Ryuu’s hideout. There was an atmosphere of irritable restlessness, and a stench of naked hatred and violence everywhere.
Under the gang’s eyes brimming with hostility, Yuuri entered purposefully with Takeru gripping a steel pipe. Mori was in here... based on that information, the two of them had come.
“Hey, this is dangerous. Shouldn’t we go back?” Takeru said in a small voice. The boys around them looked bloodthirsty, and he was pretty sure they wouldn’t make it out without incident.
“So, you’re saying we should just leave him here? Even if horrible things are happening to Mori, would you just stay quiet and watch?”
Looking nowhere but straight forward, Yuuri kept walking quickly. Takeru smiled wryly.
“Have you developed a sense of justice?”
“Even if you won’t admit it, you’re acting like Yamato now.”
Yuuri looked flustered, and without answering went to kick open a door.
Inside the room were Ryuu, Takako, Hiroki, Dai, and their underlings. In a corner, their eyes blank, were Mori and Kaoru.
Surprised at Takeru and Yuuri’s sudden entrance, Mori stood up.
“Give Mori back,” Yuuri said.
“Give him back?” Ryuu said, cocky as ever as he looked back at the two of them.
“That brat is here because he likes it,” Takako said from the side.
“You’re kidding, right?” At Yuuri’s words, Ryuu grinned.
“We’ll prove it.” He took out a knife and forced it into Mori’s hand.
“Stab the two of them. Do it.”
With the knife in his hand, Mori’s face was tormented. He took one step and then another towards Yuuri.
“It’s not true, Mori. They’re just making you do it, right?” Yuuri’s words made Mori stop.
“I told them. I told them where you and Kiichi were staying.” Holding the knife, Mori inched closer to Yuuri. His face had been wiped clear of all expression.
“Because... if I did that, they’d accept it. They wouldn’t bully me anymore.”
Yuuri shook her head slightly as though she couldn’t believe it.
“Do you understand what you’ve done? You sold out Kiichi, your friend.”
“I know, I shouldn’t have. Kiichi got hurt because of me, because he was trying to save me. But I didn’t have a choice!” Mori was yelling. “If I didn’t tell, they would have bullied me the rest of my life... I had a choice between being bullied and not being bullied.”
“Stab them!” Ryuu yelled insanely. But at that second, the knife dropped from Mori’s hand as though it had lost feeling.
“But... I can’t. I can’t do something like that!” He broke down crying. Her body trembling with rage, Yuuri took out and opened her own knife with a click.
“You guys are the worst. Pushing Mori around, hunting him down. People who bully others, even those who have been bullied, and bully others to get away from it, you guys are the worst!”
As she yelled, Yuuri stabbed at Ryuu. He immediately pulled out his knife, weaving a guard in front of him with the hideously glistening blade.
“Wait a minute!” said Takeru, and grabbed Yuuri’s arm. The boys watching in a circle around them did nothing.
“What are you doing, let me go!” Yuuri snapped, struggling.
“If you hurt him, you’ll be no better than he is.”
“Shut up. Let me go! Let go!”
Yuuri struggled even harder. Takeru kept talking in the same persuasive tone.
“If you hurt anyone, who do you think will be hurt the most in the end? You, right? If you don’t want to end up with scars like that, you can’t responded to the things they do with the same actions. Think about it.”
Next Takeru turned to Ryuu and his gang.
“You guys, throw away your weapons. Let’s stop this already. The bullying, the getting bullied, the hurting and the getting hurt.” Takeru stopped speaking and tossed away his pipe. The knife slipped from Yuuri’s hand.
But Ryuu’s didn’t. Grabbing the crouching Mori, he pinned his arms with the knife near his neck. At that signal, boys from the right and from the left grabbed Takeru and Yuuri.
“Kaoru. You don’t agree, right? Right now, to be bullied or not, which do you prefer?” Ryuu smiled scornfully and Takako passed Kaoru a knife.
“You know what you should do? You should stab the brat who betrayed us. That’s the only thing you can do.”
At Ryuu’s words, Kaoru turned to Mori holding the knife.
“Don’t be an idiot!”
Takeru and Yuuri both yelled desperately, and Ryuu howled as though possessed, “Do it, or we’ll do it to you! Us or you, there’s no other choice!”
With a wordless cry, Kaoru swung the knife down. For a second it seemed that all sound was cut off.
Kaoru slowly crumpled on the spot. The knife was thrust deep into his own chest.
Ryuu opened his eyes, as did Takako, and the other boys.
No one could speak. They all stood frozen where they stood.
“Kaoru!” Mori ran to him.
With his last strength, Kaoru muttered, “It’s like you said. Bullying... Being bullied... I’ve had enough of both.” Then his eyes closed. A tear leaked from under his tightly closed eyelid.
“Kaoru... Kaoru!” Mori wailed, hugging his form.
As though he couldn’t stand the silence anymore, Takeru exclaimed, “The fool. He didn’t want to choose between bullying or being bullied, so he thought death was the only way out. As though there was no other path. As though there was no other way out of here!
Back at the gym, Yamato had finished the barricade with Akira and Makoto and they were now sleeping soundly.
Yamato woke up when there was the crashing sound of the barricade being pushed inward.
Was it possibly those guys?
But it was only Yuuri, Takeru, and Mori who entered.
Yuuri flatly said, “Those guys won’t come here anymore.
They made a grave for Kaoru on a small hill. Since they didn’t have a tombstone they placed a solitary sneaker there.
Yamato, Takeru, Yuuri, Mori, as well as Makoto and Akira stood in front of it.
“Sorry, Mori. I didn’t realize those guys were pressuring you.”
Mori shook his head at Yamato’s words. “It’s fine. If I’d held out just a little longer, Kaoru wouldn’t have died. It’s my fault.”
A moment of sorrow-filled silence. Yuuri broke it. “Yamato, fix your nameplate.”
“Huh?” he asked.
“I’m not gonna say it twice. Move into the gym.”
With that she quickly walked down the hill.
Nameplate? Yamato remembered.
For a moment, Yamato’s heart filled with Yuuri’s clumsy gentleness.
Today again the sky was blue. The residents of Makuhara had surmounted many sorrows, only a step at a time, but without a doubt moving forward.
END OF CHAPTER FOUR