First Blood

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You thought Oshiro was on your side. The both of you, united against Minoru. You thought she wanted what was best for you. And that was staying as far away for Minoru's little group as possible.

But something changed after Kimiko's death. Her spirit was a little more broken.

She followed you to the girls' bathroom at school the day after the funeral. She didn't bother parsing words. She simply said, "Come back." Where Minoru phrased it as a command, she did as a plea.

"I don't think I can, Oshiro," you told her quite honestly. It sent a shiver down your spine knowing you could have lived your entire high school career with them as your close friends, unaware of the obsession they had with you. But then Hiro. And now Kimiko. You couldn't return to the way things were. You didn't think you wanted to even if you could.

"If I can, you can," she whispered with eyes full of sorrow.

Kimiko was her best friend, her first girlfriend. She loved her. It was because of her that she was introduced to Minoru. You couldn't even imagine the guilt and regret she was feeling right now.

"I don't know how you can do it," you said incredulously, leaning back against the bathroom wall, still clutching your bookbag close. "Is the debt you owe to Minoru really worth that much?"

She didn't answer you for a long time. But when you pushed off the wall and went to walk past her, she stuck out an arm to block your way. "Is that your final answer?" She asked in a low, gravelly voice like she was talking around a lump in her throat. You nodded.

She was on you in seconds. She grabbed the lapels of your blazer and shoved you back against the wall, pinned you there like a butterfly to corkboard. There was barely enough room between you for you to squirm, let alone struggle.

Then she hit you.

The first punch landed solidly in your left eye socket. It pushed your eye so far back in your skull that you saw swirls of psychedelic colors. The next punch skated hard across your lower lip, hard enough to split the inside open on your teeth but not at an angle that would hurt her hand.

Oshiro knew how to fight.

You swung your hand out like a claw. Your nails caught on the curve of her cheek, slicing it open. The slow ooze of blood trickling down her strong jaw seemed to startle her for a moment. What, did she expect you to just stand there and take a beating? No fucking way.

She paused just long enough for you to pull your taser out of your bag, press it against her abdomen, and push the button. She jerked away, holding her stomach. You ran out the door... And straight into Minoru's arms.

"Baby!" She cried, cradling you close to her chest like you really were her child. "Your face! What happened?"

It only took you a moment to put two and two together. "You know what happened. You planned this," you breathed in realization.

"What?" She sounded shocked, like she really had no idea what you were talking about.

"You planned this. Oshiro roughs me up and then you get to take care of me."

"That's crazy talk. Oshiro-"

"It is crazy, yes, but it's true. You did it with Kimiko. You did it with Hinata. And now you're doing it with me. Well, it won't work."

"Sweetness-"

"Get away from me!" You finally struggled out of her grasp and took several steps away, nursing your black eye and fat lip yourself.

You stared each other down for a long beat. Her expression morphed from one of surprise to that of disdain.

"Fine," she said at last, cold and stone-faced. "Have it your way." Then she turned on her heels and walked away down the hall. You left before Oshiro emerged from the bathroom.

...

You thought that would be the end of that. But it wasn't.

Every day after that got worse. Oshiro beat you like a dog. You avoided bathrooms and vacant spaces whenever possible. Being alone was the same as being in danger.

Even then you weren't safe. Sometimes she would grab you from a crowd of people, one hand sealed across your mouth and the other buried in your hair, and drag you somewhere secluded to beat the shit out of you.

And always... Always, always, always was Minoru, right around the corner, just out of sight, arms open and waiting.

The bruises and cuts got bigger and deeper. Trips to the nurse's office became regular occurrences. You would have reported your assaults to the school, but the administration was notorious for doing nothing about fights or bullying so long as it didn't affect the school's reputation.

What really hurt was coming home each day worse for wear and Aina's parents saying nothing. It shouldn't, they weren't your real parents, but you thought... Well, obviously, you thought wrong.

What's worse was you soon found yourself defenseless.

One day Oshiro grabbed your taser right out of your hand and threw it against the wall, breaking it apart into pieces.

A week later she wrestled your pepper spray away from you and crushed the small aerosol can beneath her boot. The spray leaked out, getting in your mouth and eyes. Both of you had to flee the bathroom to prevent any more choking and crying.

You would have replaced them, but what good would that do? She'd just break them again.

Instead, you fought back with all you had in you, but more often than not you ran away.

It's just until the college entrance exams, you told yourself one night as you sunk into a warm bath. You needed it; your ribs hurt something fierce. You could barely stand to look at your naked body, a mottled canvas of blue and purple with streaks of crimson.

I can take it, you told yourself as you pulled your knees up underneath your chin and wrapped your arms around them. Tears ran down your cheeks and into the bathwater. You never cried in front of Oshiro or Minoru. If Aina's parents heard you sobbing at night, they didn't give any indication of it. I won't break. I won't.

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