The dismissal bell at Sarayashiki Junior High, or Hell on Earth as you liked to call it, rang loudly throughout the school, and students poured out of the classroom and into the hallways, eager to begin their three-day weekend. As usual, you were the last one left in the room, other than your teacher. You leisurely gathered your books and school supplies as you listened to a group of girls chatter animatedly right outside of the classroom door about their plans together for the next few days.
You were a bit of a loner. While you had friends to sit with at lunch and talk to on a daily basis at school, you never hung out with them on a personal level. On the weekends and evenings after school, you always found yourself sitting at home by yourself, studying, reading books, doing chores for your parents, or helping your younger brother with his homework. That was fine with you, though, because you had a hard time trusting any of your classmates. Cliques ran rampant at Sarayashiki Junior High, as well as bullying. You simply preferred to avoid all of it by keeping to yourself.
After said goodbye to your teacher, you picked up your school briefcase by its handle and walked out of the classroom. The girls that had been standing right outside the door were gone, as well as many of the other students that had been lingering in the hallways. You passed a few teachers that were wandering the hallways and smiled at each of them as you exited the school. Once you felt the warmth of the sun’s rays hit your skin, you sighed contently. You were fortunate that the forecasted rain showers had stayed away as you had forgotten your umbrella at your house that morning.
Your walk home usually took you roughly twenty minutes if you didn’t get distracted by anything. Sometimes, you decided to wander into the shopping district or take a quick trip through the park to relax, but today you simply wanted to go home, kick off your shoes and put up your feet, and maybe watch a movie with your brother before you did some schoolwork.
As you approached the underpass that you walked under going to and from school every day, you noticed a group of guys bunched together and passing around a lighter to start up the cigarettes they had dangling from their lips. Judging by their large build and uniforms, they were from the high school. Anxiously, you kept your head low as you passed them and hoped that they wouldn’t pay any attention to you.
“Hey princess, not gonna say hi to us?” said one of the boys.
You ignored him and quickened your pace, but suddenly, you were grabbed by the back of your shirt collar and yanked backwards. Startled, you fell to the ground and landed on your tailbone, and you pressed your briefcase to your chest as you looked up and saw the four males hovering over you.
“You always a bitch to strangers?” the same guy asked you.
“N-No…” you replied timidly. “I just want to go home.”
The guy talking to you, who appeared to be the leader of the group, kneeled down to be at eye level with you, but you instantly scampered backwards until your back hit the cement wall behind you. He didn’t appear to like your reaction, and he snatched your briefcase out of your hands and flung it over to the other side of the underpass. You hid your face with your hands out of fright, but the guy instantly snatched them away and leaned in so close that you could feel his tobacco-scented breath on your face.
“You’re an ungrateful little shit, ya know that? You should feel honored that a couple of high school guys are payin’ attention to a little junior high kid like you. They not teaching you manners over at Sarayashiki Junior High or somethin’?” When you didn’t answer him, his facial expression contorted into one of anger. “Answer me!”
“I-I don’t know!” you cried out frantically. You were terrified and just wanted to go home.
“Well, boys,” said the male as he stood up. “Looks like we got another one to teach some lessons to.”
You panicked as adrenaline started to pump through your body. About a week ago, a girl in your class had been attacked and molested by a group of high school boys, but they had hit her so hard in the back of her head once they had been done with her that she couldn’t remember their faces or names. However, you had a feeling that you figured out who those boys were.
“Hey! Didn’t your mom ever teach you how to treat a lady?”
You and the four high school boys turned your heads to look in the direction that you had come from, and your eyes instantly lit up as you recognized Kazuma Kuwabara from your class. Behind him were his friends that he usually hung out with, Kirishima, Okuba, and Sawamura. You had never once spoken to Kuwabara before, but from the stories you had heard around school, you had pieced together that he was loud, obnoxious, and eager to fight, but he was loyal till the end for his friends and family. Because you hadn’t once talked to him, you were mildly surprised that he was bothering to help you.
“Run along, little junior high squirts. This doesn’t concern you,” said one of the high school boys.
Kuwabara laughed mockingly. “You think I’m gonna just ignore a pretty damsel in distress? You got another thing comin’!”
As soon as the first punch was thrown, you bent your knees, wrapped your arms around them, and hid your face in them. Every time you heard a fist connect to a person or somebody yelled in pain, you jumped and squeezed your legs even tighter. You weren’t sure how much time had passed, but once it quieted, you lifted your head just enough to peek over your kneecaps. Lying on the ground in front of you were the four high school boys that had been harassing you. Kirishima, Okuba, and Sawamura were checking themselves for injuries while Kuwabara made his way over to you and held out his hand.
“They won’t be botherin’ you anymore, and if they do, just let me know,” he said.
“Thank you,” you said shyly as you took his hand.
He pulled you up off the ground then let go of your hand. His left eye was beginning to swell and bruise, and his bottom lip was puffy and bloody. You stepped over the unconscious bodies of the high school guys to grab your briefcase then you reached inside to pull out a few tissues. Gingerly, you walked back over to Kuwabara and held out your hand with the tissues in them.
“... Here, for your lip,” you said.
Kuwabara grinned. “Hey, thanks!” He pressed one of the tissues against his lip but kept talking to you. “You’re in my class, right? (First Name) (Last Name)?”
“Yeah,” you said with a slight smile. “I sit beside you.”
“Yeah! You’re that smart, pretty girl that I copy answers off of during tests!” Kuwabara immediately dropped his head in shame when you stared at him in shock. “I know, you don’t hafta yell at me about it, but if I don’t pass Junior High, my sister’ll kill me!”
“Well…” you said as you pressed your briefcase against your chest. “Don’t you study?”
“Then what do you do after school?”
Kuwabara’s cheeks flushed as he scratched the back of his head nervously. “Uhh… I… Fight… And…” You glanced at you then quickly looked away again. “... Stuff.”
“Umm, okay.” You lowered your head as you contemplated on what to tell him, but then you perked up as you thought of an idea. “Why don’t I help you study for our next test as a thank you for saving me? We have all weekend.”
“W-What?” Kuwabara stuttered. “Y-You’ll spend all weekend with me?”
You shrugged casually. “If you want to. I don’t have any plans, and it’s always easier to review for tests with someone else studying with you.”
Kuwabara glanced back at his friends, and they seemed to be having a silent conversation with each other through facial expressions as you waited for a response from him. After a few moments, he turned back to you with a goofy grin on his face.
“Sounds good to me!” he said eagerly.
“But… Do you mind if we study at your house? I’m afraid if my parents see you with those injuries, they won’t let me hang out with you.”
He crossed his arms. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“I have to go home and make sure it’s okay with my parents first, though. Do you want to meet somewhere this evening? Maybe the ice cream parlor downtown around five-thirty? I usually take my little brother there once a week.”
Kuwabara became increasingly flustered the more the conversation went on. “Y-Yeah, that sounds great.”
“Okay,” you said, smiling. “Thank you again for your help. I’ll see you in a couple hours, Kuwabara.”
Kuwabara stood in the same place, dumbfounded, until you were out of sight, then he suddenly turned around and grabbed Sawamura by his uniform jacket.
“DID YOU GUYS SEE THAT?! DID YOU?! I GOT A DATE WITH A PRETTY GIRL!”