Empty – Chapter 3

“Yoong, you’ve been busy lately.” Seohyun eyed her classmate who was furiously completing a string of Mathematics questions.

 

“Yea, no thanks to that bully.” Yoona continued solving one problem after another without looking up.

 

“Look at it on the bright side, you’re getting double practice for the subject and you’ll definitely score a distinction for it.”

 

Yoona stopped writing. She looked at her classmate and smiled. “Thanks for offering another point of view, Seohyunnie.”

 

“There are always two sides to looking at the same thing. Good luck!” Seohyun smiled back.

~*~*~*~

 

It took Yoona a while to locate the tanned girl who promised to pick up her notes and completed homework. In the end, she found Yuri slumped on a table at the study area near the lockers. Yuri was sleeping soundly with her head resting on her right arm as she lay on her side. Her jet black hair covered her face partially and her blouse was tucked out as usual. She wore her school jacket like a cape this time, probably to keep herself warm while she was sleeping.

 

Yoona approached the sleeping figure quietly, not wanting to wake her up. Soft snoring sounds were heard as Yoona sat across the table from Yuri. She was tempted to sweep the hair from Yuri’s face. Her hands hovered over sleeping girl.

 

What if she wakes up and yells at me?

What if she thinks I’m a weirdo?

What if she thinks I’m trying to draw on her face?

In the end, Yoona drew back her hand just as it was about to touch the dark locks. Instead of putting the homework on the table and leave, there was something about Yuri that made Yoona want to stay a little longer.

 

Yoona noticed there were plasters on several of Yuri’s fingers. Yuri had very short nails and they seemed battered and chipped.

 

Probably got into a fight again. Why does she always get into fights? Doesn’t it hurt?

 

Yoona couldn’t put her finger on why she was feeling so concerned over a schoolmate, especially one who was supposedly bullying her.

 

Yuri rubbed her eyes and stretched herself. She dug her phone out from her jacket pocket and noticed it was an hour past the appointed time she was supposed to meet Yoona.

 

“Why did I sleep for so long? Aishhh….,” Yuri mumbled to herself while ruffling her head. Then she spotted a stack of papers in a clear folder in front of her.

 

She picked it up and realized it contained the English lecture notes and her completed Mathematics homework. There was a note pasted on the clear folder.

 

“When I say in person, I meant seeing you awake, not just seeing your physical being. – Yoona”

 

Yuri chuckled to herself. She flipped through her notes and spotted another note pasted on it.

 

“By the way, don’t sleep with your mouth open else bugs might crawl in and give you a bad tummy ache. – Yoona”

 

“Boss, why are you smiling to yourself? Had a good dream?” Sunny asked innocently, appearing beside Yuri coincidentally when the latter woke up from her nap. She had been looking around for Yuri for the past hour. Thankfully someone tipped her off.

 

The smile on Yuri’s face disappeared almost instantly. She didn’t realize she was smiling to herself as she was reading the notes.  She stuffed the sheets of papers back into the clear folder and rose from the seat.

 

“Nothing. Let’s go,” barked Yuri. She didn’t want anyone to see the softer side of her. The Kwon Yuri everyone knew was tough and strong and that was how she wanted it to be.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Hello babe, bad day today?” Yuri greeted cheerfully, throwing out the remains of the flattened plastic stick into a dustbin. She strolled casually towards Yoona. Today, she came alone without her sidekicks.

 

Yoona wore an annoyed expression on her face. She had been psyching herself up to tell Yuri about the importance of doing homework and gaining new knowledge at school. Seohyun gave her a lot of tips of what to say to Yuri.

 

“It would be better if you do your homework instead of asking people to do it for you,” Yoona said sternly.

 

“Oh, you hate doing homework? Would you like to mop the gym room for the rest of the semester instead?” Yuri joked. She brushed her hair with her fingers casually, causing a little heart flip in Yoona.

 

For a brief moment, Yoona almost forgotten about the speech she prepared. Yuri could be rather distracting at times, especially at such a close proximity.

 

“That’s not what I meant. How are you ever going to learn if you don’t do your homework yourself? You would have gone to school for nothing, it would be a total waste of time,” Yoona lectured.

 

This time, it was Yuri’s turn to be annoyed. She pulled Yoona by her arm to a nearby study table and forced her to sit down by pressing her hands on Yoona’s shoulders. Yuri took the seat opposite Yoona and pulled out her workbook. Flipping to one of the random pages, Yuri took a pen from her bag and started solving one of the Mathematics problems on that page. Within two minutes, she was done and she held the book right in front of Yoona’s face.

 

Yoona took the book from Yuri and studied the solution. The handwriting was a little messy but still legible. Her eyes widened when she read the answer to the tough question. Yuri had written down every step of the solution and got the answer correct.

 

“Impressed?” Yuri said arrogantly. She twirled the pen with her hand while waiting for Yoona’s reply.

 

Truth be told, Yoona was impressed. She would have taken a slightly longer time to complete that question but the genius-in-disguise sitting in front of her was definitely sharp and quick.

 

“Since you can complete the answer so quickly, then why not do it yourself? It would only take you an hour or so to complete your homework.”

 

Yuri laughed. She used the pen to tap the side of her head. “This is called working smart. I rather use my time to do something else than homework.”

 

Yuri got up from the seat and gave herself a good stretch with her arms over her head, revealing a hint of her toned chocolate abs when the hem of her blouse rode up. “Remember to complete the rest of the questions. Bye!”

 

Yuri walked away, leaving an exasperated Yoona at the study table.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Yoona and Seohyun were having lunch in the school cafeteria when they heard a commotion. Students were shuffling aside at the queue for food, leaving a gap for Yuri and her sidekicks to make a grand entrance into the cafeteria. No one dared to block their way as they helped themselves to the food, ignoring everyone else.

 

After taking her food, Yuri sat at a table next to Yoona and Seohyun. Though Yoona knew that Yuri was staring at her, she didn’t bother to look up. She would rather finish her food soon so that she could leave the cafeteria and prepare for her next class.

 

Moments later, there was another commotion. This time, it was Jessica who entered the school cafeteria. Everyone, including Yoona, stopped whatever they were doing to look at the beauty who was sashaying into the cafeteria. The atmosphere turned into something more pleasant, as if the cafeteria was lined with flowers. Jessica made the plain school uniform look like it was the latest collection on the fashion runway.

 

Seeing Jessica walk in, Yuri grinned to herself. She cleared her throat and yelled, “Hey Jessica, would you like to sit over here? There’s an empty spot reserved just for you!” She patted the empty seat next to her before turning to Yoona with a smirk on her face.

 

Yoona was visibly stunned at Yuri’s invitation. The whole cafeteria went quiet for a brief moment and everyone’s attention was focused on Jessica and Yuri, wondering what the outcome would be.

 

Yoona was gripping her cutlery very tightly and she was turning redder than the tomato on her plate. She was very nervous about sitting so near her crush and at the same time also worried that Yuri might try something funny to embarrass Yoona. Seohyun kept telling Yoona to calm down.

 

Jessica gave Yuri a death stare and used her free hand to draw an invisible line across her neck, before focusing her attention back on collecting her food in the queue. Everyone pretended that nothing had happened and soon the lively atmosphere in the cafeteria resumed. Yoona heaved a sigh of relief that her crush didn’t bother with Yuri though she would have very much loved to sit beside her. The fear of Yuri embarrassing her in front of a crowded cafeteria was greater than the opportunity to sit next to her crush.

 

Yuri was bending over with laughter at the sight of Jessica threatening her. She was used to Jessica giving her the cold treatment and being nasty to her. In fact, no one liked Yuri except that they didn’t dare to voice it out for fear of being tortured by her. Yuri knew of her lack of popularity among the students but she didn’t care. She also knew that Sunny and Hyoyeon stayed close to her because of her money.

 

When Yuri saw Yoona and Seohyun leaving the cafeteria shortly after the incident, her heart sank a little. She wanted to get Jessica to sit at her table and let Yoona interact with her crush. It would be fun for her to watch how Yoona behave in front of Jessica, knowing how much the younger girl liked the senior from reading the love letter Yoona wrote. It would provide her with a good opportunity to tease Yoona for it as well. In the end, her good intention went the wrong way. Puzzled at Yoona’s reaction, she suddenly lost her appetite and threw her cutlery on the table. Yuri left the cafeteria abruptly, with her sidekicks scrambling to follow their boss.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Yuri found her homework stuck to her locker door the following day. She presumed Yoona was angry over yesterday’s incident at lunch and didn’t want to see her face. Strangely, she felt a little upset at not being able to see Yoona today. It was something she was looking forward to during the week. It gave her the motivation to come to school instead of hanging out at the shopping mall and arcades.

 

There was emptiness in her heart as Yuri stared at the neat handwriting on the first page of the worksheet. An image of Yoona with her bright smile flashed across her head. It was a smile that Yoona had whenever she was with her classmates and definitely not with her. She wondered if she could ever get the chance to see that warm smile up close one day.

 

Tearing the worksheets from the locker door, Yuri stuffed them into her backpack and left the school.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Let me guess, you tripped and fell,” Yoona commented. There was never a hello or polite greeting from Yoona when they met.

 

Yoona had decided to meet Yuri again after one week. She knew she couldn’t escape her clutches just yet and it didn’t help that Sunny and Hyoyeon kept hanging outside her classroom and bugging her to see Yuri.

 

Yoona and Yuri met at the empty corridor on the top floor of classrooms, away from their usual spot. Yoona didn’t bother to question why there was a change in venue.  She just wanted to hand the completed homework to Yuri and leave.

 

Yuri lifted her right arm and held it closer for Yoona to see. There was an angry red long streak on her arm, starting near her wrist and ending at her elbow.

 

“Does your heart ache seeing this wound on my arm?” Yuri took a step closer to Yoona, causing the latter to move backwards. Yuri took another step closer and Yoona moved back a step too. Both of them looked like they were dancing waltz in slow motion.

 

Yoona felt the pillar behind her and knew that she was trapped. Her heart beat was increasing with each step Yuri took and she finally swallowed hard when Yuri, playful grin and tousled hair, stopped right in front of her. She could smell the orange-flavoured lollipop Yuri had earlier on.

 

Yuri leaned in, tucking Yoona’s hair behind her ear with one hand while placing the other hand on the wall beside Yoona’s face. Yoona stiffened at her touch and her breath hitched. Suddenly, the image of Yuri’s abs came into her mind and Yoona felt a blush appearing on her face.

 

“I would feel a lot better if you answered yes,” Yuri said softly, her lips curled up in a mischievous grin.

 

The husky voice of the tanned girl seemed to release a bunch of butterflies in Yoona’s tummy. Yuri was making her go crazy in ways she couldn’t understand. Regaining her senses quickly, she pushed the bully away with both hands, resulting in Yuri taking a few steps backwards. Fortunately Yuri managed to stabilize herself.

 

Yuri blew her hair from her face and smirked. “That’s a unique way of expressing your concern for a schoolmate.”

 

Yuri took her homework from Yoona’s hand, their fingers brushing against each other’s.

 

“You should your hair down instead of tying it into a ponytail. You look prettier that way.”

 

Yuri flashed a wink and left. Yoona’s heartbeat hadn’t slowed down yet as she watched Yuri walk away from her. Unknowingly, Yuri had left her breathless for those brief seconds.

 

You look prettier that way.

 

That sentence echoed in Yoona’s mind for the rest of the day.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Yoong, Yoong!” Seohyun shook Yoona’s arm excitedly, pointing in a certain direction.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Your crush, Jessica! She’s over there, alone.”

 

Yoona turned her head and looked in the direction that Seohyun was pointing. Jessica was sipping a can of iced coffee and resting her hands on the ledge that overlooked the courtyard. There wasn’t anyone around her and she appeared to be in a good mood. It was definitely a good opportunity to approach her for a chat.

 

“What are you doing? Go go go, here’s your chance!” Seohyun urged, giving Yoona a nudge.

 

“I’m not so sure if I like her anymore…,” Yoona mumbled. The image of a certain tanned girl flashed across her face.

 

Seohyun gave a puzzled look at Yoona. Yoona merely turned her classmate around and they walked away in the opposite direction, away from Jessica.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Hey you, the blonde mop!” Yoona called out, pulling the earplugs out of Sunny’s ears.

 

Sunny was sitting on a step at the gallery area playing a game on her mobile phone when she was rudely interrupted. Sunny looked up from her phone and glared at Yoona, irritation building up.

 

“What is it? Can’t you see I’m in the midst of playing a game??” Sunny stood up, stretching her neck and trying to tip toe in order to match Yoona’s height. In the end, she climbed two steps up and managed to see Yoona at eye level.

 

“I want to know why Yuri is always getting injured. I don’t believe she is such a klutz.”

 

“Why should I tell you?” Sunny said in an irritated tone, frustrated at losing the game she was playing.

 

“Because I have the cheatcode for the game you’re playing,” Yoona said smugly.

 

Sunny hesitated for a while. It was a tough stage to pass and having a little help would do her good. “Why do you want to know so much about Boss?”

 

Now it was Yoona’s turn to hesitate.

 

She’s right, why do I want to care so much? She’s just a schoolmate…in fact, a bully!

 

Before Yoona could formulate a reply, Sunny interrupted her. “Argh, I’ll tell you but promise that you wouldn’t tell her it’s from me.”

 

Yoona was surprised but nodded nonetheless.

 

“And you must give me the cheatcode too!” Sunny continued.

 

“Yes I will,” Yoona said firmly, sticking out her pinky as a promise.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Why do I have to wear the hood over my head?” Yoona asked in a hushed voice, following closely behind Sunny.

 

“Because I don’t want Boss to spot you, you idiot!” Sunny hissed.

 

Sunny led Yoona into a disused timber factory via a side door. Loud music would be heard pulsating the moment the huge wooden door was slid open. When they got in, there was a crowd around a makeshift boxing ring. There was a DJ console that was evaluated by several wooden pallets and the DJ who was spinning the music looked like a college student who wore a sweater over his uniform.  The crowd was made up of teenagers, both males and females; some of them changed out of their school uniforms while others wore jackets and hoodies to cover their uniforms. Yoona found a few familiar faces among the crowd and it struck her that they went to the schools in the same area as her.

 

Sunny found a spot near the corner of the boxing ring and told Yoona to sit there and to try to maintain inconspicuous. Yoona nodded obediently as she sat on one of the wooden pallets. People were bobbing their heads to the music while drinking sparkling juice and soft drinks. She saw some teenagers passing stacks of dollar notes among themselves. The couple sitting near her was engaged in an intense kiss and the guy’s hands reached underneath the girl’s blouse and were busy groping her body. They didn’t seem to bother if the crowd was looking at them. Yoona quickly turned her head away and pulled the hood over her face.

 

About twenty minutes later, the noise level in the crowd suddenly rose when someone entered the boxing ring. It was a girl with medium built and short boy-cut hair. She was dressed in a tight tank top and shorts and wore a pair of red gloves. She waved to the crowd, eliciting loud cheers from them.

 

The next moment, another figure appeared in the ring. The crowd’s roar was deafening. The person’s hair was tied up in a neat ponytail and the midriff cropped tee showed off her toned abs. Her black tights were knee-length and she wore a pair of blue kickboxing gloves. She wriggled her fingers and bounced around on her feet. She looked like an Amazon warrior who was ready for a battle.

 

“Yuri?” Yoona gasped.

 

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