Episode 17: The Runt Who Became a Leader

Ryuta seethes in frustration as he continues to lay pinned against the futon by the 150lb blanket covering his body. Hajime hasn't come back up since lunch, thoroughly intent on keeping him restrained for as long as he continues to choose chivalry over health.

He can sense the crumbling of the squad following his accident, the Cheer Girls obliviously going back to their routine of cheering to whoever calls for them while Kai appears to be distraught and terrified of what had been going on lately concerning him and the future he's about to face. The only people who seem to be on track with the severity of the current situation is Saito and Suzuki, the oldest members of the squad who have experienced everything from Spirit Reading to understanding and helping those in need. Unlike the rest of the squad, they have been thinking more about what's going to happen to them and how they were going to resolve the situation without making it worse.

And where was Yatto in all this? He was the most concerned about the wellbeing of Kai and had seen the dastardly efforts Yin has put into ensuring he becomes nothing more than a mindless servant that will think of nothing but agreeing with everything he says. Yet he hasn't done a thing to fix the problem, obviously because he was still afraid of what might happen if he confronted Kai in his ghostly state.

As Ryuta was thinking about Yatto, he suddenly senses his ghostly spirit close by. He looks towards the attic window to see him slowly fade into view, sitting against its side frame while relaxing in the warm, afternoon sun; appearing to be asleep with his arms crossed and the toes on his right foot rubbing against each other. Despite being distraught and worried about the wellbeing of his little brother, there was a hint of boredom outlining his ghostly spirit, not appearing to be in a big hurry to rush out and do something to keep the squad well maintained for the coming future.

But as Yatto was starting to come closer into focus, Ryuta saw something that made his eyes widen in sheer shock and horror. Sandwiched between his large toe and the small toe next to it is a large, fire-colored feather connected to a wing-like cape spread around his shoulders. But it wasn't the generic Fire Bird cape worn by the villagers of Vermillion; it was THE Wings of Suzaku, which had been in Yin's deranged clutches since the destruction of the village. Having been shown the feathered cape before the Fire Bird and his grandfather engaged in a trip down memory lane, it wasn't hard for it to hide from his spiritual awareness.

Seeing the Wings only pissed Ryuta off as much as it made him relieved that Yin will be one piece shy of a complete puzzle. He was tempted to think that nightmare he had last night was just that, but now that he knows Yatto has the Wings, the lack of realization from the rest of the squad only seems to indicate that Hajime is dead set on making sure they never get the chance to even think about setting foot into the dojo or at least making sure Kai knows that his brother is still alive.

Just as the reality of what was keeping everyone from pursuing Yin had sunk into his weakened, brazen skull, the hatch to the attic pops open as the cause of the whole fiasco pokes his head up from the ceiling separating it from the bedroom hallways, looking towards Yatto with a bit of satisfaction in finding him.

"Ah, there you are," Hajime said as he climbed into the attic and walks over to him, "I figured I'd take a break from studying for my midterm and head on up to see how you're doing?"

There was an awkward moment of silence, indicating Yatto was either too entranced by the afternoon sun to answer, or too caught up in his own thoughts to acknowledge his presence. One thing's for sure; he was tired of staying in this ghostly form and wants his solidity back.

Hajime sighs through his nose at the ignorance, seeming to understand what was going through Yatto's mind, before walking to the other end of the attic and heading behind a mountain of boxes. The sound of a trunk opening and fabric being pulled out grabs the one-eyed ghost's attention as he looks towards it in time to see him slide back out in his Vermillion robe and wings.

What're you doing...? Yatto mutters.

"You've been out of sight for far too long," Hajime said slipping his arms into the feathers of the wing-like cape and grabbing the handles that control the wrist area of its wings while making his way back over to Yatto, "I think it's time we head on to Vermillion and hang out with some of our spiritual buddies; maybe teach you how to fly that cape so you don't have to walk once you finally feel well enough to be solid again."

Yatto stares at him, a bit unsure of the offer. Ryuta, on the other hand, starts to tremble at the apparent outrage he was seeing before him. Hajime knew Yatto wanted so badly to reunite with his brother after so many years, yet he wasn't doing a thing to accomplish that, seeming more interested in finding other ways of cheering him up than actually helping him get over whatever was keeping him from running out to Kai.

Both conscious occupants felt an explosive outburst of rage as they turn to see Ryuta stumble onto his stomach, pressing his hands against the futon as he uses his back as a car jack to haul the blanket wide enough for him to crawl out.

"Kill him...." he seethed as his arms trembled from their weakened and pained state, "I'm gonna kill him.... I'm gonna beat him to a pulp and make him cry uncle...!"

Ryuta's aggravated eyes were fixed on both buddies, at first giving off the impression that he was infuriated by the lack of attention they were giving to the slowly crumbling squad. But upon deeper concentration, they realize his spiritual focus was on the Wings draped around Yatto's shoulders, indicating he was able to see it clear as day; and realizing his figured out the third reason Hajime was trying to barricade him from the rest of the world.

Yatto furrows his eyebrows in panic as he throws his hands behind his back, bunching up the Wings in a vain attempt to hide them while Hajime grits his teeth in worry, about to say something when both felt a pair of shocked and concerned spirits jab into their hearts from outside the house. Turning around, they see Saito and Suzuki stop just outside the roof hanging over the front porch, looking towards them with the sternest face they had seen since their last encounter.

Their focus was on Hajime and the Vermillion robe draped over his uniform, a sense of concern and frustration that indicated one of their worst fears was about to be realized. They then focus on Yatto, their concerned spirits softening slightly to reassurance.

Both he and Hajime cock an eyebrow as they look towards each other in confusion.

"What was that all about?" Hajime asked.

Before Yatto could suggest something, they hear the doorbell ring. Hajime frowns in suspicion as he heads out of the attic, not bothering to take the robe off, and opens the door to reveal Saito and Suzuki staring straight at him; their concerned spirits returning with a hint of pity once their eyes reacquaint for a closer perspective.

"We must talk," Suzuki said as he and Saito push past Hajime, leaving him to watch as they kick their boots off and head upstairs.

"No, come right in," he grumbles irritably as he shuts the door and follows after them, "I don't mind the unwelcomed company."

They stop at the ladder leading to the untouched attic door, sensing Ryuta's increased outburst of irritation which left the impression that he was still fighting to get the blanket off him. The followers' frowns tighten as they turn to Hajime with their fists behind their backs.

"We have been monitoring the current situation of our squad since Ippongi-sama's accident a month ago," Suzuki began, "And it has come to our attention that the longer we let you continue your services to this squad, the more weight you bear on our window of opportunity to stop Yin from casting the nightmares that should remain suppressed within his traumatized mind. Therefore, until the situation is under control, we feel it is in our best interest to expel you from this squad."

Hajime blinks in disbelief, "Expel!? What for!?"

"In the past, we were happy to have a new member that will help bring peace and harmony to a world riddled with stress and anxiety. But after Ippongi-sama's accident, we feel that now may not be the best time for you to try and fit into our daily regime. The recent neglect since that day seems to have led you to believe you are not trying hard enough to gain our respect, driving you to do things that will only put you in more danger than we, ourselves, are unwilling to accept."

He presents his hand towards the robe draped over Hajime's uniform, his frown tightening in frustration and disappointment, "You would even try to make us believe you had been somewhere that no longer exists, further proof that you care more about the spectacle of the squad than the responsibilities that come with it. It was a relief that we arrived sooner and saw you strutting around in something that does not belong to you, otherwise Yin would have mistaken you for another survivor and killed you without confession."

Yatto appears by Hajime's side, unseen by the two followers, "Letting you go is the safest, easiest way to free up the time we need to set things straight and put an end to the turmoil surrounding us."

Hajime tenses up in agitation, "Maybe if you'd at least keep us up to date with what's going on with both squads, instead of keeping them to yourself, I'd be more willing to understand why you're so desperate to get to Ryuta, regardless of what condition he's currently in!"

"That is the other reason we have come here and stated our accusations," Suzuki interjects, ignoring Hajime's irritated statement, "We have reason to believe the confusion caused by our recent neglect is beginning to escalate in the way you handle others' situations. You seem to misinterpret the reason such measures are taken to protect those we cheer to, and have gone to great lengths to insert your own alternatives without even stopping to understand why. Therefore, to protect you and those you hold dearly, we will be taking over Ippongi-sama's recovery and ensuring that his needs are met without others complicating them."

Suzuki's frown tightens in more concern, "It will also be in our best interest that Doumeki-sama's brother comes with us as well so that his needs are met without having to worry about you getting in his way."

Hajime's eyes widen in horror, "Oni-san!? But he-!"

"We are well aware of how timid he is around strangers equal to or older than him; how he tenses up and withholds even the most minor of information until he acquainted them long enough to trust; which is why he is coming with us. If what you say is true and he somehow does have the Wings, he should be with his brother, rekindling their bond and helping him escape Yin's torturous nightmare rather than spend the entire month lingering around your residence and pretending to put up with your overprotective antics."

Yatto's remaining eye widens in sheer horror at what they were suggesting. The way their confidence is brimming in this idea they have of forcing the brothers' reunion, even if Ryuta somehow understands and gets his followers to stop their insane approach they would still think Hajime had something to do with it and either continue insisting they stop worrying about him, or drag Kai straight to his house and "ease" Yatto into regaining his tangibility without even bothering to figure out why he wasn't as in such a hurry to reaffirm their brotherly bond as they had expected.

Hajime's tension flares up in frustration, "You finally decide believe me after this long and the first thing that comes to mind is forcing Oni-san back into Kai's arms!? Do you have any idea why he's even in that state, or why he hasn't flagged down Kai the very second we got away from the dojo!?"

"It matters not what he has gone through in the past month since the accident," Suzuki said, "He knows Ippongi-sama will understand his dilemma and help him get over his turmoil so that he will be ready to break Doumeki-sama from the nightmare Yin has forced him into. Compared to Ippongi-sama's experience and determination, your friendship is nothing more than a hindrance keeping him from accomplishing that feat while saving us all from having to spend the past month worrying about how long Yin will remain determined before one of his more frightening emotions sends him running back home for comfort and security."

Hearing their presumption snaps Yatto out of the fright of being forced back into Kai's arms, causing him to frown in irritation. Upon closer examination of the two followers' confident spirits, he can see sparks of hesitation shooting up around them, which slowly increase the longer they continue to hang around the house; turning this once hopeless dispute between newcomers and old-timers into a desperate attempt at trying to prove why everything has to be done by Ryuta and no one else.

Hajime facepalms in equal irritation of their brashness, "I can't believe I'm even hearing this!" he threw his hand down and glared at Saito and Suzuki, "This entire month since the accident, the lack of comfort towards Kai, the ignorance towards us and the Girls, and the excuses you're making right now, was all because you wanted HIM to fix everything!?"

"Ippongi-sama has seen everything that's happened in the past even before the destruction of the village, and knows what measures to take in order to prevent the rest of the world from suffering the same fate. Therefore, he has taken it upon himself to make sure that the Doumeki brothers are reunited, as well as stop Yin from forcing everyone to accept a nightmare as the peaceful future he thinks they deserve."

"And you don't think I've already accomplished that by helping Oni-san find that secret route and watching him put the Wings on before Yin even realized we were there!?"

"The only thing you've accomplished is obstruct Ippongi-sama's chances of ensuring everything goes accordingly. There is a reason he decided to inform you of what this squad is facing, and you should not take it as an excuse to corrupt his vows with your own involvement."

"Corru-!?" Hajime just about tenses up in offense, "I didn't even hear Ryuta claim he wants to be the only person to fix everything those demented brothers caused up until now! All I'm getting right now is you two getting all iffy over a newcomer suddenly showing up and slicing off half of what he originally intended to accomplish while making up excuses to-!"

"Tanaka-san, be reasonable!" Suzuki snaps, causing Hajime to flinch from his agitated spirit, "Are you so desperate to draw attention to yourself that you endanger your entire family, whom you neglected to inform the very day you joined this squad!?"

Hajime's eyes widen even more at the horrifying realization of what he was trying to muscle his way into, "Did it ever occur to you what would happen if Yin found out you were still alive despite seeing you drown in that quicksand!? Not only would he finish the job, he will hunt down your entire family and kill them all to ensure your spirit is not rekindled into a new body! Why do you think Doumeki-sama's brother continues to approve of your accusations despite what we have seen!? Because he cares about you too much to see you continue putting yourself in danger for the sake of proving your worth to the squad!"

Yatto's eyebrows begin to twitch in more irritation as he continues to listens to Suzuki's hasty accusations and talk downs, "He yearns to be with his brother again, yet he is afraid to even leave your side, knowing it will only draw you into following after him just to make sure that goal is carried out; which is why we are taking him away from you for the duration of this dilemma. With our experiences in the knowledge and awareness of what's going on with the brothers and the future they are intending to trample, he will have less reason to worry about you defying the safety of your family in favor of proving to us why you deserve to be among our ranks!"

Yatto's twitching escalates to his entire body trembling in outrage at what he had been hearing since the two followers barged in and began verbally stomping Hajime to the ground. Even though he could see why they would want to hurry things along, Yin being so unpredictable he could lose his nerves at any moment and run straight for the Spirit Gate in a last ditch effort to save and gain the Fire Birds' trust, it still didn't give them the motive to show up and blame Hajime for unintentionally ruining Ryuta's chances of setting things straight.

What's worse is their brimming confidence in everything they have said, so sure he'll choose Ryuta's experience over the friendship that got him this far they didn't even bother asking him for opinions, knowing he would lie to them for the sake of protecting Hajime.

As if adding fire to the already burning irritants in his soul, Yatto sensed the two followers focusing on him, not only letting him know they were aware of his presence, but also imbuing him with more reassurance. Neither of them bothered to figure out why he was this irritated with their accusations; most likely thinking he was acting this way because he was upset that Hajime was going to take it personally and put himself in more danger to try and prove he has as much right to be involved in the squad's problems as everyone else. This only hardened the cement of their incompetence to trust no one but the man who inspired them to want to follow his every move since the day they met.

Experience is stronger than friendship, is that it...? he mutters in offense.

Ryuta stops struggling to lift the blanket upon hearing Yatto's echoing voice seconds before a Mastiff-size mass of weight slams onto his back; squashing him back on the futon, and knocking what little strength he mustered in hauling an opening for himself to crawl out of, before the weight fades away. He drags himself onto his elbows and turns his head as far as he could to see the irritated ghost standing on top of him with an agitated smirk in his otherwise worried face; his transparent feet fazed through his back from standing on it too long.

"What're you...!?" Ryuta grunts before a ghostly foot slams his face into his pillow.

'Trust your experience'...? Just because you were there when the village was destroyed and saw the old man making off with the Wings that were meant to help rekindle the brotherly bond I share with Kai...? Yatto seethed as his foot fazes through Ryuta's head, pulling it out and slamming it onto his back to keep him from getting back up, Two days before the fiasco that destroyed the village and twelve years following it the only thing I got out of you was a vow that you will fix everything by the time you're old enough to leave that orphanage...!

His foot starts to sink into Ryuta's back as he pulls the other out and stomps on it again, jarring a pained grunt out of him, And yet you got every single member of your squad so CONFIDENT with your supernatural abilities that they think you're the ONLY PERSON who can stop this fiasco from becoming our impending future...! Forget the fact that the village was forced to abandon their children for fear the old man would find and kill them; forget the fact that I couldn't see my brother for TEN WHOLE YEARS before encountering someone who did more than understand the turmoil I was going through; because ALL of that is going to go away the very second YOU stop the old man from marching into this city with whatever dignity is still left in his deranged, theistic mind...!

Ryuta musters what little strength he had left to pull himself in a propped position on his elbows, lifting his head from the pillow he was smothered against, "I...It's not-!" he's interrupted by another foot shoving his face back on the pillow, knocking his elbows out from under him.

Oh-ho it sure as hell seems that way after spending the entire month watching how your squad reacted when we told them what the old man was going to do BEFORE showing them what drove him into that state...! Yatto growled, In fact, your absentminded followers were so DETERMINED to make sure no one BUT YOU took care of everything that they tried to pin this entire month of fret and turmoil on Hajime SOLELY because he was there when I found and put the Wings on, and was the only person ASIDE FROM YOU who can still see them...!

He stomps his foot back on Ryuta's back and grabs the tails of his bandana, pulling his face out of the pillow, And let me tell you...after hearing their brash, hasty interpretation of what made me stay with Hajime, WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME IF ALL THAT WAS TRUE, I've just about HAD ENOUGH of being THROWN INTO THE BACKGROUND and TREATED like I was some caricature hanging off your wall...!

Ryuta's face falls back on the pillow as Yatto stood in font of the shelves containing the restraining blankets, They want me to choose between experience and friendship...? he pulls out one of the rolls, its number obscured and hard to identify, I'll give them an answer.... he then turns and glares at Ryuta while holding the blanket over his head, AND THEY ARE GOING TO RESPECT IT!!!

Suzuki looks towards the black, mildly spiky hair laying limp around Hajime's head, "Your hair has grown so long since the accident; we almost didn't recognize you when we showed up a few weeks ago."

Hajime places his hand on his head, feeling the outer fabric of his white glove rub against their soft, well-conditioned locks as his furrowed eyebrows tighten in distraught at the remorseful tone of Suzuki's voice, "A perfect way to blend back into the crowd if you are not seen in uniform; no one will ever know you were a part of this squad."

Hajime grips a clump of his hair between his fingers before combing them out and dropping his hand down like the ball hanging off a kendama as the two followers turn and head up the ladder into the attic, finding Ryuta laying flat on his back, breathing heavily from the stomp fest earlier; though in Saito and Suzuki's case he appeared to have fought himself to near exhaustion trying to get the blanket off him.

The two stop on either side of him, seeing him tremble as he tries to say something only to muster enough energy to exhale a few weakened huffs and coughs. Believing he was trying to berate them for not pulling him out sooner, they sharply bow towards him in an act of apology.

"Our apologies, Ippongi-sama," Suzuki said, "We've had some 'inconsistencies' with the wellbeing of your health. But we assure you it will never happen again."

They stand straight and look over to Hajime, who's standing behind Suzuki with his arms limp at his sides, looking at the floor and appearing too distraught to say anything; then back at the blanket covering Ryuta, staring at the "150lbs" label sowed in the center. The second their backs were turned, Hajime felt something fall against his back, looking behind him to see one of the restraining blankets leaning against him and a strange glow fading behind him.

Saito and Suzuki, completely oblivious to what was just given to Hajime, look to each other before nodding in acceptance and crouching down to Ryuta, grabbing the corners of the blanket and using their combined strength to effortlessly lift it off him and throw it to the side, releasing a near wood-shattering clank as they land on the shelf containing more of the same blankets.

Hajime looks up after a moment, seeing Ryuta stumble onto his stomach as he pours what little strength Yatto gratefully left him with to get onto his feet.

"W-wait...what're you doing!?" he asked, exasperated.

"It is no longer your concern, Tanaka-san," Suzuki said, not looking over to the concerned boy, "Leave us and never look back. It'll help you readapt to your normal life...."

"You're just going to stand there and do nothing!?" Hajime exasperates more, "He can hardly stand on his hands and knees! He's in no condition to-!"

"I appreciate your concern, Tanaka-san," Suzuki interrupts, "But Ippongi-sama's true strength is in his spirit, something you have neglected to comprehend when you found him those many days ago. As you can see before you, Ippongi-sama's determination to help those in need drives his will to continue fighting regardless of what condition he is currently in; and as long as he continues to fuel that determination, no amount of pain or weakness will keep him from putting a stop to Yin's crusading rampage and ensuring he never tries to force his views of peace upon the world."

Hajime looks between him and Ryuta, who manages to get onto his hands and knees while gritting his teeth in deafening pain and torment. What he sensed as the ailing leader continues to pull himself to his feet, however, was not what Suzuki had been forcing him to expect.

Rather than be cluttered with thoughts about leaving the residence and chasing after Yin, his entire focus was jabbed towards the occupants in the room; wanting to beat the two followers' heads together and throw them at Hajime, while at the same time desperate to get away from the attic before he gets caught and subjected to the same hazing that reduced him back to his weakened state.

Suzuki gives one final glance to the distraught look on Hajime's face before turning his full, undivided focus back onto Ryuta, expressing one last apology before opting to ignore anymore of his complaints, "I'm sorry, Tanaka-san...it's for the best...."

Hajime continues to stare at the two before slumping his shoulders and looking to the floor, "Yeah...so is this...."

Just then, they hear the sound of chains raining on the floor, and by the time they turned to see where it came from, Hajime whips out the blanket resting against his back and flaps it down towards Ryuta.

"Oh no...." he squeaks as he scrambles onto his back and threw his hands and feet up in a vain attempt to shove it away. But the effort fails as the base slams against them seconds before the eerily heavier weights of the corners crash down around him, sandwiching him flat against the futon.

Saito and Suzuki freaked as they scramble to the other side of Ryuta's flattened state; grabbing each other as they shook with hysteria while staring at the new blanket Hajime threw on top of him, same design, only this time it had a yellow "200lbs" stitched in the center, indicating this blanket is 50lbs heavier than the last. Eyes wide with fright, they creak their heads back towards Hajime.

"Wh...what're you doing, Tanaka-san!?" Suzuki squeaks.

"For the best?" Hajime said, suddenly leering with nonchalant, yet tantalizing eyes as he places his fists behind his back, "And what makes you think I should trust your take on what's best when all you did in the past month is continue to follow along Kai's performance, giving him no reassurance that everything will not fall in Yin's favor and waiting until he's nearing the breaking point before finally deciding to show up to state why you think Ryuta is the only person who knows how to fix everything that's happened in the past!?"

Ryuta glares at Hajime, a hint of hesitation in his agitated spirit, as the followers scoot away from him in hesitation of his tantalizing aura, "Well let me tell you feather-brained buffoons something. I don't give a flying crap how strong your leader's spirit is; I found him first, and sacrificed half a day's practicing with my cheerleading and Thai boxing skills to get him into the current condition he's in, and I'll be damn if I'm going to give him up to you just so you can stand in the background and watch him take on a deranged old man who is 100-times his health!"

The two followers huddled closer together as Hajime's aura starts to grow to twice his size, "I only increased the weight of the blankets by 50lbs because you at least had the decency to tell me about the possible threat I might be pulling my family into for continuing my services in this squad. But if I so much as sense you two sneaking into the attic to take that blanket off, your leader will be spending the rest of his recovery with 100 more pounds thrown on top of him; tackle me to the floor or lock me out of the attic and the weights double; then none of us can get it off until we all agree that he's well enough to stand on his own two feet!"

"Y-You're crazy...!" Suzuki panics, trying to sound like he had the upper hand on Hajime's plans to keep Ryuta down, "You can't possibly be able to lift that much and get it on him! We'll be gone long before you get it off the shelf!"

He's right you know.... mutters a voice. Everyone turns to the shelves to see Yatto standing in front of the them with his usual worried expression, This whole 'drilling the message' idea is getting a little out of hand.... Someone's bound to get hurt doing this....

Hajime hesitates at where Yatto is getting at, "Oni-san, you're not seriously thinking-!?"

I'm sorry, Hajime, but I'm afraid they have a point.... Yatto mutters, his furrowed eyebrows tightening as if anticipating the heartache that was about to follow, We're not achieving anything just standing here and stopping them from doing what they think is best for us all...It's dangerous and you shouldn't be pushing yourself too the point where they'll have more reasons to kick you out of the squad....

Hearing Yatto's lecture rekindles the followers' confidence as they break away from each other and turn to Hajime, standing tall and stern with their fists behind their backs.

"Do you see now the severity of our current situation?" Suzuki asked, watching Hajime look like he was about to break down into tears over Yatto's betrayal, "Now that he knows why we are more capable of handling his needs, he has agreed to put an end to everything you have been trying to do to keep us from doing what is best for this squad and the future we are fighting to maintain; proof that no amount of whining or complaining you do will ever convince us that your opinions are more important than what we have experienced since the day this squad was formed."

Yatto lowers his head a bit, Yeah.... He then pulls out another rolled up blanket and holds it up in front of him as it unravels to reveal a staggering "800lbs" label in dark red, So let's save these two the whole squat and throw ordeal and just lay it on him...! You know it's going to escalate to that sooner or later....

The two followers' eyes nearly shot out of their sockets at the very sight of the label as they yell in fright and nearly choke each other hugging so tightly they appear to be gay; while Ryuta's hysteria shot up over just how pissed off Yatto really is at being ignored at everything but his need to help Kai reel from his trauma.

Saito and Suzuki stare at each other before slowly twirling around and bowing sharply to Ryuta, "Sorry, Ippongi-sama.... It's for the best...."

"WHAT!?" Ryuta shouts in English as the two practically slide around him before turning and bolting down the attic ladder and out the house. He shoots his glare back to Hajime as he sports a taunting smirk.

"Sorry, Ryu-kun," he snickers as Yatto stood at his side with the same expression on his trademark, worried face, "But it looks like friendship outweighs experience more than either of you think."

Ryuta snarls in outrage as Hajime looks over to Yatto, "So, shall we be on our way to Vermillion? I'll treat you to some lunch before we begin flight lessons."

Yatto returns the gesture, Gladly; I'm starving...!

Ryuta's snarls in sheer aggravation as the two turn and head down the attic, holding their fists behind their backs while burning with victorious confidence, before pounding at the blanket in a raging fit to throw it off and chase after them. But as everything that's happened in the past starts to sink into his enraged mind, his last remaining ally, willpower, eventually starts to turn on him as well, stealing away his frustrated energy as his fits start to slow to mere pushes against the blanket before he finally falls limp on his back, seething gasps of anger until he once again passes out from exhaustion.

After stepping off the ladder and pushing it back up to the ceiling, Hajime looks over to the mirror in the bathroom, staring at his limp, spiky hair a while before heading inside for a closer look.

Your hair has grown so long since the accident; we almost didn't recognize you when we showed up, Suzuki's voice rang in his mind, A perfect way to blend back into the crowd if you are not seen in uniform; no one will ever know you were a part of this squad.

Hajime balls his fist in irritation at the recapping of Suzuki's words earlier. He originally wanted to re-grow his hair so he can appear more unique to the squad. But after seeing them misinterpret the decision as a flustering act of freeing up time to tend to Ryuta and his own needs he began to have second thoughts about letting it grow any longer.

He grabs the electric shaver and checks the batteries before turning on the tap and drenching his hair under it, turning the shaver on and running it through his hair as locks rained down on the sink until all that remains is the dark gray bristles covering the back of his head.

After cleaning up the mess again, he heads into his room, grabs the emblem-stamped bandana, and ties it around his forehead as a sign of his determination to prove to the squad that he wasn't going to stay in the background and accept his place as a know nothing newcomer trying to get in their way.

With everything back in order, Hajime heads down to the front door, kicks his boots on and heads out to meet up with Yatto back at Vermillion Village.

Kai staggers back to the dojo later that afternoon, his entire body trembling in distraught and fright over everything he had gone through during the day.

Everyone he responds to keeps calling him a hero despite the realization that he was nothing more than another human being that will eventually be calling someone else to save him and the world he thought he could protect. And the more they continue to look up to him for hope, the more terrified he becomes of the shunning he will receive once Yin hits the entire world with that reality.

Kai could no longer stand it. He was never meant to be a hero to begin with; he just wants to make people happy through cheering and encouragement. And yet they still burn with that sense of confidence in his abilities whenever he crosses their paths in the city; believing him to be the only human being in existence who can take on a true God without faltering.

No, he doesn't want to face God; he doesn't want the world to realize that he was nothing compared to Him and turn their praise into scorn; he just wants to be a normal person shoving people in the right direction when they need it the most. Why can't they understand that and treat him as such so they can save themselves the shock of realizing who they should really be pledging their gratitude to.

There was only one way to put an end to this nightmare before it escalates to the exact future Yin has foreseen; he must break away from the surviving members of Ryuta's squad and return to the old ways, using everything his master taught him to convince the world that he was just another human being trying to enlighten their darkening days. The last of the squad can go about acting like heroes all they want; at least when Yin does keep his word of turning the entire world against those who still believe in hope, Kai will at least be forgiven for leading them down a path he considers to lead to damnation.

After hastily tearing his modern uniform off and throwing on his black, white dotted, samurai-like uniform, Kai makes his way to the study, preparing to bow before Yin and beg for his forgiveness only to stumble upon a gruesome sight.

There was a large puddle of blood seeped into the tatami mat, and the chest Yin had been caressing and praying to is wide open and bare. There was no note or sign of struggle; just a fire-shaped rosary beaded necklace and a peacock feather-shaped key hanging off the front.

Kai's eyes widen in sheer horror; could Yin have finally succeeded in throwing the Wings onto his shoulders; killing himself in order to make them useful to his needs? His entire body trembles in sheer horror at the thought of the world calling for him to deal with a disaster no human or God could comprehend, and Yin standing before it with the Wings flapping in the dark winds of the future, using a single finger to vanquish it into oblivion.

Just thinking about it instills a sense of devastation in his heart as he drops to his knees, believing he had arrived too late to beg for forgiveness and escape becoming coal to fuel the wrath of those who will undoubtedly worship Yin for destroying the first disaster that threatens them. How will he be able to redeem himself now that Yin is about to achieve his one grand dream of a future where he is the supreme savior of the universe everyone will worship and obey forever?