One

    "What's the matter, Turk?" the boy said with a scoffing laugh as he pushed Lionel into the mud. "You got something in your eye?"

    The boy drove the toe of his shoe into Lionel's gut as his friends stood behind him and watched with big grins. Lionel groaned in agony as pain washed over his weakening body. He rolled to the side and clutched his stomach tightly. "Please," he gasped. "Stop."

    "What'd you say?" the boy said with a smirk. "Are you asking for mercy?"

    "No," Lionel said quietly, a scowl on his face. "I'm asking for you to let me stand so I can beat the living crap out of your empty skull!"

    The boy ooed, raising his hands sarcastically as if he was afraid. "I'm so scared! Little Lionel's gonna---"

    He didn't have time to finish before Lionel's fist smashed against his cheek bone, sending him into the dirt. "Gonna what? Kick your butt?" Lionel sneered, spitting to the side.

    The boy moaned and rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. "I'm gonna kill you, you, you---"

    Lionel swung back his leg and nailed the kid in the face. He heard the bones in the boy's nose crunch as he made contact, and heard it crackle in displeasure as he took a few steps back.

    Lionel broke the kid's nose.

    "Now leave me alone," Lionel barked, wishing secretly that he hadn't been so harsh. He was definitely going to be punished for this. "If you guys come even within a foot of me, I'll beat you into the ground! You understand?!"

    Lionel started to walk away, when suddenly a hand caught his shoulder.

    "Where do you think you're going, punk?"

    Lionel spun on his heel and slammed his fist into his attacker's gut. When the guy bent over himself, gasping for breath, Lionel drove his elbow into the back of the kid's head, sending him flat on his stomach in the mud.

    "I think that I'm going to go somewhere that isn't full of a bunch of ugly, stupid, immature kids!"

    Lionel took a deep breath and looked at the remaining boys. They didn't move towards him. He sighed in relief. He turned and walked home without another spoken word.

    When he arrived home, he tossed his bag, which was covered in mud, onto the table. His father immediately snapped at him to take it up to his room, and reminded him how many times he had asked him to do this.

    Thirty-three times, I get it, dad.

    Lionel scurried up the steps and opened the door to his room. He plopped onto the bed and tossed his bag into a corner. He sighed a heavy sigh before laying down his head and rubbing it.

    It still hurt.

    Lionel didn't understand why he always got in fights. He was a nice kid, and never bothered anyone. He wasn't the smartest, he wasn't the dumbest, he wasn't the outcast, he was just a regular fourteen year old, but yet everyone liked to pick on him. Maybe it was because he was the blacksmith's son, but Lionel didn't know what that had to do with anything. Blacksmiths were important, especially in Rodway. Soldiers would come by every month for some supplies, and Lionel's father was always ready for them. Blacksmiths were respected, so why shouldn't Lionel be? He didn't know. All he knew was, he had to show those boys a lesson. He wondered if he had done that very thing today, but he quickly discarded the question with a simple answer: Nope.

    Lionel sighed and rolled over so he faced the wall. His mom always told him that the best way to deal with bullies was to pretend that it's a game you play. Pretend that you want to get made fun of, or punched in the face. It makes it a whole lot less fun for the bully. Unfortunately, Lionel wasn't the best actor.

    In reality, Lionel wasn't the best at anything. He was just the kid. The normal one, who didn't stand out for any reason. He feared that would never change.

    But he promised himself he would change it. He'd become the kid who stood out. The kid who's the best at something - maybe even the best at everything. He didn't know how he'd do it, and he didn't know when, but he would.

    He would, because he had to.

The End

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