A quickie between other errands. Sorry for any mistakes.
At first those were simple fights without any sense of guilt attached.
He reckoned it was because they were started by his opponents, whom he did not end up hurting that fatally anyway.
But things began to derail after he saw a classmate being bullied on the street and decided to help out.
People started to gather around Masaomi.
Friends of classmates brought their friends, adding to the number.
When people began to fight on his behalf, Masaomi's gang had established a reputation among the public schools. The delinquents in his school were the more subdued types, so clashes with other schools were not a usual occurrence.
That was why he was able to continue undeterred -
Slowly, slowly, the people swarmed around him.
The young Masaomi, of course, did not quite understand what all of this meant.
But upon his heart there lay a shadow of unease.
He had forgotten when that was, but as soon as his gang came to be referred to as the "Yellow Turbans" -
Masaomi stopped telling Mikado about it.
He continued to talk to him about the city, but he kept everything about his curious companions from his childhood pal.
During the day, he was a "Yellow Turban" like the rest of them.
He did not feel uncomfortable.
Rather, the control he had as a little leader of the area suited him.
It took him further and further away from his hometown and memories of the past, but he couldn't bring himself to mind.
New companions in the new city mattered too.
But deep down something felt just wrong.
If he boasted about this in front of Mikado, the only contact he had in his hometown, he felt like it would put an end to a definite something.
Should he choose to be the old him up until now? Or should he pick his brand new "Yellow Turban" self?
He was seriously bothered by this choice in his head as time went by.
His companions, whom he only came to know because of all the fighting.
His unpredictable companions, who might simply turn on their heels and leave if he made a little mistake.
He wanted someone.
Someone who approved of him.
Like Mikado did back in his hometown, that someone should be able to make him feel at home in Ikebukuro.
Just as his anxiety continued to grow - she appeared.
"That yellow cloth is so pretty."
She was referring to the "Yellow Turban" mark he had tied to his wrist.
The girls who had just appeared in front of Masaomi commented as they would the weather.
It was the kind of "girl chases guy" situation they talked about. Masaomi and his friends were doing nothing in front of the station when the group of girls about their age began to talk to them.
By then there were over thirty "Yellow Turbans" in his gang, and Masaomi was feeling almost comfortable living in the city.
As soon as their numbers grew, fighting began to feel troublesome for Masaomi. The Yellow Turbans had been trying to become a steady presence while avoiding unnecessary conflict with other gangs.
Masaomi tried to get a girl whenever he was alone, but his efforts usually ran aground. Even when they didn't, he would end up dating a girl for a while and breaking up with her. It had been his way with girls even before he came to Ikebukuro.
Mikado would probably say "But you're only in middle school!". However, Masaomi had dated girls since he was in elementary school and never hesitated to mock Mikado instead for his shyness.
That was why Masaomi's only thoughts at that moment were along the lines of "Wow, girls throwing themselves on me for a change! And such cute girls too. I'm in luck that I don't have a girlfriend right now."
"You're the 'Yellow Turbans', right?"
Masaomi's heart cooled after he heard one of the girls say.
- What the heck. So they are interested in the Yellow Turbans, not in me?
- But now that I think of it, we really made a name for ourselves if even well-behaved girls like these have heard of us.
As he ran such thoughts through his mind, Kida Masaomi opened his mouth, about to fully showcase his personality -
"You look even cooler than what I gathered from hearsay, Kida Masaomi-kun."
Masaomi froze and let out a sound.
How did she know his name?
The one who spoke to him was the girl standing in the middle of the group.
The girl had a boyish haircut whose color was fading in barely detectable places, and a smile sunnier than the other girls'.
Masaomi blinked at the girl whose apparent aura resembled his own and said:
"What? Why do you know my name? Esper? Esper Itou? If you try to read my heart without permission I'll simply pack you in my bag and take you home, you realize that?"
The cloud of doubt that arose when the girl said his name did not keep Masaomi's tone from being flirtatious as ever.
Just when the Yellow Turbans stumbled among themselves for the right reaction -
The girls giggled over what Masaomi had said, and the girl in the middle answered light-heartedly:
"Really, you kid too much, Kida-kun! But it was funny."
The girl shook her head softly after laughing.
"But unfortunately, the esper is not me. It's someone else."
"Huh...so who is it? Which one of you girls is the sibyl?"
Masaomi looked at the rest of the girls and asked with a tender expression on his face. Several of the girls had began to talk to other Yellow Turbans, so the only ones who still faced him was the short-haired girl and two others.
"So? Is it your ancestor's soul or guardian angel behind your back that allowed you to read a cool guy's name like mine? Whatever, be it an earth-bound ghoul or wandering ghost, he'd better be reincarnated into something damn good. How about......the baby you and I are gonna have?"
Even with her dyed hair, the girl still looked like she belonged in the "good" category. That was why Masaomi made the joke more lewd than necessary on purpose to see if they could actually talk.
"You're talking nonsense again. Don't tell me you've already come up with a name?"
"If you say so, I'll calculate the best number of strokes.* Tell me your name."
* The numbers of strokes in the parents' and the child's name are believed to be of Taoist significance and tied to a person's fortune.
The girl, who looked more talkative than the rest of her group, answered Masaomi's question in a natural manner.
"Mikajima Saki. 'Mi' (Three) followed by a lower-case 'Ka' and 'Jima' (Island), and the given name is short for 'Sarasoujuu' (sal tree)."
"Sarasoujuu*.....so I'll have to pick your name from the tree before it dissipates into nothing like a dream?"
* The sal tree is the Buddhist symbol of vicissitudes.
"Ah, you're cool. You even know sarasoujuu? I thought you'd ask what that is."
Seeing Saki's slightly surprised expression, Masaomi gleamed with all his might:
"Oh, if there's anything I don't know I'll just have to ask my guardian angel."
Was that completely unfunny? Just as Masaomi began to worry, Saki opened her mouth matter-of-factly.
"The one behind you is like an esper. He's a cool person, because he knows everything."
Before Masaomi could turn around after the girl's words -
A hand had landed softly on his shoulder.
Standing right there was a man he did not know.
"Hi, I don't think we've met. Um...Kida Masaomi-kun, right?"
The man spoke to him with what appeared to be a rather tender smile. However, it rekindled something in Masaomi's chest.
An inexplicable sense of unease.
Exactly like when people started to gather around him for the first time -
A curious feeling of a balance being tipped enshrouded him, which he wasn't quite able to put into words.
"......And you are, if I may ask?"
The obviously older man stretched out his right hand and smiled at Masaomi's surprised inquiry.
"Orihara Izaya. I'm what you'd call an informant."
"Nice to meet you."