AU directly following the events of Fifteen where instead of joining the Port Mafia, Chuuya remains with the Sheep. With the Sheep's weaknesses exposed by Dazai, he is forced to confront the organization's vulnerabilities.

We open on a familiar scene...
"Here lies some old asshole and any hope of learning the truth about myself," a pair of stormy eyes bore into a broken white gravestone.

Nakahara Chuuya was sitting in a graveyard on a jagged cliff, his hands shoved deep in his pockets.
The words of comfort he'd received a month earlier from the man to who the grave belonged just /mocked/ him now.

Maybe it was true that he remained himself, whether or not he could discover his true identity, but that didn't fill up the emptiness in his chest. And now, the
Port Mafia had likely destroyed the last information that remained on the subject. He couldn't help but feel grief over the part of himself that he would never get to know.

"Honestly, you're an annoying old man even when you're dead," he muttered bitterly.
His quiet contemplation was interrupted by a faint buzz from his pocket. His eyebrows furrowed together, and he fished his phone out, flipping it open to see who had texted him.

It was Yuan.

What she sent was riddled with typos as if she had hastily typed it out in secret.
"/Dnt trusr shirase,/" the phone gave another short buzz as a second text came through. "/plese dont hurt him though./"

Chuuya immediately tensed up and slid off the grave he'd been sitting on, his eyes scanning his surroundings for a threat.
His gaze shifted back to the grave, "I'll come again," he said before cautiously walking away. Just as Yuan's text had suggested, a silver-haired boy appeared in his path, blocking him.

"Shirase…" Chuuya said warily. "How did you find me here?"
"I need to apologize to you," Shirase remarked. The words rolled off the boy's tongue so naturally, but Chuuya could detect a slight shake in his voice. "Our fight before? At the arcade. I thought more about what you said. You can't do what you want because of us. You were right.
We depended on you to make our battle strategies, and that was wrong of us."

Chuuya swallowed thickly, his eyes searching Shirase for any sign of a threat. Whatever he was planning, Chuuya could counter it. He just didn't know if he could do it without harming Shirase.
"We know where the Sheep's problems lie," Shirase chuckled. "So, we discussed it and came to a decision. Will you listen?" he walked towards Chuuya as he spoke.

Chuuya remained guarded but let him approach. "Sure. Hit me," he grunted. . "We can walk and talk; what's your plan?"
He noticed Shirase making a sudden move from the corner of his eye, but his reflexes were faster. He caught the other boy's wrist, stopping a blade that was millimeters from piercing him. When he caught Shirase's eyes again, all of the confidence had drained from his face;
now, he just looked terrified.

Chuuya blinked at him in shock. "You were gonna try to kill me?"

When Shirase struggled, Chuuya gave his wrist a squeeze just strong enough that he yelped and dropped the blade. Without releasing him, he bent down to pick it up before
flicking it shut and shoving it into his pocket.

"It was the only way," Shirase said through gritted teeth. "You’re awful, and we all realized it. We thought, ‘what if Chuuya really did join the mafia. The sheep could never survive. We’d be massacred.
We can’t just rely on the whims of someone so unreliable; that’s a vulnerability,” he glared. “If you’re gonna kill me, you should just get it over with.”

Chuuya stared in disbelief for a moment before his eyes narrowed into a glare.
“No, see. I wouldn’t do something so underhanded or cruel as betraying my friends,” he shot back.

“You should stand down. He’s dangerous,” Shirase warned an unseen audience.

Chuuya looked up to find himself surrounded by a group of soldiers with guns trained on him.
Behind the soldiers were the people who he had considered his friends, staring at him like he was some kind of dangerous animal.

His heart sank.

/Had every one of them agreed to this?/ “The GSS? Are you serious?” he hissed.
“Stand down?” one of the soldiers scoffed, “You really think you can go back on our deal, kid?”

With one gesture from their leader, the GSS soldiers fired with little regard for Shirase, who was still in their line of fire.
Chuuya quickly twisted and pulled Shirase behind him so that he would take the impact instead. As soon as the bullets came in contact with him, they froze.
“Unreliable, huh? Your new friends seem so loyal,” he barked, giving the bullets a kick but aiming high, so the ones
that didn’t hit the soldiers whizzed above the heads of the children.

The remaining soldiers raised their rifles to fire once again but were cut down by a new round of fire from behind them.

A dozen pairs of eyes turned to find the source of the shots.
A boy in a dark coat and bandages had appeared, followed by a small army of expressionless mafioso’s. With their new bodyguards fallen, the sheep instinctively flocked back to Chuuya.

“You?” Chuuya growled.

“It looks like Chuuya’s done half of my job for me!”
“/Half/ your job?” Chuuya asked, ushering his friends behind him as if the betrayal had completely left his mind.

Dazai looked bored. “The mafia couldn’t have an alliance between our two most hostile enemies, so I was sent to wipe out both organizations before they had a chance
to fully cooperate.”

“Wipe out both organizations? You mean you plan to attack the sheep as well?” He prepared himself to fight, though, with thirteen liabilities to protect against a small army; his strategy was severely limited, especially given Dazai’s
nullification ability.

"It would be unwise of the Port Mafia to leave such a powerful enemy organization intact. However, if one of my coworkers- say someone who knew about their internal affairs could tell us how to weaken them, our strategies could be modified."
Chuuya glared back at him. So, it was an ultimatum, huh? Maybe it would have been best to cut their losses and take Dazai’s deal, but he was feeling particularly stubborn now and intended to prove Shirase wrong.
Besides, he could still save the organization, right? Without protection from him or the GSS, they would be toast.

“Hold onto me,” he hissed to the sheep before turning his attention back to Dazai. “Tell your boss that he can get fucked.”
With that, he applied gravity to his shoes' soles and the earth surrounding him and the sheep began to crack under the weight. The cliff quickly broke off, bringing down Chuuya and the rest of the sheep with it.

There wasn’t really any time to process it until they hit the sand, and Yuan cried out in shock. Chuuya whirled to find one of his friends choking and clutching at his throat, with red beginning to slowly seep through the cracks in his fingers.

He dropped to his knees to catch his friend.

“Shitshitshit…” he almost grappled with his jacket to find something to put pressure on the wound, but he wasn’t stupid. It was useless. Besides, it wouldn’t take long before Dazai and his grunts could catch up to them.
“Do you want to get more of us killed?” Shirase tugged on his arm. “Let’s go, Chuuya!”

Chuuya looked back to Akira, who was still choking pathetically on his own blood. He couldn’t just leave him there like that. He withdrew the knife from his pocket, and with one forceful stab
to Akira’s heart, he put his friend out of his misery. He was used to the violence, but the feeling of a friend’s life draining out of his body under his own hand made him wretch.

Shirase gave him one more forceful tug, and they were on their way.
Back in the cemetery, Dazai raised one finger. “Don’t go after them,” he ordered. As much as he would love to see the bloodbath, especially given that his initial plan hadn't gone his way,
without the sheep to leverage against him, Chuuya was as good as lost. Letting tensions continue to boil was a better and much more interesting strategy.

When the sheep returned to their safehouse, that tension was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. They were all silent, too filled with adrenaline and anxiety to even cry over their friend. Chuuya leaned against a wall, eyeing the rest of the sheep anxiously as he
pondered how to move forward. Finally, he spoke, “We need to strategize. Dazai didn’t come after us, which means that bastard probably has something up his-”

/The tension snapped./

“Maybe you should have just gone with him,” Shirase practically snarled.
“You heard him; he would have spared us if you just took his deal.”

Chuuya looked stunned. “You were pissed at me for working with them, and now you’re pissed at me because I wouldn’t?”

“You don’t get it. You’re more trouble than you’re worth. And now Akira’s dead because
of your damn arrogance! I should have-”

His train of thought was cut off by the force of being slammed into a wall. Chuuya's fist landed inches from his head, causing the concrete to crater. Shirase's confidence crumbled, quickly replaced by barely contained sputtering panic.
His wide grey eyes found Chuuya's wild blue ones and he was met with the realization that he wasn't the only one with tears spilling down his cheeks.

Chuuya released the front of Shirase's shirt, letting him collapse limply on the floor. As he stepped back from his friend,
who was left practically hyperventilating, his shaky hands found their home in his pockets. The rest of the sheep had shrunk into the furthest corner of the room, and they were looking at him like he was some kind of wild beast that might attack any of them next.
His mouth felt dry, and he could feel the blood pounding in his ears. Knowing that the people he loved saw him as a monster made the empty feeling from earlier expand, threatening to swallow him whole. Desperate to escape their terrified stares, he turned on his heel and /ran/.
Yuan watched the door swing on its hinges.

She, like the rest of the sheep, was still reeling from the shock. Sure, they’d seen Chuuya angry before, but they’d never seen him even take his hands out of his pockets to fight, much less explode like that.
Her attention shifted to Shirase. It was almost pathetic the way he was blubbering on the floor.

“If our plan had gone our way, we’d all be dead right now, you know that right?” she asked, though her voice sounded more squeaky than authoritative.
Shirase couldn't even look her in the eye, much less muster a response, so she just shook her head and wordlessly followed Chuuya out the door.

When she found him he was huddled in the alleyway, his hand stuffed somehow even deeper in his pockets, his knees pulled up
to his chest, and his hood hiding his face. As soon as her footsteps alerted him to her presence, his blue eyes shot up to meet her. "I don't blame them, you know. They spotted a potential threat and did what they thought they needed to do to protect the organization."
There was silence. She didn’t know how to respond to that. “Are you…” his voice wavered for a second. “Are you afraid of me?”

She considered his question as she went to sit down next to him. “You can be a little scary…” she admitted hesitantly. “You’re way more powerful than
us. It’s scary to think about what that would mean for us if you weren’t on our side. That’s what everyone was thinking when we voted on um…” she didn’t want to say it out loud.

Chuuya chewed his lip for a second before pulling Shirase’s knife out of his pocket.
The image of his friends all voting to put him down like some kind of rabid dog stung. He flipped the knife open and then turned it to hold out to Yuan.

“If you think I’m a liability, or if I’m doing more harm than good to the organization, then do it. I won’t put up a fight.”
Yuan stared at the blade, twirling strands of bubble gum pink anxiously. It was uncharacteristic of him to seem so defeated or to even consider something like that. “I warned you because I realized we were wrong. You’ve always been loyal to us.”

He remained frozen,
the same stony expression affixed to his face.

“The GSS would never have our best interests at heart the way a friend would… I think the rest of them know that too. We just got spooked by that Port Mafia asshole.” She took the knife from him and closed it.
Chuuya wasn’t sure if he believed that. “We can’t go back to how things were. Depending on my ability as the Sheep’s only defense /is/ a vulnerability,” he glanced over to her, and then, with a little bite, “besides, having to do everything myself is fucking annoying.”
Yuan laughed, “Trust me, I’d love to be able to go steal booze when we want it without having to rely on you to protect us. You’re such an asshole about it sometimes,” she said flippantly. “Back in the arcade. What was it that was so important that you had to work
with the Port Mafia?”

Chuuya took a long time to answer, opting instead to chew on his hoodie string as he mulled over whether he should tell her or not. It scared him, but, hey, she was one of the few people he could trust right now,
and avoiding this question was exactly what had landed him in this situation in the first place. So he told her.

About Arahabaki, about his lost memories, and about Rando.
There was a long silence as her eyes darted around the giant crater that Suribachi City was built on,
undoubtedly connecting the destruction to him.

Her response, when it came, was… unexpected, “Do you want to get ice cream?” she squeaked.

/“Ice cream?”/

She just nodded “Yeah. We should get out of Suribachi City and pretend that you’re normal or something.”
“I don’t know if we have time for that. Who knows what the Port Mafia’s planning right now. I need to strategize and be ready in case they raid our safe house or something,” Chuuya started to get to his feet, but she caught his arm.

“I don’t think the Port Mafia knows where our
safehouse is. Besides, I may not be a master strategist but even I can see that it’d be a crap strategy for the Port Mafia to attack the Sheep now. They clearly are interested in recruiting you, and we’re their only leverage, right?” she asked.

“That I know of…” he mumbled.
“Sure. All I’m saying is that I think we’ll be safe for a couple hours. Everyone else was pretty ready to see what life without you would be like earlier, so I think they can cope for the night.”

He saw what she was doing now. She was trying to make him feel human.
And honestly, right now, he didn’t really have it in him to fight her on it, so he nodded, and when she got up, he followed her.

Yuan got a scoop of matcha and a scoop of strawberry. Chuuya panicked when they got to the front of the line and just got chocolate. “Is chocolate your favorite, or was it just the only flavor that came into your head?” Yuan teased as they dropped onto a bench outside the shop.
Chuuya’s cheeks went pink with embarrassment. “I don’t think I know what my favorite flavor is,” he said through a mouthful of ice cream.

She considered that for a moment. “I think you just need to get to know yourself better, you know? As Chuuya, not as Arahabaki or whatever,”
she scooped a bite of strawberry into her mouth. “Get to know who Chuuya is and what Chuuya likes. That weird old guy who tried to kill you was right. We’re all just trying to figure out who we are.”

“The chocolate is good,” he said, decisively, but then his lips twisted into
his trademark crooked grin. “I think I’d have a better idea if you let me try yours, though.”

She shrunk away with her cup of ice cream in hand as if he had offended her. “Fine,” she finally conceded. “But small bites, asshole. I won’t suffer just because you don’t know your
favorite flavors. Swap.”

They traded cups, and Chuuya took a way too big scoop of both flavors. “Strawberry’s good,” he decided. And then, through another large bite, “Do you like it because it’s pink like your hair?”

“Oi. I didn’t say you could have more,”
she snatched her cup back. “Maybe my hair is pink because I like strawberries.”

“You should dye the other half green to match the ice cream,” Chuuya remarked.

Yuan sighed dramatically, “My lifestyle doesn’t accommodate that kind of maintenance.”
There was a lull in the conversation, and evidently, she didn't want to allow for even a moment of silence because she quickly piped up again, "What's next?"

Chuuya glanced around and pondered that. Eventually, his eyes fell on a bookstore a few stores over.
“When I first joined the Sheep, I remember Akira showed me some of his favorite comics. Maybe we could go in there and take a look?”

A sad look passed over both of their faces as they remembered their friend.

“Sure! Lets go!” Yuan hopped to her feet and tossed her empty cup in
the trash, clearly trying to avoid feeling.

The comics section was at the front, and Chuuya rushed right to it, skimming through the books until he found a Spider-man comic. He remembered that being his favorite when he’d looked at Akira’s collection.

Yuan laughed.
“Now I see where you get your whole deal from. With great power comes great responsibility, right?”

Chuuya’s face turned a little red. “It’s a good philosophy,” he mumbled defensively.

Yuan plucked a comic from the shelf and flipped through the pages.
“You know, in a lot of these, the heroes team up to take down the villains.”


“And you’re kind of like a superhero, right?”

Chuuya snorted, “I don’t know if I exactly qualify as a hero.” But it filled him with some kind of glowing pride that someone saw him that way.
Yuan shrugged. “Probably not, but the Port Mafia totally qualifies as villains… And there’re other people with abilities out there, right? Just like you?”

Well, not exactly like him, he thought, but then a look of recognition appeared on his face.
“I think I see where you’re going with this. You think if we found other ability users that would solve the sheep’s problems, right?”

Yuan nodded. “If you’re not the only one who has the power to take down enemies, then our defenses would be stronger. And we wouldn’t have to
rely on you for everything. It’s a win for both of us.”

“You think the slums are just crawling with other powerful kids hoping to wait on you people hand and foot?” Chuuya asked, bluntly.

“Oi. I just got you ice cream. Don’t be bitter,” Yuan said, pulling a slight scowl.
Chuuya rolled his eyes and passed her a few of the comics he’d been looking at. “Buy me these too, and we’re square," he grumbled.

Yuan glanced around before slipping his stack of comics under her jacket and zipping it up.
“We shouldn’t waste any more of our resources, don’t you think?”

Chuuya looked around anxiously. What they really didn’t need was to get busted for shoplifting. “Fine, but we should get going then. I don’t want to have to orchestrate a jail break.”

When Chuuya and Yuan returned to the sheep’s hideout, the rest of them were piled on top of each other on futons, watching a movie on an old tv. All eyes shifted toward them when the door creaked open.

Shirase flinched away when he saw Chuuya. It was a wonder that he didn’t
physically hide himself under the blankets. When they finally made eye contact it was strained under the weight of 1000 conversations that needed to happen.

Chuuya broke eye contact and turned to Yuan, “I can’t do this yet,” he muttered.
She patted him on the shoulder and passed him the pile of comics, “I’ll talk to them,” she said.

As soon as Chuuya disappeared, her glare turned to Shirase. “You were just back here watching fucking Totoro?”

“Some of the younger kids were freaked out,” he said defensively,
getting to his feet and leaving the rest of them to keep watching the movie.

Yuan crossed her arms. “I don’t remember them being the ones who were freaked out.”

He ignored the obvious dig, too proud to acknowledge what had happened earlier.
“It was you who warned him, huh? You realize that you could have gotten me killed, right?”

Of course, she did, but she had to admit there was some cold calculus involved there. The sheep had a lot more to lose in Chuuya than in Shirase. “I told him not to. And he didn’t, right?
He saved your life.”

He was still glaring at her, so that answer didn’t seem to have satisfied him. “It’s stupid to trust the GSS over Chuuya. Chuuya’s willingness to help us might depend on his mood but depending on bringing in profit for another organization is worse.
What do you think would happen the second we stop making the GSS money?”

Shirase’s glare turned almost embarrassed. He wanted to do right by the rest of the sheep and be a good leader for his friends and what she was saying now made him feel dumb.
“If he’s so loyal to us, then why couldn’t he even trust us enough to tell us what he was doing with the port mafia?” he asked, bitterness covering his embarrassment. “He said he had a fucking bet with that weird, bandaged kid. What kind of answer is that?”
Yuan sighed, unsure if she should relay all the information that Chuuya had trusted her with. But she had to, right? Shirase still looked almost hurt at being left in the dark.

Chuuya was sitting on the roof, flipping through one of the comic books as he tried to gather his thoughts. It wasn't the first time he'd come up here. It was a good place to come clear his head, with nothing around him but a warm breeze and the stars above him.
His peace was interrupted by someone struggling to pull themselves up. Chuuya reached out and tapped the hand, reducing their gravity so that they were able to easily climb up.

“Neat trick,” Shirase said, sitting down next to him and gazing across the sea of lit-up shanties.
The rooftop here gave a perfect view of Suribachi city, and it was almost pretty in an ugly kind of way. “That’s a lot of destruction for such a boney little kid. I always knew you were badass, but that’s just next level.”

He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket
and lit one up, offering one to Chuuya, who shook his head.

"The fuck do you think you’re calling boney?” Chuuya growled.

“Not an insult. You didn’t even know what bread was when I saved you,” the silver-haired boy blew some smoke out and watched it whisp away into the night.
“You could have talked to us, you know?”

Chuuya bristled. As if it would be that easy. “I like to deal with my own problems. And I didn’t want you to look at me differently.”

“Easier on us if you tell us why you’re doing things than if you just disappear and show up with
the enemy out of nowhere,” Shirase countered.

“You weren’t exactly so understanding when we fought in the arcade.”

Shirase shot him a sideways look, his eyebrows knitting together in annoyance, “In my defense, it’s not like you were exactly clear with your intentions.”
“Would that have changed anything?” Chuuya glared back.

Shirase shrugged. And it wasn’t exactly an apology, but he struggled so much to say it that Chuuya figured it was the best he was going to get,
“I think we both know that I’m not immune to being an asshole.” Then, through an inhale of smoke, “You know, you’ve always been fucking weird. Why would we look at you differently now?”


When an explosion wiped out two kilometers of land outside of Yokohama, all sorts of people from the underbelly of the city came to establish their own settlements and territory out of reach of the police and government.

While you might not expect some of those
people to be children, the great war left many young people orphaned and on the outskirts of society.

Among those children was the group that was now huddled under a bridge to hide from the rain and the scrutiny of passersby.
Two boys of about seven or eight were sitting together near the edge of the group, passing a bottle back and forth between them and sharing the scraps they’d managed to steal for themselves to eat.

“Toshio says it was woken up by an enemy soldier who was tortured until he died,”
one boy remarked, taking a swig from the bottle in his hands.

The other boy snatched the bottle and took a drink himself, glancing over to the aforementioned Toshio, who was gathered around a campfire with a group of other boys, who couldn’t have been older than thirteen.
“My brother says a lot of things,” he laughed. Considering the damage that had created Suribachi City, though, it was hard to imagine what could have caused it but some kind of ancient, vengeful God.

He took a bite of the piece of bread in his hand and chewed thoughtfully.
“I think he just talks a lot, so people think he’s smart.”

The first boy frowned, “I think he’s telling the truth; You’re just being stupid.”

Before their conversation could descend into bickering, the boys were interrupted by what sounded like a person trying to speak.
They both turned to see the thin frame of a boy in a military uniform, shaking in the rain. His tangled red hair was plastered to his dirty face, and he wasn’t wearing any shoes.

Both boys shot to their feet, immediately on the defensive, but then the stranger spoke.
"What’s this square block?” he croaked.

The two boys looked between each other in confusion before one of them spoke. “It’s… bread,” he said, his eyes still knitted together tightly.

The red-haired boy stepped forward hastily, prompting the others to take an apprehensive step

"Something to eat?!" he asked.

The boy who had answered nodded, approaching cautiously. "Uh... Yeah. You can have some," he said, tearing off a piece. "/Gosh/," he thought as he got closer, "/This guy must be almost dead. I don't think I've ever seen someone so thin/."
He held out his hand to give him the food, but before he could take it, the other boy collapsed.

“Did he just die!?!” the boy in the back asked in shock.

His friend shot him a stern look and without replying, squatted down so he could get a better look at the stranger.
“Shirase, you should be careful. He could be sick or something. We should just tell the others.”

“Shut up!” Shirase shot back before putting his piece of bread in the fallen boy’s hands. “Try to eat it. Don’t die, okay… Oi Akira, go ask the others if they have water.”
The other boy scrambled to do as his friend said and returned within a minute with one of the teenagers in tow. “Bui-chan, we can't- Is that he dead?” asked the boy that they had referred to as Toshio.

Shirase shook his head, turning over the kid’s body so he could observe it
more closely. “No, but I think he went to sleep. I think he needs food and water really bad,” he said, his tiny voice full of concern.

“He seemed weird,” interjected Akira. This earned another glare from Shirase.

Toshio sighed heavily, approaching his little brother and
kneeling down. “I know it’s upsetting, but we can’t make that our problem. We can’t afford more mouths to feed, and this kid is skin and bone; he’d only be a liability to the Sheep.”

“How can you say that? He’s just a little kid like me!” Shirase growled.
“If I was starving somewhere, would you want someone to let me die?”

Toshio covered his face, exasperated. “Bui-chan, it’s sad, but it’s how it has to be. You already might as well be starving somewhere now, we don’t have that much to pass around.
And you know that the rest of the council will say no if you bring him back. We make decisions together.”

That made the younger boy puff up defensively. “But I’m part of the council, right?” he asked.
/Yes, but more symbolically so. It was the kind of gesture that you agree to in order to placate a too-bossy-for-his-age eight-year-old./

Still, Toshio nodded. “Yes, you’re part of the council.”

“So, if we make decisions together and I’m part of the council, then I get a say.
We’re gonna bring him back!” he insisted. “Akira, help me!”

There was so much bite in his tone that Akira scrambled to do as he said, and despite the irritated looks from the older boy, they brought the kid back to the sewage canal where the Sheep made their home.

The sheep were a sort of mutual-aid network that the teenagers had established in their parents' absence. There was safety and resources in numbers so sticking together meant they could protect and themselves and their younger siblings from the threat of violence, starvation,
trafficking, and child labor. Having met each other through dabbling in smuggling, drug and weapons trafficking, and other underground activities, they were well prepared for their positions despite their young age.

To prevent conflict or violence within the group, they
established a council system. The twelve teenagers (and Shirase- an arrangement that had come about via much needling of his older brother) would vote on any and all issues regarding the group.

On the subject of the starving child, the youngest council member was excluded
from the vote because according to the rest of the council, "temper tantrums were not a sanctioned part of council proceedings.”

Despite this, Toshio managed to negotiate an agreement that would satisfy all parties.
The agreement that he ended up bringing his disgruntled younger brother was one that much resembled what a parent might bring to their child after having been harassed into adopting a puppy:

“fine, you can keep it, but it’s your responsibility.”
Shirase took that responsibility very seriously, mobilizing his own army consisting of the younger generation of Sheep to track down food and water. And when the child, still delirious and ill, couldn’t be revived with what they found, he made the six-kilometer journey into
Yokohama so that he could spend several hours in an internet café researching the proper procedures behind reviving a starving person. Once he had crafted a supply list, he gathered (read: stole) what he needed from the closest convenience store and brought it back.
It took almost four days to fully revive the tiny redhead. And when he finally stirred there were four pairs of anxious eyes watching him intently.

“Chuuya?” one of the children asked; she was examining something on his wrist.

“Don’t freak him out, Yuan,” a second one hissed.
“But that’s his name, right?” she said, trying her best to make out the kanji on the band that was loosely wrapped around his thin wrist.

/Was that his name?/ He pulled his wrist back from her so that he could look for himself. Well, it was what was written there anyway.
/Okay. Chuuya./

“Where?” he managed weakly.

The children looked between each other for an answer to that question. “We’re the Sheep; this is our hideout,” the boy with the most authoritative presence responded.

Chuuya’s face screwed up in confusion. “Baaaah?” he asked.
That made the four children erupt into giggles.

“Shirase, Yuan, Shougo, and Akira,” Shirase explained as his laughter died, pointing to each of his friends. “You need to eat more,” he shoved a meal replacement shake toward Chuuya. He’d read that’s what they used in hospitals.
Chuuya blinked for a second, totally unsure of what to do with what he was holding. He brought the bottle up to his lips and tried to bite into it.

Shirase’s eye’s widened, and he snatched it back. “No!” He unscrewed the cap and then mimicked drinking it before passing it back
to Chuuya. “Like that. But slowly cuz you threw up before, and it was gross.”

Chuuya didn’t remember throwing up, but then again, he didn’t remember many things. He did as the other boy said.

“You don’t talk a lot,” Yuan tilted her head to the side.
“I thought for sure you were dead,” Akira chimed in.

“He smells dead,” Shougo mumbled. That earned him a punch in the ribs from Shirase.

“Shut up! He’s being quiet because you guys are weirdos,” Shirase hissed. “It’s not his fault he stinks.”
Chuuya instinctively sniffed himself and made a disgusted face. Yeah, not great.

“We didn’t want to wash you because we thought it’d be weird,” Yuan said, wrinkling her nose.

“Do you think he can even talk?” Akira asked.

“He talked before. And I told you guys to shut up.”
“Stop being bossy!”

“Stop being stupid!”

“I’m not stupid; you are!”

When they looked back to Chuuya, he was rocking back and forth anxiously, clearly overwhelmed by their bickering.

“See! Now he’s being really weird,” Shirase scolded before catching Chuuya’s shoulders.
"You’re okay. We’re friends. We’re gonna take care of you.” He got up and went over to rummage through a backpack, producing some clothes to bring back to Chuuya. “They probably are gonna be big, but you should get clean and change. I’ll show you where.”

After some time, it became clear that Chuuya could, in fact, speak, just not like someone who’d had the opportunity to do it very often. The group of children that took him in didn’t seem to mind it too much, as they did plenty of talking on their own.
Within the week, Chuuya was able to at least mirror how they interacted with each other.

“What’s that?” he asked, approaching Akira and Shirase, who were huddled over a book.

“It’s my favorite!” Akira exclaimed, extremely excited to show it to anyone who would listen.
The comic was one of the only possessions he had leftover from before he lost his parents, so he cherished it more than anything.

He grabbed Chuuya’s arm and dragged him down so he could sit with them on the floor. He pointed proudly to one of the pages. “This is Spider-Man.”
Chuuya stared at the pages, his fingers ghosting over one of the illustrations of the character hanging off the ceiling. Suddenly a look of recognition appeared on his face.

He wasn’t even registering whatever Akira was prattling on about.
He narrowed his eyes a little and laughed before…

“Woah, how did you do that?” Akira shot to his feet in excitement and was quickly followed by Shirase.

Chuuya was perched on the upside-down above them just like the character, wearing a ridiculously proud expression.
“He must be an ability user,” Shirase remarked. He was trying to sound smart, something he’d accused his brother of only a week before, but his voice betrayed his amazement.

“Dunno. I just can,” Chuuya said with a grin. "It's easy. Here."
He reached out and tapped the top of Akira’s head, and the next thing the boy knew he was in the air.

Akira giggled gleefully, “Shirase, look, it’s just like in my comics!”

“Hey, no fair! Do me!” Shirase demanded. Chuuya reached out and did the same for him.
None of the sheep came from exceptionally fortunate backgrounds, even before losing their parents, so moments of reprieve like this were few and far between. Flipping around in mid-air and giggling like mad was the kind of pure, childish fun they so rarely got to experience.
Watching them, the questions that had been plaguing Chuuya about who he was and what his purpose was began to melt away a little bit.

He lowered them all back to the floor, and Akira threw his arms around him. “I’m glad we saved you!” he said before returning to his comic.
“I bet you’d make an even better superhero than Spider-Man,” this was a compliment of the highest order coming from Akira.
Chuuya cheeks flushed, and a smile twitched at the corner of his lips.
Something written in the corner on the last page stood out to him.

“/A lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness: aware at last that in this world, with great power, there must also come – great responsibility!/”
And there it was, the answer to his question about purpose. If his knew friends thought that he was a superhero, then he’d do everything he could to fill that responsibility.

He still didn’t quite feel human or understand why he even /existed/, but...

Getting to know his new friends helped fill in some of the gaps a little bit.

He was able to understand how humans formed an attachment to life through the things they loved.
And it wasn’t just Akira’s obsession with comics and manga.

Shougo was passionate about martial arts movies and would endlessly challenge Chuuya to fights without a care in the world about how many times he lost.

Yuan loved fashion and enthusiastically pumped out design after
design in a notebook, insisting that she’d be a real designer someday and have a show in Tokyo one day.

Toshio and Shirase would blast rock music on a stolen Discman almost every night, which Chuuya almost found annoying… until he started to like it too.
And after that, he and Shirase would spend many a night dancing around the Sheep’s den, playing air guitar and drums and pretending to be in an imaginary rock band until they tired themselves out and collapsed in a pile while the older sheep looked on in amusement.
The things his new family liked /Chuuya liked/, and the things that made them exciting and human… well, maybe they could make him human too.

Even if they couldn’t…

Love and camaraderie made it easier to pretend.

Putting Chuuya’s ability to use for minor tasks, the organization and the territory under their control grew in the next three years. While this meant that they had access to more resources than ever, it also meant that there was a larger target on them for attacks from
other organizations, primarily the Port Mafia. Most recently, the mafia had raided one of their warehouses- losing them profits and several members. It seemed like the Port Mafia was becoming more and more brutal with every year, putting the Sheep in a dangerous position.
“Our defense strategies aren’t cutting it anymore, not with such a big target on our backs. We’re practically helpless against an enemy like this,” One of the council members, a boy named Jiro, paced anxiously as he addressed the rest of the council.
“What should we do then? We can’t afford to hire outside protection; our resources are already stretched pretty thin after that raid,” a girl responded.

Ten pairs of eyes drifted to the back of the room, where a tiny redhead was leaning against the wall, whispering something to
Shirase. When he noticed everyone looking at him, he snapped to attention.

It was Toshio who crossed his arms and shook his head. “Chuuya is ten,” he said firmly.

“So?” raised one of the other boys.
“We’ve all been in this shit since around his age, and none of us even have any kind of abilities.”

“Would you want Shougo going up against those mafia bastards?”

“No. But Shougo doesn’t have an ability. And if we don’t get this conflict with the Port Mafia under control soon,
then the kids are gonna become targets whether we like it or not,” the boy countered.

“You don’t have to talk about me like I’m some kind of baby,” Chuuya finally grumbled and then raised his chin defiantly. “I could kick those bastard’s asses any day of the week.”
“I think any of us would step up if it’s what the Sheep need,” Shirase chimed in.

Toshio sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“If they think they can help, why not let them?” Jiro asked, a slight smirk playing at the corners of his lips.
“Cuz every kid thinks that they’re a grown-up, that doesn’t mean we send them into warzones,” and then he turned his eyes to Shirase. “And you. Hush for once, okay Buichirou? Or I’m gonna send both of you out of here.”

“No buts. We shouldn’t even be arguing about this,”

Toshio started. But he couldn’t finish his thought because-

Because the room exploded with gunfire.
A bullet tore through the back of his skull straight out his eye. Several more of the sheep were cut down in the next instant, their blood splattering onto the walls, which were quickly ripped open by gunfire, allowing the mafia grunts easy access to spray in even more bullets.
Shirase yelped, and it was a good thing that Chuuya’s reflexes were quick because if Shirase had been able to scramble to his brother’s side like he’d intended to, he would undoubtedly have been caught in the fire too.

Instead, he was pinned under Chuuya, shielded from the
bullets that were ricocheting off the walls.

“Don’t move,” Chuuya growled, straining to focus enough to keep his friend from struggling and to stop the bullets at the same time.

And when the last body fell…
“I think that’s all of them,” came a deep, adult voice as several pairs of heavy boots stepped indifferently over the bodies of the teenagers that were bleeding out on the floor.

One of them nudged the girl that had spoken earlier with the butt of his machine gun,
“thought I saw this one twitching, but they’re all down. Just like boss ordered.”

“And all before lunch too,” the other laughed.

“It’s a shame, you know. She woulda grown up to be real pretty.”
It was hearing them speak so casually as the teenagers’ blood pooled around their feet that finally made Chuuya’s rage boil over. “Act dead,” he hissed.

When he rose, a cloud of bullets followed.

“You missed one,” he barked, and he sent the bullets flying back toward the men.
If he were merciful, he would have aimed for their heads but, since he wasn’t, he aimed for their /knees/ instead, incapacitating instead of killing them immediately.

“Boss didn’t mention anything about any ability users,” one of the men grunted, trying desperately to get to
is feet to no avail.

“This shrimp looks about seven,” the second man went to fire another round, only to have his gun kicked from his hands.

“I’m ten, asshole. And you killed my friends.”
the man in front of Chuuya's face twisted up in agony, and he began to crumble under some invisible weight like a soda can. “I have to pay you back for that.”

Chuuya’s fighting style would become more refined and graceful in the following years.
For now, though, his assault on the remaining three men was clumsy and brutal- driven by pure fury rather than any kind of skill. Given the strength of his ability, fury was all he needed to completely annihilate the enemy, leaving behind little but stains in the dirt.
He was only snapped out of it by the sound of wailing. Shirase was shaking his brother desperately. “Toshio? Please wake up, please!” he begged.

Chuuya stood back helplessly, choking back his own sobs as the gruesome scene finally sunk in. He steadied himself, looking away from
the lifeless teenagers. Now was the time to be a grown up because there was no one else left to fill that role.

“Shirase,” he approached him apprehensively, almost gagging at the fact that he had to step over his friend's lifeless bodies to do so.

The other boy didn’t budge.
The way he was clutching his brother made it seem like he intended to stay there, kneeling in an ever-growing pool of blood forever.

But then he snapped, “Why didn’t you save the rest of them too?” he asked, whirling toward Chuuya.
His eyes were red from crying, and his voice was dripping with something close to malice.

Chuuya was silent, and a couple tears dripped down his cheeks. “I should have done better,” he finally said. “We can’t stay here. They’ll send more men when their guys don’t come back.”
“Then just kill those guys too! They should know to be afraid of attacking The Sheep,” Shirase demanded.

Maybe his brother had been reluctant to use Chuuya’s ability like a weapon. But he was dead now.

Shirase wouldn’t make the same mistakes.
Chuuya’s eyebrows knitted together. He didn’t know how to tread here. “Shirase, The Sheep are gone…”

The other boy’s expression darkened. “No, they’re not. /I’m/ not, and /I’m/ on the council, so you should do what I tell you to.”
You can follow @shiraseceo.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: