Title: Meet Un-cute
Series: Sasameki Koto
Rating: PG-13 for brief fisticuffs and use of a homophobic epithet
Summary: The first meeting revisited. What might have been going through Kazama's head during the flashback portions of Chapter 17?
Disclaimer: Sasameki Koto and all related characters are the intellectual property of Takashi Ikeda, as are the order of events depicted. The wording of the dialogue is courtesy of Dynasty Scans translation group. The interpretation is my own.
Author's Note: Writing this story involved getting into the head of a character who's very different from just about any of gotten into the head of before... and one who often hides her true feelings, even from the audience, so your interpretation may not match my own. I'm not used to writing characters that are this passive, so I think I may have reflexively added more snark than was actually present. That said, writing this story went fairly quickly, and it's only had some cursory editing rather than full beta-read. All errors are my own, unless they're in quotation marks, in which case they're the translators'.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, Kazama reminded herself.
A transfer to a new school was supposed to mean a fresh start, away from the classmates who’d begun to shun her and the former best friend who’d called her “disgusting” and pushed her away. No one here knew about her, and as long as she didn’t tell anyone that she was different, they would treat her like she was normal.
That plan didn’t even last until the second day.
Meeting new people had gone smoothly enough. There had been a trio of girls more than willing to bring the new transfer student, with her good looks and fashion sense, into their circle of friends. If they assumed that her lack of interest in the subject of boys just meant she wasn’t interested in dating yet, so much the better. So long as she danced around the subject, they shouldn’t catch on, right?
She hadn’t really been opposed to the idea of going around town with them after school on their “guy-hunting” expedition, even though she was starting to get the uncomfortable suspicion that she’d been invited along as bait: her looks were supposed to lure in the guys so that the other three girls could flirt with them. Well, fine. She could be bait if that’s what they wanted; it beat being alone. What was the worst that could happen?
She hadn’t meant to get separated from the other three. She’d only stopped for a second, distracted by a pretty girl passing by the other way, and before she knew it she’d lost sight of them completely in the crowd. Wrapped up in arguments about the best way to get picked up, they hadn’t noticed that their bait had fallen behind. They must have taken a turn while she wasn’t looking, because trying to catch up with them had only gotten her completely lost.
What should I do? Guess it would be best to ask how to get back to the station… The others would probably head back there to wait for her. The prospect of meeting back up with them wasn’t as appealing as she’d expected. Since they’d set out on this little expedition, the three of them had displayed fairly one-track minds. Not that she hadn’t expected that romance would be a frequent topic of interest—heaven knows she would talk about love until long after everyone else was sick of it if she thought anyone would put up with it—but there wasn’t anything romantic about trying to draw the attention of random guys, most of whom would probably be way too old to be hitting on schoolgirls, just to prove you could. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if they could occasionally change the subject to something she could actually relate to. Couldn’t they discuss fashion? She liked fashion.
The alternative, she reminded herself, was being alone. She’d decided that she’d do whatever it took to fit in, hadn’t she? Play normal, hide her real feelings, even be bait. She didn’t think she could take being alone again.
She was so busy thinking about isolation that it took her a second to realize that she was surrounded.
It seemed that she was a little too good at being bait.
She was backed up against the wall, the three of them forming a semicircle to hem her in, and even though they hadn’t actually done anything yet, the whole thing had a distinct aura of menace to it.
She wasn’t an expert or anything, but she was pretty sure that flirting didn’t normally involve having your buddies cut off the girl’s escape routes.
“Whoa. No way. She’s a knockout,” one of them grunted.
It was a pretty crude way to compliment someone. Everything about them screamed “low-rent punks,” from their looks to how they talked. She was pretty sure that even if she’d liked boys, she wouldn’t have liked these.
“You by yourself?” another one demanded. “Going shopping? Where are you from? How old are you?”
Couldn’t they tell that they were scaring her? Or was that the whole point?
“I know this place like the back of my hand, and everyone knows who I am,” the one that must be the leader declared. “The gals are all over me, too. I ain’t no small fry.”
She wondered why he thought that this self-aggrandizing would make him seem more appealing. Right now, however, she was glad for it. It was buying her time. Eventually, he was going to get around to actually propositioning her, and she was dreading that moment.
She was afraid of how he’d react when she said no.
Would they actually take “no” for an answer, or would they keep her boxed in and press the issue? Did they really think that making a girl too scared to say “no” was the same as a “yes”? Or was even asking just a formality? Would they even ask?
She didn’t actually know what happened next in these sorts of situations. In stories, this was always the point where the hero showed up to save the day, or the girl revealed that she had superpowers and electrocuted them all or something. Things were never actually allowed to go past the level of vaguely threatening.
No heroes out today, it seemed. The people passing by were too busy minding their own business to help her.
“Hey, you rascals!” called a voice. “Cut it out and go home!”
Oh, thank goodness, she thought.
A pair of young men in casual clothes had appeared, each with a bundle of some sort slung over their shoulder, heroically posing with arms crossed. “It’s obvious that she doesn’t want anything to do with you!”
The fight was short… unfortunately. Kazama didn’t know a thing about fighting, but she did learn one thing that day: having your arms crossed heroically made it hard to block punches aimed at your head. Especially when you were outnumbered.
“Heh. Way lame. Don’t act like you can hold your own in a fight, wusses,” one of the punks snarled at the unconscious forms of her would-be rescuers.
Oh, this is bad, she thought to herself. And I’m pretty sure I just missed my best chance to run away. Maybe after the fight they’re no longer in the mood to chase girls?
“Ya see that?” the gang leader bragged, back in her face again. “Am I a badass or what? I even do stuff like karate. Karate!”
He was so busy preening that he didn’t notice the hand that grabbed his shoulder from behind or the leg that swept the back of his knee until it was too late. The tall girl with the dark hair who’d appeared seemingly out of nowhere easily threw him to the ground.
Kazama stared in shock. Is that… the class rep?
It was. The girl that her new friends at school had declared a total buzzkill was coming to her rescue. I think they said her name was Murasame?
If Murasame was bothered by the idea of fighting three guys, she didn’t show it. The expression on her face betrayed at most a very calm sort of anger, almost as if they were an annoyance. While the other two punks were still in shock from her sudden attack, she turned to the fallen leader and swung her fist towards his face like she planned to drive his head into the pavement.
Murasame’s fist stopped just short of impact, and she turned to look at a middle-aged man in old-fashioned clothes with a half-dozen younger men trailing behind him.
“What are you doing to an amateur like him, Sumika?” demanded the middle-aged man.
“Dad,” Murasame replied with only a mild tone of surprise, as if this sort of thing happened all the time. “But he said he does karate,” she added by way of explanation.
“It doesn’t matter!” the father replied. “You mustn’t wield our great weapon, the North Pole Fist, against back-alley ruffians!”
Personally, Kazama thought that the North Pole Fist—whatever that was—ought to be wielded against back-alley ruffians more often, especially against ones that surrounded frightened young girls.
The ruffians in question, meanwhile, seemed to realize that they were outnumbered and were sneaking off while everyone else was distracted by the argument.
“Good heavens,” Murasame’s father continued, “Every time we train outside the dojo, you end up using your skills to cause one problem or another….”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m so very sorry,” Murasame replied sarcastically, pointing back over her shoulder with her thumb. “While you’re at it, be sure to scold our black belts lying sprawled on the ground over there.”
As he stepped away to check on his less competent students, Kazama figured that she really ought to say something to the other girl. “U-Um… you’re Murasame-san… aren’t you? Thank you for saving me.”
Murasame turned and looked at her, eyes narrowing. Kazama wondered if she was about to get chewed out for having gotten herself into danger and forcing Murasame to get into trouble saving her. Murasame didn’t say anything, though; she was just staring at her and…
Murasame then pulled a pair of glasses out of her pocket—the same glasses, Kazama realized, that she’d been wearing at school—and put them on. “Oh! You’re that transfer student.”
“Are you alright, young lady? Sumika, is she one of your school friends?” asked the father, stepping back into the conversation and launching into a sales pitch. “Excellent! Why don’t you seize this as an opportunity to join the Murasame dojo of North Pole Karate? It’ll be fast! Cheap! Powerful!”
“Don’t forget that two of our black belts just got whipped by street thugs,” Murasame Sumika reminded him.
Even if they hadn’t, Kazama couldn’t imagine herself doing karate. She didn’t even like working out in P.E. class, and she didn’t try to kid herself that she was strong or brave. (Anyway, what kind of name was “North Pole” for a karate style anyway? It sounded like they fought reindeer.)
Not at all like Murasame, who’d been ready to fight to save a total stranger. She’s really cool, Kazama thought. If that was my type I’d probably fall for her. She’s really tall and strong and brave…
“Take a closer look at her before you launch into your spiel,” Murasame was telling her father. “There’s no way that a girl that came out on a day off from school to strut her stuff and snag a guy would do karate.”
…and very rude, Kazama added to her mental list of Murasame’s traits. She didn’t appreciate the assumption, but she wasn’t quite sure how to explain what she actually had been doing. “Um, I… wasn’t really…”
“Come on,” Murasame continued, barely pausing as Kazama’s train of thought trailed off. “Let’s go.” Without really bothering to wait for a response, she took Kazama’s hand. “It isn’t safe to hang around here by yourself. I’ll walk you back to the station.”
As Murasame led her by the hand back to the train station, Kazama felt a blush creep up her cheeks at the casual and unthinking way that the other girl had grabbed her hand, as if it was perfectly normal. No girl had been willing to hold hands with her, not since the day she’d confessed her feelings. “Thank you.”
Murasame’s fingers were long and rough with calluses, not at all like the sort of delicate hands she’d dreamed about holding, but Kazama found them comforting anyway.
* * *
As it turned out, that was the last good thing to happen that day.
Kazama had managed to make her way back to the station without incident under Murasame’s protection. She’d found the three girls she’d started this misadventure with in front of a crêpe shop there.
Within two minutes, she’d outed herself.
In classic Kazama fashion, she didn’t so much come out as completely forget that there was a closet. The trio had almost immediately turned the topic back to flirting, and without even thinking about the consequences she’d answered entirely too honestly and enthusiastically. By the time she’d realized what she’d said, it was too late.
Maybe it was the recent scare that had thrown her off and caused her to say too much, or maybe it had been inevitable. She never was any good at hiding her feelings.
News had spread quickly. By school the next day, everyone had known. Her three would-be friends had seen to that. Yesterday, they’d wanted her to be one of them. Today, they wanted nothing to do with her except to whisper behind her back. Even the ones that didn’t whisper were still avoiding her. Nobody wanted to be caught associating with “the lezzie” and become the subject of rumors.
Eating lunch alone while everyone else gathered into groups with their friends, Kazama sighed and wondered if there was a minimum length of time you had to wait between school transfers.
She was startled out of her reverie by the sound of someone pulling out a chair and looked up to see Murasame Sumika set her lunch down on the desk and very deliberately sit down right across from her.
Every student in the room was staring in shock at the girl who’d dared to breach the unspoken quarantine, Kazama included.
“Because I’m the class rep,” Murasame said simply, digging into her lunch with a pair of chopsticks.
“But… Murasame-san,” Kazama said, “If you stick with me, they’ll start looking at you weirdly, too.”
“I don’t care. They already keep their distance from me.”
“Besides, Kazama-san,” Murasame continued, chewing on a mouthful of rice, “You like cute girls, don’t you? I’m not particularly cute. So I have no reason to be wary of you.”
“Murasame-san…” Kazama felt tears welling up in her eyes. Maybe she wouldn’t need to transfer again after all. There was someone here who didn’t care that she liked girls, and was willing to be seen with her even though she was different. That was more than her closest friends at her old school had been willing to do. “Thanks.”
As she dried her eyes, she pondered something that Murasame had said. Is that the key? Can normal people be friends with me if they think that I couldn’t possibly be interested in them? If she insisted that none of them were cute enough for her, could they tolerate her?
And if she ever developed feelings for a friend… she already knew how that story ended. She’d be rejected, abandoned and alone, just like before.
Kazama swore at that moment to never, ever tell Murasame that in that moment when she’d saved her, all grace and power and righteous fury, she hadn’t been cute… she’d been beautiful.
- Current Mood: tired