At the cold touch that enveloped his whole body, the man gradually awoke.
The first thing he saw was a man in a black suit holding an empty bucket.
When the man realized where he was, he felt like passing out again.
It was an undecorated room made out of undressed concrete with reddish-black stains on the walls and an unpleasant smell that could seep in.
He knew exactly who owned this room and what it was for, as well as the reason why he had been left on the ground, and who the men surrounding him were.
What he couldn’t understand was why. Even if he had been left there after his memory cut off, why did these men come there and bring him here?
But while he couldn’t understand that, one thing was clear – these men had already labeled him guilty.
Not a single one of those gazes that looked down him were fond. Every one of them was cold, and they chills down his spine.
Why didn’t they just kill him in his sleep? He complained internally, but then an even more terrifying person appeared.
“I see you’re finally awake, Aojima.”
He shuddered at the sight of the intimidating man.
A stern-looking burly man with dyed blond hair and scars on his face. He was puffing on a cigarette.
This was the person Aojima wanted to meet the least.
For being caught by him meant that his life was basically over.
They did not differ that much in age, but the number of trials they’ve been through were different, so there was a world of difference between them.
There were two kinds of people in this industry: those whose names you’ll hear no matter what, and everyone else.
The intimidating man was so comfortable in his expensive suit that it did not appear obnoxious on him and instead heightened the intimidating aura he exuded.
Aojima shrank back.
“Oh, so you can still call me aniki? Weren’t you planning on usurping me?”
The man shook his head, but it would be a lie to say that he held no ambitions.
He was of the same generation as the man before him, but his standing was completely different, so he felt inferior and was envious.
He wanted to form a connection with Garesto by seizing the weakness of Garesto Academy’s students, then use that to get rid of the man before him, but it was a foolish plan from the start.
He had especially taken lightly how scary the man called Kondo could be when serious.
“It’s unbelievable how stupid you are, really… You can’t even keep your own word. In that regard, you’re worse than brats.”
Kondo looked down at him coldly and drove his feet into his stomach.
Aojima felt like the air was being forced out of his lungs.
It felt like he was about to pass out, but another man in suit grabbed him and forced him to look toward Kondo.
The expression that had been calm until now was now demonic.
Despite that Kondo’s gaze remained cold as he laid bare his killing intent right from up close, and Aojima found himself screaming.
“Ah, s-stop it, t-this isn’t right!”
“…I told you before, didn’t I? That I’m grateful to that inn. That’s why I told you that no matter what happened, you are not to lay a hand on it, right?” Kondo said.
But Aojima couldn’t answer.
Of course, he remembered what Kondo told him, but at most, he just thought it was a weakness of his.
It would be fine as long as he didn’t find out.
Unfortunately, he was yet to realize that it was precisely because of that baseless of confidence of his that led to this result.
Though it could also be that he was too scared to realize.
“You know… You and I, we’re both villains. So I would never ask you to be a goody two-shoes, but for outcasts like you and me, it’s over once we can’t keep our word. I believe that was the first thing I taught you,” Kondo said while crouching and looking into his eyes.
Those angry eyes were convinced that they broke his command on purpose.
“Ah, ahh… That’s…”
“Hey, Aojima, did I tell you to do something you couldn’t?”
Despite that he spoke calmly while hitting him on the cheeks.
He asked questions but prevented him from answering.
“No, gayh, stop, gah!”
From time to time, he would remember and hit him in the stomach with his other hand.
“Did I ask you to kill the president? Did I ask you to make me 10 billion yen? Did I ask you to run 100 meters in 5 seconds? Hey? Was my order really that difficult?”
Any one of those was clearly impossible for hoodlums like themselves.
The man put more and more power behind his punches.
“Gaha, n-no, bube, gafu!?”
“Are you telling me you couldn’t remember even a single one of my commands?”
“Gofu, ah, no, this is, agah!!?”
Aojima couldn’t make any excuses, but he would be killed if he didn’t say anything.
The fear of that made him desperately try to say something, but Kondo never had any intention of listening in the first place, and he would hit Aojima every time he was about to say something.
“I took you lightly too. I can’t believe thugs like you actually managed to make a fool out of me!”
Kondo was doing this partly to pay him back for that and to regain his face, as well as to vent his personal feelings.
“───Where did you get the information about the guests? How many supported you?”
He only started asking questions after getting his fill, but of course, there was no way Aojima would answer properly right away.
As soon as he hesitated to answer, the cigarette was pushed into the back of his hand.
He reflexively tried to shake him off, but his subordinates wouldn’t let him.
Aojima screamed from the nearly 800 degrees burning his hand, but Kondo just impassively used his hand as the ashtray that it was.
“What a disgusting scream. You won’t even make for a good pet───make him spit it all out.”
“Please leave it to me. I’ll be sure to take care of him well.”
Upon seeing his subordinates nod, Kondo decided to leave that room first.
The hallway was also made out of just undressed concrete, so the place gave off a cold impression.
They owned this place, and it was minimally lit, yet despite the eerie air about it, there were a lot of people here.
There were a series of thick doors just like the one he came out of, and from time to time, the sound of someone screaming could be heard from them.
But he didn’t pay attention to any of those. Already, none of those people would walk in the light again.
As though he no longer had any business here, he walked.
He took out a new cigarette from his pocket and lit it, then filled his lungs with its smoke.
His subordinates would light it for him whenever they were around, but when he was alone, he at least wanted to do it himself.
“Fu… Onii-san, sorry about that. I got my hand bit and caused trouble for Kouta and Haruka-san.”
It was rare for him to be alone, so he took this opportunity to say this apology that he would never say in front of his subordinates.
He shook his head with a bitter expression.
When he went outside, his subordinates that were waiting ran up to him to give their report.
“No one else was mobilized, but there are strange movements in the next town.”
“We caught a few of their executives trying to leave the country with a lot of money.”
“The quack that provided the pills talked. He says he was threatened, but he was paid quite handsomely. We’re tightening things up now.”
“The connection to this case remains unclear, but it appears that there’s been a political disturbance in the Katsuragi family and the company working with them. They’ve been meddling in our business for awhile now, but now all sorts of trouble are occurring in their area.”
“We got word just now that the children have made it back. We’ve also captured the people lurking inside waiting for their shift.”
“We’ll make them spill everything. We’ll also have the young ones keep an eye on the inn for a while just to make sure there won’t be any more problems.”
“Okay, I’ll leave it in your hands… Tch, what did that brat do?”
Kondo nodded, but he was actually sullen deep inside. The commotion the boy caused was much bigger than he’d imagined.
He knew the boy was related because of the words he left before leaving.
──Normally, you’d owe us two, but we’re partly responsible, so let’s just say you owe us one.
He could understand what he meant by that, but he wasn’t sure which of the two those two were related to. Regardless, it was off putting that he owed something to that thing.
That boy and girl hadn’t shown them their real face.
The girl had an air of mystery about her, the kind he would often see in this line of work, but the faceless boy gave off a bloody presence that transcended that.
People like Kondo were sensitive to their own kind, those that have stained their hands with blood.
He wasn’t inexperienced, but the smell the boy gave off was just too thick.
He might as well have been someone from a completely different era.
“I don’t know if it’s lucky or unlucky.”
That something like that noticed and interfered.
While it was a good thing that they managed to avoid the worst case scenario, being involved with that thing was not something to be happy about.
Though he couldn’t see the boy’s real face, his eyes spoke loud and clear, ‘you messed up.’
What a frightening boy to have grasped so much in so short a period of time.
It was truly too little too late, but he couldn’t help but keep ponder the pros and cons of entrusting Kouta to him.
“Is something the matter?”
Either way, he didn’t have the right to say anything. His subordinates were puzzled by his actions, but he just shook his head.
He convinced himself that societally-speaking people like him weren’t something that could be compared to a student. He had to force himself to believe that.
“Enough… I’m going. Be sure to send the reports to me. And make sure those guys understand what it means to go against us!”
When his subordinates quietly nodded, he swiftly vanished into the night.