Sticks and Stones

"By the end of this book you are going to hate me. Scratch that - By the end of this blurb you will sincerely hate me." ********* Akilah Ackerman and Asami Akuhei are step-sisters. Both share dark pasts and both have created dark futures for themselves. One is suffering from a mental illness and one is a manipulative back-stabber. One is trying to gain approval from the living, while the other is trying to gain approval from the dead. One is Psychologically Efficient whilst the other is trying to keep themselves sane. One is about to rule an entire nation and one is going to lose that and their history. This is no ordinary story about sibling rivalry...

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7. 5. Hamartia

"Mama look!" 

Day: 5th May 2110

I hold up my pages of work to show mama (who is sat solemnly on the chair in the living room staring strangely at the wall in front). I just finished writing my first real story in English and really wanted mama to be the first to see it - however it seems that she is only interested in the bottle that she is gouging on. Irritated, I attempt to grab the wine glass off her,

She slaps me.

Hard.

It woke me up dare I say (and it somewhat woke her up from her mental slumber too) Mama instantly hugs me and begins to apologise and asks me what it is I want to show her.

"Nothing mama, honestly" I answer quietly whilst playing with my hair.

Mama looks at me uncertain but doesn't push it,  she leaves the room for a moment before returning almost in an instant with a few coins in her hand.

"Here, can you buy me some meat from the Fosters? "

I nod tentatively and take the money. Doing so,  I turn and walk to the hallway and put on my battered shoes. As I open the door, mama stops me and says,

"Asami-chan, before I forget, buy something for yourself with what's left ok? Sayonara!"

Her sudden change of mood worries me sometimes...

*******

"Is that all, Azumi is it? "

"Asami."

"Sorry kid, I'm always getting names wrong- it's old age Asami! I swear the way this system is though it won't be long before they have a solution to that 'n all!"

I nod in agreement though not exactly sure of what is being said by Rick Foster (the butcher). He's happily chopping the lamb into slices for me to take home.

It's a heat wave here in Douglas, so the aircon is buzzing in the background. The sound of the System approved broadcast on the radio is also apparent. I am Mr. Foster's last customers (he's finishing early today, I think it was something to do with holiday, is that it in English?) He finishes after a few minutes and turns back around to give me the lamb- this time though he looks at me with a mischievous grin.

BOO!

The idiot who just scared the life out of me is no other than my best friend Kazue Yokotoma (by default as I stated on the first day of meeting him.)  His family - just him and his father - are the only other Japanese in Douglas and so it was much easier to get along with him; He is also the funniest person to have ever walked the earth in my mind.

"Hey there stranger! How's my fair lady these days? " Kazue says in a very exaggerated way hugging me like he hasn't seen me in years.

Mr. Foster chuckles causing me to go even redder than I already am, Kazue lets go and turns to the butcher who at this point is closing up the shop.

"Mr. F how are things? How are Thalia and Luca?" He asks him in fluent English.

"Thal is with with her parents in the Valley area and Luca is or at least I hope, sleeping at home where he'd probably heard your screaming."

"Well I'm sorry Mr. F but it is in my nature to be a bit annoying."

The way that Kazue is able to confidently create conversation with the locals has always fascinated me, though it does make me a tiny bit jealous at times. Ironically enough, it is a whole different story at school- Kazue just doesn't seem to get along with our classmates - or maybe he doesn't want to. They treated me like a parasite, a plague when I first came to the school due to my different appearance, lack of English and overall introvertedness. Kazue would voluntarily sit with me on the wall (where I usually would have lunch away from everyone) and talk to me about the most random of things - whether it be the reason why the sky is blue or the true meaning of a hipster as he'd call it, or how he really wants his father to get him a dog and how he'd get him a girlfriend if he does. The first time he did this he deliberately spoke English for the first 5 minutes before randomly singing in Japanese to catch my attention. I was ready to hit him with my fork because of the way he threw me off- he became my translator and was the only person to defend me in any way shape or form.

Anata wa sore ni tsuite tadashīdesu !  'You are right about that ' I think to myself.

"You just love to hurt me, don't you Asami?" Kazue remarks in a mockingly sad tone.

Mr. F is trying to hide his amusement at our banter only causing me to feel a bit more embarrassed. He exists his side of the butchery and gestures us to go outside as locks up where Luca is sat on the bench alongside the shop with his nanny. We say our goodbyes before parting ways.

"Asami my odd female friend, I have a surprise for you!" He tells me as we head towards town.

"A dead rat?" I ask amusedly.

"What do you take me for Akuhei? Keep guessing," He replies giving me a playful punch on the arm.

"You finally bought yourself common sense?"

"If you weren't my best friend I would hit you right now." Kazue states in a failingly menacing way.

Unexpectedly, he grabs my hand and pulls me of course to an unfamiliar area of the Jaklin area (where we live in Douglas) . We stop after running for a while and Kazue tells me to close my eyes, I do so hesitantly. Kazue grabs my hand once more but this time less forcefully and repositions me to what I think is another area.

"Open your eyes Akuhei."

I do so and what I see is incredible. Towers of large plants and heaps of tiny plants, there is a lake on the other side of where we are currently standing. Placing my bag of lamb to one side, I sit down next to Kazue who is also sat down leaning against one of these large plants

"Thank you." I say with a rare sense of  sincerity  taking in the scenery that I have never been able to encounter with.

He chuckles ever so slightly and asks,

"So am I still lacking in the common sense and responsibility department Akuhei?"

I just look at him in utter disbelief as I continue to sit quietly.

It's funny actually, I had said to him a while ago how I'd never seen a forest as they call it. I had never seen real life tiny plants or big plants at all before today (where I used to live was much more modern,  we lived in amongst silver lego bricks instead of harmoniously with nature) To be fair,  I have always been curious as to what big plants look like and now I have.

All this has made me mostly forget about the happenings of this afternoon- almost. Mama confuses me often with her unexpected change in personality and the speed in which that happens in. For instance one moment she is happily knitting or fixing an old damaged dress and the next,  she wishes to shut herself in her room with a bottle of some form of alcohol. It would take some time for her to come back to us and when she eventually does, someone will have already been emotionally scarred. I don't say anything because I know that it is my fault- my mind caused the downfall of our name.

Kazue must have sensed my change of mood and proceeds to get up from his seat next to me. He gestures for me to do so too, something I honestly can't be bothered doing.

"Asami Akuhei get up before I have to use the power given to me by my father and his father and his father and his father and his father and don't forget his father and his brother and his father... "

"Fine Zuzu I'll get up."  I say and slowly get myself to stand up.

Kazue looks at me with piercing eyes and I know I hit a nerve.

"Don't call me that."

"What?"

"That!"

"Zuzu? I don't know, it seems quite cute!" I reply

He stays sinisterly quiet to a point where I genuinely believe that I hurt him. I approach him to apologise then,

"KAZUE!" I yell as he begins to tickle me "You will pay for this one day Yokotoma!"

He doesn't stop and it makes me scream and laugh in a way that I never have before...

"So Asami-chan do you feel any better?" Kazue asks me after a while,  I am back to sitting down (somewhat) recovered from the wrath of my best friend whilst he is stood up skimming random stones across the lake.

"If I said no, what would you do?" I playfully question.

He smirks before beginning to approach me once again, slightly panicking, I begin to wave my hands and reply quickly,

"I am feeling much better, more than better, grand thank you!"

"That's better Akuhei," Kazue looks at the ever slightly darkening sky with a slightly saddened look on his usually upbeat face. I get up also to observe what he is looking at- I am left perplexed.

The PET (Psychological Efficiency Test)  board. With a batch of fresh five-year-old minds dictated and judged - the top ranking moving to my old place and one who has made it to the Inner Wall Ricci (the closest wall to the castle and therefore where the cleverest, probably sanest of minds reside). The bottom half of the chart shows the children with the lowest PET score (thus meaning they are most likely going to Wall Burnett.) Amongst those unfortunate is the butcher Mr. Foster's son Luca.

"Talk about fairness." Kazue spits out almost acidly.

I stay silent as he continues on with his rant,

"They will never have a choice in life! Just expected to live in this rubbish dump of a place with the chances of you getting a job and a nice house are as high as me ever seeing the damn outside! According to the mighty Lord King of the stuck ups, I am destined to become an idiot, that I am a liability to the System and all in it!" He chucks his remaining stones frustratedly into the river.

I approach him and punch him hard on the arm causing him to give me a confused and slightly surprised look on his face.

"It will be your name on the Crime list if you don't shut your big mouth of yours! So stop getting all upset over what you can not solve and let's just do something. "

"Like what exactly Asami, you don't strike me as the fun type?"

I look around the area of forest that I can see and note the bundle of little plants.

"What are those little plants in English?" pointing them out to Zu.

Instead of answering my question, he runs towards the direction of the little plants, plucking a bunch of them before returning back to me,

"Asami, we don't call them little plants, we call them furawāzu . Those big plants are what we call ki. !In English, we call a load of these furawāzu , flowers and do you know something? We give these to people who mean a lot to them because they are kind people and they remind them of the flowers, pretty." He gives me the flowers causing me to go red.

Then he takes them back.

And then he gives them back again.

Idiot.

***

We play games and talk about random stuff, as we usually do, well into the afternoon before we eventually realise that it is most definitely the best time to go before our parents kill us. Though in true Yokotoma/Akuhei fashion we walk as slowly as possible back to the main Jaklin area. The village is much more quieter than normal (but then again why wouldn't it be, another set of children are going to have to pack their bags to another place entirely) and it is just us (apart from the shopkeepers) along the street. Kazue is attempting to tell me a crazy story of how he once tricked the entire school into thinking he was a spaceman from the year 2009 because of his knowledge about stuff from the ancient times - as exaggerated and silly as it is he makes it entertaining enough for me to listen to until I got to my house, where he promised to finish and improve it to make it (and I quote) 'The greatest spaceman story to be ever told. With every over - exaggerated thing you could think of from your's truly." He says his goodbyes as I am left bewildered at the fact that my best friend is one of the smartest yet zany people and better yet he is also the best. 

I come inside my house to find a somewhat shriveled up mama leaning against the wall in our living room - tears staining her face, a photo of me, her and papa is laying on the floor shattered- the more I observe what is around me,  the more I see that something very off about it all - then it clicks.

"Mama, where is papa's stuff? "

She doesn't answer only clutching tightly to the drink in her hands.

"Mama, where is papa's stuff? "I ask more forcefully.

This time, she launches the drink at my direction causing me to stumble back slightly. Mama begins screaming,

"He is gone, his stuff is burning in ashes and it is all thanks to you!" 

 

******
Author's Note: Please if you have time listen to a song called "So Ist Es Immer" .

Its from the OVA- "A Choice With No Regrets" From Attack On Titan and it is simply amazing! I feel like it really goes well with the premice of this chapter. 

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