Courage and Motivation Committee

Chiaki sat on her bed as she tugged on her left sock. She carefully moved it up her shin and then slowly pulled her right sock. With both items secure around her legs she looked for her tie. It was against the back of her desk chair.

Chiaki's new room was still foreign to her. She had put her bed in one corner, a desk in the other, and a bureau with folded and hung clothes against the wall. Aside from that her relationship with the room was stiff and anxious. She and her mother moved to this newest city only a few days ago. To make matters worse, she was a first year in high school and school year had already started. That means she was a transfer student. Chiaki cried a little as she put on her tie. She absolutely most definitely did not want to stand out. Especially at school.

Chiaki walked to the window and looked outside. There was a girl on the street wearing a white skirt and dress shirt, with a red jacket and tie. Her hair was a dark shade of pink tied in two short ponytails. She had her fingers wrapped around the straps of her backpack. Chiaki realized the girl was staring at her. And her uniform was eerily similar to the one she wore.

"Hiii~" Hoshi shouted.

Chiaki turned red and then panicked.

Hoshi tilted her head as she watched the newcomer dance in the window and then disappear around the side. She reappeared around the other side and then fell over, dragging the curtains with her. There was a muffled crashed from inside the room but afterwards it was quiet. Hoshi thought about knocking on the door to see if she was okay, but a fuzzy creature smacked up against the window and scratched at it. Hoshi screamed and ran down the street as the curtain-covered-Chiaki slid off the window with more tears in her eyes. She pulled off the curtain and rubbed her nose. The girl was gone.

Chiaki went downstairs to the kitchen where her mother was cooking. Her mother, like Chiaki, had sunny blonde hair and olive eyes. They were both extremely shy and timid, but could tearfully force themselves to overcome such difficulties when needed. Chiaki's mother worked as some kind of financial consultant but even today, Chiaki didn't quite understand her profession. She didn't understand why they had to keep moving either.

"I made your lunch; it's on the counter," her mother called. "Breakfast is ready too so have a seat and I'll drive you to school."

"Okay," Chiaki answered from the stairs.

She sat down at the table and had toast, eggs, and bacon. Chiaki was used to traditional and western foods and frequently had both. Her mother was French but married her father and had Chiaki when she was young and aloof in Japan as a teenager. It was probably why everyone thought she was an older sister.

After breakfast, Chiaki rode with her mother to her new high school. It was only a few blocks away, but mother understood daughter best, especially when they both shied away from society.

"We're here," her mother said with a smile. "Try to make friends!"

"Can you home school me?" Chiaki asked.

"Why would you want to be homeschooled?"

"Cause I don't want to make friends."

A few minutes later, Chiaki was digging her fingers around the edge of the car seat. Her mother was holding her by her legs and leaning into the sidewalk. Chiaki furiously shook her head and cried.

"Chiaki!" her mother shouted. "Stop being so stubborn!"

"I'm not!" she answered. "I'm being realistic!"

"You're being unreasonable!" her mother shouted again. Chiaki lost one of her hands and kicked harder.

From a higher floor, Hoshi stared out the window with a hand holding up her head. It was unusual for a car to pull up to the school's front gate after the first bell. It was infinitely more unusual for a woman to drag a student out of the car. Hoshi looked up into the sky and shielded her eyes. It was a hot day. She had heard that heat does crazy things to people. Hoshi looked back down.

"Ah, she's being scolded now," she mumbled.

Chiaki squatted with her arms around her knees but nodded silently as she sniffled. Eventually her mother took her by the shoulders and pulled her up. Chiaki apologized and then waved goodbye. As soon she disappeared a man came out of the school entrance. He wore track pants and sleeveless white shirt. He also had a headband and wooden shinai.

"Hey you!" he shouted. "Parents aren't allowed to drop students off in front of the school!"

Chiaki turned around. A huge eight foot man stood before her, with muscles bulging from a set of torn track pants and a ripped sleeveless shirt. The muscles on top of his muscles gave his huge shoulders and forearms unrealistic shading and his eyes were completely hidden under darkness. His headband fluttered in the wind as light gleamed off his katana.

"Ken…shiro…" Chiaki whimpered. "Ahhhhhh!" The little girl screamed and ran through the yard.

"Hey! Stop!" the gym instructor called out. "I'm just trying to get your name and give you a warning!" He chased after Chiaki but she was a nimble little student and avoided his grabs and lunges. Chiaki looked behind in fear but immediately regretted it. Kenshiro's arms were swinging up and down as his feet left craters in the ground. Vapor left his nose like a churning steam engine. Chiaki screamed louder.

From a higher floor, Hoshi jumped out of her seat, banging it against the student's desk behind her. The class looked at her in surprise.

"Umeki-san?" the teacher asked.

"Transfer student versus Nakata-sensei," Hoshi whispered. Her eyes lit up and she flattened herself against the window pane. "Run transfer student! Run!"

The rest of the class flocked to the window to see what Hoshi was shouting about. Their collective gasp even brought the teacher over.

"Ahhhhhhh!" Chiaki shouted again, scurrying up a tree.

"Get down from there this instant!" Nakata-sensei demanded.

"I don't know where Yuria is!" Chiaki shouted down. She teetered on the branch and gripped it tightly with her hands.

Nakata-sensei looked up with a glare. "Get down here already or I'll have you expelled—" his face went red and he turned away while holding his hand up. "Forget it; just get down from there already!"

"It's safe up here!"

"I can see your—close your—"

Chiaki faced him as she squatted.

"Your underwear! I can see your underwear!"

From a higher floor, Hoshi awed as the rest of the class gasped. The teacher put a hand to her mouth. In the tree, Chiaki slowly closed her legs as a rising shame worked its way up to her hair. She could feel it standing on end as her fingers scratched at the branch below her feet. She screamed loudly while crying.

"Hey wait—" Chiaki's foot landed against the middle of Nakata-sensei's face, muffling the rest of his words.

"Pervert! Groper! Lecher!" Chiaki wailed as she jumped off. "Voyeur! Lolicon! Sadist!" She disappeared inside the school as Nakata-sensei fell to ground and twitched. Blood leaked from his nose.

From a higher floor, Hoshi stuck her thumb out with a pleased grin. Aida-sensei clapped her hands and forced everyone back to their seats. "Okay, everyone, I have a very important favor to ask. We have a new transfer student coming today …so wait right here and I'll be back!" With that the teacher bolted out of the room.

In the hall, Chiaki peered carefully around the corners. She held her backpack against her chest and walked slowly. The sound of high heels came from the stairs and she hid. Aida-sensei put a hand on her hip and looked around.

"She should have come through here," she whispered quietly. "I showed her around just yesterday." Aida-sensei heard a faint whisper and squinted. She turned her head and tried to locate the voice. "Shige-san?" she called.

"Sensei!" Chiaki hoarsely whispered. The teacher looked around until she spotted a girl with short blonde hair and green eyes peeking out of the bathroom. Chiaki slowly stepped out and then shyly scampered over to her teacher.

"Shige-san," Aida-sensei said with a sigh. "Why were you late? And you didn't really need to run away from Nakata-sensei."

Chiaki's faced turned red as her eyes blossomed. "You saw that!?"

"Ah, no, maybe, I mean—" Aida-sensei paused and then coolly smiled. "Want to meet the rest of your classmates?"

"Noooo!" Chiaki shouted as she turned to sprint. Aida-sensei's hand gripped her shoulder tightly.

"Your mother told me to be extra careful with you," she said with a grin.

Hoshi was sitting on her desk kicking her feet back and forth. She excitedly waited for the new student and tried thinking of ways to be her first friend. She hoped she would be her first friend. She really wanted to be her first friend.

"I'll be her first and only friend," Hoshi said with a perverse grin. "She'll have no choice to be hang out with me, and walk me to school."

"How did you know she was a transfer student?" one of her classmates asked.

"She moved into the empty house on my street a few days ago," Hoshi said with confidence. But then it faltered. "I haven't really gotten a chance to talk to her. I tried greeting her from the street a few times in the morning and afterschool but she's like a rabbit."

"I think she looks cute," another student said dreamily.

"You can't even tell from up here," another answered.

The door to the class opened and everyone hushed. Whispering from the hall followed and then silence. Then Chiaki appeared, walking stiffly and mechanically until she was at the center of the room.

"Everyone, this is the new student, would you like to introduce—" Chiaki was furiously shaking her head "—she would not. This is Shige Chiaki; she just moved here. Shige-san, would you like to tell us about—" Chiaki shook her head again "—never mind then, please have a seat next to Umeki-san near the window."

Hoshi responded to the teacher by exaggerating the gesture to call someone over. Chiaki looked down as she brushed her bangs over her eyes. She walked slowly, painfully, until she reached her seat. Then she sat down and began putting items in her desk. She knew everyone was staring at her. She knew they were all interested, for now. She knew they were talking behind her back, wondering if she was being shy, or arrogant, or tsundere. Chiaki nervously shook as she felt tears coming. But she quelled them and remembered the promise with her mother. If her mother was going to try her best at work, then she needed to try her best in school. It was too depressing if they both came home crying.

"Shige-san," Hoshi whispered. "Shige-san."

Chiaki jumped and swiftly turned. Her face calmed down after she noticed it was the twin-tailed maroon-haired girl from the street. She suddenly felt a little embarrassed over the commotion she made in her room.

Hoshi slowly grinned and then brought her arm up. She pumped out her fist with her thumb up and eyed her confidently. "Nice panty feint," she said.

It took a moment for the words to sink in, but when they did, Chiaki turned back to her desk and then smacked it with her forehead. The other students jumped a little and then looked at her. She was hiding her face.

During lunch, several students crowded around her. She had tried to escape before they could reach her but didn't count on Hoshi repeatedly placing herself between the desk and the exit.

"Where did you live before?"

"Did you move into the house on Umeki's street?"

"Want to go to the cafeteria?"

Chiaki looked at them in a fluster but didn't know who's question to answer first. Then Hoshi slid her chair next to her. "Have you made any friends yet?"

Chiaki blinked and then shook her head.

"Can I be your first friend?" Hoshi asked. Chiaki tried to nod but Hoshi asked another. "Can I be your best friend?"

Chiaki lowered her brows a little.

"Can we walk to school together?"

Chiaki nodded slowly.

Hoshi threw her arm up as she shut her eyes tightly. "Yeah~ I'm her first friend and we get to walk to school together!"

"Umeki-san, isn't it?" Chiaki quietly asked.

"Umeki-san?" Hoshi tsked loudly and shook a finger. "No, no. We're friends now; you have to call me Hoshi."

"Eh?" It was all Chiaki could manage, aside from the confusion on her face. "But we just met—"

"And I'll call you Chi-chan!" Hoshi said.

The students around her began laughing. Chiaki turned pink as she nervously smiled. The rest of lunch break was easier to go through with the help of Hoshi's unique personality. She even let her look through her notes, although was more confused about the crude symbols peppered throughout the pages than the actual material. At the end of the day, Chiaki gathered her things but Hoshi continued to look out the window.

"Umeki-san?" Chiaki called quietly. Hoshi didn't answer. Chiaki called again but she still didn't budge. She looked down and was about to leave but then paused. She swallowed and pushed away the embarrassment. "Ho~shi?"

Hoshi looked over her shoulder with a wide smile. "Yes, Chi-chan?"

Chiaki smiled back. "What are you looking at?"

"The clouds in the distance," she answered. "It looks like it might rain."

"You don't like the rain?" Chiaki asked.

"The rain I don't mind," Hoshi said. "It's the thunder and lightning. They really freak me out."

"Ah, I'm scared of a lot of things too," Chiaki said.

"You look like you're scared of everything," Hoshi said. Then she smiled and laughed.

"Auuu." Chiaki whined.

"Chi-chan, have you always been like this?" Chiaki nodded as she sniffled. "Have you ever wanted to get rid of that fear?"

Chiaki thought for a moment. "Sometimes, but my mother is the same way and she still finds a way to manage it." Hoshi was staring at Chiaki seriously. Chiaki felt anxious and looked down. "How would you overcome that kind of fear…anyway?"

"There's lots of ways to overcome your fears," Hoshi said. "But I do know a way to get rid of it in just one day."

Chiaki blinked and looked up.

"I want you to come with me," Hoshi said, still serious. Chiaki felt a nervous pang in her heart and looked away again. Her mouth moved but nothing came out. Hoshi's chair slid out and she grabbed Chiaki's hand.

"Wait," Chiaki begged. Hoshi ignored her and continued walking. She pulled on Chiaki's hand but felt a sharp stop. Chiaki had her feet firmly planted against the ground. She looked up in fright.

"You can wait later," Hoshi answered. She smiled brightly and then pulled again. Chiaki stumbled but followed Hoshi into the hall. She resisted, looked around for things to grab, but found an odd sense of security in her new friend. Hoshi dragged her to the wing for clubs and stopped at a pair of unimaginative doors with a plaque over the doorway that read Courage and Motivation Committee.

When Chiaki looked up she squeezed Hoshi's hand tightly. She saw a pair of dirty white doors with chips at the corners and two small glass windows. The windows were translucent with diamond shapes. Shadows wandered back and forth inside the frosted glass. Above the door, cursive letters in dried blood spelled out Carnage and Mutilation Committee. Hoshi glanced back with glints in her eyes and teeth. She slammed the door open and gripped Chiaki's wrist tightly.

"Come on in, Chiiii~chan," Hoshi said endearingly.

"N-No, I can't—" Chiaki cowered as a boy and girl turned slowly to look at her. The boy wore a mask with exaggerated lips drooping in sadness and depressed, sunken eyes. The girl wore a mask with a mouth upturned in hellish delight and tearful eyes in rapture. Sitting at the opposite end of the table was a cloaked shadow with only two distinguishing features. The first was his featureless mask divided evenly into black and white with opposite colored eyes. The second was his gloved white hands dangling a pocket watch that spun silently, without effort, endlessly.

"Welcome to the Carnage and Mutilation Committee," a dark, echoing voice called out. "Your fear is our business. Your terror is our cause. Your panic is our purpose."

Chiaki rooted herself as shivers crawled up her skin and into the ends of her hair. She screamed a terrific, vocally impressive, wailing high note for a few seconds, long enough to literally stun the entire club, before crying and running away.

"Chi-chan!" Hoshi called out, still covering her ears. She ran straight into the door and was thrown to the ground. She got up, wobbled a bit, and then stumbled into the hall.

The boy slowly took off his mask revealing a hurt, brooding expression with dark eyes and short brown hair. "I didn't even do anything and I feel guilty."

The girl took off her mask as well, showing light blue eyes, no expression, and messy silver hair. "Awkward moment. Definitely frightened. Umeki-san said Chi-chan; acquaintance of some kind?"

"I can't wait for Hoshi to bring her back," the man sitting at the end of the table said. He took off his mask and laid it down. He pushed back his dark, very neat hair and reached for rectangular glasses. He was founder of the Courage and Motivation Committee as well as its advising teacher. They didn't have many members, but the ones he did have worked hard to help others. He wiped his glasses with his shirt. He put them back on his face and smiled.

"I wonder what kind of fears Chi-chan has," he said.