Interlude 13 – Green, Red, and Something Out of the BLue
In the midst of the desolate cityscape, violated by a constant shade of grey, a group of youths had gathered around a certain street.
The pavement, corroded by colorlessness, showed signs of wear and tear.
Rubble and debris were littered across the ground.
If one were to look at the youths’ surroundings, they would most likely assume that a hurricane or some sort of natural disaster had swept through the city.
However, it was painfully obvious that nature was not responsible for the damage caused towards the surroundings.
『Counterparts』. The unique, otherworldly beings that possessed abilities many could call fantasy.
Yet, the aftermath of this fantasy was very, very real.
Yes. The destruction contained within a limited area of the city was one caused by a clash between 『Counterparts』.
One was a slightly effeminate man whose hair was as red as blood.
And the other-
「You see, I’ve got myself another trait that we can use to get through to your friend.」
『Cross』 spoke towards a dark haired teenager, his unkempt appearance perfectly mirroring his own.
Cautiously, the boy, Saito Junichi, opened his mouth as his voice pierced the silence.
The youth’s lips quivered once more as he urged his other self to give him more details.
Strangely, the manner in which he did so was just like him, yet not at the same time.
Regardless, 『Cross』 decided to continue his spiel, disregarding the irregularity surrounding his partner.
「Well, you remember what I said about assimilation, right?」
「…about how you consume another 『Counterpart’s』 soul?」
Confirming Junichi’s understanding, 『Cross』 continued.
「This is sort of an after effect from that, but I can use the traits of people I’ve “assimilated”.」
Although this information was quite profound, if not unbelievable, the dark haired youth simply brushed his astoundment aside, placing a hand on his chin before asking the following.
「I see……so what trait is gonna help us?」
In the face of this question, 『Cross』 rubbed the back of his head, a habitual action that he seemingly picked up from his host.
As he did so, however, a forgettable, yet vaguely familiar entity was abruptly brought into the foreground of the conversation.
「You remember the girl we fought at that karaoke place? The one who was wasted on red wine?」
「……don’t tell me-」
A name flowed out of 『Cross’s』 mouth, the concise nature of the title with vague origins setting off alarm bells amongst the surrounding girls.
Obviously, the dark haired 『Counterpart』 was not addressing the girl who had attacked a certain, navy blue ponytail.
Nevertheless, even if it wasn’t so apparent, the two black haired twins weren’t going to stop to explain.
「Seems like she’s got the trait of “soul scanning”.」
「Argh, this is getting to be a pain in the ass.」
Upon hearing a confused soprano voice, 『Cross』 suddenly ruffled his hair in frustration with both hands, seemingly trying to tear the strands of fibre from his head.
But of course, this expression of irritation only lasted but a moment as the entity returned his focus to the topic at hand.
「Partner, I’ll show you what we need to do. As for the rest of you, make sure that chick doesn’t go anywhere.」
Issuing an order to the rest of the girls who surrounded him, the 『Counterpart』 began to walk towards his host.
However, there were only a few unique reactions towards this arrogance.
There was Mayumi, the scruffy, orange haired hamster who began to fret as her eyes darted between the obsidian twins.
There were the mercenary siblings who silently gazed at their comrade’s lookalike with frosty eyes, their sharp glare seemingly judging the youth with reproach.
And then there was 『Amber』.
「H-Hang on a minute!」
Displeased by both 『Cross’s』 attitude and the fact that she had been ultimately left out of the loop, the girl with luscious, dark green hair and ebony skin suddenly grasped onto the boy’s arm.
Naturally, the unkempt adolescent wasn’t very pleased.
「T-The hell!? Get off me, you brat!」
「No! Not until you tell me what’s going o-?!」
As the two immature otherworlders began to bicker, a piercing sound threatened to rupture their eardrums, causing the quarrel to superficially end.
In its place, however, everyone turned towards the origin of the thunderous roar.
A boy with a set of red and green eyes.
A silver pistol aimed towards the sky.
It wasn’t hard for the young men and women to imagine what had occurred upon having these vivid images imprinted on their retinas.
Nevertheless, the culprit responsible for splitting the air began to speak.
「We don’t have time for this.」
It was just a single phrase.
Yet, it was as if the boy’s words were like anchors, weighing the atmosphere down with a thick, heavy pressure.
In the face of such overwhelming tension, everyone within the vicinity staggered, choking on the air as if what surrounded them was actually water.
The mercenary siblings, however, stood straight, unfazed as they sank into somber serenity.
After all, the two of them were aware that what was causing the suffocating atmosphere was not Junichi’s anger.
No. It was his sorrow.
Sorrow for what, you may ask?
Does it really matter?
The point was, in the face of such devastating negativity, no one could speak up as their eyes were trapped in the visage of the mercenary named after an instrument of death.
「『Cross』. Let’s go.」
Understanding that they had wasted enough time, the 『Counterpart』 answered swiftly before turning his head towards 『Amber』.
「Make sure that 『Plus』 sits still. Come get us when things are ready.」
『Cross』 quickly instructed before continuing on his way, the melancholic man following silently behind him.
「Alright. Now what?」
Seemingly having recovered from whatever had affected him earlier, Junichi spoke as he surveyed his surroundings.
Unlike earlier, there was no debris here.
Rather, there was barely anything here.
Just a colorless darkness.
Of course, seeing as they had found themselves indoors, this was inevitable.
For what reason could the 『Counterpart』 have brought him here for, he wondered.
After all, it’s not like Junichi needed to literally be in the dark for his other self to shed light on the situation.
Nevertheless, 『Cross』 turned around within the colorless shadows, his left eye mimicking his host’s right as it emitted a soft glow which gently illuminated the room.
However, there was one thing that was significantly different about 『Cross’s』 shimmering splendor.
Indeed. In this world where color was meaningless, 『Cross’s』 left pupil, which should have been as red as Junichi’s, sparkled a subtle jade.
Silent surprise flashed through Junichi’s brain.
However, the origin of said shock was not the mellow tenderness of the swelling field of green.
No. Instead, the source of Junichi’s bewilderment was what had been embedded within 『Cross’s』 left iris.
A magnifying glass (🔎).
「Kikiki. Calm down, partner. I’m still me.」
Diffusing his host’s potential concerns, 『Cross』 made a strange laugh, almost as if mocking the previous owner of this peculiar symbol.
In the face of such sarcasm, however, Junichi didn’t even bat an eye.
「So……this is the trait?」
He asked, hastily trying to move the conversation forward.
It needn’t be said that time was of the essence in the current situation.
「Yeah. And I’ll be handing this to you.」
「……you can do that?」
As 『Cross』 pointed towards his left eye, Junichi squinted, skepticism swiftly superseding his surprise.
And yet, this suspicion was suddenly dispelled.
Not by belief.
Not by trust.
But by necessity.
Because there was no time.
Gritting his teeth, Junichi clenched his fist whilst reaffirming his resolve.
To save Shiori, no matter what.
If he had to rely on this unknown power, so be it.
Whether it was truly possible or not, placing his trust in his so-called other self’s solution was surely better than simply killing Shiori outright.
And so, the youth spoke.
「…no. Nevermind. Let’s just do it already.」
Taken aback by his host’s sudden shift in demeanor was 『Cross』.
「We don’t have time for this. You said you need to give it to me, right? I’ll trust you so let’s do this.」
「W-well yeah, but……」
「Stop screwin’ around! Just hurry up and give it to me already!」
At this point, Junichi had already lost his cool, grabbing 『Cross』 by the collar as he glared at the non-human that looked just like himself.
Slim. Relatively tall. Dark, unkempt hair. Eyes of a gorgeous emerald.
It was the first time Junichi’s eyes swept over his other self this closely since the time they established their contract.
However, it would appear that Junichi had made a slight miscalculation.
But it really couldn’t be helped.
Due to the red light emitted from his eye, the youth was unable to discern the true reason for 『Cross’s』 hesitation.
Then again, it might be best to say that the truth was masked by the piercing scope of the legendary assassin.
Regardless, as blood rushed to the 『Counterpart’s』 head, he closed his eyes before finally committing himself and-
-placed his mouth onto Junichi’s lips.
An awkward silence permeated through the atmosphere as the two youths bathed in the aftermath of the event that had just occurred.
「…was that the method of transferring a trait?」
Junichi asked, seemingly unfazed by what had transpired as he calmly wiped the saliva off of his lips.
Yet, unlike this aloof individual-
「Shut up! How the hell can you stay so calm after something like that!?」
-the 『Counterpart』 responsible for the mouth-watering(?) scene abruptly exploded, his face bright red as he began to rapidly spit and wipe his mouth in a frenzy.
Then again, this was to be expected.
After all, it was clear that 『Cross』 wasn’t into any sort of freaky shit.
And two boys locking lips was probably something that could fit into such a category.
「……why are you the one upset? I was the one who got kissed.」
His visage overlayed by an expression of annoyance and resignation, Junichi interjected as he questioned the inexplicable actions of his other self.
-it would seem that 『Cross』 did not act favorably towards the youth’s characteristic bluntness as the 『Counterpart』 suddenly crouched in a corner, cradling his head in his arms.
In the face of such an amusing, if immature reaction, Junichi could do naught but smile wryly.
After all, it was already established within his mind that it was quite enjoyable to tease this entity.
……then again, it was painfully obvious that the youth had a bad habit of teasing others.
In any case, after understanding that he should probably say something, the boy with dark, unkempt hair spoke up.
「Look, we can deal with this shit later, right? C’mon. Let’s go see if the others have made up a plan.」
Out of either impatience or concern, Junichi made a suggestion as he tapped 『Cross’s』 shoulder.
「You can explain how things work on the way, right?」
Feeling a strange sensation swelling within his cornea, Junichi turned his head, a pair of emerald and scarlet spreading throughout the darkness.