Chapter 24:

Past: Second Family

Master Of Rejections But Beginner At Love

"Hey, Shiho. When will you give me my manga back?" Kazuma asked.
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"O-oh, well, I'm not done reading it yet, hehe..." the girl replied suspiciously.Bookmark here

"She's lying. She accidentally spilled water over it and is waiting for next month's pocket money to buy a new one." Shinya stated with an amused smirk.Bookmark here

"W-what?! I thought you would keep it a secret, Brother!" she grumbled.Bookmark here

"Heh, how typical of you." another boy commented.Bookmark here

"Shut up, four-eyes!" she insulted him back.Bookmark here

Currently, a group of four friends in their middle school uniform were walking in a shopping mall.Bookmark here

A year passed already since Kazuma and Shinya first met.
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Since then, Kazuma became acquainted with Kanzaki Shiho and Miller Hirata.Bookmark here

Kanzaki Shiho was Shinya's little sister and was one year younger. She had long brown hair that reached to her waist and just like her brother, she had emerald green eyes. Kazuma first met her when Shinya let her tag along with them after a weeks passed since Kazuma and Shinya met. And since then, the three of them would always hang out together.Bookmark here

Miller Hirata was one year older than the other two boys. He was half American and half Japanese. He had short blonde hair and his eyes were blue. Due to his bad eyesight, he had to wear glasses. Hirata was also taller and better built than his other peers, even in comparison to American kids his age. Kazuma and the Kanzaki siblings met him when he was surrounded and was getting beaten up by a group of high school students. The three joined forces with Hirata and managed to win against them. Since then, Hirata became a part of their group.Bookmark here

Within that year a strong bond was built as each one of them shared their own problems to the others.Bookmark here

First of all, there was Kazuma, who sought after the attention of his parents who were constantly busy with work and therefore only rarely at home.Bookmark here

Then, there were the Kanzaki siblings, who shared the same and yet different problem. Just like Kazuma, they wanted to feel parental affection however their parents never showed them love. They only abused them.Bookmark here

And lastly, there was Hirata, who felt isolated from his peers due to his roots. He tried his best to make friends but it was futile. In addition, many older teenagers were always starting a fight with him.Bookmark here

Even though the four of them spent less than a year together, they were like a second family to each other.Bookmark here

"Hey, hey, how about going to the Game Center?" Shiho suggested eagerly.Bookmark here

"Weren't you short on money?" Hirata remarked.Bookmark here

"Don't worry, Brother will pay for me!"Bookmark here

"Huh, what are you talking about, you brat? Ask Kazuma." Shinya passed the baton to Kazuma.Bookmark here

"Kazu-kun! Just a few rounds! Pretty please?" she begged him as she threw herself at his arm.Bookmark here

"As if."Bookmark here

Plonk.Bookmark here

Kazuma told her off and gave her a chop on her head.Bookmark here

"Ouch! You meanie!" she said while she rubbed her head.Bookmark here

Kazuma sighed.Bookmark here

"Oh, well, how about just two rounds then?" he gave in in the end.Bookmark here

"i knew I could count on you, Kazu-kun!" she jumped at him for a hug.Bookmark here

Plonk.Bookmark here

He gave her another chop.Bookmark here

"Stop it, will y-"Bookmark here

Thud.Bookmark here

"Huh? Wanna pick a fight, brat?"Bookmark here

While they were talking, someone bumped into Kazuma's shoulder.Bookmark here

"Hm?"Bookmark here

Turning around, Kazuma saw a guy who was about three or four years older than him. He had a tattoo on his neck and on his trained arms. The person had black hair tied into a man bun. With his jet black eyes he looked down on Kazuma.Bookmark here

Behind him were three other people who were also around his age.Bookmark here

Kazuma knew that these guys were bad news. Even if they started to fight, he could not imagine to win against them.Bookmark here

"I'm sor-"Bookmark here

"Hey, you're the one who bumped into him. Shouldn't you say sorry?" Shinya interrupted Kazuma and pulled him back to face the the guy.Bookmark here

"What are you doing?!" Kazuma panicked and grabbed Shinya's shoulder.Bookmark here

People, who were also in the mall, started to avoid them.Bookmark here

"B-Brot-"Bookmark here

"That's right! It wasn't Kazuma's fault!" Hirata agreed with Shinya as he stepped forward, too.Bookmark here

Shiho tried to stop her brother but was also interrupted.Bookmark here

"Huh? Didn't your parents teach you to pay respect to your elders?" the guy became even more annoyed.Bookmark here

Pow.Bookmark here

Without hesitation, Shinya threw a punch at him and hit his cheek.Bookmark here

"Not bad, brat! Now let me show you a real punch!"Bookmark here

Unfazed by the punch, the guy launched a punch at Shinya.Bookmark here

Instinctively, Shinya guarded his face by raising both of his arms up.Bookmark here

Bam.Bookmark here

However, the punch was aimed at the stomach.Bookmark here

"Bluargh!"Bookmark here

Thud.Bookmark here

Shinya fell on his knees as he held his stomach.Bookmark here

"You bastard!" Hirata shouted and sprinted at him with a clenched fist.Bookmark here

"No, Hirata, stop!" Kazuma yelled.Bookmark here

Pow.Bookmark here

One of the guy's friends stepped in and kicked Hirata in the side.Bookmark here

Thud.Bookmark here

And just like Shinya, Hirata was also on his knees now and held his side in pain.Bookmark here

"How disappointing." the one who kicked Hirata commented.Bookmark here

"Only two left."Bookmark here

"Hey, what should we do with the girl?"Bookmark here

The remaining companions also began to move from their spot and came closer to Kazuma and Shiho.Bookmark here

Despite being nervous and scared, Kazuma stood protectively in front of Shiho who was shivering with fear.Bookmark here

It was a four versus one situation, excluding Shiho.Bookmark here

Kazuma gritted his teeth as he thought about a way to escape with all four of them.Bookmark here

"Wanna play prince charming or what?"Bookmark here

"Better protect your princess from us then!"Bookmark here

"She's kinda hot."Bookmark here

They started to mock him.Bookmark here

"Isn't it sad?" Kazuma began to speak with a provocative grin while he was sweating nervously.Bookmark here

"Hm?" they were baffled.Bookmark here

"I mean, is it really fun for you to pick on mere children? Don't you have any pride?" Kazuma mocked them.Bookmark here

"Huh, what did you say?" one of them grabbed him by his collar.Bookmark here

"Let him go." the one with the tattooed neck ordered.Bookmark here

"Y-yes, sir!"Bookmark here

Without hesitation, the guy let go of Kazuma just like he was ordered to.Bookmark here

"So you're the boss?" Kazuma asked him.Bookmark here

"What do you plan?" ignoring the question the tattooed one asked Kazuma.Bookmark here

"How about this? a one on one between the two of us. No interference allowed. If you win, then you can do everything you want with us. But if we win, then you have to listen to everything we say." Kazuma suggested.Bookmark here

"W-what? That's ridiculous! As if we'll become the dogs for you kids!"Bookmark here

"You stupid or what?"Bookmark here

The other members of the group were enraged.Bookmark here

"Kazuma... don't..."Bookmark here

"Run with Shiho..."Bookmark here

Shinya and Hirata warned Kazuma. But he did not listen to the two.Bookmark here

"Heh, you are interesting. Fine, I accept." the leader accepted with an amused smirk.Bookmark here

"B-boss?"Bookmark here

"What? Do you question my decision?" he looked at his companion with a fierce and intimidating gaze.Bookmark here

"N-no..."Bookmark here

Then, the members of the tattooed one and Kazuma's friends formed a circle around them.Bookmark here

"W-will he be fine?" Hirata asked with a still pained expression.Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"He will." Shiho answered.Bookmark here

"You know it, too, right? Kazu-kun is someone who never starts a fight he knows he will lose." she elaborated.Bookmark here

"Hehe, true..." Hirata agreed.Bookmark here

Kazuma was already in his fighting stance while the leader of the other party looked relaxed.Bookmark here

Kazuma expected that his opponent would underestimate him. From an objective perspective, everyone would bet on the other one. His opponent was older and stronger than him.Bookmark here

Kazuma smirked.Bookmark here

"Now come at me, brat!" the boss signaled the start of the fight.Bookmark here

Kazuma prepared a fist and ran to him.Bookmark here

The leader did not care to defend and also prepared to launch a punch.Bookmark here

Looking as if both of them would hit each others' faces, Kazuma surprised him by sliding under his legs.Bookmark here

"!"Bookmark here

Before he could turn around, Kazuma jumped up quickly and launched a punch aimed at his head.Bookmark here

Crack.Bookmark here

And as he turned his face to him, Kazuma was able to hit his nose.Bookmark here

"Ahhhrg!" he cried in agony as he pressed his nose with his hands.Bookmark here

Pow.Bookmark here

Kazuma did not wait and kicked him in his stomach while he was still wide open.Bookmark here

"Ugh! You little-"Bookmark here

 Then, Kazuma grabbed his hair and was about to hit his broken nose with his knee but stopped when it was about to connect.Bookmark here

"My win?"Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

Everyone's jaw dropped.Bookmark here

"I-I give up..." the guy said with heavy breathing.Bookmark here

He let go of him and joined his friends on the sideline like nothing happened.Bookmark here

"Can you two stand?" he asked Shinya and Hirata and held his hands out.Bookmark here

Still not being able to believe their eyes, they took his hands and stood up without saying a word.Bookmark here

After they stood up, Kazuma let go of their hands and grabbed Shiho's hand to pull her close to him.Bookmark here

Not knowing what he planned to do, Shinya and Hirata only watched confused.Bookmark here

"Now listen..."Bookmark here

Kazuma formed a circle and whispered something to them.Bookmark here

"W-what are they doing?"Bookmark here

From the view of the other group, it looked as if they had a team discussion like the ones during a time-out in a sports game.Bookmark here

After a few minutes, the circle dissolved and Kazuma walked into their direction again. While Shiho and the others looked nervously, Kazuma wore a confident and playful grin.Bookmark here

"Time for the punishment, brats!" Kazuma declared. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.