Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 182,656,530 Issue: 231 | 16th day of Running, Y8
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Bullied


by nut862

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It was a lovely day for a young Kougra to begin school. A breeze blew lightly down the street; the trees seemed to rustle in one great orange-stained mass, and dry leaves whisked through the air. Kesshe trotted happily towards the school gates at a brisk pace, swinging her lunchbox with pent-up excited energy. She was eager to meet many new friends at school.

     The schoolyard was full of young and nervous pets that were going to school for the first time. They stood around the school building, most looking shy and uncertain. Kesshe bounced through the gates and joined the crowd. For a moment she stood in silence, a bit confused as to why few seemed to be talking. Spotting a small Aisha who was fiddling nervously with her book bag, Kesshe jumped over and smiled widely.

     "Hi, I'm Kesshe," the blue Kougra introduced herself. "What's your name?"

     The Aisha looked up in surprise. Quickly dropping her eyes back to her bag, she mumbled, "Um, Rusu."

     "What?" Kesshe tilted her ear towards the Aisha.

     "Rusu," she repeated in a louder voice, looking embarrassed at having been asked to repeat her name. She toyed with her bag's strap some more.

     Kesshe grinned. "Nice to meet you. Is this your first day here?"

     "Yes." Rusu raised her eyes to look at the blue Kougra. "Have you been going here long?"

     "No, it's my first day, too." Kesshe smiled brightly. "There sure are a lot of pets here, huh?"

     "Yes," the Aisha said faintly, giving the schoolyard a quick, frightened stare as if to ensure that there were still as many pets as there had been when she walked in. If anything, there were more now, since new pets were constantly walking through the gate.

     "Let's go say hello to them."

     "Say hello?" Rusu's eyes widened.

     "Yeah. That Elephante looks nice, huh? Come on." Kesshe grabbed Rusu's little paw and dragged the Aisha across the schoolyard.

     The green Elephante looked up at them and smiled a little. Kesshe returned the gesture several fold. Pointing at herself and the Aisha, she said simply, "Kesshe. Rusu."

     "Ewana," the Elephante said, extending her paw. Kesshe shook it firmly.

     After introductions had been made, the three pets became involved in an animated conversation about faeries. Kesshe held the firm belief that not all Dark Faeries were evil. "It's silly to think they are. They're just another element, like Earth or Fire."

     "But they're not just another element," Rusu protested. "Dark and Light are the same as evil and good."

     Ewana nodded her agreement. "My mum always said to stay away from Dark Faeries because they're bad. If you try to help them, they'll just use you."

     Kesshe rolled her eyes. "And my mommy always said never to believe stereotypes. Dark Faeries control the darkness, and Light Faeries control the light. It's that simple. Whether they're evil or good has nothing to do with their element."

     Rusu opened her mouth to argue, but before she could say a word, a paw reached out and pushed her from behind. The little Aisha stumbled forward, trying to keep her balance, but eventually fell to the ground. The offending paw snatched up her book bag. Ewana, with a look of horror on her face, bent down to help Rusu up. Kesshe looked around quickly and caught sight of the large yellow Kougra the paw belonged to. Two other Kougras stood behind him. The yellow one sneered at Kesshe and spat at the Aisha, "Little wimp." The three Kougras ran off, with Rusu's book bag in the leader's paw.

     "Hey!" Kesshe yelled, her eyes sparking with anger. "Give back her bag!"

     "We're just going to play with it for a while," one of the other two Kougras called back to her in a taunting voice. "There wasn't anything in it she wouldn't want us to see, is there? Like her baby blankie or something like that?"

     "Oh, no. She keeps the blanket hidden in her socks. The book bag's for important stuff like her pacifier," the other Kougra replied.

     The three of them howled with laughter. Kesshe glared at their retreating backs. "I'm going after them," she said through clenched teeth.

     "But they're bigger and older than you, and there's three of them," Rusu faltered. She had gotten up, her face and paws covered with dirt. Her cheeks were still burning from the humiliation. She looked around. "Where's my book bag?"

     "They took it," Ewana told her reluctantly, hating to deliver more bad news.

     Rusu's face crumbled into an anguished expression. "They can't… it's my book bag!" she cried. "My mother bought it for me just for today. I want it back!"

     "I'll get it for you," Kesshe promised, her eyes snapping. No longer held back, she took off running in the direction that the Kougras had gone, her lunchbox swinging from her fist.

     The bell rang. "Time for class!" Ewana shouted after her.

     Kesshe ignored her. Rounding the corner around the school building, she found the three Kougras tossing the book bag back and forth to each other. The flap was open, and every time the bag flew through the air, something tumbled out. Pencils fell to the ground, books landed with their pages splayed, and notepads landed and were trampled into the dirt by running Kougra feet. Kesshe grimaced at the sight of a few sheets of faerie-patterned notepaper lying crushed in the soil.

     "Catch!" The yellow Kougra hurled the bag to one of the gang.

     On the way through the air, a small pink purse dropped to the ground. "There goes her lunch money," said the red Kougra who caught the bag.

     "Give that back!" Kesshe demanded. "It's not your bag."

     The Kougras turned to look at her. Their leader snorted. "Oh, it's the friend of that little crybaby. She's being so brave, coming up and facing us down, all for a puny Aisha she hasn't known for ten minutes. Isn't she nice," he said sarcastically.

     "You want the bag back, so get it." The red Kougra tossed it to the scruffy green Kougra.

     Kesshe growled. Dropping her lunchbox, she leaped at the green one and shoved him to the dirt. She snatched the bag up in her paws with a triumphant grin.

     The green Kougra got back up, his eyes flashing with anger. He dived at Kesshe. Before she knew what she was doing, her paw shot out and punched him in the face. He toppled to the ground, clutching his wounded nose.

     The big yellow Kougra laughed. "That hurt?" he asked, leering at the green one. He turned to Kesshe and gave her a smirk. "You got the bag. Nice. I'm sure your friend will be happy to have her stuff back." He glanced at the damaged school supplies strewn across the ground. The Kougra picked up a torn and crumpled sheet of stationery and crushed it into a ball, then threw it at Kesshe. "Did she want that?" he sneered. "Anyway, thanks for the free lunch."

     Kesshe glanced up, startled. The yellow Kougra held up her lunchbox, grinning meanly, and ran towards the school building. The red Kougra followed close behind. The green one gave Kesshe a brief glare before running after his friends, still clutching his injured nose.

     Kesshe looked at Rusu's book bag disconsolately. The flap was hanging crookedly open, and most of its contents were mashed into the dirt at the blue Kougra's feet. Kesshe put the ruined school supplies back into the bag with a heavy heart, and dragged herself into the building.

      * * * * *

     Being sent to the principle's office on the first day of school had not been in Kesshe's visions of making new friends and enjoying her time at school. She hadn't thought of the possibility of having her lunchbox stolen and punching someone, either. Somehow she hadn't thought that there would be consequences for hurting that green Kougra, but shortly after she had walked into class late, a teacher of a higher grade had entered the room to complain that one of her students had been attacked by a first-grader.

     And now Kesshe was sitting in a chair before a tall, intimidating Uni who was the school principal. "Is it true that you punched Reyen?" she asked gravely.

     "Who's Reyen?"

     The Uni drew her lips together. "He's the green Kougra who has a bloody nose right now."

     "Then yes, I punched him," Kesshe replied boldly.

     "Would you like to explain yourself?"

     "It was self-defense."

     "What did he do to you?"

     "He and his friends were playing catch with Rusu's book bag, and destroying everything in it," Kesshe said indignantly. "They called Rusu puny, a crybaby, a wimp…" She clenched her fists.

     The principal sighed tiredly. "Did Reyen hurt you physically?"

     "He jumped at me after I pushed him. He might've hurt me if I hadn't hit him."

     "It wasn't self-defense, then. You two had a fight, and you started it," the Uni said pointedly.

     Kesshe jumped up. "You're blaming me?"

     "Stay in your seat, please." The principal frowned. "You understand that striking another student is intolerable. Are you sorry you did it?"

     "Not really."

     The Uni frowned. "Remember that you should always be kind to others. I expect better behavior of you if you are to attend this school. You will not hit another pet again. You will not," she repeated, looking at Kesshe expectantly.

     "I will not," the blue Kougra mumbled.

     "Because it's your first day, I'll let you go with just a warning. I will, of course, be notifying your parents." With that, the Uni dismissed her.

     Kesshe slunk out of the office with a burning feeling that she had been greatly wronged. The injustice! She merely tried to stand up for her friend against those bullies, and here she was being punished for it. They were the ones who deserved a penalty.

     Kesshe met with her two new friends again just after the lunch bell rang. Rusu and Ewana looked at her with wide, curious eyes. "What happened?" the Elephante asked.

     "You got my bag back!" Rusu squeaked with delight, diving for her precious book bag and taking it from Kesshe's paw.

     The blue Kougra sighed. "I don't think the stuff inside is in very good shape," she said. "The Kougras were messing around with it. They took my lunchbox, too. And I got sent to the principal's office. This was a pretty rotten way to start school."

     Ewana patted her shoulder comfortingly. "I'm sorry. Maybe we can share the school lunch. Anyway, I think you were brave for standing up to those bullies."

     "Me, too," Rusu said with a grateful smile. She opened the book bag and looked inside. She uttered a soft cry of dismay at the sight of the crumpled and dirtied notepads and books. "What did they do?"

     "They were throwing it around in the air."

     "So tell how you got the bag back," Ewana pressed.

     "I pushed the one Kougra down and took it. He jumped at me, and I punched him out."

     The Elephante gasped. "You hit him?"

     "I didn't really mean to do it…"

     "Wow," Ewana said, her eyes wide. "I would never have done something like that."

     Rusu looked at her ruined stationery forlornly. "I'm glad I didn't bring Funny to school. I almost did. I guess she's safer at home."

     "Who's Funny?" Kesshe asked.

     "She's my Fun in the Sun Usuki doll. I love her," Rusu said fondly.

     "You like Usukis, too?" Ewana exclaimed. "How many do you have? I'm trying to collect all the playsets!"

     Kesshe listened in silence while her new friends chattered about Usukis. The Kougra had never had much appreciation for dolls. As the three pets were heading into the lunchroom, Kesshe felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and, to her surprise, found the green Kougra standing there. Reyen.

     "Hey, you want your lunchbox back?" he asked. "Then come with me."

     Kesshe hesitated, glancing at the Elephante and Aisha who were still talking. Deciding that she could always get away if he led her out of the lunchroom, she followed the green Kougra.

     Reyen brought her to a table in a corner of the room. The other two Kougras were sitting there. They gave Kesshe a smile when she appeared. The yellow Kougra held up her lunchbox and set it on the table. Kesshe's eyes brightened, and she reached for it.

     "Not yet." Reyen pulled the lunchbox away. "First let us introduce ourselves. I'm Reyen."

     "I know," Kesshe said sharply, her eyes trained on her lunchbox.

     "That's Leoh," Reyen said, pointing to the red Kougra. "And that's Brann." He pointed to the yellow Kougra.

     Brann gave Kesshe a surprisingly warm grin. "So, do you want to join our group?"

     Kesshe was taken aback. "What do you mean?"

     "It's been just the three of us since we started going to this school last year. We were the only Kougras, so we decided to form a kind of band. And for some reason all the other pets are afraid of us." Brann laughed. "Anyway, you're a Kougra, and you're pretty strong too. You've got a good attitude. How about you be friends with us? We'd like to have you."

     Kesshe was startled at the praise she heard issuing from the yellow Kougra's mouth. She was strong? And they wanted her?

     "Hey, she's blue," Reyen commented. "If she joined, we'd each be one of the basic colors."

     "You're right," Kesshe found herself laughing. "That's funny."

     "By the way, we're not giving back your lunchbox if you don't agree to this," Leoh said.

     "So you're holding my lunch hostage?"

     "Just the box," Brann said. "I already ate your lunch."

     "Some friends you'd be!" Kesshe exclaimed, half jokingly.

     "At least we don't spout gibberish about Usukis," said Leoh.

     Kesshe glanced at Rusu and Ewana, who had found a table and were talking animatedly with each other. Had they even noticed she was gone?

     "Stands to reason that they'd forget about you. You've only known them for a few hours. And they're just little kids," said Reyen. "Short attention spans and all that."

     "You're young, too, but you're tough. And you seem nice."

     "Have you made up your mind yet? Don't be a wavering wimp."

     "I'm not," Kesshe said. She folded her arms. "Just give me my lunchbox back."

     "Do you agree to join us?" Brann asked.

     "I guess," the blue Kougra said nonchalantly. "Now let me have my lunchbox."

     Reyen handed it over. Kesshe took it and said quickly, "Nice meeting you." She hurried away towards Rusu and Ewana's table.

     The two were still talking about their dolls. "Hey, Rusu, want to come to my house after school to play Usukis?" Ewana asked.

     "Sure!" The Aisha's eyes lit up.

     "Kesshe, do you want to come?" Ewana asked.

     "I don't think so," the Kougra said slowly.

     "Why not?"

     "I don't like Usukis."

     "Aw, but they're fun! You know, Rusu, I had a Fun in the Sun Usuki too…"

     Kesshe sat through their conversation, bored. When lunch was over, the three pets headed out the door. Reyen stopped the Kougra before she left.

     "Sit with us tomorrow," he said. "It'll be more interesting."

     "All right."

      * * * * *

     After that first day of school, Kesshe hardly talked to Ewana and Rusu. Her friends, the Kougras, were much more engaging and seemed quite friendly once she got used to their type of jokes and teasing. It was a surprisingly short amount of time before she began following their examples as well, including that of how to behave towards smaller and younger pets.

     In the halls, she tripped a little Lenny that was dashing from one class to another. As soon as he had picked up all his books and papers, she shoved him to the floor again. It was surprising how quickly she taught herself not to care about what she was doing. She could laugh as loudly at the Kougras' victims' plight as any of her three friends.

     A year sped away. Kesshe learned little, succeeding only in creating a bad reputation for herself with the teachers and the principal. But she'd had that from day one, so it mattered not to her. When she returned to school for her second year, the schoolyard was swarming with new first-year students at recess.

     "There are a lot of little kids here," Kesshe commented to the other three Kougras.

     They nodded. Leoh pointed to a short Chia that was waddling towards them, carrying a stack of books almost as tall as him. "Look at him, he can barely hold all those books! Why's he bringing all his books out at recess, anyway?"

     "Is he old enough to go to school?" Reyen exclaimed. "He's as small as a Baby Chia!"

     "He'd be a Baby, only his owner couldn't afford the paint brush. He doesn't even get bragging rights," Kesshe chortled.

     All the Kougras knew that the Chia could hear them. His face turned red, but he said nothing as he walked by them.

     "Hey, you," Brann called the Chia back. "Why aren't you at home, baby?"

     The Chia's lip trembled. "I'm not a baby," he said weakly.

     "Aw, don't cry, baby," Kesshe said.

     "Don't call me baby," the Chia blurted out. "My name is Cheebi."

     Kesshe's eyes flew open. "Cheebi? Who gave you that name, your pet Slorg?"

     "I-I don't have a pet Slorg."

     "Don't be smart with me, Cheebaby," Kesshe snapped, thrusting out her paw and pushing the little Chia into a puddle of mud.

     "Ahh!" Cheebi fell with a splash, dropping his books and a brown paper bag.

     Brann grabbed the bag. "It's his lunch. Is this a can of Gaga Grub? Oh, just a sandwich. It looks good. Shall we split it?"

     "Yeah." Leoh kicked the Chia's books into the puddle and stomped them into the dirt.

     Cheebi got up from the puddle, his front covered with brown goo. Tears were smarting from his eyes. He stared at the Kougras, and then turned and ran.

     "Go on home and cry in your crib, Cheebaby," Kesshe yelled after him.

     Cheebi passed an older Aisha and Elephante as he went running. The two glanced at each other, and the Aisha called out concernedly, "Are you all right? They're mean to everyone, don't mind them."

     Cheebi ignored them and went on running. Rusu turned to Ewana with a sigh. "I feel sorry for him. It's hard to believe that she's the one who saved my bag when we first met…" She stared at the blue Kougra.

     "Don't let her see you looking at her," Ewana whispered back. "She might come after us next."

     Rusu turned away quickly.

     Some time passed, and the four Kougras grew tired of waiting for the Chia to reappear. "Where's Cheebaby?" Reyen asked. "We shouldn't enjoy his delicious lunch without letting him at least see it before it disappears."

     "Probably in back of the school crying somewhere. Should I get him?" Kesshe asked, standing up.

     "Yeah, go find him."

     "Don't eat my share of his lunch while I'm gone."

     "Of course we won't," Leoh said sarcastically, biting into the sandwich.

     The blue Kougra stood up and walked away, knowing that the food would disappear while she was gone. She didn't particularly care. Heading around the side of the school building, she listened, expecting to hear the sound of humiliation-induced bawling. Instead, she heard a strange wild cackle that sent shivers up her spine. What was that noise? It seemed so out of place at their school. But they, the bullies, were the scariest things there. Surely it was nothing…

     "Hey, Cheebaby!" Kesshe called loudly.

     "You'll pay!" came the chilling response. It was not Cheebi's voice, but it was the same small Chia that she had teased earlier that came barreling around the corner at Kesshe. The blue Kougra would have laughed at the small Chia's attempt to take her on, if not for the frightening cold energy that seemed to surround him. A wicked power emanated from the Chia's arms. Kesshe froze, inexplicably afraid.

     "You'll pay… pay…" Cheebi's voice echoed in the Kougra's head as he swung a wild punch at her. His paw never touched her, but a terrible pain rushed through her body at that moment. Dark energy swam in her veins. Kesshe's eyelids fluttered, and she blacked out.

     Though she was unconscious, memories floated through her brain. She saw the day that she had come to school for the first time, saw herself talking happily with Rusu and Ewana, saw the three Kougras come over and push Rusu down… Three Kougras. Not four. It seemed strange to remember that Kesshe had ever not been a part of their little gang.

     Why had she ever wanted to become part of their band anyway? The Kougra found herself wondering that as her mind replayed the scenes of her life last year. How many pets had she made miserable? Kesshe grew increasingly sad as she saw all that she'd done. How could she be so cruel? How had she not noticed what she was doing all that time?

     The memories overwhelmed her. She'd been so nasty to everyone that past year. Over and over again, she saw herself acting maliciously to every pet who crossed her path. She wanted it to end, to not see these things anymore. But this was her own doing.

     "Stop!" Kesshe jerked open her eyes. Her heart was pounding. Her strength was drained, most likely the result of that dark magic Cheebi had inflicted on her. She grimaced as she remembered what the Chia had done. "How I'll get back at him…"

     "Little girl." A cold voice penetrated the Kougra's consciousness. She looked up to find a thin, somewhat attractive Dark Faerie standing before her. "You must be angry with that Chia who dared strike you down. He works for me now. I'm sure you'd like to get revenge on him, but you cannot do that as a mere bully. But I could give you powers greater than his, if you agree to help me."

     Kesshe stared at the Dark Faerie. A certain Elephante's words prodded her brain, still fresh in her mind after all the memories. "…stay away from Dark Faeries because they're bad. If you try to help them, they'll just use you."

     She could do without revenge.

The End

 
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