On a Saturday at the beginning of autumn, the current Shounen Hollywood gathered in the dressing room of Hollywood Tokyo. Despite being at their lockers, they were not changing into their jerseys. Today, there was no practice, and tonight, the boys won't be performing. The five of them have come together for an unexpected reason.
"I'm sorry you guys have to do this with me," Kakeru apologized while closing his locker.
"Don't beat yourself up, Kakeru," Makki assured him. With a flick of his finger, his locker flipped shut. "It's not like you expected this to happen."
A loud slam caused everyone to flinch and look at Kira, who was leaning against his locker's door. "Yeah, I totally wanted to spend my Saturday like this," he said, frowning. "Thanks a lot, Kakeru."
"Come on, Kira," said Tommy, sounding a soft click when he twisted his locker's key. "Try to see the fun in this!"
Shun slammed his locker too. "We're literally using an entire Saturday, to host a study session, in the theater of all places."
On the previous Friday, Kakeru stated that his second midterm exams were starting next month. He revealed to Tesshi and the President that his grades have been worsening over time. Additionally, he was having trouble balancing his studies and idol duties. He requested that he'd be given more time to study and also let him have the week before his exam off so he could cram. His superiors agreed. However, the President an extra idea.
The President ordered the rest of Shounen Hollywood, minus Makki, to disclose their last examinations' marks. Kira was an honor student. He hasn't gotten less than an A in a single subject. Tommy's grades were excellent as well. He didn't gain perfect scores like Kira, though. On the other hand, Shun was similar to Kakeru. He just didn't care.
Hence, the President came to his conclusion, announcing, "Until Kakeru's midterms, our Saturdays will be cleared for study sessions which all five of you must attend. Yes, Makki, you too. No, Kira, you must come."
Presently, Kira was still complaining with his arms crossed huffily. "Why should I have to attend this study session?! I have the best grades here!"
"Maybe President wants you to tutor us?" Tommy guessed.
"He's a first-year, Tommy," Shun said. "What can he tutor us about?"
"Kira can tutor Makki."
Kira's pout became sulkier. "I don't wanna," he pooh-poohed.
Meanwhile, Kakeru had taken his seat at the table, studying a Science textbook. Beside him, Makki had picked up a Literature textbook.
"Oh, I remember reading this back at high school," Makki said. "I never finished it. I wonder what happened in the end..."
"The couple got married and lived happily ever after," Kakeru answered flatly.
"No spoilers!" Makki cried before sighing forlornly. "Ugh. Too late."
"Sorry," Kakeru apologized again.
Makki put the book down. "Ah, don't be."
Soon, the five boys were seated around the table. At that moment, Tesshi made his appearance. The manager entered the dressing room with a sheaf of paper in his hands and a proud expression.
"Good morning!" he greeted energetically.
The boys responded with a similar, practiced energy. "Good morning!"
"I've spent the whole night coming up with worksheets for each of you!" Tesshi said gleefully. "I made sure to design them according to your abilities and weaknesses!"
"Great," responded Shun, drawing out that word as he tipped his head backwards until he was facing the ceiling. He spat a little wad of chewing gum in the air, which returned to his mouth shortly.
"Now, now, Shun," Tesshi chided him, "none of that attitude."
"Tesshi, I really think its a mistake that I'm here," Kira piped up. "I mean, I've never scored less than ninety--"
Tesshi interrupted him, "We've been over this, Kira." His tone was that of a mother soothing her stubborn child. "If the President orders you attend this session, then you must."
Kira huffed and slouched deeper into his chair.
Tesshi handed out the worksheets to the boys. "For Kakeru, I've prepared questions for every subject. They become more complicated the more you complete them. For Shun, I decided to focus on your weaker subjects, like Science, Maths and Social Studies. Since Kira and Tommy are already star students, I designed some very tough questions, but not too many, so you'll be able to pause once in a while to tutor the others."
Kira pointed at himself. "I have to tutor them?" He gestured at the other boys.
Tesshi nodded. "Yes. I've added in topics taught to first-years. It's normal to expect sophomores and seniors to remember what they learned as freshmen. Now, Makki--" He placed three blank sheets in front of Makki. "--has to write an essay. You must write about yourself and the people around you. Your essay must have at least a thousand words."
"A thousand words?!" Makki yelped.
"That way, you can expand your kanji vocabulary," Tesshi elaborated. "Use this dictionary." He put a thick book in the middle of the table. "The five of you are free to refer to your notes or textbooks when answering questions. I expect all of you to finish your respective worksheets before three. You're only allowed to leave the room to use the toilet. If you wander the halls for any other reason, you'll be in big trouble. Understand?"
"Understood," the boys responded obediently.
With that, Tesshi took his leave, marking the start of the study session. Everyone immediately got to work. Kakeru slowly went through his questions while Tommy and Kira were flipping pages every minute. Shun took long pauses every once in a while. Makki simply twirled his mechanical pencil.
"Write about myself," he muttered. "Hmm... Who am I?" He clipped his pencil to his bottom lip. "I'm a walrus!" He chuckled to himself until he noticed Shun smirking at him. Makki quickly removed his pencil.
"This wasn't here before...." Daichi murmured at the vending machine in the resting area. "Let's see... Some salted lemon candy would be nice."
He inserted the correct amount of cash into the money slot and pressed the button below the label of the snack he wanted. The machine hummed before slowly pushing the snack out its station. However, instead of falling to the bottom of the machine for Daichi to grab, the snack got stuck between its station and the glass.
"Ugh, lousy crap." Daichi took a deep breath. "Okay, I know how to handle this. Just gotta give it a good thump." He smashed the display case with his mallet.
The glass wall cracked, there was a sparking noise, and then the machine went silent.
Daichi's eyes widened at his mallet. "Forgot I was holding this." He frantically scanned the empty room before hurrying to the staircase.
Unfortunately, Tesshi descended from the steps at that very moment. "Daichi?"
Daichi forced a smile and his voice cracked when he said, "Oh, Tesshi, hi there!"
Tesshi narrowed his eyes. He walked to the bottom of the stairs, looking straight at the vending machine. "You broke the machine, didn't you?"
Daichi exhaled with slouch. "Guilty as charged. How did you know?"
"Because Makki said those exact words when he broke the vending machine," Tesshi answered.
Daichi chuckled. "Did he?"
Tesshi laughed too. "He's rather similar to you, Daichi!"
The two men spent a moment chortling.
"You're paying for the repairs, Daichi," Tesshi deadpanned.
Daichi's head hung low. "I know."
"This question can only be solved with the subtraction method," said Tommy.
"But why can't I use the substitution method?" Shun asked irritably.
Kira snorted derisively. "Because it got you the wrong answer, duh."
Shun glowered at his worksheet. "What's the point of teaching me this dumb formula if I don't even need to use it?!"
"Hey, guys!" Makki exclaimed, beaming proudly. "Look at this!" He showed them a doodle of Cat that he drew on one of the sheets given to him by Tesshi.
"That's great, Makki," Kakeru remarked without taking his eyes off his own worksheet.
"It's so cute!" Tommy squealed.
"Do your work!" Shun snapped.
"Quit wasting time, Makki," Kira chastised.
Makki frowned at Kira and Shun. He held his drawing in front of his face, pretending to be Cat. "Lighten up, you two!" he spoke in a silly voice. "Ho, ho, ho!"
Daichi peeked his head into the room. "Is Santa Claus in here?"
"Nope, just Cat the horned owl!" Makki responded, face still masked. "Ho, ho!"
Daichi chuckled. "Great impression. Anyway, I'm here to let you know, the vending machine's dead."
Makki dropped his doodle. "What?!"
Tommy instantly rose from his seat. "You're kidding!"
"What happened?" Shun questioned.
Daichi tensely averted his gaze. "I...happened."
"You busted our vending machine," Kira translated. "Just like Makki, last week."
"I did not bust the vending machine!" Makki said defensively. "As a matter fact, I got us all free snacks when I slapped the glass."
"Yeah, and a load of sparks!" Shun retorted. "One of them even caught fire!"
"Which we put out swiftly," Tommy hastily added while flashing an uncomfortable smile at Daichi.
"Don't be so hard on Makki," said Daichi. "I mean, Ryu almost flayed Ran and Kou alive during our summer camp. What Makki did was practically harmless. Anyhoo, I'm paying for the repairs, but you guys won't be getting any snacks for a while. Later!" He disappeared from the room.
"Curse you!" Kira screamed at Daichi.
"Kira!" Tommy said, aghast. "How could you say that?!"
"I didn't pack any snacks with me!" Kira complained. "I had set my heart on eating those apple chips!"
Shun snickered. "You're probably the only one who purchases that trash."
Kira stuck out his tongue. "At least I'm preventing food wastage and maintaining my health!"
Shun repeated Kira's words in a whinier voice.
"I know how to solve this problem!" Tommy announced in between the younger members.
The five boys sneaked out of the dressing room. Tommy took the lead, scrutinizing the area for Tesshi, before motioning for the others to follow. They stealthily passed the halls.
"How do you know Tesshi's not gonna catch us?" Kira asked Tommy.
"I don't," Tommy admitted, "so we gotta risk it."
"This feels more dangerous than the surprise party we carried out for President," Kira mumbled. He grinned stupidly. "This is fun!"
Tommy giggled. "I know, right? It feels good to be bad sometimes!"
Shun, watching Kira and Tommy gush over their naughtiness, chuckled. He turned to Makki. "Amateurs, aren't they?"
Makki shrugged. "I dunno. The worst my gang ever did was steal trolley carts from supermarkets. What? Have you done worse, Shun?"
Shun stiffened. "Er... No." He faced forward again.
"We shouldn't be doing this," Kakeru muttered nervously. "We could get in trouble."
Makki put his arm around Kakeru's shoulder. "If we're careful, we'll be alright."
Finally, they arrived at the theatre's back entrance. They climbed the stairs. At the top, there sat a large paper bag. Tommy took the bag and opened it, revealing a large box of colorful, crocodile-shaped pastries.
Kakeru looked at Shun. "The boy smuggled in pastries. Do you approve of this?"
Shun patted his shoulder. "There are times when you have to turn a blind eye, man."
The boys descended from the stairs, returning inside the theater. They were about to enter through the resting area, when they spotted Tesshi inspecting the vending machine. They immediately reversed.
"Oh no, oh no," Kira chanted frightfully as the five of them ran. "We're so dead!"
"No, we aren't!" Shun snapped breathlessly.
They used the front hall, where Cat sat perched on his stand. The boys dashed through the ShoHolly hall of fame, only to see Tesshi coming their direction. Thankfully, he hadn't seen them since he was observing some dried crickets in his palm. The boys nearly tripped over when they stopped. They grabbed each other and backtracked out of the corridor.
"We're all gonna die!" Tommy wailed in a low tone.
"We are not!" Shun insisted while panting.
They scrambled inside the auditorium which was being fixed up by Daichi's crew. The men saw them, of course.
"Hey, y'all!" one builder called out cordially.
"Act like we weren't here!" Makki shouted back.
They leaped onto the stage, evading building equipment, before hiding behind the curtains just as Tesshi came inside the room.
"That was close," Kakeru whispered, still looking back.
"Eyes in front!" Shun hissed.
At last, they returned to the corridor that was supposed to lead to their dressing room. However, it was obstructed by a yellow wet sign. There was a large puddle ahead of them.
"Shoot!" Shun cussed. "There's no way we can cross over without getting wet. Tesshi'll see our footprints!"
"We'll have to take the long way if we want to get back inside the room," Kakeru said.
Tommy hugged the box of pastries to his chest. "This is all my fault!"
"We're doomed!" Kira said dramatically.
Makki took a deep breath. "Not all of us." He took the box from Tommy's hands and shoved it in Kakeru's pants.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Kakeru asked as he watched his trousers be stretched to its limit.
Makki pulled Kakeru's shirt over the unconcealed part of the box. "I'm gonna distract Tesshi while you guys head back to the dressing room." He stomped away, singing loudly, "Cat~! Cat~! Our precious Cat~!"
Tesshi had just exited the washroom, drying his hands, when he heard Makki yelling, "Good morning, Cat~! Good evening, Cat~!"
"That boy!" Tesshi fumed as he followed Makki's voice.
Tesshi found Makki at the main entrance, yapping to Cat, "Ho, ho, ho!"
"Amaki Ikuma!" Tesshi barked. "I thought I told you to stay in the dressing room!"
"But I wanted to say hello to Cat," Makki replied sadly.
"Come with me," Tesshi ordered sternly, and Makki complied.
Tesshi brought Makki to a storeroom. He opened the door and pointed in.
"Go inside, and think about your actions," Tesshi instructed. "I expect you to stay here for no less than fifteen minutes."
"Yes, sir," Makki answered dejectedly as he went into the closet.
Tesshi shut the door and left.
Makki sat on an old wooden stool, envisioning the boys eating in the dressing room, and licked his lips when imagining the sweet taste of the crocodile-shaped pastries.
"Yeah, I ain't stayin' here," he declared. "But Tesshi said to stay for at least fifteen minutes..."
Makki looked at the ceiling. He proceeded to gather the objects in the room--plastic chairs, buckets, tattered woven baskets--and piled them atop each other. He scaled the tower of objects, adding more to the building the higher he went, until he could touch the ceiling. Makki pushed aside a plaster tile before entering the ceiling. The tiles creaked under his weight, and kept creaking no matter how slow or gently he crawled.
"A snow owl in a red party hat flew into a house through the chimney," he mumbled to himself, "carrying a present in its claws. It hoots, 'Ho, ho, HOOO DAAAAMMNN!" he shrieked when the ceiling caved.
Kakeru extricated the box of pastries from his pants. He handed it to Tommy. "Here."
"Thanks," Tommy replied. He accepted the box and checked the contents. Miraculously, none of the pastries left their assigned positions.
Shun reached for a pastry. "Gimme one. Hey," he said after Tommy moved the box away.
"We should wait for Makki," stated Tommy.
"What's the point?" inquired Kira. "He probably got caught."
"I'm sure," Kakeru spoke nervously, "he'll be back. Maybe."
Right on cue, Makki fell through the ceiling onto their table, scaring the others. His arrival created an enormous ruckus, as though a bulldozer had attacked the theater. White chips of plaster rained and snow-colored powder wafted around the room. From a distance, Tesshi hollered, "What in the world was that?!"
Makki sat up with a groan. He soon noticed his group members gawking at him. Grinning awkwardly, he told them, "I, uh, came back to do my essay."
Tesshi burst into the room. "I heard noises! What happen-- Makki?! When did you--? Did you fall out of the ceiling, Makki?!"
"No, Tesshi. Makki jumped onto the table and the ceiling happened to drop on him," Shun responded sarcastically.
"Yes, I fell outta the ceiling, Tesshi," Makki sheepishly confirmed.
Tesshi approached him, examining him for injuries. "Are you alright? Did you break or sprain anything?"
Makki slid off the table to his feet. "Chill, Tesshi. I'm as fit as a fiddle." He did a pose to prove his point.
Tesshi smiled. "That's good to hear. What were you thinking, Makki?!" he suddenly yelled. "What were you doing in the ceiling?!"
"Uh... I was trying to get back to the others without getting caught." Makki chuckled. "Looks like that failed."
"Quite terribly." Tesshi exhaled tiredly. "I suppose this study session will have to end early. The papers seem fine, so I'll just collect them and start marking. You boys just wait in the resting area for the day to end."
"Sweet," Shun whooped. "Freedom!" He was the first to go.
"You really didn't want to study, huh," Kira said to him. "Lazy bum."
"Let's eat the pastries!" Tommy said cheerfully.
"Wait up!" Kakeru called after them.
"I want the green one!" Makki said, but was restrained by Tesshi. "Eh?"
"Since you're the one who damaged the ceiling," Tesshi said, "you will be the one to clean the debris."
Makki deflated. "Of course."
Tesshi passed him a brush and a hand-sized dustpan. "I expect not a speck."
"Hah, that rhymes!" Makki laughed before turning to the dirty table.
After Tesshi had retrieved the worksheets and Makki had put away the other study items on the table, the latter began sweeping the white dust and ceiling fragments into the pan.
Kakeru, Tommy and Shun applauded as Kira graciously cartwheeled around the coffee table. Kira had eaten a blueberry-flavored crocodile pastry that he claimed was full of calories he must work off, hence his cartwheeling.
"I feel so hyper!" he shouted as he hopped from the coffee table onto the sofa, tossing aside his hoodie. He pranced on the cushions.
"That's normal!" Tommy told him while eating a pastry that was orange in color and flavor. "This stuff always fill me with energy!"
"I know, and I can barely control myself!" Kira then let out a long scream which caused the vending machine's glass to completely shatter.
Shun, while biting a pastry with strawberry flavoring, bellowed, "Free snacks!" and choked.
Kakeru calmly remarked, "Dudes with glasses can't hold their pastries." A chunk of red bean paste came out of his pastry. Kakeru caught it in his mouth before it fell too far.
Right out of the blue, music started playing. Makki was seen beside the stereo.
"You guys look like you're enjoying yourselves!" he said, snatching up a matcha pastry. "I'm improving the mood!" He took a chomp of the pastry and cried, "Jiminy Cricket, this is great!" He upped the volume on his music player, letting 'Lonely Passion' dominate the atmosphere.
High on sugar, the boys began dancing wildly. Shun played an air guitar, Makki did the Hammer Dance rather skillfully, Kira was tap-dancing on the couch, Tommy practiced their dance routines on the table, and Kakeru simply bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet as he surfed the magazines on the shelf. Later, Shun joined Tommy on the table to do some shuffling. After that, Tommy hopped off to let Kakeru and Makki do a marching dance with Shun. At last, Tommy and Kira bounced on the table together, shifting left and right while waggling their hands. Their dancing ended with Kira twirling on the floor near the sofa and then slumping over the cushions.
The boys spent the next five minutes deciding seating positions. Since Kira hogged the sofa, Tommy placed himself on the floor beside it, hugging the sofa's arm. Kakeru leaned against the wall, taking breaths. Makki and Shun occupied the table. Shun sat on it, tilting his head back to see the ceiling, while Makki stretched his legs underneath. He pressed his face on a sheet of paper while chewing on a mechanical pencil.
There was a moment of silence as the hype from the pastries abandoned the boys. The first one to break the peace was, strangely, Kakeru.
He raised his hand awkwardly. "I have a weird talent."
Makki weakly lifted his head up, his paper stuck to his cheek. "What is it, Kakeru?"
Kakeru grinned shyly. He walked over to the table, borrowing Makki's pencil and paper. He clicked the pencil a few times to get some lead before sticking it in between his ahoge. He held the paper in front of his face, leaned forward, and dragged the lead across the sheet. The others eyed him with astonishment. When he was done, Kakeru flipped the paper, displaying his name, written in neat handwriting without any misspells.
Tommy clapped enthusiastically. "Oh my gosh! That's so cool!"
Makki guffawed. "That outdoes our performances!"
"That, good sir, is a gift," Shun stated comically.
However, Kira had no praise for Kakeru. Instead, he snorted disdainfully, side-eyeing the latter. "So, what? Can you answer your exam papers with that talent, Kakeru-kun?"
Kakeru wilted under Kira's glare. He put the paper and pencil back on the table near Makki. He answered quietly, "Of course not."
Kira sneered at Kakeru. "Does your mama ever compliment you for writing your name with your hair? Did ya mama teach ya how to spell with your hair?"
Kakeru frowned at him. "Oh, hush."
"Kira, don't be like that," Tommy scolded.
"Hmph." Kira rolled over, showing his back to the boys. "My mama would praise me for everything. She'd praise my dancing, my singing, my acting...even my rebellious phase."
Shun clicked his tongue. "You're lying."
Kira looked over his shoulder. "I'm not. One time, I told her to shut up, and she said she wanted to celebrate when we got home. She was so annoying that time, really."
Shun glowered at him. "How could you talk about your own mother like that?!"
"Because she was annoying," Kira repeated. He sat up. "Well, that was in the past. Now, we're more or less okay."
Tommy gaped at Kira. "I honestly believed you were a real Mama's boy. She always comes to fetch you."
"That's just the kind of woman she is," Kira said, checking his nails. "She's given me my independence, but still sees me as her baby."
Shun smirked. "Which is exactly what you are."
"Am not!" Kira protested.
"Uh, yes, you are," Makki said, smirking too.
"You are the youngest here, Kira," Kakeru pointed out.
"You're the baby of this bunch!" Tommy stated happily.
"I'm not!" Kira tried to appear insulted but ended up giggling, resulting in a chain reaction of the boys joining in on the laughter. "Really, I'm not!" Kira insisted between giggles.
So, the boys guffawed the day away. At the final hour, Makki wrote his essay. He did not write a thousand words, but instead a single page. He left the sheet on the coffee table for Tesshi to find.
Sorry, I couldn't write a thousand words like you wanted. I did my best to fulfill the other stuff, like the topic. The question was who I am and about the people around me. It was about identity. To summarize, today's study session was attended by an ex-delinquent, a high school student who was once thought to be normal, a former child actor, a super-devoted fan, and a future soloist.
the Breakfast Shounen Hollywood.
The new Shounen Hollywood exited using the back entrance, where Daichi stood by, snacking on a packet of salted lemon candy.
"You weren't the first to wreck the ceiling," he told them as they passed by. "Shima and Tommy were. Don't worry, I'll reinforce it with an air-conditioning system."
"Alright!" said Tommy, purposefully walking slow to talk to Daichi. "See you next Saturday!"
When they reached the top of the stairs, they parted ways. Kira went to his mother's car, Shun off to visit a music store, Tommy on the search for more fake merchandise of Kou, Kakeru heading for the train station, and Makki going to buy a croquette from his usual stall. Makki chose the creamy crab croquette, but before he took a bite, a raven swooped down and snagged the delicacy into its talons.
"No, give it back!" Makki raised his hand in the air to recapture his food, seeming to pump his fist in the air.