Disclaimer: This is an original story written by Don Johnson (a/k/a "MadPanda") solely for the entertainmant of the audience. Any reproduction, re-transmission, re-publication or re-anything else of the characters, content or story (in part or in its entirety) without the express written consent of the author is prohibited. You have been warned. :-)
A MadPanda original jam
Chapter 1 - First Impressions
The classroom was a beehive of activity. Clusters of second-year students were spread out across the room, chattering loudly about this rumor and that, or playfully teasing each other. One student set herself apart from the cliques, choosing instead to bury her head in a large textbook. Yukiko Hitsuji skimmed the pages more than read them, trying to occupy her time before the classes started for the day. She knew no one would talk to her--not kindly, anyway. The only one who did was usually Class Representative Hiroko Akiyama, a sassy brat who never had a kind word for anyone.
'I can't help being who I am,' Yukiko thought to herself, her pink eyes leaving the book and scanning the crowd instead. 'I'll always be an albino. It's not my fault. it's not like I'm evil or something.'
Her eyes made the mistake of catching Hiroko's eyes. The taller girl stopped her conversation and yelled at Yukiko, "Hey, Choukuko! What are you looking at? Don't make me come over there and rip those pink eyes out of your head!"
"I..I wan't looking at you, Class Rep Akiyama-san. Really." Yukiko took off her thick glasses and turned away from Akiyama. "And my name is not Choukuko." Yukiko's voice was small and shaky, befitting her frail frame. It had the tiniest bit of backbone in it, however, and that ticked Hiroko off to no end.
"What's this? You're talking back today? Didn't I warn you about that last year? And don't you remember HOW I warned you?" Students scattered as Hiroko stormed over to the still-seated Yukiko. She slammed her fist loudly on the desk, causing Yukiko to shrink back into her seat. "You bruise quite easily, Hitsuji, remember? Don't make me have to show you again just how easily, because I'll be more than happy to do so." Her voice was full of hatred for the quivering girl cowering below her. "Better yet, I'll hurt you in a way that shows no bruises." She then turned to the class. "From now on, Hitsuji-san here will be known as 'Choukuko-san'!"
The other kids picked up the slur right away and started chanting, "Chou-ku-ko! Chou-ku-ko! Chou-ku-ko!" Hiroko smiled and looked down on the girl. "How do you like your new name, Choukuko?" Yukiko buried her head in her hands, her long white hair serving as a veil to hide her tears. That was the only reply Hiroko needed. "Good, I'm glad you're happy with it." She left Yukiko's desk and went back to her own as the bell rang for class to begin.
A stern-looking brunette entered the room, her dour expresion matching her dreb outfit. She stood in front of the class and waited for everyone to take their seats. When they did, Hiroko barked out the order, "Rise!" In unison, the class rose, bowed, and shouted, "Good morning, Toho-sensei!" The teacher bowed to them, and Hiroko shouted again, "Be seated!" Again, the class sat in unison. Hiroko kept an eye on Yukiko, making sure the girl stayed in step with everyone else.
"Thank you, Akiyama-san," the teacher said. "Good morning everyone. I hope you had a good summer. Today, I'll be introducing a new student into this class. I'm counting on you to make her feel welcome. Though I know it may be difficult for...some of you." She looked directly at Hiroko, making sure the girl understood.
"We'll do our best," Hiroko replied gruffly.
"All right then. You can come in now, Fukurou-san."
All eyes turned towards the door, as a tall girl strode proudly into the room. Her black hair was thick and wavy, falling just past her shoulders. Her features were neither Asian nor Caucasian, falling somewhere in between. She wore an ornamental headband to keep her bangs above her eyes, and a matching pair on both wrists. Being closest to the door, Yukiko saw her first, and her pink eyes met the dark ones of the newcomer. She saw no malice there--instead, she saw strength, which seemed to match the girl's toned stature. The stranger looked down at Yukiko with concern, as she wondered why this student was crying. Yukiko caught that, blushed, and buried her head again. This time, she peeked through her thick glasses to see what the newcomer would do next. The girl smiled reasssuringly, then turned her back to the crowd and began to write her name on the blackboard. When she was done, she turned to the class and bowed, speaking loudly and cheerfully.
"Good morning. My name is Fukurou Pirika. I am very happy to meet you. I will be joining your class starting today. Please be kind to me."
"What the hell?" Hiroko whispered to a nearby classmate. "We got an Ainu now? First Choukuko, and now this? What is this, a dumping ground for freaks?"
The rest of the class didn't know what to make of her, so they waited for Hiroko to take the lead. "I am Class Representative Akiyama Hiroko. Welcome to our class." The words were polite, but they came through clenched teeth. "You can sit...there!" Hiroko pointed to the desk next to Yukiko, the former occupant scurrying to move to a vacant desk further back in the class.
Pirika bowed again and took her seat. She looked over to her white-haired classmate and gave a warm smile. "Hi, I'm Pirika! I hope we can be friends!"
Yukiko was stunned. This girl seemed genuinely happy to meet her. She wanted Pirika's openness to be honest, but she still felt the need to hold back. Like most Japanese, she had heard about the Ainu--the aboriginal tribes that settled the islands long before there were any Japanese. They were the "untouchables", the "others". They were all but wiped out by wars or disease, and the ones that remained either hid themselves in society, or stayed pretty much to themselves. So it was odd to see one right in front of her.
"Hitsuji Yukiko. I...I'm happy to meet you. I'm sure we'll be...friends..." Yukiko spoke softly, wondering what kind of girl Pirika really was.
"Don't worry, Hitsuji-san, I won't eat you...yet!" Pirika smiled as Yukiko's eyes almost dwarfed her large lenses.
"Well, now that that's settled, shall we begin?" The teacher ordered the class to open their textbooks. Pirika and Yukiko smiled at each other, and joined the class. 'Maybe this one...,' Yukiko sighed to herself.
Hiroko watched the pair from across the room. 'Enjoy your new friendship, Choukuko. It won't last long.' She leaned over to one of her friends. "We're gonna have to keep an eye on the new girl as well...you know how 'they' are."
Ignoring the stares of the other students, Pirika sought a quiet place to eat her lunch. She spotted Yukiko sitting under a shady tree, and decided to join her. The petite teen was deep in thought, and didn't notice Pirika approaching.
"Having dirty thoughts about me, I hope?"
"Fu-Fu-Fukurou-san!!" Yukiko was so startled by Pirika's sultry voice, she quickly jumped to her feet, and almost up into the tree. "I...I...um....."
"Wow, you're a skittish one, aren't you?" Pirika giggled and stood next to the still shaking Yukiko. "Sorry about that. Is this seat taken?"
"Um, no. I'm usually here by myself, so it would be nice to finally have company. Thank you, Fukurou-san." Yukiko bowed gratefully to Pirika, who seemed a bit confused by the gesture.
"Hey, now! No need to be so formal." Pirika gently took Yukiko's chin and raised her head out of the bow, then put her hands on her classmate's shoulders. "Look, if we're gonna be friends, we'd best get used to each other, right? Now, I'm Pirika, and you're Yukiko--"
"But--" Yukiko stepped back, putting her hands up in protest.
Pirika shook her finger, "No 'buts'! If we're gonna do this, it's gonna be done right. Now, Yuki-pe, let's have lunch!" She turned, plopped herself down on the grass and opened a small plastic bag.
Yukiko joined her on the ground, adjusting her darkened glasses and cocking her head to the side. "Yuki...'pe'?"
"Mmm-hmm. In the language of my people, 'pe' means 'friend'." Pirika stuffed her face with a rice ball.
"Your 'people'...the Ainu. I've never met a full-blooded Ainu before." Yukiko blushed, hoping the comment didn't come out the wrong way.
"Then we're even, since I've never met a full-blooded albino before!" Pirika watched as Yukiko's expression changed from worry to understanding. "Unless you've been to Hokkaido or Sakhalin, or known one of us, you probably haven't. But you would be surprised how many people have Ainu blood in them. I could tell you stories that would have you running for a DNA kit!" Pirika paused to take a bite out of a dried fish. "We were here first, after all. You'd think we'd get watered down sooner or later... It's just a shame how we're treated here."
Yukiko hung her head. "I'm...I'm sorry."
"What are you apologizing for? You didn't do anything personally, right? Or is there something I should know....hmmm?" Pirika's playful grin set Yukiko at ease.
"No....it's just...well, it's just I think people should be treated equally. I don't like the way our government treats some people here."
"Heck, you have it easy. You're just an albino. At least you're still considered Japanese." Pirika saw the sting her words gave to Yukiko, and quickily apologized. "I'm sorry, Yuki-pe...I didn't mean--"
"No," Yukiko whispered. "You're right. I'm just an albino. I have no right to complain or worry. I may be different from the rest of them, but I can still get privileges you can't, or that even foreigners can't." She turned away from Pirika.
"Yeah, you can get a good job, or marry who you want. You can actually -use- the public baths!" Pirika let out a laugh that sounded like music to Yukiko's ears. "They usually hire us to clean or run them. It's good that I'm staying with the owner of the one near me. She's a friend of my mother. She lets me use it when everyone else goes home."
"I could use one, but when I go, people give me this look like, well, something's going to happen to them if I go in. So I'd rather not. It's...it's less embarrassing." Yukiko's blush returned, and Pirika took notice...
"You know, with your skin being so pale, it's hard to hide a blush. Good thing, though, as it looks good on you." Pirika smiled and moved close to Yukiko's face. "Makes you look very attractive," she said seductively.......
"Aaah!!" Yukiko tried to get up and run, but she stumbled.. She pouted at Pirika, who rose to offer a helping hand.
"C'mon, Yuki-pe, I'm only having fun with you. No need to fall apart. Though it's nice to have a pretty girl fall for me for once!"
Yukiko took a moment to process the information in that sentence. 'Was she really joking? Does she prefer girls? Does she really think I'm pretty?' She shook her head and extended her hand so that Pirika could lift her up. She was surprised by Pirika's strength, as she was practically snatched up off the ground. "Thank you very much, Fukurou--er, Pirika-chan."
"See? That wasn't hard, was it? It does sound pretty coming from you. I like it. You can even cut it down to 'Piri-chan' if you like."
"Piri-chan....okay. By the way, what does your name mean?"
It was now Pirika's turn to blush. "It means...well, it means 'beauty'. Makes me sound kinda vain, doesn't it? It's embarassing, but I'm stuck with it. As for my family name, we were forced to take a Japanese family name as part of their stupid assimilation program. Since my family line served as protectors of our village, and the god of protection for us is the owl, we chose the Japanese word for owl, 'fukurou'. I think the whole thing is pretty silly."
"Not at all," Yukiko turned to the taller woman and took her hand. "It does suit you very well. You are strong, so you're definitely a protector....... And...well...um..."
"Yeeesss?" Pirika drawled teasingly, squeezing Yukiko's hand.
"Well...you are beautiful." Yukiko spoke almost inaudibly, jerking her hand away from her grinning classmate. She had her back turned to Pirika, and her head down. Nevertheless, Pirika loved the reaction she got out of her.
"Thank you, Yuki-pe. That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me since I've been here." Pirika caught some movement out of the corner of her eye, and took a step back. "Not to darken the mood or anything, but..." Pirika nodded in the direction of the oncoming Hiroko, who was accompanied by three of her friends.
"Well, well. If it isn't Snow White and her dog, Toto!" Hiroko hissed, her comrades giggling behind her.
"I..I think you have your stories mixed up, Class Repre-" Yukiko's reply was cut short by Hiroko's glare.
"I was talking -at- you, Choukuko, not to you! What are you doing here anyway, feeding your dog?"
"Keep it up, Akiyama, and I might have to kill a Class Rep on my first day!" Pirika was ready to take out this upstart, and had no qualms about dealing with her minions as well.
"Please, Piri-chan...just let her be." Yukiko gently took hold of Pirika's arm. "We don't want any trouble from you, Class Representative Akiyama-san. Please leave us alone." She stood beside--but a step behind--Pirika as she pleaded with the bully.
"You've had trouble since the first day you set your ghostly foot in our door, Choukuko. Keep your dog in line, or we'll have to make even more trouble for you." Hiroko glared one more time at Pirika before leaving. "See you in class, Inu."
"That's AINU, bitch!!" Pirika would've charged at the girls and probably have killed them, if not for the extra weight dragging at her from behind. She turned her head to see Yukiko clinging to the back of her school uniform.
"Please don't," Yukiko pleaded. "You'll get expelled. She's not worth it. and...and neither am I."
Pirika checked her anger with a loud huff. "Yuki-pe," she said softly. "You are worth it. No one deserves to be treated like that by anyone...especially us. If I can stop her from doing it, the world would be a better place, trust me."
"But I'm sorry for getting you involved with my troubles with her. She--" Yukiko was interrupted as Pirika reached around to bring her face-to-face.
"Look, Yuki-pe. There are people like that in here, and out there. They're not going to like us because we're different. That's just how it is. I can't beat them all up, and you can't run from them all. 'We'll deal with them, or ignore them, in our own way and in our own time.' My father told me that, and you just reminded me of his words." She drew the frail girl into a hug. "It will get better, Yuki-pe. They're going to have to get used to us, that's all."
"But what if they don't?" Yukiko's muffled voice asked.
"Well, then...I'll just have to sacrifice a couple of bears and have their spirits kill everyone. Simple as that!" The two girls shared a laugh, and walked off to class. "By the way...why does Akiyama keep calling you 'Choukuko'?"
Yukiko stopped and stared at the ground. "Chalk Girl," she said betewwn sniffles.
End of Chapter 1