Chapter 45:

044 – Natsu

Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path | Our World

The graduation ceremonies for graduates have ended, and so is the school year. With this we finally got through the first year of senior high school.Bookmark here

I suddenly recalled something from an anime I watched. There is the question, "What comes when the snow melts?" It was either 'water' or 'spring.' It does apply in Orio, but we're a few months early to ask that since we have earlier winter than the North. It's mostly asked when the first week of January ends in this country. Thus, spring comes in the said month.Bookmark here

Wait a second… it's just the start of April. The question I just mentioned earlier was from a later episode in Fru*ts Basket. Heck, the anime hasn't even begun! Why do I know this?!Bookmark here

But yes, April.Bookmark here

When you think of it… you imagine the blooming cherry blossoms falling by 5cm per second as you walk down a path with the trees blocking the sunlight. You see the students still wearing their scarfs and layers while they group up in front of the bulletin board to search for which class they are in. And so, they will stop at a standstill while they open their shoe lockers and change footwear. A close friend will then greet him as he shuffles his foot and gave a smile and a wave of hand.Bookmark here

The backgrounds are also very nice. I wonder if it was painted or digitally made.Bookmark here

And the animation is so fluid…Bookmark here

I'm still talking about anime, for crying out loud!Bookmark here

Anyway, such things will not happen in Orio, as much as we wanted it to happen. April is not the time for spring… and that season literally just ended. It somewhat makes me distressed.Bookmark here

However, I really should not be so dejected as I have always witnessed the beginning of April since birth… aside from last year. Summer has once again come down to this island, as scorching as ever.Bookmark here

To recap, Rin and I together with Jean flew to Japan in the first day of April last year. We were then momentarily caressed with the cold winds of Japan in its spring season in Kyoto. Nagi hated me for that since he was weak to heat, but I want to punch myself from a year ago just as much as Nagi wanted to.Bookmark here

The summer cicadas are still late as they usually cry before this month ends. By that time, it would be hotter than ever.Bookmark here

I wasted my time talking to air, and I found myself in my house at the eighth day of April, sitting on the floor of my living room as it would be extremely uncomfortable if I sit on the couch. As expected, the tiles are cold to my back end. It may be summer vacation, but I never try to leave the shade of my house in this temperature and I'm usually found lazing around in front of the electric fan.Bookmark here

"Haku… Don't block the air, I beg you."Bookmark here

In the past, my friends and I had plans to go to the beach, but it never happened for some reason. Even if I want to go and get tanned, which I don't mind, I do mind my huge scar. I could always wear a shirt which solves the problem, but my morale would be very low by that time.Bookmark here

Thus, I would better stay home and look for something I can watch in the television… which I actually found something.Bookmark here

That something, or someone is Rishou Kagetora in front the cameras and microphones. It was a press conference, and I believe that I was marginally late in the announcement he told.Bookmark here

"I… I would like to tell the country about the undisclosed information regarding the solution to the epidemic a decade ago. I was… I was involved with the production of medication that stopped the epidemic at that time. At the same time, I was also involved with live, human experiments-"Bookmark here

From the screen, countless flashes lit up and disappeared from the doctor's face and background.Bookmark here

"The event that saved millions of children came to fruition with the cost of one hundred children in what was dubbed as 'Medical Children Program'. It is a program wherein one hundred children were used as test subjects for medications that are incomplete and extremely harmful. It was… our process to gather the data we obtained to complete the cure.Bookmark here

But I want to address this once and for all… the program was conducted in 2007, in which the government was still under former president Maverick Aquos's term. The program was established under his orders, and I was appointed as the head doctor of the team. The process to gather 100 five year-old children was by firstly fabricating the entire purpose, and was masked as a learning center.Bookmark here

For this very day, I kept the original copy of the memorandum that the late president signed…"Bookmark here

He lifted his arm with a document that then got to the focus of the lenses of the cameras.Bookmark here

The press eventually asked the doctor.Bookmark here

"Dr. Kagetora, was this also related to the murder of the late president back in June 2008?"Bookmark here

"I believe so… The father of one of the children was found to be the culprit of the murder."Bookmark here

"Of all the hundred children, are there survivors, Doctor?"Bookmark here

"N-None… All of the children died… was 'killed' by myself in the process. They may have graves… but they were originally burnt to ashes."Bookmark here

"Do you still have the data from the results of every tests that were made?"Bookmark here

"All of the copies, all of them… I have burnt them all. The only data found are what can be found as public data from the concluded research. The names and the identity of the victims have all been erased."Bookmark here

"Then, doctor, if an event like this happens again, what measures should be taken to produce a cure?"Bookmark here

"I swear that this will never happen again…!Bookmark here

The technology of this country had improved over the decade. If an epidemic can't be solved by the current technology, then we have to develop something… that will never involve any human life. No one would ever accept to know that a sin was what saved lives.Bookmark here

I will accept all the consequences that will be dealt upon me."Bookmark here

After that, he walked away from the frame and to the press, with the relevant documents left behind.Bookmark here

"…Bookmark here

I need to give him a call."Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

Three days after the happenings around the doctor, Marco sent me an image attachment after a message saying, "Are you by any chance reminded of someone from this guy?"Bookmark here

The image showed a population of armed and geared police. For Marco to pull out a photo from somewhere with this great detail, it was very convenient. On the vests of the policemen tells that they are from Cotona PD. But what stood out from the armed crowd was the only person without a helmet. The person that Marco was talking about had sharp and menacing eyes with a plain black mask covering his mouth and nose.Bookmark here

"Oi, oi, oi…"Bookmark here

While still minding her brush and paper, Rin noticed the rare shock on my expression.Bookmark here

"Did something happen, Potato?"Bookmark here

Without any intention to ignore her question, I immediately pulled my phone to my ears.Bookmark here

"Hello, Ryota?"Bookmark here

"Gin? Nice timing. I have something to tell you."Bookmark here

"I'll listen to you later, but how in the world are you with Cotona PD?"Bookmark here

"That's… what I was about to tell."Bookmark here

"What? Did something happen to you? Keep in mind that you're still not completely pardoned from your past actions."Bookmark here

"Yes… I know that. But I was with the PD for an entirely different reason. It took us two days, but we successfully purged all the organizations of underworld. We just finished yesterday and now I'm having a rest."Bookmark here

"WHAT?! You mean, the underworld of Orio is gone for good?!"Bookmark here

"The major organizations, as they might be hard to deal with if this was taken care in a later date. Don't worry, I was under the detective's monitor and an Exile-"Bookmark here

Which was probably Makoto.Bookmark here

"…There were no life casualties, but I can't say that they were all captured without a scratch… or a huge scratch.Bookmark here

But I have good news."Bookmark here

"…? I want to hear that."Bookmark here

"I've heard about Alex Ando's case from the detective and about the 49URV. Someone I know from the underworld has that knife, and now confiscated to be shown again in a trial. And we had a record of him admitting his crime."Bookmark here

"Wait, so you're saying that you actually captured the person?!"Bookmark here

"That's what I was saying."Bookmark here

"Ahhhh, yes! I have to congratulate Jean once everything is settled. Seriously, thanks for the help, Ryota!"Bookmark here

"…Bookmark here

I don't think I deserve to be thanked like that… Anyway, I'll be dropping the call now."Bookmark here

"Alright. But hey, don't let it get to you that much. Even with abandoning your old mask, you're already making changes."Bookmark here

*beep*Bookmark here

Even I did not realize that I was flashing a huge smile in front of Rin who had already figured out what was up in the midst of the call. With us rejoicing to the news, we lively did a high five as the least of the celebration that we could have thought of.Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

In light of the very recent events apart from the huge issue regarding the underworld, the termination of corrupt authorities—not only in the police but also inside the government was revisited and put to action hours after the abolishing of the criminal organizations. The events indeed have moved at a very fast pace nationwide that it became an uproar in the news and media. This is however only an assumption but I feel that the current president, which is still an Aquos is trying to redeem himself from firstly what his grandfather did that led to the Exiles' existence, and the issue about the Medical Children Program.Bookmark here

However he tries to rid the mess that was left by his family, it doesn't erase the fact that the country is still under the political dynasty. Thus, physical and digital protests still persisted.Bookmark here

Regarding the doctor after his upbringing of the program, there was an agreement to suspend his license as a doctor for six months. Considering what was done under his supervision, it was a light punishment in the eyes of the masses. But when I had the chance to finally have a talk with him, he felt contented with the decision and spoke as though he was prepared with what he will do next.Bookmark here

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Of all the things that had happened, there was a scene that was quietly stored in Gin's mind which suddenly came back to the foreground of his vision. Jean, who decided to work part time in Giotto's under the summer heat was showing no slowdowns considering his position in the kitchen. Gin was reminded that it was the same scene before he even realized what was going on with him and Ai back in Japan last year.Bookmark here

It is now two days after Gin and Ryota's communication and in the next day after that call, Jean's older brother got freed from behind bars. It was the most logical reason behind the output he is showing near the stove.Bookmark here

"Hey, Jean. Better slow down now or you'll pass out under the sun. You're only working for the day shift, right?Bookmark here

Anyways, I'll be on break."Bookmark here

"Yeah. I'll keep that in mind, Gin."Bookmark here

Fifteen minutes after Gin left the kitchen, he poked out his head to the kitchen doors to take a peek inside. Having found Jean, he spoke.Bookmark here

"Hey, Jin-san~ Finish that dish so I can dismiss you."Bookmark here

"Huh? But I still have until 11:30."Bookmark here

"Don't care. Someone's surely going to scold you for forgetting to bring an umbrella."Bookmark here

"Ah, yeah… I did forget.Bookmark here

Wait, someone?"Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

"Sorry for making you wait, Ai…!"Bookmark here

She was given a seat as he was seen by the sous chef earlier from outside while looking around inside the restaurant with an umbrella at hand.Bookmark here

While still sat, she took out the cane umbrella and an annoyed expression brewed after seeing Jean.Bookmark here

"You forgot your umbrella, Jin."Bookmark here

He was showing an apologetic face, but doesn't know what to say out of confusion as to why Ai brought the umbrella that Jean have sworn to have left by their front door.Bookmark here

With no words coming to his mind, he diverted a question.Bookmark here

"Are you sure you're okay under that heat?"Bookmark here

"It's fine. The AC here made up for it."Bookmark here

"Thanks for the umbrella, by the way."Bookmark here

"Did you eat lunch already?"Bookmark here

"Not yet."Bookmark here

"Hmmm… I fancy some udon."Bookmark here

"Well… alright."Bookmark here

"Are you sure you two aren't dating yet?" the unnoticed Gin who has his arm on Jean's shoulder all along finally spoke.Bookmark here

"G-Gin?!"Bookmark here

"Gin-senpai?! Since when have you been here?"Bookmark here

"I've been here with Jean all along. You guys just didn't notice me."Bookmark here

"H-How did I not see senpai?!" she fell to an amazement and panic.Bookmark here

After a shoulder pat, Gin turned around and walked away while waving his hand. "Enjoy your udon."Bookmark here

※ Giotto's does not have an udon in their menu.Bookmark here

The commercial district to their eyes was surprisingly lacking of the crowd on their way to the streets under the scorching sunlight and the same and only umbrella they share while walking.Bookmark here

Having arrived inside the familiar udon restaurant on the far side of the marketplace, the sensation of extreme heat died down as the cold air from the air conditioning takes over the sweltering feeling. Having taken their seats over the cushions and all, they realized that the restaurant was unexpectedly bare considering the time. It is the time for lunch, but they were the only customers of the restaurant.Bookmark here

"Boss, aren't the shop somewhat empty today?" asked Jean to the shop owner without the intent of blasphemy.Bookmark here

"Ahh. The huge wave of customers just ended before you came. Well, you lovebirds can enjoy the cold.Bookmark here

So, your order?"Bookmark here

"Two kitsune, then. I'll add 30 on mine, how about you, Ai?"Bookmark here

"I also will."Bookmark here

"And iced tea."Bookmark here

"Coming right up!"Bookmark here

Only the fan noises were heard from the surroundings as the outside scene was still rather silent. The table they sat on was located to a corner unseen from the counter instead of just choosing a random table. The coldness however is still reaching them conveniently.Bookmark here

"Do you always come here, Jin?"Bookmark here

"Ah, not really… I have free times but I kind of forgot coming here. I just realized… we haven't seen each other since your graduation."Bookmark here

"Ahahaha, now that you mentioned. Anyway, can you sit upright?"Bookmark here

"Y-Yeah…?"Bookmark here

As per what Ai asked, he straightened up his back while confusedly staring at her which is bearing a sweet smile. She then extended her arms and wrapped them around Jean and let out a weak voice.Bookmark here

"Congratulations to your brother…"Bookmark here

The happiness boiled up inside him and his eyes widened and rolled everywhere. His heart continuously throbbed hard and sweat slowly poured down from his temples. He was getting nervous from the fact that Ai was not releasing, and that the shop owner might come any time soon.Bookmark here

But the cause of the majority of his tension and heavy heartbeat was from the gazes directed to them from the still opened shop door.Bookmark here

Nagi and Shiro who just entered took a seat to the farthest from them without taking their eyes off. Ai however hasn't realized the entrance of the two.Bookmark here

"Ai… there are customers…"Bookmark here

The girl jolted and threw away her arms as she jerked back to her seat, and sat on seiza with a beet red face. After seeing who the customers are, she let out a sigh of relief. If that sigh was because she was relieved that the ones that saw her were just her upperclassmen, no one knew if it actually was the case.Bookmark here

Either way, the couple ended the joked and sat beside Jean's table with Nagi extending a fist.Bookmark here

"Best wishes for your brother," and Jean also took out his fist.Bookmark here

"By the way, Ai. I haven't asked you why you chose VA, right?"Bookmark here

Nagi stepped in in surprise, "Wait, so you still don't know, Jean?"Bookmark here

"H-H-Huh?! Am I missing out on things?!"Bookmark here

"Ah, no. Shiro doesn't know why just like you. I just happened to know when her friends came to hang out over Gin's place. I was also there when I was taking care of TAC stuff for the next month."Bookmark here

Ai interjected with a nod, "I began to like interior designing."Bookmark here

"Oh. It's nice to know that you got your path sorted out now."Bookmark here

"Owner! One shrimp and beef udon for our table!"Bookmark here

"Got it!"Bookmark here

"How're you faring with the heat, Nacchi?"Bookmark here

"You dare ask, Jean?! Do you know how much lengths I had to go through just to come here?"Bookmark here

"But you still went on a lunch date with Shiro."Bookmark here

"Indeed that's the case, Jean! It makes me feel better under the heat, but I don't think you can really relate, though."Bookmark here

"Can you not put it that way, Nacchi?"Bookmark here

In any case, Nagi is still doing well in the summer heat somehow, while Shiro finally retired the scrunchie and went back to the pony.Bookmark here

Speaking of hair, Gin and Kuro was caught on an internal predicament over that.Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

It is just one of those days where Rin is pretty much hanging out in my house. I was trying to stay silent while stealing glances at her, but…Bookmark here

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!Bookmark here

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!Bookmark here

"Gin, I'm planning to cut my hair. What do you think?"Bookmark here

I was honestly hurt.Bookmark here

"AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! You're a cruel one, Rin…!"Bookmark here

"Ehh?! Wh-What did I do?!"Bookmark here

"You suddenly barged in my house wearing that twin tails tied on the back of your head while the tails themselves are sitting on your shoulder… and then you're telling me that you're planning to cut your hair?!Bookmark here

Bookmark here

It will just solely depend on you, but I don't mind."Bookmark here

Predicament: ended.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

We headed out at three in the afternoon without her pigtails out. Honestly, it was gutting that she took them off. Anyway, she led the way to a hair salon around the uptown. It was probably close to the camping style restaurant I usually go at.Bookmark here

But I am still wondering how she actually made me go to a hair salon that is pretty much a space for women. We haven't even entered but I was already feeling awkward after who all I saw are women inside.Bookmark here

I was about to say, "My lifespan might shorten if I go inside," but decided not to. I still went in with Rin anyway.Bookmark here

Thank goodness I brought a paperback with me.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

In my estimate, her hair treatment would probably take more than an hour, which is more than enough to get me occupied with what I'm reading.Bookmark here

The pressure of the oozing womanly vibe was no joke inside this place. Before I even put all of my attention on my book, I felt the many gazes being directed towards me, and it was so extremely awkward that I'm the only guy inside. But I'm very thankful to say that I am a very plain man so I was eventually ignored.Bookmark here

Although that's the case now… I am still anxious over what cut will Rin get.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

I was pulled back into the reality randomly when I saw accumulating gray clouds from outside, as I was sitting just beside the huge window. I then turned back but I didn't see Rin anywhere. I closed my book and decided to wait for her.Bookmark here

She however came back after twenty-five minutes with a haircut that I realized I actually missed so much. Just earlier, her hair was at the length five to six inches down from her shoulder. Now, I was taken to a nostalgia trip to when we met for the first time as fourth years. It was the very same hair that… I actually and honestly ogled at that time. It was once again back to a shoulder length with the same straight hair that curves in at its ends.Bookmark here

"H-How did I actually react when I first saw her two years ago…?"Bookmark here

I was visited by that question, but was still delighted with how she looks.Bookmark here

We then got out of the salon to come back home.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

I said that, but we're now actually taking shelter when the drizzle from the gray clouds became a downpour. Now we found ourselves standing under a veranda of a nicely looking apartment just outside the uptown. If I can remember correctly, this should be Sector T1 north of Sector 527 and 392.Bookmark here

Rains in the middle of summer aren’t really that new, but it usually happens before May ends. Pretty much, the more humid it is, the stronger the rain can become.Bookmark here

"Actually, where did you go to back at the salon, Rin? I took my eyes off of my book for a sec then you were gone from your seat earlier."Bookmark here

"I was probably taking a shower."Bookmark here

"I see. Wait, there's a shower in that salon?!Bookmark here

Not like I'm complaining, but their service is underpriced for 250 Laxes."Bookmark here

"Well, even I thought that."Bookmark here

While watching the rainwater continuously drop down from the roof, we heard something out of the ordinary coming from the stairway next to where we are standing.Bookmark here

We are hearing someone speaking in Japanese.Bookmark here

"**Yes, yes, Kuni-san… I already understand and we're being sponsored too for the next month. I know. I just decided it on a whim back when I started, but I really don't mind it so don't worry. Actually, they might be surprised to find out when they see me in person."Bookmark here

We listened to everything the voice said until a person finally came down from the staircase.Bookmark here

"**Was it actually? Ah… I'm so tired that I didn't realize. The rain is actually pouring down right here so I can't go out.Bookmark here

Ugh… I never thought it will rain today…"Bookmark here

"Y-Yuuga…?" Rin unconsciously said after finding out that he was actually the one she called out to. It was a bit covered because of his phone by his ears, but he has dark circles on his eyes.Bookmark here

He then turned, with his jaw about to drop.Bookmark here

"**Kuni-san…? Let's just call it a day today…"

Chapter Message:Bookmark here

That ends 044!Bookmark here

oh hey new arcBookmark here

Thanks for reading!Bookmark here

NextBookmark here

045: The stressful life of a ma-Bookmark here

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