Come on… why isn’t he picking up?!
I attempted to redial Ryouta’s number a few more times, yet he never picked up. At this point, I was starting to get worried because Ryouta would normally answer my calls like his life depended on it.
I was expecting to see chaos at the university as soon as I arrived there, but it looked as peaceful as it normally was. I thought of the possibility that Ryouta and Ayano were taken elsewhere, but I couldn’t be sure so I entered the university grounds in search of any hints.
I heard someone’s movements behind me. Before the person could lay their hands on me, I whipped around and deflected the hand.
“Woah, that scared the hell out of me!” Ryouta stared at me with wide eyes, rubbing his wrist that I had just blocked. He had no injuries and looked perfectly fine to me.
I glared at him, “Ryouta…? Are you joking with me right now?!”
Ryouta swallowed, “Are you going to kill me if I say yes?”
I continued to stare at him, unresponsive.
“And if I lie?”
“I’ll make it a painful death.”
“M-man I was seriously bored! I was following that clumsy woman all over the place and it wasn’t even challenging! She wouldn’t notice a thing even if I walked right past her face! I decided to prank you so that you’d come faster.” Ryouta started to explain himself without breathing in between. He usually did that when he knew he was in trouble and was in panic to get out of it.
I grabbed him by the nape of his neck and pulled him under a headlock as I dug my knuckles into his head like a screwdriver. “You’re not going to live to see the sunrise tomorrow!”
“I’M SORRYYY! MAN!!” Ryouta yelped, trying to pull himself out of the painful headlock.
I finally let go, “Where is Ayano then?”
“She tripped over a twig or something and scraped her knee.” Ryouta shook his head, “She’s in the infirmary now.”
I whacked him on the head again. “Then what are you doing here?”
“Oh come on! What’s the worst that can happen to her in the infirmary?” Ryouta rolled his eyes “Akira is going to be there too?” He scoffed, before he stopped to look at me.
I looked back at him.
“Unless he’s been watching her all this time too…” He mused.
I grunted. “Let’s go to the infirmary.”
As soon as Ryouta opened the infirmary door, we were deafened by a loud high pitched scream.
“What?! EH?!” Ryouta jerked back and bumped against me, startled by the random screaming girl. He turned away, his face red. Her shirt was half undone as the nurse was in the middle of wrapping bandage around her upper arm.
“Shut up.” I said, wincing at her screeching voice. She followed the order immediately with a terrified expression.
“Have you seen a girl with wavy brown hair here?” I asked, just before a familiar head curiously poked around the curtain of the nearby ward.
“Kentaro? Ryouta?” Ayano gasped, “What are you doing here?”
I looked at her, she seemed fine and there was no sight of Akira. Now I needed a reason to be here.
I looked at Ryouta, “Ryouta said he wanted to apply to this university too.”
He stared back at me, baffled. “Oi, since when- “ He stopped talking when noticed the annoyed expression on my face.
“Ohhh! Awesome!” Ayano smiled, “We’ll be in the same year too!”
“Oh yes…the joy.” Ryouta said sarcastically, playing along with it.
“I know you came to check if I bumped into Akira.” She chuckled. “I haven’t seen him though.”
I cleared my throat and looked away awkwardly.
“You know Akira?” The girl who was screaming at us not so long ago asked, surprised. She was firmly covering herself with the duvet on the bed she was sitting on now.
Ayano looked at her, confused. “Yes, I’ve known him for a while. Why?”
“No way!! Are you close with him? He’s the most popular in this university! There’s no one who doesn’t know him! He’s incredibly intelligent, good looking, talented in everything…” She sighed.
Ryouta cringed just as I did. But something seemed to bother me.
Did they not know of Akira’s Yakuza life either?
“Akira Oshiro?” I asked.
“Tsuji…” She responded, “Maybe we’re not talking about the same person?”
“Oshiro?” Ayano blinked, “Where did that come from?”
I had forgotten that Ayano was still unaware of most of Akira’s secrets. She had seen some of the Yakuza men and was briefly in his house, but she didn’t know much about the underground world. It seemed like she didn’t have a clue about who Oshiro was either.
“Is Akira troublesome in any way?” Ryouta continued to ask, ignoring Ayano.
The girl shook her head with wide eyes, “He never causes any trouble… well, I’ve never heard of anything like that anyway. He’s in the same year and course as I am. Sometimes it’s frustrating because he’s like the perfect student who always gets top marks and has the best attitude and characteristics anyone could want. Trouble or fighting is something I’ve never seen him go close to.”
Ryouta looked back at me with raised eyebrows, probably thinking the same as I was.
That guy had been keeping up a pretty good façade at this university.
It seemed like there was some research for me to do… and the first step was to find Akira’s real parents. Only Ayano could help me find them because I had no intentions to see Oshiro again, let alone ask him for any favours.
“Kentaro, why do you always get so worked up about Akira anyway?” Ayano pulled her mouth to one side, “I know the place he’s staying at is kinda creepy but he can’t be a bad person. Even this girl says he doesn’t cause trouble…so why do you still get worried?”
I was thinking of a way to avoid her question, yet Ryouta was much more impatient than I was.
“Because he likes you, duh!” Ryouta grunted in irritation.
I stared at him with wide eyes, startled.
Ayano turned to look at me, taken aback by what she had just heard.
Ryouta switched his gaze back and forth between me and Ayano a couple of times before he finally realised he had said something he shouldn’t have.
“Oh…” He scratched his head awkwardly, “I thought… she… already knew.”
I clenched my jaw in anger, unsure of what to say or do now.
“Well, this is awkward.” The girl with the bandage on her arm laughed nervously.
“Is this true?” Ayano finally spoke, asking me directly.
I looked her straight in her light brown eyes and I knew I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I despised dishonesty and was too lazy to bother with telling lies, because they required too much commitment.
I opened my mouth to say something, but Ryouta cut in again.
“LIKED! I meant to say liked. Past tense…” He exclaimed, looking at me nervously as if he had done something to redeem himself.
I stared at him with a deadpan expression. By now I had given up on any attempt to fix the situation. Ryouta had already managed to dig us deep enough into a mess… there was nothing left for me to say.
I looked back at Ayano and exhaled slowly.
What worried me the most was that unreadable expression on her face.