Kiku Honda stirred awake and blinked in the early morning light filtering in through her shaded windows. She glanced around groggily, disoriented, before sitting up and realizing someone was knocking on her front door. Kiku ran a hand through her long, disheveled black hair and, shuddering when her feet touched the cold floor, stumbled across her small apartment and jerked the door open.
"Hello, Kiku-chan!" It was the landlady of her building, Mai Sato, who came unusually early. The woman waved a large white envelope in Kiku's face. "Look what came in the mail today!"
"Er, hello Sato-san, I—"
"It has your name on it! It also has a fancy stamp!" Mai had quite a lot of energy for a thirty year old woman. Kiku swore that the landlady drank gallons of coffee every morning.
"Um, thank you…" Kiku said, eyeing the large envelope curiously. "But what is it?"
"Silly, it's the response letter from the school! It came in today!" The landlady's smile widened. "I didn't open it. I figured you would want to look at it yourself, Kiku-chan."
Kiku's parents had died in an accident three years ago, leaving a thirteen-year-old daughter on her own. The Hondas didn't have any relatives that Kiku could go live with, so her lawyer had worked it out and allowed her to live in Mai Sato's apartment building on her own with provided income drawn from her inheritance and her family's private funds. Mai was willingly named as a guardian almost immediately, much to Kiku's surprise. The woman's response to this was, "As a mother, I can't just watch a little girl live on her own with no support. You need help and I'll give it to you."
Kiku disagreed with the little girl statement, but since then Mai had been the closest thing to a parent she had. Now sixteen, she had gotten a part time job to attempt to support herself, but legal matters went to Mai.
A few weeks prior, Kiku had finally worked up the nerve to finally do what had been her ambition for several years: apply to the largest and most highly recommended school in the world, Hetalia World Academy. The school covered grades one through twelve, as well as detached university levels. For the most part, only the most rich and powerful families of the world could afford to send their children there. In fact, they wouldn't accept any other school as capable of educating their children. Hetalia W. Academy was massive, with a huge multicultural population and dorms for every last student.
Kiku had studied immensely hard in order to get grades high enough to attend on a scholarship, as she certainly couldn't afford to send herself. She asked Mai to send the prerequisite letter from a parent or guardian with her transcript to find out whether she would be accepted, the response to which was sitting in a heavy envelope in her hands.
Mai and her charge had been worried that they wouldn't allow her to attend because Mai wasn't Kiku's parent. But she was Kiku's guardian, so they prayed that would be enough. In any case, surprised at the older woman's thoughtfulness, Kiku smiled and said, "Thank you, Sato-san. I will be sure to inform you of the results."
"Oh, uh, I thought you would open it…now." Mai let out a nervous laugh, averting eye contact.
Kiku stared at the woman, wearing a tired expression. Finally she asked, "Doesn't your son have school?"
The landlady's smile twitched at this. "Yes, yes he does." She turned around to hurry to her car where her child was waiting. "Let me know the results, Kiku-chan!"
Kiku waved silently and turned back inside, sitting down at her low table. She took a deep breath. This was it. She and Mai had been waiting for this for weeks; Kiku even asked Mai daily if anything had come in for her. As much as she regretted sending the woman away, Kiku felt like this moment would mean more if she were alone. Sliding her finger underneath the flap, she unsealed the envelope and pulled out the official-looking letter printed on heavy paper and smoothed it out.
To whom it may concern,
Thank you for applying for writing Hetalia World Academy! We have reviewed your child's transcripts and are pleased to inform you that he or she has been accepted with an honors scholarship. A form for personal information has been sent along with this letter for you to fill out; along with a list of supplies they may need for the coming school year.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the overwhelming number of female students scheduled to attend Hetalia W. Academy this year, the girl dorms are filling up with startling haste. If your child is a female hoping to attend, there is a high possibility that she may have to wait until next school year to attend. We apologize greatly for the inconvenience and hope to see your daughter next term.
Hetalia W. Academy will personally fund any travel expenses needed to transport your child to the school as conveniently as possible. Uniforms will be distributed upon arrival. Please select the proper size on the information form provided and mail it back to the return address as soon as possible.
We look forward to educating your child in the coming school year.
Hetalia World Academy Staff
"What?" Kiku whispered, eyes scanning through the letter again. She must be tired! Yes, that must be it! To Kiku's dismay, the letter wasn't changing.
"How can they not have any space for girls? This is…this is…" She let out a weary sigh. This was not part of the plan. She was supposed to get in… How could the largest boarding school in the world not have room for female applicants? What as she supposed to do about this? She couldn't wait until next year, or she would die from anticipation and disappointment. Not to mention this town was driving her crazy. It brought back too many memories of when Kiku's parents were alive.
She slumped down on the table, her head in her arms. "What do I do…?"
Kiku wanted to be a psychiatrist. After going to one after her parents' deaths, she had grown to highly respect the profession and wished to join it. The largest school in the world would be the perfect place to study, not to mention all the job openings that would be available once she graduated university. Now, that wouldn't be possible, unless Kiku wanted to wait a whole other year in the place haunting her with memories of a happier life. Suddenly, she felt very alone.
She lifted her head, tears trickling down her cheeks, when she heard the home phone ringing. Slowly standing up, Kiku made her way across the room to answer.
"Kiku-chan! Did you get in? I bet you did!" the landlady's voice chirped over the phone.
"They didn't have enough room for girls," Kiku mumbled into the phone, disappointment in her tone. Her statement was followed by a shocked silence.
"How is that possible?" Mai asked disbelievingly. "That school's the biggest in the world, right?"
"Yes," the teenager replied softly, her voice cracking on the one syllable.
Mai let out a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry, Kiku-chan. I know how much you were looking forward to this. You'll have to try again next year." She laughed a little. "It's too bad you aren't a boy, huh?"
Kiku lifted her head and stared ahead. "I'm sorry, Sato-san, but…what?"
"Hm? I said it's too bad you aren't a boy."
"Yes…" Kiku breathed, the gears in her head turning. "Um, Sato-san, I have some things I need to do. I'll talk to you later, alright?"
Not bothering to wait for an answer, Kiku hung up the phone and began pacing around her apartment, muttering. Too bad I'm not a boy? I'm not a boy…but why can't I be? I could go school if I was… She stopped abruptly in her tracks and mentally slapped herself. This was a ridiculous, crazy idea. If she were caught….
But I wouldn't be. I'd be careful. I've cosplayed before, I know how to pass myself off as male. It would be difficult, maybe, with a roommate, but I'm sure I could pull it off in the end.
And what then? The logical voice in her head asked. What are you going to do about next year, and college? Are you going to live through your entire education as a boy?
I wouldn't have a choice, Kiku argued. If I'm going to commit to this…
She hurried back to the table and pulled the sheet of personal information out of the envelope, scanning it. Kiku smiled; the people at the school didn't know yet she was a girl, the first letter proved it. If they knew, they would have referred to her as such. Kiku snatched up a pen, but hesitated. What was this going to take? Buying new clothes, that was a given. Expensive, but it would have to be done. And…she pulled at a lock of her near waist length hair. Cutting it…well, that would certainly be a requirement. Not to mention, all the people she would be deceiving. Kiku was naturally a very honest person, and the thought of telling so many lies made her feel sick.
Then she remembered her parents, and them saying how they knew she was destined for great things. How she was the type to do whatever necessary. Because she was smart, and strong. That was what it took for Kiku to clench her teeth and curl her fists around the pen, glaring down at the information form with hard determination.
I'm going to do it. I'm going to achieve my goal.
She filled out her name, Kiku Honda. Although admittedly it was a feminine name, she had med boys with the same name and figured it could work as unisex. Odds are nobody would know the difference anyway, and it was easier than coming up with a whole new alias. Then she filled out her age, sixteen. She skipped over the gender box, coming up with a plan for later. Kiku finished filling out the form without incident, then picked up the phone again and dialed Mai's number. Her guardian picked up on the second ring.
"Kiku-chan? Is that you?
"Yes, Sato-san, it's me."
"Are you alright? You hung up so suddenly…"
"I'm alright. I'm better, in fact." Kiku's stomach clenched and she crossed her fingers for the first lie she was about to tell. "I…called the school. They said they would be able to work a room out for me, and that I may go this year rather than next."
Mai drew in an excited gasp. "Really? Really? Oh, that's fantastic, Kiku-chan! Congratulations!"
"Yes," Kiku whispered. "Yes, it is fantastic, as you said."
"You don't sound very excited. Are you sure everything's fine?" Mai's voice dropped in concern.
Kiku gripped the phone tightly. "I need you to come up and sign the personal information form, but nothing's wrong. That's all I need."
"Is that it? No problem, I'll be right up." With that, the landlady hung up the phone with a final click, leaving Kiku to let out the breath she had been holding. Within a few minutes, Mai was pounding on her door for the second time that day.
"Do I sign in English?" she asked, squinting at the small print. "English is difficult."
"I think they would prefer English," Kiku answered, standing over her. "Otherwise they might not think it was really you who signed it."
Mai's eyebrows furrowed. "I see. I'll do my best." Eventually, she was able to sign her name, not noticing the empty gender box at all. Mai left Kiku with a cheery "Be sure to send that off immediately! This is great!"
Alone again, Kiku took a deep breath, checked "Male," put it into a new envelope, and stuck it in the mailbox. There was no going back now.
Over the next month, Kiku slowly drew money out of her savings to buy appropriate apparel for her change into a boy. She took great care to hide them from Mai, keeping all the outfits in their bags to be shoved under her bed. She always got strange looks when she was shopping, and needed to keep reminding herself why she was in the men's underwear section whenever she went out. Kiku also made sure to buy bandages, for binding. Regrettably (or maybe not, considering the situation) she wasn't the…largest, shall we say, so the bandages were more of a precaution than anything. She didn't want to take chances with just a sports bra, anyone could see those.
Hetalia W. Academy had kept its word and mailed her the plane ticket she needed in order to travel to the school. Kiku was relieved that she didn't have to pay herself; it would have depleted her funds considerably. Mai had assured her that while Kiku was at school she would continue to clean and maintain her apartment for her.
The day before she was to leave, Kiku sat in her bathroom, holding a pair of kitchen scissors. There was one last thing she needed to do, that she had been putting off for the past four weeks. Her hair hung loose, falling down her back and over her shoulders, a glistening black curtain that unfortunately made looking like a boy rather impossible. Kiku loved her hair, and now that she was faced with the task of cutting it off, it almost made her want to back out of the whole thing.
This is stupid, she scolded herself. You're going to diminish your chances of obtaining the future you want because you are afraid to cut your hair?
Her grip on the scissors tightened. She squeezed her eyes shut, grabbed a handful of hair near the front, and severed it with a single cut.
Kiku cracked an eye open, and then gaped at what she saw. It was short, a straight lock ending around her cheekbone. She swallowed, then cut the other side to make it match before moving to the back. The back was certainly the most difficult, but Kiku managed to trim it evenly. Enough to satisfy herself, at least. When she was through, she stepped back to examine her handiwork.
She stared, eyes wide, at her reflection in the mirror. She did look like a boy. Her bangs were rather long, and she was certain the back was uneven just a little, and Kiku didn't even recognize herself. The rest of her hair lay in dark mounds at her feet.
Well, she thought. I really am committed now. No chickening out. Releasing a deep breath, Kiku slid down onto her knees and began gathering the fallen locks of hair, throwing them in the waste bin as she went.
When Mai saw her, she screamed.
The next day, Kiku needed to wake up at an ungodly hour of the morning to catch her flight. Mai (after she got over her hysteria at seeing Kiku's haircut) offered to drive her, but Kiku refused, preferring to catch a taxi. She didn't want Mai to see any of the clothes she had packed and catch on to her plan.
They said goodbye the night before, Mai leaving with tears in her eyes. Kiku admittedly had a lump in her throat as well, but years of skillfully hiding her emotion refused to let her show it now. In the morning, stifling multiple yawns, she lugged her suitcase out the door and into the waiting taxi. It was a long drive to the airport, and Kiku nodded off a few times before they arrived. She slept the whole, long flight, waking up only as the wheels touched the tarmac.
After picking up her luggage, she realized she had to use the restroom. This left her with a dilemma. She was officially dressed and masquerading as a boy now, so she should use the men's room, right? Kiku's face turned bright red at the thought. The answer was yes, of course. She held her breath, dashed into the bathroom and grabbed a private stall, slamming the door behind her. The place was thankfully empty.
Kiku emerged with her face a dark crimson, never wanting to repeat the experience again but knowing she would have to, and with other males around at that. Oh man, she hadn't even thought of that. Deciding to banish the thought from her mind for now, and instead focus on finding the taxi the school sent out. This was a very large airport, and naturally she had never been in it, but Kiku gratefully noticed that signs were on the walls stating where the pickup areas were.
A man stood next to a car in a long line of yellow taxis, holding a sign with her name on it. She walked up to him and introduced herself, taking care to lower her voice. Kiku couldn't speak too loudly, because it was difficult to keep a low pitch otherwise. She had never been an outspoken one to begin with, so at least she had that in her favor. Not to mention that most people in her experience seemed to overlook quiet ones.
As she was chauffeured to the school campus, Kiku adjusted her binding and made sure it was secure before she was dropped off. Stepping out of the car, the driver handed her her suitcase and directed her to the administration building to check in. "It's my job," he said, responding to her inquiring look. "I get hired at the beginning and end of every year to shuttle you kids to the airport and back."
"Thank you," Kiku said quietly, proud that she sounded male. "I appreciate it."
He nodded, said "Have a good term, sir," then got back into his cab and head the way they had come. Kiku straightened her back and turned to face the campus.
"Alright," she said to herself. "It's time to begin."
Hatsu: NEW STORY! And I'm actually gonna follow through on this one instead of never updating and eventually deleting it because THIS one is a collab with the fabulous KokoLolo! Yeah. Our second one.
Lolo: We like busying ourselves….XD but yes, this is our second collab! And it is Ameripan!
Hatsu: Not to mention with fem!Japan! I ship Ameripan so hard. The ending for chapter 1 is rushed because I was up until one AM finishing it and I got tired.
Lolo: I haven't even read the ending! :D
Hatsu: Oh, and if anyone's worried, this story isn't going to interfere with our updating schedule for Kidnapped! And if you've come from Lolo's profile, or if you've been reading Kidnapped, then hello and we love you! :D
Lolo: Indeed! Chapter 2 will be up soon!
Hatsu: Woo! God I'm so excited about this. I hope this was good and enjoyable. Thank you for reading and please review!