He was out of the game.
Miura ran his hand through his Mohawk for at least the fourth time since he had sat down. He didn't consider himself someone usually concerned with appearances. Most of the time, he wore his nose rings proudly, and tee-shirts with less-than-savory English phrases were a staple of his wardrobe. But today, Miura had drifted from the usual "I dare you to look at me funny" approach. While his Mohawk remained upright, he had chosen a far more conservative button up shirt and the nicest pair of jeans he could find.
His piercings were gone, replaced with transparent studs made specifically for occasions where having a chain coming out of your nose wasn't necessarily a good idea. Miura had checked himself out in the mirror thoroughly before leaving – in his own opinion, he had cleaned up pretty well.
Still, this scene – him sitting on a park bench waiting for a girl – was something that reminded him of the gooey shojo mangas his younger sister would read when she was in middle school. He hadn't waited for a girl like this in years.
But he wasn't just waiting for any girl.
At the sound of her voice, he whipped his head around, palpitations beginning to grow stronger in his chest. "N-Nao-chan!" he spat out as the bubbly brunette came towards him, purse in her hands, sweet smile on her face as always. She was cheerful, despite the fact that she and Akiyama were still undoubtedly strung up in the Liar Game. He tried to smile, but he could already feel himself starting to sweat. "You look great!"
"Thank you," Nao smiled, bowing to him in greeting. "I'm so glad to see you're doing so well Miura-san!"
"Well yeah," he nodded. "I finally landed a steady job. Doing some honest work for once. It's not so bad. And…" he stumbled a bit over the next part, as he was sure his ears were turning red, "at least I have enough money to take you out to lunch, right?"
"Uh huh!" she nodded happily, and he was elated to see her positive response. "I've been waiting for this all day!"
As Miura and Nao began to walk down the sidewalk of the park towards the restaurant they had agreed upon, Miura couldn't help but consider himself extremely lucky. After all, ever since Nao had saved him during the first Revival Round, he couldn't shake her from his mind. He could still see that timid face of hers as she handed him the M-Ticket for 200,000,000 yen: a ticket that saved his life.
She had been his angel, his saving grace. And while he didn't realize it at first, days after the Liar Game, Nao Kanzaki was the only thing on his mind. He'd gotten caught up in a terrible spider's web where he was convinced the only way to survive was to eat any other spiders that came his way. But Nao had shown him differently. His kindness had been what had saved him. Nao was a good person. A better person than he deserved.
Which was what led him back to his realization of how lucky he was to be out on a date with her. He'd called her up two days prior, asked her about how she was, and then offered to take her to lunch to thank her for all she'd done for him. It was hardly a fair trade, he had said, but it was the least he could do. She had happily accepted, and for two days, Miura had been doing his best to think of what he could possibly say to Nao to thank her for everything she'd done.
As Nao went on excitably about her latest class assignment, Miura's eyes hazily rested on Nao's sweet face. He could pretend pretty easily that he was paying attention, even when the only thing on his mind were the way her eyelashes moved every time she blinked. He considered himself pretty tough – but Nao's tender heart had turned him into a total softie.
"Ehhh…Nao-chan," he finally said, interrupting her story. She blinked and looked up at him. "I-I…I wanted to thank you," he said. "I never really got the proper chance back at the Revival Round. You saved my life, Nao." He looked at the pavement, not used to such honest admissions of feelings. "…Thank you so much."
Nao smiled at him, but then looked at her purse. "Well…really…I couldn't have done it without Akiyama-san."
Miura looked over at her, remembering all too well her con-artist friend and partner in the Liar Game. He had definitely coached Nao through the entire game, but the idea to spare Miura had been all her idea. As far as he knew, Akiyama had been happy with letting them all burn. It wasn't that he disliked Akiyama…
Well, maybe he did. But just a bit.
"He's saved me so many times," Nao admitted. "Sometimes, I really think I'm useless without him."
"That's not true," Miura insisted testily. "It wasn't Akiyama's idea to save everyone through the Liar Game, was it? It was yours. Give yourself more credit, Nao-chan."
"Maybe," Nao nodded. "But…I'm really clumsy and not very good at deceiving people. I wouldn't be able to get through this game without Akiyama-san." She stared at the sidewalk. "I need to stop relying on him so much."
Miura bit the inside of his mouth a bit in annoyance. Akiyama may have been smart, he would grant him that, but he didn't have Nao's kindness or strength of spirit. Nao was far gentler than Akiyama ever could be, and Miura was convinced that Akiyama wasn't in the game for the same righteous reasons as Nao. In fact…what if Akiyama was just using Nao to get what he wanted? I mean, sure, the two seemed pretty close, and Miura admitted to not knowing the whole truth behind Nao and Akiyama's relationship, but at the same time, the guy seemed pretty shifty. Really, Miura would trust Akiyama as far as he could throw him.
"You should be careful of him, Nao-chan," Miura said suddenly, and Nao looked up at him, confused. "You shouldn't trust him so much. He could just be playing you to get at the money, you know."
Nao blinked, and then looked at her purse. She smiled softly and then shook her head. "Akiyama-san…isn't like that. He would never deceive another person for his own gain."
"How do you—"
"Because," she said softly, her voice low but still commanding. "In the past…Akiyama-san was hurt very deeply by people who deceived others. So he would never lie to me. I believe in Akiayma-san. Completely." She looked up at Miura with as much resilience as she could muster. "And anyway…I'd like to believe that people are good…"
Miura looked down at her, but smiled. "Yeah…you would. That's something I really like about you, Nao-chan."
"You're a good person, Miura-san," she said. "You're honest too. I know you're just worried about me…I know Akiyama-san hardly seems trustworthy," she laughed at that. "You should have heard him last night on the phone!"
Miura paused at that. "…Last night?"
"He said, 'Are you really calling me again? I already said I'd be there.'," Nao did her best Akiyama impression – it was actually not bad. "I-I forgot to give you the address. 'I looked it up already – go to sleep and don't call me again or I won't pick up.'" She giggled as she ended her one-woman revival of the conversation. "He's so strange sometimes," she laughed.
Miura blinked. Wait a minute…she couldn't mean…?
"We're here!" Nao said excitedly as they reached the restaurant. Miura looked up at the doors of the cute lunch-café to see none other than the red-haired Shin'ichi Akiyama standing outside, fur lined jacket on, annoyed expression on his face. "Akiyama-san! We're here!"
Akiyama frowned at her. "You're late. Fifteen minutes."
"Sorry! Class let out late and I walk a bit slowly…"
Miura couldn't believe this was happening. Had Nao really invited Akiyama…
On their date?
His heart sank as he realized that Nao hadn't considered this a date at all. Which means she didn't consider him dating material…at all. But what was up with inviting Akiyama of all people?
He looked up at her as she apologized animatedly to Akiyama, who simply looked at her with that same bored expression. Her face was red as she gave him a complete blow-by-blow to bashfully explain her slow-walking, and he just sat there and listened with an expression that said that he couldn't have cared less.
But when Miura looked a little closer, he saw Nao's embarrassed expression mixed with one of admiration and, perhaps, even infatuation. Her soft smile showed how happy she was to see him. And when Miura glanced over at Akiyama, he too would smile ever so slightly when he was absolutely sure Nao wasn't looking. It was a smile he had never seen out of Akiyama. And even though it was brief, fleeting, and secretive, Miura could tell it was ten times more genuine than any smirk he had offered them during the course of the Liar Game.
The more he stared, the more he realized it. They were partners, through and through. There was no chance Akiyama could ever betray Nao. The two of them just seemed to fit one another, to be almost a part of one another. The Liar Game had brought them together, and now that they were stuck in the middle of it, it was impossible for them to part. Nao had a stake in Akiyama. And Akiyama?
Well, he'd had his claim on Nao since the second the two walked into the game – he was sure of it.
Miura could only smile to himself, a tad disappointed – but despite it all, he knew the truth.
He was out of the game.