Millennium Match Chapter 12: Rematch

The other half of the events we went over in the last chapter!

Chapter 12: Rematch

Let’s turn back the clock to the day Ryogo was forced to move into the shared apartment.  Rei called him on his cell just after Yui left.

Rei: Hey, Ryogo!  How are things?
Ryogo: Rei?  I’ve been trying to reach you!
Rei: I’ve been really busy, what with finding a location for the new branch, scoping out the competition, and planning out my wedding.
Ryogo: Still?  Ah, whatever.  I have something I need to ask you.
Rei: Go ahead.
Ryogo: I need to know…

Ryogo recalled the words of his cousin.  He was lied to about the truth behind Dr. Mizuno’s departure.  Ever since then, Ryogo secretly hated his father for forcing his first love and only outside friend away.  Now he just felt like a fool.

Ryogo: Why did Dr. Mizuno leave Japan?
Rei: Huh?  You’re asking me that kind of question?
Ryogo: Tell me the truth, Rei.
Rei: “The truth.”  I guess that means you know, huh?
Ryogo: Just a taste.  Give me the full course.
Rei: Fine.  Dr. Mizuno wasn’t forced to go overseas because of your situation.  I made that up.  Truth is, he asked to leave because he wanted his family to be safe.
Ryogo: Safe from what?  He didn’t seem to mind working for the group, and everyone would have protected the doc.  They liked him that much, isn’t that right?
Rei: Well, that certainly was the general feeling we had.  He was part of the family.  However, the problem was with his daughter.
Ryogo: His daughter… Which one?
Rei: I don’t remember, but it was pretty terrible.  I found her lying there… her leg was broken, and there were bruises all over her body.  It was a miracle she was even alive.  She was beaten half to death.
Ryogo: . . .

For an instant, Ryogo imagined Yui in such a state and felt sick.  His breath stopped.

Rei: I told you that it was my fault… that part’s true.  I told the Boss that the girl was close to you… and it was decided that as long as this was true, she would be in danger.
Ryogo: Why should that be the case?  She was in danger because of me?!
Rei: Well, I’m sure you can work out why, and why I had to take responsibility for it.  I told you that lie because I didn’t want you to be angry at yourself for what happened.  That if you felt that way, it should be directed towards me.
Ryogo: Rei… You know who attacked her?
Rei: Yeah.  but it was a long time ago.  Children make mistakes, and sometimes they’re big ones.
Ryogo: . . .

Ryogo knew then that there was only one person Rei could be talking about.  But as dangerous and as fearful as that person was, there was a reason he couldn’t bring himself to hate her.

The next day, he learned from Saki that Souma enrolled in Crossroads Academy.  Rei had warned him weeks ago that she was on her way, and he was dreading the day she would return.  Now that he realized that Souma once attacked one of the sisters, he felt responsible and wanted to confront her personally, but Saki had other ideas.  As responsible as he felt then for an event that was out of his control more than 10 years ago, he felt more responsible for another event that was out of his control just two months ago.  At this point in time, there was nothing he could do to go against Saki’s wishes as long as she was reasonable.

While Saki was busy trying to get Souma over to her side, Ryogo walked with the Mizuno sisters to Sweet Tears, which was now under his management but run by Sawatari Miho.

Sawatari:  So, how is it?
Sayu: Hmm… It’s really great, but not as good as Ryogo’s.
Yui: Really?  I don’t think there’s that much of a difference.
Sayu: But you can still tell there’s a difference, right?
Yui: Well… just a bit.
Sawatari: What’s wrong?  Is it not sweet enough?  Too sweet?
Sayu: Oh, it’s not that there’s anything wrong… It’s just that… Well, Ryogo’s cakes have a little something special about them.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Ryogo: Thanks, but I don’t really do anything aside from the recipe I gave you.
Sawatari: Then there must be something I’m not doing properly!  Boss, you’ve got to show me how you do it!
Ryogo: Ah…
Sawatari: Hm?

Ryogo was taken aback.  “Boss.”  He’d never been called that before.  That was a title he felt belonged to his father.

Ryogo: Sorry, it’s nothing.  I’ll be happy to show you if you think you’ll improve.
Sayu: Ooh, me too!  What about you, Yui?
Yui: Oh, no… I think I’ll pass.
Ryogo: Really?
Yui: It’s just that I might mess up, and if something happens, I don’t know if you’ll want to answer any of my questions.
Sayu: Yui, what do you really want to say?
Ryogo: Forget it, Sayu.  Look, I’ll admit that I’m hiding something, but you just have to trust that it’s something that would be really bad if word got out.
Yui: So you don’t trust that I’ll keep a secret?
Ryogo: Well… is it really so important that you have to know?
Yui: Uh…

As for Yui, she wasn’t entirely sure what Ryogo really was to her.  She had a vague understanding of what the titles of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” meant, but the start of their relationship was based on a hazy memory, and she was pushed into it by Sayu.  On the other hand, now that she was in it, she couldn’t imagine herself being out.

Back in America, Sayu was the one that had all the luck with boys.  She had several boyfriends, though she broke up with most of them within a month.  Yui, by contrast, was more of a loner.  She wasn’t terrified of them, exactly.  It’s more that she gave off an air of unfriendliness.  She was asked out a few times, but her usual replies were that she had to focus on her studies, or a flat “Why?”  It’s not that she wasn’t interested, just that she found it hard to trust others.  The fact that anyone who tried either gave up too soon or pursued her only with insubstantial flattery didn’t help.

With Ryogo, however, she was able to come out of her shell, at least just a bit.  Slowly, she learned more about the kind of person he was, and she felt he knew more about the real Yui than most people.  That’s why it annoyed her more than she thought she should that he was keeping a secret.  That she had made such progress with another person should have been good enough, and she was a little shameful knowing that deep down, she wanted nothing short of full transparency.

Yui: Yes.  I absolutely have to know.
Ryogo: Then I’ll tell you.  If you can wait.  It’s not the right time yet.
Yui: But you’ll tell me.
Ryogo: I promise.  I’ll have to sooner or later anyway.

All four of them stayed to bake cakes in Sweet Tears.  Even after Yui and Sayu left, Ryogo stayed behind to continue his training of Ms. Sawatari.  He secretly liked being put in a leadership role, and it gave him an excuse to stay away from the apartment where he knew Saki was waiting.  Meanwhile, at that very same apartment, Saki was lying in bed, very pleased with herself and her progress with Souma, completely oblivious of the attack that was going on at that very moment.

The next day, both Natsuko and Yukiko were absent, and Saki was left alone for most of the day.  She took the opportunity to talk with Souma during lunch.

Saki: Souma, I want to discuss something with you.
Souma: Of course.  What do you desire?
Saki: Well, right now Ryogo’s living in some dream world with that Mizuno girl.  Can I count on you to give him a lesson in reality?  Just give her a bit of a scare.  But remember what I said.
Souma: Consider it done.  I already had something planned for today.
Saki: That’s good.  I think we’ll get along just fine.
Souma: I’m pleased to hear that.  I’ll take care of everything after school, so you can be free to visit Matsuda.
Saki: Huh?  Visit Natsuko?  Why do you bring her up?
Souma: You haven’t heard yet?  Well, I’m sure it’ll come up.  Excuse me, I have something to do.

It wasn’t until just after classes ended that Saki understood.  Yukiko had visited Natsuko in the hospital during classes and met with Saki at the school gates to tell her.

Saki: Natsuko’s in the hospital?  What for?
Yukiko: It seems she was attacked last night.  Her leg’s dislocated and her clothes were torn up.
Saki: What?!
Yukiko: Aside from that, she’s okay.  I’m suspicious about the whole thing, but I’m told the transfer fought off the guys that did this to her before they could go any farther.
Saki: The transfer… Souma?
Ryogo: What about Souma?
Saki: Ryogo?  None of your business.
Ryogo: Like hell it isn’t.
Yui: What’s she up to?
Saki: Like I said, it has nothing to do with you.  Natsuko…
Ryogo: Matsuda?  Did something happen to her?
Yui: Who’s this Matsuda Natsuko?
Ryogo: She’s in one of my classes.  Nice girl.  One of the few friends I… oh, no.
Saki: You don’t think…?
Ryogo: I have to see her to know for sure.
Yukiko: Now why would I-
Saki: It’s okay.  Just lead the way.
Yukiko: Saki… Well, if you say so.
Yui: I’m coming too.
Sayu: I’ll meet you at home.  I still have some business here.
Yui: Right, I’ll see you there.

Yui didn’t have any real reason to follow, but she felt that she had to witness first-hand anything that Ryogo and Saki had in common.  If they weren’t going to be direct about it, she would find out herself.

Almost as soon as Ryogo entered Natsuko’s hospital room, she screamed at him.  “Leave me alone!”  Ryogo didn’t harbor any special feelings for her, but those words jabbed at his heart.  He never expect that girl of all people to say that to him.  He didn’t have much time, but he saw what he needed to see before he fled the room.  Yui wanted to follow him, but she was paralyzed by the sight of the bed-stricken girl.  It reminded her of something she wanted to forget.  She slowly gathered her wits enough to leave and follow Ryogo to the nearest waiting room and sit next to him.

Ryogo: . . . it was Souma.
Yui: She would do something like this?
Ryogo: Yeah.  She did something like this before.
Yui: It’s terrible.  How could you put up with someone like that?
Ryogo: It’s not like I want to.  She isn’t even supposed to be in Japan right now.
Yui: Seeing that girl made me sick… It reminded me of something that happened to Sayu.
Ryogo: . . .
Yui: It was a long time ago, before we moved to America.  Dad told me she was in some kind of accident.  Her leg was fractured, and there were bruises all over her body.  I thought she was going to die.
Ryogo: . . .
Yui: She was only about 3 years old then.  She wanted to be a doctor just like Dad… she even carried around a first aid kit with her wherever she went.  Ryogo, I think… she was the one…
Ryogo: She was.  And that’s why Souma attacked her all those years ago.
Yui: You knew?
Ryogo: I had my suspicions, but your story confirmed it.  So Sayu was attacked, and Dr. Mizuno left the country with the aid of my old man while I was told that he was banished from the group.  And it’s all because I liked her.
Yui: So…
Ryogo: Don’t get me wrong though.  We were only kids, then.  She doesn’t remember me, and you’re the one I care about.

Yui wanted to seek comfort in those words, but couldn’t find it.  Instead, it felt more like she had a question for Ryogo that she didn’t have the words to.  Before she could dwell on that idea for too long, another question came to mind.

Yui: … But wait, what about Souma?
Ryogo: She’s not really the forgetting type.  We have to go back to Sayu!

Meanwhile, Sayu and Souma had their confrontation on the school roof.  Souma felt that her warning was sufficient to scare Sayu off, but she was mistaken.  Sayu ran in front of her and blocked her way.

Sayu: Leave my sister alone.
Souma: You’re starting to annoy me.
Sayu: She’s finally got a guy in her life, and he’s a good catch, I know it!  I’m not going to let you get in her way!  And you’re not scaring me off that easy!
Souma:  I’ve been restraining myself, but it seems I have to show you what I’m capable of.

Souma swung her arm at Sayu’s face, intending to slap her away.  Unexpectedly, Sayu blocked Souma’s palm and jabbed at her throat.  Souma instinctively backstepped and reached for her hip before realizing she didn’t have her sword.

Souma: What is this?
Sayu: I’ll have you know I’ve broken up with a dozen boyfriends.  You know why?  It’s because they couldn’t beat me in a fight!

Of course, Souma had no idea that Sayu was known abroad by her nickname “Yellow.”

Uh, isn’t that… kinda racist?

Ordinarily, yes.  But in Sayu’s case, it’s because she was a yellow belt in tae kwon do, judo, shotokan, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

You’re exaggerating.

Okay, so the Jiu Jitsu she didn’t learn until a few more years down the line.  But hey, it’s not like I claimed she was a black belt.  She stayed with each course just long enough to get a sample of what it offered.  Anyway, the point is, she could fight.

Despite Souma’s temperament, she planned to honor her word.  Her plan was to pressure and intimidate Sayu into backing off.  She didn’t expect Sayu to take the initiative.  Sayu did a short hop and did a standing low kick to Souma’s legs.  Souma reacted on instinct and stepped back just far enough to evade the attack, but Sayu followed up, standing her ground and pivoting around to hit Souma with a reverse round kick to her ribs.  Souma was in shock that Sayu would put up such a fight, but it was only for a moment.  Though she was hurt, Souma grabbed Sayu’s leg right and pushed forward, bringing Sayu to the ground.

Souma: I’m not one of those weak boys you string around your finger.
Sayu: Wow, you ARE tough!
Souma: If I were serious, you would be dead by now.

Sayu didn’t respond with words.  She flashed a confident grin that startled Souma for a split second.  Sayu suddenly and violently rose her head, clashing hers with Souma’s.  Because of the position she was in, it wasn’t a particularly hard headbutt, but the fact that Souma didn’t expect it gave the sudden attack more of an effect than usual.  Souma’s grip on Sayu loosened, and Sayu kicked her off.

Souma was of course in tougher, more violent fights before.  This was nothing to her.  But she didn’t know what to think of the girl in front of her.  Even now she could clearly recall their first encounter, 10 years ago.  Something that should be obvious to most people but wasn’t to Souma was that a two year age difference is a big deal in young children, but progressively becomes less important the more they age.  Souma still remembered how easy it was for her, even with her limited combat training at the time, to make someone almost as tall as her cry.

Sayu lost her memory of that day, along with all the fear and confusion and pain.  She spent the 10 years that passed since then filling its void and became something foreign.  She was no longer someone who could easily be pushed around.

The realization that Sayu had become someone completely different wasn’t what bothered Souma the most, however.  It was that she had the sudden instinct to drop whatever she was doing and retreat.  Not out of fear of anything, and certainly not out of mercy, but because she had no business with this girl.

And so, Souma turned her back on Sayu and left without a word.  Before exiting the scene, she turned around and had one last look at Sayu.  The expression on her face wasn’t one of hatred, nor did it betray the confusion that was experiencing at the time; it was an oppressive glare seemingly focused at a point past Sayu, through her soul.  It was unnerving, but Sayu took solace in her victory.

Yui and Ryogo left the hospital and started to run towards the school, but Yui wanted to check her home first to see if Sayu returned.  The two of them arrived just as Sayu returned from her encounter with Souma.  She had a few scrapes on her arms and her uniform was just a bit dirtier than usual.

Yui: Sayu!  Are you alright?
Sayu: I’m fine.  Just had a little scuffle with Akatsuki, nothing serious.
Ryogo: Nothing serious?  She didn’t hurt you?
Sayu: Oh, I’m hurt alright.  She can seriously fight.  But I won, so everything’s okay.  I think she got the message.
Ryogo: Y… you won?
Sayu: What’s with that look of disbelief?  I’m pretty tough, you know?  So, how was the hospital visit?
Yui: Uh…

Ryogo and Yui looked at each other.  Without uttering a word they understood that Sayu was better off not knowing any of what they learned.

Ryogo: Matsuda was pretty shaken up, but she’ll get better.
Yui: Are you sure Akatsuki won’t go after you again?
Sayu: Heh, if she does, she knows what’s waiting for her.
Ryogo: Since when were you ever a fighter?
Sayu: A pretty long while.  I know, I don’t look it… why?  You thinking you wanna spar?  I bet you’re pretty tough yourself.
Ryogo: Uh… Maybe another time.  I’ve got to go see someone right now.
Sayu: Someone?
Yui: Who?

Ryogo stood there and wondered if he should say.  With every second of silence that passed, Yui’s face soured.  Finally, he said something neither of them expected.

Ryogo: Yui, do you want to come with me?
Yui: Huh?  To see this person?  Who is it?
Ryogo: My father.
Yui: Ehh?

Ryogo and his  father rarely talked to each other.  It was only when business was involved that they would.  Speaking of business, since losing their territory, the Misaki clan had no true headquarters to speak of.  Misaki Rokusaburo lived in a modest home near a train station, and the last remaining vestiges of his empire were scattered about doing odd jobs or working in tiny candy shops.  Rokusaburo himself didn’t really do much these days, but he preferred to keep up appearances at all times as if he were still a big-shot.  In the eyes of his followers, he still is.  Even so, it didn’t take much effort for Ryogo to gain an audience with him.

Shunya: Sir, Ryogo wishes to have a moment of your time.
Rokusaburo: I am aware.  But who’s the other one?
Yui: Uh… I’m… my name is Mizuno Yui.  Pleased to meet you. *bows*
Rokusaburo: Oh… You’re Dr. Mizuno’s oldest daughter, aren’t you?
Yui: That’s correct.
Rokusaburo: I see… so he’s back in Japan.  I’ll have to see him some time.  But I’m sure you came here for something more important, right, Ryogo?
Ryogo: Sir!  As I understand, Dr. Mizuno is still a highly respected to the organization.
Rokusaburo: This is true.  And?
Ryogo: Well… Recently, Akatsuki Souma returned from America, in direct violation of her orders and without approval of her superior, Rei.  Just a short while ago, she had an altercation with Mizuno Sayu… the doctor’s younger daughter.  Sayu’s fine for now, but…
Rokusaburo: I understand.  You wish for me to send Souma back before anything further happens.
Ryogo: That’s correct.
Rokusaburo: Your request is denied.
Yui: Huh?
Ryogo: But why?!
Rokusaburo: While I disapprove of her actions, her presence is necessary.
Ryogo: Necessary for what?
Rokusaburo: As you recall, we once ruled much of Kobe.  It was the height of our prosperity.  That is, until we were driven out like rats by the Shidow clan.  But as long as I still live and breathe, our clan shall still have its pride!  Ryogo, did you think your idyllic life here was permanent?
Ryogo: You’re not…
Rokusaburo: Ever since the wedding, I’ve been thinking about it.  Now, all the cards are in my hand.  And I’ve already started playing them.  Souma returning was an unexpected wild card… an ace.  And I intend to play her as well.  Ryogo, from this day forward you are to play your part as well.

Ryogo knew what he was driving at.  Yui felt she was being ignored, but she understood the tension and dreaded what the meaning of it was.

Rokusaburo: You may not see it as such, but this is my present to you.  The Misaki clan will rise and retake Kobe.  We will destroy the Shidow!

Nara’s story ended here for the day.  She told me she would finish the tale up tomorrow.  I wasn’t really sure where it was going or why this story was brought up in the first place… but I couldn’t help but be absorbed by it.  I later tried looking for news stories from that time, but there was no mention of any gang wars in Kobe.  At least, not between the two factions mentioned in the story.

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