Oh, jeez, sorry. Has it really been five years? How on earth have you been? Me, I went through college, which is no excuse. At least I was being productive, right?
Again, apologies. I never meant to leave you – or Jou – hanging.
Chapter Five: Unseen
They'd finally stopped staring. It had taken a week, but everyone seemed to have gotten used to Jou's new look. He wondered if he hadn't been imagining the extra attention.
To be honest, Jou kind of missed it.
"Hey, man, why so blue?" Honda slid into the seat beside his, lunch tray in hand. "Didn't you notice? It's meatloaf today."
"I do love meatloaf," said Jou glumly.
"So? What's up?"
"I dunno," said Jou. "I was kind of getting used to the whole 'oooh, Jou has glasses, let's ravish him with our eyes' thing."
Anzu appeared and plunked her own tray opposite Honda's. "Otogi got a haircut," she explained. "Now that he has nothing to twirl around his finger, he's using the time to do double-duty flirting."
"So that's where all the girls went," said Jou.
"Women are fickle," Honda said wisely.
They ate their meatloaf in silence, taking the moment to contemplate the mysteries of love.
"Hey, sorry I'm late," said Yugi, taking a seat beside Anzu. "I had to go by the library for this project. Did you know that Otogi cut his hair?"
"That's what I hear," Jou grumbled.
"It's all right," said Honda. "I'm sure Kaiba still loves you."
The usual after-school confrontation, but with a twist.
"I wasn't staring at you, so don't even ask," Kaiba snarled, coat billowing as he strode past Jou into the parking lot.
Jou bristled. As his mind searched hastily for a snappy comeback, his mouth was ahead of the game. "I wasn't going to, douche!" Jou called.
But it was enough to get Kaiba to turn around. Kaiba slowly lifted his hand, extending it to Jou – and then mimed that pincer grip that Jou's pinky knew all too well.
"You are such a douche!" Jou yelled at Kaiba's back as it disappeared into a limo. "You are the biggest douche!"
"Smooth move, muttface," commented Otogi, who had at some point chosen to stand next to Jou. He leaned casually against a pole, raking a hand through his shorn hair. This was shaping up to be a great afternoon.
"You are also a douche," said Jou. "The second-biggest."
"I'm heartbroken." Otogi removed his hand from his hair to wave at a swooning teen. Jou rolled his bespectacled eyes as Otogi gave her the Slow Smile for good measure.
Then Otogi turned his attention to Jou.
"Glasses, huh? Can't say you look more respectable," Otogi mused. "Especially with that thing you do where you get schooled by Kaiba every day."
"At least I don't look like a monkey," said Jou.
Also snappy. Today, he was King of Retorts, and Yugi would have to fight him for the title.
"Again, I'm heartbroken," said Otogi, winking at an older woman as she passed by. "Are you self-taught?"
"I'm leaving," said Jou.
And that's just what he did.
Not that things got much better from there.
"God damn it, I have had the worst day ever, and I am really not in the mood for you right now!"
That never deterred the gangs, though. Stupid Hirotani and his stupid lack of human compassion. Or common sense. "Looking kinda dorky," said Hirotani with a sneer, brandishing his weapon of choice – the same old spiked yo-yo.
"You're one to talk," spat Jou.
Hirotani's goonies started swinging their own yo-yos, as if on cue. Clearly, they'd been practicing for this encounter. Jou considered his options. It didn't take too long – there was only so much you could do in a dead-end alley.
Jou tucked his glasses into his pants pocket and brandished his fists. "Come on then, ugly," he said.
Hirotani roared and swung.
Jou dodged the first few strikes easily – while Hirotani's gang were good, they were far more used to fighting in wider spaces, and there wasn't a lot they could contribute in this narrow alleyway. But all Hirotani really needed was himself, if he kept on backing Jou up the way he was.
Time to stand your ground, buddy.
Jou dodged a particularly violent yo-yo arc and used the momentum to propel himself towards Hirotani's face, landing a solid punch that he was particularly proud of. Meanwhile, the yo-yo boomeranged back, catching Hirotani in the knee.
"You son of a – guys, what are you doing?" Hirotani cried, doubling over. "Get in here and do something!"
The goons looked at each other warily. This wasn't the first time they'd crossed paths with Jonouchi Katsuya, scourge of the streets. It was all fine and dandy to partake in synchronized swinging, but to challenge Jou? When he'd clearly just smeared their boss all over the pavement?
"I think I hear my mom calling me," said one.
"Oh my, look at the time!"
"Maybe we should have tried ping pong."
"Useless little brats!" Hirotani shouted after them, clutching his knee.
Jou reached into his pocket and put his glasses back on. "We done here?"
"You still look like a dork," Hirotani said.
"At least I don't look like a loser," Jou said. "I'm leaving."
And that's just what he did.
It wasn't every day, though, that stepping out of a dirty alleyway resulted in stepping into Domino City's very own Kaiba Seto.