|<< Prev||Table of Contents||Next >>|
Chapter 159: The Secret Reveal
And there she stood. Waiting. Under the blooming sakura tree behind the school complex, the girl idled there for a long time, her gaze anxiously flickering around her surroundings. Her brown hair flowed behind her, neatly groomed as it seemed to glide gently on the wind.
Yet, the girl was too preoccupied with other matters to notice her billowing hair, tightly gripping a sheet of paper in her hand which trembled anxiously.
「Sorry to make you wait.」
Startled by the abrupt voice, the brown-haired girl turned, causing her hazelnut eyes to quiver as they caught sight of the voice’s owner. It was a boy slightly taller than her, with distinctly dark hair that reminded one of the inky, midnight skies.
「You ok, there?」
「Y-Yes! I-I-I’m fine!!」
Faced with the boy’s concern, the girl nodded vigorously, attempting to steady her frantic nerves as she tensed her frail body. Contrary to her wishes, however, the maiden’s tongue continued to stammer uncontrollably, causing the boy to look at her with endearing eyes.
「……I see you got my letter.」
Realising that she had dropped the sheet of paper in the prior confusion, the girl’s heart grew panicked. In response to this reaction, the boy could only scratch his head, smiling wryly as he picked up the letter and handed it back to the girl.
「So……I guess I should tell you why I called you out here, huh.」
Noticing the boy’s unusual behaviour with her keen eyes, the girl was speechless. She had never seen this boy act so uncertain before, only affirming the suspicions in her heart that were sewn by the letter which called her out here.
Which only caused her heartbeat to quicken ever more as heat surged throughout her entire body in anticipation.
–and then, it happened.
「I……I love you.」
It took all of the girl’s might to stop herself from shrieking in the face of this confession.
After all, the boy who confessed to her had been her crush from long ago. The youth who she was, is, and always will be infatuated with from morning to night. Her love for this man burned brightly, so much so that it seemed as though it would never falter even throughout the four seasons.
And said boy had confessed to her.
「Erm……I know it’s kind of sudden. You can forget I-」
「I-I, too!!! I love you too!! I’ve always, always loved you!!」
Somehow able to forcefully swallow her heart that had leapt into her throat, the maiden’s figure shouted at the top of her lungs, reciprocating the affection that her beloved had shown her.
The girl’s face grew distorted, unable to stop the tears of joy from flowing down her soft cheeks. Yet, as if to remedy this, the boy stepped forward, gently using his finger to brush away the shiny pearls of happiness.
「I’m glad……I’m glad that you also feel the same.」
「M-Me too…I’m really, really glad.」
Gazing into each other’s eyes, the boy and girl whose feelings had become one, drew closer. Bringing their faces so close that it seemed as though their noses touched, the two shut their eyes.
And then, with a clumsy innocence, the newly formed couple leaned forward and-
「…………what are you reading?」
「Gyaaaah!? W-What the-?!!」
A vulgar shriek resounded through the room, shortly accompanied by crashing sounds so dramatic that it resembled the exaggerated onomatopeia found in gag manga.
Of course, the one who hadn’t fallen onto the floor—Saito Junichi—was looking quizzically at the one who had unleashed such an uncouth sound whilst his stoic expression was mixed with a tinge of annoyance.
「Oi, don’t screw up my room. You’re just lodging here, remember?」
「T-That’s not—or rather, don’t surprise me like that!!」
《Cross》 complained, pushing the blame onto his host who had given him the scare in the first place. Of course, tightly grasped behind his cold sweat-covered back was the material that he was perusing before the dark-haired youth’s interruption.
「Hou~ What do we have here?」
Unhindered by the counterpart’s guard, however, Junichi nonchalantly circled around behind him, using deft fingers to snatch the book from out of 《Cross’s》 grip before glancing over the pages once more.
「? What’s got you so worked up? It’s just a book, isn’t it?」
Unable to understand why his other self was so agitated, the youth expressed his doubt, resulting in 《Cross》 to become speechless as his face became even more flushed.
「Still, to think you’d be reading this sort of book. I didn’t peg you as the romantic type.」
「J-Just shut up!! I’ll read whatever the hell I want!!」
In response to Junichi’s surprise at the counterpart’s interest in love drama, 《Cross》 snapped back before turning away in frustration. Funnily enough, the youth couldn’t help but feel that this gesture mirrored a certain grouchy sister (with the obvious exception of the lack of violence).
「Say, 《Cross》. This isn’t yours, right? Where’d you get this?」
「I found that under your bed……and I was curious, so……」
「I see. I’ll see that it gets to its rightful owner.」
Junichi replied, his eyes sweeping over the book—-or rather, the notebook with the pink-floral cover in his hands. Near the bottom of the cover, the letters HITOMI SHIORI could be seen scrawled in neat, cursive print.
Putting it simply, the presence of this name seemed to indicate that the story 《Cross》 read was not an official serialisation, but a byproduct of the ideas accumulating in his stammering, childhood friend’s head. The mystery regarding this book’s presence underneath his bed could also be easily explained by Shiori simply forgetting to take it with her one time when she borrowed his bedroom.
Regardless of the reason, however, it would be best for the youth to take this notebook back to its rightful owner. As for the contents of her masterpiece, Junichi decided against prying too deeply as he left the book shut on his desk.
「E-Erm…say, partner. You won’t……tell anyone about this, right?」
「Hm? About what?」
「About……well, you know…」
「The fact that you were intently reading through soppy love dramas like some sort of teenage girl?」
As Junichi mouthed off such a deliberately degrading description with a smirk on his face, 《Cross》 violently trembled before eventually glaring daggers at the dark-haired youth. Interestingly enough, it had been a while since Junichi’s teasing habits started acting up again, as 《Cross’s》 reactions only served to stir up his sadistic heart even more.
「Yeah, are you sure you should take that tone with me? It’d be such a shame if I were to let loose such a secret to……oh, I dunno, 《Tear》 or 《Amber》.」
「Ok, ok! I get it, ok! I’m sorry. Just give me a break.」
Upon hearing Junichi’s light-hearted threat, coupled with his devious snicker, 《Cross》 instantly paled, blood draining from his face as he imagined the two girls ridiculing him in the event that this incident was exposed to them.
It was probably because of this fear that the counterpart suddenly became so obedient, desperate in his attempt to prevent Junichi from spilling the beans.
「Y-You won’t tell them, right? C’mon, partner! I’m serious, here.」
「Hm……what should I-」
As 《Cross》 was in the midst of confirming whether or not his host would honour his promise, a set of knocks could suddenly be heard from Junichi’s door, causing both of the youths to be on high alert.
And then, without any warning whatsoever-
「Aniki? I’m coming in-」
-the door suddenly swung open as a girl with jet-black hair entered the room.
Upon entering her older brother’s bedroom, Mana was met with the sight of her brother, cloned as two versions of the dark-haired youth stood before her.
–or at least, that’s what would have happened had it not been for the two’s quick thinking.
「Yeah, that’s right. Sorry, the noise was from my side. It’s nothing major.」
While keeping his phone next to his ear, Junichi frowned slightly, gesturing at Mana to lower her voice. Unbeknownst to the little sister, however, Junichi’s act was just that—an act. If one looked closer, they would see that the call was faked, his phone remaining dormant as it actually wasn’t dialling anyone.
And as for the entity, who had seemingly disappeared-
『M-Man, that was a close one, partner.』
《Cross》 sighed in relief, his brow creased as he had rematerialised himself inside of Junichi’s phone. Taking a page out of 《Amber’s》 book, 《Cross》 channelled his energy into data that could be interpreted by the youth’s phone, temporarily residing inside as his muffled voice could be heard coming from the receiver.
『Anyway, seems like you’re busy so I’m gonna take off.』
「Yeah, sure. I’ll see you later.」
『……hey. Make sure you don’t tell anyone, ok?』
「Yeah, yeah. I got it.」
Despite not being totally convinced by the youth’s halfhearted response, 《Cross》 could only swallow his misgivings before jumping out of the youth’s device and disappearing into the void. Since he had been going off on his own quite often just recently, Junichi assumed that the entity was also attending to some business of his.
That said, since he knew neither where 《Cross》 was heading, nor what he was trying to do, Junichi could only bury the matter deep in his mind before pretending to hang up.
And then, he directed his focus towards what was important: his beauty of a little sister who was awkwardly waiting before him.
「Sorry about that. I was talking to a work colleague.」
「N-No, that’s ok. I should have waited instead of barging in like that.」
Upon hearing his little sister returning such a well-reasoned apology, Junichi raised a brow, scrutinising the girl who was strangely docile whilst maintaining an aloof appearance. As her flickering glance filled with hesitation was quite a stark contrast towards the usual bipolar attitude she adopted when dealing with him only served to clue Junichi in on the fact that what Mana wanted to talk about was by no means something trivial.
「What, you got something on your mind? Or are you trying to get me to buy you something by acting all cute?」
「W-Wha-!? T-That’s not it, you Baka Aniki!」
Perhaps due to lingering after-effects of his conversation with his counterpart, Junichi opted to break the ice by teasing his little sister, snickering as he purposefully incited Mana’s interjection. Yet, unlike he originally hoped, the young girl’s nerves were still somewhat shaken, causing the dark-haired youth to become puzzled.
「I……I’ve been meaning to talk to you alone for a while now, Onii-chan. I know you’ve been busy since a lot’s been going on, but I thought that maybe we could talk now. Just the two of us.」
Noticing the distinct change in how Mana addressed him, Junichi fell silent. It’s funny that, despite being able to negotiate on even ground with a juggernaut like Ando Naoki, it was his little sister that left this dark-haired youth at his wit’s end.
Nevertheless, seeing as simply clamming up at this point wouldn’t do him any good, Junichi spoke the following.
「Alright then, Mana. Let’s talk.」
Sensing that it would be best to keep this conversation between just the two of them, Junichi locked his door and closed the windows before letting his sister sit on his bed while he opted to take a chair. And, while Mana was taken somewhat aback by the youth’s quick shift into a serious attitude, she deemed that it was her brother honouring her wish, allowing the two to finally clear the air after so much had happened during the past few weeks.
「S-Since when did you—-no. Thanks, Onii-chan.」
Being handed a can of soda, of which she had no clue when her brother had the chance to grab one, Mana obediently accepted it. Upon pulling the can’s tab, the crisp sound of the gases escaping from the aluminium container echoed throughout the room as the girl downed the refreshingly cold beverage.
Joining her in the consumption of said beverage was her brother who drank his own share practically in unison. The siblings’ synchronicity was so perfect that one would wonder whether they had rehearsed it beforehand.
Nevertheless, after allowing the drink to soothe her parched throat, Mana steeled herself before turning to her brother, her jet black pupils staring straight ahead as only his figure was reflected in its sight.
「Onii-chan. I have so much to ask you. Why were you hiding your strength? Since when did you get so strong? Why didn’t you say something to us? Why didn’t you say something to me?」
As if spilling her heart out, the young girl’s tongue continued to run nonstop. All of her anxiety, her insecurities, her doubts—all were indiscriminately bundled together and thrust into the dark-haired youth’s face.
Or at least, that’s what it seemed at first.
「But I won’t ask that. Because Onii-chan probably had a good reason not to tell us, right?」
Mana said abruptly, a repressed pain concealed deep within her inky, jet-black eyes. Of course, despite the girl’s attempts to mask her uncertainty, Junichi was not so blind that he would miss such subtle signs, guilt starting to encroach into his heart.
However, the 〚Grace〛 wouldn’t allow him to linger upon it for long, raising her head as she looked at her brother with clear eyes. Gathering her conviction, she discarded her thoughts of uncertainty as turned at the boy—the 〚Rebel〛 before her.
The words trembled on the tip of Mana’s tongue, and her tense lips threatened to lock away her willpower. Nevertheless, steeling herself to overcome such adversity like her brother, who had fought against the irrationality of the school’s system, Mana’s lips quivered slightly.
And then, she posed her question once more. The question that she always wanted to ask. The question that she should have asked weeks—-no, perhaps even years before. Though, rather than a question, it was more like a statement.
It was her wish, given form. Her desire manifested in words. Her hope, spoken in pure earnest.
「Onii-chan. I want to know more about you.」
|<< Prev||Table of Contents||Next >>|