School Days Fanfiction: I Don't Know I Love You - 60. Chapter 60
60: Back Pain
“Damn, it’s cold.”
“At least you feel something,”
“Edgy as ever, huh?”
“You’d be too after going through hell.”
“Least you came out of it with a sense of humor,”
“Taisuke, shut your mouth.” Juugo’s on edge. I don’t know why he’s so defensive. Whenever I see him with those two idiots, he’s always so chill.
“Why? So you can sulk in peace? You’ve been acting weird, man.”
“You gotta relax, live a little,” Boushi stretches his arms above his head and yawns big. “Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff,”
“Thinking like that’s how I got stuck with you two.”
“Hey,” Taisuke grabs his shoulder and turns his body. He stares down Juugo. “Seriously, what’s gotten into you? I thought you liked us. I mean… We like you,”
He’s so innocent, so straightforward. Weird as hell to hear it from someone like him. This argument’s a distraction, if nothing else. I don’t know what I should be feeling right now.
“…Yeah,” Juugo slouches and puts a hand on Taisuke’s. “I do. I shouldn’t have snapped, I’m just… Thinking about a lot.”
Boushi bites his lip. “We’re kinda stupid, but if you wanna talk, we’re here for ya.”
“Thanks,” Juugo smiles softly. Since when have these guys been so goddamn sweet? “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to share,”
Distraction’s over, now. So much for avoiding my problems. C’mon Nanami, think of something to say… Well, there’s one obvious question.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to see the boss man,” Boushi answers uselessly.
“He wants us to scree new recruits,” Juugo explains, “but we’re part of a gang hiding out in an abandoned building nearby. Not exactly the ritz, but we’re accepted, and that’s all that matters. Unless you wanna join, we’ll have to split in a few blocks.”
“Hmm…” I lower my head and scan the streets. We’re already in a shady part of the city. And they have a few blocks to go? Being part of a gang’s the only way you wouldn’t get mugged on a street like this. Hell, there are barely any streetlights.
“I get we’re bad company. But people at home hate you, right? And school gave you the shitty end of the stick with all that Katsura stuff. Slumming it with us’ll make it more bearable,” For once, Taisuke’s kinda making sense. By just assuming we had common ground, he got pretty close to why I’m out here tonight.
“It’s more feasible than you might think,” Juugo says, “we’ve got a lot of food and a bunch of bottled water in reserve. You wouldn’t even have to head home in between classes. You could just come here, disappear off your parents’ radar for a while. If you keep your books in your locker, you’re all set.”
It’s sounding pretty damn tempting. Part of me knows this won’t last long-term, but who’s to say it can’t grow? It’s just… I can’t go back home. Yae will be fine. They like her. They’ll move on, pretend I never existed.
“But she won’t…”
Tears well up in my ears. The others notice, but they don’t say anything. Who knew they were sensitive?
I… I can text her. It won’t be the same, but… She’ll understand. She has to.
“Ashikaga?” I stop dead in my tracks when I hear Taisuke’s voice. Why her, why now? My hand curls into a fist as I glance across the street.
Wait… No, it’s her brother. The nerdy kid. “What the hell’s he doing out so late? I thought he cared about curfew.”
“Phew, he looks pissed,” Boushi whispers.
“Kid’s an entitled piece of shit,” Taisuke cracks his neck. “Kid’s got well-off parents and an allowance, but he still acts stupid, like he’s got no idea how good he’s got it. Acts like I’m so mean when I rag on him,”
“He’s pretty annoying,” I concede, “but why even bother? Don’t you got stuff to do?”
Taisuke smirks. “I do. But I can put it off for a little while.”
“Yo, Yuuki,” Taisuke blows of Juugo as he crosses the barren street to reach him. Kid’s hanging his head and’s got stains on his pants. Does he think he looks cool or something? “Been a while, huh? What you doing on this side of town? Say, could you do me a solid, and give me some of the leftover change ya got?”
“…Let go of me,”
“Huh?” He whispered. I don’t know what the hell he said. Why’s he acting so tough now? Kid’s a fucking shrimp. Anyone coulda broken Itou’s nose. “Ya don’t fork it over, I’ll have to rough you up.” I squeeze his shoulder.
Then, something happens.
“I said let go!”
He moves so fast. I barely even see it. He throws a fist between my ribs and my lungs. Air’s forced out of me. I cough as I bend over, head dizzy, nothing making sense. But then he gets savage. He bends over me, one hand on my hair, the other on my back for leverage. He knees me in that spot. Again, and again, and again. My vision gets blurry as he shouts incoherently in my ear, barely able to put up a fight. I grab his body feebly, but it does nothing. He shakes me off and pushes me to the ground.
“You’re awful… You’re a bad person… You deserve to get hurt. I’ll judge you!”
I don’t process what he’s saying. He lunges on top of me and slugs me in the face again and again. Bruises form as tears flood my eyes and consciousness starts to fade. Is he gonna kill me…?
It’s hard to tell what’s going on without the light, but I’m not stupid. In between all the meaningless noise coming from the kid’s mouth is Taisuke’s voice faintly calling out to me.
I don’t hesitate.
I sprint across the street, not listening to a word anyone’s saying behind me. I bull rush Ashikaga, ready to bare my whole body into his. He’s totally occupied and doesn’t turn to notice me.
I knock him clean off Taisuke. His back hits the wall hard behind him and he coughs up blood. His glasses slump down his eyes as he crumples on the ground, fighting to catch his breath. I lift him up by his collar and shove him against the wall. I know this bastard can fight, but I’ve taken all the wind out of him. He’s got no chance now.
“Listen, you coddled little shit. Touch one of us again, and I’ll choke the life out of you.” I apply pressure to his neck. “I don’t know what the hell happened to you, but you’ve got no reason in hell to complain. For some reason, you got people who care about you, so stop acting like you’re only option is to take it out on every random person you see.”
His breathing’s heavy and raspy. I don’t even know if he understands me. He’s crying a little, but I don’t know if that’s from the pain or something else. I don’t care. He’s pathetic. He won’t be hitting anyone for a while. I drop him. Sniffling, he nurses his wounds the best he can, still shocked from how hard I hit him.
“Taisuke!” I drop down to the ground beside him, checking how bad he’s hurt. Shit, guys got a big bruise under his lip. He’s struggling to breath e and blood’s foaming in his mouth. “Hang in there, breathe, it’ll be okay.”
“God,” he coughs, wincing with every little bit of movement. “He hits like a truck,”
“Don’t talk, just breathe as much as you can.” I instruct. “It’ll just make you hurt worse.”
I gently rub my hand across his body. “He knocked the air out of you, but I don’t think he broke anything. You’re lucky,”
“Haah… I-I guess that’s good…” His eyes shift in Ashikaga’s direction. Suddenly, the kid shouts at the top of his lungs and pounds the ground with his fists. He’s pissed, sad, lonely. I see it all on his face, but I don’t feel bad for him.
“It’s like he’s got a god complex, or something. Ouch!” Taisuke bites his lip as he tries to endure the pain. Things quieting down, Nanami and Boushi rush across the street to join us.
“Damnit, Juugo,” Nanami checks on the kids crumpled up against the wall. “You broke a couple of his ribs,”
“Shit,” I let my emotions get to me. Punk deserved it, but I should’ve thought of all of us. “Someone’ll call the ambulance for him,”
“He’ll get mugged if we leave him like this,” Nanami pulls out her phone.
“Wait,” Boushi interjects, “we’ll have ta drag Taisuke back, then, won’t we?”
“He’ll live, he hasn’t broken anything.”
“Why do you give a damn what happens to that pampered brat?”
“He’s in pain, Juugo,” I glance back at the kid, shivering and shaking as he tries to hide how much pain he’s in. “I’ve… I’ve had my ribs broken like that before,” She grits her teeth. “It’s so, so painful.”
I say noting and she makes the call. She tries to thinly disguise her voice as she gives the emergency responders the directions they need.
“You hate me…” The kid tries to yell, but his voice can barely break through the pain. “You’re going to hell, I… I just tried to…” he’s not making any sense. I wanna shut him up, but things are bad enough as it is. Boushi and I walk over to Taisuke and lift him up carefully.
“Ow, ow, oww…” Taisuke groans as we pick him up. “Fuck, I’m gonna vomit. I wanna pass out…”
“We’ll be slow, ‘kay?” Boushi rolls his eyes and grins. “You’re gonna be fine, bro.”
Nanami hangs up the fun and helps with the Taisuke Transport Train. She says nothing as we slowly move him away from the scene.
“What’s your plan now?”
“You guys really care about each other, don’t ya?”
“We have to,” I answer. “If we lost each other, who’d we even have?”
“If you think about it, we’re kinda like a weird family.” Boushi chuckles.
“Hey, if you were my bro, you’d be dead by now.” Taisuke points out through the pain.
“Ehhh, I don’t know…”
“At any rate,” she stares at the pavement. “I like that,”
It’s quiet for a while as we slowly carry him back. Finally,
“It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to go,” Nanami shrugs. “I’m in for the long haul.”
“Ya know, maybe I’m just stupid, but I think we’re gonna do well on the exams.”
“If by ‘we’ you mean ‘me’, then yes, we’re gonna do great.”
“Hey, don’t try to pull that crap on me.” I grin and side eye you. “You only got two more right on me on the practice drills.”
“Those were 10 question drills. I missed one, you missed three. 90 vs a 70, you’re two letter grades down.” She sticks out her tongue and flashes those savage eyes my way.
“My memory’s pretty damn good when I’m nervous,” I bluff, “I’m totally gonna outscore you.”
We take a seat by the train station, waiting for our respective hours. It feels kinda weird that we did this. But, I guess it’s natural. Once exams are over, are we gonna go back to only seeing each other every now and then? It’d make sense, all tings considered. I should probably enjoy this while I can.
I blush as I come to this realization. Kiyou—No, Setsuna’s not really someone I’d thought of much before. But… She’s kinda fun. Keeps me honest in a weird way. I don’t think I could lie to her, even if I wanted to. I think I’ve changed anyways, but she might be good for me.
Wait, what am I saying…?
“Wow, you’re making things awkward.”
“Huh?” I roll my eyes. “Says the girl who hasn’t moved a muscle since we sat down. Are you like a robot or something?”
“That’s what a robot trying to pass as a human would say,” I cross my arms. “Can you prove you’re an organic life form?”
“Easy,” She lifts up her small hand. “See those things at the ends of my fingers? They’re called nails. Feel ’em, they’re the genuine article.”
“Damn,” I squint. “They’re so clean,”
“Compared to yours,” She winks.
“I lost my clippers! Cut me some slack,” I bring my index finger out and place it on the nail. “Yep, definitely real.”
“See?” She brings her hand back to her side. “Not a robot,”
“Alright,” I raise my hands in my defeat, “still not ruling out the possibility you’re a cyborg, though.”
“Oh my god,”
A gentle but cold breeze flows through the air. I hope it doesn’t get much colder than this. Sensing Setsuna’s warmth, I scooch closer to her without thinking about it.
“Brr, you’re an ice cube.”
“More like an iceberg. I’m not really geometrical.”
“Could’ve fooled me. Sekai’s called you a ‘blockhead’ at least a dozen times.”
“Seriously? Ugh… I am pretty thick sometimes.”
“Now you’re getting it.”
There’s that silence again. Comfortable, but kinda awkward. Even though she said I was an ice berg, she moved back next to me.
“You’re pretty cool.”
“Really?” My cheeks glow red and I turn to look at her.
“Oh my god,” she blushes as she looks at me. “That was a pun. Cause we were just talking about the ice geometry thing,”
“Oh-ohhhh, I knew that, I knew that,” I shake my head like a bobble head as I stare straight ahead.
“No, you didn’t,”
“That’s a shame.” I chuckle, trying to PLAY IT cool. “Because I think you’re pretty cool.”
She looks at me and narrows her eyes. “You’re not lying… Strange…” She shrugs. “You’re not half bad yourself.”
Hey, something close to a compliment, I guess. I start to ask myself what I’m even looking for at this point. A train starts to pull into the station.
“That’s my cue,” she mumbles to herself as it rolls in.
That was kinda quick. Is she as nervous as I am right now?
“Library’s quiet and all, but it’s hard to find the motivation when it’s so damn dull.” I stand up. “Since tomorrow’s Saturday, when classes let out around lunchtime, you wanna take our books over to Kuroda’s café? They got big tables, and we could eat something good for a change.”
“Sounds like a date?”
“Th-that’s not what I—” she bites her lip and rolls her hands into fists. “You got me,”
I chuckle. “Think of it as a change of pace. I think it’s easier for us to study if we can relax every once in a while.”
“Hmmm…” Her train slows to a stop as the PA announcer states its destination. Before heading on, she looks over her shoulder and gives a mysterious smile. “You’ll see,”
She walks on the train and that’s the end of the conversation. I’m still processing what I just asked. I mean, it’s nothing serious, right? I mean, she’s the one who said ‘date’.
As the train rolls out, I sit back on the bench. My thoughts swirl in a circle, but one image repeats more often than the others.
Kiyoura Setsuna at her most confident, savvy, and mysterious as she flashed me that enigmatic smile.
Damn, I’m melodramatic.