When Noriko opened her shoe locker she found both her shoes shredded. 'Die bitch!' a sign at the back of the locker greeted her.
'Nao-sempai, I'll have your hide for this!' Noriko punched up a contact on her phone and dialled.
"Kyoko here. You forgot anything?" came the expected answer.
"In a way," Noriko said. "Could you do me a favour and come down to the shoe lockers with my sneakers?"
She could hear the hesitation in the silence from the other end of the phone call. After all she could just as well have walked back up to their classroom and fetched them herself, but she wanted Kyoko to see this.
It scared her a little bit more than she wanted to admit. She'd never been the target of bullying before in her life, and even though she knew exactly what was going on, Noriko felt like something unknown out there was looking maliciously at her.
She understood that things would hardly degenerate the way they had done with Kuri during their first term. Kuri had been the stunning looker with only one friend, but Noriko was, without wanting it, part of her brother's fan-club from the very start. On top of that their club was up to thirty members by now, and she was one of the top three students among the freshmen to boot.
If things went down the drain for real the school was likely to explode with indignation, or at least all eight, no nine now, freshman classes. Especially 9:1. Rumours had it the new class included a few partially reformed thugs who took it upon themselves to patrol the school grounds in search of bullies.
Given what she remembered from Red Rose she almost believed it. Whatever went down in that hell hole these days couldn't be anything good.
She looked at Kyoko who arrived with a quizzical look in her eyes and a pair of shoes in her hands.
Noriko just pointed at her locker.
"What the bloody hell?" Kyoko said in a voice so far from her usual ladylike one that Noriko cringed. "I'll beat the fucking witches to pulp!"
Suddenly Noriko found herself wrapped in Kyoko's arms.
"I'm not going to allow anything to happen to you. Nothing!"
"Calm down, Kyoko." But it warmed her that her friend cared so much. "It won't be so bad. I just didn't want to take it in alone right now. That's all."
She was still wrapped in that embrace.
"Don't talk that way. Don't you even think of handling this alone! Kuri-chan did and I couldn't stop it."
'Of course!' Noriko hadn't thought about it in those terms. Kyoko still felt guilty about the assault on Kuri in the locker room, and she'd been attacked herself just a couple of weeks earlier.
Noriko ripped out the paper at the back of her locker and crumbled it. "Don't worry," she said and freed herself from Kyoko's arms. "I won't do anything alone. I promise."
She wouldn't. The seed of a plan was already forming in her head. She had to go through it with the others, but she already had an idea how to shoot down this idiocy so hard nobody in school would ever think of going after her again.
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