Late November, Sae was sitting in his seat reading a book at break-time when an underclassman burst through the door. The commotion made several kids look up.
That boy’s feet screeched to a halt at the threshold. He looked slightly out of breath and a bit shy. The realisation that he was now in ‘upperclassmen territory’ hit him head-on. He cleared his throat and called out to Sae. "Upperclassman Hoh Saering, please come, E-Emi..."
Sae did not expect to be addressed, but the word Emi made him raise his head. "?"
"Emi got into a fight."
"What?!" It was Teo who interrupted, obviously shocked.
What did the little girl do now?
The younger boy at the door tried to get them moving. "Hurry!"
After a moment, Sae put down his book with a pause and stood up to follow the boy into the corridor. Teo moved as well, pulling Minke along, and tiptoed after the other two leaving.
Sae did not need a guide to lead him to Emi's class. He knew the way himself but trailed after the younger boy. It would have been awkward to step around and leave him behind.
A few minutes later, the four arrived at a classroom on the first floor in the western wing. But that was not Emi’s class.
The doors to the room stood open with several kids gathered around to peek inside. Inside, Emi and another girl faced off on opposite ends of the room.
Emi's dark hair was split into two fancy braids with many colourful rubber bands weaved in between. The top of her head though, was tousled and messy. The other girl had a split lip. Classmates loitered around them. Fortunately, there were no teachers in sight.
When Emi saw Sae getting closer, she wailed, "Why are you here?"
Sae did not pay attention. He closed in on her, stopping next to the desk she stood at.
Emi was an eccentric little girl with a big mouth. She asked in a loud voice to no one in particular, "Which one of you called him? Who the hell was it? Show yourself to receive death."
The surrounding kids gave a few looks. After all, Emi did not belong to this class and not a lot of people knew her.
Only a few of these kids had any idea why three senior students barged into the underclassmen’s classroom. The others were left in the dark about who called them. And what they wanted.
Amidst the curious gazes, Teo and Minke shuffled to the side. Minke pulled at the boy's sleeve, wanting to ask, just why did they enter as well? It would suffice even if they stood outside. Less inconspicuous.
The girl with a split lip eyed Sae. She asked, "Who is he?"
Sae glanced at the girl once but otherwise completely ignored her presence.
The girl’s friends elbowed her, then leaned closer to whisper, "Don't you know Hoh Saering? He's our senior."
The girl gazed at Emi and gave a short laugh, "Boyfriend?"
Sae knitted his brow. He could already feel his energy draining.
The girl was obviously very vexed and wanted someone to take out her frustration on. It did not matter who that someone might be. Voice laced with disdain, she drawled, "Aaah, I get it now. You have protection everywhere. Well, I don't care, he's not going to stay beside you every minute of the day."
Emi scoffed. She did not say anything regarding the ‘boyfriend’ comment. It wasn't worth a reply. She pushed off the desk she was leaning to, and said, "Now you talk. I would've liked to hear you give lip five minutes ago."
Hearing this, the other girl moved forward, her smug expression contorting and her cheeks becoming rosy with colour. “Shut up!”
"Ha, I’m so scared." Emi gave a short laugh. "Don’t you find this utterly embarrassing?" She raised her arm and swept it in a half circle making the other lose the last strand of her cool. The girl headed directly for Emi, but before the scene became irrevocable, and before Emi got a single finger laid upon her person, Sae grabbed her arm and stepped before her.
Behind him, Emi’s opponent stopped short. A very interesting situation ensued.
Two fighting girls with a cold, well-known senior wedged between them.
Sae did not seem affected at all. He gazed ahead without a ripple in his expression. To others, this look might be somewhat scary, but to Emi, his expression was infuriating. When Sae stepped ahead just now, he wasn't shielding Emi from the other girl. She did not need any shielding. If things escalated further, the one to get the shorter end of the stick certainly wasn't her. Sae knew this from experience, and so, decided to face Emi.
The other girl only stopped because she truly got a shock, suddenly seeing nothing but broad shoulders blocking her way.
Sae's gaze travelled over the nearby kids with their phones taken out. Some put their phones down, but the bolder ones braved his icy stare.
Minke stood a few steps back, appalled. She pushed on Teo's shoulder, whispering, “What boyfriend? Whose? What kind of situation is this?”
The boy beside her wore an amused expression the whole time but did not react to her probing.
At this point,
Sae tried to drag Emi out of the classroom. The little girl did not want to go,
however, her resistance was futile. She voiced her protest rather loudly.
"Let go of me. Sae, let go! Won't you let go?!" Either way, it did
not seem to matter to Sae.
hurts. Sae, you're hurting me."
He wasn't. Both of them knew that Emi only used another technique, trying to make a fuss. The way Sae held her arm was firm, but gentle. He would never hurt her.
kids that stood aside, they got out of the classroom.
Sae dragged the little girl to a crook in the hallway, a rather desolate part of the first floor. He stepped closer, examining her.
"What?" Emi scratched the tip of her nose. She didn’t get hurt anywhere. Just extremely annoyed.
Emi stepped back and Sae let her go. He wasn't some overbearing person in her eyes and they were both aware of that. Sometimes, the problem lay in the fact that they understood each other too well. Emi knew that Sae did not like to get involved in others’ business. He was a somewhat closed off person when it came to sharing boundaries with others. He would not have come, but knew what the little girl was capable of.
"I'm listening," said Sae.
Emi sighed. "She pushed me first, okay?"
Sae cocked a brow indicating that Emi could go on.
"I was just chatting with the girls in the corridor when someone bumped into me. I could tell that it was intentional but decided to let it go. Then during another break, I put my bag on the railing for a second and someone pushed it off. It was the same girl, so I asked around and figured out which class she goes to. I went to her class to ask exactly what her problem is, but she grabbed my hair."
Sae did not say anything. As long as Emi spoke, he didn't interrupt. His eyes were very attentive, a rare look to be associated with his person. When Emi seemed to reach a stop in her talk, he asked, "Why?"
The little girl fidgeted. It was evident that she didn't want to say any more.
"She said something about me making a move on the boy she likes. That I kept staring at him at recess." Emi gave a short laugh. "I don't even know who she's talking about. Seriously, I can’t be bothered to make a move. She's delusional.”
"So you didn't?"
In response, Emi looked aside – out of the window they were standing at. Sae flicked her forehead to make her look at him.
"Were you staring?"
"I... took a glance."
Sae shook his head helplessly. Rationally looking at things... who would make a fuss just for that? Things were never so easy with Emi.
"And that's it? You definitely haven’t done anything else?” asked Sae. “She wouldn't attack you just for that."