Chapter 14
WARMTH

“I thought you’d never come. You’re not a coward after all.”

Aya shut the door behind her. Cold breeze swept past her, which waved along with it her blonde hair which, for some reason, glistened despite the badly lit rooftop. She directed her puzzling gaze towards Kosuke.

Kosuke looked to her direction and frowned, “Where’s your gang?”


“I came alone,” Aya responded.


“Hmmp,” Kosuke folded his arms proudly on his chest as he walked towards Aya. He stopped just when he was about a meter away from her.


“What is it that you want?” Aya asked.


“Miyazawa,” Kosuke glared at the blonde female, “Let’s end it here.”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“Witty and clever actions to grab the student’s attention and sympathy – then plotting against my gang. I have discovered your scheme so there’s no point playing this senseless pretence any further. Let’s finish it.”


Plotting?” Aya blinked naively, “I… I don’t understand…”


“Ha! Nonsense!” Kosuke bellowed. “Don’t toy around with me coz this game is over, Miyazawa. The reason why you suddenly showed up here in Tsuzuya is to take on my gang, correct?”


“Eh?” Aya’s eyes widened in surprise.


“Whoever loses must leave Tsuzuya at once,” Kosuke said as he took off his black school coat, threw it aside, and then rolled up the sleeves of his uniform. “Let’s get down to business.”


Aya did not answer. She maintained her expressionless stare, which drove Kosuke more furious.


“Don’t give me that stare…” Kosuke grunted.


However, her eyes continued to pierce through Kosuke, who was now taken aback by Aya’s unusual composure.


Suddenly, Aya spoke, “So that’s the only reason why you wanted to meet me, Yamazaki-san?”


“What?” Kosuke raised an eyebrow.


“If yes,” Aya paused for a moment before continuing, “then you’re a fool.”


Kosuke’s jaw dropped open involuntarily, bewildered by Aya’s retort, “Say that again, you!”


And with a grin on her face, Aya repeated, “You, Yamazaki Kosuke, are a fool.”


“You’re really impossible, Miyazawa!”


Seeing Kosuke enraged did not, in any way, bewilder Aya even for a slightest bit.


“I never thought that you, of all people, would meet me one day, bringing up this kind of unfounded accusation.”


“I’m not making up some ‘unfounded accusations’. We both know what you’re up to from the time you set foot in this school,” Kosuke said defensively. “Tsuzuya is my territory. And while my gang’s here, we’ll take down anyone who goes over the line.”


“Then you’re really a fool.”


What?!”


“This school is your territory and you’ll take down anyone who goes over the line? You make it all sound as if you’re so great!” Aya chuckled mockingly.


“Where are you getting at?” the pestered Kosuke asked.


Aya bit her lip as she fixed her hair behind her ear, “You’re doing this because you’re threatened by my gang, correct?”


Kosuke’s eyes widened in surprise.


“Are you so afraid of having ‘greatness’ taken away from you, Yamazaki-san?”


“What did you say?” Kosuke replied angrily.


“Uncontrollable temper and excessive defensiveness…” Aya folded her arms on her chest and raised an eyebrow, “You sure are threatened after all.”
“Don’t speak as if you know me, Miyazawa!” Kosuke said as he tightened his fist.


“And don’t speak as if you’re the earth’s last saviour,” Aya shrugged. “You may be the best fighter – but all these times, you’ve only considered that ‘skill’ of yours as something to flaunt.”


“And you’re the one to talk, Miyazawa? You might be forgetting that you’re involved in fights too.”


“I only fight,” Aya looked at Kosuke directly to the eye and continued, “to protect others.”


Kosuke was taken aback once more. He merely stood on his ground, his eyes directed towards Aya’s.


“You, on the other hand, fight merely for your own ‘greatness’ so that students will fear you and look up to you,” Aya continued. “You’re no different from the other gangs. In fact, you’re even worse than them!”


“No different?!”


“And you do not have the right to accuse us of taking away your greatness!” Aya immediately replied. “Keep your greatness to yourself, Yamazaki-san. I do not need one bit of it.”


“Miya… Miyazawa!”


“My friends…” Aya breathed heavily before continuing, “has done you no wrong. How dare you accuse them of such things?”


“Your… friends?”


“Yes, my friends - - - You and all the others call them the infamous ‘Miyazawa Gang’,” Aya nodded. “Do not dare lay a finger on them, Yamazaki-san… I’ll never forgive you if you do.”


“Is that a threat?”


“Yes.”


“Hmm,” Kosuke grinned. “You’re really clever, Miyazawa. Now, this conversation is beginning to sound as if I’m the bad guy here. Then, I won’t let this meeting end without a conclusion.”


Suddenly, Kosuke raised his fists, “I don’t care if you’re a girl. Give it all you’ve got.”


Aya looked at Kosuke in astonishment, “(He still wanted to fight despite all? His pride is… unbelievable…)”


However, just when Kosuke was about to charge towards Aya, an ear-splitting thunder rumbled. Soon, droplets of rain poured from the sky.


“Oh great,” Kosuke said sarcastically. The rain began to pour heavily in such a short interval. He immediately grabbed his school coat from the ground and walked hastily towards the rooftop exit.


Aya, on the other hand, did not move from her place. She stood amidst the rain, her gaze directed towards the sky.


Suddenly, she felt a tight grasp on her arm.


“What in the world are you doing?! Do you want to get sick? Get back here at once!”


Kosuke pulled her back towards the rooftop exit, much to her shock.


“Yama… Yamazaki-san!”


Kosuke pulled the door and bolted it. He pulled a steel piece by the door and shut the nearby casement to keep the rain and chilly wind from coming in.


“Why in the world did you space out all of a sudden?” Kosuke asked.
“I…” Aya swallowed hard and answered softly, “just remembered something…”


“Oh, Miyazawa Aya’s reminiscing in the rain? Is it more important than your health?”


Aya’s eyes widened. She looked at Kosuke with an amazed expression on her face. Kosuke noticed this and immediately diverted his gaze when his eyes met hers.


“D-Don’t assume anything funny, Miyazawa. I’m not… c-concerned about you or s-something like that,” Kosuke reasoned out haltingly.


“Of… of course not,” Aya replied instantaneously, suddenly feeling awkward.


Kosuke walked towards the switch and pushed it. Nothing happened.
“Huh? Broken?” Kosuke said as he pushed the switch for the second time.
Again, nothing happened, “The light won’t turn on…”



- O O O -
Yuken, who was initially preoccupied with his book, anxiously flipped open his mobile phone.


“No message…” Yuken said. Shortly, he began to scroll down to Kosuke’s number and pressed the call button.


The mobile phone you are calling has been turned off.
Try again later.
Beep.
“Kosu-kun…” he exhaled heavily. He looked towards his window, where rain continued to pour heavily accompanied with a series of lightning and thunder.


- O O O -
“This would be fine by tomorrow,” the bald Saburo said as he gave Crosse’s motorcycle a quick pat.


He walked towards the front of his motorcycle parts shop called ‘à Toute Vitesse’. He pulled down the gate to close his workplace.


“If it wasn’t for the rain, I could have gotten the oil from downtown and you’re outta here in no time,” Saburo said as he wiped his soiled hands on a nearby rag hanged on the corner. Then, he put on his waterproof coat and hopped on his motorcycle. “For now, grab that rain coat and get on. I’ll take you back to your apartment.”


“It’s okay, Saburo-san. I’ll just take the bus,” Crosse answered and bowed in respect, “Arigatou.”


“Well,” Saburo shrugged. “If you don’t want it, I won’t force you. But at least take the coat. That umbrella won’t suffice… It’s raining quite hard.”


After a couple of -#-brrmm brrmms-#-, Saburo sped away. He gave one last wave to Crosse before finally turning on the corner.


Crosse looked up. The rain has neither stopped nor declined even for a bit. Worriedly, he reached for his mobile phone and scrolled down to Aya’s number.


Ring…

Ring…

Ring…

Hi, this is Aya. Kindly leave your messages after the beep.
Beep.
“Aya-chan…” Crosse said as he clenched his fist.


- O O O -
“The light outside died too,” Kosuke said as he closed again the rooftop door. It was extremely dark in the staircase that it was impossible to see anything, especially now that the solitary flickering fluorescent light, which served as the only light source of the rooftop, was busted.


“It probably isn’t because it’s broken…” Aya answered. “Power must have been down due to the rain…”


“Blackout…” Kosuke said. “And this school doesn’t have a single emergency light?! Damn it…”


“It’s the rooftop… No one goes here this time of the day anyway…”


“Hey, are you blaming me?”


“I didn’t say anything.” Immediately, Aya came up with an idea, “Your cigarette lighter!”


Kosuke frowned, “I don’t have it.”


“You don’t?” Aya said in disbelief.


Kosuke answered. “I ran out of cigarettes so it’s useless to bring it. Who would have thought this would happen anyway?”


Aya blinked and thought, “(So that explains why I did not smell even a hint of cigar when he came near me… but… perfume…)”


What in the world are you doing?!
Do you want to get sick?
Get back here at once!”
-#-Heartbeat-#-
“(What am I thinking…)” Aya said as she shook her head.


“I know,” Kosuke said as he hastily reached for his mobile phone. “This would do… what the…”


“What’s wrong?” Aya asked.


Dead?!” Kosuke exclaimed. He pushed the ‘ON’ button repeatedly, but the mobile phone remained close. He heaved a sigh and said, “Give me yours!”


“Eh?!”


“Your mobile phone!”


“I… I don’t have it with me…” Aya bit her lip.


“What?!”


“It’s in my bike,” Aya reasoned out.


“Great!” Kosuke said sarcastically. “It’s a long way down. Turn every fourteen steps, clear?”


“What?” Aya asked.


“Are you dumb?” Kosuke said impatiently. “Each staircase has fourteen steps, so just count and hold on to the bar. Estimate the steps so you won’t fall. Unless you want to spend the night here.”


“No, of course not…” Aya answered.


“What are you waiting for? Over here!” Kosuke called.


“I… I can’t see anything…” Aya said.


“As if I could!” the annoyed Kosuke replied. “Just hold on the bar!”


“O-Okay…” Aya nodded.


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“Where are you?” Aya asked.


“Just a few steps ahead,” Kosuke answered.


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“Don’t go too fast…”


“Why, you’re scared eh?” Kosuke said insultingly.


“N-No…” Aya replied.


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“You’re scared,” Kosuke grinned. “The infamous Miyazawa Aya is afraid of the dark.”


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“At least I’m not afraid of my father’s ex-girlfriend.”


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“At least I’m not a rainy-night drama queen.”


One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven…
Eight… Nine…Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen
Turn…
“At least I’m not a good-for-nothing.”


Good-for-nothing?! Who are you calling ‘good-for-nothing’?!” Kosuke suddenly stopped.


“You’re being too full of yourself all the time. Actually, I don’t understand why you’re the hailed leader of Tsuzuya,” Aya said.


“What did you say?!” Kosuke exclaimed.


“Sato is always top of the class, Yamada helps out in the family café and at the same time the captain of the soccer team, Tomo – I heard he’s in a band… And even Suzuki Akio’s in the swimming team. But Yamazaki-san… he’s that guy who smokes in school, cuts class, and beats up other gangs. What’s so great about you anyway?”


“How dare you say those things?!”


“It’s true, isn’t it? You’re actually no use in this school… Well except for your father’s influence…”


“And how about you?! Are you saying that you’ve been useful at all?!”
“You’re the one who said it.”


Kosuke immediately fell silent when the words sank in to him, “(Damn it… she’s right…)”


He remembered how Aya was able to overcome their bullying acts the first time she arrived in Tsuzuya, how she argued with him over his seat, and how she successfully shamed Fuuko and Miss Chae in front of all people. In all of those scenes, Aya has always emerged winner and the center of attention, which immediately garnered the respect of all students in Tsuzuya. Her wits and cleverness never failed to emanate from her. Aya was also, no doubt, the most beautiful student in Tsuzuya.


“(She’s good in everything… Yuken and the others have been handy too… And me… just a show-off?)” Kosuke thought.


Are you so afraid of having ‘greatness’ taken away from you, Yamazaki-san?”
“YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY SUCH THINGS!” Kosuke shouted.


“W-What?!”


-#-Wham!-#-

All of a sudden, Aya was forced back by a powerful punch straight to her right cheek.


“Ugh…” Aya groaned. The blow was so strong that she temporarily lost her sense of balance.


“N-No!” Kosuke’s eyes widened upon realization of what he just did.
As Aya strode back, she accidentally stepped on the edge of the stairs. She immediately stretched her hand to hold on the bar; however, she tripped right in the middle of the staircase that the bar was out of reach from where she was.


“Fourteen… steps…” Aya whispered as she felt her blood rush to her head as her body finally submitted to gravity. She closed her eyes as she fell from an approximately 15-feet elevation.


However…


Miyazawaaaaaaaaaa!”
Aya felt a familiar, powerful grip on her arm. It all happened so fast, but for some reason, the progression of how it all happened came to her senses in slow motion. It started from a tight grip on her arm; a split-second later crawled to her back, and then ultimately surrounded her whole body as if enveloping her in a warm blanket. It was followed by that familiar scent of perfume she was sure she smelled not so long ago.


-#-Crash!!!-#-
They crashed on the platform, which finally led to the exit. Luckily, this area was illuminated by a dim, blue ‘rope-light’, lining the floor.


However, neither of them was able to move.


No, it was not because of a bad fall.


Aya landed on top of Kosuke, whose arms were wrapped around her. He fell with his back against the floor, protecting Aya from further injury. But that was not all.


Aya and Kosuke’s eyes widened simultaneously upon realization of their situation.


Their lips were pressed against each other.

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