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Shoujo Brave

Chapter Text

"Leave me alone!" he screamed, throat trembling.

"Fine, fine! Whatever, Seto," the leader of the children sneered. "Your dumb little mutt's gonna have to get it instead thou-"

A fist went flying before they could finish speaking, knocking several of their teeth loose.

The small boy who owned the small fist didn't wait around for them to recover. Without as much as a glance to the rest, he jumped feet first into the freezing, hazy water.


Hanako….. Hanako are you okay…?

Why did they have to…

Why does anyone have to…?


I hate them.

I don't want to be near any of them again!

[I wish… I didn't have to hear people speak. Just so I won't have to say anything back.]



Wow, they're really rotten!

why does-

Cheat 'em and you leave 'em.


You're the worst!

think such-

Just die, make my day!

cruel things?

Chapter Text

"My name is Ayaka," said the smiling lady who had bent down to their line of sight.

"This is my husband, Kenjirou." The man with the dorky glasses standing next to her gave a wink to the three of them.

Kousuke suppressed the urge to roll his eyes.

"You can call us 'Ayaka' or 'Kenjirou' or even 'okaa-san' or 'otou-san' if you want!"

This time Kousuke didn't suppress it.

'Let's hope that these introductions go smoothly,' he heard her think. He pulled his hood down.

Looking away from the adults in front of them, he caught glimpses of the girl standing a little ways behind the couple, shifting and trying to take peeks at them as well. She made a pitiful squealing sound when 'Ayaka' finally brought her right to the front.

"This is our daughter Ayano! She's your 'onee-san' now, maybe even your 'onee-chan' one day! She'll help take care of you all when we aren't able to, so I hope you'll be able to get along with her."

Ayaka nudged her head at the three orphans and smiled encouragingly down at Ayano. "Oh… um-uh… my name's A-Ayano," she managed to stutter out, her brown eyes shifting uncomfortably and looking anywhere except at them. "I'll d-do my best to be a good onee-chan..."

'Oh dear, that was really awkward wasn't it… they probably think I'm dumb and clumsy now…' She ducked her head lowly.

Kousuke blinked a few times. Once, twice, thrice - nope, the red was still there, blazing right inside his eyes. Another attempt to banish it failed, another intruding voice in his head.

'I never wanted siblings in the first place. Hiyori's already enough. Why are we even still going through with thisahhh, the shortest one looks angry!'

Short? Temper flaring, Kousuke turned his head sharply and shot her a dirty look, eyes glaring from under his hood. Great, he would have to deal with this girl's sad thoughts all the time now, wouldn't he? Fantastic.

Regardless, he smirked a little bit at the terrified squeak she let out, swiftly turning back towards 'Kenjirou.'

Unsurprisingly, the sight of Ayano trying to sink and hide in her father's lab coat didn't seem to faze the blonde boy next to Kousuke in the slightest.

"Hi, okaa-san, otou-san, and onee-chan! I'm Kano Shuuya," he said with a grin and a wave. "Thanks so much again; I'm sure we'll be one big happy family."

'That was good right? They should be pleased now, right? I practiced saying that enough times didn't I? I-I have to make them like me-'

Kousuke scoffed internally. While he had eventually gotten used to it, Shuuya's constant cheerful paranoia never failed to sound painful and needy.

"You're very welcome Shuuya," Ayaka smiled back. "I'm sure we'll all get along just fine. And what about the lovely young lady over here?"

The green-haired girl on Shuuya's right took her cue to introduce herself.

"Greetings, Ayaka-san, Kenjirou-san, Ayano-san. My name is Tsubomi, daughter of the late Kido family."

She curtsied, probably just to be even more obnoxious. As she knelt, Kousuke caught her eyes scanning just behind the Tateyama family. 'Hm, their house is definitely not as grand as my old one was, not even close… But any place is better than that horrid orphanage, I suppose.'

Kousuke pulled the hood down his face even more. Augh, even her thoughts were snobby. What a priss.

"I'm very sorry for your losses, Tsubomi. I know that we won't ever be able to replace your old families, but we'll try our best to be there for the three of you."

Tsubomi nodded respectfully, her holier-than-thou thoughts melting away into the background. Ayaka finally turned towards Kousuke.

Ah, it was his turn, wasn't it? Might as well get it over with.

"Seto Kousuke," he cut in before Ayaka could address him. "Just call me Seto, if that's any easier," he added, shoving his hands into his pockets and refusing to look anyone in the eye.

"Oh! Well, I, ah- s-sure, if that's what you want," Ayaka stumbled through her words, taken back. Kenjirou didn't look surprised, however, and took a step towards him, Ayano still hugging his back from behind.

"Glad to have you as part of the family then, Seto!" He coupled it with another cheeky wink and a hand on Kousuke's shoulder.

'This one's a little rough around the edges, isn't he? Oh well, I'm sure we'll be able to straighten that out. He has a soft heart under that frown, I'm sure.' Kousuke heard him chuckle in his mind and squirmed under his hand.

Once Ayaka had composed herself again, she prompted everyone to go inside.

"Ayano dear, show them to their rooms while we prepare a meal, okay?"

"O-okay. Uh… follow me, you guys…"

As he followed their new, nervous 'onee-chan' through the house, while listening to his new 'brother's' noisy chatter and his new 'sister's' haughty silence, 'Seto' realized that this whole "Him-Getting-Adopted" thing was really happening.


It took about a month or so spent living as a member of the Tateyama family for Seto to decide that he wanted out. Quite surprising, to be honest - he really didn't think it would've lasted this long.

It's not that he hated his new 'family' per se, he just couldn't stand them anymore.

Shuuya, for example, was incredibly annoying as always. Always so irritatingly happy, cheerful, perky, you name it; he played being clingy all the way up to ten. Even now, he could never get the hint that just because they used to share a room in the orphanage and both had freakishly red monster-eyes, it didn't mean they were friends. And that said nothing about his nonstop talking, Talking, TALKING.

("Kousuke! Do you wanna -"

"For the thousandth time, NO.")

He had been a pain in the ass back then, too. Seto could still distinctly remember that time when he snuck out to go for a walk in the woods (definitely not to escape the voices or anything), and Shuuya just had to tattle on him. 

"I just couldn't lie to the caretakers, Kousuke!" he had sputtered out when Seto demanded to know the reason why. He had been so angry, so much that he lost control and pushed Shuuya down, causing him to cry, increasing his punishment.

Sure, maybe he did feel bad about it after a few days (he had made it a point to not be as rough with Shuuya as he was with others; the boy was just so fragile and naive and innocent that Seto was sure that even a little shove would break him completely), but at the end of it all, Seto was still the one who got slapped, beaten and banned from food for the following week. Usually, that sort of punishment was only given to the worse offenses that the orphans could commit; breaking property, stealing, fighting, (drowning animals...) etc. But for him, the orphanage's resident dangerous, wild, out of control creature, it was his regular punishment for even the most minor rule-breaking.

Tch, whatever. Seto supposed it really was his own fault. It's what he got for trusting someone else to have his back. He hadn't even asked Shuuya to use his power to transform into him in order to fool the caretakers, just that he not say anything and open the window for him when he snuck back inside once morning came. For the first time ever, Seto had felt a stab of actual raw betrayal during that moment when the adults found him in the forest and forced him back 'home,' telling him on the way that Shuuya had actively sought them out and told them where he had run off to. The feeling had been terrible; blisteringly deep and disappointing - almost too much to handle. Not wanting to make that mistake again, he refused to speak directly to Shuuya anymore and swore to treat him like any other orphaned nobody he came across.

For a while, Shuuya didn't try to speak with him either. Seto could only hope it was out of guilt. Once they got adopted together, though, Shuuya seemed to have taken it as a sign that they could now go back to their previously sorta-tolerant relationship, having probably forgotten all about the incident. I won't though, Seto promised himself as he continued to pull away from the other boy as much as he could.

Luckily, Shuuya (after only a few 'Stop-Talking-To-Me-Or-I'll-Beat-You-Up' threats growled his way) finally seemed to be getting it again. He spent more and more of his time latched onto their other family members.

Feh, good riddance, Seto would think each night as they slept in their room in silence, not missing Shuuya's night-time stories at all.

("Why not? It'll be fun! Come onnn."

"Can't you just bother Tsubomi about it instead of me? Look, there she is."

"What are the two of you speaking about? If it involves anything appalling or vulgar, I absolutely refuse to participate.")

Aah, Tsubomi.

Seto hadn't truly known her until the Tateyamas adopted them. One of the only times they had ever interacted before then that he particularly remembered was once when she had confronted him behind the orphanage, right in the middle of him breaking the arm of one of the worse bullies in the area. She had spoken with (read: berated) him for a few minutes, calling him a mindless brute at least once per breath. For all of her high talk, however, she had run away the moment Seto started barking at her to mind her own business. She had left so fast that he thought she had actually disappeared. Turns out she had.

He couldn't really complain though. Unlike what Shuuya would've done, it seemed Tsubomi didn't tell anyone as Seto never got any form of punishment for it (none of the bullies would ever admit that such a small-looking boy could hurt them, so the only times Seto would get in trouble for beating them half to death was whenever he got sloppy enough to get caught or whenever the orphanage headmaster was feeling especially unkind.)

They had had only small, insignificant encounters after that. Most of them consisted with her turning her nose up at him and making under-the-breath comments whenever they were forced to be in the same room together, then disappearing whenever he tried to yell at her for it. In hindsight, it was probably for the best that she was so flighty and spineless; unlike some of the other boys in the orphanage, Seto had absolutely no reservations about hitting girls (he did have a slight aversion to fighting younger kids, though.)

All that he ever got to know about her was that she was a monster like him and Shuuya. That, plus the rumor that her parents might have been rich before they died and left her stranded in an orphanage children's hellhole like the rest of them. Now that he had the true fortune of living within even closer proximity to her, Seto definitely knew that she used to be rich.

To him, Tsubomi may very well have been the haughtiest girl currently alive. Her attitude from before they moved into the Tateyama house hadn't changed at all. In fact, Seto was fairly sure that she was amplifying how stuck-up she could be. Her manners and speech were so impeccably perfect, her walking so prim and dainty, the way she could look at nearly anything and respond with politeness, yet think thoughts so heavy with disgust baffled Seto into senselessness. As a result, it would be an understatement to say that he was glad they found one way to faze her.

When Shuuya somehow came to the conclusion that the way Seto preferred to be called by his old surname was cool, he tried calling himself "Kano" and her "Kido" one day. The response - "NEVER use my family's name in such a loose and disrespectful way again, Shuuya-san!" - she gave him was pretty funny, Seto could admit. He almost felt bad for Shuuya, who now always used their first names no matter what.

Seto was not Shuuya though, and while the two of them still went out of their ways to not interact with the other, there were times when he couldn't help but call her 'Kido' just to see her reaction, which ranged from apathy to outrage and all those other wonderful emotions in between. Sometimes, when he was feeling even more spiteful than usual, he would upgrade the nickname to 'Kido-hime' just because he could.

Oooh boy, the resulting argument and inevitable fight they would have always got so out of hand that they needed to be separated. Still, as long as she acted in the hyper-snobbish way she did, Seto didn't think he would ever have a reason to quit picking fights with 'Princess Kido,' no matter how long the lecture Ayaka and Kenjirou would give him later was.

("What's all the ruckus about, you three? I'm trying to work, you know."

"Ayaka-san! Shuuya-san and Kousuke-san are talking about unsavory things!"

"We are not! I'm trying to take a nap here; Shuuya's the one bugging me about watching some weird show."

"It looks cool! I think it's an anime about magic card games or something! If you would just watch with me Kousuke-"

"Not on your life."


"I apologize, Shuuya-san, but I do not think it looks like the type of programming that would appeal to me."


"Super sorry, kiddo. I got a lot of research to do right now. Next time for sure."


"Yo, why are you looking so blue down there? I'll watch it with you Shuuya."

"Ahhhh, thanks otou-san!")

His new 'parents' were nice enough as far as adults went, he supposed, even though Seto had already known right from the start that they hadn't been adopted out of love. He had heard it right out of Ayaka's thoughts - research subjects, she'd called them in her mind on her first visit to the orphanage, and Seto almost felt like laughing.

Of course, of course the only way any of us could get out of here would be by a mad scientist wanting to dissect us or something. Which, in all honestly, sounded a lot better than getting locked up in a closet full of cockroaches and rats who thought about nothing but chewing and squirming and dirtying for hours on end just because you gave a little bit of back-talk to a cruel caretaker. Seto had practically leaped headfirst into the weird, crazy scientist lady's little blue car despite already anticipating that he'd be returned within a week or less.

(Tsubomi would maybe last a few months right until the couple grew drained enough of her constant complain-whining about the filthiness of commoners and peasants and all her other crap. Shuuya, who had the most "cute, little, lost orphan" qualities out of the three of them, probably had the best chances of staying for at least more than a year. Coincidently, he was also pretty much the only kid in the whole place that Seto actually hoped would find a home. At least he'd finally have his room all to himself again, along with the peace and quiet that entailed.)

Yet, a month later, someway and somehow, all three of them were still there. How could this be? Weren't these strangers growing tired of them? Spiteful of them? Hateful of them like all other people? They knew about their eyes and they're powers.. so why, how were they so... could it be that- no.

Seto steeled his heart again and refused. Although Ayaka thought of them as that term less and less now and Kenjirou never once had, he refused to delude himself into thinking that the three of them meant anything other than subjects of research to the couple. That way, it'd be less painful when the truth came out and they he was returned.

...if someone were to ask him, though, he would honestly say that he preferred Kenjirou. Mainly because he had bought all of them cell phones within their first week in the household, and that most of the few conversations he shared with the man didn't drift into scientific babble like Ayaka's fewer conversations with him so often did. Kenjirou was laid back, calm and usually left them alone whenever they needed space (in Seto's case, A LOT of space), and that was definitely something he could appreciate. The lame winks were even starting to grow on him a tiny bit, not that he would ever admit it, among many other things.

Ayaka, on the other side... was always trying her very best to be a good parent, Seto would give her that. Half of the time she was too busy with her work to spend time with them. Because of this, she spent the other half overcompensating for it and spent too much time with them; once on one of her rare off-days she had made them all spend at least four hours doing nothing but sit around and listen to weird old children's stories from her hometown. While Shuuya seemed to have enjoyed every second of it and Tsubomi at least had the decency to put up with it for appearances' sake, Seto couldn't recall any other time when he so badly wanted to knock himself out in order to escape the crushing boredom.

However, despite how most of her attempts to bond with her three new kids usually fell completely flat on Seto and often didn't stick with him like she wanted, Ayaka still gave a hell of a lot more consideration and warmth than any of the previous adults that had been placed in charge of him had ever given. So, albeit very begrudgingly, Seto would indeed choose overzealousness over neglect nine times out of ten.

All in all, as long as Seto was able to force his power to stop whenever they started thinking about 'studying the science behind their eye-abilities' or wherever that so-very-fun topic led to, he found he could tolerate the pair easily enough. Not enough to call them 'okaa-san' or 'otou-san' of course, but enough be want to erase all his horrible memories of the orphanage staff and instead insert their faces into his brain whenever the word 'guardians' popped up. Maybe even 'parents.'

Huh... maybe this would work out after all. Maybe Seto could stand his new family after all-

("Ayano onee-chan! Come watch with us too."

"Yeah, we'll fill you in on the plot. Unless you want to tell Ayano the summary details yourself, Seto."

"Grrr. I told you, I'm not watching it or anything, I just don't wanna move from my spot here."

"Fine, fine. So how about it Ayano?"






"Arrgh, just say something already! I already know you wanna watch it. Just say it already!"


"O-onee-chan, wait!"

"Kousuke, use your indoor voice. Please apologize to her later."


Wait, no. It was only his onee-chan that still had him on edge.

On the outside, Ayano was a shy, withdrawn girl who liked superhero comics even though she herself had no courage what-so-ever. There were times when she barely had enough backbone to talk to Seto, Shuuya, and Tsubomi on a daily basis, much less do anything really fun or exciting with them. She did have the capacity of being somewhat nice though and treated them decently enough on good days. Seto would probably be right if he guessed Shuuya was her favorite.

However, on the inside (which Seto had the unfortunate privilege to see), she was scarily curious and perceptive. Apparently, their parents never told her the real reason they had adopted the three orphans. Or maybe she was still too polite to ask even after all this time. Seto suspected it was actually both reasons.

While he didn't know exactly when it had started during these past few weeks, it had gotten to the point where Ayano was never not watching them. Constantly waiting for the times when Tsubomi's presence grew so faint that it was like she wasn't even there, or when Shuuya would literally turn into the people on TV for just one flickering second, or when Seto would subtly react to her thoughts despite his best attempts to appear indifferent at all times, or whenever any hint of red surfaced within their eyes... yeah, Seto was definitely on high guard.

Who would've guessed that a weak girl like Ayano could be so good at hiding an armor-piercing stare behind a timid look? While Shuuya and Tsubomi didn't see it and were none the wiser to their big sister's feelings, Seto could practically smell her suspicion and could actually hear it.

'What are they? They're human right? How can they do these things? It's impossible, no matter how I look at it, people just can't do these things! Or can they? Could I learn how to do them too? Are otou-san and okaa-san totally sure it's okay to have them here? What if they're dangerous?! What ARE they-?'

It made Seto want to scream and punch and kick and yell all at the same time. He felt furious - furious for Shuuya and Tsubomi who weren't even his friends and had no idea how they were being thought of. It just wasn't fair; they had all made a silent agreement between themselves to keep their powers hidden and at least somewhat secret. All three of them were trying so hard to carry it out, only to have this girl waiting to catch them using their eyes at any possible chance she got, but still didn't have the guts to tell it to their faces.

Just tell us we're freaks already!

Soon enough, Ayano did.

"…um, w-why do you guys have red eyes?" she asked abruptly whilst playing dolls with Tsubomi one day, who stiffened upon hearing the question. Shuuya and Seto immediately snapped their heads toward the girls, ignoring the show they Shuuya was watching. (Seto just happened to have been in the same room when it came on, as always.)

"Pardon, Ayano-san?" Tsubomi said, not looking away from her doll.

"Uh, yeah. What was that, onee-chan?" Shuuya joined in, forced smile stretching wide. Seto stayed quiet, already dreading where Ayano's thoughts were headed. From what he could hear, they were headed there fast.

"You, ah, y-you all heard me! Why do you have red eyes? " Ayano asked again with an assertiveness Seto didn't think she could've possibly owned. She stared at them hard and accusingly, causing Shuuya to actually clam up for once.

Tsubomi clutched the little plastic person tighter. "What do you mean? Our eyes aren't red. Mine are black, Shuuya-san's are yellow, and Kousuke-san's are gold."

"Liar!" Without warning, Ayano snatched the doll out of Tsubomi's hands. "Your eyes are red right now!" She brushed the hair (which was still growing out of the short, choppy cut that the orphanage had made all the girls wear) out of Tsubomi's face and forced her to look up. Her sister's eyes blinked shakily, horror and panic dawning in them.

They were a scared, flickering red.

Both Kousuke and Shuuya could see the painstakingly familiar color from where they were. By now they had stood up, the flashy show forgotten behind them as they watched the scene unfold, breath rigid and bodies tense. 'T-Tsubomi's supposed to be the best at keeping her power under control. I think this is the first time I've ever seen her eyes go red without her wanting them to...' he heard Shuuya think next to him. Kousuke's glare at Ayano intensified.

"Tell me now!"

"We... we, well- our eyes..." Man, Tsubomi looked like she was about to either start hyperventilating or faint or both. For the very first moment of them knowing each other, Seto felt a pang of pity for the stuck-up, annoying girl who gave him nothing but grief. "They- they're like this because we, because we-"

Sputtering and pale-faced, Tsubomi disappeared right then and there, right in front of them. Ayano shrieked and stumbled back. Seconds passed and Seto could tell that Tsubomi had fled the room, her hysterical thoughts fading from his mind and out the open living room door into the hallway.

Ayano turned towards her brothers and started yelling in fright. "A-a-and that! What Tsubomi-chan just did there! How did she do that? She just vanished into thin air! D-don't try to pretend like she didn't―no matter how hard you guys try to hide it, okaa-san and otou-san and I all know you have powers!"

Seto grit his teeth and pressed at his temples, the swelling red behind his eyes beginning to feel painful. Shuuya looked down at his feet, smile completely gone.

"Please!" Ayano was begging now. "Okaa-san and otou-san won't tell me what's going on with you guys no matter how I ask! I need to know what you three are, and I want to know it right now. I-I've been a good onee-chan, right?" she started to falter again, her previous bravado beginning to leave her. "So as your onee-chan, tell me! Please, Kousuke-kun! Shuuya! You guys aren't human, right?! You can't be. You're- you... are you monsters or...?"

Monster. The all-too-familiar word struck through both boys right in the heart, chilling the air around them until it froze their blood. Seto instantly looked beside him and, oh no, he was right: Shuuya was already moments away from crying.

"No... no, we're not..." he hiccuped. "We're humans too! We-we are, onee-chan..."

Seto watched Shuuya sniffle and plead, and for a fleeting second he considered reaching out and giving him a pat. Shuuya himself had done this for him a few times, getting up and patting Seto's back on nights when the voices had gotten too hard to bare and were making him toss and turn in his sleep. However much he didn't want to admit it, the pats helped him calm down, even if just a little.

(Shuuya never once told him about it during the following mornings and probably didn't know that Seto was usually awake and aware when it happened. To this day, he still didn't know why Shuuya did it and still kept doing it even after they stopped talking and Seto began treating him coldly. For once, Shuuya's thoughts didn't give him a clear answer.)

His hand was already starting on it's way to Shuuya's shoulder when the tears did start falling. Shuuya immediately tried to rub away the water dripping out of him, failing miserably. "We're just like the rest of you, we-we're normal too. We're not monsters, please..."

Seto's hand bunched into a fist on its way back to his side, bitterly remembering that Ayano was still there. She's the cause of this.

"Wa-wait, Shuuya, I- I didn't mean to say it like that. I just, just-!" Ayano tried to calm down her brother by bringing his hands away from his face, only to flinch back the moment he opened his eyes.

They were a sad, hazy red.

Ayano took a step away and brought a hand up to her mouth as she got her first good look at his eyes in their natural state. "This is impossible. How in the world... you can't be real..."

Shuuya's tears flowed faster and he began to tremble. Right before their very eyes, his form began to flicker in and out, taking on the appearances of different people one by one until he was lost under a myriad of faces and body parts that weren't his own.

"No, no! Stop!" Shuuya cried at himself, his voice warped as several other voices came out with it.

Their older sister gasped in horror and raised her other arm up in front of her as if to protect herself from Shuuya's illusions, her attempt at an apology completely abandoned.

Pathetic, Seto thought and for once it wasn't directed at the weeping boy who had run behind him in order to hide his changing self.

God, it felt as if someone was lighting a match deep inside his stomach. Except instead of lighting a flame, it was lighting up anger, causing the pain in Seto's head to grow sticky and hot from the wrath coursing through him. Before he knew it, his emotions were boiling up and exploding out of his core. Immediately they seized him, and now there was no stopping himself. He closed his eyes, walked in front of Ayano, squared his shoulders, and opened them again.

They were a hateful, scalding red.

She gulped and shivered before him. Seto didn't even need his power to know she was afraid. Serves her damn right.

"Shuuya's wrong, you're right Ayano. It is because we're monsters," Seto snarled before pushing her down in a surge of rage. This time he wouldn't feel any guilt at all, he'd make sure of it. "And we always will be."

Without another word, he stormed out of the room and then out the front door, not looking back to see how frightened and pitiable Ayano looked from the floor and ignoring Shuuya's tearful "KOUSUKE WAIT!" in his own voice.

Seto's forceful stride soon turned into a heated run, and it wasn't until minutes of unbroken sprinting later that he suddenly realized he was heading in the direction of the city. Too angry to even try turning his power off, the voices in his mind were already starting to double, then triple, then quadruple. He didn't stop, knowing it would be easier to ignore a hundred voices than that one awful girl's thoughts.

It was Saturday: Ayaka and Kenjirou were out working and wouldn't be back until later. Good.

He was running into the streets faster and faster now, even though he knew for a fact that he could outrun all three of his siblings combined.

Siblings. Seto wanted to vomit at the word. I'm an idiot. He should have known that a family was just too good of a dream to be true for the monster that he was. Not that a monster would want one anyway. I almost thought it could work out too…

Seto shook his head, freeing his mind only of his own thoughts and going faster as the buildings around him grew taller, fully intending to run away. Monsters didn't cry, and Seto Kousuke was definitely not crying.









Chapter Text


The autumn wind breezed lightly on the city sidewalks, blowing fallen leaves along with them. They swirled together gracefully, creating miniature tornados in their wake... which were all destroyed in instants as a small boy clad in a white hoodie, black hair and blazing eyes raged against the wind. By now, the boy himself had forgotten the original reason why he was running in the first place. All he knew was that as more and more of the city's voices piled into his mind, the faster he needed to run.

It was deafening. The whispers. The screams. The laughing, the weeping, the yelling, and it was all at him. All at him. He knew. It made him want to cut off his ears, pull out the monster's eyes; to destroy himself to make them just. Shut. UP.

Be quiet already! Don't you know that I get it?! You hate me! Everyone hates me! But not as much as I hate me! So just shut up!



P-please shut u-

His foot skidded on a crack and he tripped, smashing face first onto concrete. He picked himself up grittily, growling at anyone who offered him help. Instead of tending to the swelling bruise on his cheek, he smacked at the pounding swell deep inside his eyes.

Go away monster... go away... just die and let me die with you...

As if in response, even more voices came to knock on his shaking mind. He grasped his forehead in pain. "Urgh! GO AWAY!"

He couldn't take this anymore, he couldn't. If he stood here any longer, the world would suffocate him with its hate. He NEEDED a way out. A place to breathe. Away from everything. He turned his head, changed his direction, and began running again.

run, Run, RUN-

-and never look back.

The boy eventually slowed his blind sprint down to a stiff trudge. He had lost the human voices hours ago and felt nothing but relief, the sounds of the forest acting as his life-line back to sanity. With a few exceptions (hamsters and rabbits were freaky), it was much quieter than where he had come from. A lot less judging too. More like a home than he'd ever had.

That's not true, a voice spoke to him amidst the humming of the trees. His own voice. He bit his tongue and squashed it down.

He had come to this forest regularly before his, agh, adoption, often at any chance he could. Yet he always returned back to the orphanage eventually, and always to more punishment and bullying regardless of how much Shuuya vouched for his good character. Why had it taken him so long to finally just run into the woods and not return like he always dreamed about?

'Cause as shitty as it was, that place was my home-

He trampled over the voice with a mental bulldozer and replaced it with irritation. Be quiet, there's no need for stupid sentiments here! He was finally, finally alone, and so he could finally turn off his pow-


He startled and almost ran head-first into a tree, sending birds flying. 'Dumb human!' he heard them think, his power not yet turned off. He looked around frantically, searching for whatever could be making that noise-

Oh. Wait. That. He hastily reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone.

"Crap," he cursed. Had he really not noticed it buzzing this whole time? Or was Ayano really so much of a dummy that she hadn't thought of calling him until hours after he ran away?

Doesn't matter. He turned it off. He supposed he ought to probably return this, just out of his better conscience... but, that would mean going back to where civilization and their awful, gross (and to borrow a quote from Tsubomi), appalling minds were.

Yeah, no. Sorry, Kenjirou, Ayaka. He'd need a phone anyway, right? For wherever he was going to...? He began to pale.

Where was he going to? Back to the orphanage? The thought of it made him want to throw himself off a cliff, or worse, into the river. They'd just send me back to the Tateyamas anyway. Maybe I could just stay here... But if he did that, he should have brought more things along than just the clothes on his back, not that he had planned any of this, of course.

He started to pace around, anxiety building upon frustration building upon even more anger. What about food and water? Heck, where would he stay? No matter how much he'd like to, it didn't seem probable that he could live in a forest all by himself for so long. Shoot, this was really looking bad, terrible, horrible, impossible, hopeless, monstrous-

"AH!" he yelled at the growing headache throbbing steadily behind his eyes. His terrible, stupid eyes. He pushed all other worries away; the only thing that mattered right now was turning off his power. Taking a deep breathe and concentrating on words like quietalonesafe...


Little by little, the animalistic chatter in the background slowed, dimmed, and disappeared. Finally, he was alone and calm, deep in the confines of his own mind.

His eyes turned gold again. So gold, in fact, that he didn't hear her coming towards him at all.