Chapter 29:

Volume 2: Chapter 1: The Boy With no Sense of Self-Worth - Part 2

Nephalem


Alicia stared hard at the door as though willing it to combust from her gaze alone. Nothing happened. No one entered. No one left. The person she was waiting for didn’t return. She shifted her gaze from the door to the clock that was hanging on the wall. 1:11pm. She frowned, then looked back at the door. Still nothing.


Jacob is almost late.


There were four minutes until class started again, and Jacob had yet to show up, which worried her. When he left the classroom for any reason, he usually returned within five minutes. Nine minutes had passed this time.


She stood up and made for the door.


“Alicia? Where are you going? Class is to start,” said one of the girls. Alicia didn’t know her name. She was just one of the classmates that chatted with her sometimes, though since this girl only spoke when Jacob wasn’t present, Alicia had deemed her not worth remembering.


“I’m going to find Jacob,” Alicia told her before leaving. She knew that her words would cause people to whisper about them, but she didn’t really care. Let them talk. If they were so willing to speak ill of her friend, then she would gladly tell each and every one of them to burn in Hell.


She strode down the hall, her footsteps mixing in with the marching feet of others. A number of the people she passed stopped talking to stare at her. Alicia paid them no mind.


Jacob said he was going to the bathroom.


Their school consisted of a single, large, four-story building. While the bottom floor was dedicated to the teachers’ offices, the other three floors consisted of classrooms. Each floor was for one class, with the second being freshmen and the top being seniors. As juniors, hers and Jacob’ were on the third floor.


There were several bathrooms on each floor. Alicia went to the one nearest her class.


She had barely reached it before she heard the sounds coming from the bathroom. They echoed from inside, splashing water, taunting jeers, and, beyond even that, strangled gurgling. Alicia strolled right in.


Three people were in the bathroom. They were in one of the stalls. She couldn’t figure out what was going on. The people, three boys from her class, were laughing and jeering as one of them was holding someone in their school uniform down. The one whose head was stuck in the toilet gurgled and struggled, fighting to keep from being drowned. It took her a moment, but she soon realized who that person was.


Alicia felt something boil up from inside of, red hot and burning. Her vision went red. She walked up to the boys.


The first one didn’t even see her coming. Alicia tapped him on the shoulder, and then, when he turned around, she punched him in the face, putting all of her 58 kilograms into it. The satisfaction she received from seeing her fist cave in someone’s face outweighed the pain in her knuckles by far. The student slammed into the metal stall, denting it and alerting the other two students to her presence.


They squawked in surprise, whether at seeing a girl in the boy’s bathroom or because that girl was her, she didn’t know. She also didn’t care. Before either of them could respond, she took a step forward, bent her knees, and launched an uppercut into the second boy’s chin. He flew into the air and slammed into the ceiling, cracking it. Alicia had infused her Powers of the King into that punch.


“A-Alicia!” The last boy standing squeaked. “What are—AAAAHHHHHHHNNNN!!”


She did not give him the chance to continue. His scream rang out across the bathroom as she grabbed his nipples through his shirt, twisted them harshly, and then pulled them as if trying to rip them off. Tears stung the boy’s eyes, but she showed him no mercy. Alicia swung him through the air by his nipples, slamming him into the stall walls, denting them. Then she tossed him outside of the stall, where his face planted into a urinal that hadn’t been flushed.


When all three boys were lying on the ground, a groaning mess of bleeding flesh, Alicia looked at Jacob. He had removed his head from the toilet. Seeing him sitting on the ground, his hair sticking to his face as he leaned over, sucking in deep gulps of air, made her chest sting.


“Jacob.” She knelt down beside him and grabbed his arm. It was wet, but she ignored that as she slung it around her shoulder.


“A-Alicia?” he mumbled as she helped him stand. His legs were shaking. He might have been a powerful Nephalem, but even he couldn’t survive without oxygen.


“Come on,” she said softly. “Let’s get you to the nurse’s office.”


The nurse’s office was on the first floor. Alicia half-helped, half-carried Jacob as he recovered from oxygen deprivation.


It was mercifully empty when they reached the nurse’s office, with the nurse nowhere to be found. If she had been there, Jacob might have been kicked out.


Alicia helped him over to one of the two beds that were located inside of the office. They walked past the counter, which contained the sink and cabinets filled with medicine. A desk, which had a basic computer on it, was clear of clutter. Alicia set him down on the bed next to the window. The curtains billowed as a soft breeze came in from outside.


“I’m sorry to be such a bother, Alicia,” Jacob said.


His words caused her to frown. “You shouldn’t apologize to me. When someone goes out of their way to do something for you, they’re not doing it because they want to hear you apologize. It would make me much happier to hear you say ‘thank you.’”


Lips twitching into a small smile, Jacob said, “thank you, Alicia.”


“You’re welcome,” she said, happy.


His next words made her less happy. “But… did you really have to hurt those three so badly? Couldn’t you have found a more peaceful resolution?”


“What are you saying?” she asked. “Are you saying that I shouldn’t have given those three their cummunpunce? That I should have just let them go with a slap to the wrist after what they did to you? They were trying to drown you, in case you hadn’t noticed.”


“They were only doing it because they were frightened of me,” Jacob said. He was sitting on the bed, his back against the headboard. His hair was still wet, caked to his face, though he didn’t appear bothered. “It isn’t their fault. It’s mine.”


Alicia couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She knew that Jacob was very tolerant—too tolerant—of how others treated him. He didn’t get angry when people whispered behind his back, he never had a bad thing to say about others when they refused him entrance into stores and restaurants, and she’d never once seen him become outraged at how he was overcharged at the few places he was allowed into. Even so, it was one thing to let issues like that go. It was quite different to defend people who were causing him physical harm.


“You…” Alicia’s fists shook. Her whole arms shook. “Why are you defending these people? They treat you like shit! Like you’re scum to be scraped off their shoes! Not a single person in this entire school—in this entire city!—has had one good thing to say about you, and yet you still defend their actions! Why?”


The smile that Jacob gave Alicia pissed her off. It pissed her off so much. She hated that calm, compassionate smile, that gentle glimmer in his eyes. That smile was being directed at the people who would cause him harm, who would talk badly about him, who treat him poorly, who hurt him. It was being directed at people who didn’t deserve it.


“Because that’s how things are,” he said simply as though it was just how it had to be, as if it was natural. “I’m not something they can understand. I frighten them, and it causes them to lash out at me. It isn’t their fault. It’s mine. If I hadn’t been born, if I had died back when I was younger, it would have been much better for—”


Alicia had heard enough. Her hand moved before her mind caught up to the action. As the sound of her hand smacking his face resounded around the room, she glared at him with all the indignation and hurt she could muster. Jacob, his wide-eyed expression displaying shock, stared at her as tears stung her eyes and fell down her cheeks.


“I hate how you always do this,” she whispered. “I can’t stand how you let these people walk all over you, but more than that, I hate how you can say something like that so easily. It would be better if you died? For who? For you? For them? Who would be better off if you died? Because it certainly wouldn’t be me!”


Jacob said nothing. Perhaps he had nothing to say, or maybe he’d been stunned into silence. That was fine. This would let Alicia get out all of the emotions she’d been bottling up inside of her since seeing how Jacob was treated.


“You’re an idiot, Jacob! A stupid, pig-headed, moron! Do you think you’re being cool when you say something like that? Do you think you’re some kind of martyr? What the hell is wrong with you?” As Jacob sat on the hospital bed, looking like he’d been broadsided by a truck, Alicia wiped her eyes. “You know what? I don’t care anymore. If you want to let these people walk all over you, go right ahead. I’m washing my hands of all this. Be an idiot for all care.”


Spinning around on her heel, Alicia marched out of the nurse's office. She didn’t know if Jacob tried to stop her, or if he’d just sat there like an idiot; she hadn’t given him enough time to do anything anyway. She marched up the stairs and back to the classroom. The bell had already rung. She apologized to the teacher and sat at her desk. The math teacher continued to lecture the class, but she wasn’t paying any attention. Her thoughts remained on the young man sitting in the nurse’s office.


Why is that idiot so damn stupid? She wondered to herself as she placed her chin on the butt of her left hand and stared out the window.


The lecture continued as if nothing had happened.


Jacob did not show up to class.