The hardest way

Fists of kindness

Ryujin finished preparing the drinks a group of young guys had ordered. Since there were no customers at the counter now, she should take a walk around the bar and collect the empty glasses. 

At least no one broke a glass thus far that night, because it had happened literally almost every night since Ryujin had started working there-- 

A guy had a girl trapped against the wall, on the small corridor that lead to the restrooms. A sudden, uncontrollable wave of rage pulsed in every vein of Ryujin’s body as she saw the terror in the girl’s face. Ryujin set the glasses down on the nearest table and let her legs take her there, to do what she had and wanted so bad to do. But as she was about to grab on the guy’s arm, an unknown force held Ryujin’s body still. She tried to move, but she couldn’t. As if her body was a puppet, and it didn’t matter how much she struggled to move, to take another step forward, the strings in her limbs kept her in place. 

She opened to scream, but no sound came out. The man looked back at her and gave her a disgusting smirk as he held on the girl’s chin, and when Ryujin took another look at her, tears threatened to roll down her eyes. 

She tried to call for Jisu’s name, to tell her to fight back, to get out, but wouldn’t open. 

Not again... 

She had to do something. To help her, to take her out of that creep’s arms. 

But she couldn’t, and he was leaning in closer, and closer... 

“JISU!” Ryujin jerked on her bed, eyes shooting open. She brought her torso up, sitting and looking around frantically for Jisu. 

Hoarse and fast breaths echoed in the silence of her room. She gulped, feeling dry, and let her body fall back to the bed. 

It was just a dream. 

A nightmare, to be more precise. She reached for her phone next to her pillow to check the time. Almost ten. She intended to sleep a bit more, but she felt wide awake, and the images wouldn’t leave her mind. 

She had to check on Jisu. Ryujin knew it was a dream, but she still had to. 

[Ryujin] 
Hey. You awake? 

The answer came almost immediately. 

[Lia] 
Hi, yeah I am. Everything okay? 

That should be Ryujin asking. But why ask, if she could... see it for herself? 

[Ryujin] 
Yeah. I was thinking about what you said yesterday, and I think you’re right. I should smile more. Are you free today? 

She only hoped it wasn’t too blunt, or lame, or cringey. But when Jisu took a bit more to answer, Ryujin feared it had been exactly that. 

[Lia] 
It depends. 

Ryujin bit on her tongue.  

[Ryujin] 
I was just thinking if you wanted to hang out today, but it’s okay if you’re busy and can't make it. 

That was a bad idea, and Ryujin was already regretting pressing the send button. But she still kept her eyes on her phone, waiting for her answer. 

[Lia] 
Then yes, I am absolutely free ;) 
What do you wanna do? 

Ryujin blinked. Was that a winky face?  

[Ryujin] 
Do you wanna grab lunch and go to the movies? You can suggest something else if you wanna. 

[Lia] 
Sounds perfect. Mall at noon? 

[Ryujin] 
I’ll be there. 

[Lia] 
I’ll see you soon, then :) 

Ryujin was aware of the big, silly grin on her face, but she didn’t mind. There was just something else she wanted to add. 

[Ryujin] 
Can we just... not talk about everything going on all day? I really need a break from it. 

[Lia] 
Of course, that’s perfect. 

It sounded perfect indeed, spending time with Jisu. They were friends, after all. Just like Jisu had said the previous day. Not simply two people trying to take a shady business down.  

Ryujin jumped out of bed and went downstairs, finding Yuna watching TV. 

“Oh, good morning!” 

“Good morning.” Ryujin greeted back, caressing Yuna’s head. 

Yuna widened her eyes at her. “You’re smiling first thing in the morning. Is there mocha bread in the kitchen and I don’t know about it?” 

Ryujin chucked. “No, but I’ll buy some today. I’m going to the movies.” 

“With your friend Jisu?” 

“Yep.” 

“Since when do you know her? And why didn’t I know about her? You don’t have many friends, after all.” 

“Yah.” Ryujin messed up her hair, making Yuna giggle. “I have! Chaeryeong, and...” 

“And you haven’t spoken with her for a while.”  

“She’s busy with school, I don’t want to bother her. But yes, I should check on her. About Jisu, well, remember that girl I said I helped in the bar?” 

“The one you got into a fight for?” 

“Yes. It’s her. We somehow... kept in touch and we get along well.” 

Yuna smirked, shaking her head. “What kind of love story is that? Falling for the one you saved?” 

Ryujin frowned. “What are you talking about, Shin Yuna?” 

“You’re blushing. You seriously couldn’t be more obvious.”  

“She’s a friend, that’s all.” 

“A very pretty friend that you totally crushed on. That’s okay, I’m not judging you! Good luck with your date today.” 

“It’s not a date.” Ryujin rolled her eyes, walking to the kitchen. 

But she didn’t mind if it was a date. At all. 

She fetched a tangerine, shaking her head, and went back to the living room, sitting next to Yuna and patting her lap so Dallie would jump to her. “What are you gonna do today?” 

“Having a study session with Yeojin, Hyejoo and Yerim.” 

“You going to Yeojin’s house?” 

“Yes.” 

“I’ll walk you there, and then tell me when you’re coming home, so I can go get you.” 

“It’s okay, you’re not going to interrupt your date for me. And I’m sure I’ll come back with Hyejoo and Yerim.” 

Ryujin pondered for a second. The sharks didn’t have any reason to bother her. Ryujin hadn’t failed a payment in months. It would be fine. 

“Okay. But tell me when you’ll be coming home, and when you arrive.” 

“Alright, I will. Thank you.” Yuna kissed her sister’s cheek.  

--- 

Ryujin spent probably too much time on her outfit. She wore a t-shirt and jeans, too simple. She put on an off-shoulder top and skirt, too much. She didn’t want to go to plain, but also not... too fancy.  

She looked down for the nth time since she got to the mall, reassuring herself she was perfect in a white crop top and a thin choker around her neck, high waist black jeans, and a leather jacket.  

Was the crop top too much? Too revealing? Too... date-kind-of-clothes? What about the choker? Should she take it off? 

All questions seemed worthless, now that Jisu was in sight. She wore a simple sleeveless black top with some lace details around the collar, tight jeans, and a plaid, long beige jacket. Her hair was carefully parted in the middle, with waves that danced gracefully with each step she took closer to Ryujin. She was out of words already, even though she hadn’t even opened yet.  

“Hey.” Jisu graced her with a smile. 

“Hi. You look beautiful.” 

This was not a date! 

“Oh my, thank you, Ryujin. You too. The top looks great on you,” Jisu said as her eyes wandered down, and Ryujin felt for a second. 

“T-Thanks. Yours too.” Ryujin couldn’t help but do the same, especially when Jisu’s collarbones were exposed like that. She had never seen such noticeable, sharp collarbones, and they looked so--- 

“You hungry?” Jisu asked. 

Ryujin’s eyes went huge for a second as she finally looked up. “What?” 

Jisu irked an eyebrow, but chuckled. “Hungry. We’re gonna have lunch, right? Or have you eaten already?” 

“Oh. No, I haven’t. And yes, I am hungry. I only had a tangerine when I woke up.” 

“Then let’s eat?” 

“Sure.” 

Ryujin let Jisu go ahead. She needed a moment to let her face stop burning like that. She must have been out of her mind not to understand a question that simple and straightforward like that... Or she was being too obvious. And yet again, she reminded herself that was not a date or anything of the sort. 

They opted for a delicious, greasy burger and fries, and when Ryujin was about to hand the waiter the money to pay for her food, Jisu stepped in and shoved her card into his hands. 

“It’s on me.” 

“What, why?” 

“Because I want to.” 

“But you don’t need to.” 

“But I want to. Just accept it.” 

Ryujin sighed. “Alright. Thank you.” 

The silence as they ate bothered Ryujin. Or maybe it what the thoughts in her head. 

“Do you feel sorry for my situation?” she ended up asking. 

“Hm? What do you mean?” 

“Is that why you paid for my food?” 

“No, Ryujin. I really just wanted to. I know if you couldn’t afford it, you wouldn’t invite me to hang out and expect me to pay for you. And didn’t you say you didn’t want to talk about these things?” 

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.” 

“It’s fine. I’ll let you pay next time. If you want a next time.” 

“Of course!” Ryujin answered almost too fast.  

“Great.” Jisu smiled, driving her attention back to her burger. 

A next time. 

That wasn’t... asking for too much, was it? It was Jisu that suggested it. If she did, it was because she wanted it. Right? 

“What do you wanna watch?” Jisu looked up, scanning the posters of the available movies. 

“Whatever is not sad .” 

“There’s a romantic comedy. Do you like those?” 

“It may not seem like it, but I do like those.” 

“Yeah, it doesn’t seem much like it.” Jisu chuckled.  

Ryujin laughed along. “I actually also like dramas, but I’m not in the mood.” 

“Of course. Today is a day to have fun, not to leave the movies crying.” 

They paid for their tickets and Ryujin got popcorn for the both of them. Jisu fought it, but accepted since she paid for her lunch. 

The room was pretty much empty, only a couple here and there. 

And then Ryujin and Jisu, sitting on the furthest row. 

“You okay?” Jisu asked, resting a hand on Ryujin’s leg. 

“Yes, why?” 

“Your leg is bouncing a lot.” 

“Oh, that’s just something I always do, don’t worry.” 

Ryujin wasn’t lying, but she also wouldn’t say she was nervous because Jisu was right next to her, in an almost empty room with dim lights. And the hand that was still on her leg didn’t help. 

No, Ryujin was not nervous. She was... excited. Her body trembled slightly, her hand gripped around the popcorn bucket she held between them, a smile wanted to break free on her lips, and her chest beat not too fast, but hard.  

She stole a glance at Jisu. She looked ahead, focusing on the trailers playing before the actual movie, and she must have felt Ryujin’s eyes on her, because she met her gaze. And instead of looking away, like Ryujin should have just done, she held her gaze.  

And Jisu didn’t have to, but she smiled at Ryujin, and that image was so beautiful she wanted to capture it in a picture, print it, frame it, and hang it on her wall. 

“Do you wanna say something?” Jisu asked. 

Not quite say, but to do something... 

“D-Do want a drink?” Was the first thing that came to Ryujin’s mind. 

Jisu tried to hold her laugh, Ryujin could tell, but she failed. “Only if you want one.” 

“I’m okay.” 

“I am as well.” 

“Okay. I was just wondering if you were thirsty.”  

“Why? Do I look like I am?” Jisu smirked. She dared to give Ryujin a smirk, while her eyes went down for a fraction of a second. 

“B-Because of the popcorn.” 

“I’m okay, but I’ll tell you if I change my mind.” 

Ryujin nodded and looked ahead, her eyes on the big screen, but her mind miles away from whatever trailer was playing now. 

She tried, she really did, to tell herself that Jisu was joking. She couldn’t be... that blunt, right? But she still didn’t know her enough. Maybe she was that blunt, and Ryujin was learning about it the hardest way.  

But... what if Jisu was actually flirting with her? 

The lights went out, leaving only the screen illuminating the room. Ryujin closed her eyes for a few seconds, taking in a couple deep breaths, and focused on the movie about to start.  

Surprisingly, she was able to forget about it for a while, immersing in the story. Your typical comedic romance, cliché, lame, funny, but enjoyable.  

But not even in a movie like that, the classic hands touching while they reached for the popcorn happened. So, it shouldn’t happen in real life. 

Why did it just happen to them? Ryujin just wanted a few more from the bottom of the bucket, and her fingers had to brush against Jisu as she tried to do the same. 

“Sorry,” Ryujin mumbled. 

Jisu gave her a smile, and Ryujin wondered how was she going to focus on the movie again. Especially when the most special, most waited moment approached. The kiss. 

With the classic excessive amount of time until the couple’s lips meet, it gave Ryujin a second to peek at Jisu. She didn’t know why she did it, as she also didn’t know why Jisu did it, but it made Ryujin snap her head back to the big screen even faster.  

The couple kissed, at last, and for some reason, Ryujin’s face warmed up. Maybe because of the images popping up on her mind, of the thing she had been day and night dreaming about, even knowing she shouldn’t. 

But then again, why shouldn’t she?  

---

A/N: Ryujin's whipped, yep yep

Look forward to the next chapter.............. :)))

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