Money, Yakuza, and Goddesses (and Love!)
Unlike En and Atsushi, Io and Ryuu had never walked to school together before. Which Yumoto found very odd as they were best friends.
"It's because Ryuu leaves for school earlier than me," Io answered Yumoto, not turning away from his laptop.
"Ryuu-senpai arrives earlier?" Yumoto asked. That was a surprise. Being known as a professional man, it sounded odd that Io would reach school later than Ryuu.
"I'm usually earlier by five minutes," Ryuu replied. His eyes were glued to his iPhone screen. "Since Io stays up all night on the FX, he wakes up later."
"Io, are you always on the FX?" Atsushi asked the second-year.
Io nodded. "Whenever I have free time, I will check the stocks. I check with my tablet too as I walk to school."
"You check your tablet while walking?" En asked, sitting up his chair. "Won't you end up bumping into things?"
"I only check when I'm walking on flat ground and never on the steps," Io replied.
"That's dangerous, Io," Atsushi said. "You need to pay attention to your surroundings. What if a bad guy snatches your tablet and runs off?"
"He could just turn into Battle Lover Sulphur and chase the guy down," Yumoto answered for Io.
"Realistically speaking, I mean," Atsushi said.
"Kinugawa-senpai's right, Io," Ryuu said, lowering his phone. "What if, instead of a snatcher, it's a rapist? He'd hold your hands up above your head and you probably won't be able to kiss you Loveracelet to transform and--"
"You're being too serious, Ryuu," Io said, turning away from his laptop to face his classmate. "As a man myself, I can surely defend my own virginity."
"It's not about whether you're a man or a woman, Io," Atsushi said. "It's about whether you are capable of protecting yourself as an ordinary teenage boy. I mean, a rapist would likely target a smaller person than them."
"I agree!" Yumoto said, doing a comical salute.
Io seemed to want to answer back, but just sighed and said, "There is no point in me continuing this conversation. There's no benefit at all from it."
"There's benefit of caution," En said.
"We simply wish for you safety," Atsushi said.
"Yeah!" Yumoto agreed. "What if you get enemies from other people on the FX cuz' you're so good, and they send bad guys to get you?"
"Like the yakuza, you mean?" En asked.
"Yup!" Yumoto said. "And then Io-senpai will be bound to a chair with duct tape and there'll be a table of power tools they'll use to torture him, and--"
"Wouldn't the yakuza target my organs?" Io asked with a raised eyebrow.
"The yakuza wants money, right?" Ryuu said.
Io sighed. "I understand that you are all worried for my safety, but it's alright. I can take care of myself.
"If you say so," Ryuu said, shrugging.
The next morning, it was Tuesday, and what's so special about this day?
Io shouted with surprise and frustration as he rushed out of his house after brushing his teeth with only a glass of milk for breakfast. He had spent so long in the FX last night (everything seemed to be at his favor that time; he just couldn't get off) that he overslept. Even worse, he'd forgotten about the assignment he'd received the day before.
"To be this tardy..." Io scolded himself. "How unprofitable!"
There was only ten minutes until class began. He had to hurry. He had just passed by the Kurotama Bathhouse and Inn.
Suddenly, Io's phone rang. While running, he took it out and saw Ryuu's face on the screen. He wasn't sure if he should answer or hang up. But he didn't have to decide because he tripped and his phone fell out of his reach, skidding on the ground into an alley. Io hit the ground face-first, scraping his chin. Cursing to himself, Io got up, only to be kicked back to the ground and getting a nosebleed. He couldn't get up because there was someone stepping on his back.
Who--?! he thought angrily as he turned around, and saw a rat-faced man with a cigarette between his lips.
The man smiled evily. "Hello," he greeted. He removed his foot off Io's back and kicked his face, knocking the teenager out.
When Io woke up, he found himself blindfolded and gagged. He tried to move, but realized he was bound to a chair that seemed to be screwed to the floor. After a few seconds of squirming, Io felt the blindfold and gag taken off him, and he comes face to face with the rat-faced man again.
"You!" Io exclaimed. He glared at the man, and demanded angrily, "What is the meaning of this?"
The man doesn't answer him, but instead read off a sheet of paper. "Naruko Io, age sixteen, a second-year in Binan High School, an ace on the FX."
"What about it?" Io asked.
"I work for Shitto Okanemeka," the man said. "Sounds familiar?"
Io's eyes widened. Shitto Okanemeka was his rival on the FX, and on many occasions has Io beaten and outdone him.
"What does he want with me?" Io asked, eventhough he knew the answer.
"My boss doesn't like the way you take his money," the man replied.
"His money?" Io snorted. "It's mine. I earned it fair and square."
"And boss wants it back," the man said. He took a fistful of Io's hair into his hand. "What are the passwords to your account?"
Io winced but made no sound. "Over my dead body!" he told the man.
The answer Io got was a sharp slap in his face, where he was kicked.
"Io isn't here either?" Ryuu said, worried.
He had checked his classroom, the other second-year classrooms, the clubroom, En and Atsushi's classroom and Yumoto's classroom. Now it was recess, and Ryuu was at the student council meeting room.
"I'm afraid not," Arima replied. He was watering a sunflower plant at the corner of the room. "In fact, he hasn't arrived at all today."
"Oh, I see," Ryuu said, disheartened.
"Akoya's quite worried too, apparently," Arima added as he replaced the watering can into a cabinet.
Ryuu knew that, of course. The effeminate man had approached him after class to ask about Io's whereabouts too, but Ryuu couldn't answer him.
"I'll check his house after school," Ryuu said, sighing.
"Well," Arima said as he lead Ryuu out of the room, "you should know that Akoya has just left the school with permission to visit Naruko-san."
That got Ryuu. He turned to Arima, and said, "Then, grant me permission too! I'm going back to check on Io as well!"
Before Arima could say anything else, Ryuu had taken off. He rushed into his classroom to grab his school bag and ran out of the school, down the steps, to catch up with Akoya, who had just reached the convenience store.
"Got you!" Ryuu shouted as he placed his hand on Akoya's shoulder, surprising him.
"Zaou Ryuu!" Akoya exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"I got permission, so I'm gonna check on Io," Ryuu explained.
Akoya glowered at Ryuu. "You don't have to because I am going to check on Naruko-san."
"Io is my best friend," Ryuu said firmly. "So, I'm gonna visit him too! Deal with it."
Akoya looked like he was going to explode with anger, but composed himself. "Fine," he said, gritting his teeth.
So, Ryuu took the lead since he's gone over to Io's before. But when they arrived, Io's mother said that her son had left for school. She told them Io had woken up late but she remembered seeing him leave the house, and that was it.
"Did something happen to Io?" Mrs. Naruko asked worriedly.
"Nothing serious," Akoya replied. "We'll be taking our leave. Let's go, Zaou-kun," he said to Ryuu politely.
When they exited the house, Akoya asked Ryuu, "Where do you think Naruko-san is?"
Ryuu had a hand on his chin in a contemplative way. "Io left home late, but didn't reach school. Being late means he was rushing, so..."
"There are many staircases here," Akoya said. "If Naruko-san was running, it's possible he could've tripped on his way up. Then, he'd fall, get hurt..."
"What are you trying to say?" Ryuu asked.
"What if Naruko-san tripped on his way up the stairs, fell on his head and got a concussion?" Akoya said. "What if he was found and taken to the hospital? It's possible. Let me contact the local hospital."
And so he did, but Akoya was told that there was no one named Naruko Io that was admitted to the hospital that morning.
"There goes your 'Concussion-and-Hospital' theory," Ryuu said bluntly.
Akoya huffed. "Well, I'd like to see what you can do."
Ryuu smirked smugly and pulled out his phone. "I'm going to call him."
He dialed Io's number and waited for an answer.
"I hear something," Akoya whispered, pointing forward up the stairs.
Ryuu lowered his phone and listened. His eyes widened- It was Io's ringtone! They two boys ran up the stairs, following the song. Ryuu had to call Io again just to play the song again. They found his phone in an abandoned alleyway underneath a trash bin. The cover was cracked. On the screen, it said that Io had four missed calls. Two from the morning and another two from earlier, all of which were from Ryuu.
"Why hadn't I noticed it earlier?!" Akoya said suddenly. He was standing beside what looked like splotches of blood. They were only a block away from the Kurotama Bathhouse and Inn.
"Blood?" Ryuu said. Could it be Io's? he wondered.
"There is blood here and Naruko-san's phone was dropped nearby," Akoya said, pacing back and forth in front of the bathhouse. "He was late and was rushing to school."
Ryuu gasped. "And I called him! While running, Io received my call and was distracted. He tripped, dropped his phone and hurt himself!"
Akoya scowled at Ryuu. "Yeah, he's hurt because of you. But at most, he probably scrapped his chin. But there's so much blood."
"Nosebleed, maybe?" Ryuu theorized.
"Like I said," Akoya said pointedly, "Naruko-san could've scrapped his chin at most."
"But this much blood comes from a nosebleed," Ryuu insisted. "What if something else came by and cause it? What if someone did?"
"Someone?" Akoya repeated. "Are you implying that Naruko-san was kidnapped? That he struggled but failed?"
Ryuu nodded. "Io's famous on the FX. It's the only possibility!"
Over the period of time when Io was kidnapped, he had been punched, asphyxiated, and nearly had two fingers broken, but he hadn't broken. He had a black eye, a swollen cheek and a horrible handprint on his neck, but he isn't going to tell anyone anything.
Th rat-faced man, whose name was actually Kurokaki, had left the room when he failed to extract any information from Io. Outside, he was talking to three men guarding their hiding place, an wrecked building in an abandoned construction site.
"The kid won't break," Kurokaki said. "He doesn't care if he dies. We need find a new weak point."
"Just tear out his nails," one guy said.
Kurokaki punched the man. "Didn't you hear? He doesn't care if he dies!" he yelled at him.
Another man piped up, "Maybe you should torture someone he knows? His family or a friend. That should get him to spill."
Kurokaki thought about this. "The kid covers his tracks good. We can't find his IP address, other than the fact he lives in Binan."
"So, family's out," said the second man. "But he goes to Binan High, doesn't he? The brat's gotta have friends there. We can use them!"
Kurokaki smiled at the idea. "Not bad, Jin. Looks like you can think after all. C'mon. Let's catch us some buddies."
"All of us?" the third man said uncertainly. "What about the kid? Who's gonna watch him while we're gone?"
Kurokaki grabbed the first man by the back of his collar. "This dumbass will. Right, Kan?"
Kan, while nursing the bruise on his cheek given by Kurokaki, nodded reluctantly and was dropped onto the ground again.
Akoya and Ryuu interviewed Gora from the bathhouse, hoping to get some information as he works there full-time, but got nothing.
"ARGH!" Ryuu said, frustrated, as he and Akoya left the bathhouse. "This is freaking fruitless! How the Hell are we gonna find Io?!"
"This situation is so ugly and hopeless!" Akoya said, agreeing with Ryuu for once.
Ryuu looked at his Loveracelet. "If only these stupid things can be used to find him."
Suddenly, Akoya got an idea. "Zaou," he said, "that ugly wombat of yours- How good is it's sense of smell?"
"Well," Ryuu wondered aloud, "pretty good I guess."
"Then, we can use him!" Akoya said. "We can use him to track down Naruko-san."
Ryuu's expression brightened. "That's right! Wombat's always complaining that we humans have some kind of stink; we should make use of that!"
"I'm brilliant, am I not?" Akoya said proudly.
"No, you're not," Ryuu replied. "But for now, you are."
Akoya's expression dropped a little, and he told Ryuu, "Just hurry up and call that stinky marsupial!"
"Well, I can't call him," Ryuu said, "so we'll just have to go back to school to find him."
Annoyed, Akoya grabbed Ryuu's arm and got up. "Then, let's get back now!"
But before the two could start running, a metal baseball was swung at the back of their heads.
Akoya woke up first and found himself at the back of a car. On his left was Ryuu, who was unconscious, and on his right was a man with a scarred lip and a small dagger in his fist. The two boys were tied with rope so they couldn't escape.
Akoya groaned; his head was pounding. Then, he gasped- his beautiful hair was all messed up with gravel, dust and split ends. Ryuu was missing his headband and had a scratch on his cheek. Both their uniforms had a few rips.
"Wakey-wakey, Sleeping Beauty!"
Akoya looked up, and saw Kurokaki sneering at him from the passenger seat. Akoya bumped into Ryuu to wake him up.
"Who are you men?" Akoya demanded. "Are you Naruko-san's kidnappers?"
Kurokaki doesn't answer, and told the driver, "Yep. It's his buddies alright."
"They look more like his girlfriends!" the man beside Akoya said.
Ryuu growled. "If you've hurt Io in any way," he said threateningly, "I'll make sure you wish you were never born."
"Ooh, scary!" said the driver. "In fact, I'm so scared that I can't even drive properly! Whoopsie-daisy!"
The driver made a sharp turn to the right, causing the man sitting beside Akoya and Ryuu to lean onto them heavily, squashing them to the door. The men laughed rambunctiously.
"You ugly uncivilized gorillas!" Akoya roared. "You'll regret this!"
The reply Akoya received was a blade to his neck.
"Watch you mouth, princess," the man beside him threatened. "Keep yappin' and I'll mute you."
"Now now, Jin," said Kurokaki. "Do it in front of the brat."
Jin obeyed Kurokaki and lowered his dagger. From his pocket, Jin took out a small block of metal and began sharpening the blade.
Akoya looked over at Ryuu, who seemed raring to go beat everyone up. Akoya bumped into Ryuu again, telling him with a firm expression to hold it in until they find Io.
Io wondered where was everyone. Shortly after having his fingers bent backwards, Kurokaki left Io by himself. Had the man gotten fed up with him and went to switch with another person? Or will he bring back some power tools to torture him with? Io wasn't sure how much more can he take, but he wasn't going to give in.
But what if I die? he wondered. What would happen to my family? To the Battle Lovers? To... Ryuu?
Io had to find a way out. He has to get back to everyone- to Ryuu, especially.
But before he could formulate some kind of escape plan, the door flew open and in came Kurokaki, who was smiling like he won a lottery.
"Look who's back, kiddo," he said chirpily. "I even got you presents!"
He stepped aside, and two men (Jin and Kaba, apparently) threw in Akoya and Ryuu, both tied up and scratched up. They hit the concrete ground with a thud! on their sides. Ryuu was the first one to look up.
"Io!" he cried when he saw the state of his best friend. He turned around, about to get up and murder those men--
Ryuu was kicked back onto the ground by Kurokaki. He pressed a foot on Ryuu's spine, making the boy yelp.
"Ryuu! Gero-kun!" Io shrieked. "Let them go! They are unrelated to this!"
"Oh, but they are," said Kurokaki. He took his foot off Ryuu and approached Io, leaving the two boys to Jin and Kaba.
"How dare you...!" Io said angrily. "To stoop this low..."
"That's your fault," Kurokaki said, lifting Io's chin. Io could smell his horrible cigarette breath. "Maybe if you had played along and gave us the passwords, we wouldn't have to bring your buddies into this."
Io gritted his teeth, but knew the man was right. Because of him, Akoya and Ryuu are in trouble now.
"Fine," Io relented.
"Io, no!" Ryuu shouted.
"Don't do it!" Akoya shouted.
"Shuddup!" Kurokaki yelled at them. Jin and Kaba slammed the two boys' heads onto the floor.
"No!" Io cried. "Stop it!"
"After you list out the passwords," Kurokaki said. He took out a notepad.
"You guys..." Ryuu said angrily. "Leave Io alone!"
With a cry of anger, Ryuu stood up and tore the ropes off him. He was breathing heavily and his ears were literally spraying out steam.
Akoya sighed, and said, "Well, no use hiding it now."
He stretched his arms and the ropes slipped off over him like a snake coiled around a bar of soap.
"My uniform is made of the smoothest silk available in this world," said Akoya, as he dusted off his uniform. Then, he stroke his hair, upset by its condition. "And my hair was washed with the best shampoo and hair conditioner. Now, it's ruined."
Like a judge, Ryuu said, "For kidnapping Io..."
Akoya joined in. "For the suffering and pain you imposed upon Naruko-san..."
Together, Ryuu and Akoya told the men, "YOU SHALL REAP WHAT YOU SOWED!"
"Love Making!" Ryuu said, and kissed his Lovarecelet.
"Conquest!" Akoya said, and held his ring in front of his face.
In flashes of pink, Ryuu and Akoya transformed.
"The Thrilling Prince," Ryuu introduced himself, "Battle Lover Vesta!"
"The Pearl Chevalier, making all the flowers bloom," said Akoya elegantly, "Perlite!"
"No justice nor beauty comes from such a loveless and ugly crime!" they both said.
"In the name of Hestia," began Vesta--
"Persephone," Perlite continued--
"And Aphrodite," they finished together, posing like Sailor Mars, "WE WILL CHASTISE YOU!"
With that, the two magical warriors launched themselves at the dumbstruck men, staff and sword ready, to save and avenge Io.
The fight didn't even last two minutes. The men were easily knocked out and tied up. Io was freed and safe, the police were contacted and the men were arrested. Now, Shitto Okanemeka was being hunted down by the authorities for kidnapping and extortion. With Wombat's advanced science and technology, Io was healed and reunited with his family and friends happily.
"To be honest," Io said when he was alone with Ryuu and Akoya, "I was quite surprised to see the two of you working together."
Ryuu smiled shyly. "Look, if it's for you, Io, I don't mind working with that narcissist."
Akoya twirled his hair bashfully. "Likewise, but I don't think I'm the narcissistic on here."
For the first time ever, the three boys laughed happily, like friends.