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Group Therapy

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Tenko Chabashira bounded into the 79A classroom of Hope’s Peak Academy, eager for another day of honing her skills in Neo-Aikido, and having fun with her friends! What she was greeted with, however, confused her; the desks had been pushed and stacked in a corner of the room, leaving enough space for nearly all of her classmates to sit in a circle on the floor. Even Himiko had beaten her to class. The only few missing were Kokichi Ouma, Miu Iruma, and Ryoma Hoshi.
“What’s… going on? Are we going to play a game?”
Kaede Akamatsu, the class representative, rose to her knees, “Come take a seat. I’ll explain what we’re doing once everyone arrives.”
Hesitantly, Tenko walked over to sit next to Himiko, with Gonta seated on her right side. Gonta Gokuhara was one of, if not the most tolerable male students in her class. Although she still would have preferred a girl on both sides, she decided to simply comply with these circumstances. Glancing back to Kaede, she noticed the blonde release a sigh of relief.
A few seconds passed before Ryoma quietly strolled in, stopping to take in the unexpected changes of the room. After a moment, he simply shrugged and sat by Kirumi Toujou. They’d been seen together several times before, quietly enjoying each other’s company. Had Ryoma not already admitted to waiting a long while before even considering a relationship, everyone else would have assumed there was something between them.
During their wait for the remaining two students, everyone spoke casually among themselves, but no one could provide an answer to Kaede’s intentions. Suddenly, the door flew open with Miu Iruma shrieking as she was chased by a drone. A moment later, Kokichi Ouma dashed into view, clutching a remote control that resembled a walkie talkie.
“Nishishi! Come on, Miu, didn’t you want to test your new baby?”
“Not on me, you sugar-loving shit stain!” Miu raced around half of the class to hide behind K1-B0, the Ultimate Robot, who stood fully as a protective boyfriend. However, his actions were unnecessary, as Kirumi had swiftly confiscated the flying object, midair. The drone struggled to lift her weight, but was proven futile.
“Aww man, you’re no fun, Mom,” Kokichi whined, disappointed that his teasing ended early.
“Kokichi, please stop calling me that,” she didn’t even turn in his direction.
Tenko scoffed, disgusted by Kokichi’s mistreatment of both Miu and Kirumi. She glared as he carelessly tossed the remote to Miu, who barely caught it, then plopped down between Kaede and Shuichi. The others returned to their own spots, with Miu failing to claim Kiibo’s lap before settling on holding his left arm beside him. Kiibo simply sighed, and smiled warmly.
“Now that everyone’s finally present”, Kaede announced, “we can begin with addressing several issues that I’ve noticed in some of you. This will go on the whole week, and no one can skip out, even if you’re not in the spotlight. We’re doing this as a class, as friends, so we have to support one another.”
Shuichi handed her a notebook, “Thank you, Shuichi. So, today we will be supporting Miu, Gonta, and Shuichi.”
The boy sputtered for a moment, “W-wait, what? Me? But my name wasn’t written-”
“I know, I wanted to make sure you wouldn’t try to leave because you hate the spotlight,” Kaede smiled knowingly, then flipped to a page of the notebook filled with scribblings next to little doodles of the students mentioned. She pulled a pen out of nowhere and quickly drew a chibi face of Shuichi.
“You three all have very big insecurities or confidence issues. Miu-” the girl addressed yelped in surprise, “you tend to hide behind a mask of inflated ego, but I know you have abandonment issues. Gonta-” Tenko spared a glance to her right, “you’re doing a great job as a gentleman, and I understand you worry about your, er, off-putting appearance, and your intelligence. Shuichi-” Kaede twisted her body to fully look at the boy, “we’ve all seen your skills as the Ultimate Detective. Even if you only see yourself as an apprentice to your uncle, you need to remember that you are here, as an Ultimate.”
Blushing slightly at her little speech, Shuichi tilted his hat over his eyes, mumbling a quiet ‘Thank you’. Miu also hid her face, leaning behind Kiibo’s arm while he whispered for her to share. Moving away, she adjusted her uniform blazer, tugging it down to keep it from riding up her form.
“W-well, I, uh, I know I say a lot of shit and call you guys names but… I just don’t want to be forgotten, a-and I wanna be important. I want the world to need me enough that I won’t get thrown away. And Kiibo, you’re not just different from humans ‘cause you’re a robot, you’re different ‘cause you see me how I’d always wanted to be seen. You say I make you happy, no one’s ever told me that. I… I’m really fuckin’ scared this is going to stop, that you’re finally gonna see how much better you can do than me, how you’re gonna get sick of my bullshit,” her shoulders shook and tears poured down her cheeks, “Please don’t leave me like every other fuckin’ asshole did! I can’t be without you!”
Miu Iruma, the self-proclaimed gorgeous girl genius, collapsed in a heap of overwhelming fear and sadness. Kiibo wrapped her into a comforting embrace, pain painted across his face. No one expected her to open up so quickly, it was almost unnatural. The silence was finally broken by none other than Kokichi Ouma.
“Wow. That was more pathetic than Kaito’s sense of style.”
Said man jerked back in offense, “What did you say?!”
“Oh please, just when are you going to get a haircut? It’s gonna poke someone in the eye one day.”
“Why you little-”
“Stop it, you two,” Maki interrupted, her eyes shut in irritation, “We are here to reach out to one another, not bicker like a couple of whiny toddlers. So, both of you, shut up.”
Gonta sheepishly raised his hand barely above his head, prompting Kaede to grant him permission to speak. He fidgeted with his tie, making sure it was smoothly tucked into his jacket, before he opened his mouth.
“Everyone is very kind to Gonta, even if looks scary. Gentlemen should not look scary, and Gonta not want to be so big. Gonta want to be like Rantaro, or Shuichi, or Kirumi. They all very polite and unscary, and everyone likes them.”
Kirumi, having heard her name grouped with two boys Gonta envies, blushed slightly from embarrassment. However, she said nothing, as she felt it was not her place.
“Gonta,” Tenko surprised the class by speaking out, “you may look scary, but you’re the most trustworthy male in this whole class. At least, in my opinion. You’re really sweet and passionate about your goal of becoming a gentleman. I think you’re on your way there already.”
Angie clasped her hands together, “Yes, yes, right, right! Gonta is like a Komodo Dragon. He may look dangerous, but he loves to be tickled under the chin. Nyahahaha!”
“Yeah, and even though I’m flattered you see me as a gentleman, I’m just used to being around a bunch of little sisters, you know? It’s no big deal,” Rantaro rubbed the back of his neck, laughing.
“Oh, maybe Gonta should find little sister and be gentlemanly to her, like Rantaro!”, a glint of determination flashed across his red eyes, as if a fire has just been ignited within him.
Himiko scratched her ear from under her mage’s hat, “Nyeh, I could be your little sister, Gonta. You can give me piggyback rides to class, and feed me candy, and-”
“Himiko, I already do that for you!”
“Oh, yeah.”
Kaede sighed at the girl’s antics, “So, Gonta, do you want to share anything else? Remember, we’re here to support everyone, so whatever you having weighing on your mind…”
“No, Gonta feel better right now.”
“Oh, okay,” She then turned toward her left, past Kokichi, failing to maintain eye contact with Shuichi as he swivelled his head shamefully. She suddenly felt a pang of guilt at putting him on the spot without any mental preparation, he could be on the verge of a panic attack. Maybe she should let him get out of it, and talk about his problems one-on-one after everyone leaves.
“Shu-”
“I know I have confidence issues,” His eyes sweep over the class, as though giving a school presentation. The detective looked so vulnerable, Tenko thought just a single sneer would cause him to break down crying, “but I don’t know how to stop these feelings. The feelings of inadequacy, of not being enough of a man, of being a bad person. I’ve been enrolled at Hope’s Peak for a few months and yet I still expect the Headmaster to realize he made a mistake and kick me out. I sometimes I feel too… small. I’d heard rumors that I’m secretly a girl, because of my eyelashes and sensitivity. Why can’t I be tougher? Why can’t I keep myself from crying like a regular boy?”, he hugged his knees up to his chest, “Why can’t I be normal?”
Nobody spoke, nobody moved, nobody breathed. Until Kokichi burst out laughing from beside a stunned Kaede. He fell backwards and rolled around onto the floor, an embarrassed Shuichi evading the sight of him.
“Kokichi! Why would you laugh right now? Shuichi just poured his heart out to us and you’re being incredibly rude!”
Kokichi’s laughter finally died down, and he scrambled back into a sitting position, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes, “Oh my God, Kaede, did you hear him? He asked why he can’t be normal! Hahaha! As if he’s some kind of freak compared to us.”
His face suddenly grew stoic, “You can’t possibly believe that you’re an abnormality in a school full of weirdos, right? I mean, look at who your classmates are,” he counted out a number of descriptions with his fingers, “we’ve got a delusional artist who thinks she hears the voice of a God from her tropical island, a man raised by wolves for ten years, at least four of the people in this room have committed murder, and I’m an evil dictator on the verge of world domination! So, tell me, Shuichi, are you so strange?”
The boy stared back at his classmate, left utterly speechless. He opened his mouth as if to respond, but no sound came out. Closing his mouth again, Shuichi blushed as he realized what his own speech had implied about his friends.
“Oh, sorry if I may have offended any of you, I just…”
Kaede reached over to place her hand over his, “It’s alright, Shuichi. I’m sure no one here is upset.”
“Though, now that I think about, four people have killed someone?” Tsumugi adjusted her glasses, concerned.
Ryoma speaks up, “There’s myself, Kirumi with her requests as a maid, Maki out of obligation for her orphanage, I’m not sure who else has done it.”
“Nishishi, maybe that was all just a lie.”
“Oh my God Kokichi.”