Chapter 4

The crowd’s cheers were deafening the moment the second female boxer got into the makeshift boxing ring. She was bouncing around on her feet and throwing light punches while she warmed up for the match.

 

Yoona couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the familiar figure in the ring. She let out a gasp, her hand covering her mouth as she stared at Yuri.

 

So that’s how all the bruises and cuts came about. Why is she doing this??

 

“Eh,” a male voice broke Yoona’s train of thoughts. The pimpled face teenager shoved two tin cans in front of Yoona and had a look of impatience on his face.

 

Yoona was puzzled and didn’t know what she was supposed to do. The boy lifted the cans and waved them right in front of Yoona’s face. Yoona knew what she had to do when she heard the sound of dollar notes and coins jiggling inside the cans and seeing a photo of each boxer plastered on the exterior of the cans. She hastily took out a five dollar note and dropped it into Yuri’s tin before the person moved on.

 

About five minutes later, a shrill whistle was heard. The next instant, the two boxers lunged at each other. The crowd went wild and was cheering loudly, rooting for the boxer they liked. Yuri made the first move and delivered a cross jab to her opponent. The opponent managed to dodge it and bent low to deliver an uppercut to Yuri’s jaw. Yoona let out a gasp and almost closed her eyes when the fist was about to hit Yuri but thankfully Yuri managed to avoid the blow at the very last second.

 

Yuri shuffled her feet, bouncing from foot to foot, anticipating her opponent’s next move. In a split second, her opponent delivered a punch. Yuri struck the on-coming arm with a roundhouse kick, causing her opponent to fall backwards. She swiftly bent low and sent a low kick to trip her opponent, sending the latter falling flat on the back.

 

Some of the people in the crowd punched their fists up in joy. Yoona was in disbelief when she saw the fight scene in front of her. There was a burning desire in Yuri’s eyes, the perspiration on her body was gleaming under the spotlight and the lines of her well-toned body were very distinct due to the tension as Yuri readied herself for the next attack.  Yuri had turned into a totally different person in the boxing ring. A scarier person than the bully she knew at school.

 

The opponent got up and readied herself. The fight continued and this time, it was Yuri who landed on the floor after getting hit in her face with a hook from her opponent. Yoona’s heart sank to rock bottom when she saw blood spilling from a cut on Yuri’s lips.

 

Yuri wiped the blood off her lips with her fingers and held her fists up to shield her face, preparing herself for another round of battle.

 

After what seemed like a heart stopping battle, Yuri finally emerged as the winner.  Hyoyeon ran up the ring and handed a dry towel to Yuri. Yuri grabbed it from her and wiped her perspiration from her face, neck and arms before throwing it out of the ring.

 

Yoona couldn’t believe her eyes. She had never expected Yuri to be involved in such underground fights. To Yoona, Yuri was just putting up a strong front in school by being a bully. She sincerely believed that no one was born mean. Now she was even more determined to learn more about this bully and why she would want to participate in such fights.

 

Sunny reappeared beside Yoona after the first round of fight ended.

 

“Now you know what Boss does, you better keep your mouth shut,” Sunny warned, wagging a finger at Yoona.

 

Yuri stayed on for the next round while another smaller size girl replaced the earlier opponent who was knocked out. This smaller girl seemed like a ninja, deftly avoiding most of Yuri’s attacks. The final blow came when she sent a roundhouse kick to Yuri’s stomach, causing the taller girl to fall on her knees and bent over in pain.

 

Yoona had the urge to rush up and ask if her schoolmate was alright. Fortunately Hyoyeon ran there in the nick of time and helped supported the injured tanned girl off the ring. Sunny brushed past Yoona in a hurry as she went over to help. Yoona didn’t know what she should do. The roar of the crowd and the intense boxing matches were too much for her heart to take within such a short time.

 

In the end, she made the decision to leave the place. She didn’t want to see any more fights and blood. She couldn’t bear to see Yuri being hit or thrown to the ground in defeat.

 

On the way home, Yoona’s mind was flooded with never ending questions.

 

Is she badly injured?

Is there a first aid kit?

Is that why she doesn’t come to school on certain days? Perhaps to nurse her injuries at home?

Why is she doing all these? She definitely doesn’t need the money.

Is she going to turn up as promised tomorrow?

 

She had no answers to any of the questions.

 

That night, Yoona hardly slept well. The images of Yuri fighting in the ring kept her awake. She was worried sick about her. Yet every time she picked up her mobile phone, wanting to text Yuri to see if she was alright, she ended up slipping the phone below her pillow.

 

~*~*~*~

 

It was the norm for Yuri to disappear from school after a match. However, Yoona insisted on waiting at their usual meeting place, in case Yuri decided to turn up. When Yoona saw Yuri appearing from around the corner, she let out a short sigh of relief.

 

“Hello babe,” Yuri said lazily, sucking on her lollipop, carefully avoiding the part of her lower lip that had a cut. Yuri stuck her hands in her jacket pocket, one of the rare moments she wore her uniform properly instead of draping it over her shoulder. She made it a point to go to school today, just to meet Yoona.

 

How can she behave like nothing happened last evening?  Yoona wondered. A part of her was angry that Yuri seemed to treat the fights as if they were part of a normal life. Another part of her was concerned about Yuri’s injuries after seeing how intense the match was last night.

 

“Not pleased to see me today? You lost your usual reluctant half-hearted smile,” Yuri continued, rolling the sweet with her tongue in her mouth.

 

Yoona took a step forward and extended one hand towards Yuri’s face. Yuri’s eyes followed Yoona’s hand suspiciously, wondering what Yoona planned to do.

 

Yoona used a finger to gently caress Yuri’s cut on her lip. Yuri’s breath hitched when she felt the warm finger glazing across her lip, sending tingles of pleasure throughout her body and her heart a flutter.  Her eyes went back to Yoona but only to see the fair skinned girl gazing at the cut on her lip.

 

Yuri’s jaw relaxed and the lollipop fell out of her mouth and landed onto the floor.

 

“Why are you always getting injured?” Yoona asked softly. Her gaze softened as she looked at the battered tanned girl in front of her. Her heart ached as she studied the cut on Yuri’s lip and the slight bruise on the latter’s right cheek.

 

Yuri clenched her jaw and curled her hands into fists. Her injuries came from the fights she participated in at nights. Fighting allowed her to escape from the painful emotional reality by experiencing a different kind of pain, a physical one. At least she knew that physical pain could be healed with time, and perhaps much faster than emotional pain that never seemed to go away.

 

“Tell me, maybe I can help,” Yoona said with concern, looking at Yuri, who had a look of pain written across her face.

 

Yoona’s hand slid down Yuri’s arm and she could feel the muscles in Yuri’s hand tensed up.

 

“Argh!” Yuri jumped back a step when Yoona accidentally touched a bruise on her arm.

 

“There must be a bruise on your arm. Follow me,” Yoona commanded. Without waiting for Yuri to comply, she grabbed Yuri’s sleeve forcefully and pulled her along.

 

For the first few steps, Yuri stumbled along but soon managed to walk in step with the strong girl who was pulling her.

 

With Yoona’s strong tug, Yuri’s left arm came out of her pocket. Yuri felt Yoona’s hand slid down to her fist and curled around it. Yuri naturally unfurled her fingers and let Yoona’s fingers slip around her fingers until she could feel the warmth of Yoona’s palm on hers. It was a nice feeling and it made Yuri smile unconsciously.  Yuri wondered if Yoona felt the same way but she didn’t dared look at Yoona’s face. She obediently followed behind, unsure of where Yoona wanted to bring her to.

 

When they arrived at the Chemistry Lab, Yoona released Yuri’s hand and instructed Yuri to sit on the high stool while she took out the medication from the first aid kit. Yuri immediately missed the warmth from Yoona’s hand the moment their hands detached from each other.

 

“Take off your jacket. Let me see where you’re injured,” Yoona instructed like a stern teacher.

 

Yuri removed her jacket cautiously, revealing several huge ugly bruises on her right arm. That explained why she wore her jacket properly today instead of draping it over her shoulder. The purpose was to hide that awful bruise.

 

Yoona pursed her lips and went to prepare a hot pack for Yuri.

 

“It’s going to hurt a little.”

 

Yoona placed a hot pack over Yuri’s arm and told her to use her left hand to hold it there. Yuri had an agonized look at the moment the hot pack touched her skin.

 

Yoona used a cotton bud and swabbed some lotion from a glass bottle. She gently dabbed it on the cut on Yuri’s lip while the latter was holding onto the hot pack. Oddly, Yuri felt all pain disappearing from her body as she watched Yoona tending to her injuries.

 

The doe-like eyes were filled with concentration as Yoona tried to apply the medicine on the wounded lip.

 

“Are you hurt anywhere else?” Yoona asked when she was done.

 

“No,” came a firm and defiant reply.

 

“Really? Alright then.” Yoona threw the used cotton bud into the bin, picked up the bottle and turned her body swiftly, jabbing her elbow against Yuri’s stomach on purpose, causing the latter to squeak.

 

“Oh? There’s another bruise there?” Yoona asked innocently.

 

Yuri’s face was crumpled in pain as she bent over slightly, biting her lips and trying to ease the pain. Her opponent delivered a mighty roundhouse kick last night, causing a huge bruise on her stomach. Fortunately none of her ribs were broken.

 

Yuri gasped a little, reeling from the pain before replying Yoona. “Yea…”

 

“Undo the last few buttons on your blouse,” Yoona commanded.

 

Yuri was surprised Yoona knew that she was injured in other parts of her body besides her arm since her usual excuse was that she fell. She had a suspicion that Yoona had gone to her recent match at the disused timber factory else the doe-eye girl wouldn’t have known the extent of her injuries.

 

Yoona noticed Yuri’s reluctance in undoing her blouse. She was losing patience at this tanned girl who still wanted to act tough when she was actually in pain.

 

“I have what you have, the only difference being the size. Unless yours is the size of Jessica’s, I wouldn’t bother to look,” Yoona said plainly, waiting for Yuri to unbutton her blouse so that she could apply the medicine.

 

Yuri wanted to laugh but decided to hold it in. She was enjoying the little joke from Yoona and no point saying something that would only spoil the mood. Placing her fingers on one button, Yuri started to undo each one from the bottom.

 

“Stop! Just the last few buttons would do. I don’t need to see everything,” Yoona exclaimed, looking away momentarily. She felt her cheeks warming up when she saw the tanned girl parting the lower half of her blouse, revealing her toned abs and the bruises. She kept her eyes on the stomach and didn’t dare to let them wander anywhere else as she carefully applied the medication.

 

Yuri let out a snigger. “I can see you’re trying your best to keep your eyes at one spot.”

 

Yoona used the cotton bud to poke Yuri’s abs, causing the tanned girl to shriek.

 

“Kwon Yuri, you’re at my mercy right now so be nice to me else I’ll jab you with this,” Yoona threatened, holding up the cotton bud.

 

Yuri covered her face in mock fear before Yoona started to giggle. It was hilarious to see the bully being afraid for once, even if she was just acting. Yuri merely frowned at the sight of the smiling girl.

 

The Chemistry lab soon resumed its silence as Yoona carefully applied lotion to Yuri’s bruises. The only sounds were the occasional hissing from Yuri when the bruises hurt. Yoona applied waterproof plaster onto the gauze that contained the medication as the finishing touch. She took a step back to admire her handiwork. Being trained in first aid came into good use today.

 

“Thank you.” Those two simple words carried a lot of weight.

 

Yoona was surprised to hear a note of thanks from the school bully. She didn’t expect any form of gratitude from Yuri and only decided to help her out of her good heart.

 

“You’re welcome,” Yoona replied, a smile slowly appearing on her face. Yoona packed the medicine back into the first aid kit while Yuri buttoned her blouse.

 

Yuri hopped off the high stool, slipped on her jacket and headed for the door of the lab.

 

“Yuri.”

 

Yuri stopped at the door of the lab when she heard Yoona’s voice. It was gentle and filled with sincerity and concern. It was the first in a long while since someone called her name in that manner. Warmth filled her heart slowly, knowing that someone truly cared about her.  She stood at the door, with her back facing Yoona as she waited for the doe-eye girl to speak.

 

“Don’t fight again. It hurts.”

 

Yuri’s suspicion about Yoona watching the match yesterday was confirmed. In a normal circumstance, she would had been furious with Sunny and Hyoyeon for letting her bully victim watch her fight in underground matches. This time, she decided to let them off.

 

Stepping out of the room, Yuri couldn’t stop a smile from creeping up her face.

 

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