Chapter 8:

The Devil Beside Me (Part 2 of 2)

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

“Mmmm!” Aki muttered as her eyes fluttered open. Bookmark here

“Hey.” Sora smiled down at her as she woke up. “How you feeling?” Aki shifted on the nurse’s cot.Bookmark here

“I feel like I got hit by a bus.” Aki deadpanned, staring at the ceiling . Sora smirked. Well, at least Aki was acting like herself! Bookmark here

The nurse had given Aki some painkillers and patched up her cuts. She had called her grandmother and told her to take Aki in for a X-ray and examination to confirm that her ribs hadn’t been broken or bruised. She also wanted her to be examined for a potential concussion. But otherwise, Aki was alright and had no major, noticeable injuries.Bookmark here

Sora was relieved, but he still felt crummy. He felt queasy with guilt over being the reason that Aki had been attacked. He’d refused to leave the infirmary and had watched Aki sleep for an hour. The nurse had given her a sleeping pill and instructed her to lie down and rest. He supposed the headmaster would eventually come around to question them. That was a whole other problem waiting to happen-.Bookmark here

“Excuse me,” a stern and dull voice suddenly announced. Sora turned in his chair. It was the headmaster. Talk about insane timing!Bookmark here

The headmaster of Akiharra City Middle School was a very stern and cold man. He wasn’t mean or cruel per-say, but he wasn’t caring or very kind, either. He was a man well into his late fifties, already sporting a long, silver ponytail and beard. Both were neat and well groomed. Everything about this man screamed ‘order’. He had gray eyes as cool as his lack of emotion and smart-looking black glasses. He was well dressed, as usual.Bookmark here

“Mr.Mamami-Sama.” Sora gave as respectful of a bow as he could give while sitting down. Bookmark here

“Kusagi-Kun. Assagi-San.” The headmaster nodded at the two childrenBookmark here

”You know why I am here. I need to ask you two about the attack on Assagi-San so that we can properly discipline those responsible.”Bookmark here

“Y-yes, sir.” Sora’s heart pounded in his ears. Bookmark here

‘Oh, dear God!’ He thought. ‘What should I say? Do I tell him that En, Ryo, and Mirho were the ones who beat up Aki? Or…do I lie? But...that would only hurt Aki. What would she think if I protected those three scum after what they did to her? She must be so angry at them now, so why should I stand in the way of justice?'Bookmark here

“Assagi-San. Tell me your version of the story." Mr.Mamami  quickly jumped into his questioning.Bookmark here

Aki blinked and stared at a water-spot on the ceiling. “There…isn’t much for me to tell you, sir. I ate lunch on the roof with my friends and I came down about ten minutes before classes were going to resume. I had to go to the bathroom and I went to the one at the very back of the school because I knew that the other ones would probably be busy. And then…”Bookmark here

‘Here we go.’ Sora inwardly cringed.Bookmark here

“I guess that I was jumped by someone after I finished using the restroom. There were at least two people but, beyond that, I don’t know. All I saw were feet, fists. They were stomping on me and throwing me around, so I didn’t get a good look at their faces. Three? Five? Ten? I have no clue how many there were. Then we all heard someone coming down the hall. The people all ran up the back staircase that no one uses. I guess that they didn't want to be caught or identified. It was Sora-Kun. He found me and brought me here. I’m sorry, but that’s all I know, sir.”Bookmark here

“Are you sure that you are okay? I find it hard to believe that you could have not actually seen their faces.” The headmaster scrutinized her.Bookmark here

Sora’s eyes went wide and he glared at the ground. Bookmark here

‘Why?’ He asked himself in confusion. ‘Why would she…she’s lying! I know that she saw them and knew who they were! I find it hard to believe that they would just attack her without saying anything, especially when they hate her so much! Besides, they did this to get back at me, so why wouldn’t they make themselves known? Everyone in school knows who those three are. Besides…’ He thought back to last week.Bookmark here

He had gone to the coffee shop with Aki again. They ended up sitting on a bench at the oceanside park, just drinking coffee and talking. But Aki had brought up the three boys, wondering why they always seemed to be watching them and radiating hate. He’d left out the story of why he’d been on the roof that day; he didn’t plan on ever divulging that part; but he’d shared how they believed the rumors about her and ended their friendship over his desire to hang out with her.Bookmark here

She knew who they were, she knew that they hated her, and she knew why they had done what they did, so, why? Why lie? Why cover for the boys who had abused her?Bookmark here

Aki’s eyelids fluttered from her exhaustion. “I’m not…I don’t know. I'm sorry. Why don’t you just…ask Sora-Kun?”Bookmark here

Aki’s bright green eyes blazed into Sora’s. He could clearly see what she was begging him to do. ‘Please, don’t tell him the truth!’ Bookmark here

Sora felt sick. He wanted to honor Aki’s wishes, but to lie…letting someone get away with what his former friends had done…it went against every moral fiber in his body! And lying to the headmaster of all people, too! Bookmark here

“Kusagi-San.” Mr.Mamami turned to him.Bookmark here

‘Oh, crap!’ Sora cringed. Bookmark here

“Yes, sir!” Sora sweated.Bookmark here

“What is your side of this story.”Bookmark here

“W-w-well, S-s-sir.” Sora stuttered. "Aki went to use the bathroom before class restarted, but she didn’t come back in time. That was weird for her and I went looking for her. I found her in the back. Three guys were beating on her. One was holding her down, the other was beating her, and the last guy was standing guard. I body-slammed the third guy and shoved the guy beating her away. Then I guess they were scared off because I made so much noise.”Bookmark here

“Did you recognize them?”Bookmark here

“N-no.” Sora forced himself to choke out the false words.Bookmark here

“ I didn’t recognize them. Maybe they were third years? I don’t know if I’d recognize them again, though. They looked…really ordinary. Unremarkable.” Sora’s mouth tasted bitter from the blatant lies. Bookmark here

“I see.” The headmaster seemed frustrated, like he didn’t believe them, but couldn’t prove it. Bookmark here

“Well, then, I’ll let Assagi-San rest. I will investigate this incident and do what I can to find those boys, but I wouldn’t expect much. From your description, it will be near impossible to find out anything.” He turned to leave then, pausing with his hands clasped behind his back, abruptly turned back to address Aki. Bookmark here

“Assagi-San. While, by my position's nature, I cannot condone an attack on a student, I’d advise you to be more cautious. You are…” He paused, seeming to fight back disgust. “Very exhibitionist in your dress and mannerisms and might want to consider changing your actions and appearance so that you do not further attract the attention of people with ill motives.” Having made his point, the headmaster turned and promptly left.Bookmark here

Sora felt anger rising up in him once again. That old son of a…how dare he talk Aki like that? He all but declared her to be a whore that deserved to be bullied and abused! The nerve-saying that she needed to change herself, as if someone could make anyone attack them if they didn't want to! The choice to attack Aki had been the boys choice alone; she never asked for it. If anyone had spent time getting to know her, they would have known that her outward appearance was totally deceiving and that Aki was really little kid in the body of a middle-school girl.Bookmark here

‘I…I’m glad that I didn’t tell the truth after that. I don’t think he would have done anything, even if I’d told him what had really happened.’ Sora thought. ‘I get the feeling…maybe not like En, Mirho, and Ryo, but…I don’t think that Mr.Mamami likes Aki. I think he hates her. He probably would have just found another way to blame her and let them get away with it, especially because they are such popular students. ’Bookmark here

He looked at Aki and moved his chair closer to her. There was one thing even more confusing about this situation to him than the irrational hatred of humans. Bookmark here

“Hey, Aki?” He asked. Bookmark here

“Y-Yeah, Sora-Kun?” She replied, rolling over onto her right side and giving him a small smile. Bookmark here

“Why did you cover up for En-Kun, Ryo, and Mirho? I know that you knew who they were. They beat you up for no good reason other than their own pleasure, so why did you lie to protect them?”Bookmark here

Aki closed her eyes. “As strange as it is…I forgive them. I know, it’s weird, but I’m not…angry or anything. I should be but...” She opened and closed her fingers, thinking. ”If anything, I pity them for being that angry, that hateful. I feel bad for anyone who could spend their life living like that, so fixated on someone else for no good reason.” Bookmark here

Sora stared at Aki in stunned silence. What was this this girl? He knew that she took the whole, “I’m a Japanese Christian” thing seriously, but even this seemed to be pushing it. How could she just forgive those monsters and let them get away with what they had done? Bookmark here

Aki’s statement did ring true, though. The three probably wouldn’t hurt anyone else. They were monsters but, for whatever reason, their most intense hate was reserved for Aki. Their worst antics before Aki had always been petty slights and pranks. It was bad for Aki, but good for everyone else who seemed to think that they were flawless and perfect.Bookmark here

“Why are you so mad at them, Sora-Kun?” Aki asked innocently. “Are you only mad about what they did to me, or are you angry at them about other things? Or do you just want to see them punished for doing bad stuff, being mean to you, and hurting innocent people? Do you want to see ‘justice served’ for them being horrible humans? Why do you want to punish them so badly? In my mind, this will just be a greater punishment to them. Living life like normal and not letting their pettiness get to us; that will be even more painful to them. They wanted to hold their power over us and show us that they’re better than us, but we won’t pay any attention to them and we won’t let them control our lives. We won’t be consumed by hate or fear. What else can they really do to us, anyway? We’re the one who chose to be afraid, who can choose how to react. Do we really want to stoop down to their level? I’m not afraid, so why are you stressed out so much?”Bookmark here

Sora flushed and then began laughing. “You’re…you’re really something else, Aki-Chan.” He said softly.Bookmark here

“W-what do you mean? It’s not like I said anything profound or anything, just what I felt." She blushed brightly.Bookmark here

 "Hey, do you have any Tylenol?” Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah. Just a second.” Sora bent down to rummage through his school bag.Bookmark here

‘Really, this girl…is the kindest person I know. Those three have to be the blindest people that I ever met. This is taking the whole ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ thing to the extreme, but she isn’t trying to be dramatic. She isn’t forcing this, it’s natural. She really isn’t bothered by what the guys did to her. This sort of stuff truly doesn’t faze her; she has her priorities straight.’Bookmark here

“Here you go.” He handed the pills to Aki. Bookmark here

“I’ll get some water.” Sora walked over to the tap and filled a flimsy plastic cup and went back to the cot. Aki struggled to sit upright and water sloshed over the side of the cup as she tried hold it.Bookmark here

“Hey, careful! Here, let me help!” Sora insisted, grabbing the cup before she spilt all the water. He held the cup up for Aki to take in water, then placed the pills against her lips. After she had swallowed the water and pills, he held the cup out again so she could wash the medication down.Bookmark here

“Thanks.” Aki smiled as she settled back down on the cot.Bookmark here

“Hey, Aki?” Sora said softly as he sat down. Bookmark here

“You’re right. About this not being worth turning the guys in over. You…you see things more clearly than I can. You can stay calm and think when I can't. suffering...mean people…none of that can really hurt us, right? When we start thinking that our current problems in this world are the end-all to everything…” He rubbed his hands on his pants.Bookmark here

“Then we don’t pay attention to what really matters and we waste our lives on meaningless crap. Like them. Those three are shallow morons. Even getting worked up over this and pursuing revenge will just make them seem smarter and more important than they actually are. Beating up a girl who can't fight back over a petty grudge after sneaking up on her, how cleaver." He deadpanned.Bookmark here

"That part of my life is done and over with. I’m happy to be your friend and I’m happy to have met Rina-Chan, Ichigo, and Mitsu-San because of you. I don’t need to deal with those guys anymore. I’m the one who choses what I value and who I include in my life and I chose to value good people who make me happy and memories that I'll remember fondly. If someone can't understand that, then they aren't worth my time. Those three are just laughably sad losers who don’t understand things like selflessness and friendship." He took a breath.Bookmark here

"I’m sorry for what happened to you, and I take full responsibility. Despite what you may say, it really was my fault, but I’m not going to dwell on it. I pissed them off and they retaliated, but I didn't do anything wrong. This is just another reason to avoid them like the plague. You’re alright and you aren't upset, so I’m going to be happy and do my best to move on with my life and not worry about this anymore.”Bookmark here

Aki smiled. “I’m glad. Constantly worrying about what everyone thinks of you sucks the joy out of life. I know that you’re the kind of person who gets real flustered and worried easily, Sora-Kun, but you should lighten up! You’re only one person in God’s gigantic universe so why waste your life fixating on painful and meaningless stuff? You should be enjoying life! if there is something blocking your way, then you should try to fix it. If it's out of your hands, then just do your best because you can't make anything happen.” She looked at him critically.Bookmark here

“Sora-Kun, I don’t think that you really know how to have fun.” She suddenly declared bluntlyBookmark here

“H-hey!” Sora turned away indignantly. “I am not! And how did this become all about me?”Bookmark here

Aki giggled. “Aww! Come on, Sora-kun! It’s true! I believe that anime, games, and manga are the best things ever, but you know nothing at all about having a social life, or good coffee shops, or fun places to visit, or any other cool things to do that involve leaving your house.”Bookmark here

Sora twitched and sweated. Busted!Bookmark here

“Okay…so your point is?” He rolled his eyes.Bookmark here

Aki giggled harder. “The point is that you worry about what people think about you and how complex personal relationships can be, so you just take the easy route and spend all you're time alone. It's what's comfortable to you, but you really don’t know how to relax and have fun when you’re around other people. I personally think that it's because those three guys never treated you like a real friend and used you as a tool. You’re too tense, just like Mitsu-San!” She paused and thought for a moment. Bookmark here

“Well, you do know how to laugh and are willing to have fun. Mitsu-San is bored by fun and annoyed by people. She's just really serious and that's how she is. I guess, with you, it’s more that it’s that you don’t know how to have fun with the small stuff in life and have a very small threshold for fun. You basically don't know how to live in the moment and only live for the major moments and miss out on the less grand good stuff.” She surmised.Bookmark here

“Urg…” Sora slapped his palm across his face and tilted his head towards the ceiling.Bookmark here

 ‘You know…she isn’t wrong.' He slowly thought to himself.Bookmark here

"You…really don’t know how to make friends. You prefer to be alone because it’s easier than trying to get to know anyone. Less effort and no risk of rejection. Have you really ever done anything other than go to ACE Games alone and ride the train system for fun? Maybe that’s why Ichigo and Rina annoy you so much. You don’t know how to fully enjoy the company of other people so their carefree joy frustrates you because you can’t relate to it.’ Bookmark here

Aki was annoying in her methods, but correct. She was exceptionally perceptive and reflective, despite how air-headed she may have outwardly appeared. She was very upfront and didn’t hold back, even if you would be offended. It was actually very refreshing to have someone speak to him honestly and not just tell him what would make him easy to manipulate.Bookmark here

“Hey, Sora-Kun? I was wondering…that boy with the pink hair…” Aki asked suddenly, as if she had just remembered something.Bookmark here

“Ryo? Yeah, what about him?” Sora asked, taking his hand off of his face and looking back down.Bookmark here

“I-I don’t know how to put it exactly…” Aki tapped her finger on her mouth and paused, searching for the right words.Bookmark here

“But…I sensed very little hate coming from him. The other two…their malice was almost tangible and it was clear that they utterly hated my guts. But Ryo…he seemed…I don’t know. All he did was stand guard. He didn't lay a hand on me the whole time . He seemed…disgusted, like he didn’t like what was happening, but he didn’t do anything to stop it.”Bookmark here

“You’re wrong!” Sora automatically shot back in a defensive tone. He cringed, realizing how much it sounded like he was defending the enemy.Bookmark here

“Sorry, sorry! But…you’re wrong. Ryo…” He thought back to his former best friend flying at En-Kun.Bookmark here

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

“…he’s the reason we got away. Didn’t you hear him and En-Kun fighting at the end?”Bookmark here

“Well...I did hear bit of screaming, but I was kind of out of it at that point.” Aki admitted.Bookmark here

“Well, we almost didn’t get away. I took Mirho out, but then En attacked me from behind. I didn’t stand a chance against him, but Ryo pushed En away and saved me. He told him that he was disgusting for attacking and told them to leave us alone. They got into a fight and it gave me a chance to get your to the nurse”Bookmark here

“Really?” Aki sat up slightly in surprise. “What do you make of that?”Bookmark here

“Well…” Sora thought. Bookmark here

“I really don’t know, but Ryo is different than the other two. He’s a bit prideful and arrogant, but not to the extent of Mirho and En-Kun. They’re high-class and rich, but he’s more upper-class. He’s a weird guy, but he’s more or less normal. To be honest, he’s the one of them that I knew the best and he's probably the only one of them who was genuinely my friend . He wasn’t smug and self-righteous after they started shunning me. It seemed like Ryo felt genuinely betrayed and hurt. He wasn't petty or obnoxious about it and was surprisingly gentle about it compared to how sadistic Mirho was.”Bookmark here

“Wow.” Aki sat processing it all. Bookmark here

“What do you think will happen to him now that he fought back?”Bookmark here

Sora shrugged. “I don’t know. They’ll probably shun him like they did me. But he’ll be fine. He’s a very lively person, so I’m sure he’ll find a new inner circle soon.”Bookmark here

They sat in silence for a few moments.Bookmark here

“Thank you for saving me.” Aki finally said.Bookmark here

 “You were…amazing! Honestly, I’m afraid to know what would have happened to me if you hadn't showed up!"Bookmark here

Sora blushed a fiery red. “It-it’s not like that, Aki-Chan!” His face burned.Bookmark here

 “I Just did what any decent human being would do, and it’s not like I was good at it!”Bookmark here

 He pointed to the band-aids covering the scratches on his face. “I got beat up, too! The only reason we won was because Ryo protected us!  I’m nothing special, I just want to protect the people I love and do the right thing whenever I can. That’s all.”Bookmark here

“…You’re my hero, Sora-Kun!” Aki grinned.Bookmark here

Sora turned five shades darker. “I told you, I’m not like that at all!Bookmark here

Aki burst out laughing. “You’re goofy!” She coughed out.Bookmark here

 “But that’s why I love being with you! You’re nice and you make me laugh!”Bookmark here

“I think you are severally over estimating the strength and substance of my character.” Sora deadpanned.Bookmark here

“Besides, I’m bland, boring, and know nothing about fun, remember?” He added.Bookmark here

“You are!” Aki confirmed cheerfully. “But you’re still kind and being boring makes you fun, in a way, because it makes your reactions so funny!”Bookmark here

“So…you just keep me around for entertainment?” Sora yelled in annoyance.Bookmark here

“Kind of, but not really. If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t be friends with you. That is a very shallow and pointless reason to spend a lot of time with someone and I’m not as petty as your old friends.”Bookmark here

“Yeah. You're nothing like them.” Sora conceded. Bookmark here

"Even if you just keep me around for amusement, I'd still chose you over them any day because you aren't out for sadistic amusement."Bookmark here

He couldn’t imagine Aki ever wanting to do anything like that. She was far too simple minded to be so deceptive. He still didn’t have a read on how much she really knew and understood about the rumors around her. She was shunned, pointed at, and whispered about, to the point that it would be hard to not notice it, but she didn’t seem all that aware of the fact that she was considered a whore. Maybe she was truly out of it and unaware of how cruel people could be, or maybe she genuinely didn’t see it because she didn’t have a suspicious mind; Sora himself wasn’t sure which one it was. Maybe she even didn't believe that people would think like that because she herself knew that the rumors were 100% false. How would he know without explicitly bringing it up? Bookmark here

Even so…it was just…nice, having someone to protect, someone to laugh with and talk to. He was happy that his friends had put him up to attempting to bully Aki-Chan because he honestly couldn’t imagine his life without her now. Bookmark here

In a sense, the fight had given him a sense of peace, a sense of closure to this whole nasty episode. He knew that he had done the right thing by leaving his old friends and he was sure that he was where he was supposed to be in life. He felt free, like he was actually living his life for the first time and not just existing. He knew he could never go back to being friends with the guys, even if they forgave him and apologized. Now he could actually move forward with his new friends without anymore hesitation.Bookmark here

“Oh nooooooooo!” Aki wailed suddenly.Bookmark here

“What?” Sora asked, startled. Was something wrong? Had the nurse missed a crucial injury?Bookmark here

“This means we won’t get to take our trip to the culture district today!” Aki complained

Sora's veins popped in anger.Bookmark here

"So that's what you're so concerned about right now?" He screeched. Bookmark here

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You can resume reading from this paragraph.