I sat in class, not paying attention to my teacher, who continued to lecture the students on the history of Japan during World War II. It wasn’t that I didn’t find Japanese history interesting. I did. Well, I wanted to. The problem was that it wouldn’t matter even if I did pay attention. Paying attention wouldn’t help my failing grades.
Because my seat was right next to the window, I had a clear view of the grounds outside. My class was one the third floor of Saitama Private Academy, a private school located within the Saitama Prefecture. Several students were playing sports or running on the track field down below. It looked like the senior girls were running while the boys were playing soccer.
Sighing, I went back to listening as the teacher spoke of the time when the United States dropped a nuclear warhead on Hiroshima. I couldn’t sense any resentment in her voice. I guess it was just one of those facts that people had accepted these days. I wondered if I would eventually become something that people could accept.
Probably not. Still, it was a nice thought.
Class ended with the ringing of the bell. Lunch had begun. I stood up, grabbed my bag, and left before anyone else could notice me–not that they would. My peers tended to avoid me. No one could look me in the eye, they would come up with excuses or ignore me when I tried to speak with them. The most I could hope for was polite indifference.
As I walked down the hall, I looked at the other students walking by me out of the corner of my eyes. They’d notice my gaze and turn away. Some of the students who saw me coming would even turn around and go back the way they came. I tried to pretend that their actions didn’t hurt me.
I had high hopes when I first came to this school. After a chance meeting with the man who would become my benefactor, I was sent to live in Saitama and enrolled into this academy. I had to pass a test. Saitama Private High didn’t let just anyone attend. I studied hard, however, and my hard work paid off. I got into the academy, and I had thought things would be different.
I was wrong.
As I was walking past a bathroom, a noise caught my attention. It was several noises, actually. Among the myriad of sounds, the most distinguishing was a series whimpers, whines, and pleads. Someone was being bullied.
I thought about just leaving. I thought about walking away, pretending I didn’t hear anything. Nothing good would come if I got involved in whatever was happening inside of the bathroom.
I took a deep breath, held it in, sighed, and then walked into the restroom.
The whimpers and cries became louder. It was coming from one of the stalls. The noises released by the one being bullied was followed by laughter and the splashing of water. I walked up to the last stall, which was open. There were four people inside. Three of them were standing over one of them, and the last one was having his head dunked inside of the toilet.
“I’m kinda surprised to see people doing this,” I said. The three bullies froze. “Japan has a really good education program, and they’re pretty strict on bullying. You might want to stop if you don’t want any trouble.”
As one, the three turned to face him. Their eyes widened to the size of china plates, and I saw an emotion that I’d come to easily recognize from others. Fear. It radiating from them like a broken fountain. I almost flinched at the appearance of that emotion, but I kept strong. I needed to at least help the kid who was being picked on.
“Y-you… you’re the yank!”
I grimaced. “I’m not really a yankee. I was born in Japan, same as you.”
Truth be told, I didn’t actually know if Japan was my birthplace. I’ve lived in Japan for as long as I could remember, but that only dated back to about eleven or so years. I could’ve been born in the United States for all I knew.
“W-we’re not afraid of you!” The bully on the left shouted.
“I’m glad to hear that,” I said. “Now, please stop picking on this kid.”
“We’re not afraid of you!”
I winced at how squeaky the boy’s voice was.
“Look. I don’t care if you’re not–”
“Let’s show this yank who’s boss!!”
All three of them rushed me. I did nothing. I stood there and remained unmoving as the first person threw a punch. My cheek stung and my head snapped to the side, but it was a light attack. More painful than the punch was the ache in my chest. It was just like at every other school. I was receiving the same treatment here that I had received there.
The second hit was to my stomach, and though it didn’t hurt, I doubled over anyway. Another fist flew into my jaw. Then I received a hit to my face. Over and over, fist afterfst flew at my face and torso. None of the attacks were actually painful. It would take more than anything a human could dish out to actually hurt me.
“What the hell?!”
“This guy really is a freak of nature!”
“Let’s get out of here!”
The three bullies rushed out of the bathroom as if hellhounds were nipping at their heels. I watched them go, and once I was sure they wouldn’t come back, I turned to the kid they’d been bullying before I had shown up. He was watching me with the wary eyes of prey who’d been caught by a predator.
I tried to mentally prepare myself.
“Are you okay?” I asked the other boy. He didn’t respond. Frowning, I walked up to him, but the boy stumbled backwards. I hid a flinch. “Hey, what’s wrong? Are you–”
“S-stay away from me!” the boy shouted before running out of the bathroom.
I stayed there for several seconds, not moving, just standing there with a blank look on my face. I eventually unfroze himself. Walking over to the sink, I turned on the faucet, cupped some water in my hands, and splashed it onto my face.
Placing my hands on the sink, I leaned over and stared at my reflection in the mirror. The term “yankee” definitely suited me. I didn’t look Japanese at all. My hair was a bright blond, my eyes were blue, I was a lot taller than the average Japanese teenager, and my shoulders were also a lot broader. I really did look like an American.
I closed my eyes and leaned forward. Water dripped onto the mirror, but I ignored it. I was too exhausted to care.
“I have a name,” I mumbled. “It’s Jacob Ravensworth.”
Naturally, the mirror didn’t answer back.