Chapter 17 - 大雨Mature

Ren loved the rain. Though he hated how his messy curls would frizz, or that the cold wind would numb his flesh, he felt a strange peace under every droplet. It had been raining all day though only in light increments. It made him think of those lonely nights when Mother and Father would be out late; he'd wrap up and listen to the rain light rapping on the glass panes.

It was then, on top of the school grounds with his best friend, he watched the clouds swell and bruise. Michi never understood his fascination but he was grateful being away from the others. They skipped last period which was the oh-so wonderful Gym. Whether it was running in circles, swimming or being pelted with soccer balls, everyone was guaranteed to lose out. Michi had listened to the girls quarrel over hair colour and pimples; the boy's locker room was a silent fear of body hair, twisted masculinity and body fat. If you didn't have fancy hair, defined abs and body hair, you had no right to feel self esteem.

"Reckon it's soccer today?" asked Ren. His voice was tentative. Being the last in the class whose vocal cords broke, he was afraid to speak up until they did.

Michi shrugged. He wasn't paying attention. He imagined the self conscious murmuring and squeaking of pumps on the gym. He was waiting for them to cascade from the block so they could leave with them. No Sensei would be any the wiser.

"I can't believe they haven't told our parents we've been skipping. I feel like such a rebel." he continued.

Michi snorted. "Like they give a shit. You wouldn't have broken your arm had they actually done their job properly."

Ren looked down at his left arm which, though healed, still felt stiff.

"I told you not to bring that up. I said I'd get my revenge."

"So you did send that angry email?" Ren asked.

Both boys looked to each other and laughed. For a brief moment, Michi saw (or imagined) a darker shade to Ren's soft brown eyes. Before he could question this, Ren's heart-shaped face tilted curiously.

"Suppose you won't have to worry about this soon. Mr Multi Millionaire!" said Michi. He mussed up Ren's hair like an elder brother to the youngest. "You can have all the video games and women you want. Otaku-san!"

Ren smiled shyly. "Not until I am of age. I can't touch that money as a minor. So I'm stuck here with your spiky ass until then."

Michi's own grin softened. Noticing this, Ren continued.

"Don't worry. I'll bring you with me. You can be my bride if you don't mind being the bitch."

Again, both boys laughed. Michi extended his hand and observed an imaginary wedding ring which elicited even more laughter from Ren. Tears began to form in the corners of his eyes which he wiped away messily. With the clouds threatening to break, it made no difference.

The chortles dissolved to a strange silence. The boys were thinking of the future which seemed so distant, yet now it was only weeks away. They'd be expected to get jobs, get married and do all the adult things that seemed foreign to them now. Ren had his technology dreams which were in reach; Michi felt a strange envy. He knew working nine to five a cramped office space was his future but he had nothing to counter that with. Sex repulsed him; it was mechanical and full of ache. Alcohol was sickening. The only woman he ever felt love for was an English girl. Yet she hadn't messaged him in five months only to cut off all communication without warning.

"I still have the chat room. Even if I leave Osaka, I'll still chat with you." said Ren. Michi brightened considerably but dare not let it show in front of his best friend. "I gave it a name. If I keep calling it The Chatroom, people will think it's AOL nonsense."

"What did you call it?"

"The Raining Room." Ren answered. Pride coloured his voice.

Michi rolled his eyes. "What's it with you and rain?"

Ren shrugged. "Check it out when you get back home. I updated it."

"What do you mean updated it?" asked Michi. But his answer was snuffed out by the steely squeal of the door. Five students spilled onto the roof; each with cigarettes burning between their fingers.

Ren and Michi gaped. Tetsuya, the leader of the five, marched over to the two frightened boys with the smile of a someone who enjoys what repulses others. His hair was a plumage of blonde spikes and there was a single tattoo of '四' on his neck.

Ren tried to step past him but Tetsuya threw him back into the metal railing. For a brief moment, he saw how high above the ground they were. The students below looked no different than the scenery.

"Oh Ren, why did you intrude on our smoking time? Have you told our Sensei?" Tetsuya said. He blew a clouds of greasy smoke onto the two boys who shuddered accordingly. "Well?"

Both boys shook their head. Tetsuya bared his long, sharp teeth in a sadistic smile. In another life, he could be looking down on his first corpse.

"Too afraid huh? I don't blame you." he snickered. His friends watched with rapt attention. "Tell you what, I'm feeling generous today. How about I let you both go?"

His friends exchanged confused glances as Ren and Michi could not believe their luck.

"If.. you let us stub our cigarettes out on you." he finished. Michi had no illusions but Ren looked disappointed. Maybe he believed there was a deeper side to him but Tetsuya had been this way ever since he learned he could hurt his younger sister without consequence. All he had to do was hide the bruises.

As smoke plumed from the five boys, Ren and Michi looked to each other in a silent conversation.

 Let's just do it.
I... no.

Ren shook his head. Michi glared violently and rolled his his sleeve. His pink, unblemished arm glowed.

At once, all five boys stubbed their cigarettes out on the fleshy canvas. Skin crackled and sizzled as wisps of human scent wafted into the air. Five angry circles bleed and gorged with blisters. Tetsuya watched with interest; he slapped the swelling as colourless light streamed down Michi's arm.

Michi did not cry out or even shudder. He was resigned to his; Tetsuya had done so much worse which only his therapist was only privy to. This was before he realized his therapist planned to do nothing but impart the 'understand him' advice.

Tetsuya grabbed his ravaged arm and threw him towards the lone exit. A sea of bullies separated him from his best friend. Ren looked over saddened but defiant. His sleeves remained untouched.

"Ren, I'm not going to ask again." Tetsuya said. He and his friends advanced on him covering all flanks. Fresh cigarettes were drawn and lit. The five ruby spots were raised as though they were daggers. "If you don't let us stub our cigarettes on your arm, we'll have to stub them out on another place."

Michi watched paralyzed with fear. He did not need to see where Tetsuya's flickered to know where he meant.

Ren shook his head. His eyes were not fearful; in fact they were carved from stone. He stepped away from the bullies and climbed onto the ledge. Had he turned, he'd have seen the entire school courtyard. He'd have also seen the students point in a panicked confusion.

"Ren, what are you doing?" sputtered Michi. His fear giving away to dread, he tried to reach out for his best friend but Tetsuya's friend threw him back into the metal door. He slumped to the ground.

"Ren. Get down! It's not worth it!" he called out.

But Ren remained. The rain was falling harder now.

"You pathetic worm. Are you trying to show off or something?" snarled Tetsuya. But an anxiety crept into his voice. He could steal yen from a younger student and silence him with intimidation, but what if this kid actually jumped? All eyes on him then. His friends backed away uncertain.

Michi stood and watched his dear friend. A single hand waved to him.

"Will you be my friend forever, Michi?" asked Ren. In spite of being surrounded by his tormentors, he sounded younger than he ever did. Before the bullying began, before he felt that black cloud of sadness. Back when all was beautiful and golden. Back when he and Michi would trade Pocket Monster cards and talk about X Japan. Before he knew what it was like to dread waking up.

"Ren, please..." said Michi. He rushed over, this time unimpeded.

Ren turned a took a single step. He fell before Michi could reach the ledge. The last thing he saw was the peaceful look in his best friend's eyes, before disappeared into the heavy rain.

"REN! REN!" Michi screamed. He pounded the ledge angrily. Tears fell from his eyes and mingled with the falling rain. An anger awoke inside of him and smothered the years-old fear inside of him.

Tetsuya's lips curled into a smile. He approached Michi who turned. The fury of a thousand split lips, broken bones and seared flesh channeled into his left fist which smashed into Tetsuya's handsome face. Later that evening, he'd ponder the surgery which he would never live to get.

The metal door exploded open as the Sensei Takagi and his assistants poured into the roof. Michi's eyes were still stung with tears; even as Sensei Takagi tried to lead him away, he could not look away from where his best friend had stood.

The End

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