CHAPTER 5 RAYLA
MICHIRU: “Did they already decide on the death penalty? Won’t they not do a judgment in that case? Will this work out?”
???: “It’ll be fine. If the presiding judge decides on the death penalty, they always call in the responsible Angels and hold a judgment.”
???: “Depending on how hard the responsible Angels work, they can lower the sentence but… Gehehe! There’s a high probability it’ll be the death penalty!”
MICHIRU: “Hmmm… I don’t really get it but it looks like there’s nothing else we can do now.”
???: “What are you saying? There’s still plenty left to do, you know~?? We have to make sure Rayla Konomi is the responsible Angel…”
MICHIRU: “I’ll leave the manipulating of the Angel side of things to you. You can do that, right?”
???: “Of course! I’ll just offer up some information for the other Akatsuki Angels to sink their teeth into… I’ll dangle some bait that goes by the name [Bi] in front of them.”
Today we have investigation duties, but for some reason Rayla and I were taken aside by Nana.
I was incredibly nervous, thinking it might have something to do with Michiru, but that wasn’t what this was about.
FUU: “We have to show up at court for a judgment…?”
There was a summons from the Heavens for the two of us to appear at court for Mana’s trial.
IDZUKI: “He tried to injure Angels during this past mission. However, he’s also a Stardust.”
IDZUKI: “Stardust have their minds taken over with malice, but this wasn’t all due to Star.”
FUU: “Basically, they’re going to listen to what we have to say and give a sentence?
IDZUKI: “That’s what it’ll be. It’s a special case so the Heavens must be having some difficulty deciding on a punishment.”
It seems they’ll ascertain whether Mana’s personality changed due to Star or if he was still sane when he acted by hearing what we have to say.
IDZUKI: “The trial is tomorrow. This is a special duty, so to speak, so I’ll have you relieved of your regular duties.”
IDZUKI: “So you two will be forbidden from entering the Heavenly Skies.”
RAYLA: “What do you mean?”
IDZUKI: “You cannot come into contact with the target, Mana Toono.”
FUU: “Um… Is his rehabilitation going well?”
IDZUKI: “Well, he seems to be doing okay. It’s just, maybe because he hasn’t slept much, but his physical condition has deteriorated.”
Sleep disorders are a commonly observed condition in Stardust during rehabilitation.
Although it depends on the type, Star has sleep inducing ingredients inside them, so of course people sleep well when they use them.
So once the body has become accustomed to it, they become unable to sleep when they quit using.
And apparently, there are also cases where they have nothing but nightmares when sleeping normally as some sort of backlash from having nothing but good dreams as a side-effect of Star.
RAYLA: “So his payment for using up ‘til now. Well, not much you can do about that.”
FUU: “I hope his condition improves.”
Star is an embodiment of evil that causes suffering for people during and after it’s use. It’s also a deadly weapon that harms people around it. Star isn’t some dream product.
FUU: (It’s a very, very dreadful thing.)
RAYLA: “So, deal with it strictly as an Angel, without bringing personal feelings into it.”
IDZUKI: “Yes. I’d like you to go at it carefully with the same feelings you would have toward your usual duties.”
Nana had a more detailed explanation concerning the judgment.
All of our written reports on that mission were already submitted, but separately from that we needed to put together documents on how we perceived Mana’s situation.
We needed to record the situation from that day with every detail, so that not a single word or deed is missed.
Mana’s trial commences at 0900 tomorrow. Two hours prior to that, a vehicle prepared by the Heavens will come to pick us up in front of the Angel Tower.
Someone called a ‘guide’ will be there, and we’re to obey them unconditionally. Additionally, we are not to ask anything about the guide.
The contents of the trial are top secret, so we’re not to disclose them to anyone.
FUU: (A trial, huh… That’s nerve-wracking.)
RAYLA: “The trial starts tomorrow, but we’re supposed to get documents together now? Hah… There’s no time.”
Once our briefing was over, we moved to the computer room to work on creating our documents.
There were several vague parts that we somehow managed to recall by putting our memories together.
RAYLA: “That reminds me, the others are doing an investigation on [Bi].”
FUU: “That’s right.”
Last night we got information that the dealer organization [Bi] was making a move, so everyone is out on investigation duties.
This [Bi] is also one of Akatsuki’s large dealer organization.
FUU: “Yun was really enthusiastic.”
RAYLA: “Nothing good will come out of him being enthusiastic.”
FUU: “Well… Working hard is good, though.”
After knocking, Nachi came into the room along with the scent of tea.
NACHI: “I brought some tea!”
FUU: “Thank you.”
NACHI: “Looks tough. I wish I could help you out too.”
NACHI: “So it seems. It’s too bad. The only thing I can do is make tea for you, but I’m supporting you!”
FUU: “Thank you.”
NACHI: “Well then, good luck! If you need more tea or if you want something light to eat, don’t hesitate to ask me!”
Nachi left. After drinking the tea he made and taking a short break, we tackled completing our documents.
FUU: “Hah… We finally got the situation summarized.”
The memories we compiled together ended up different when we tried to write them down.
We discussed them in detail, and it took longer than we thought it would to put together our writings.
FUU: “Will we really get this done today?”
FUU: (We still have to summarize Mana’s actions and what he said after this.)
FUU: (We need to remember this part down to the minute details, so it’ll probably be much harder than just the broader situation… Because we’re recalling what happened two weeks ago…)
RAYLA: “Of course we’re tired; we’ve been going nonstop since this morning. Let’s take an hour break.”
RAYLA: “I’m hungry too. Maybe I’ll have Nachi make something.”
I continued to look at the computer even when Rayla stood up.
RAYLA: “…Are you not going to take a break?”
FUU: “There’s a part I want to fix, so I’ll take my break after I finish that.”
Once I said that, Rayla sat back down in his seat for some reason.
FUU: “Is something wrong?”
FUU: “What- no, it’s fine. It’ll really only be a few more minutes.”
RAYLA: “Well then, all the more for me to wait.”
FUU: “No, you go on ahead.”
RAYLA: “I don’t want to.”
FUU: “You don’t need to worry about me.”
RAYLA: “That’s not it. I’m waiting because I want to.”
RAYLA: “We’re a pair so we work and take breaks at the same time. That’s a given.”
FUU: (That makes me happy.)
My mouth relaxed and slipped into a smile. In order to hide that, I turned toward my computer and did my remaining work.
RAYLA: “Why are you smiling?”
FUU: “Wh- I’m not smiling!”
RAYLA: “No, you were. Gross.”
With that, the door burst open and the members who had gone out to investigate came into the room all at once.
YUN: “What the hell is that, telling a girl she’s ‘gross’!? And you’ve even got a good mood going on too! You stealth creeper!”
RAYLA: “Huh? Well that’s quite a false accusation. Unlike you, I’m not some monster that attacks girls as soon as I’m alone with them.”
YUN: “Hah! Guys who pretend to be straight-laced are even bigger creeps! An openly creepy guy like me is way better!”
RAYLA: “What are you going on the offense for?”
RAYLA: “Could you not lump me in with him?”
YUN: “That’s right! I wouldn’t tell Fuu she’s gross!”
YUN: “I’d have told her ‘you’re cute’, ‘I want to hug you’, and ‘I could just eat you up’!”
IDZUKI: “Hey, don’t get in his way everyone. You know… I mean, since Rayla’s finally reached the ‘spring’ of his youth.”
Rayla purposely rose roughly from his seat and stood next to me.
RAYLA: “You done?”
FUU: “Oh, yeah. I just finished.”
RAYLA: “Then let’s go. I’ve had it with them.”
Then Rayla grabbed my hand as if it was something natural for him to do.
It wasn’t soft or forceful; he just held my hand naturally and brought me with him as he walked toward the door.
I felt embarrassed, but I was equally happy. I didn’t untangle our entwined hands and matched his steps while watching Rayla’s hair bounce.
YUN: “Hey now, gloomy! Don’t you hold her hand! I’m the only one who can touch her!”
TCHICAI: “Yun-Yun, just give up already~ ★ Come on, I’ll give you some cotton candy, okay?”
FUU: (I wonder how long it’s been since I’ve held hands with someone…)
I had completely forgotten what the feeling of another person’s hand was like.
I had forgotten how very warm it felt and how happy it made me-
We continued to work on our documents with interposed breaks. It was already late and going on 0000 by the time I noticed.
RAYLA: “Uhhh.. What was it again…? Ah, shit. My brain’s not working because I’m tired.”
FUU: “You can take a nap, Rayla.”
RAYLA: “No. Did you forget what I said this afternoon? We do equal work.”
FUU: “…All right. Well, it’s just a little bit more so let’s power through.”
FUU: “So, this part. It’s something Mr. Toono said, that Mana told him he could ‘get a huge amount of money’. So basically, he did that for money-“
FUU: “Hmm… Money? I wonder why he was so influenced by money.”
I turned toward Rayla as I spoke.
Rayla had fallen asleep on top of the desk. His hunched over back gently rose and fell rhythmically with his breathing.
FUU: (…Looks like he reached his limit.)
I smiled at his almost child-like appearance. Because he usually looks so serious, it was my first time seeing him so defenseless.
I ended up staring at him, and Rayla began to stir.
I was sure he had woken up, so I pretended to look at my PC.
However, I was relieved to find Rayla was not awake. I once again looked at his face.
I was surprised to find my cheeks felt a little warm when I pressed my hand against them and returned to my work.
FUU: (I should press the keys gently so I don’t wake him…)
I typed with much more care than I normally would.
For some reason, I strangely felt like I wanted to work harder when I occasionally heard Rayla’s quiet breathing as he slept.
One hour later:
FUU: “It’s done…”
I saved the final data and collapsed onto my desk in sudden exhaustion.
FUU: (It looks like we’ve made it somehow…)
Right as I was beginning to feel relieved, I heard something like a groan come from Rayla who should have been asleep.
I raised my head in surprise at hearing his voice and turned toward him.
Unlike when I had been looking at him before, Rayla had a pained expression on his face.
FUU: (So he was talking in his sleep…)
RAYLA: “No… It’s not… that…”
RAYLA: “I’m not the one… who betrayed…”
I felt uneasy at hearing his pain-stricken voice and reached out to wake him up.
RAYLA: “…it was Michiru.”
He mumbled those words in a low growl.
Even though he said just a few words, they were so impactful that I had goosebumps over my entire body despite it not being cold at all.
I was so caught up in the sensation that it felt like my wrist had been bound by thorns of ice. I couldn’t move at all.
I called out his name hoarsely. Rayla slowly lifted his head.
RAYLA: “…Hm? Did I… say something just now?”
Rayla blinked in surprise and looked at me with a blank expression.
FUU: (Does he not remember what he just said…?)
RAYLA: “Ah- sorry…”
RAYLA: “Ahh… Sorry for falling asleep. How far were we again?”
There wasn’t even the slightest trace of the madness from just before in Rayla as he sleepily flipped through the documents.
I was relieved and reassured at having him back to normal.
RAYLA: “Hm… What’s wrong? Did I do something strange while I was asleep?”
FUU: (What should I do…?)
💬 DIALOGUE CHOICE
Tell the truth. (+♥ RAYLA)
I hesitated to lie about it because I had heard him…
FUU: “Well, actually…”
When I told him honestly what he had said, Rayla smiled wryly and brushed away his bangs.
RAYLA: “…It’s nothing.”
FUU: (There’s no way. That didn’t look like nothing.)
However, I had a feeling if I hounded him over it any further, it would only make him suffer more. I changed the subject.
FUU: “Oh, that reminds me. I just finished up the documents. So let’s get back to our rooms and get some sleep.”
He looked surprised for a split second before his expression relaxed and he spoke with his head down.
FUU: “Nah, I finished it up right after that anyway.”
RAYLA: “Not that.”
RAYLA: “Nothing. Also… thanks for doing the documents.”
FUU: “Sure. Oh, but you just thanked me…?”
RAYLA: “Just forget that. Be quiet and accept my thanks.”
Rayla brushed his large hand through my bangs messily to shut me up.
Rayla put on a sullen expression and continued to carelessly stroke my hair.
RAYLA: “I’m doing it on purpose.”
RAYLA: “Because you piss me off.”
Contrary to what he said, his hand movements were kind. While I was worrying about how to respond to that, Rayla suddenly moved his hand away.
RAYLA: “Come on. Let’s get back to our rooms. You must be tired, right?”
FUU: “Oh, right. Okay, after we clean up here.”
I answered him while fixing my bangs, but Rayla shook his head with another look of displeasure.
RAYLA: “I’ll clean up because I fell asleep.”
FUU: “What, no, it’s fine. Let’s clean up together.”
RAYLA: “Didn’t I say we’d do the same amount of work? It’s reasonable for me to pay it back for sleeping. You sit down and wait.”
At that brief statement of ‘wait’ instead of ‘go on ahead’, I felt a tight squeeze in my chest.
RAYLA: “…What are you grinning about?”
FUU: “N-nothing. …Okay then, I’ll take you up on your offer.”
I sat in my chair and pretended not to glance at Rayla as he cleaned up papers and ROM.
When our eyes met on occasion, we both averted our gazes…
Before too long, our eyes met again and we averted out gazes once more.
I still didn’t know what that bittersweet feeling spreading deep in my chest was.
[dialogue branch ends – continue to rejoined dialogue]
Try to hide it.
I didn’t want to see him in pain, so I decided to lie to him.
FUU: “No… You seemed half-asleep, but I didn’t hear you say anything.”
After an unpleasant pause, Rayla abruptly spoke with a laugh.
RAYLA: “You’re really awful at lying.”
FUU: “…. S-sorry…”
He found out that I was lying but didn’t try to question me further on what he had said.
It was almost like he was afraid of knowing.
RAYLA: “Well then, shall we get back to the documents?”
FUU: “Oh… They’re already done.”
RAYLA: “What- seriously?”
RAYLA: “…Sorry. Since I fell asleep, I’ll clean up the place.”
FUU: “No, it’s fine. Let’s do it together?”
RAYLA: “I want to make up for falling asleep. I want to do the same amount of work as you. So you can go on ahead to your room.”
FUU: “…I see. Got it.”
I could sense the obstinacy in Rayla’s voice and withdrew obediently.
FUU: “Well then, I’ll take you up on that. Goodnight.”
I walked to the door and turned around.
Rayla was cleaning up our papers without looking my way.
I felt a little lonely as I closed the door but didn’t express it out loud.
[end of branched dialogue]
I was in the dining room to eat breakfast.
What with all the writing up our documents and preparing for today, I did eventually get to rest in the end. However, it was around 0200 when I did so I was feeling tired.
RAYLA: “Heh, you’ve got a big mouth.”
FUU: “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
RAYLA: “Mm. I got plenty of sleep.”
He said as much with a sleepy look on his face and a huge yawn.
NACHI: “Oh. You’re both here! I’m getting the food ready right now so just wait a sec!”
NACHI: “I’m making something that will keep you energized and get you through the trial today!”
Nachi, who had peeked his head out from the kitchen, immediately drew back again.
Before long, the scent of a delicious consommé wafted in and stirred up my appetite.
RAYLA: “So they’ll come to get us in an hour.”
FUU: “It’s a little nerve-wracking.”
RAYLA: It’s nothing you need to put on a front for. We’ll just do what we can do. Right?”
RAYLA: “I will say this: although we don’t have the right to decide on it directly, I want to avoid the death penalty.”
FUU: (He really is unwavering in his beliefs.)
He won’t kill dealers. Not by his own hands, of course, but he also won’t allow it to be done at someone else’s hands either.
Rayla’s tenet remained unchanged.
Seeing him resolute in keeping his objective, I felt I had to learn from him.
FUU: “I feel the same. We’ll have to give an accurate testimony so that doesn’t happen.”
RAYLA: “Hmm… You get it.”
Then out came Nachi, carrying a tray with our prepared breakfasts.
NACHI: “Ohhh? Look at the both of you smiling like that… You’ve got a good mood going on~”
FUU: “Oh, uhh, ‘cause we’re a pair! This is like, the mood between partners!”
NACHI: “Noo, it’s not just that. Isn’t this kindaaaa suspicious?”
NACHI: “And you were doing work together late into the night yesterday, so has your relationship moved beyond just partners-“
RAYLA: “Shut up. Be quiet, cabbage boy.”
FUU: “C-… Cabbage??”
NACHI: “What’s this about cabbage…? What does that mean??”
RAYLA: “I’m talking about your head. It looks just like a cabbage.”
FUU: (Oh, I see it now… Err, it’d be rude for me to agree with him!)
NACHI: “C-cabbage!? You’re so mean! All I did was say what I was thinking!”
RAYLA: “Don’t you think it’s crude to run your mouth on other people’s private business? That kind of stuff only concerns those involved.”
FUU: (Huh? He’s not going to… deny it?)
RAYLA: “What’s with that look?”
NACHI: “Nothing~? You always go straight to denying things so I was just thinking that was unusual…”
NACHI: “Waah! O-okay, well, take your time!”
Nachi held his head as if to protect it and left the dining room.
RAYLA: “…Ugh, the hell was all that.”
FUU: “Um, maybe we should eat before it gets cold.”
I felt embarrassed and tried not to look at Rayla’s face much as I nibbled on my toast.
FUU: (…He didn’t deny it.)
I’d never really thought much of being teased with Rayla before, but today my heart was racing such an awful lot that I felt embarrassed.
For someone like me who’s never experienced being in love, I have no idea if that heart throbbing could be called love.
FUU: (Whether it’s love or friendship, I want to cherish my relationship with Rayla.)
And then I also felt that I wanted to cherish that desire itself.
We decided to go outside and wait for the car 10 minutes prior to the appointed time.
I felt a little awkward too, so I didn’t talk about anything unnecessary either.
RAYLA: “About what Nachi said before…”
FUU: “Oh, uh, yeah!”
Remembering it made my heart thump.
RAYLA: “You don’t have to worry about that at all.”
RAYLA: “You’re my partner. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The feelings that had swelled up deep in my chest deflated with a hiss.
FUU: (Why did I misunderstand that? It’s like Rayla just said, we’re nothing more than partners.)
RAYLA: “…Maybe I worded it wrong, but I just wanted to say we’re partners.”
FUU: “I know.”
Being told that before would have made me extremely happy.
FUU: (But why am I so sad then? Why does my chest hurt enough to make me want to cry?)
I cast my eyes downward because I didn’t want him to see my sad expression when I heard the sound of a car approaching. I turned my gaze toward it and saw a black vehicle.
I looked at my watch. It was precisely 0700. They had alarming punctuality.
A woman got out of the passenger’s seat and began to speak after glancing at our faces.
GUIDE: “Good morning. I’m a guide of the Heavens Institution, Judgment of the Heavens Department.”
Her voice was so monotonous that it sounded like a recorded voice guide.
GUIDE: “Mr. Rayla Konomi. Ms. Fuu Sorano. I’ve come to pick you up.”
FUU: “Oh, thank you.”
After nodding she immediately told us something shocking.
GUIDE: “Once you’ve taken your seats, please wear these blindfolds until we’ve reached our destination.”
She handed us black eye masks.
RAYLA: “Huh? What’s this? What’s this for? Why do we have to wear these?”
GUIDE: “It’s the rules.”
RAYLA: “Why do they have that rule? Can you tell me?”
GUIDE: “All I can say is the rules are the rules.”
I grabbed Rayla’s arm as he seemed to be getting worked up again.
FUU: “Let’s abide the rules. Nana even informed us we’d have to do whatever the guide told us to do.”
Perhaps Rayla recalled that conversation, because he gave a small click of his tongue and took the eye mask.
GUIDE: “Please get inside. I will explain once you are in the vehicle.”
Her gesture was somehow so mechanical looking that I ended up doubting whether she was really a living person.
Once seated, Rayla and I put on our eye masks as we were told.
Because the eye mask didn’t let in any light, my surroundings were darker than nightfall.
GUIDE: “Very well, I will put on your headphones.”
There was no use arguing about it, so I had the headphones placed on my head. A robotic voice played from them.
RECORDED GUIDE: “Judgement of the Heavens rules.”
RECORDED GUIDE: “One, details of the trial are top secret so any disclosures are prohibited. Two, attend only as an Angel, without inserting any personal feelings. Three, do not speak unless instructed to do so by the judge.”
RECORDED GUIDE: “Four, any violation of the previous three rules will result in expulsion from the Heavens Institution.”
The explanation ended there in a slow, even tone, and began once again from the beginning.
Because there weren’t that many rules, I had completely memorized them after the third play through.
FUU: (…So this plays endlessly until we get there, huh.)
Something warm covered my hand as I sighed.
FUU: (Wh- is, is this… Rayla’s hand?)
He turned my hand palm up and wrote something there with his finger.
FUU: (…What did he write? It was too fast. I couldn’t tell.)
Rayla simply placed his hand on top of mine while I was confused.
My pulse started to race as it was almost like we were holding hands.
FUU: (What in the world did Rayla write…?)
💬 DIALOGUE CHOICE
“I love you…?” (+♥ RAYLA)
I played back every movement of Rayla’s fingers and a certain phrase came to mind.
FUU: (…No, I don’t think that’s it but… Maybe…)
I had a feeling he wrote ‘I love you’ and my palms grew sweaty.
While I worried over whether Rayla was going to laugh at me, he impatiently tapped my hand as if urging me to respond.
Still confused, I slowly traced letters on Rayla’s palm with my trembling hand.
‘I l o v e y o u’
Rayla’s hand moved with a sudden jerk.
I suppressed my nearly exploding heart and waited for Rayla’s response.
And the character that Rayla wrote with his finger after a pause was ‘?’.
I felt super embarrassed upon realizing that I had made a huge misunderstanding; my whole body heated up like I was engulfed in flames.
If I wasn’t inside of a car, that would have been the moment I’d have run away.
FUU: (Thank goodness Rayla’s blindfolded.)
If he wasn’t, he would have seen my completely flushed face.
‘I made a mistake’
He responded immediately after I wrote that.
‘I thought so’
Then Rayla continued to write.
‘That surprised me’
FUU: (…Of course it would.)
‘Sorry for bothering you’
I felt a little sad by his blunt response.
I slowly and carefully wrote each letter in an easy to understand way upon his palm.
‘I’m so curious about you’
‘You’re right here next to me, but not being able to talk is tough’
Rayla placed his fingers on my palm.
But no matter how long I waited, he didn’t write a single thing…
Instead, and unlike before, he laced our fingers together this time and tightly held my hand.
A nervous sigh escaped my lips.
I couldn’t untangle our fingers, but I also couldn’t hold his hand back…
I simply stayed like that, feeling the warmth of Rayla’s hand.
[dialogue branch ends – continue to Part 2]
“I’m sick of this…?”
I played back every movement of Rayla’s fingers and a certain phrase came to mind.
I felt like he wrote ‘I’m sick of this’, so I placed my own finger against Rayla’s palm and slowly wrote out the letters.
‘You’re sick of this?’
And he immediately responded.
‘You got it.’
FUU: (This is kind of like a game for kids, it’s fun. A game, huh…)
The next word I wrote was…
Rayla immediately understood what I was doing and wrote in tickling letters.
After that, we spent the rest of our time until our destination playing a word game by writing with our fingers.
Thanks to that, I actually managed to have fun instead of being bored in the car.
[dialogue branch ends – continue to Part 2]