Caddy groaned; the kappa suit he wore itched. The humid air clung to his skin as he stood in the grass by the dormitories, holding a sign that read I Steal Things And Let My Friends Get In Trouble For It.
“Louder! I want to hear you scream it to the heavens!” Mai commanded, standing beside him with her arms crossed.
“I’m a bad kappa,” Caddy mumbled.
“I am a bad kappa!” Caddy yelled.
“Mai, what are you doing?” Hana interrupted as she approached Mai and Caddy. Caddy closed his eyes, his hands clenching the sign he held tighter.
Mai sniggered. “You didn’t think I was just going to let him get away with this, did you?”
“But… isn’t this a bit much?” Hana asked.
Mai grimaced. “No way! He gave us WEEKS of suffering!”
“Yeah, but everything worked out okay! You can cut him some slack!” Hana said.
Caddy opened his eyes, glancing sideways at Hana with an eyebrow raised. Wasn’t she mad at him, too?
“I’ll cut him some slack when he’s dead,” Mai replied with a glare at Caddy. Caddy’s shoulders shrank back, and he wished again he could run for his life. Students crowded around Mai, Caddy, and Hana as Mai commanded, “Say it again!”
“I AM A BAD KAPPA!” Caddy screamed. He coughed and wiped sweat off his forehead.
Students laughed, mimicking hyenas as Caddy glared at them.
“He stole the Boots? How pathetic!” a boy shouted.
“He’s just jealous of Normal Boots!” a girl said with a haughty laugh.
Various taunts rattled in his ears and pierced his head. Caddy sighed, staring at the grass. He didn’t know which was worse—the lump on his head from where PBG threw him against a couch the night before, or being stuck in this wretched costume today before the student body.
Caddy lifted his head and watch Hana walk away with Satch’s arm around her shoulders. As the two left, Caddy gazed up at the sky. He avoided everyone’s eyes and thought sadly how Satch shouldn’t have needed to expose his theft of the boots. He himself should have given back the boots earlier, or told Normal Boots that he’d sent the statue for repairs. But nope, he had been waiting for the perfect moment to tell them, and that moment came far too late for the girls.
He, James Caddicarus, was a coward… a bloody coward. Tears pricked his eyes.
“You’re done now, but only because class is starting.” Mai tossed a plastic bag at Caddy. “Here’s your uniform.”
Caddy dropped the sign and caught the bag. His black and gold Hidden Block jacket poked out of the top. “You satisfied now?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at Mai.
Mai smirked. “Almost.” She turned and said, “Give back the costume later, ok? I’ll see you at lunch.” As Mai strode away, the ten-minute warning bell rang. Caddy finally dared to look up; few students remained to torment him, but those few continued to point, chatter, and jeer as he walked past.
“Hey Caddy, you okay?” Luke ran up to the sulking Caddy.
“Bugger off, Luke,” Caddy seethed, stomping past the hat-wearing rapper.
“But…” Luke stepped towards Caddy.
“I said leave me alone!” Caddy roared at Luke.
Luke stumbled back. All the jeering around Caddy stopped. Grass flew in Caddy’s face. Caddy sputtered and spun around. Crumpled paper bounced off Caddy’s head. A small group of boys wadded more paper into balls and sneered at the British boy.
“Hey, stop it!” Luke shouted at the boys, hands clenching into fists.
The boys continued to laugh and taunt Caddy. Caddy dragged his feet as he walked away from the jeering students, managing only a single “bugger off” at the boys.
Footsteps clang on the ground behind him. . A pair of arms looped under his legs and across his back and lifted him off the ground. “What the-?” he spat out—then he saw the face of his rescuer.
A… girl with cropped red hair and fierce red eyes. She looked straight ahead, eyebrows scrunched and lips set in a firm line as she ran while carrying him.
“Where the blo-”
“I am taking you to safety,” the girl replied. “You will not be harassed any longer.” Continuing to carry Caddy bridal-style in her arms, the girl slammed through the doorways of Poppy Hall with her shoulders.
Caddy swore quite loudly as he grabbed her vest to keep from being jostled or dropped. “Well, where exactly are you taking me?” he demanded as she sped past the rows of blue lockers.
The red-eyed girl gently deposited Caddy on his feet in front of the boys’ restroom. “Go and change into your uniform,” she said with a smile. “I’ll stay out here to make sure no one bothers you in the process.” She placed her hands behind her back and stood with her feet shoulder-width apart, like a soldier.
Caddy raised an eyebrow—then smiled. “Thank you.” He walked past her and entered the stall furthest from the door. Thankfully, the bathroom was empty, so when he shut the stall door he was truly alone.
He ripped the kappa hood off his head, grateful to have the irritating fabric off his forehead and ears. As he peeled off the rest of the kappa suit and dressed back in his uniform, he wondered about the girl that had carried him off. She looked familiar… maybe he’d seen her in the halls? He knew she definitely wasn’t in his class—he had every one of his homeroom classmates’ faces memorized at that point in the year.
Now wearing his complete uniform, he straightened his shirt collar and brushed crumbs off his jacket. He needed to at least get her name. He smiled, and his heart felt lighter just thinking about her. Exiting the bathroom stall, Caddy grabbed the bag with the rumpled costume and walked to the bathroom door. He heard the girl arguing with a boy on the other side. Caddy facepalmed when he recognized Luke’s voice. Luke, really? Caddy sighed and opened the door.
Luke and the red-eyed girl stopped talking and stared at Caddy as soon as they saw Caddy step out of the bathroom. “Oh, Caddy, thank goodness you’re okay,” Luke said with a grin.
“Of course I’m alright,” Caddy said with a grimace. “But thanks anyways.”
A beep went off. The girl checked the watch she wore on her left wrist. “We have six point five minutes until classes start,” she informed the boys.
“Blimey,” Caddy muttered, smacking his forehead with his hand.
“Crap! I gotta meet with Ian before class.” Luke chuckled and scratched his head. “Thank you for taking care of my friend.” Luke gestured to Caddy, who half-smiled.
“You are welcome,” the girl replied with a stiff nod.
“See you in class!” Luke told the girl as he ran off.
“I will see you there,” the girl called after Luke. She turned and faced Caddy, smiling in a friendly, genuine manner. “Shall we walk to class together?”
“Oh, uh, sure.” Caddy chuckled, his heart beating faster than usual. “What class are you in?”
“Room 206 with Miss Shizuka,” the girl replied, hands behind her back.
“I’m in 205, right next door.” Caddy squeezed the costume bag in his hands.
“Perfect. I shall accompany you to your homeroom.” The girl stepped closer to him, waiting for him to start walking.
“Now hold on, hold on!” Caddy held his hands up in protest. “I should be walking you to your homeroom. Gentlemanly ways and all that.”
The girl twisted her head back and forth. “No, it would be wise for me to stay with you. I do not wish for anyone else to torment you like they did when you wore that green animal outfit.” She pointed at the bag Caddy held.
“Oh, no, it’s quite alright.” Caddy smiled and chuckled. “I believe I can handle things from here.”
“I insist.” Her eyes glowed bright red—or was he imagining it?—and she frowned. “Please… allow me to protect you as needed. It is not right the way they treated you.”
The intenseness of her stare caught Caddy off-guard—it was like she wasn’t blinking. His heart pounded in his chest, uncertain whether he was afraid or… something else entirely. “Uh, alright, if you insist, Miss…”
The girl smiled again. “My name is Kakusu.”
“Kakusu…” Caddy smiled, his shoulders relaxing. “I like that name.” He bowed. “Greeting and salutations, my beautiful person. I’m James Caddicarus.” He straightened and met Kakusu’s eyes. “But please, call me Caddicarus or Caddy. Everyone does.”
“Hee hee hee,” Kakusu said through her smile. Was that how she normally laughed? It was quirky… and kind of adorable. “It is a pleasure to be formally introduced to you, Caddicarus.”
“Formally introduced?” Caddy started walking down the hall; Kakusu fell into step beside him.
“Yes,” Kakusu replied. “I have the names and faces of every student at Asagao Academy in my database, but I have not personally spoken to each student.”
Caddy raised an eyebrow. Calling someone’s memory a database was new to him, but he had heard weirder things, being a part of Hidden Block and all. “Well, that’s quite the handy skill you got there.”
“Is it really that difficult for every other human to memorize information?” She tilted her head to one side. “You are not the first to comment on my information retention ability.”
“Oi, believe me, it’s very difficult,” Caddy replied, rubbing his forehead. “It takes me hours to memorize for tests, and even then I get things wrong.”
“Fascinating,” Kakusu replied, watching the path ahead of them. “I have no problems downloading information or recalling it later accurately. I had assumed other people had that same ability.”
“Well, some can—I think Satch from Normal Boots or Wallid from my own club get pretty close.” Caddy stroked his short beard. “But for almost everyone else, it’s not so easy.”
“I see.” Kakusu scanned Caddy’s expression, then smiled again. “Earlier in your introduction, you called me a beautiful person. Do you really see me as a beautiful person?”
“Of course!” Caddy beamed. “Then again, everyone is a beautiful person, and the whole world is just… full of beautiful people!” He stretched his arms out as if showcasing a globe on his shoulders.
Kakusu’s smile grew wider. “That is a wonderful belief to have in humanity.” She looked up and saw the bag hanging from Caddy’s wrist. “Let me take that costume from you, Caddicarus,” she said as she slid the bag off his hand.
“Oh, wait, that’s not really necessary,” Caddy protested, reaching out to take the bagged costume back.
Kakusu held the bag to her chest and shook her head. “I wish to help. Mai Sasaki is in my homeroom class. Therefore, I can return this outfit to her without added embarrassment to yourself.”
Caddy and Kakusu both stopped walking; they were standing in front of the lockers between rooms 205 and 206. “Why are you so insistent on helping me? We haven’t really talked before, and we weren’t friends before, either.” Caddy studied her face, his eyebrows furrowed.
Kakusu paused, staring at Caddy in that same unblinking manner and… beeping? Maybe that was her watch. The beeping stopped, and Kakusu replied, “When I saw you in the kappa costume, I asked my friend why you were wearing that outfit and holding that sign. She said it was a punishment enacted on you for stealing the Golden Boot statue that the Normal Boots club values.”
“Oi, and a punishment that I deserved,” Caddy replied, rubbing his neck. “Hana and Mai both got blamed for the statue going missing, and I didn’t correct matters until Satch forced me to.” Well, the public humiliation he felt was well deserved… the costume may have been too much.
“However,” Kakusu replied, holding up a finger, “as I watched you, I arrived at the conclusion that your treatment at that moment was not correct. Mai Sasaki intended to have you derided by your peers—and a better solution would have been a punishment inflicted privately by school staff or the Normal Boots club.” Kakusu shook her head. “I could not bear to see you unjustly humiliated in the public eye.”
Caddy stared at Kakusu, eyes wide and jaw slack. “Really? Oi, wow, um…” His lips pursed like a fish mouth until he found the right words to say. “… That is way more merciful than anyone else has been about this whole ordeal. I…” He looked away, then met Kakusu’s puzzled expression. “Thank you… so very much, Kakusu.” Caddy grinned, holding a fist over his chest.
Kakusu smiled back. “You are very welcome, Caddicarus.” She bowed and spun around.
“Wait, Kakusu?” Caddy called after her. Kakusu faced Caddy again. He rubbed his neck and said, “You can sit with me and the rest of Hidden Block at lunch if you want to. Today, or any day.”
“I will consider your offer.” Kakusu tilted her head; the beeping noise returned as she pondered. “That makes us friends, correct?”
“Um, yes, of course!” Caddy’s eyebrows lifted.
Kakusu beamed, her eyes glowing as much as her smile. “Kakusu made a new friend! Kakusu is happy!” She clasped her hands together.
Caddy burst out laughing. “Yes, yes you have!” His smile became as wide as hers. Her demeanor had suddenly become so childlike, so unlike the stiff girl he had been talking to before, and he couldn’t help but find the contrast humorous.
She dipped her head, still smiling. “I will see you at lunch. Farewell for now, Caddicarus.”
“Okay, see you later!” Caddy waved at her as she left, and he was grinning like a fool. Any embarrassment he may have felt for being so easily carried off by a girl was now replaced by heart-fluttering joy. Kakusu saw the world so differently—almost childlike in her mannerisms—yet acted so kind and helpful and supportive. He felt his cheeks tingle. He definitely couldn’t wait to see her again.
As he walked into his classroom—thankfully the teacher was running late again—Caddy didn’t even hear the snickers thrown his way about the kappa suit spectacle or see the mocking smirks or glares of his classmates. He barely even registered the worried look Jimmy threw his way. Rather, as he plopped into his desk, all he could think about was that redhead wonder… Kakusu.
He needed to ask what workout she used, too… maybe one day he could try carrying her with that same strength she used to support him.