Chapter 45:

My Little Brother is in Trouble.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

I thought I was going to have fun this weekend. I was gonna play at the beach with Kaede-chan (she's such a cutie) and Haru-kun and maybe I'd finally get some time alone with him and I'd...

...awawawa, I'm not even sure if I like him that way! Why did a confession pop into my head?

Then, the floppy disk reader I ordered from Jamazon would be here when we got back and I would plug it into my PC and then I'd get to see what was on that floppy I found in the closet. I bet it's something good. Or even if it isn't, it'll still be fun to find out.

Then I would spend all summer gaming and watching anime and doing fun stuff. Track practice is fun, too, so I'll include that in there.

Homework? Eh, I can put it off until the last day. I've done that before, I'll be fine...

I don't feel like doing any of that now, though. I can't do anything fun when my parents and brother are screaming at each other loud enough for me to hear it all the way in my room.

"After everything we've done for could you?!" Yikes, I don't think I've ever heard Mom that angry.

"Done what for me? You barely take care of me!" Ryou's mad, too.

"We work to put a roof over your head and food on your table, young man." Dad's voice is icy cold. "You know why we're not home often? It's because we're working to pay your tuition to Shinchoushi."

"I never wanted to go to Shinchou!" Ryou spits. "I would have been happy anywhere and you forced me to go because of my sister!"

"It's not about what you want." Dad hasn't raised his voice, but he's furious. I can tell. "You have every advantage- a great school that will guarantee you a stable future, a family that can provide for you, a sister who's a role model- so it's beyond selfish for you to waste it. You're old enough to understand your expectations, and the consequences of failing to meet them. It affects all of us."

"Indefinite suspension?!" Mom cries, distraught. "Skipping classes? Mouthing off to teachers? That's bad enough, but an unprovoked assault on the student council, and you injured the president?! Do you even care about how embarrassing it is for us to have to talk to the police because you're skipping, and have to hear all of that from your teachers on top of it? If you keep going down this path, you're going to end up a criminal!"

"That tiny bitch was self-defense! I was protecting someone and her flunkies attacked me first!"

"Ryou, take responsibility for your actions. And do not swear in this house again, young man." Dad isn't stopping. "You know why I'm a failure as a parent? Because the first time you talked back to me, or the first time you left without telling me where you were going, I didn't immediately ground you. Because the first time you failed a midterm, I didn't force you to study. Because I didn't check up on you in school and make sure you were doing club activities. Well, this is ending now. You are going to do every bit of the supplementary lessons the teachers gave us, and then you are going to pass the makeup exams, and then you are going to transfer, and that's your last chance. If you cause any trouble at your new school, you're out on the street."

Stop it, Dad. Please. I know Ryou's annoying, and he's a troublemaker, but he's too young for you to talk about throwing him out. Please, just give him another chance.

"You're lucky you were born when you were." Dad's still going. "If I had done even a fraction of the things you did and my father found out, I would have gotten my hide tanned. Why can't you be more like your sister?"

I'm expecting the brat to yell back at them, but instead he gives a slight laugh. "You believe Asako Senjuuin over your own son? I figured you would. You hate me."

My mother's voice explodes with tearful fury. "How could you say something like that? We're putting our feet down because we love you-"

"Bullshit. You want me to be the most perfect, well-behaved robot just like my sister...or Haruto Kouga."

There's silence for a second, and then Dad says, "Go to your room and stay there. You better not make us make you."

Even though my door is shut, the angry footsteps are as loud as cannons, and the slamming of the door sounds like thunder. Then all is calm again, for a brief second.

"It's your fault Ryou turned out this way!" Mom's still angry. Holy crap. "Aren't you supposed to be the man of the house? You sat there and did NOTHING about him until all of this happened!"

"Don't pin it on me, Tsubaki! You're just as much to blame as I am! You ignored Ryou, too, so you don't get to act like only I'm responsible for his behavior!"

"You're still making excuses?! Was all that talk about taking responsibility meaningless?!"

"Now you want to talk about taking responsibility? Is it my responsibility to do your job as a mother in your place, too?!"

"What you're responsible for is showing him how to be a good man, and instead you let him walk all over you!"

"Walk all over me? At least I was there! Ryou's right, for heavens' sake! You work so much that even I don't hardly see you and you want to act like I'm responsible for how he turned out? If I end up fired from my job because my son caused this amount of trouble, it's on you, because his own mother was never around to raise him!"

"Might I remind you who ACTUALLY pays the bills around here, mister?! It isn't you! Maybe if you get fired, it's a good thing- you can show Ryou how NOT to be a successful adult!"

Dad's voice drops. "Stop lying about the bills. I make enough to support everyone on my own. You just don't want to be around me. I wish you'd tell me you want a divorce already. I'm sick of this."

Mom and Dad still don't realize they're arguing loud enough that I, and probably Ryou, can hear all of it. They're talking about him like he's a pet or something.

"You want me to divorce you? Is that what you want? Do you care about Ayame's feelings at all? Of course you don't, because all you care about is your college friends when your wife and children are right in front of you! I bet you'd love it if the Kougas adopted you and then you could live out your youthful days until you die!"

"Oh, poor you! You want to get mad at me for living in the past when you’re always whining to me about your failed dreams? 'I couldn't draw. I couldn't draw. I miss her.' I'm not your therapist! It's been twenty years already...grow up!"

"Don't you EVER mention Emi to me again! You're the worst, Tetsuya!"

Crap. I think someone's sleeping on the couch tonight.

A minute or so later, there's a slight rap on my door, and then my dad's voice follows, soft and trembling. "Ayame...can I come in?"

"Sure." I don't even move.

"Did you...hear all that?" His voice is plaintive.

"...I guess." No matter what I answer, he knows I heard everything. They were arguing loud enough to wake the dead up.

He doesn't say anything, just exhales with a long, unsteady breath. When I finally roll over and see him, in the dim light coming from the hallway he looks like he's aged 20 years in a single day. His hair is messy and the clothes he has on are rumpled- he hasn't even had the time to change out of his suit. We had to drive straight home from the beach when we found out what had happened, and they were at the school for hours. They haven't had a single second to rest. I don't even know how the Kougas made it home- we took the rental car.

"I'm sorry you had to hear that," he sighs. "Are you angry at me, too?"

"No. I just don't want you two to fight."

"I see." His expression softens a little bit. "I'm really sorry to keep asking you to do this, but can you make sure Ryou does all his schoolwork and doesn't leave? Your mother and I have to go back to work tomorrow."

So after all that yelling at each other about being terrible parents who neglect their kids, they're just going to go right back to doing the same thing. I don't say that, though. Instead, all I reply with is "Sure."

I've been Ryou's caretaker for so long that this way of doing things seems normal to me. I don't even talk back to my parents for expecting a first-year high school student to keep an eye on her little brother. I guess that makes me as much of a part of the problem as the rest of them.

"Thank you. We both love you." My dad tries to smile, but it's obviously forced. "Good night, Ayame." He closes the door gently, leaving me in total darkness except for the flashing light from my PC keyboard.

Finally, our house is quiet. I just can't stand it when people fight. I was so upset when I thought about Haru-kun yelling at his parents, even though I wasn't there, and now I've had to listen to my parents browbeating my brother, treating him like he's irredeemable even though he's just a young kid, and then fighting with each other.

Sure, Ryou's a brat and has a foul mouth and thinks he's a delinquent thug, but it's all talk. Even when he was going at Haru-kun, it was just posturing. He'd never actually do anything serious enough to get in trouble.

Or would he? If he actually did what my parents said he did, that's pretty awful. Indefinite suspension for attacking the entire student council, unprovoked. That's going to be on his record forever.

But he gave his reasons, and he sounded pretty sincere. It didn't matter- they dismissed him immediately without even caring. I want to at least give him the benefit of the doubt and hear his side...because no one else is doing that. Passionate feelings should be treated with respect, even if they're wrong. Everyone is the main character of their own story- that's what Ohba-sensei said in an interview. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do, and sides to themselves that no one ever sees.

I don't want to believe he actually beat up the student council, but if he did, I at least want to understand why. It's the least I could do for him.

The hallway's quiet when I step out. I could be polite, but...I'm not gonna.

WHAM! There goes the door to his room. Wow, I got it good. I might try slamming it with my hips like Keiba!!!!!! next time. That'll really piss the little brat off.

Ryou, sitting curled up on his bed with his knees hugged to his chest, looks up with a startled expression when I kick the door down. He looks like he swallowed a rock. Or maybe a Dr*gon B*ll. "Nee-san, I told you to knock!"

"Shut it, kid. God, you're annoying."

"Did you come in here to lecture me, too? I'm tired of this shit. Fuck off."

"Listen here, brat." I'm up in his face so quickly that he shrinks back in surprise. "I'm trying to help you, stupid. Tell me what happened."

"About what?"

"What do you think I mean? You and the student council! Why did you get in trouble? Tell me everything!"

Finally, he turns away and huffs in annoyance. "Shut the door, Nee-san."

"Fine." I comply. "Now, start talking."

"Okay, so..." he sighs. "The student council at my school are the biggest bunch of joyless fuckwads you'll ever see. Not just typical Public Morals Committee shit. They're well beyond that. They go after kids for 'breaking rules' and then try to humiliate them. They've had a problem with me ever since I got to Shinchou and I have no idea why."

"I can think of a few reasons."

"Shut up!" He reddens. "Anyways, the president is this girl named Senjuuin and everyone else in the council kisses her ass. If 'rich asshole' was in the dictionary, there would be a picture of her face beside the definition. She's maybe 130 at most, and 20 kilos soaking fuckin' wet, but she thinks all of us are her slaves, basically. She's already threatened to use her 'influence', whatever the fuck that means, to make sure I'm homeless. The only reason why I'm not is because the teachers hate her, too, and they stop her before she can actually punish anyone."

Ooh, a sadist loli? I bet she goes around telling everyone "lick my toes, trash" or something like that...that's really- shut up, brain! This is serious!

"There's this girl I like in the grade above me and-"

Before my brother can finish, I cut him off. "You like someone? Who? Who is it?"

"None of your business, Nee-san!"

"Your fingers sure do look mighty fragile..."

"I'm not fucking telling you!"

"Fine." I slouch back a bit. I should ease off him. He’s had a rough day already.

"Anyways, Senjuuin hates her. I mean despises her. She's always after the girl I like for the most ridiculous shit. I saw them corner her once and they were yapping about lipstick. Fucking lipstick. She wasn't even wearing any, she just had a tube in her bag. See? Dumb shit like that. So the last day of school before the break, I see the girl I like walking to the club building with someone from my grade and I smell a gigantic fucking rat because the girl she's with is nervous as shit, dude. Like jittering. The streets taught me something bad's about to go down, so I followed them."

What streets? Nakamachi-dori? The street in front of our house?

“They get up to the top floor and go into the student council room and then the other girl practically dashes off and here comes Senjuuin, grinning like she's about to step on someone's dick and make him beg for mercy. I knew she was up to no good as soon as I saw her so I waited outside and listened and as soon as she said 'lick the floor clean with your tongue, dog', I lost it and ran outside, grabbed some rocks from the garden and chucked them at the window."

Wow. I only imagined that dialogue. I didn't expect she'd actually say something like that. This Senjuuin girl is like an anime character come to life…but anyone who acts like she does in real life is a pretty big jerk, you know.

Wait…did my brother get the whole story from Kagari-sama? This is suspiciously like Ushigami’s backstory…maybe these things actually do happen in real life?

"So anyways, she opens it, yells at me, I nail her in the face and then Nagahama and the rest of the S.H.I.T. Team show up out of nowhere and they all surround me and rush at me and try to grab me so I fucked 'em up. It was self-defense, obviously. Not my fault they're weak as shit."

"S.H.I.T. Team"? Pfffffft...I shouldn't be laughing right now, but he's really funny sometimes...I think he got a bit of my mom's genes in him too...

"Then a few seconds later I see the girl I like run out of the school and on Saturday I'm out hanging with my boys, playing on the street, and the pigs come up and tell me Shinchou's looking for me, and then they stick me in front of Principal Baldy and Koike and the rest of them with Mom and Dad for hours and they rip me a new one about how dangerous my behavior was and how I seriously injured the Student Council members and then they suspend my ass. So there. That's what happened. Are you happy?"

There's silence for what seems like a whole hour.

"You're gonna say I made all this shit up, right?" Ryou sighs.

I just don't know what to say to him. He could be lying. It's very easy to suspect that. There's absolutely no way someone like this Senjuuin girl actually exists in real life. She's straight out of ero-manga. There's like a 90% chance he's trying to make me look stupid by feeding me a plot directly from one of my favorite series. There's no logical reason I should believe this story.

But my heart says I should. That's the kind of person my brother is, deep down. He protected the girl he liked. I can't hate him for that.

Ahhhh, screw logic! He told me everything and left his feelings out there, so I'm believing in the Ryou that believes in me! Do the impossible, see the invisible! Row row, fight the power-

Never mind. Crap. Sorry. I won't do that again, I swear. I just need to confirm something.

“Ryou, do you know about Kagari-sama Wants A Boyfriend?

“What the fuck? Do you think I read sappy romance shit?!”

And there it is. He isn’t lying…but Kagari-sama is a lot more than just a sappy romance, you stupid brat!

"I believe you."

Ryou's eyes go wide and his boyish face whitens a little bit. "Are you serious?!"

"You're too stupid to make something like that up."

This time, he reddens a little bit and grits his teeth, but finally stammers out, "Thanks...Nee-san."

He's actually kinda cute like this, when he's not trying to act all gangster.

So, I've settled it. Ryou, my adorable little brother, is the victim of an injustice, and it needs to be corrected. But I don't have fighting powers to make it right, and I can't call the Shadow Thieves because they don't exist.

Crap, what can I actually do?

Steward McOy