Even though it’s in the “romance” genre, this is the only story in the series that has a strong romance element.
“... Are you stupid?”
The young man who had been sitting up in bed muttered, “You’re right”, and rolled over onto his back.
After that, fortunately they were near the university, and thanks to the security guard who called the police, the situation was quickly resolved.
Takayuki was dragged to the police car unconscious, and Chiharu, with the knife still stuck in him, was taken to the ambulance with a stunned Saya.
Sakuya had no choice but to stay behind and go to the police station to explain the situation. As he was explaining the situation, a detective who was familiar with the situation of the Kudou family came to follow up, and Sakuya could finally rush to the hospital where Chiharu was taken.
Fortunately, Chiharu’s injuries were not life-threatening, as the wounds had not reached his internal organs, and there would be no after-effects.
However, he was told that only the scar from the knife stab might remain.
When Sakuya told this to Chiharu when he woke up, he looked relieved, “I’m glad Saya didn’t get hurt”.
When Sakuya saw this, he asked Chiharu if he was an idiot, which was not a very nice thing to say to his boss.
“I know... Ah, I knew. Saya was wearing special stab-proof clothing at that time, and the bag she was holding up at that moment was custom made to prevent even military knives. The butterfly knife he was holding would have bounced back and hurt him.”
“There’s more to it than that. Saya is one of the best in the dojo at self-defense, aikido, and shorinji kempo. Even though she was taken by surprise, she could have dodged that level of attack and returned fire.”
“... That’s why you didn’t move, huh?”
“Yeah. I trust Saya.”
‘So that was it.’, Chiharu said, looking up at the ceiling, which was only white and smooth.
Even though Sakuya, who was supposed to be guarding her, could have immediately caught Takayuki who jumped at her that time, he left Saya to move.
As a guard, he was unqualified, but at the root of it all, there was a strong trust and bond with Saya that made Chiharu unable to scold him as his employer.
On the contrary, he was now being lectured by Sakuya as he looked down at him.
“... Why did you jump out in front of her only that day? All this time, you’ve just been hiding in the shadows and looking away, haven’t you?”
“You’re not even aware of your boss’ feelings... Hah.”
Saya didn’t know.
Sakuya knew that Chiharu had been watching Saya from a distance ever since that day when he had unjustly taken it out on her.
Although he should have immediately hugged her, he couldn’t even do that, and he couldn’t close the distance between them, which was getting worse day by day, so he could only sit back and watch Saya leave the house, get into the car, and leave the premises.
People, that was called being a screw-up.
“... The day before, I’d listened to the investigative report on Takayuki. Natsumi Hiiragi, who ambushes Saya every day and verbally abuses her... I’ve been wondering what you’re going to do with that delusional girl who’s been showing her true colors with no pretense.”
‘Don’t worry, I could help you understand.’
‘I’ll be there for you, I’m here to support you.’
Being rubbed with such sweet words with a catty attitude, the legitimate son of a branch of a famous family that had fallen so easily.
Naturally, Chiharu had assumed that Takayuki would come to his senses when he saw how ugly Natsumi really was, and that he would lose her affection for her.
But the facts were far more than he expected.
“I’ve heard that Takayuki didn’t just abandon Natsumi, who was acting strangely, but boxed her.”
“... No way. Then the reason she didn’t show up that day...”
“Yes. He had to get her out of the hospital where she was treated and finally locked her in a concrete cage.
A room in a condominium, a cage with no place to escape, in a way harsher than a mental hospital.
Even if she noticed and cried, screamed, or ranted, Takayuki was the only one who heard it.
‘Adorable Natsumi, you’ll always be there for me, won’t you?’
‘You’re the only one who understands me, and I’m the only one who can understand you.’
Was that how his mind loosen?
Or had it already been destroyed?
Now that Takayuki was in police custody on a charge of attempted murder, there was no way to confirm this directly with him... But neither Chiharu nor Sakuya had any intention of doing so.
Now that the person who had been holding her captive had been arrested, Natsumi would surely be released from her cage by now.
There would be no need to contact her and cause unnecessary damage.
(I’m sure Takayuki was trying to protect Natsumi... The way he did it was wrong, but...)
For Natsumi, it was just a stepping stone to get closer to Sakuya, but for Takayuki, it was undeniably true love.
That was why, to Sakuya who made such Natsumi crazy... No, to Saya, who Natsumi half-crazedly complained about that she was a ‘bug’ because she was by Sakuya’s side, he attempted to erase her existence with hostility.
He believed that if he erased Saya, Natsumi would surely return to normal.
Saya was the pitiful one.
Even though she had no feelings for him, she had been abused by her ex-fiancé, who had told her to go away and had almost killed her.
Even though her body was unharmed, her heart must have been torn apart by the invisible blade that pierced it repeatedly.
“... Saya, how is she doing?”
“...You’re finally talking. It’s about as slow as it gets, but that’s okay. That girl was here just a moment ago. She insisted that she would stay here until you woke up because she wanted to ask you something... I told her to leave.”
“Is that, so?”
“Are you disappointed?”
“No, honestly, I’m relieved.”
What she wanted to ask was why Chiharu covered for her.
And why did he take it out on her at that time?
(There’s no way I can answer a question like that with a straight face.)
Yurie told him about the Hiiragi family, a genius named "Saya Hiiragi" who was still a child, played out after independent research.
Her ability was remarkable, and he immediately moved to persuade her parents that it would be good for the Kudou family if they could just get her off their back.
They wanted to make her their child, to welcome her as his sister, and to eventually use her power for the benefit of the Kudou family.
His wise parents complied, and he rode to the party with gusto.
He drew the poor genius to himself after she was thrown out at a party to bring the two families, the Hiiragi and Tachibana, together.
And that was as far as the plan went.
When he got to know her in person, she was very smart... On the other hand, she was a very cautious and timid child.
Normally, when people found out that they had been taken in by a family that was incomparably more prestigious than their original home, they became wary but arrogant in their knowledge of luxury... Otherwise, they would become overwhelmed and spoiled by the family they finally had.
As if to ridicule Chiharu for thinking so lightly, Saya called him ‘Chiharu-sama’ and kept a line between them, refusing to approach him.
He just wanted to take good care of her. He just wanted to spoil her.
He just wanted to show her what family was all about.
Chiharu would always be unaccepted as family, and only Sakuya, whom she trusted the most, fitted in next to Saya as a matter of course.
They’d known each other since Saya was only two years old, so the trust they’d cultivated must be more than just a passing fancy.
He understood that, and it was frustrating because he did.
“You’ve got such a burning look in your eyes. That’s why I could say that I was an ‘elder brother’.”
When Chiharu looked back at him, Sakuya was quietly looking down at him with his ice-blue eyes.
Despite his sarcastic words, the light in his eyes was gentle and warm.
“Saya is family to me... Ever since she was two years old, we have lived as a family, just the two of us, in a foreign land. That hasn’t changed. I’m sure it’s the same for her. You’ll never be her brother.”
“It’s true. A brother would never look at his sister with such fervor.”
It was true that Sakuya’s eyes on Saya were loving, but there was no heat in them.
It was the kind of look of loving and doting on your precious family.
He wondered when it started, when Chiharu stopped declaring Saya as his ‘little sister’.
It was when he felt the pain of looking at Sakuya’s loving eyes on Saya, and Saya’s cheerful smile on Sakuya, from a distance.
What made him want to cover his ears and not want to listen to what Saya had to say about Sakuya.
When the two were just reunited, seeing them laughing at each other in their personal space as a matter of course, he could only feel how close they were.
He didn’t know when it started, but he felt jealous of their inaccessible atmosphere.
When was the last time Sakuya had noticed this?
“... The girl and I are more than a year apart. So I gave up. There was no point in making things awkward at this point, so let’s just give up. I thought so. I should have. And yet... When I was told that Takayuki had locked up Natsumi, I couldn’t wait any longer and staked out the area near the university. ‘I hope there’s nothing’ was what I hoped...”
“The incident that happened, huh?... Hah.”
That was right, Saya.
It was a good thing, or perhaps a bad thing, that he had used the most luxurious private room available, as he was the legitimate son of Kudou Family, and when Chiharu saw Saya emerge from the continuing room with an uncomfortable look on her face, he frowned as if he had been beaten.
(Yes, Sakuya just said, ‘I told her to leave’, he didn’t say she left.)
The man who walked away without asking for a response, saying that he had to leave, was probably even older than Chiharu.
Either that, or Chiharu hasn’t fully grown up yet.
“...Did you hear everything?”
A large step back from the bed, that was where Saya stopped.
She was too far away from Chiharu, who was lying down, to reach.
Saya, who always looked forward with dignity, now looked down and had her eyes wandering.
‘How much did you hear?’ Before he could ask, he knew. ‘All of it,’ she said.
He couldn’t help but feel embarrassed, but he couldn’t help but laugh at his own emotions, which settled down easily once he accepted them.
“... Well, I mean, that’s why.”
“I don’t know what Saya will do in the future. It’s up to you. If you want to move to Kiryuu’s house, you can have him do that.”
With a bang, Saya looked up as if she had been hit.
Her cheeks were stained with a vermilion color that he had never seen before, and if he looked closely, he could see that even her ears were bright red.
‘I see.’ And he chuckled again.
Even though she was mature, she was still 14 years old and during puberty. When she heard words like impassioned, which were graphic, and when she was told that they were for her, it was natural that she couldn’t hold back her shame.
That was why he dared to leave it with Sakuya.
“... Hey Saya, if you make such a cute face, a cunning adult will misunderstand you, right?
The girl bit her lip, her face red, and stared at Chiharu with moist eyes as if she wanted to say something.
‘I’m really glad I can’t reach her like that’, he thought to himself as if he were someone else.
If they were within reach, he didn’t know what he would have done.
And this time, he didn’t want her to hate him definitively.
Saya didn’t move from there, but she also didn’t avert her gaze from Chiharu.
Did this mean that he can be mistaken?
Was this a flag that he should let his momentum carry him to confess his feelings?
(Have I been poisoned by that delusional girl? Hmm, well, maybe this kind of thing isn’t so bad.)
“... What is it?”
“Do you think a man a year older than you could be your love interest?”
He took the liberty of interpreting it as a response from the large tears that spilled from her wide-open eyes.