Chapter 3: Stratagems    

Splash.

I felt freezing cold water hit my face and drench my whole body. As I opened my blurred eyes, I realized that my hands were tied behind my back, and I was sitting in a chair. “Wipe his face!” I heard that familiar voice barking, and then, I felt a towel almost smother me. I choked after accidentally swallowing a bit of the water, and so she ordered, “Stop now!” I blinked a few times before looking ahead. There was Ichijo-san sitting on a piano’s bench with her legs crossed and body leaning forward. Her cheek rested on her palm as she eyed me viciously. “Kyoko-san, leave us alone now,” Ichijo-san demanded. 


Watanabe-san was here? What? I shifted my gaze towards the door of the music room. Watanabe-san was standing beside the entrance, uttering, “But, Airi-san, it’s dangerous leaving you and—“

“I can handle myself quite fine,” Ichijo-san interrupted and stomped her foot. “You too, nii-san. You can leave now.”

Nii-san? Who could he be? Last time I checked . . . wait . . . I never checked anything about her. Was there anything that Yusei told me before about Ichijo-san? Okay, she liked strawberries and blueberries. No, that was news from two days ago. She supposedly has C cups. Ugh . . . not helpful at all. What about . . . oh right. There was that rumour that the banchou of this high school was the student council president, which happened to be Ichijo-san’s older brother, Reo, but I thought there was no way that a student council president could actually be some delinquent. Who knew that the world could be so . . . weird? Or maybe I was just ignorant of school politics in general. I doubted that the whole school would vote for a delinquent to be . . . a leader? Ugh . . . confusing shi.t that didn’t have to be analyzed further. I just looked around to see if I was right. 

Yup. There was Reo senpai sort of just standing there. He didn’t look like a nerd at all. I believed that he was rather popular among the girls, but I didn’t care much at all about that. He could take all the girls for all I cared; that way he could distract my enemies. 

“B-b-but, Riri-chan, what if you get hurt?” he asked with puppy eyes. Puppy eyes with glitter seemingly glowing from them? What the hell? Did he have a sister complex or what? And Riri-chan? What sort of nickname was that? I could sort of imagine that for a gentler, cute girl, but this out-of-control woman? No. Just wrong.

Then, there was Watanabe-san agreeing, “Yes, Airi-san, what if you get hurt? I don’t want your lovely, porcelain skin to be cut.” 

Lovely, porcelain skin? What the hell? And the look from Watanabe-san’s eyes to Ichijo-san? That was utterly disgusting and filled with passion and love. Oh God. Yuri? Shoujo-ai live? What the fu.ck was going on? Why the fu.ck did the one beautiful girl had to turn out to be like this? Why the hell was I even here? And what could I actually do with my hands tied up? Huh? Kill Ichijo-san with my nonexistent telepathic skills? Huh? I decided to try rattling in my seat, hoping to hop away. I know. Retarded. But mind you, did I have a choice here?

Out of the blue, I heard the cracking of a whip and then I was pulled back by the leg of my chair. Ichijo-san barked, “Where the fu.ck do you think you’re going? Huh?”

Swearing now? Oh. Just wait till those fans heard of this. There would be a total uproar. It was too bad I couldn’t record her with my phone. Then, I’d blackmail . . . Hang on. Blackmail? Jesus. It must be Yuka’s doing! Her bad habits are rubbing on me. “Ugh,” I groaned in despair, thinking about how womanly I was becoming. 

Unexpectedly, Ichijo-san yanked my chin up and pressed a foot against the edge of my seat. Lucky for me, I had sat with my legs apart. Unlucky for me, Ichijo-san was pinched my cheeks together with one hand and harked, “Who said you could talk? Huh?”

“Well, you probably kidnapped me because you wanted me us to talk,” I grumbled once she let go of me.
Watanabe-san immediately stepped in between us, bellowing, “Kidnapped? How dare you use such a harsh word on—“

“Kyoko!” Ichijo-san ordered. “What did I tell you? Huh?”

“I know, but this jerk—“

“Jerk?” I accidentally blurted. “Since when was I the jerk? Huh? I’m the victim—“

Watanabe-san headed towards me to interject, “Victim? How dare you call yourself—“ 

Wham.

Ichijo-san flipped Watanabe-san who landed on her back. “What did I say? Huh?” Ichijo-san roared.

“I’m sorry. It’s all my fault,” Watanabe-san begged desperately. “Please . . . please forgive me, Your Highness.”

“Then scram!” Ichijo-san ordered while pointing her finger to the door. “Get the fu.ck out! You too, Nii-san! Don’t think I don’t know you’re standing behind that door!”

“Okay! Okay!” Reo senpai remarked quite loudly.

Once the door slid shut, Ichijo-san turned her attention back towards me. She was smiling rather creepily at me as she said, “Now . . . where were we?” I believed I heard her neck crack from side to side. If she were a guy, I could probably know for a fact that she was going to beat me up. I really didn’t think a guy would tie me up though. He’d just go at me head front, so in a sense, she was still ladylike? Okay. Never mind. She just cracked her knuckles and now, she grabs onto my collars, almost choking me in the process. Yup. She’s definitely not a girl and just a guy in disguise. After being forced to buy monthly shoujo manga magazines for Yuki, who lives in her own romantic fantasy land, I think I am starting to believe in ridiculous scenarios like a girl going into an all guys’ school without being caught. Oh, just in case you were wondering why I know about these things, it’s really because of Yuki. She also made me discuss the latest plots and took me to manga conventions because she wanted to share her fandom with someone. Obviously, no one else but our family knows about her secret hobby. The world just thinks Yuki is an intelligent girl destined for success, especially when she’s in medical school.

I think this was why I lifted my leg up and kicked in between this girl’s legs. “Oh,” I mumbled despondently. “So you’re actually a girl.”

“What the fu.ck?” She jumped backs and swore. “Are you fuc.king retarded?” She placed her hands on her hips to bark at me. “How can I not be a girl? Huh?”

I let out a sigh while shaking my head. “These days, you never really know for sure.”

Folding her arms, she grumbled, “Whatever!”

“In that case,” I muttered, “can you just let me go? I would like to go home.”

“What?” She seized my collars again, spitting in my eye. “Who the hell said you could go home? Huh? Who the fu.ck gave you permission to go home?”

“Well it doesn’t seem like you want anything from me,” I stated. “I also think I could get you for a kidnapping charge sooner or later.”

“You wouldn’t dare! And who would believe you huh?” she hissed. “I know what people think of you. I have my sources.”

I scoffed, “It’s not hard to know that I’m a loner, but at least, I’m true to myself.”

“I can explain!” she hollered and backed off from me. Placing her hand on her chest, she started to recite her own soliloquy: “A long time ago, my parents wanted me to be a boy, and unlucky for them, I was born a girl. I was forced by my brothers and parents to become manlier. It’s not my fault that my brothers are all so weak! I beat them easily in everything, especially in martial arts, but . . . but . . . it’s my dream, you know? It’s my dream to be . . .” She now rested the back of her hand on her forehead and gasped. “A housewife and to marry my destined Prince Charming!”

I blinked a few times after digesting her story. Somehow, this sounded very familiar. Maybe, it was because I shared a similar life story. Actually, it was almost the same; you just had to change the genders of the characters, besides the parents. Even then, what did her life have to do with mine? 

“And . . . this is relevant to me because?” I wondered aloud.

“Because,” she pointed her finger right at me and shouted, “you’re the perfect housewife!”

I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that statement. Was it a compliment? I guess it was, but really, what male would want to be called the perfect housewife? I couldn’t imagine wearing an apron, baking muffins, cooking meals, cleaning the house and tending to a wife and kids for all my life. Ever since I could think, I was escaping that path carved for me by KiKaKo. They honestly had trained me to be the perfect housewife, and it didn’t help that my own mother wanted me to be a girl. My father didn’t seem to mind about anything. He was too concerned by his own job. So, I was left to the hands of the evil KiKaKo. I’d do all the chores, help them do their hairdos, inform them of the latest trends in fashion and makeup, listen to their boy concerns and cook meals. Now, no one really knew about this side of me. Obviously, everything was contained in the household, so how in the world could . . . this crazy woman know about anything? After all my hard work of hiding myself by remaining quiet in the classroom, she was able to detect my skills?

“How . . .” I croaked. “How . . . do you know? Huh? You’ve mistaken. I don’t even do the housework at home.”

“Nonsense!” She giggled by covering her mouth with her hand. “I saw you last year making vanilla chocolates on the day before Valentine’s Day.”

Last year . . . the day before Valentine’s Day . . . making chocolates . . .

Fu.ck.

It must have been that time when Yuko wanted to impress her many boyfriends by demonstrating her pastry skills. Obviously, she possessed none. In fact, anything she cooked turned out to be a disaster. She was horrible at mixing flavours together. She’d add chicken, oranges, tofu and garlic together. With desserts, she had no patience in following the recipes. She’d dump approximate amounts of ingredients, and in the end, she’d burn her sweets. Therefore, when she first started dating in middle school, she’d make me bake chocolates every Valentine’s Day. She’d also force me to make bento for her boyfriend whenever they had picnic dates or had lunch together at school.

Last year, Yuko literally bribed me to make vanilla fudge, and since real vanilla was rather expensive, I decided to use the school’s supplies. I knew that on Saturdays, the school would be open for practices and extra lessons, so I pretended that I had to attend an extra session for Math. Then, I snuck to the baking room and borrowed the stove and oven. Even though I risked being seen, I still wanted Yuko to buy me a special sword I had been eyeing for the past year. I wanted to use that sword to practice some fighting or kendo. Ah, that would be a nice experience.

“And then, and then,” Ichijo-san quickly added, “I saw how you were washing those plates and dishes. Plus you were able to get rid of a stain on your white shirt so easily!”

“Th-th-there’s no proof of that,” I stammered.

“Proof?” Ichijo-san cackled clearly and loudly. Then, from the pocket in her skirt, she tossed a bundle of photos onto my lap. As I stared in awe, she explained, “I had Watanabe-san follow you around, and I got you good!”

Good . . . yeah. I really, really failed. I couldn’t even detect a girl spying on me. I supposed I was too absorbed in trying to get the cheapest dozen of eggs, fruit and other groceries. Ichijo-san really did catch me in the act of everything. There was a photo of me hanging the blankets out in the yard. There was another of me taking out the trash. Then, there were tons of me shopping at the super market. There was even one of me reading a book about healthy cooking. Yuko had to go on a strict diet after her modeling agent was complaining how Yuko was becoming fatter.

There was really no way I could refute Ichijo-san’s request. Maybe, there was a way to make things better. I mean, there had to be a way that I could get something from Ichijo-san too. What was this woman good at anyways? I thought about what she said, and then I thought some more about what had just happened now. There was her brother, who was the banchou of this school. Then, it struck me.

“Ha!” I lifted my head to smile. “I’ll make a deal with you.”
 
“What? You think you can—“

“Hear me out,” I uttered. “You train me to be a better fighter, and I’ll make you the perfect housewife.”
“No way! How the fu.ck can such a weakling like you be trained and—“

“I’ll expose you and I won’t teach you anything.”

“Fine!” she howled and kicked my chest. As a result, I fell over onto the back of my chair. She kneeled down to my level and glared at me.

“What?” I mumbled.

She hugged herself while tilting her head to the side. Pursing her lips together, she declared, “You actually don’t look so bad. Now if I just removed these glasses—“

“Get your hands off of me! Don’t touch me!” I barked.

Still, she didn’t heed to me. She proceeded to remove my glasses and within seconds, she gawked at me before shoving them back on my face. She even slapped my cheek hard. With reddened cheeks, she bellowed, “You filthy scum bag!”

Then, she ran out, leaving me all alone in this room. I was tied up too. Man, I was super unlucky, but after a while, Yuka came to rescue me. Yuki had this notion that I would be kidnapped one day, so she installed a GPS tracking device in my cell phone. Since I was always home before six in the evening, my mother or Yuki must have told Yuka to look for me at school. So, when Yuka saw me all tied up, she was burning with much rage. Pounding her fist into her palm, she roared, “Who dares bully you? Huh?” As she untied me, she harked, “Tell me! Who fuc.king messed with you?” Now, Yuka snatched my collar, demanding again, “Tell me now! Who the hell would fu.ck with a Daigo?”

A girl . . . called . . . Ichijo Airi.

Should I tell Yuka that and have her mock me for the rest of my life? Ugh . . . I’d really rather not, and so I lied, “It’s ugh . . .”

“Who? If you don’t fu.cking tell me, I’ll get Yuko to investigate for me!” Yuka threatened.

Although Yuko went to a different school than me, she and I were in the same grade. Yuko was adopted by our family a few months before I was born. She was actually my mother’s best friend’s child. The whole family had passed away in a car crash except for the newborn Yuko. Nevertheless, we all treated Yuko like our real sister, and to me, she was still my older sister. After all, Yuko had that devious nature that made her fit right in with the KiKaKo clan. Really, they were fated to be sisters, and I was fated to be a toy for them. Sure, Yuka was enraged that someone had done something to me, but I knew that she really cared more about her reputation as a banchou. No one dared to mess with anyone from our family because that would mean a direct hit on her, which, now that I thought of it, would create a perfect opportunity for me to kill with a borrowed knife. Yuka would eliminate Ichijo-san’s older brother for me. That would finish the banchou and hurt Ichijo-san’s pride. During this time, I would hide a knife behind a smile. I’d help Ichijo-san and when the chance appeared, I’d push her off her throne.  All this time, I’d feign madness but keep my balance. I’d have to train hard, and at least, Ichijo-san had agreed to help me with that one.

An ally for today, and a foe for another.

“It was . .  .” I hesitated to pretend that I was afraid. “It was Ichijo Reo!”

“That fu.cking punk!” Yuka released me and grimaced. “I knew he was up to no good! Don’t worry, Hayato! I’ll get revenge . . . for the Daigo family.”

Good. I smiled in my mind. Good. Everything would go according to my plan.

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