of paper from his pocket. “...... biology..”
Eggs smiled, “Great, Winnie can take you to class.”
“It be my pleasure. Come on Kubo.” She said taking Kubo's hand. “Bye Eggs.” She waved as she began to walk to class.
“Yeah, bye Eggs. Thanks for the tour!”
“Bye guys!” The boy waved as he made his way to the math room.
The class was filled with students doing all kinds of shenanigans. Some were throwing paper planes and balls, others were talking loud and being obnoxious.
Norman sat quietly in his seat, reading his bio textbook out of boredom. He felt a paper plane land in his hair. He annoyingly plucked it out, noticing there was writing on it. He opened up the plane stared at the almost unreadable scrabble in front of him. He read aloud, “Why was the ghost lonely on his first day of school?..... Because he had no body to talk to…”
With that, a loud outburst of laughter came behind him. Turning to the source of the laughter, Norman gave a dull look as it was none other than Alvin and his lackeys.
“Boom! That's Alvin for ya! Am I right?” The bully turned to his friends who of course agreed with him. Norman rolled his eyes as he went back to reading about cells and molecules.
Winnie and Kubo entered the room. Kubo's face was in awe at the posters and replicas in the classroom. “There’s an empty seat behind Norman.” Winnie pointed to the spiky haired boy. Kubo instantly recognized the boy from earlier. “Is he your friend?” Kubo asked.
“We talk..sometimes. He's more of an acquaintance..Anyway, hurry up and sit. Mr. Snatcher will have your head if your not seated.” The girl ushered him to go to his seat.
Kubo didn't even have time to ask who was Mr. Snatcher. He sat down and leaned his bag and shamisen against the wall. He looked up at back of Norman's head, wondering how'd he even get his hair to stand up so straight. He was pulled out of his thoughts when the door opened and everyone scrambled to their seats.
A large man with very skinny legs walked in with one of the most miserable faces Kubo has ever seen. “Good morning claass…” he spoke, annoyance in his voice.
Everyone spoke, “Good Morning Mr. Snatcher.”
“I'm sure aaalll of yoou are excited for another year of learning and fun…”
A few mutters of 'yeah’ and 'greaat’ rang through the room.
The man sat down at his desk and flip through his attendance book. “Hm...it appears we have a new student in our class today.” He scanned the room until his eyes landed on Kubo.
“Stand, introduce yourself and tell us where your from..”
Kubo hesitantly stood up, feeling small under the eyes of everyone in the room, minus Mr. Snatcher who was writing something down on a piece of paper.
“My name is Kubo...I’m from Japan. Me and my mom live at the end of town..”
“Why do have one eye?!” Alvin yelled
A few kids started giggling and snickering.
Kubo felt his face turn a slight shade of red, “Uhh…”
“Enough!” Mr. Snatcher interrupted.
He looked Kubo in the eye, “Sit down…”
Kubo let out a sigh of relief as he sat down. He noticed Winnie giving Alvin a mean glare, thankfully the bully didn't notice.
After roll call was done, the teacher got up out of his seat and moved to the board.
“Take out your textbooks and turn to page 19..”
Everyone began flipping through their books. Kubo did so too, but turned his head towards the window, not paying attention to anything that was going on in the class.
Recess seemed to have taken forever to come but everyone was relieved for it to be here.
The hallways spilled with children, some heading outside, others heading straight for the bathroom or cafeteria.
Kubo walked through the hallway trying to get to his locker. It was hard considering the traffic of kids and the crowd.
As he walked, he passed a door and heard murmuring coming from it. Kubo looked up at the sign of the door, Janitor's closet. Curiosity took hold of him as he inched closer and pressed his ear against the door.
“Yeah, so far the day's been pretty boring, I just wanna go home…….hehehe yeah, everyone really is acting like zombies..”
Kubo stood on his tippy toes and tried to look through the tiny window in the closet.
It was Norman, but he seemed to be talking to the wall. Before he could question what was going on, his hand accidentally pushed down on the handle of the door. Kubo stumbled in causing the other boy to whirl around looking at the intruder.
The two boys stared at each other for a full on minute. The red hooded boy’s face eventually turned to a shade of red. “Uuhhh... what are you doing in here...?”
Kubo composed himself, clearing his throat, “I think I should be asking you the same thing...”
With that Norman’s expression quickly changed into an annoyed glare, “You were spying on me, weren't you?”
Kubo quickly raised his hands in defense “N-no! I mean kinda, but I didn't mean to walk in, well stumble in..but.. who were you talking to?”
“That's none of your business.” He said walking out of the closet leaving the other boy behind.
Kubo quickly followed after him, in attempt to make amends with the boy. “I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to intrude.”
“......it's ok..” Norman tried his best to not make eye contact and ignore the smaller boy.
“Uh, I'm Kubo by the way..”
Norman finally glanced at Kubo, his expression still hadn't changed. “I know. You introduced yourself earlier, remember?”
Kubo's face flushed realizing he forgot about biology class. “Oh...heh, yeah..”
“.. It's Norman by the way.” He said looking ahead of him, his face now softening.
“Oh I know.”
Norman was surprised he knew his name, but then again the rumors probably spread to boy already. “Lemme guess, you heard the rumors?”
Kubo stared up at him in confusion, “What rumors?”
Norman turned to the boy in shock, “You haven't heard any rumors?”
The one eyed boy shook his head.
Norman was both relieved and surprised. He would've assumed Kubo would've known about his gift already considering rumors spread like wildfire at this school.
“Oh…well how do you know my name?”
Kubo smiled, “Oh Winnie told me this morning.
Of course that made sense, how else could Kubo have found a seat?
Norman and Kubo entered the cafeteria.
“Well I'm gonna go buy some lunch...bye Kubo” the spiky haired boy left the smaller boy on his own.
“Oh uh bye!” Kubo stared at the sea of children eating, chatting or just being obnoxious. He didn't know where to sit and started feeling alone. Just as he began to leave he heard someone calling him.
He turned to the source of the voice. At the very back of the cafeteria, Eggs was sitting with Winnie and the blue haired girl from earlier. He was waving him over, “Kubo, over here!”
Kubo shyly smiled as he made his way over to his friends. He sat between Winnie and Eggs, placing his bag on the table, “Hey guys.” He opened his bag and pulled out a bento.
“How was class?” Eggs asked eagerly.
“It was okay. Pretty boring..”
“Yeah, get used to it. Mr. Snatcher hates kids and wants to make our lives miserable. One time he suspended a girl for answering a question wrong.”
Kubo stared in shock at Winnie, “Wow, really?!”
“Yeah, I was that girl..”
The trio started laughing at her quirky remark.
Kubo noticed the blue haired girl was staring at him in confusion. Kubo instantly stopped laughing realizing that he never introduced himself to her. To her, he was a random stranger who just sat down and started talking to her friends. “Uh..hi..”
The girl raised her sandwich to her mouth, “Hi…” she took a bite.
“I'm Kubo.” He held out his hand to be shook.
She swallowed, “Coraline. Coraline Jones.” She shook the boy's hand, “What kind of name is Kubo?”
Kubo's smile started to fade. He felt offended by such a question. He smirked and said, “What kind of name is Coraline?”
She glared at the boy, “A unique one!”
Eggs butted in, “Don't mind Coraline, that's her way of being friendly.”
Her eyes turned to Eggs, her glare sharpening, “It's not! I was just simply asking.”
Eggs simply smiled at his striped sweatered friend. Kubo relaxed in his seat as he opened up his bento and pulled out an odango to eat.
As he was about to eat, to his surprise, a familiar spiky haired boy took a seat next to Coraline. Norman simply waved as he took up a spoonful of mac and cheese. Everyone except for Kubo greeted him warmly.
“Say Norman, where's Neil?” Eggs asked, popping a potato chip in his mouth
“Sick..” the boy answered, eating the mac and cheese.
“Welp I guess Wybie isn't the only one then, he caught the flu a few days ago..” the striped sweater girl added.
After a moment of silence, she spoke again,
“Hey, Norman, see any new ghost recently?”
The boy instantly dropped his spoon. He groaned, placing his head in his hands, “Gee thanks Coraline, now the new kid knows I'm a freak.”
Kubo lowered the odango from his mouth, “You can see ghosts?!”
Norman buried his face further, he muttered, “No..”
Everyone else at the table answered, “Yes!”
“It's incredible what Norman can do! He's like the bridge between the living and the dead!” Eggs exclaimed eating a potato chip in the process.
“Yeah, I used to be able to see them too with this thingy the Forcibles gave me, but a witch burnt it.” Coraline added.
Kubo's eye widened in surprise. He had no idea his friends had such weird experiences.
He turned his attention to the medium who was averting his eyes from the group and eating.
“Do you see them all the time?” Kubo asked, finally eating his treat.
Norman simply nodded, not bothering to look at the boy.
“I can kinda see ghosts too…” Kubo simply said absentmindedly.
To his surprise, everyone at the table yelled out, “You can?!?” Even Norman was staring at the small boy. Kubo shrank in his seat as they continued to stare,
“...Yess? But I don't see them see them, it's a festival we did back in Japan.”
The group shrunk back a little in slight disappointment but urged him to go on
“We'd take a lantern to a river and try to communicate with our deceased loved ones. Once the lantern lit up we'd place it in the water and send them off.”
A few moments of staring and blinking passed before Coraline said, “That sounds boring..”
This caused Kubo to frown which caused everyone else to glare at her. “What? I'm just saying..”
Winnie turned to Kubo, “Speaking of Japan, Kubo, you said your shamslen.”
Kubo stared at the ginger in confusion before he realized she was talking about his shamisen. “It's called a shamisen, Winnie. And I don't know...I don't wanna draw a crowd.”
“Oh come on Kubo! You said you would.” She begged him.
He wanted to play, yes, but he'd risk revealing his magic. Who knows how the entire cafeteria would react to origami figures dancing on the table. Kubo then remembered about the music room and Eggs saying it was usually empty on Mondays. “Tell you what, after school you guys meet me in the music room and I'll play something for you?”
“Do I have to wait so long?!” Winnie whined.
“Humph, fine!” She huffed placing her elbow on the table and her head in her hand.
Norman noticed the unusual food Kubo was eating. There were mounds of rice wrapped with a black thing, some noodles and some balls on a stick in the container.
“What's that?” he asked curiously.
Kubo looked up at the boy and took the stick out of his mouth, “Odango, some noodles and onigiri. My mother made them.”
Norman nervously asked, “Can I try some?”
Kubo gladly gave him some of his lunch to try, smiling at the boy's interest in his food.
Norman took up the odango and sniffed it. It had a sweet syrupy smell.
Finally the boy took a bite out of the food. After a few chews he stopped, eyes widening. His face instantly lighting up at the delicious taste of the treat, “Wow! This is really good. No, this is great!!”
Coraline looked over at the boy enjoying the food, curiosity hitting her now.
“Can I try?” she asked to which the medium nodded and handed her the remaining odango. She took a small bite, nodding at the treat, “It's okay.”
“I think it's more than just okay.” Norman said taking back the stick.
Soon Eggs and Winnie wanted some too.
“Can I get a bite?” Eggs asked the red hooded boy. Norman passed the rest to the two. Winnie plucked an odango from the stick and popped it in her mouth while Eggs scarfed down the whole thing.
Winnie's expression darkened and she swallowed hard, “It tastes weird.” Licking the remaining crumbs in her mouth.
Eggs however continued chewing the treat, even biting on the stick. He swallowed, “Hey, these really do taste good! Do you have any more?”
Kubo then offered the two boys the remaining odangos in his bento which the gladly took. The group tried out the onigiri too. All of them agreed it tasted plain. Kubo really felt at home seeing his friends talking about the taste of the food and asking him random questions about Japan.
After a solid hour, the bell rang, and the cafeteria began to empty. Coraline and Kubo had the same class so they walked with each. Waving goodbye, the five kids went their separate ways.
The final bell for the day finally rang. Kids were pouring out of every door. The hallway was filled with kids attending to their lockers or talking.
Kubo placed his books back in his locker. Slamming his locker, he made his way down hall, locating the music room.
As he made the corner to the music room, Eggs appeared in front of him, “There you are! We thought you left.” He said, taking Kubo's hand.
“Sorry, the crowd was crazy.”
The two boys entered the music room.
Winnie and Norman were sitting patiently waiting for the boy, while Coraline was sitting at a drum set absentmindedly tapping a cymbal with her finger.
“Oh, you found him!” Winnie jumped up to her feet.
Kubo smiled and waved, “Hey, sorry I'm late..”
“Eh, it's alright…” Norman remarked.
Eggs took a seat next to Winnie and Coraline walked over.
“Alright, so why's playing your guitar thing such a big deal that we have to stay in music room?” The blue haired girl asked.
Kubo pulled the shamisen in front of him and pulled a pick from his pocket.
“If I'm going to play this, you have to promise you won't tell anyone about what you're about to see.”
The group turned to each other in confusion. Soon Eggs spoke up, “Uh..why?”
With that, the boy closed his eyes and began to strum the instrument, playing a soothing melody.
As he played, the music note sheets in the room began to float. The group watched in awe at what was going on.
The music notes flew high above their heads and suddenly began to fold.
The papers took the shape of many things.
There was a tiger, a owl, a flower, a swan and a warrior.
The now folded origami figures floated down and landed gracefully on the tiled floor.
With that, the boy stopped playing and slowly opened his eyes.
The group was staring at him as if they saw a ghost. Kubo felt intimidated, starting to regret doing this.
There was a suffocating silence between them, each second that past Kubo became more and more fearful of their reaction.
Surprisingly, Norman was the first to break the silence, “H-how did you do that?!”
Kubo hesitantly answered, “I have magic…”
Eggs kneeled down as he took a closer look at the figures in front of him, “These are incredibly well made!”
Winnie then began clapping, “I don't know what you did but, bravo! That was amazing!”
Coraline joined her in clapping,“Yeah, that was fantastic!!”
Soon everyone was clapping at Kubo and praising him.
Kubo shyly smiled and took a bow, “Thank you.”
After the applause, everyone surrounded Kubo asking multiple questions on how he did that.
Kubo explained how exactly he got magic and how is magic works, trying his best not to mention anything about his eye or his grandfather and aunts.
The group were in awe after his story and praised him some more.
Kubo smiled. He was glad that his first day of school was a great success.