Technically, it all started because Judal decided to be an asshole.
To be fair, many things had started because Judal decided to be an asshole, like the school principal’s very unfortunate haircut back in primary school, or the whole middle school soccer team suddenly sporting bright pink tie-dyed jerseys, or that one classroom fire back in high school, among other things (and there were a lot of other things).
It kept her at night, sometimes, questioning herself why she was still friends with the guy.
Kougyoku had known him long enough to know that whenever Judal got that smug, up-to-no-good grin on his face, it was best to keep her distance for at least a few days. Not that he actively got her involved in whatever trouble he was going for (he had given up halfway through primary school, besides, there was always Kouha), she simply preferred not to be collateral damage ( “Aw, Kougyoku, I didn’t know you were gonna be here! S’okay, green’s a good look on ‘ya.” ).
More importantly, she didn’t want to be caught in the crime scene holding evidence ( “Miss Ren, we expected better of you. You should know better than to aid such childish behavior.” and she was never going to naively hold a bottle of glue again just because Judal asked her so nicely. ).
It was rare for one of Judal’s pranks to result in good things.
Fine. Judal’s pranks never, in written/remembered/reported history, resulted in good things.
Until Kougyoku met her (new, not-prank-pulling, sweet, considerate, too-good-to-be-true, and very much not-Judal) friend because Judal decided to be an asshole.
“Have you seen that new kid?” Judal had asked her one evening.
She cast him a withering look as if to point out ‘It’s the first week of the term, there’s a LOT of new kids’ .
She couldn’t be sure he interpreted her expression correctly, but he was prompted to elaborate: “Blue hair. Big head. Annoying nerd smile. He’s like, really small. Looks like he should be in first grade. Hangs out with this, like, disgusting ray of sunshine.”
Kougyoku had seen that new kid, yes, and she didn’t think he should be in first grade, no thank you. Maybe middle school. Or first year high school at most. Whatever. She couldn’t recall his name, but he was supposed to be a kid genius of some sort under a scholarship. They shared some of their classes. She assumed the ‘disgusting ray of sunshine’ Judal was pertaining to was the blond student who looked like the kid’s big brother or guardian because they were always together.
She didn’t have to reply, it seems, because Judal had, inevitably, arrived to a very Judal conclusion: “M’gonna make that kid suffer.”
He had that face on. She knew by now that any effort to dissuade him will go to waste.
“Go easy, he’s a kid.” was all she said. “And a little warning would be nice. Last time, you got paint on my favorite skirt.”
She was present when Judal pulled the first prank. A safe distance away from the colorful glitters and shiny cutout shapes that ended up adorning the kid’s - Aladdin , she learned from the blond friend’s horrified exclamation - head of long blue braided hair.
Aladdin furrowed his brows as he looked around, looking for the perpetrator. Judal was not owning up to the crime but was not trying to play innocent either with his smug grin and not-very-subtle sniggers.
Blond friend was too busy patting off the glitter and confetti on Aladdin’s hair to see Aladdin’s expression turn sour, usual pleasant smile switched for a scowl.
He glared. It was cute because he looked like an angry puppy. It also made Kougyoku rub her temples.
Because Aladdin’s expression blatantly spelled, ‘You’re gonna regret that.’
Judal, because he decided to be an asshole (and when he does, he commits ), grinned wider and cocked his head, obviously meaning, ‘Come at me, bro.’
Kougyoku could only sigh, and comforted herself by looking at the worried blond friend who was now trying to borrow tissues from some girl in their class to help wipe off the glitter. Why doesn’t she have a friend like that?
The last time Kougyoku witnessed a prank war, it was between Judal and Kouha, and it ended in a most terrifying friendship between the two. After that, they became partners in crime instead of rivals.
Kouha was not here, however. (College was not for Kouha, and that she agreed with. Backpacking across the continent to go to questionable destinations for an indefinite period of time was the way to go for Kouha, it seems.)
Compared to her brother, Aladdin was, genius or not, a kid, younger than his friends here in campus - so it made sense that he would try to get back at Judal.
During the Judal-vs-Kouha war, Kougyoku kept her distance until it died down. This time, she knew it was best to do the same.
The thing is, it was kind of hard to avoid either of them because Judal was her roommate (Kou, and it turned out that Aladdin and his friend were their next-door neighbors, and they shared about 40% of their classes.
Maybe she shouldn’t have been so surprised when she followed Judal into the study lounge three days after his prank on Aladdin and was welcomed with slimy bright yellow goo from an impressively set-up contraption above the doorway.
She shrieked, and then promptly wished to disappear from the face of the Earth because of course all eyes would turn to her.
“Holy shit, that’s actually good !” was from Judal, the bastard - and she gaped because how was he entirely goo-free and how dare he laugh at her?!
“Miss, I’m so sorry! That- That wasn’t for you, I swear- Crap, I’m really sorry-” was from Aladdin, and he sounded so distressed that Kougyoku actually found it hard to be angry at him.
“Aladdin, what the hell!” was Alibaba (she learned the name of Aladdin’s ray of sunshine blond friend just the day before), who instead of flailing helplessly like Aladdin or laughing hysterically like Judal, actually moved to help her. “Miss, are you okay-”
“Please save my papers.” was her first reaction, shoving her (thankfully goo-safe so far) papers and bag towards him.
“Right, yeah, sure.” he nodded and accepted the items.
As soon as her hands were free, she moved to wipe the goo from her face. It made her feel grosser. It was sticky and it felt wet and it was everywhere .
Alibaba shoved her things for Aladdin to hold, assessing her state. “Here, uh- Oh, man. You should-...”
He was a quick thinker, and Kougyoku was grateful for it because she realized that the yellow goo was making her clothes not only stick to her figure, her blouse was also becoming partly see-through. What the hell was that goo?! Alibaba removed his jacket - which was pure white (who even wears a pure white jacket???) - and wrapped it around her, not seeming to care if it also got stained by the goo. She quickly hugged the jacket to herself to preserve her modesty. He also retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket so she can wipe her face with it.
The goo was persistent. Wiping it off actually felt worse .
But hey, Alibaba was trying, so - “Thank you.” Kougyoku mumbled softly, head bowed to hide how horrible she must look, all yellow goo and red cheeks. When Judal poked at her hair, she swat at him. “Not you !”
Judal ignored her in favor of examining the pinch of yellow goo he now had on his fingers. “Damn, shorty. What is this shit?”
“Like I’ll tell you.” Aladdin grumbled.
“Don’t worry about your clothes. It won’t stain.” Alibaba assured Kougyoku as she tried to wipe chunks of goo off her collar. “Right, Aladdin?”
“Yeah. It won’t. It’s just sticky- It’ll come off in water.” Aladdin said, still distraught, hugging her papers and bag to himself. “I’m really really sorry, Miss Ren-”
Kougyoku just looked down and shook her head. “I know you didn’t mean it. Just-”
“It was for Judal!” Aladdin insisted. “I’d never have done it if I knew you’ll get caught in-” then a pause as he glared at Judal accusingly. “You pushed her in!”
“No I didn’t.” Judal said. “I pulled her with me ‘cause I know you were plannin’ something. I thought you won’t do it. Too late. It was happening. So I stepped back.”
Kougyoku rounded on him. “You didn’t think to pull me back too?!”
Judal pouted. “Whoa, I’m not the nerd who cooked up special goo to pour on you.”
“It was for you !” Aladdin pouted back.
“Still your fault-”
“ You started it!”
“And you actually followed-”
“You can’t always get away with being a bully-”
Okay, they were causing a scene now. They had caused a scene. And were prolonging that scene, with Kougyoku dead center because of her pathetic dripping-in-goo state. She doesn’t do attention. She ducked her head, internally panicking. What should she do? Just… leave? Aladdin has her things. Maybe she could just grab them and make a run for it. She’ll find Alibaba later to give him his jacket and handkerchief back, he was just next door anyway-
She wasn’t sure if Alibaba noticed her panic, but he cut off the argument swiftly. “Nope, we have no time for this. I’m going to take Miss Ren back to the dorms before you two can embarrass her further, and- ” his eyes narrowed as he pointed to them when they moved to follow him. “-you two will stay here and get this mess cleaned up. While you’re at it, maybe think about what you’ve done?”
He didn’t wait for their reply. He just took Kougyoku’s things from Aladdin and led her out the room. They left to the sound of Judal and Aladdin still bickering.
As they walked to the direction of their dorm building, Alibaba sighed. “I’m really very sorry for the trouble, Miss Ren. I really should have stopped Aladdin. He said he just wants to make things even, and I did think Judal kinda deserved it, but still.”
“Oh, it’s… it’s done now. Nothing we can do about it. And Judal was being a bully.” she said sullenly, now squeezing yellow goo off her hair. It really felt gross. Did Aladdin make this? If she wasn’t its victim, she would be impressed.
People stared at them as they walked by. No, scratch that - they were staring at her. It was awful. Kougyoku was the least social of her siblings. Kouen, Koumei and Kouha always oozed confidence, albeit in different ways. But Kougyoku - Kougyoku was awkward. There was a reason why she always prefered to trail after Judal or her brothers.
Right now, she wasn’t alone. Alibaba was walking with her. But she didn’t really know him, and even though he hadn’t acknowledged all the staring their way, it must be embarrassing to walk with a girl dripping wet with weird yellow goo.
“You don’t have to walk me all the way back.” she said, avoiding looking at him. He had been really nice to her, and she didn’t want to trouble him any further. “I’ll… I’ll just take my things, and I’ll wash your jacket as soon as I can-”
“Nope, not happening.” he shook his head firmly. “You don’t deserve to do a yellow goo walk of shame alone.”
So he knew that people were staring. So he doesn’t care? Or he doesn’t want to leave her to suffer alone? That made her smile a bit. “Thanks, um, it’s Alibaba, right?”
“Yep. Alibaba Saluja. It’s nice to meet you. Uh, Kougyoku? Did I say that right?”
She nodded. “Nice to meet you too. I’ll… shake your hand, but… you know.” she smiled uneasily, raising her hand which still had traces of the sticky yellow goo.
Alibaba snorted, then extended his hand. “Nah. Bring it in.”
“No, I’m not infecting you with sticky goo!” she insisted, although she couldn’t help but let out a small laugh.
“Hah! You just gave me an idea!”
He tucked her papers and bag securely under one arm, then with his other hand he took a bunch of goo that had been stuck on the ribbon on top of her head.
He visibly cringed, not hiding his disgust as he withdrew his hand, his palm now covered in goo. “Oh, ewww. This is gross ! Aladdin really went all out- Ew. Ewww. OH MY GOD, IT’S HORRIBLE. IT… IT DRIPS BUT IT’S STICKY. EUGHHH-”
Kougyoku had to stifle her laugh behind the borrowed handkerchief. “W-Why did you even do that?!”
“I don’t know, solidarity? I think?” his expression was that of a person who had been dead set on a goal but was slowly regretting his decisions, then he took in her state again. “Oh man, and you’ve got a ton of it on you!”
“Yes, I do feel really really gross. This is worse than when I got caught in a food fight between Judal and my brother. That was pie. This is way worse than pie for some reason.” she shook her head, then cringed when her own hair got stuck in her cheek. She brushed it off and then cringed some more because goo got caught in her hand again . “I’d congratulate Aladdin but that would be weird. I’m gonna have to take a really long shower for this.”
“Can’t blame you. I only have it in my hand and I want to shower too.” he said, considering the goo in his hand.
Then he shrugged and said, “Oh, well. What’s the worse that can happen?”
Kougyoku watched in horror as he pressed his goo-infested hand to his cheek.
“Ew. Euuuggh.” he groaned, face scrunching up as he glared at his hand. “Okay, it’s worse in the face.”
“What are you doing?!” she whisper-shouted, only barely stopping herself from slapping his arm and staining his white shirt (he had been wearing. a white shirt. under the white jacket.) with the goo.
Alibaba shrugged again. “It’s just- You look horrible.”
She paused, an eyebrow raised. It was one thing for Judal to call her an ugly hag , but no one had ever said she looked horrible.
Alibaba, for one, looked horrified. “No, no! I mean! I didn’t mean you look horrible! You look fine! No, not fine, there’s the goo. I didn’t mean like horrible ugly, ‘cause you’re not ugly. You’re pretty. No, wait, I just mean- You’re still pretty even with the goo- Okay, no, that’s inappropriate- Uh- Uhhhhh…”
He was going in circles. Kougyoku just blinked, looking at him expectantly.
After a few moments of hand flailing, he finally seemed to gather his thoughts. “I mean, you look like you feel horrible ? I think you do? And I- Y’know, people are looking at us, so I thought maybe uh, maybe I should have goo too so you won’t feel alone?”
She nodded slowly. “So it’s like you said before? Solidarity?”
“That! Yup. We are now together suffering from Aladdin’s weird evil yellow goo from hell.” he said, nodding back eagerly. “And you don’t have to worry about shaking my hand now. Yay.”
Kougyoku hid an amused snort behind the sleeve of his too-big jacket. Finally, she raised her hand for him to take.
He grinned as he shook her hand.
A soft, wet, squelching sound was heard.
They stared down in growing terror.
“Right, so let’s just… do this over when we’re not covered in goo.”
“Oh… Oh no.”
“We’re gonna get goo on the doorknob, are we?”
The next day, Kougyoku received a bunch of flowers with a card saying “I’M SORRY YOU GOT SHOWERED WITH GOO.” and a tiny envelope with a gift card to an expensive clothing store.
“Aladdin, no. It was an accident.” she said, although she would admit she was very touched.
Aladdin shook his head stubborn. “No, it wasn’t. I set it up, it happened at the right time, it just hit the wrong person. I’m really really sorry!” - and then he bowed his head again.
Kougyoku turned towards Alibaba who was standing beside his best friend, and he just nodded encouragingly as if to say ‘Just accept it or he’ll feel real bad forever.’
“Alright, alright. I’m taking this. You’re… forgiven, I guess? The gift card is a bit much-”
“It’s okay, it’s a token of apology, You missed study time and I ruined your shirt. Please take it!”
A sigh. “Okay. Thank you.”
She was standing by the doorway of her dorm room when she found the two of them waiting, knowing she would have to come out soon since her next class was about to start.
As she moved to quickly put away the apology tokens, Aladdin peered inside the room with narrowed eyes. “Where’s Judal?”
Kougyoku shrugged. “Off somewhere, I don’t really know…”
“...the black one is his bed, right?”
“Aladdin…” Alibaba started, tone bearing warning.
“Can I put like, plastic spiders on it or something-”
Alibaba groaned. “Aladdin, no! That’s Kougyoku’s room too.”
“It’s not like she sleeps on his bed.” Aladdin pointed out.
An awkward silence.
“...Right? Wait, are you together like that?”
Kougyoku frowned, blushing in embarrassment. “What? N-No! We just grew up together, he’s like-” A brother? No, she loves and adores her brothers. Judal she… doesn’t know, really. It’s weird. “-a cousin, or something.”
Aladdin nodded. “Okay. I promise I won’t touch your bed.”
The boy didn’t blink even once as both Kougyoku and Alibaba looked at him.
Surprisingly, it was Kougyoku who broke the silence as she looked away from Aladdin and towards Alibaba. “We have next class together, right?”
Alibaba blinked. “Yeah…?”
“We should go, or we’ll be late.” she said, adjusting her bag on her shoulders and stepping outside the room. Aladdin, still standing inside, beamed as she continued, “I didn’t see anything here.”
Alibaba sniggered and shrugged at Aladdin before following her.
“Don’t worry, I’ll lock the door! And I’ll put your flowers in the water!” Aladdin called after them happily.
The dorm room window sills had enough space to serve as a window seat. One only had to pull the blinds and window panes open, and the metal bars that was attached outside window ensured that anyone sitting in the sill won’t fall over.
Kougyoku was sitting in that very spot, mirrored by Alibaba from his own room next to her’s as they quizzed each other for an upcoming test on a subject they shared, when her roommate let out a shrill cry from his bed across the room.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” came Judal’s outraged cry when he saw Kougyoku laughing from her spot.
Aladdin’s head appeared next to Alibaba’s as he excitedly asked, “Did it work? Did it???”
Kougyoku was too busy stifling her laugh behind her hand, but she nodded.
Judal charged towards her. “DID YOU DO THIS, YOU UGLY HAG?!”
“No!” Kougyoku answered, enjoying the situation too much to feel threatened.
Then Judal stuck his head out the window, narrowly missing Aladdin as the boy swiftly ducked back inside his room, and came face to face with Alibaba.
Alibaba took one look at him and broke down laughing as well.
Judal’s hair and face was filled with bright green feathers and plastic spiders (because Aladdin always made good on his promises).
“Where is he?!” Judal snarled, the action making the feathers rustle and a spider from his hair fall to his nose, in turn making him hurriedly brush it off and both Alibaba and Kougyoku laugh again.
Aladdin only stuck his head out again and grinned innocently, waved, and then disappeared again.
“You little- How did you even-” then Judal stepped back to look at his roommate. “ You. ”
“What?” Kougyoku challenged - it was easy to do so when Judal looked specially ridiculous.
He seemed taken aback at her smugness, and then bristled when he caught the flowers on her desk. Then he peeked out the window again to see Alibaba, who quickly hid his face behind a thick reference book. It would have looked convincing if the book wasn’t upside down.
“You let them bribe you with flowers?!” Judal accused.
“I-... I wasn’t bribed!” Kougyoku frowned, indignant.
She wasn’t. She let Aladdin in because... well... Judal had it coming. And alright, maybe she was still kinda annoyed that he didn’t save her from a prank that was supposed to be for him.
He grumbled as he looked out the window again and shouted, “I know you can hear me, half-pint! Better watch your back ‘cause this ain’t over!”
Then he grabbed his towel and headed for the bathroom.
Before slamming the door, he pointed at Kougyoku and scowled, “Stop fraternizing with the enemy!”
Kougyoku pouted, but melted into a smile when she saw Alibaba still sniggering from his window. “What’s Aladdin doing now?”
Alibaba looked inside the room, snorted, and then grinned. “Jumping on the bed celebrating his victory.”
She giggled shortly, looking back down on her book. After a moment, she heard Alibaba exhale loudly before saying, “So, back to business. Was it your turn or mine? Mine? I think?”
Kougyoku smiled as she looked back at her notes and picked a question.