Proving One's Self
Never in my life would I ever
think that I would have such odd goals to keep me going, but all I could think
about lately were two things: make Mikoto happy and become a true member of
One day a boy came into the bar saying he wanted to be apart of the clan. I watched with interest. I had no idea how anyone became apart of Homra. He was apparently a childhood friend of Bando. Bando didn’t seem all that happy to see him. He didn’t want the boy to join, but Tatara said that it wasn’t his decision.
“I’ll bring you to meet our King first.” Tatara said.
“Oh! I want to come.” I said as I jumped from my seat and walked over to Tatara’s side. “I’ve always wondered how Mikoto decides.” He nodded and we made our way upstairs, Bando following behind.
Tatara knocked on Mikoto’s door. “We’re coming in, King.” I could tell the boy was starting to get nervous. Tatara grabbed the handle and pulled the door open to reveal Anna looking through one of her marbles. The boy seemed surprised by her. “Oh, Anna.”
The boy crouched down and forced a smile.
“Li…little girl… who are you? What are you looking at?” Anna turned away from him and he looked over at Bando. “Who is this brat?!”
“She said you’re a boring guy just now.” Bando said.
“Are you serious!?” He exclaimed.
“Isn’t she hilarious?” I giggled.
“That’s so mean!”
“Okay, okay. Lets put that aside for now.” Tatara said. “The real issue at hand is in the back.”
The King sat in his chair and watched us as Anna made her way over to his side.
“You are that curious brat.” Mikoto said.
The boy clenched his hand into a fist and took off his hat. “Yes! My name is Akagi Shouhei. The reason I am here is because I want to join Homra.”
Mikoto stared at him for a moment and then held out his hand. Shouhei let out a breath of relief and was about to take hold if it when it suddenly started to radiate flames. He stopped and stared down in surprise.
“What’s wrong?” Tatara asked.
“If you want to join us, then shake hands with me.” Mikoto said.
“Give up, you’ll be burned.” Bando said.
“Hmm? Is this really how it’s done?” I mumbled.
I looked over at Tatara and he just kept smiling like an idiot. I didn’t think the boy was going to do it. He stared at the flames in fear, but suddenly he grabbed hold of the fiery hand without screaming in pain. I watched even more closely as the flames glowed and then suddenly ceased.
“These flames won’t hurt a suitable person.” Mikoto said. “Congratulations, you’re a member of Homra now.”
Tatara, Shouhei, and Bando went back downstairs. I stayed for a moment longer. Mikoto didn’t say anything as I stood there.
“Why didn’t you do anything like that with me when I joined?” I asked.
“It wouldn’t work on you.” He stated. I cocked my head to the side in confusion. “Your abilities nullify mine.”
“Oh… right…” I looked down, a bit disappointed. I wanted the mark of Homra.
I left without another word and went back downstairs to congratulate the newcomer.
Bando started to treat the newcomer like a child. He often scolded him for things that really didn’t matter and after a week or so of the constant nagging Yata finally socked him in the mouth.
“Are you his mother-in-law or what?!” Yata screamed as Bando slid down the window after impact, his blood smearing the glass. I let out a sigh because I knew I was going to be the one to have to clean it up. “Just because we didn’t say anything, you kept nagging and nagging,” he grabbed onto Bando’s shirt and got in his face, “and being picky about every single damn thing, just because you wanted him to leave!”
“And you’re even talking back! Because of you doing this and that, Homra will become a narrow-minded organization, is that what you want? Huh!?”
I started to get worried that Yata was going to seriously hurt the guy, but I just ended up standing there with the rest of the boys watching. As I watched them more and more I realized that it wasn’t the kind of fight that I should be worried about, it was the kind of fight I would never experience with anyone there… the fight between friends who truly care for each other. After a while I couldn’t stand to watch anymore and I went upstairs. I knew that the guys were a little confused and worried, but I couldn’t stand being around them anymore. I was full of jealousy. I would never harbor the mark of Homra, I would never be able to use my aura to fight for the sake of my clan, I wouls never fit in completely.
I sat down on my bed and curled up into a ball. I stared out the window as I tried to calm down. I didn’t want to feel out of place anymore. I didn’t want to be the annoying waitress that hangs around in the corner; I want to be apart of the clan. I had to work hard. I had to do my best, or I’d be stuck in this role forever.
I had made my first serving of omelet rice after being brutally taught by Tatara. He is a completely different person in the kitchen, a lot stricter than I would have imagined. I wasn’t ready to have Mikoto try my food just yet, so I gave it to Anna to test it out. Mikoto was upstairs sleeping while Bando was drunk off his ass and telling everyone his lame excuses for disliking his childhood friend, Shouhei.
“That guy!” Bando exclaimed, as he slammed his now empty glass of whiskey onto the counter. “From the start he had always made me angry!” Tatara and I sat on the other end of the bar with Anna as I put the ketchup on my first creation for her. “I will never… ever forget… that time in kindergarten. My first love, Saya, had a crush on Shouhei… and… and then…!” He jumped up from his seat and thumped his hands against his forehead. “That bastard didn’t even like Saya! But he kissed her anyways!” He smashed his head against the counter. “He actually hit on a woman who he didn’t even like!”
“This is something from kindergarten right?” Kusanagi asked.
Anna took a bite of the omelet rice and I waited for her reaction.
“Well!? Is it good?!” I asked. She shook her head in disagreement and I slumped over.
“Tatara will you make something better?” She asked him. It was like she was stabbing me with her words. I laid my head on the counter and let out a sigh.
“And then… I chased after him to ask him why he had kissed Saya… and he said because she wanted to kiss him!”
“Girls sure are mature at a young age.” Kusanagi laughed.
“Don’t talk about her as if Saya was some kind of lewd girl!” Bando exclaimed, slamming his fist on the counter and hurting my head with the thump that echoed through the wood and into my ears. I lifted my head, rubbing my forehead.
“She must hate him now for stealing her first kiss with having no feelings.” I said.
“That doesn’t help!” Bando exclaimed.
“…And then? Don’t tell me it’s because of something like this that you have continued to hate him until now?” Yata said, obviously irritated.
“There’s more!” Bando said. “Elementary school, first grade: when we’re playing tag everyone wanted Shouhei on their team, but no one wanted me!”
“Ah? Why is that Shouhei’s fault?” Kusanagi asked.
“In sports, the one who wins the most is always showing off…the most popular! Always being the center of attention.”
“I’m telling you your hatred is one sided.”
Tatara came out with his own creation of omelet rice and gave it Anna. She ate it happily and it made me feel worse.
“Can I have a vodka?” I asked Kusanagi. He nodded and poured me my drink.
“But here I am awesome and way better than him!” Bando said.
Kusanagi gave up and mumbled, “shut the hell up already” as he poured himself a drink.
Yata finally snapped, “That’s too insignificant!” He screamed. “Lets not even talk about thinking highly of you, and talk about you being a freaking person! That’s still too insignificant! Stop all the nagging here you pathetic bastard!”
“There are still a lot of reasons! Like that time he aced—“
“Cut the crap already!” He screamed so loud I felt my ears begin to ring.
“Is it no good? Too insignificant?” Bando asked, obviously hurt. Kusangai let out a sigh and nodded his head.
“Insignificant.” Anna said before taking another bite of her omelet rice.
“Really insignificant.” I said before downing the rest of my drink.
“Do you want seconds?” Tatara asked. She nodded.
“Another please!” I exclaimed.
“Damn it!” Bando cried out.
It started raining outside and I felt even more depressed. I still had no idea what I was going to do about Mikoto and the clan. Maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough?
Anna went upstairs to spend time with Mikoto and Bando ran off somewhere while the rest of the group left for the night. Tatara, Kusanagi and I all sat at the bar, waiting for closing time to come.
“Don’t worry Akane, it was your first try at the dish. I’ll make sure by the time you and Mikoto are married that you’re a perfect cook.” Tatara said, patting my back.
“Married?” Kusanagi said.
“I don’t know why he keeps saying that.” I grumbled. “I barely talk to the guy… it’s not like I have feelings for him I just… I told Anna I would help him.”
“And you think cooking for him will help him?” Kusanagi said.
I shrugged my shoulders, “maybe part of the problem is because of stress. If I work hard maybe I can learn how to help him… like you, Tatara.” I laid my head back on the counter top. “You’re much more suited to be Mikoto’s wife.”
Him and Kusanagi burst out laughing. I just sat there and watched them. The door suddenly swung open and Dewa came running in.
“Kusanagi, Totsuka! Shouhei is in trouble!” I lifted my head and looked over at him in surprise. He walked up and placed his phone in front of Tatara, showing a picture of a girl. “That girl is Shouhei’s friend. I heard that she fell in with Raksahsa’s scheme. She is still unable to escape, even now. Is it correct to say that in reality, the reason why Shouhei joined us was because he needed strength and power?”
Kusanagi grabbed a cigarette out of his pocket. “Rakashasa huh?” He popped it between his lips and lit it when his lighter. “Is it that infamous illegal drug dealer group?”
“Eh?!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew that sometimes the guys would get caught up in this kind of stuff… but it was the first time I was around it.”
“So that guy is planning on going solo and kill everyone in his way?” Tatara said.
“Youth, huh?” Kusanagi laughed. I was surprised at how lightly they seemed to be taking it, though they were used to it. “If our people were the type to go crazy once they gained power, than that would be a major headache.” He took another hit of his cigarette. “Strength always comes with responsibilities.”
“Then, what should we do?” Tatara smiled.
Kusanagi said he would call everyone back and Tatara went to find Bando. Suddenly a realization hit me. This was my chance… this was the time to show that I am a real clansman of Homra. Never before have I even considered to do something this crazy, but I was buzzed and I had power. I knew I had to try hard if I was going to be apart of this world.
I grabbed my coat and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Kusanagi asked me. I looked over at him and panicked. I couldn’t tell him the truth since he would surely object, so I had to lie and fast.
“I… uhh… I’m going to get Yata.” I ran out mentally slapping myself for the worst lie in history. I overheard them talking about where the place was so I ran down the street in the pouring rain towards the drug warehouse, praying that I didn’t get myself killed.
I had power; I just didn’t know how to use it. Anna said there was more to me than the useless nullifying ability and it seemed I had a limited amount of time to tap into that, but I suppose now would be as good of a time as ever.
When I got there it was dead silent. I didn’t know if to interpret that as good or bad, but honestly I didn’t like it. I looked around and found a rusty pipe by a dumpster nearby. I grabbed it and I looked for the entrance.
When I got inside everyone on the lower floor was unconscious and beaten. I could only hope it was Shouhei’s work and he was upstairs now basking in the glory of victory.
I wanted to prove myself, but I wanted Shouhei to be alive more. I ran upstairs only to walk into the worst possible situation. Shouhei and Bando were being beaten on the ground, their blood everywhere and the girl they were trying to save was tied up in a chair. I froze in the doorway. This was the first time I was faced with anything like this and I didn’t know what to do. The group of men looked over at me and smiled. I felt myself begin to tremble from their stares.
“Hey there pretty lady.” One of them said.
“What you got there?”
“Are you with them?” One of them nodded their head down at the beaten boys as he kicked them over and over again.
“Akane…” Bando breathed.
“Stop!” I screamed. I gripped onto the pipe in my hand and concentrated on trying to must up some kind of power, but nothing was happening. “Please… stop…” I whispered when I realized there wasn’t going to be burst of power at this convenient moment.
“You really shouldn’t have come here.” The leader smirked as one of the guys grabbed onto my arm. I instinctively hit him with the pipe and he stumbled back wailing in pain.
“Oh you’ll pay for that, bitch.” He said.
A few more came at me and I swung the pipe around as much as I could; only bruising a few before being restrained.
“Hehe we’re going to have a lot of fun later teaching you a lesson.” The guy who was tying me up said. I ended up duck taped to a chair as well.
“Are you still alive?” I heard Shouhei say to Bando. Their voices were so low and their blood was everywhere. I was so scared, I just wanted them to be all right, but I couldn’t do anything to help. I started to tear up as I watched them lay there.
“Yeah.” Bando breathed.
“I’m sorry… I got you tangled in this...” Shouhei said, clenching his hand into a fist. “It was supposed to be my problem… but I accidently involved you and Akane into this.”
Bando tightened his jaw, “you… you idiot.” I was sobbing as I listened to them and the guy standing behind me kicked the back of my chair to try and get me to stop. “You’re always… always like this. Like everything goes without saying, easily sacrificing yourself for others.” One of the men put his boot on Bando’s chin and he coughed up some blood.
“So freaking loud, you piece of shit.” The leader took a hit of his cigarette and then dropped it on my knee. I let out a muffled scream from the burning ash hitting my skin. “Enough.” He said. “Kill them.”
“NO!” I tried to cry out trough the tape and it landed me a kick in the stomach.
One of the men lifted a pipe and was about to smash Shouhei’s head in when Bando suddenly jumped in the way and blocked it with his arm.
“Bando!” Shouhei exclaimed.
“Didn’t I say it earlier?” Bando said. “You see, you…you… are not by yourself anymore.” Shouhei’s eyes widened. “Your comrades… aren’t something that come on the side.”
“Haha, so you don’t care what happens to this woman!?” A man exclaimed as he held a knife to the other girl’s neck.
“Stop!” Shouhei said.
Suddenly a burst of flames threw the man backwards. Never before have I been happier to see fire.
There stood everyone including Anna and Mikoto with Kusanagi standing in the middle, smoking a cigarette.
“…Sorry.” Bando said. “I’ll leave it to you.”
“W…why…?” Shouhei said to the King as he held Bando in his arms.
“I was bored as ever, so I decided to go out for a walk.” Mikoto said. He looked over at the shocked boy. “It won’t do you any good, to get drunk off your power.”
“Is this based off your own experience?” Kusanagi teased him.
“… Shut up.” He looked over and met eyes with me, for a moment I thought he was shocked to see me in this position, but he quickly composed himself. I didn’t mind; I was just happy that he was there.
“You… you guys are…” The leader said, obviously rattled by their presence.
“That’s right.” Yata said as he pulled down the collar of his shirt and showed them his mark. “We are Homra!”
“The that means… you are… Suoh Mikoto!” One guys said, pointing to the King. They suddenly started to fire their guns. I screamed against the duck tape, but his flames protected him from any harm. I was overcome with relief when I saw he wasn’t hurt. The leader was starting to get nervous.
“Let it burn. Remember to leave the ashes.” Mikoto said.
“No blood! No bone! No ash!” The boys chanted. Mikoto and I made eyes contact. I was crying from relief. Suddenly he charged forward, his fist pulled back and bursting in flames, punching the leader right in the face and sending him flying back in pain. Everyone else went ahead and fought as well. He stared down at me and I up at him. He leaned down and ripped the duck tape off of my mouth.
I thought about saying something, but he looked so angry, so I kept quiet as he untied me while everyone fought around us and Anna waited by the door. Our skin didn’t touch once as he freed me from my restraints.
That night Anna held my hand as I walked home with a burnt leg, a sore stomach, and lost dignity. I failed once again at my effort to be apart of Homra and to make Mikoto happy. I inconvenienced him and I felt horrible.
When the little girl fell asleep beside me I stayed awake staring at the ceiling. No matter how hard I try I always seem to mess things up in everything I do. Ever since I was a kid I had been like this, but this is the first time it was to such a degree. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I got up and staggered out into the hall, ignoring the pain in my leg. I hadn’t told anyone about my injuries since I was already such a bother. I stumbled over to Mikoto’s door and as I was about to knock the thought of him probably being a sleep crossed my mind. I slowly lowered my hand and carefully leaned my head against the door. Disturbing his sleep would just add to my pile of annoyances.
The door swung open and I stumbled forward. I looked up and there Mikoto stood, staring down at me like I was a criminal as he smoked his cigarette.
“I was just… I umm… I wanted to… apologize… for being such a bother.”
He paused for a moment before moving around me to close the door.
“You shouldn’t be putting yourself in situations like that.” He said. I turned back at him and nodded my head.
“Yeah, I know.”
“What’s with you and throwing yourself in dangerous situations?” He put out his bud in the ashtray and leaned against the wall.
“First the group of guys on the street, then the blue chasing after you, now this… I won’t always be around to save you.”
I nodded my head, but then I realized what exactly he was saying. I looked up at him and I felt an anger pile up in my chest.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t make those guys come after me in the street! And I didn’t ask that blue to chase after me! Those were just situations that happened by themselves!”
“You’re the one that sat on the street in the first place instead of coming to us and asking for help. For a good girl you sure do like to get yourself in trouble.” He was perfectly calm, as if raising his voice seemed like too much work for him and that pissed me off even more.
“I barely knew you all then! I wasn’t just going to show up with my bags and ask to stay here! I’m not a--!” I stopped myself when I finally understood that this fight, the stares of disappointment and anger, it was what I was envious of this entire time. No one was going to punch me in the face or scream at me and call me rude names; this was an “I care for you” scolding that I secretly longed for. He cocked his head to the side in confusion as I processed this epiphany. “… I’m sorry, Mikoto… I don’t know what I was thinking…” I held my head down.
This isn’t the way I wanted to earn a symbol of friendship. I thought.
“It won’t happen again.”
He let out a sigh as he pushed back the wet hair away from his face. “You don’t have to try so hard to prove yourself.” He pushed himself up from the wall and walked over my way. “You don’t need a mark to show you’re apart of this clan, you have all of us to show it.” He grabbed onto a chain that hung two dog tags around his neck and took it off. “I may not always be there to save you from your bravery, but one of us will be.” He dangled the necklace in front of me and I stared up at him in awe. “Since you can’t bear the mark, this should do… for now at least.” I held out my hands and he dropped the jewelry into my possession. I was so overcome with joy that I couldn’t hold back.
“Yes! Thank you Mikoto!” I was about to tackle him into a hug but I stopped myself. His words from when I first came to Homra echoed in my head,
“Don’t think that just because you’re here I’m going to let you use your ability on me.”
I jumped back and mentally panicked. He was clearly confused by my odd actions. I started to get flustered and I immediately made my way towards the door.
“Thank you very much, good night.”
Right when I thought I was about to get out of this situation I idiotically tripped over myself, my leg erupting in pain. I held in my whimpers as I tried to push myself up, and that’s when he noticed my injuries. He raised an eyebrow and bent down.
“Did you get this earlier?” He asked, pointing to my cigarette burn.
“Eh? I just… I didn’t want to be a bother…” I felt like an idiot, sitting there completely helpless.
He stood up and walked over to the other side of the room, grabbed roll of bandages, and made his way back over to me. He reached out and gently grabbed hold of my leg as he started to wrap the bandage around the burn. It was the first time that he touched me since we met. It felt odd, but I didn’t protest.
The next day when I went downstairs Tatara noticed my new accessory.
“Isn’t that the king’s necklace, Akane?” He asked, smiling like an idiot, as always. I nodded my head and grabbed onto the chain.
“It’s my pride, as a member of Homra.” I smiled.
“Did the King confess his love?” He asked, completely ignoring what I said.
“Of course not!”
Finally… I felt as though I’ve accomplished something for the first time in a long, long while.