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the sliding scale of idealism and cynicism

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Justice is not a thing and nothing can make Vector think otherwise.

Vector has never seen it, and the odds of it being like the Tooth Fairy or even Santa Claus are pretty high.

(Japan, as other children informed him, doesn't have the Tooth Fairy— Vector looked into it, and oh, surprise, Santa Claus is not a thing either. As in, generally, not just in Japan. Not like his dad ever made an effort to make any holiday enjoyable whatsoever.)

So naturally, given that justice is about as realistic as those two, Vector concludes that it has to be fake.

(It is fake.)

Then there's pity, a cowardly way to look down on someone.

There's also kindness. Real kindness is a weakness, a half-baked way to get what you want without revealing that altruism, too, is a lie. Real kindness that makes you strong? A myth.

Vector rips out the 'happily ever after' page in the book he's reading.

What a bunch of lies.

~*~

"What kind of name is Vector anyway? Did your parents try to make you special?" Mocking laughter.

It's not like Vector cares.

He ignores the children and gets out his textbook. Reading is easy, writing still takes some effort— more effort than English, anyway— but it's manageable.

If he keeps going like this, he might be able to skip second grade and advance to third grade immediately.

(Dad won't be angry, then.)

Perhaps it would be smart to gain the teacher's favor for that.

~*~

"This is your new classmate, Vector. He skipped a year. —Please write your name on the board." The teacher is nervous, Vector can tell, probably because she, too, can hear the whispers of 'katakana? how extravagant' and 'probably a rich kid or a foreigner' and 'look at that hair'; with the 'rich' and 'foreigner' parts being half-true and all.

"I hope we'll get along." He smiles, walks forward, trips— doesn't actually trip; someone steps on his shoelace— squeaks and falls.

Gets back up again and smiles, "I'm a little clumsy."

The others laugh, and they're laughing at him.

The teacher— because this is a teacher and when have teachers ever wanted situations like this?— nervously goes on, "Please sit down next to Ryouga-kun over there."

Who is that and how am I supposed to know?

"He's the one with the purple hair," the teacher provides.

Oh, okay.

Vector blinks, twice. What parent lets their child dye their hair at that age?

(Admittedly, Vector finds that kinda cool.)

Ryouga doesn't greet him, instead slides him a messy notebook. "Umimi-sensei told me to give you the notes from last year."

Vector flips through the notebook, 50% shark doodles and 50% actual notes, then nods. "I'll have it copied by tomorrow."

"You can keep it."

Confident, huh?

Something about the guy is annoying, but Vector quite can't pinpoint yet what it is.

~*~

"So? When did you come to Japan?" The kid who made him trip, Vector is pretty sure.

"I was born here." Vector closes his lunchbox.

"Then what's with that name?" The kid laughs, motioning for two of his friends to come over. "What's a vector anyway? Isn't that high school math?"

Now Vector is mildly annoyed. Because that name is the single thing his mother has given him that his father can't take from him. "The namesake is phecda, a star."

"A star. I'm surprised your parents didn't just give you a kirakira name."

Next to Vector, Ryouga is typing on his d-pad, as if not in earshot. Again, justice is fake and Vector enjoys feeling justified in that.

"What's a kirakira name?" Asking is never a bad thing, because faking awareness will result in openings.

"You don't even know what that means? It's when the writing is nothing like the pronunciation. But with your name, it's just katakana. So, not very kirakira for a star." The kid whispers to his friends, clearly audible enough for everyone to hear. "Hey, this guy is named after a star. My name sounds really boring by comparison. 'Tetsuo'. Bet his parents would laugh at that. 'That's too normal'."

Laughter.

It doesn't hurt. It's just a nuisance.

Vector is about to get up when Ryouga cracks his knuckles and gets up instead. "If he's Vector, then I'll be Nasch."

What.

"S—Shark!" Tetsuo steps back.

"I just told you, it's Nasch while this guy is around. After benetnasch. Same constellation. Because stars are cool and you can get out if you disagree."

That's so... incredibly lame.

(Though yes, stars are cool.)

"Trying to play the hero?You're two and we're three, what can you even do?"

"Tetsuo, did you forget last time already?"

Tetsuo's eyes widen. "You got suspended after that."

"Worth it." Ryouga smirks. "So, what'll it be?"

"Tch. It's not fun like that." Tetsuo turns around. "Let's go."

Ryouga sighs. "And I was so ready to beat them up."

Vector glances at Ryouga's d-pad. The wikipedia article for the big dipper. Of course.

"I don't want your pity."

"Pity?" Ryouga raises an eyebrow. "Who in the world has time for that?"

What.

Vector stares at him. That's not how it works. Justice is not a thing, so it has to be pity.

"Shut your mouth, you'll catch a fly."

Vector's body obeys before his mind processes the words. "Then what was that for?"

"I dislike people who can't do anything on their own and use groups to feel stronger. It's simply not right. This could be the teacher and I'd still step in."

"Why?"

"Did you not listen?"

"I did, but."

"But?"

The bell rings, showing the end of the lunch break.

Ryouga opens Vector's lunchbox and puts in a bunch of green peppers from his own.

"I told you to not pity—"

"I hate green peppers."

Oh.

What the hell is wrong with this guy?