Chapter 7:

The Devil Beside Me (Part 1 of 2)

Somehow, I fell in Love With My School's Biggest Gal!

“Can I have another one Sora-Kun? Pleeeeeeease?” Rina squealed, tackling Sora. Bookmark here

“Gah!” He screamed, trying to shake the young girl off. Bookmark here

“B-b-but you’ve had ten cookies already!” Bookmark here

“So?” Rina pouted, clinging tightly to her friend’s waist as he tried to walk away. “Aki-Chan’s had twenty!” Bookmark here

“Twenty-two now.” Aki calmly chimed in, nibbling on a chocolate cookie ball. Bookmark here

“Geez! You are all monsters!” Sora screamed, dragging Rina across the roof as he tried to move. Bookmark here

Aki had been busy this last weekend, so he had nothing to do. He’d made cookies with his dad. Lots of them! Their kitchen was full of them; they had made at least 20 different kinds! Sora had packed a big bin full of them and brought them to share at lunch with his friends. Aki and Rina were in heaven. Those two seemed to like anything with sugar in it. Ichigo was more of a picky eater, but she loved the energy cookies.Bookmark here

“Urgh. You are so loud and annoying, Rina. Quit making such a scene over stupid sweets.” Mitsu said quietly. Sora glanced over at her.Bookmark here

He wasn’t so sure about the forth girl in their group. For lack of a better term, she was cold. She was stoic, serious, and no-nonsense. She was the exact opposite of Aki, Rina, and Ichigo and Sora wasn’t quite sure whether or not that was a good thing.Bookmark here

Mitsu was sitting with her right leg crossed over her left. She had a book in her left hand and her chopsticks in her right. She had long, wavy green-brown hair that went to her waist. Her skirt was long enough, her stockings were plain black, and she wore gray loafers instead of the gray Mary-Jane style shoes that all the other girls wore. She wore her cardigan as an actual cardigan. She had a dark-blue ribbon headband in her hair and a pair of silver post earrings and that was all the accessories she ever wore. She was very much the stereotypical proper student. Her eyes were dark brown, so brown, that they were nearly black.Bookmark here

Mitsu-San had a serious face and a stiff demeanor. In the week since Aki had introduced them, Sora had yet to see her smile. Aki said that he probably never would. Bookmark here

“Mitsu-San can be…really cold, cruel almost. She’s actually really sweet, but doesn’t show it much. She never really smiles. She does the whole tiny, cute, polite smile very well, but it never reaches her eyes or the rest of her face. She doesn’t really laugh much either. You’ll get used to it, though. She not a bad person deep-down. We’ve been friends since kindergarten.” Aki had explained.Bookmark here

“S-s-sorry to disturb you, Mitsu-San.” Sora apologized hesitantly. He still didn’t know how to handle her well. With how different she was from the others and how much she yelled at them all, he had no clue how she had ever become friends with girls as lively as Aki, Rina, and Ichigo. She was one of those serious, know-it-all types. She was the top student in the middle school and spent almost all her free-time reading.Bookmark here

“It’s fine, Sora-Kun. Just be a little quieter, please.” She didn’t even look up from her book. Bookmark here

“Fine, you win!” He surrendered to Rina. The point in bringing the cookies in the first place was for the girls to get rid of them. He was just surprised at what voracious eaters they all were, particularly Aki and Rina. Aki had an amazing figure and Rina was so tiny; he had no clue how they fit so much food inside their stomachs! Bookmark here

“Yay!” Rina let go of Sora and began hopping around in joy. “I want some more of the matcha cookies!”Bookmark here

“Mmmmm! These are so good!” Ichigo exclaimed around the energy cookie in her mouth. “Thanks. Dad and I made them this weekend.” Bookmark here

"Really?" Ichigo asked, spewing out crumbs.Bookmark here

"Yeah. I was bored and dad likes to cook so...yeah." Sora shrugged.Bookmark here

"No fair!" Ichigo whined. "Aki told me that your dad made some amazing rice omelets when she came over! When are you going to let the rest of us come over!"Bookmark here

 Sora sat back down next to Aki. “Maybe you all can come over around Christmas and we can all bake together?" He suggest.Bookmark here

“Yeah! Yeah!” Ichigo nodded her head vigorously. “I wanna see your house and meet your sissy dad!”Bookmark here

 “Ichigo!” Mitsu slammed her book shut angrily. “Bookmark here

Well it’s true! His dad sounds like such a girl! You’re such a nerd, Sora-Kun! I wanna see what your room looks like.” Ichigo shoved her hands under her armpits and pouted. Bookmark here

“Uh…I’m not a shut-in, Ichigo.” Sora said nervously “My room isn’t a dump or anything. And it’s not weird or creepy or anything. It’s just a normal bedroom with anime figures and stuff. I’m actually kind of scared of just what kind of person you think I am.” Bookmark here

“Hmmm…keep your friends close and your enemies closer…right?” Ichigo grinned mischievously. “Ichigo!” Bookmark here

“Mmmm!” Aki stretched happily. “Class starts in five minutes. I think I’m going to go back down and use the bathroom before that. We still on for tonight?” Bookmark here

“Yep!”Bookmark here

“I’m ready to go get some Taiyaki!” Bookmark here

“…Yes, I still have time.” Bookmark here

“Yeah. Looking forward to it!” Sora smiled. The five planned on going to the Akiharra culture district after school. The culture district wasn’t too far from ACE Games and it was an amazing, concentrated area for all things anime, manga, and pop-culture in Japan. Bookmark here

Sora was actually very excited; he’d never gone on such a big trip with friends before! In just a few weeks, they were already closer than he had been with his former friends. It was actually kind of sad how little his missed them. Other than Ryo, he couldn’t care less about them. He also felt that something bad was coming.Bookmark here

Ever since he had begun hanging out with the girls, the glares of the three boys were full of more vitriol than usual. He felt that things were building, like a confrontation was coming. They were so angry and hateful; he had a feeling that, when things finally blew up, it wouldn’t be pretty.Bookmark here

“Great! I’ll see you girls after class! See you in class, Sora-Kun!” Aki waved and dashed down the stairs.Bookmark here

              *                                                                        *                                                                 *Bookmark here

Sora tapped his foot anxiously. Where was Aki? Class started in less than three minutes, and she was always in class at least ten minutes before it started! He knew that it wasn’t all that weird, people were late all the time, but he just had a persistent feeling that something was terribly wrong, like Aki was in trouble or something. He didn’t know why or what to do. Bookmark here

He suddenly realized that En, Ryo, and Mirho weren’t in class. They wouldn’t hurt Aki would they? He recalled their anger at him simply talking with Aki and the shear cruelty of how they regarded her. He made his decision quickly.Bookmark here

He jumped up and headed for the door. He waded through the crowd of people who were walking into the room. His classmates looked at him as thought something was wrong with him, wondering why he was leaving when class was about to start.Bookmark here

Sora did a brisk jog throughout the school. Where could Aki be? She said she was going to the bathroom, so she probably went to the one under the stairs across the building. Bookmark here

Suddenly, he heard someone screaming.Bookmark here

 “Shut up, slut!” a deafening smack! echoed down the hall. It sounded like Aki! Sora broke into a run.Bookmark here

When he reached the staircase, he saw Aki in the back hallway surrounded by his former friends. What he saw  happening made his heart sink down into his stomach. Bookmark here

En was behind Aki, holding her hands above her head. Mirho was beating on her while Ryo stood awkwardly as a sort of guard. Bookmark here

“P-p-p-please stop!” Aki begged. She was crying and her nose was gushing blood.Bookmark here

 “Heh! Like I’m going to listen to a little bitch like you?” Mirho laughed. “Girls like you make me sick! Acting like you can get whatever you want, using people just to get your own way, sleeping your way to the top…you don’t even be deserved to be called a human!” He pulled his fist back and drove it into Aki’s stomach.Bookmark here

 She gasped for air, spewing saliva as she crumpled to the ground. She hacked and coughed, trying to breath, and a little stream of blood trickled from her mouth.Bookmark here

“Hey! Get away from her!” Sora screamed running angrily towards them. Bookmark here

“Go away, Sora-Kun. Please don’t get involved! Don’t let yourself get hurt over some supid girl!” Ryo begged, blocking his way as Sora squirmed and tried to bypass him. Bookmark here

"S-s-sora-Kun…!” Aki choked out as she clutched her stomach.Bookmark here

En-Kun had let go of her arms and was smirking over her as she knelt on the floor. Bookmark here

“Aki! Stop hurting her! Why are you doing this?” Bookmark here

“Oh, so you’re still standing by the slut? Then I guess you’d be upset if I did this…?” Mirho looked at Sora sadistically before turning and viciously kicking Aki. She shrieked and gagged, unable to breath.Bookmark here

“Aki!” Sora didn’t care about anything but protecting Aki. She was his dear friend and watching her suffering made him feel like he was the one being hurt. It was like the three boys knew that and were deliberately trying to torture him, as if they cared more about making him suffer than taking their hate out on Aki. It was so vile and sick that he wanted to throw up! How could he had ever considered these monsters his friends?Bookmark here

“Move it, ass-hole!” Sora yelled, charging at Ryo. His former friend didn’t move, maybe out of shock that Sora Kusagi, of all people was actually willing to fight him!Bookmark here

 Sora jumped and slammed his body into Ryo’s, jamming his left elbow into the other boy’s stomach. Ryo dropped like a sack of potatoes.Bookmark here

“Stop it!” He ordered again, facing Mirho. Bookmark here

“Or what?” Mirho gave him a twisted, sadistic smile. “Can’t you tell that we’re the ones who have the upper hand here? What are you going to do, throw a manga at me?” The two boys stared each other down.Bookmark here

“ So what? ‘Might doesn’t make right’, that ring a bell? No one has the right to beat up someone just because they don’t like them!” Sora quoted from the series that had been Mirho’s favorite. It had been a story about a heroic prince and Mirho had remained obsessed with it throughout much of elementary school. Bookmark here

“Ugh, hearing a worthless puke like you act all righteous and mighty makes me sick!” Mirho complained, completely ignoring the reference to his favorite book. “Bookmark here

Like you have any right to tell us what we can and can’t do? Don’t you realize how weak and useless you are? Ever since we were kids, you followed us around. You weren’t annoying or a burden, but you didn’t add anything to our friendship, either! All you were useful for is being whatever anyone asked you to be! So you finally grew up and developed your own opinions, yay!” Mirho deadpanned sarcastically. Bookmark here

“What are you going to do about it? All you know how to do is what other people tell you to do. You’re too slow and dull to figure out what to do on your own!” Bookmark here

Suddenly, Mirho pulled his arm back and slugged Sora in the face with enough force to cause him to stagger backwards. Bookmark here

Sora rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Shoot! It was bleeding. He stood back up and looked at Mirho. The other boy wasn’t going to just give up. He was in an extraordinarily foul mood today.Bookmark here

'I gotta be careful! He’s much more athletic than me and he’s in the basketball and European martial-arts clubs. I don’t have much of a chance but, then again, I don’t have much of a choice right now, either.’ He glanced over at Aki. Bookmark here

The poor girl was curled up in a corner. She looked as limp as a doll and Sora was worried about the toll that the beating had taken on her. She needed to go to the nurse’s office, right now! With the boot stomping she had received, who knew what was wrong with her? The three boys could have cracked one of her ribs and wouldn’t have been bothered by it in the slightest.Bookmark here

Mirho lunged forward again, but Sora was faster. He grabbed his former friend’s arm and, while Mirho was still too stunned to process what was occurring, Sora flung him over his knee and slammed in into his stomach. Mirho let out a sound like a pig being strangled. Sora let him drop to the floor, where he moaned and clutched his stomach.Bookmark here

He sighed, relieved that he had actually landed a hit on Mirho. It couldn’t have been anything but a combination of adrenaline and divine intervention. Even so, it was enough. All
he wanted to do was get the boys to stand down so that he could get Aki to the nurse’s office. Even after what they had done to her, even knowing how cruel and selfish they were, Sora still couldn’t find it in him to go any farther. While they may have condemned it as weakness, he saw it as having a conscious. He had no desire to beat up, tear down, or bully anyone. He wasn’t going to go down the moral high road and act like he was better than them, but he wasn’t going to degrade himself by stooping to their level, either.Bookmark here

“Shut up! Don’t you lecture me!” He complained, rolling his eyes. “I’m boring. My only hobbies are things that most people would consider uncultured. I’m not good with people and my grades aren’t that great. I never claimed to be amazing or anything.” He stared at the ground. Bookmark here

“But you…are so wrong! You act like I’m a robot or puppet, happy to be controlled by whoever pulls my strings! That’s wrong! Haven’t you ever thought about anyone’s feelings besides your own?” He gestured with him arm angrily. Bookmark here

He was done with being quiet and polite. He was going to let his former friends have it and make it clear what he thought of them. Bookmark here

“Aki-Chan deceived me? I’m some sort of backstabbing bastard who's only out to pick up girls? I’m trying to embarrass you? Oh please!” Sora’s voice jumped another octave. Bookmark here

“You act like I don’t think at all, like I don’t have feelings and desires of my own! Ever since we were kids, all you three saw me as was someone to fill with your ideas! The only reason you think I’m crazy is because you want me to think like you and be like you and meekly fall back into line! Well, no one’s controlling me! For the first time in my whole life, I’m actually thinking for myself and doing what makes me happy!”Bookmark here

“Y-y-y—you…!” Mirho stuttered still clutching his stomach in pain.Bookmark here

“I wasn’t deceived by Aki-Chan! She wasn’t some whore who slept around like you said she was, so why would I want to embarrass her and ruin her life just because she looks like something she isn’t? Even if she had been who you thought she was…that still doesn’t give you a right to ruin her life! Other humans don’t exist just for you to satisfy your amusement!” Sora took a deep breath. Bookmark here

“She likes anime and games like I do! She understands me and what I like! When we’re together…we can just goof off and have fun. She treated me more like a friend in five hours than the three of you did in in ten years! We’re on the same level and do things together. When I was with you guys…All I did was fallow you all around because I felt inferior. Because I wasn’t extraordinary, because I was from a normal family, because I wasn’t rich, you made me feel like I had to stay silent, like I was bound to respect your authority. Money, talent, looks, none of that defines who a person is but you…you manipulated me!” Sora burst out.Bookmark here

“You got me to accept your superficial judgements as normal! I was nothing more than a toy to you, but I accepted it because I didn’t know any better! Do you know what it feels like, not having a direction in life? Feeling like there isn’t any reason to improve yourself; like your opinions and aspirations met nothing? Well, do you?” Sora yelled, getting on a roll.Bookmark here

 He was ready to get rid of this weight that has been sitting upon his shoulders for so long. He may have realized its existence only recently, but he was more than ready to throw It off. He didn’t want to have any regrets anymore.Bookmark here

He wasn’t going to be a face in the crowd anymore. He was going to live with a purpose, even if that purpose was just discovering who he was and becoming comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t want to be apathetic about life anymore. Aki, Ichigo, Rina, even Mitsu-San…they all had such energy and enthusiasm! They lived each day as if the little moments were as important as the big ones and managed to find the fun and excitement in everything! Life itself was a reason to enjoy every day to them. Now that he had been accepted into their group, he wanted to give it his all. He wanted to be able to enjoy life the way the four girls did. He wanted to figure out how to have real friendships and how to deal with other people. He’d found where he belonged. But to make his wish his reality…he clenched his fists.Bookmark here

He had to spell it out, word-for-word, for his former friends. He needed to have the courage to state his dream to the world, or else it would just be worthless, meaningless words.Bookmark here

“Aki-Chan…She’s weird, loud, annoying, pushy…and honestly one of the kindest humans I’ve ever met! Ever since we became friends…my life has been so much better. I’ve met people who accept me for who I am. I’ve had so much fun and tried different things. She’s pushed me out of my comfort zone. She isn’t who you think she is. You guys are just jealous because I’ve found friends who love and accept me for who I am and I’m too smart to need your fake friendship anymore!” He screamed, spit and sweat flying. “I’m done with you guys for good! I’m truly happy for the first time in a long time and I’m not going to let you ruin it!”Bookmark here

Suddenly, intense pain shot through Sora’s neck as something slammed into it. His vision blurred and his legs went watery. As he feel to the floor Sora forced his head to turn. His blood froze in his veins.Bookmark here

“E-E-En-Kun?” He uttered in disbelief, his eyes growing wide. His intelligent former friend stood behind him with a look on his face that could have frozen the sun. ‘Bookmark here

But…he isn’t…he’s not the athletic type or the type to get into fights!’ Sora’s mind swirled. Bookmark here

‘All he did was hold Aki down; he’s not the type to dirty his own hands. So why…? Why is he so angry?’Bookmark here

“Do you really think that I give a damn?” En said in a cold, matter-of-fact voice. “So what if you are a tool? You have your place and you should know it. You are intellectually, emotionally, and economically inferior to me. You are inferior in talent to Ryo-Kun and Mirho-Kun. You have your place and you should remember. Don’t go acting like you have any power over me. So what if you think what I’m doing is wrong? So what if I’m being unfair or illogical? I can do whatever I want and you have no right or power to complain or stop me.”Bookmark here

“En-kun!...” His eyes and voice were so cold! Like he was talking to algae and not a human! He was very cruel and calculating under his formal and pleasant demeanor; how had Sora never noticed it before? He had never suspected that his friend was like this. He knew that Mirho was sadistic to an extent; he was openly focused on his own desires, but he didn’t take it to this level! Mirho knew when he had pushed too far and either felt bad or openly admitted that he didn’t care. En-Kun…it was like he genuinely had no clue how sadistic and evil he sounded. Bookmark here

Sora sunk to the floor in a state of wooziness, unable to defend himself from any future attacks. ‘H-how? How? How? ‘ He asked himself in shock. Bookmark here

‘How could there have been such a horrible, evil person right next to me this whole time? How come I never noticed? What was wrong with me that I never knew what kind of people I was with all these years?”Bookmark here

“Stop it!” Suddenly, a blur shot out from behind them and sent En-Kun flying away from Sora. He looked up in shock. “Ryo?” Bookmark here

This day just kept getting more and more surreal!Bookmark here

“That’s enough, En!” Ryo said, standing in from of Sora. Bookmark here

“You moron! What do you think you are doing? Move!” En ordered Ryo as he staggered to his feet. Bookmark here

“No.” Ryo stood his ground. “This has gone way too far! I don’t really like Asagi-San and I’ll admit it. But beating her up was taking it too far-she didn’t do anything to you! You could have seriously injured her!” He gestured to Aki, still curled up and moaning in the corner. Bookmark here

“And now beating up Sora just because he wanted to protect her? What’s wrong with you?” Bookmark here

“Move, Ryo. I don’t know why you care so much about these pieces of human scum, but you are in my way.” An annoyed En-Kun ordered casually.Bookmark here

“No…no!” Ryo declared. “I’m done listening to you! I’ve had my doubts for a while now, but when Sora ditched us for the gal, they all came back. ‘Is this the kind of person that I really want to be?’ ‘What am I doing with these guys?‘ ‘Is the way that they treat Sora-Kun really all that bad?' 'I play along with them, but I’m still friends with Sora, so maybe I’m just imagining that they don’t like him? He doesn’t seem hurt or bullied, so it’s probably just the way they are.’ But now that I’ve seen what you’re willing to do to…” Ryo clenched his fists. Bookmark here

“I’m done with you, too! I don’t care if I’m lonely and have no friends! Anything is better than being around you guys! I actually regret the things that I said and did but you and Mirho…If you ask me, the real scum around here is you!” He snarled at En-KunBookmark here

While Ryo and En-Kun were busy confronting each other, Sora managed to regain some of his stability. Staggering to his feet, he managed to stumble to the corner that Aki had wedged herself into. “Aki-Chan? Aki, are you okay?” He knelt down next to her.Bookmark here

“ugghhh.” She let out a sad and pathetic moan. Sora did a quick look-over of her injuries. Bookmark here

Aki was bloody and her uniform was tattered. After being beaten so much, those cuts on her face had to hurt. He needed to get her to the nurse’s office! No one was around to help him. No one would likely come this far back in the school while afternoon classes were in session. Bookmark here

Aki was extremely  incoherent and might be too frightened to tell what really happened to her. But it would be unfair to just let them get away with something so horrible. If they could be so cruel to a girl just because they didn’t like how she dressed, who’s to say that they wouldn’t do something even worse to someone else who rubbed them the wrong way? As scared as he was, Sora knew that everything was up to him now. He knew what the right thing to do was, but no one else was going to do it for him.Bookmark here

“Hey, Aki.” He said softly, standing up. “I’m going to take you to the nurse, okay? Mirho is still down and En and Ryo are fighting with each other, so I’ll need you to try your best not to make any noises, okay? We need to get out of here while they aren’t paying attention to us. “Ugh-hun.” Aki nodded the best she could. “Okay.” Bookmark here

Sora crouched down and draped Aki’s left arm around his neck. He hooked his right arm around her waist as tightly as he could. Bookmark here

“Okay, good! I need you to try and stand, Aki. I know that your head probably hurts, but you have to try.” Bookmark here

“Okay…” she said in a soft, hoarse voice that sounded nothing like her normal, perky tone. Sora’s guts squeezed together in his stomach. Would Aki actually be okay? What if they had hit something vital?Bookmark here

He slowly hoisted her to her feet. ‘Okay, so she’s kind of standing.’ Sora thought to himself. ‘Her legs and her stance are all wacked up, almost like she’s drunk, but she’s partially supporting her own weight and can kind of move. That’s a good sign, right?’ He hoped wistfully. Bookmark here

‘Hey, God?’ he though as he and Aki began their slow, painstaking journey down the hall. Bookmark here

By some blessing, they were able to slip right past the three boys. Ryo and En were still engaged in yelling at each other and trading blows. Mirho eyes showed some recognition, but he was still too out of it to do anything.Bookmark here

‘I know I’ve sucked at praying lately and that I fall asleep during church a lot, but is it okay if I ask you for just one thing? Please just…let Aki be okay. It’s horrible, seeing one of my friends in pain and not being able to fix everything for them. And it was all my fault she got attacked in the first place. If I had been wiser and chosen better friends…if I had been able to handle they guys better…if I had tried to explain everything…if I had pushed the issue…if we had just talked to each other…then they wouldn’t have attacked her to hurt me. Please, don’t let her suffer because of me! And…just…help me get Aki to the nurse, okay? Since I’m not strong and this is really hard! But…yeah…amen, I guess?' Sora ended his mental prayer.Bookmark here

Aki gave a little moan as the two limped down the hall. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry.” Sora said softly as they made slow progress. Bookmark here

“I won’t let them hurt you ever again. I promise, you’re safe, the nurse is going to fix you up, and you’ll be okay!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.