Midorikawa watches the girl before him as her bullets pierce through the Marmod's... eye with much more ease than the other candidates had. Finally someone who can kill it within 40 seconds. She did it in 9 seconds, to be precise. Not bad at all, given she's a girl.
"Nice," the boy behind Kitora congratulates her. Kitora frowns because the way he spoke sounded more like he was on the same level (or higher, but that isn't possible, so she pushes the thought away) as her than the admiring tone from a kouhai that she expected. So she lifts her chin and looks over the brown hair into the looks of envy the other trainees are giving her.
As much as she tries to ignore the boy, though, she finds herself turning away from the crowd to watch as he takes his turn.
Midorikawa doesn't mind the girl ignoring him. It's fine, he tells himself, because in a few seconds she will acknowledge him, too. Even if she doesn't, all the talented people will end up being promoted, and she will have to, eventually. Right now, though, he has to focus on leaving a good first (or second) impression. It suits him because he likes showing off, anyway, or so someone has once told him.
Marmods are easy, Midorikawa vaguely remembers an official agent saying. Well, he will prove that agent right, whoever that agent is. It did seem easy, after all. If a girl can do it in 9 seconds, then Midorikawa's aim is 4.5 seconds.
Kitora's mouth falls open despite herself. Fo— Four seconds!? Even from where she stood, with her back facing the majority of the other trainees, Kitora can feel their respect for her shifting over to the boy... What is his name?
That's what the murmurs are saying, anyway. There's no way Kitora will actually ask him for his name. Not when he's obviously younger than her (and, not to mention, horribly rude). She lifts her chin as the boy exits the arena and heads to where all the other trainees who have defeated the Marmods are.
She will do him a favour and remember his name, at the very least.
Midorikawa learnt her name over the past three days. He wonders, as he watched her prowling the woods, perfectly alert, if she would mind teaming up with him. While she may seem too proud for that, she has nothing to lose, anyway.
She has nothing to lose, anyway.
Well, that settles it.
Kitora flinches at the sudden call of her name and spins towards the source, asteroid ready.
It's that boy. Midori— what? Midori-something... Well! It isn't her fault his name is longer than hers. She continues to spread what little bullets she has at threatening angles and says, "You shouldn't announce your presence. This is Hide-and-Seek we're supposed to be playing... And I don't remember introducing myself."
"Oh, come on. Everyone knows who you are," the boy says. Kitora feels a glow of pride coming onto her cheeks and smiles modestly.
"I'm Midorikawa, by the way. I just wanted to ask if you want to team up," he says, his green eyes lighting up with excitement. Kitora wonders momentararily if he is crazy. "Then we can get more points and get to B-rank quickly."
Seeing as the boy would have managed to creep up on Kitora if he wanted to, Kitora eventually agrees. (He insisted.) But she also takes down his name in her mind — the straight A's on her report cards aren't just for show. This time, she'll remember:
Joint training is a breeze today, as expected. Teaming up with Kitora turned out to be a good idea, and they even made a deal: To team up at all the weekly trainings and take turns to get first and second. Midorikawa is still surprised that Kitora agreed. But, well, she had nothing to lose from it, anyway.
Midorikawa stretches his arms, yawning. Joint training is too easy, with Kitora helping him now, and it barely seemed to give any points at all. Maybe he should go for some rank battles? Would Kitora agree to fight him? Well... probably not. She doesn't seem to like fighting him, somehow.
It doesn't take too long for an A-rank squad to notice Kitora's talent. In fact, barely a month after enlistment day, she is called to Arashiyama Squad's Operation Room. Well, she can't say she's surprised.
"Kirie recommended you," Arashiyama-senpai confesses the moment Kitora sits down on the couch. Her pride deflates a little — she had hoped that she's outstanding enough to be noticed, but, apparently, she has been helped — not that she's ungrateful, but still...
Kitora forces a smile — good training for when she joins the PR squad, she convinces herself. "Konami-senpai did?"
"Ah, yes. We're cousins, you see." Oh... That's right, Konami-senpai may have mentioned it...
"So, uhmm... why me?" Kitora asks, not forgetting her humbleness. It doesn't get the reaction she was hoping for.
Arashiyama-senpai's face falls significantly. "Oh, do you not want to—"
"No, no, no," Kitora quickly stops him. Arashiyama-senpai's face immediately lights up again. "It's just that I'm sure there are better people than me. And your squad already has the maximum number of people. Of course, it has always been my dream to join a PR squad!" She can't help noticing that Arashiyama-senpai always waits, with a bright smile on his face, for her to finish.
He somehow manages to smile widely, even while speaking. "No, you're definitely the most suitable. Kyousuke doesn't really fit in our squad, because his name doesn't fulfil the 2 kanji family name, 1 kanji first name criteria. Yours does."
"But I'm not nearly good enough," Kitora gushes. "I mean Midorikawa—" she stops herself. Midorikawa... fulfils that criteria. He may have slipped Arashiyama-senpai's mind, but now... It seems Kitora's modesty may lose her her place in the PR squad...
Arashiyama-senpai laughs. "Midorikawa? Oh, he's already been taken. Besides, he doesn't have the professional aura you emit. He's too hyperactive — cute, but he can't take the last spot on our squad. Besides, Kirie recommended you. Don't worry about not being good enough. Kyousuke will train you."
Kitora feels the heat rising to her cheeks. Arashiyama-senpai said she has a professional aura. He thinks she's better than Midorikawa. Konami-senpai thinks she'll do well here. She can do it. She will do it.
Most importantly, the Karasuma-senpai will train her. She screams internally. How lucky can someone get?
Then, she remembers Midorikawa again. Whatever Arashiyama-senpai may have said, part of the reason she's chosen is because Midorikawa is already taken.
The moment she leaves the room, her face falls despite herself.
"Oh, Kitora!" Midorikawa greets, almost running into her. He has just come out of Kusakabe Squad's Operation Room and is even happier than before he had accepted Kusakabe-san's offer.
Kitora, on the other hand, seems unusually down.
She looks up at the sound of her name and fakes a smile. It doesn't fool Midorikawa. "What's up, Kitora? Did something happen?"
She laughs it off. "Of course not! Arashiyama-senpai has just invited me to his squad. I'm happy."
That makes sense, but Midorikawa still can't shake off the feeling. "Do you not like the squad members...?"
"No, no. They're all absolutely lovely. I don't know what you're talking about... And it's Kitora-senpai to you!"
Midorikawa pouts. "But Kitora is Kitora. We're friends."
Kitora scoffs. "Friends? Since when? We're allies, that's all. Don't think that just because I let you win in joint training sometimes, you can get all casual with me."
Kitora may be harsh, but Midorikawa knows it's all an act. He pouts. "You don't let me win! You take half my wins because I let you." That is a lie, but it doesn't matter because they both know it, anyway.
Or so he'd thought.
Kitora looks down feeling a sudden sting behind her eyes. She frowns. No, no, no. I will not cry. But it doesn't work. It never does. She'd think of an excuse and run off, but she really can't think of anything right now.
Midorikawa is right — he is better than her. Arashiyama-senpai had been kind not to say that, but she knows. She would get second place in all joint trainings, if it weren't for him. He killed the first marmod in less than half the time Kitora took. He's younger than her. And yet...
"... Kitora? Is something wrong?" Midorikawa asks for the third time. Kitora's tears threatened to spill as she notices that, as always, Midorikawa addresses her too casually — he doesn't even respect her. "You don't look well..."
"N-no... it's just... Did Arashiyama-senpai invite you to his team?"
She apparently caught Midorikawa by surprise. "Arashiyama-san? No. I'm joining Kusakabe-san's squad. Why would the PR squad want someone like me? KItora is obviously a better candidate."
... What? Obviously a better candidate? Who does he think he's kidding? "I'm not the best in our batch. I didn't score the best. I don't have enough Trion," Kitora reminds him. Somehow, her tears have disappeared. "You are, you did, you have."
"Maybe," Midorikawa agrees after some thought. "But Kitora has better than me at becoming an all-rounder — I tried shooting the other day and I missed everything, and there's no way you can't use a Scorpion — and the PR squad needs all-rounders. You would score better than me in hide-and-seek because I can't keep still — I only top joint trainings because of your backing-up. And about not having enough Trion... Doesn't that make an even more inspirational backstory for a PR member? I really don't know what you're talking about, Kitora; Arashiyama Squad definitely has a reason for wanting you."
Kitora blinks. Midorikawa can't shoot — PR Chief Netsuki insists that all PR Squad members must be able to shoot because it's cooler that way — and he can't keep still — that's important for a PR member who shows up on television. Why didn't Kitora notice? The part about having an inspirational backstory was definitely made up on the spot, but the rest... Konami-senpai's recommendation, Arashiyama-senpai's belief in her... Do the two of them also think so? Is she really better suited for this that Midorikawa is?
"That aside," Midorikawa says, relieved that Kitora has finally stopped looking as depressed as she did, back then, after she had tried to congratulate Futaba on finishing the Marmod in 11 seconds, after Kitora's own turn, "Kitora, you'll have to be able to fight with a sword, right? Let's go for a rank battle!"
He grins to himself as they walk to the C-rank battle booths together — he needs to win Kitora, just once, in an all-out fight for her to acknowledge him as an attacker. He can do it. He will do it.