Chapter 29 – The Hydraean's Wrath


.

.

.

"Good day students. I am Nakiri Azami and today I'm going to tell you about my ideal world..."

.

.

.


.

.

.

"Uh y-yes, this is the Home-Cooking Research Society. What is it that you need from us?"

.

.

.


.

.

.

"...and how it relates to the revolutionary changes that will be sweeping the institute. There are two major pillars to my reform.."

.

.

.


.

.

.

"W-What do you mean the Chankonabe RS has to pack up now?!"

.

.

.


.

.

.

"Firstly, as of now, all classes, seminars, research societies, appreciation clubs and independently operating bodies among both students and faculties...".

.

.

.


.

.

.

"Who are you black-suits to tell us that the Don RS are finished?! If you don't want me feeding you a knuckle sandwich, get the hell out of our clubroom right now!".

.

.

.


.

.

.

... are disbanded"

.

.

.


.

.

.

"The Guild's time is finally due huh? Come and get me... Azami".

.

.

.


.

.

.

"Man. It's all happening in one fell swoop".

The televised speech played over and over again in Souma's head. Morbid curiosity more than dread ebbed and flowed between the bouncing speculations he had about the future of Tootsuki and how it would directly relate to his journey to be the successor of Yukihira Diner. So much was now changing at top speed and he didn't know what was going to happen next. Souma puffed out his cheeks while he listened to Yoshino and Sakaki hiss and spit in the dorm cafeteria about the injustice of it all. The tension in the school had finaly exploded into full blown panic which echoed to all corners. Souma took pride in being great at not letting things get to him but admittedly, it was hard not to absorb the collective outpouring of despair, confusion and anger shared by all the staff and students around him. Their new director Nakiri Azami preached about returning everything to ground zero and had forbidden any future research societies or seminars to form as his first executive order. All this was apparently approved during the last regular Elite Ten Council meeting. The curiosity gave way to uneasiness which only amplified when he thought of his friend's devastation, that their precious and treasured passions were effectively castrated by the the Azami Administrations.

Megumi's Home Cooking RS was wrecked, Marui's Miyano Seminar was toast, Nikumi's Don RS was finished, and even Nakiri Alice's Cutting Edge RS wasn't exempt from her uncle's tyranny.

But The Guild though...

Mitsunaga and Ginsekai were two less people for him to worry about since their RS was... unique in that it already served its purpose in establishing themselves as an autonomous outside entity and therefore didn't really need to be Tootsuki-approved anymore.

'Ishikagaku-senpai and Yuujou-senpai's efforts to protect The Guild really paid off. Those guys sure are something'.

If there was anything Mitsunaga and Ginsekai would be jumping up and down about, was that their brand-spanking new RS building promised by Isshiki-senpai would be annexed back into Tootsuki. It was barely even a month old. But for sure, they were a whole lot better off than all the other seminars and Research Societies being shut down.

Souma got up from the cafeteria table and grabbed a jug of Megumi's barley tea from the fridge and poured himself another glass. He had raced back to Polar Star Dormitory as soon as the televised speech had finished. He could never get used to the fact that Tootsuki had these massive flat-screens all over the school to broadcast news, announcements and events. Man, rich schools sure knew how to use their money. The Aldini twins had tagged along with him as Mitsunaga had asked for a meet-up at Polar Star. Also that they wanted to see for themselves that Nakiri was actually hiding in Polar Star Dorm.

'Speaking of Nakiri'.

Souma slid his eyes over to Nakiri Erina sitting at the far end of the table, wedged between her cousin and her ex-aide, Arato. She looked incredibly rigid and not just because Arato looked like she wanted to murder her flashy cousin. There were still dark circles under her eyes to confirm her restless sleep for the last two weeks or so. She hadn't been attending class as it was part of the plan for her to lay low. The first few days at Polar Star, she walked, ate and talked as if she had a huge weight pressing down on her but by honest, true Polar Star fashion, his dorm mates and friends lifted it off of her. After the little keruffle of having to explain to them what the hell was going on and why on earth was she in the middle of the Polar Star foyer with a packed suit-case shaking like a leaf, and why was she was staying here, they had instantly treated her like one of their own even going as far as making her try out their foods with gusto and without a sense of fear.

Like true Nakiri fashion, she let them have the full brunt of her cold and decisive critique. Old habits died hard, he guessed. The shock and awe on her face was satisfying to see when the Polar Star residents got fired up even more to challenge her repeatedly and make her like their food. They absorbed her feedback like a sponge, but didn't use it in the way she expected and instead picked and chose what they thought was relevant, and astonished her with their re-made dishes, thus proving that they understood her critique but at the same time, could think creatively and beyond those recommendations to still achieve a better outcome. Souma actually found it both hilarious and heart warming to see the cold and uppity Empress melt into Polar Star's charistmatic and nurturing bossoms, gelling together and fitting in more and more everyday. Soon, another part of Nakiri Erina was revealed before their eyes.

Soft and tender.

It made sense that Mitsunaga had been the one to have seen it first and shoot his shot. That guy had a talent for reading people and uncovering the best in them.

"Urgh! Uncle Azami is such a douche, isn't he Ryou-kun? I was expecting he'd actually treat me a bit better since I'm his niece, but he's still disbanding my Cutting Edge RS! To him, I'm just like the rest of you ordinary people. No offense".

"But Mi'lady, you didn't even know that you were the President of the RS until just now".

"Doesn't matter! It's the principle of it!".

Nakiri Alice and Kurokiba Ryou almost became part of the furniture here at Polar Star. The molecular gastronomy expert's dedication and care to her cousin was examplary as she stopped by to check in on her cousin all the time. For Nakiri, she was the only family she had left that she could still communicate and hang out with. If only Mitsunaga could do the same and actually visit his girlfriend and see how she was going, then that would be grand too. However, Souma knew that the gamer-chef was keeping his distance as not to antagonise Nakiri's father, should he make his threat to expel him come true.

Meanwhile, Kurokiba sat transfixed staring at Hayama across the table, who looked super uncomfortable to be in Polar Star Dorm. His silver hair was actually down for once and it was pretty refreshing look compared to his serious pony tail. That guy needed to chill out some more in his opinion because was just as uppity as Nakiri. If Souma got his facts straight, this was Hayama's first time at Polar Star Dorm. He looked around fervantly at everyone, especially the rowdy Daigo and Shoji who were having an impromptu arm-wrestling match to keep their minds off of the near-dystopian chaos happening in the school. Souma spotted how Hayama would surreptitiously cover his nose as if there was a bad smell that only his highly sensitive nose could sniff out. He'd have to come over more often so he could get used to it. Polar Star was unique in it's people, as well as it's smell apparently.

"This is ridiculous... no, it's insane! Who does he think will follow this stupid CENTRAL thing he's pulled out of his arse!". Sakaki slammed her fist on the table top, making Takumi flinch.

"He's going to make our school hell on earth!", screeched Yuuki.

"Yuuki! Stop making a fuss", Fumio-san scolded. She came into the cafeteria with a stern expression and hands akimbo. "You have guests".

Souma came up from behind the Aldini twins, where Isami was in deep conversation with Marui. He looked over to see who these guests were.

"Hey, Mitsunaga, Ginsekai. You finally made it", he greeted casually.

"Hey".

"'Sup".

The raven haired chef nodded at him and his blonde best friend waved a little less enthusiastically than normal. They were still dressed in their school uniforms, much like the Aldini twins. Mitsunaga took off his signature headphones from around his neck and stuffed it into his messenger bag, while Ginsekai was sporting a rather tall-looking black canvas bag over his shoulders. Both looked pretty stressed and haggard, probably coming down from the adrenaline involved in ducking and weaving out of the new security's sight like a couple of frantic rogues. The sudden scrape of the cafeteria chair alerted him and Nakiri practically whipped past him to grab Mitsunaga into a crushing hug. His poker face dropped and his big blue eyes could've popped out of his head. He returned the hug just as sincerely and he pressed his lips to her temple and released her.

"Geez, let us know next time if you're gonna be late. I thought Father had expelled you".

Nakiri smacked him over the chest and then crossed her arms the other way. Her snippy words still belied the emotional exhaustion. Her lips were pinched in annoyance as she weakly glared at Mitsunaga out of the corner of her narrowed eyes. Her beau on the other hand rubbed his chest sheepishly before attempting to coax her back to him to no avail. She huffed and stomped back to her seat, occupying herself with tea while Nakiri Alice laughed behind her hand.

"Sorry, Nakiri. You doing okay?".

"Better than before. I'm getting used to it here", she said simply.

Mitsunaga surveyed the room over her head, as if to check the validity of her statement.

"Uh, Ginsekai-kun? What's with the bag?", pointed Ibusaki.

"Oh! It's for Yuuki-chan. I promised I was going to help with the feral racoon problem around Polar Star fields and her game animal enclosure", replied Ginsekai.

"Oh yeah. It's that season again. They've been a real nuisance. So what is it?".

Ginsekai swung around the black bag and unzipped it. He dug his hand in and pulled out a...

"It's a paintball gun!".

"WHAT THE HELL?!", yelled, the whole dorm.

Souma instinctively staggered back and ogled that piece of equipment with horror. Even Isami Aldini gripped onto his elder twin's arm, ready to make a break for it. Ginsekai grasped the handle with his finger poised over the trigger like it came naturally to him. He even held it across his body, pointing it downwards in a standby position. The long black piece looked so alien with its little compression gas tank at the bottom and canistor of little paints attached at the top. Was he nuts?

"You're not going to actually shoot racoons with paintballs are you?! And how did you get your hands on one anyway?", exclaimed Marui.

"Of couse I'm not going to shoot racoons, that's animal cruelty! I'm only going to snipe near them, just to deter them away. You know, scare them from coming back to the fields and Yuuki-chan's game animals. Maybe I'll even scent the the paint with something smelly like strong vinegar for an extra boost. See? I have a telescopic sight so that I can see them and not hit them".

Ginsekai dug around in the bag again and pulled out a small tube that indeed looked like a scope and clipped it onto the top of the paintball gun.

"We have an NPC who owns a paintball field in Chiba who was willing to lend it to me to use, as long as I don't do anything that'll get us in trouble. We had it delivered to Isshiki-senpai's office as 'kitchen ware'. Take out the hassle of having our packages screened by the Azami Administration. We figured no-one was going to question an Elite Ten member's packages. We didn't tell Isshiki-senpai that it was going to be a paintball gun so that he would have 'plausible deniability' if someone found out. Anyway, Yo-kun, Tsurugi-senpai, Kasai-senpai and myself used to do regular RS group bonding with each other back in middle school and go paint-balling".

"I'm tattilng on you to Isshiki-senpai", deadpanned Ibusaki.

"But it was Tsurugi-senpai's idea!", whined Ginsekai.

"S-So, you know how to use it?", asked Megumi.

"Pffft, use it? He wiped the floor with our arses every single time", chimed in Mitsunaga.

Souma knew that Ginsekai was exceptionally gifted with his hand-eye coordination, vision processing and playing First Person Shooters, making him highly skilled at teppanyaki as his cooking style, but never for once he thought those skills could be generalised to also operating anything in the vicinity of something resembling guns of all things! The red-headed chef reminded himself not to get on Ginsekai's bad side, no matter how harmless and cheery he looked. Who knew if he had a BB gun, airsoft gun or more paintball guns he could get his hands on.

"So why did you round us all here, Mitsunaga?", grunted Hayama.

"I want to have a serious talk with all of you. Is Isshiki-senpai here?".

"Oh I'm here", came a smooth voice.

Souma turned around just in time to see Isshiki-senpai trotting down the stairs in a fresh shirt and trousers. He had a towel in his grasp still rubbing the wetness out of his hair from his shower. The sparkling clean seventh-seater with his equally sparkling grin entered the cafeteria and graced everyone with his green apple shampoo scent. He looked a bit more... excited? Souma rubbed his chin, he wondered what got him in the mood. By all accounts, he should be stressed out of his mind with the Elite Ten business but not a shred of worry was on his face. Isshiki-senpai patted Mitsunaga on the shoulder and then took Souma's side. Fumio-san excused herself, claiming that she had some letters to catch up and a pregnant silence fell in the cafeteria. Souma did a quick head count.

Nakiri Erina

Ginsekai Hayato

Takumi Aldini and Isami Aldini

Nakiri Alice and Kurokiba Ryou

Hayama Akira

Arato Hisako

Isshiki-senpai

Tadokoro Megumi

Sakaki Ryoko and Yuuki Yoshino.

Ibusaki Shun and Zenji Marui

Daigo Aoiki and Shouji Satou

"I wanted to tell you guys, especially for those who don't know already, that I also have a sealed student file. I want you guys to hear it from me first. In case Nakiri Azami plans to disclose it, or use it against me and Nakiri. So it won't come as a suprise and he won't be able to take advantage of your confusion".

That certainly had everone's rapt attention. Uncertain glances were passed all around as everyone's arms started to move forward to cross over the top of the table like a hive mind, ready to receive Mitsunaga's alreayd confusing news. But Nakiri still had her hand cupping her tea. Her startled appearance was the only thing Mitsunaga had his eyes. Nakiri's eyes were wider and her mouth had fallen open as she stared back in surprised. Souma knew well that that those pair of intense blue eyes were camera lens observing and capturing Nakiri's every tell and as if everyone else was wallpaper. His adam's apple bobbed thickly, a sign that the gamer-chef was nervous as hell. Souma looked back and forth between the two, figuring that this was about to be new information to Nakiri and if Mitsunaga looked nervous as hell to reveal it, then it was going to be something heavy and it intrigued him even more.

"It was sealed in the first place for my own protection by the request of my Father to Nakiri Senzaemon because firstly...".

Mitsunaga licked his dry lips. He leaned forward and rested his palm on the cafeteria table in front of him. He looked from nervous to extremely troubled. His brows were furrowed and his ears and the back of his neck was starting to look warm in colour. He took a moment, and looked up again with a long sigh. His azure eyes retained its sharpness and still cut to the quick as he spoke his next words without preamble.

"My Father is the Prime Minister of Japan".

All hell broke loose.

"WHAT?!".

"NO FUCKING WAY!".

"MERDA! ARE YOU JOKING?!".

"THE PRIME MINISTER HAS A SON?!".

"BUT YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT SURNAME!".

"DON'T FUCK WITH US, MITSUNAGA!".

"YOU DON'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE WHAT A PRIME MINISTER'S SON SHOULD BE!".

"THEN AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO HAVE BODYGUARDS ALL OVER YOU?!".

"I DON'T GET IT! WHAT?!"

"NOPE! I DON'T BELIEVE YOU!".

"THIS WHOLE TIME, THE PRIME MINISTER IS YOUR DAD?!".

"MITSUNAGA , I'LL KILL YOU IF YOU'RE LYING!".

Souma's mug slipped from his hand and he caught it just in time before it smashed. Shut the front door! His feet were cemented to the floor. He gaped like a guppy. Like everyone else, he blurted out the first thing that farted in his mind. To him, the words that left Mitsunaga's lips were gibberish because truly how on earth was he supposed to process that? Souma might be a simple guy and liked to go about things in the simplest way possible because really, the cooking life wasn't that complicated no matter how much Tootsuki made it sound like it was all about that cut-throat life. However even he had to concede to the enormity and complexity of how Mitsunaga's truth bomb was going to affect them all and the tumultuous situation Tootsuki found itself in. It was so surreal. Just a few metres away from him sat the offspring of the the man that literally ran the nation for the longest time. Mitsunaga's dad was a household name! Today, Souma's world turned inside-out and so did his understanding of his good friend. Damn... he actually thought he had Mitsunaga pegged, and even considered him to be his good mate considering everything they've been through together at Tootsuki. But now he felt there was a major disconnect. He no longer knew what to make of him. It was back to square-one where he was just the video-game music otakuweirdo with the enigmatic sharp eyes napping at the back of the lecture hall with the thick cloud of mystery surrounding him.

Only this time, the otaku weirdo came from a seriously influential political family.

The odd but harmless behaviours... his unnerving and unrelenting gaze that watched everything around him... brokering deals and transactional help through The Guild and NPC network... his down-played presence but massive impact... his fluid but cutting words... even the rumours of how he actually held his own against Nakiri Azami during the Moon Banquent Festival...

It started to make sense now.

Son of a politician.

Habits of a politician.

Mind of a politician.

Right now, the guy looked as far away from a self-respecting son of a politician as could be. Mitsunaga was red as a beet and was about to shrink into his collar. His leg incessantly jigged up and down and his hypervigilant eyes were zipping across all surfaces of the room except anyone's faces, which was a first. Something that looked like cold sweat was breaking out on his temples and his fingers were wringing together on the table top. Meanwhile, Ginsekai stood by his side looking much more put-together, which was also a first, still gripping his paintball-gun with a mildly apprehensive expression on his face, but trying hard to keep it neutral. His finger was still poised over the trigger completely still, well and controlled. Too well and controlled...

They felt like strangers in their midst.

No... they felt like they were from a different plane of existence.

"If you all shut up, I'll explain to you why I'm here!", growled Mitsunaga.

His implaccable ferocity choked the air into silence.

The gamer-chef sighed loudly and raked his long fingers through his dark hair. The tiredness finally seeped from his pores and his eyes drooped, losing the fight against the unforgiving boulder on his shoulders.

"A long time ago, my Mother, the First Lady of Japan and I were at a luncheon with the wife of the Canadian Ambassador. While that was happening, my Father was having a meeting with her husband, the Canadian Ambassador, for the 2003 Canada-Japan Forum. I was around six years old. After that luncheon my Mother and I were scheduled to drive back to Souri Daijin Kantei, The Official Residence, to meet up with my Father, so that we could get dressed and then attend an evening concert and dinner with the Canadian Ambassador's family. You know, part of maintaining good international relationships with allied countries".

Nobody interrupted Mitsunaga as he spoke, drawn to his story. It was unclear what direction it was going, so Souma started to come around again and perservered to listen carefully. The slow, measured but strained voice coming from his dark-haired friend told him this story was pretty hard for him to get out.

"On the way to Souri Daijin Kantei, we... had a car accident. M-My Mother died, I survived".

Megumi and Nakiri Alice gasped lightly, but it still punctuated the air like the whistle of the wind through a crack in the window pane. It was everybody else's turn to feel a share of that boulder on their own shoulders.

Part of Souma's heart twisted.

He knew exactly what it was like to lose a mother.

The sudden resonation with Mistuaga's story made him think about Kaa-chan. He hadn't thought about Kaa-chan like this in a long time. The way he understood it, grief came in waves. He remembered that in the beginning it felt so strong that he and Oyaji were almost swept away. After that, they came in random moments, replacing the feelings of normality with the emptiness and familiar tears. Yet in time, those waves of grief lessened for Souma and he let the good times flood in instead. Just like right now. They allowed for waves of smiles, warmth, the funny and sweet things that Kaa-chan had always gifted him. He peeked over at Nakiri on the far end of the table. She had the same look on her face that Souma used to see in the mirror staring back at himself when he was around twelve, when Kaa-chan's death had still been fresh for him and Oyaji. It was... empathy? Huh... Maybe she also lost her mother.

"I-It's true", Marui spoke up tentatively.

Everyone turned to the bespectaled chef sitting by Ibusaki as he lifted his phone to show the thumbnail of a video.

"It's been reported right here". He cleared his throat. He adjusted his glasses and tapped play on the screen and the sound of an amateur news anchor filled the room.

"...Born to an affluent and influential family, he became Japan's youngest-ever Prime Minister in 2001. With just as much notoriety and probably the most dissected and most criticised aspect of his personal and political life, is the mysterious circumstances surrounding the tragic car accident that killed Japan's First Lady, who was mercifully survived by their only son... Prime Minister Oushirushi since then has removed his direct family members completely from the public eye and his personal security had significantly increased since that time, almost to the level of the US. His unusual and overly cautious response to a car accident had bred speculation that it may have been a miscalculated attempt on the Prime Minister's life as many dissenters for his political views and decisions had been the most vocal compared to previous Prime Ministers. Therefore it was further speculated that his wife and son may have actually been the unfortunate victims of an assassination attempt that was meant for him. To this day, nobody was charged due to a lack of evidence to pin any suspects, and the official reports from the Cabinet was that it was a 'tragic accident'. Not much else is known about the events of the accident nor the current status of his son, years on, except that The First Lady of Japan was the first casualty ever suffered from an active Prime Ministerial Family...".

He shut off his phone.

"Ah... I do remember hearing that The First Lady had passed away many years ago. I think it was common knowledge when we all were young", said Arato.

"Damn... I'm so sorry to hear that Mitsunaga-kun", said Sakaki in a small voice.

He just nodded in acceptance.

"But what has this got to do with your student file being sealed for your protection? It was... I mean, sorry to put it bluntly... it was reported as just a car accident", asked Hayama.

"Because the speculation was right", replied Mitsunaga. "The car accident wasn't an accident. It was actually an assassination attempt".

The air was so brittle that it could snap. The tension in the room escalated and a shiver cascaded down Souma's spine.

"Someone tried to kill your Father? The Prime Minister of Japan?", whispered Nakiri Alice.

"No. The target was never my Father. It was my Mother".

Souma didn't see that coming. They continued to sit knee-deep in relentless and thick discomfort. The only sound was the water dripping from the faucet, each one reverberating around the room like a cymbal. Outside, there was no wind or birdsongs either. They were all trapped in this little bubble of dread made by Mitsunaga.

"Why would anyone want to... k-kill... the First Lady of Japan?", asked Takumi, softly and gently.

Something passed through Mitsunaga's eyes, like a flicker of hesitation before it glossed over again into unreadable calmness.

"Because my Mother also happened to be the heiress of the Mitsunaga Clan. The Mitsunaga Clan are... Yakuza".

Souma's brain stuttered for a moment... did he just say Yakuza? No freaking way. No, this was going too far! First his Father is the Prime Minister of Japan, then next his Mother was the Heiress of a Yakuza family? This shit was unbelievable. Way too far fetched. Mitsunaga looked like he was towing the line.

Souma paused and narrowed his eyes.

'What if it's not a lie?'.

He let out a slow, controlled breath and attempted to loosen his body movements. His favourite Quadstar hoodie started to feel itchy. He had never doubted Mitsunaga before, but that doubt was starting to creep up the back of his mind. The red-head left his brain alone and focused on his guts instead. He could always trust his guts and his instincts as a chef. So what did his gut tell him about Mitsunaga? It told him that if this was the hardest thing for Mitsunaga to open up about, in front of a group of friends and acquaintences, then it must be true. Mitsunaga had always come through for him too. His instincts told him that... Mitsunaga Yozora was still his friend no matter what.

"So if your Mother was the heiress of a Yakuza clan... and she died... That makes you the heir", said Megumi.

Realisation dawned on everyone and they stared wide-eyed at Mitsunaga with a mixture of fear and suspicion.

"Yeah. That's the second reason why I need protection here. As heir, I'm still the loose thread. Tootsuki Academy out of all the schools in Japan has the highest level of security and protection, thanks to the Nakiri Family and Arato Family. So my Father transferred me from the Tokyo Conservatorium, where I was previously attending as a classical musician since my Mother's death, as soon as I met Tootsuki's age requirement for middle school. He made Senzaemon-dono promise to keep it as an absolute secret".

"I don't get it", said Daigo. "How is it possible that our Prime Minister is associated with Yakuza? That's all kinds of corrupt, isn't it?".

"It's always been that way, but it's never talked about", said Mitsunaga. "The Yakuza has a history of being a form of legitimate feudal organisation and their connection to the political system through the uyoku dantai otherwise known as the Extreme-Right Wing political group. The Yakuza are somewhat part of the Japanese establishment and their involvement in politics works similarly to 'lobbying groups' and they back those who share in their opinions or beliefs. The current head is my maternal grandfather. The Mitsunaga Clan supported my Father way back, behind the scenes, completely in the shadows when he was still just a cabinet minister. That's how he met my Mother. The Mitsunaga Clan is a very secretive Yakuza family and almost unknown, but that's how they like to keep it. They prefer other Yakuza clans to underestimate their true reach, capabilities and strength, so that they can easily turn the tables. They had always laid completely underground, and they made sure that it would never come to light that my Father's wife was their Yakuza clan heiress when he won the elections to become Prime Minister. At the time of the accident, the Mitsunaga clan was at war with a rival Yakuza clan because they violated our business and it escalated. They somehow found out who was next in line to the head of the Mitsunaga clan which was my Mother. So... Well, here we are now".

"And what business was that?", asked Isshiki-senpai.

"They started with illegal bookmaking and match-fixings, as far as I know. Like many Yakuza groups, they nowadays have legitimate businesses too. But what they do now in the shadows, I don't fully know".

"D-Do you have the tattoos? Those tell-tale, Yakuza tattoos?", asked Shouji.

Probing eyes turned back to Mitsunaga who was desperately hiding his squirming like a bug under a scope.

"Umm... no, I'm not of age. I have to be eighteen to officially be eligible to take over and receive the tattoos, which is the clan rule".

"Well then... We have an Heiress to the Noble Nakiri Clan and the Heir to the Yakuza Mitsunaga Clan with us. Quite the pair you two make", quiped Isshiki-senpai.

Holy shit, Souma completely forgot about Nakiri.

The red head tilted his head in her direction to observe her closely. Her complete composure was nothing short of supernatural. Wow. Those violet steely eyes were guarded and strong. He couldn't read anything from her. She was so still and eerily calm, no reaction whatsoever. Almost as if this was a really boring meeting and she zoned out. It was kind of freaky and Souma didn't know if he should be worried. Nakiri was normally very flustered and reactive and her face and demenour was an open book when it came to Mitsunaga, especially when she thought it was just the two of them. Seeing her like this put Souma on a bit of a higher alert and it seemed like her cousin and aide had picked up on the incongruent behaviour as well as they hovered of Nakiri like helicopter parents. He looked back over to Mitsunaga and this time the gamer-chef was determinedly avoiding her eyes.

Avoiding eye contact? Again?. This must mean the guy must be scared shitless for Nakiri's opinion of him now.

The pregnant silence grew extremely awkward until it was too late to say anything else on the matter.

"Is it okay if...? Umm... would you guys mind if Nakiri and I have the room?", Mitsunaga asked quietly and lowly.

Oh boy. Those two definitely need a good long talk. Souma didn't need to be told twice, he pushed himself off the wall and put his cup back on the table, signalling to everyone else to clear the room and the hesitant scrape of chairs filled the air with more ear-piercing awkwardness. The students slowly filed out with soft murmurs between them and they gave Mitsunaga a wide berth as they went past like was a contagion. Ginsekai patted his best friend on the shoulder before following everyone else. This time he packed away his paint-gun properly. Souma made sure he was the last one to leave, mostly to keep nosy people like Yuuki and didn't linger to eavesdrop. Something told him that this was the ultimate test for Mitsunaga and Nakiri. He casted one last look at the pair of students, who were both as tense as tense could be. He let the cafeteria door shut.

.

.

.


.

.

.

'I'm so fucked'.

Yozora gulped. Nakiri felt so far away in more ways than one. Her pale and gaunt face with those restless dark circles beneath her eyes betrayed all the stress she'd been internalising since her estranged Father returned. She stared past his head as if he said the most offending thing in the world, beneath her attention and now she struggled to even look at him. It was almost enough to make him cripple him. Just as well because there was nothing more disgusting as coming from a Yakuza family even if he had the ultimate political tie, because that political side of his family was thoroughly tainted with the toxic muck associated with criminal syndicates. It wouldn't fucking matter how powerful, influential or well-received his Father was politically. It wouldn't matter that he was the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan. All Nakiri would see was a politician with Yakuza ties and that was corrupt and abominable enough to stay clear of him. He would be worst than scum in her eyes... he was a liability. A dangerous liability not just for her, but for her whole family too.

Worst of all...

He was a mistake.

The thoughts ate at him. Yozora knew that when Nakiri was emotionless, that was when she was the most emotional. An overload of reaction where there was too much to process and so her brain would make wild edits. For once, he wished she would get up, throw herself across the table and slap him over and over until it satiated her. He would then at least understand what was going through her mind. Her lack of reaction made it impossible and it was the pouring of gasoline onto the spark of terror in his belly, and each second of silence that passed was fashioned into knives that pierced his lungs, slowly twisting.

Yozora sucked it up and shakily forced his feet to side-step the table. Each footstep towards her was the next scrape of the whetstone on the executioners axe. When he managed to reach her, he fell into a crouch at her side. One knee touched the floor while the other stayed up, trying his best to keep his balance before her. From his stunted height, he could see that her jaws were clenched so tight and her eyes continued to burn where he used to sit. Her long hair draped over her shoulders, a golden waterfall that insisted on being a barrier to him from properly seeing her face. He hadn't realised he was breathing too shallow until his lungs forced him to take a huge, deep breath. Yozora grabbed hold onto the tabletop with his free hand, a poor substitute for trying to hold any part of her.

"So what now?", he whispered.

She didn't move.

"What happens now?", he tried again. "What do we do...you and me... what happens now?".

The desperation began to escape his throat and his voice cracked. He hated this so much. He hated himself. He hate Azami. He hated the situation they were put in. Honestly, he didn't actually know what he hated. But what choice did he have? He was petrified and at the same time livid at the thought of Azami potentially going behind his back to tell Nakiri about who he really was in the hopes to manipulate her, manipulate him, divide them, use it against him to make her break up with him. Yozora knew men like Azami, his Father had been surrounded by men like that the majority of his career, and so was he. He knew how they thought. Right now, his need for her answer and her true thoughts were sickeningly cloying. He leaned further to search for her eyes, anything for him to anchor himself because he was quickly losing himself in the fear.

"Nakiri—"

"Go to hell".

His chest snapped. A sharp tone whistled through his ears until it rang, just like the time his earpiece blasted his ears, only the pain was much worse. Her soft but brutal words tore at his heart. He swallowed thickly to keep his panic at bay, but it wasn't working. His tongue felt too big making him want to gag. His hand fell from the table and into his lap like a dead fish. Suddenly, his eyes stung as prickles of pain attacked the back of his eyes, creeping foward until they threatened to bleed an ocean. His soul now felt wafer thin and his body began to tremble and chill with cold sweat drenching the back of his shirt in response to her condemnation. His breath strangled him as he tried to retch his spiralling thoughts and begging into coherent words but failing. That fear in his belly imploded as the devastation shackled his limbs and sucked out all the energy, making him fully slouch back onto his haunches in defeat. He dropped his eyes to her hands which were clenched so tightly over her knees. He ached to reach out and hold them, but his terror stayed his hand. His body was a live wire throwing his mind into a rush of maddening instincts telling him to run away and cower somewhere in a heaped mess to desperately cry away his despair until he was a shell of himself.

All he could do was nod dumbly.

"F-Fair enough... fair enough". He managed to strangle out."Absolutely fair enough".

With a broken heart, he forced himself up from his knees and placed his hands in his pocket to hide his tremouring hands. His legs were sluggish as he stepped back. He turned his head to hide his face, hot and searing with shame and failure, and proceeded to drag himself away from her, no longer being worthy to breathe the same air as his love. This was the price he paid. He was so foolish to think that he could keep fooling Nakiri, hiding his lineage and hoping that he could continue to immerse himself in her affections and allow each other to continue living in this hope filled fantasy he conjured up with her. At the back of is mind, he'd always known it was only a matter of time, but like the ostritch that buried his head in the sand, he continued to just chase the bliss, dodging and deflecting anyway he could. Even worse, he was stupid to even entertain the small and unreachable hope that she could accept him for his family.

Now he lost her for good.

"Mitsunaga-kun?".

He halted, his body a slave to her voice and his ears craved to hear his name from her at the same time he couldn't handle anything else she had to say to him. His body was aflame with a dangerous cocktail of despair and longing. He hated himself even more. He caved into the torturous need. He slowly turned back with bated breath.

"You asked me what we are going to do. I said we're going to hell".

He blinked. What?

"My Father is making Tootsuki a living hell on earth for all of us, especially for me, so we are going to go through it together".

He pulled his clammy hands from his pockets. He couldn't belive his ears. Yozora turned fully to face her, the shock ripped through him at the same time, wrenching the knives out of his body. The pain of the hope was almost as bad as the hopelessnes.

"T-Together? Y-You're still going to stay with m-me?".

"Well, why wouldn't I want to still stay with you?".

"B-Because of what I just fucking told you and everyone!" He cut his arm through the air as he yelled back. "I lied to you about me! I've got fucking Yakuza blood! I kept everything from you and I made you think that... I-I made you think that I w-was...".

Good enough for her?

He finally cried real tears and his voice broke into a high-pitched wheeze that he quickly covered is mouth with his forearm. Fuck! He finally devolved into a hot mess and he didn't want her to see him this way on top of everything else.

"Yes you did all all those things. You betrayed me", spoke Nakiri. "You betrayed my trust and betrayed our relationship. You let me down, Mitsunaga-kun!".

He flinched immediately and shut his mouth and eyes, almost biting off his tongue. Her angry scream slapped him so hard that he felt the visceral effects of it like those knives came back at full force to dig back into his wounds, deeper and then slashed outward to dismember one of his limbs.

"Then why do you still want me...?".

"Why?", Nakiri parroted back.

She got up from her seat and stomped towards him. He back-pedaled slightly, wholely unprepared for Nakiri to advance upon him. A different kind of fear consumed him. Her pyjamas and long golden tresses floated around her like a charged spiritual entity, angry and electrified as she took quick and strong strides until she was face to face with him under the glaring shine of the Polar Star cafeteria light. Her face was crumpled in anguish and ire, but her eyes were the most gloriously furious. Her small hands reach up and took his cheek into her palms. Yozora winced and recoiled, the heat of her hand was acid upon his skin and his head fought to escape, but she held firm.

"You think that I would care for you so little, that coming from a Yakuza family would make a difference?".

What the fuck? He squinted open his eyes. As soon as he let them rest against her own deep purple ones, he melted. Her words were too much, he couldn't handle it. Too good to be true. His hands sought hers and he gripped them for dear life. His tears flowed freely, hot and sticky as he bit his lip hard to keep from openly weeping. Just like that, Nakiri Erina was undoing him. Her face softened, the redness of her cheeks were still present, but the harsh stress lines dissolved as she looked back at him with an exhausted resignation. She lifted onto her tip-toes and placed a chaste kiss upon his chapped lips. He didn't have the proper awareness to kiss her back as it took him by surprise.

"My Father is back... The man who... kami-sama I hate this word... a-abused me... is back to steal my life from me again. The last thing I'd be worried about right now is the fact you come from a Yakuza family. Do you get it?".

Yozora nodded profusely. At this point he'd take anything. He'd agree to anything. But her words did eventually sink into him, and the crippling anxiety that ruled his mind and body started to ease up on its suffocating grip. Of course... how dumb of him to think just about himself right now.

Nakiri's arms snaked up from his cheeks to wrap them around his neck and he was instantly pulled downwards into a crushing hug. He froze for a long second and then his arms searched for her body and he pulled her even closer to him so that they were flushed. His heart hammered and he could feel how hard hers was beating too. Her soft puffs of breath warmed his neck and her scent that was uniquely hers mixed with the scents of all the other Polar Star residents she interacted with clouded his thoughts into a soup of relief and gratitude as he buried his face into her neck. Once he found the resolve to release her from his hug, he backed up and presesd his forehead to hers.

"Erina...".

Her name... felt so good on his tongue.

The heat in his blood and his need was off the charts. If he didn't do something, he'd explode. The thought of Nakiri, her beautiful big heart was enough to incapacitate him. There were no more thoughts, no more focus, only desire and the pain of wanting. His brain kicked him into high-gear and his lips sought hers out again into a kiss that was steeped in a fierce and burning release. Nakiri made a little noise as he coaxed her lips further apart and he licked her teeth until her own tongue shyly came out to entwine with his. Yozora panted, feeling all of his inhibitions give way. He began to take steps forward, as Nakiri began tugging him harder and harder, leading both of them to back up into the cafeteria table. His larger hand cupped the back of her head while the other was kneading her waist, keeping her tethered to him as she incessantly pulled his towards her.

Nakiri wriggled between him and the table, slightly pushing back against his chest to seek more room. As if his body knew what to do about that on instinct, he let go of her head and bent down slightly to hook his hands under her thighs to hitch her over the table. He loved the height the table gave her. He could see her better, kiss her better, hold her better, feel her better. His knee wedged itself between her thighs to spread them apart enough that he could step between them and she instinctively squeeze them around him. Nakiri groaned softly when he pulled her forward again to meet him. Her soft pants were soulful music to his ears. His long fingers messily scraped her hair back from her neck, looking for the perfect spot. His lips found a new home as he placed hot open-mouthed kisses along her soft pulse point, bestowing soft sucks bordering on nips as he allowed himself a low groan when he felt the reactive and pulsing squeeze of her thighs around his hips.

"You... really don't mind... that my Father... is the Prime Minister... and that I'm heir... to a Yakuza clan?", he moaned between kisses.

Nakiri hiccuped slightly when he sucked hard just below her earlobe. The sharp mewl from her beautiful lips rewarded him. Her nails began to scratch at his back, looking for a place to hold onto, so he helped her by grabbing her hand to put back around his neck and used his other hand to keep her steady against him.

"... I-I mean... ahh... It's not ideal, but... mmmm...I-don't think it changes h-how I feel... Mitsunaga-kun...!".

Yozora felt himself starting to get carried away, descending into a heady trance, especially when she moaned his name like that in that sweet and vulnerable way. But his mind was beyond caring and his baser needs started to make itself known. Molten heat pulled into his lower belly and the soft and supple curves of Nakiri's thighs twitching around him bred another level of delicious discomfort where he could only find some form of relief by pressing himself further into the apex of her thighs. Nakiri suddenly bucked against him making him bit his lip, but he held her tightly to keep her from slipping.

Could she feel what she did to him?

"Is... Is that...?"

"Yeah".

He softly grounded himself against her again, making sure to erase all doubt from her mind that, yes, what she felt was utterly and only him and his desire for her. He was rewarded with a louder gasp that exhalted a mutual desire. Something light and feathery graced his ears and it sent his body into a meltdown and he gnashed his teeth to keep from breaking his control. It finally registered to him that Nakiri was kissing his ear. Wet tugs against his cartilage mixed with small kisses trailing to his earlobe further sent him on a downward trajectory. Fuck, she was still full of surprises. He emitted a low growl, as the new sensation sent violent shivers down the whole side of his body and his yearning for her mounted higher. He felt the drag of Nakiri slowly lifting her legs higher up to clasp around his waist, catching him unawares, but his lower brain eagerly welcomed it. She was probably just reacting to him, with no real thought to what she was doing where her body was also running on instincts, and was just meeting its newfound needs, but that was good enough for him for now.

Nakiri rolled her hips against the hot and throbbing tightness straining his trousers. Slow and had to be deliberate. A hesitant experiment in the least that marked for Yozora the first crossing to the next stage in their relationship that he wasn't going to let them both back out of if he could help it. Now that she acknowledged his primal need straining his trousers and even assented to it physically, it was enough for Yozora to begin to tip forward, taking her down with him. However, the higher part of his brain halted him and he braced one arm on the table by her hip to stop himself from pushing Nakiri fully down onto the table in his haste. She panted beneath his hunched form, her other arm had fallen behind her also to keep herself up while he hovered above her slightly, drawn in by the pink in her cheeks, the slick sheen on her perfect lips, and the glittering dark glaze in her impassioned violet eyes staring back at him and only him.

"Are... Are you actually... going to take over your Yakuza clan... one day?", she asked breathlessly.

"Do you want me to?", he growled against her lips.

"W-What? What do you mean—".

"I would, if you wanted me to",

He kissed her fully again and Nakiri eagerly locked her lips to in a rush of emotions and listened for the keening she made before he pulled back with a slick parting. He leaned closer again, this time, his lips pressed right against her ear and he felt her shudder. He wanted to make sure she heard every word he said. Then he rested his hand on one side of her hip, his finger splayed just under her pyjama top so that the pads of his fingers made direct contact with her hot skin. His finger tips slightly curled inward into her flesh, not too tight, but tight enough for her to really drive home his intention.

"I-I don't—".

"I would use my clan and burn everything Azami has built to the ground, just to see the fire dance in your eyes".

Nakiri reeled back from him. Shock splintering the beautiful and glazed sheen in her eyes and her mouth fell open. He meant every word. The hand that was braced against the table fell away, but his other hand stayed rooted to her hip and he began to massage it lightly. Nakiri blinked owlishly and her eyes skittered this way and that. Yozora cocked his head to the side, watching her intently, especially the way her lips quivered that were still slick with their saliva. They should be between his teeth... To him the world ceased to exist, blurred and indistinct like an impressionist painting and his only focus was Nakiri. Her arms started to creep up and grip the forearm of the hand that still maintained a hold on her hip. Her eyes regained focused and he was surprised that she didn't look distressed or upset over that idea, instead she seemed thoughtful. Her other hand went to her chin as she looked down and away.

She was thinking.

She was actually considering it.

"Ahem".

His eyelids slammed shut and he rolled his eyes upwards from behind its lids. He refrained from groaning aloud. What shit timing. Nakiri jolted with a yelp and scrambled to push him away and get off the table in one fell swoop. Yozora wasn't quick enough to step away from between her legs and she ended up shoving him in the abdomen making him grunt. He snapped his eyes open and clocked them straight at Hayato-kun, Isshiki-senpai and Yukihira who filled the Polar Star cafeteria doorway sporting a whole range of different expressions ranging from amused, grossed-out and awkward. Yozora sucked his teeth stepped a bit more away from Nakiri to give her some extra room. In her flurry, Nakiri fussed over her rumpled pyjamas and straightened her hair. Yozora rubbed his aching diaphragm and tilted his head back at her. Her flush brightened even more and her sleek and golden hair was still mussed up. The picture of perfection in his opinion. He resisted the urge to smirk at his handiwork as there were still three people waiting on him.

"Sorry to interrupt, but the girls were wondering if Nakiri-kun was ready for bed yet", said Isshiki-senpai evenly.

"Y-Yes. I'll go up now", replied Nakiri.

She glided past Yozora with a swift glance in his direction before resolutely looking foward again. She regained her usual cold detachment slowly as she walked over to Yukihira, Hayato-kun and Isshiki-senpai. She held her head up high and nodded at them briefly. The boys moved away immediately to let her through. She climbed the long staircase quickly, her hand hopping along the banister and the she disappeared onto the bedroom floor.

"I take it she's okay with you being part of a Yakuza family?", asked Yukihira with his arms folded behind his head.

"Yeah. And she didn't dump me".

"Oh, good for you".

The red-head quirked a supportive smile. Yozora ran his hand through his hair, willing himself to calm down before facing the three male students head on. Once he was sure that he was 'presentable', he walked over to them as they all migrated back to the foyer together. Only the Polar Star boys were left hanging out on the expansive staircase. There heads were still pointed in the upstairs direction as they had cautiously watched after the Nakiri Heiress sped up to the bedroom floor. The Polar Star girls fussed over Nakiri like a mother hen and at the same time treated her like an equal member of their gossipy social group. They took care of her which was great and he couldn't thank them enough. Yozora noticed that the Aldini Twins, Kurokiba and Hayama had already left. If Kurokiba was gone, then that meant Nakiri Alice was too.

"So, a Yakuza huh?", said Daigo from the bottom step.

"I'm not technically a Yakuza, yet".

"And a Prime Minister Father who married into a Yakuza Clan", contributed Ibusaki.

"To be fair, he married into them before he became Prime Minister", clarified Yozora.

"Kami-sama, my family voted for him", gasped Marui.

"Even if you are not Yakuza yet. It's only a matter of time. You're the heir", said Shouji, conspiratorily.

Yozora didn't have a comment for that. He allowed them to just process the information, they were going to need to come to grips with this new side of him and the sooner the better. Yukihira and Isshiki-senpai on the other handwere doing quite well in accepting it, it would seem. At least, he hoped they were.

"I'm still puzzled as to why you also asked Hayama-kun to come as well, Mitsunaga-kun. I'm not aware that he is a friend of yours. So why does he need to know? Care to share?", interrupted Isshiki-senpai.

He side-stepped around to stand right up in Yozora's face. Isshiki-senpai rarely looked intimidating so finding himself ensnared by his sweet, light and down-right menacing tone disoriented him. His clear blue eyes were bright and sharp as his mind. He stood a little taller than Yozora and took advantage to look down on him. At first glance, the auburn-haired upperclassman's smile brought out a sense of mischief and child-like curiosity. However the longer he stared at Isshiki-senpai beaming down at him, the more he got the sense that he walked into a trap by his own NPC. The slow and predatory leaning of his body towards Yozora belied an upspoken threat that had the potential to become very real.

When Yozora didn't answer immediately, Isshiki-senpai crossed his arms and his eyes had frozen over like the surface of a winter puddle, robbing them of their usual warmth. Yukihira furrowed his brows as he looked back and forth between the two. The power balance was tipping back in Isshiki-senpai's favour which began to stoke Yozora. Marui, Ibusaki, Daigo and Shouji shifted their positions to listen in very closely as well.

He protracted his tongue.

"I need to keep my friends safe. All of you safe. Nakiri, you, Yukihira, the rest of Polar Star... Everyone I've had any form of relationship with, whom I could call my friends like the Aldini Twins and acquaintences like Arato, Nakiri Alice, Kurokiba and even fucking Hayama, need to know that I have the means to help them in this hell, either by way of The Guild, my Father or my clan... and also... to give fair warning if anyone becomes my enemy".

The air was thick and heavy. Isshiki-senpai's smile returned as he stared hard at Yozora. His own furnace of a gaze promised to his upperclassman that he wouldn't want to be caught on his bad side either. In his renewed silence, Isshiki-senpai moved away from Yozora but still had his arms crossed.

"I certainly don't want to be your enemy", Isshiki-senpai chuckled."Don't worry, We're friends. We all are. Right?".

Yukihira gave him the thumbs up and the other boys nodded.

"I gather that it wasn't a coincidence then, that after Ishikagaku-kun and Yuujou-kun set up The Guild, they had tasked you and Ginsekai-kun with building the NPC Network from the ground up. Then of course appointing you as the President of The Guild this year. All this time, you and Ginsekai-kun have invested in building alliances, funds and resources, brokering deals in the community, coming to your NPCs aides and setting up internal support systems amongst your NPCs, creating a reputation for The Guild amongst the young and internet-savvy population, as a way of... your senpais training you. This whole time, The Guild has been your simulation to building and managing your own Yakuza-esque clan,so that one day when you are ready to take over the Mitsunaga clan... You've already done your homework. Correct?", said Isshiki-senpai.

Yozora licked his teeth. He should've guessed that Isshiki-senpai wasn't done yet. He glanced at him sideways, just enough to show that he was listening, but not so much as to look like he cared. The seventh seater was now sporting a knowing smile and something akin to a healthy dose of satisfaction and wonder. Yozora took caution over his next choice in words. Not just because of how amazingly shrewd, intelligent and insightful Isshiki-senpai was and his ability to dissect the truth, but because...

He absolutely nailed it.

Yozora didn't need to breath a single word for Isshiki-senpai to know that his deductions were correct.

"Like I said. I have the means to protect you all... if you choose", Yozora said simply.

"Well, don't need to ask me twice", said Yukihira. "I'm always down for having friends that are willing to be there for one another. Yakuza, or not Yakuza. Prime Minister dad or not Prime Minister dad. You're a good friend and I'll stand with you".

Yukihira clapped his hand on his shoulder. The weight was comforting and reassuring in the best way possible and it was enough to literally and figuratively knock the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, out of him.

"You haven't done anything to us that I could say was bad", began Ibusaki. "So yeah, we're still friends".

"Your Father did successfully lead us out of the economic recession. So as Prime Minister, he is doing some good for the nation. I'm happy to stand with you".

"But don't think for one second that it's only your job to protect us, Mitsunaga, just because of all this Yakuza clan, The Guild, politics dad stuff", said Yukihira. "We all look out for one another. You get me?".

"Yeah".

Yozora truly smiled.

"Now that's settled, I've actually got an important video conference that I must attend. I've had enough excitement for one afternoon, thank you very much. Make sure your boys don't cause a ruckus down here. I won't be too happy if I have to leave the meeting to ask you all to keep it down. I'll be upstairs so call me when it's dinner time. Okay?".

The boys nodded and they still had the energy to look sheepish as if this wasn't the first time Isshiki-senpai asked them to keep it down.

"Isshiki-senpai, take these".

Yozora ducked down to grab his messenger bag that was sitting next to the umbrella stand. He rummaged through them a bit pulled out his signature headphones. He held it up to Isshiki-senpai. His eyes widened as he looked at the silver headphones presented to him, then looked back to Yozora hesitantly. From his periphery, he could see Hayato-kun and Yukihira's jaw drop open, ogling his headphones. Oh yeah... he wasn't really known to lend anyone his headphones. Yozora. felt a blush coming on.

"Are you sure?", asked Isshiki-senpai.

"They're sound-cancelling. So you won't be disturbed whatsoever in your meeting. Just switch this button here, to turn on that feature", he explained.

Isshiki-senpai accepted the headphones and gently lifted it from Yozora's grasp in reverence. He grinned as if nothing out of the ordinary happened and he was back to being the benevolent and gentle upperclassman that everyone knew him to be.

"Thank you".

He clapped Yozora and Hayato-kun both on the shoulders and then ascended the stairs and disappeared around the corner. The proverbial crickets chirped and the eerie quietness started to become bothersome but still noone said anything. They perservered to stay in silence for a little while, restless and nervous. Finally feeling awkward and stupid, Yozora turned around to Hayato-kun to ask him –

BAM! BAM! BAM!

The boys jumped on the spot and whipped their heads towards the large double doors that separated Polar Star Dorm from the outside world. Yukihira moved to get the door but before he could take another step, it burst open on its own inwards with an over-bearing low creak. Yozora narrowed his eyes and then gritted his teeth. Oh that Motherfucker...

"So you see here boys! This is the one student dormitory located on campus".

The sleazy and conniving face of Eizan Etsuya dominated the entryway with six of his tall henchmen flanking his sides. Daigo and Shouji stood up, ready to confront him. Eizan was the picture perfect of a hooligan masquerading as a 90s student-yankee. His outdated and tacky gold chain and pomade-filled hair offended Yozora but not as much as his heartless and dirty tactics. His leer marred his pointed face and his impish, slanted eyes mocked them openly as he sauntered in and crapped his unwelcomed vibes everywhere. With one glance around the place behind his frames, he waved at his underlings, a gesture which Yozora was familiar with from men surveying shit real estate. Eizan-senpai ignored the occupants which raised Yozora's hackles further.

"Hey what's going on down there! We heard the door banging and slam!".

Sakaki, Tadokoro and Yoshino appeared on the upstairs landing. They leaned over the banister, their hands gripping the wood tightly to survey the foyer. They weren't yet in their pyjamas which meant they must've been having a longer drama marathon or gossip session. They breathed heavily as they had run to see what was going on. Yozora was glad to see that Nakiri wasn't among them.

"Eh? Eizan-senpai?", gasped Tadokoro.

"Ladies", Eizan-senpai drawled at them with sleazy wink.

Ibusaki, Marui, Hayato-kun, Daigo and Shouji moved to block the staircase with fury painted on their faces. He turned back to address his henchmen.

"Twenty or so years ago, it officially ceded from Tootsuki Academy, operating in a complete fiscal independence... until today. Crush everybody here. The new Tootsuki Academy doesn't need a place like this".

Everyone balked.

"What? You're closing down Polaris?", Hayato-kun spat.

"Exactly. The land and all structures on it are being confiscated by Central. Basically, this place doesn't belong to any of you anymore".

"You gotta be kidding me! You can't do that!", shouted Daigo.

He shook his fist at Eizan-senpai who merely grinned back. His henchmen with all the bad dye-jobs stepped forward, nasty smirks and cruel eyes. Their hands remain pocketed but Yozora wouldn't put it past them to be concealing brass knuckles in there. Yozora wrinkled his nose in a subconscious gesture of disgust and drew his head backwards.

"Wh-What! You trying to start something?! You..! You..!", stammered Yoshino.

Propelled by her anger, she ran down the stairs, stabbing her finger in his direction where Hayato-kun caught her by the waist before she tackled Eizan-senpai in a physical throwdown. Frustrated tears lined her lashes as her outrage and indignation let fly in the face of their disrespectful and unannounced intrusion into their safe space.

"Eizan-senpai", Yukihira spoke up sternly catching his attention. "Standing here chatting is nice and all... but how about you come on in and have some tea".

His dorm-mates collectively gasped. Eizan-senpai looked over at him non-plussed. He slowly regarded Yukihira once more, his face turning contemplative after the initial shock. The red head's face crafted into a stoney glare that could send shivers up anyone elses' spines. His dark golden eyes brokered no room for argument. Yozora tried to read Yukihira's motives. His voice was calm and his posture was relaxed, as if he had things under control and it was clear he had full reign over his emotions, unlike his dorm mates.

"Hmph. I dunno what good that'll do for your cause, but sure", Eizan-senpai jeered.

"Mitsunaga, would you mind helping me with the tea?", Yukihira stated rather than asked.

"Yeah".

Polar Star, Hayato-kun and Eizan-senpai's faction were thrown in for a loop at Yukihira's unfailing hospitality to their unwelcomed guest. The hostile energy was momentarily diffused and Yozora followed him back into the cafeteria. He went to retrieve the loose-leaf tea and the cups as he'd seen where Tadokoro kept them from the numerous times he'd observed her make tea, while Yukihira went to fill up the tea-kettle. When he collected enough cups, he brought them over to Yukihira who was staring at the wall, deep in his own thoughts as the tea-kettle on the hotplate graduallly heated up. He already had the tea-tray with Fumio-san's terracotta tea pot set out for him so Yozora arranged the cups neatly on the bamboo wood, leaving room for the plate of senbei he grabbed from the pantry. Yukihira took the bag of Yoshino's half-eaten senbei from Yozoraand spread it out on the glazed dish. Yozora focused on unpacking the loose-leaf sencha.

"Did your dad ever teach you about diplomacy?", asked Yukihira.

"Yeah, I know a thing or two".

"I don't know how to exactly do this, Mitsunaga. So I'm asking you... What do I need to know before I go over there and sit down in front of Eizan-senpai over a cup of tea and get him to leave Polar Star alone? Leave everyone alone? What would you do?".

Yozora looked up at Yukihira who was now staring at the blue flames that tickled the bottom of the blackened metal. Yozora thought for a few moments. Yukihira's aureate eyes burned hotter than the blue flames. The sheer determination and will mixed with nerves was present in the pinch of his brows. His arms were crossed resolutely over his chest. It was expected that even someone who was normally so composed under pressure would also still feel angered by Eizan-senpai's threat. Yukihira asking him for advice? Eizan-senpai's uncalled for declaration must've rattled him to some level and he must be really serious in protecting his dorm to actually request some type of assistance.

"You don't want diplomacy", said Yozora. "You're dealing with a form of extremism here. Diplomacy isn't gonna work. Azami and by extension, Central, are extremists. Extremists live in a bubble, a delusion, that takes what is fragile and weak ego like Tootsuki and the students, and creates a fantasy world in which they are important and strong. So their weakness is to take apart this twisted and sick alternative reality. First, the idea that others want what they want or would follow them if other options were removed... needs to be debunked. Secondly, other options for building real self-esteem and an actually strong ego in the school body needs to be put into motion, otherwise they will seek an exit strategy. They need to see that even if they were the last arseholes standing, the people still would reject them. Right now, we don't have the power to do that yet. But we can start here and set an example. Negotiate for Polar Star Dorm. Everything is negotiable as long as you know what the other party wants or their vices. We know that Eizan is a greedy and cruel businessman more than a chef and is always looking for ways to advance himself. He's high on his power-trip from being a special subordinate of Azami's administration. He won't be able to resist exercising his power and showing how dominant he is. So challenge him for Polar Star Dorm".

"Right", replied Yukihira with a nod.

"He's smart. So he'll play-hard-to-get at first because he'll want to suss out how far you'll go for Polar Star. Stay calm and don't let it get to you".

The tea-kettle began to whistle sharply and he switched off the hot plate. Yozora crossed his arms as Yukihira spooned the right amount of sencha into the teracotta teapot then poured in the boiled water. While Yozora packed away the sencha, his friend lifted the tray and brought it back to the sitting area in the cafeteria. The said 'arsehole' they were talking about just now had already made himself comfortable at the table. His faction stood behind him like grotesque gargoyles, inflating his enormous ego. Polar Star were on the other side, glaring at them.

"Here we go! Hope you like sencha. Oh be careful! Just let the tea steep for a minute. Have some senbei, don't be shy", announced Yukihira.

He placed the tray down with a customer-service smile on his face which irked Eizan-senpai and disarmed his goons to some degree. Even Polar Star and Hayato-kun looked at Yukihira as if he'd grown a second head, suffering whiplash from this confusing display of warm-welcome, as if Eizan-senpai didn't just tell them to get the fuck out of their dormitory. Yoshino was about to vehemently protest as soon as she caught sight of her precious senbei on display for the enemies' enjoyment, but Hayato-kun stopped her by pulling her arm back. His best friend very quickly caught on to what was happenning. He spared a small but pointed look in Yozora's way and very minutely tilted his head in Yukihira's direction as if to say: 'he got this?'. Yozora jutted his chin back to signal 'He got this'. Yukihira pulled out a seat and sat directly across from Eizan-senpai who had one of his arm draped ove the backrest and the other resting on the table. He no longer had that mean smirk, but rather he had an unreadable expression. Yozora pulled out a different seat, far away from the both of them. He sat back and observed. It was one of his favourite past times after all.

"So?", began Yukihira. "Where's this dorm got to go? From what I heard, it's supposed to be its own country or something. What right does the Institute have butting into our business?"

"That right there is the reason", replied Eizan-senpai. "See, Tootsuki doesn't need any independent organisations other than Central operating on campus anymore. A body only needs one head. In today's institute, that's Central".

His many rings of different metalic shades flashed at them as he gesticulated his point. He leaned backwards towards one of his henchman and crooked his finger. The student with the gaudy mohawk pulled out a clipped set of documents from inside his school blazer and handed it over to Eizan-senpai. Yozora had a sudden sickening feeling of de-ja-vu and realised that this scene playing out was uncannily similar to how Azami pulled out a accordian document that effectively fired Nakiri Senzaemon from his directorship not too long ago.

"I have your eviction orders right here. Be sure to check your deadline for getting out", he waved it for all to see before slapping it down on the table. "Relax. Quietly do as you're told and you'll all get to remain as Tootsuki students".

"Mind if I ask you something?", asked Yukihira.

He started pouring out the tea in everyone's cup. A little splash in each cup as he did the rounds a few times with the purpose of making sure that each cup was equally flavoured as the tea would get stronger near the bottom of the teapot. He took one for himself while the other party didn't touch theirs and he held it up to his lips. He blew against the steam softly as his question hung in the air. Eizan-senpai quirked a brow in response.

"Do you think it's possible to overturn the decision to close the dorm, like say... through a shokugeki?"

Yukihira's eyes darkened as he stared heatedly at Eizan-senpai from over the rim of his tea cup. He didn't break eye-contact as he sipped his hot sencha. Yozora smirked. The strength and weight of Yukihira's gaze was palpable. He spotted a minute shift in Eizan-senpai's jaw, possibly teeth-grinding, before it smoothed over to reveal a cool and smug grin on his pointed face.

"True. Win a shokugeki and you can over-turn any decision you want. But... that's only if both sides are willing to accept the challenge".

Fucking knew it. Yozora crossed his arms and his legs as he casted a withering glare at Eizan-senpai. His tea cup was back on the table and he leaned forward with his forearms resting against his spread knees. He sat there relaxed and unbothered as he grinned at Yukihira. His snake-like eyes dug into the red-head, testing and tasting. He closely watched Yukihira's reaction and was pleased to see that he gave none. His faction copied those grins as they sniggered amongst themselves. On the otherhand, Polar Star was squirming, affected by Eizan-senpai's words, their worry and fear exuded from every pore on their bodies.

"There's nothing that says we're obliged to accept it. Still you wouldn't believe the pile of challenges we've been flooded with. Almost every club and society is clamouring to have their dissolution orders reversed. We could just ignore you all, y'know? We'd get what we want that way. But personally, I've decided to listen to you guys... and do you all the favour of accepting the challenge".

'Such a drama-queen...'.

"Whoa really? You don't have to but you're still gonna? That's awfully generous of you".

Yozora honestly couldn't tell if Yukihira was being sarcastic or not.

"I'll have the otherside accept equal risks of course", said Eizan-senpai pushing his glasses up his nose. "This may be a good time to make an example out of someone for you. See, I have a shokugeki scheduled for later today. Watch it, and if afterwards you still have the will to fight, you can come after me all you like, Yukihira".

Eizan-senpai pushed his chair back and got up. He re-adjusted his trousers and smoothed out his shirt as he prepared to leave. As he turned around, his eyes grazed over to Yozora, who had been sitting away patiently and quietly. He stopped and looked back, as if this was the first time he'd notice the dark haired gamer-chef in this place.

"I'm surprised that you haven't requested a shokugeki with Central to overturn your dissolution orders for The Guild yet", Eizan-senpai said off-handedly.

"Don't need to", Yozora said simply.

The eigth seater tsked and shook his head at him before he marched out of the cafeteria with his hideous faction in tow.

.

.

.


.

.

.

Click click.

Click click.

"Hmmm... well I can see why Tsukasa and Kobayashi would want Ishikagaku's and Yuujou's file sealed. Frankly, it's embarassing".

Click click.

"Ginsekai Hayato... Hmmph... nothing of interest in his file at all. Why would it be sealed in the first place? No matter, I'll get to the bottom of it later".

Click Click.

"Ahhh... my, how interesting. Mitsunaga Yozora... what do we have here? Your next-of-kin is... Oh I see. You'll be very useful, indeed. Well done my dear, Erina. You made the right choice after all".

.

.

.


Eyyyyy... Did anyone see that coming? I hope some of you readers may have suspected something political in nature to Yozora's Father. I had sprinkled some clues around in previous chapters. The video clip Marui played was a throwback to Chapter 22 – Prayer de LUNA. It was the same video clip that Hayato was watching before he quickly hid it from Yozora, so we couldn't see the rest.

The Yakuza bit though, yessss the Maternal side relating to the Mitsunaga Clan is the perfect antithesis to the Paternal side relating to the Nakiri Clan. One is underworld, the other is surface world. One is dark, the other is light. One is corrupt, the other is pure. Yozora is the Yakuza Heir, Erina is the Noble Heiress. I'm very keen to explore more of Yozora and Erina's dichotomy as a couple in this new relevalation.

Well, that's all for now. If you haven't already, come to my profile page and vote for who your favourite OC The Guild characters are on the poll and see who everybody else had voted!

Until next time, have a great day!

Signing off

- TripWire-Dono