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Chapter 156: Black and Blue – Clearing the Air
It was now the evening of the day after Junichi’s return to school.
Despite the commotion that broke throughout the campus at the 〚Rebel’s〛 rise to Rank 0, not very much happened at school.
Similarly to the days prior, 《Cross》 had disappeared, meaning that Junichi was by himself for the whole day. Additionally, Shiori and Mana had to stay back at the student council room to finish up some administrative duties.
Thus, Junichi was currently at home all by his lonesome, sitting calmly on the dining table with several papers stacked up before him.
—well, almost all by himself.
『Our top story for this evening is the rampant cases of night attacks that have been plaguing the city as of late. Several sources have reported that innocents from the north side of Sekai City have been victims of a mysterious, midnight assailant.』
「Uwah, how scary~」
Noticing the news report that had just flashed by on the TV, Miyazaki Sora commented as she sprawled herself on the sofa, her gestures and tone so exaggerated that even an idiot could tell that there was no sincerity behind her remark.
「I see. That’s nice.」
「Geez, Saito-kun. You’re not even listening to me, are you?」
Finding that youth’s response didn’t quite click with her act, the blue devil turned towards the Junichi, chastising him as she realised that he wasn’t even looking in her direction. Simply put, the boy understood that the athlete’s utterance was hollow, and so chose not to divide any of his attention her way as he continued to scan the papers in front of him.
As for Sora, she was mature enough to not take his indifference to heart. Rather, she actually found the youth’s behaviour to be quite nostalgic, reminding her of their time together when they were first years.
『Authorities say that, while there is no clear motive behind the attacks, there is a commonality amongst the victims of each case: all of them have had a piece of their body bitten out by the culprit.』
「Woah! I was not expecting that. Or rather, ew~ Are they even allowed to air that?」
Seemingly taken aback by the gory images on display, the blue-haired athlete groaned, dramatically holding her clenched fist in front of her mouth. Despite this, Junichi didn’t even bother to comment on his friend’s act, looking up from the table instead.
His narrow gaze flickered briefly onto the screen, as a sharp light momentarily flashed through his stern eyes.
『As of yet, there has been no news from authorities regarding the apprehension of this criminal. That said, we have been told by secondary sources that a list of suspects has already been drafted.』
「*phew* Well, that’s a relief. I’d hate to think what’d happen to little ol’ me if I were to be attacked by this crazy person.」
「……you’re kidding, right?」
Raising his brow in utter amazement, Junichi turned towards the blue devil, the previously keen glare disappearing from his eyes as an incredulous look painted his features. His countenance was indescribable, akin to the expression one would adopt in the face of an insane person as he made the following jab.
「If anything, you’re the last person that needs protection.」
「How mean, Saito-kun~」
The blue-haired athlete yelped, her body shrinking back as though she had been hurt by the youth’s statement. Yet, because of her playful tone and unnaturally excessive movements, it was apparent to all that she was once again just messing around in her usual fashion.
–much to the chagrin of the dark-haired youth.
「More importantly, what are you even doing here? Don’t you have homework to do or something?」
Finally addressing the elephant in the room, Junichi sent an inquisitive gaze towards the blue-haired devil. Since she had intruded on his abode unannounced and whimsically started watching television, the youth was concerned as to why Sora was here, hence his question.
「Yup! It was due yesterday!」
「I didn’t finish it!」
Unsure of where to even start commenting on the lackadaisical athlete’s work ethic, Junichi maintained his silence before deciding to simply ignore the matter altogether for the time being.
In doing so, he soon returned his gaze back down to the papers sitting on his desk. Yet, even as he was scanning through them with a contemplative expression, the boy continued to get pestered by a certain someone.
「Say, say! D’ya like the name we got ya?」
Sora spoke with a grin, her adorable canines jutting out mischievously as she directed teasing look towards the boy. Needless to say, the snickering athlete was referring to the alias that the student council had proffered upon the dark-haired youth for achieving the rank of 0. The rather unique name of 〚Rebel〛.
This was the crystallisation of the entire student council’s thoughts about Junichi. They could think of no one else who would dare to revolt against them. None who would dare to break from the norms, and turn the entire world into his enemy.
It was precisely because of the fact that he would dare to rebel against anything that no other title suited him so well.
That being said, the youth barely batted an eyelid, not taken in by Sora’s taunting as he responded in his usual, detached manner.
「I don’t really care. It’s just a name, after all.」
「Well, true that. Though you better not let Kaede-chhi hear you. Otherwise, she’ll sick her precious butler on you!」
「After what happened last week? She couldn’t possibly be that dumb.」
「Well, you’ve got a point.」
Sora shrugged, frankly stating her thoughts which were quite similar to the dark-haired youth’s. Needless to say, as they both had a fairly good grasp on the honey-blonde 〚Queen’s〛 personality, neither of the teenagers believed that their judgement was mistaken.
Regardless of whether they were right or wrong, however, the conversation quickly died down once again as the youth returned his focus back to the papers in his hand.
Which, of course, ended up making Sora rather curious.
「Anyway, what’cha doin?」
「Oh! That’s all of the contract stuff, right?! Lemme see!」
With a twinkle in her eyes, Sora forcefully snatched some of the papers from the youth’s hands before quickly scanning over the walls of text. Indeed, the documents that Junichi was diligently examining at the current time was actually a contract that Naoki had provided him earlier that day.
The contract he was given was similar to the one that Cocoa received: a term of employment at the Amemori Corp. And, upon receiving it, the youth immediately understood why Cocoa hadn’t read through the contract properly.
Contained within its pages were walls and walls of text, littered with complex and superfluous legal jargon. As each clause was followed by several pages of unnecessary detail, any normal person would find reading through the contract in its entirety a chore so boring that they’d fall asleep within minutes.
And as for those who were able to resist the urge to sleep and tried to comprehend the finer details-
「………ugeh. My head hurts.」
-then they would meet the same fate as Sora who had fallen on her butt, her dizzy eyes spinning in utter confusion.
「Then don’t look at it. Geez……really, just what did you come here for?」
Dumbfounded by Sora’s actions, the youth couldn’t help but rub his scalp as he snatched back the parchment. At the same time, he posed this question, as he was still unable to grasp why Sora was spending her time here bothering him so incessantly.
Instead of answering his misgivings, however, the blue devil suddenly went silent, the usual mischievous light vanishing from her silver eyes as she abruptly adopted a more sombre countenance.
「Say, Junichi-kun. Do you really have nothing to say to me?」
The athlete asked offhandedly, her eyes locked on the boy’s face as though to capture every twitch of his features. In the face of this, however, Junichi could only return a doubtful expression, completely unable to comprehend Sora’s question in its entirety.
「Well, you know…about the whole switching sides thing.」
Somewhat taken aback by the youth’s immediate and callous one-word responses, Sora could only turn her gaze downwards, her expression somewhat pensive as she suddenly turned quiet. This silence lasted for a while, as the athlete stared at her feet in a rare moment of awkwardness.
Yet, it was at this moment that Junichi spat out a tired sigh, making no attempts at hiding his displeasure at this entire situation.
Now, despite what one would think, his current annoyance was not caused by the fact that Sora was snooping on his contract, nor was it caused by the fact that she had consistently been pestering him for the last few minutes.
No, the true reason behind his disdain was Sora’s attitude.
Or rather, the fact that she wasn’t acting like herself at all.
「Look, just spit it out. You’ve got something on your chest, right?」
「E-Eh? Who, me? As if, hahaha~」
Startled by Junichi’s forthright question, Sora jumped slightly, her demeanour akin to that of a kid who was found out for doing something bad. Yet, despite her initial slip, the athlete quickly covered herself as she heartily laughed while shaking her hand as though gesturing that the very idea was preposterous.
Now, if it were anyone else, they might have been fooled by the athlete’s act. Having known each other for awhile, however, Junichi immediately saw through Sora’s charade.
Thus, without even saying a single word, the dark-haired youth directed his piercing gaze towards the blue-haired athlete, his glowing emerald eyes appearing as though it perceived all.
「……alright, you got me. Really, I can never hide much from you, huh?」
Giving in to the pressure of the youth’s calm, yet unrelenting stare, Sora shrugged her shoulders whilst half-lamenting the fact that she was unable to conceal her inner turmoil from him.
Then again, since they were an item at one stage in their lives, the fact that they could pick up things about each other that others couldn’t was pretty much a given.
「Junichi-kun. I chose to take the other side because I wanted to fight you.」
Sora declared, having gathered up her resolve as she started with this powerful statement.
Naturally, it was at this point that the topic of the conversation shifted. Yet, seeing as he was uncertain as to what the athlete was trying to say, Junichi could only return a sceptical look back.
「Since when did Honda get to you?」
「It’s not like that. It’s just…you were hiding it all this time, right? Your strength.」
「Yeah. What of it?」
「That’s why I fought you.」
Sora paused momentarily, giving herself a brief second to process what she wanted to say before raising her head, sending a strong gaze at the youth before clearly enunciating the following with unmistakable clarity.
「Because I wanted to bring out that strength from you. Because I wanted you to show us what you were hiding behind that always yawning front of yours. That’s why I chose to side against you.」
Indeed. This was the reason why Sora had come to Junichi’s apartment today.
Despite the fact that her usual impish demeanour hid it quite well, the athlete actually felt some sort of guilt about having chosen to side against Junichi in the faction war. Of course, she understood that it was a necessary evil, and she probably would’ve done it again given the same choice now.
Nevertheless, she still wanted to clear the air—to convey the reasons behind her actions, putting everything out into the open.
In doing so, she hoped to inform the dark-haired youth about why she had fought against him, to explain her actions, and to rid herself of the guilt in her conscience.
To which, the youth’s only response was-
「What, that’s it?」
「That’s it–you say?」
「Look. I don’t know exactly what you’re expecting from me when you said all of that, but I more or less got the gist of why you were fighting before the faction war even started.」
Junichi shrugged, unsure of the point behind Sora’s whole spiel as he disregarded the athlete’s surprise. In doing so, the blue devil was sent into a daze before returning the following reaction.
「Pff……hahaha!! Sorry, sorry! It must be weird, hearing this sappy stuff coming from me!」
Abruptly bursting into laughter, Sora couldn’t help but smile wryly, wiping away her tears as she found her earlier self somewhat silly for getting so worked up about this matter.
After all, she was expecting the dark-haired youth to condemn her, or at least console her after she made her confession. To think that he would show mild indifference instead.
Then again, it was precisely sort of unexpected behaviour that earned him the unique moniker of the 〚Rebel〛.
「Well, if you’re done, then how about heading home? And, no, I’m not cooking anything for you tonight.」
「Aww, you cheapskate!」
In the face of Junichi’s aloof attitude, Sora returned to her usual jovial self, chuckling as she stuck out her tongue. In seeing this, the dark-haired youth also found himself more at ease as it was this playful conduct that suited the blue devil the most.
Though he’d be lying if he said he regretted the fact that they had split up, Junichi had to admit that her boisterous personality and cheerful enthusiasm emphasised her devilish appeal, resulting in many failing to resist this young woman’s simple, yet potent charm.
「What? Is there something else?」
Somewhat surprised that the girl had called out to him again, Junichi rolled his eyes in amazement. Understand that the youth wanted to sort through most of this paperwork by the end of the day and that his frustration towards Sora’s constant interruptions was well justified.
Yet, either completely oblivious to this fact or just purposefully ignoring it altogether, the silver-eyed athlete began to pout in a manner that was incredibly unsuitable for her age.
「Geez, it’s just one more little thing? What’s it matter anyway?」
「*sigh* Fine. What is it?」
Painfully aware that he wouldn’t get any more peace until this was settled once and for all, Junichi sighed for (what he hoped was) the last time, rubbing the back of his head before meeting Sora’s gaze.
It was then, and only then, did the athlete start.
「I know that you’ve still got secrets tucked away in that head of yours. Ah, don’t worry. I’m not gonna pry anymore than I already have. But if you’re going to keep those secrets, then at least do it well. I feel sorry for Mana-chan, you know?」
In the face of this final comment, Junichi had no words.
Then again, how could he? Sora’s words really hit him in his sore spot.
His little sister, Miyazawa Mana, was the one whom Junichi had to protect and support. As his only remaining family, the youth was not only obligated but compelled to ensure that she had a future.
That was precisely why he had kept his activities a secret from the girl. After all, his mercenary life was just unnecessary static that could potentially distract Mana from achieving good grades at school, and by extension a solid foundation for her career.
However, a portion of this secret had been exposed: his battle prowess.
Admittedly, he had no choice but to demonstrate his capabilities. After all, there was a very real possibility that his little sister might have been in more danger had he not resorted to using his strength.
Nevertheless, his secret had still been revealed, causing Mana’s mind to sink into turmoil.
Being her brother, there was no way that Junichi wouldn’t have noticed the inner conflict that his sister was experiencing for the past few days.
Which was why Sora’s comment really hit him where it hurt.
Unsure of what to say, Junichi mulled the matter over in his mind.
What’s done is done. That is a fact of life.
There was no way Junichi could keep the entire secret anymore, just as how one could not turn back time so easily.
Which is why the boy’s brain was churning, desperately trying to find a way to amend his mistakes.
Yet, before he could come to a proper conclusion-
–the doorbell suddenly rang.
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