(You got to be kidding! Why is Akagi crying?)
While the chorus of the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, ‘Ode to Joy’ echoed at the concert hall, Honoka was left dumbfounded as she saw the large tears trickle down Koremitsu’s face.
♢ ♢ ♢
As high school freshmen, December 24th, the 1st Christmas Eve, was the first Eve Honoka and Koremitsu spent as lovers.
—R-remember to spare some time for the 24th.
Of course, Honoka was left dumbfounded that Koremitsu, who neither dated a girl nor showed any interest to such events, would say that to her with a blushing face.
She never expected that he would ask for a date on the Eve itself, and was wondering herself how she was supposed to mention this so naturally, if Koremitsu would find it annoying to have a date on the Eve itself.
And with Koremitsu actually taking the lead, Honoka’s face, and even her ears, were left reddened. She answered.
What was more surprising however was that Koremitsu actually planned the route for their date.
It was a choice every girl yearned for, listening to the 9th Symphony, eating at a restarurant, watch the Christmas lights on the pretty, dolled up streets as they returned home.
And Koremitsu even told her to feel free to state whichever place she wished to go to, and there was no need to follow Koremitsu’s own plan.
—No, I think this is good too! Aren’t you forcing yourself, Akagi? Is this really fine? But speaking of which, how are you so certain about what a girl likes?
And while Honoka’s eyes dazzled, Koremitsu scowled, stammering,
—Well, I got a friend…who’s very clear on such stuff, very annoying in how he always tells me to do this and that. I’m not focusing myself here; it’s my first time inviting a girlfriend out for a date on the Eve itself, so I guess it’s refreshing…or rather, I want to try experiencing a normal date with you, Shikibu…well, such things aren’t so bad after all.
Koremitsu apparently was bashful as his voice got softer, and he even turned his head away.
Did he actually have a bosom friend where they could discuss date routes? Were they the male classmates who often greeted him? Skepticism arose in Honoka, but the words ‘I want to try experiencing a normal date with you, Shikibu’ was too overpowering that it caused her hear to flutter, with no room to question.
—I’m happy…thanks. Let’s have some memories on the Eve itself.
She said, feeling really touched.
♢ ♢ ♢
(But why is Akagi crying as he hears this symphony?)
The singing and the orchestra reached the climax, yet Koremitsu was grittinng his teeth, tear-eyed as his fingers sank into the armrest of the seat, the gushing tears dripping onto his knees.
(It doesn’t sound like he’s moved to tears from the music itself.)
Koremitsu had been looking out of sorts when they met at the train station, their meeting place.
His eyes were red, his eyelids looked to have bawled out.
Honoka worriedly asked what happened to those eyes, and Koremitsu abruptedly answered,
“I didn’t sleep well last night…got tense waiting for the Eve.”
But surely Koremitsu’s eyes were not lacking in blood and deprived of sleep, and more importantly, he looked so downhearted.
Koremitsu was never a sociable one, and looked fuming all the time; it was the first time she had witnessed him looking so feeble and lethargic. He might have claimed that nothing happened, but Honoka was able to tell that there was something going on.
Once they entered the hall and sat down side by side, Honoka kept observing him, still worried about him.
Perhaps he wanted to hide his tears through the darkness as the audience area got dimmer after the performance began, or perhaps he was riveted to tears by the joy as the tears kept gushing out of his anguished eyes
(You’re really being weird here, Akagi!! What happened!?)
The concert was still going on, and Honoka could not assk as she grabbed Koremitsu’s by his hand on the armrest.
The large, icy, hard hand quivered in Honoka’s palm.
Perhaps he was shocked that Honoka realized he was sobbing.
Honoka gently caressed his arm as she conveyed such words silently, and then, she held it firmly.
The sobbing eked from the throat, and Koremitsu lowered his head, wanting to hide his tears.
And his shoulders quivered as he let Honoka hold his hand, his voice suppressed as he sobbed away.
♢ ♢ ♢
Once the concert ended, Honoka and Koremitsu sneaked into the crowd headed for the exit.
Koremitsu continued to hang his head.
“S-sorry…I didn’t expect it to be like this…I just wanted a normal date with you, Shikibu, spending the Eve together…but I…I’m…really sorry.”
Koremitsu did his best to eke a hoarse voice as he apologized.
(Akagi always hated to apologize and stuff like that.)
While holding in her exploding emotions, Honoka grasped Koremitsu’s hand firmly, saying with a tender voice,
They were supposed to have dinner in a restaurant.
However, Koremitsu did not look prepared to enter the restaurant, for he did not have any appetite.
“Let’s have a little walk.”
Changing their plans, Honoka held Koremitsu by the hand as they strolled through the wide pathway flanked by trees, illuminated by lights.
The snow that fell the previous day melted due to the sun in the day.
The air was chilly, causing white breaths from anyone who breathed.
But Honoka did not find it chilly, perhaps because she was thoroughly worried about Koremitsu all over.
“Did something happen, Akagi?”
Honoka asked as they strolled.
Koremitsu did not speak up, and instead, he murmured.
“I won’t force you to say it out…but does it have anything to do with the call you gave Michiru yesterday…?”
The previous day, Honoka and Michiru went to a theme park together.
At the evening, Koremitsu gave Michiru a call,
And the latter teased Honoka, saying,
“Mr Akagi is cheating on you!”
After bidding farewell to Michiru, Honoka tried calling Koremitsu, but the latter never picked up his phone. She sent a message to inquire, and Koremitsu immediately sent one back.
“I’m not cheating on you. I’m looking forward to the date tomorrow. Don’t look forward to the date with your cheeks puffed.”
(What? I’m not doubting you here. I’m not that petty.)
Honoka felt miffed, yet at the same time, relieved.
But surely Koremitsu’s anguish must have somethijng to do that.
And perhaps Koremitsu was trying to encourage himself when he replied,
Koremitsu was speechless.
But that surely was his response.
“It’s fine. You don’t have to say so.”
With a tender voice, Honoka gently held Koremitsu’s hand.
Koremitsu suddenly stopped in his tracks, stammering.
“Seriously, stop apologizing so much.”
Honoka said cheerfully, and shook the hands that were clasped together. She then released her hand, and with both hands, cuddled Koremitsu’s lowered head.
His hair was as icy as the snow, so hard, with the stench of ink lingering.
“Hey, I’m really not angry at all. I just want to be with you since you’re so sad, Akagi.”
Back then, Honoka hid behind a building and witnessed Koremitsu holding Aoi by the hand as he wept, and Honoka herself had the urge to run over to him and comfort him, yet she could no. It was such a bitter, painful feeling that practically ripped her body in half.
Why was it that the hand Koremitsu held was not hers? She pondered about it, and felt anguish and despair.
At this point, Honoka was able to embrace Koremitsu and comfort him.
It was a little selfish, but she was extremely elated.
Surely, those words could never be said to Koremitsu himself.
That in the midst of this sadness and anguish, there was contentment for Honoka.
And no matter the suffering that befell Koremitsu, Honoka was able to take it all in.
“My friend…he went to a place far away…I won’t…be able to meet that guy again.”
“Your friend went to a faraway place?”
Koremitsu remained silent.
And Honoka exerted strength in her arms as she coddled Koremitsu’s head firmly, rubbing her face on his icy hair.
Honoka did not know who Koremitsu’s friend was, and where he went.
And she did not know the reason why they would never meet again.
She just wanted to console and protect Koremitsu, anguished about the departure of his bosom friend.
“I won’t be going anywhere. I’ll always be with you, Akagi, always being your Heliotrope.”
Honoka repeated over and over again.
The reindeer and Santa Claus lights above them continued to flicker silently.
And the passers-by by did not simply stop by to stare at them as Honoka contineud to embrace him.
Koremitsu continued to snivel as he handed Honoka her Christmas present.
And Honoka too presented her present to Koremitsu.
Honoka’s present was a muffler, and Koremitsu’s was a little silver 5-sided star pendant.
With gaudy hands, Koremitsu put the pendant on Honoka.
“It’s cute, thanks.”
He stared at her beaming face, and then stared at the dangling pendant intently, before tears of nostalgic seeped out of his eyes again.
And while Koremitsu continued to rub his tears off, Honoka wrapped the muffler around him.
Suddenly, something icy landed on her nose. It was snow.
The snowflakes were like feathers amidst the colorful lights, fluttering gently.
Koremitsu wordlessly embraced Honoka, and with an unrestrained, gasping voice, he said,
“It’s great…to have you around, Shikibu.”
Honoka too reached her arms to embrace him back, wanting to provide some warmth to this gruff, sturdy and icy body.
The white snow descended slowly.
For some reason, Honoka thought of the lyrics to the Ode of Joy, the people who obtained the irreplaceable friends and lovers.
And these fluttering snowflakes were practically Christmas gifts from the heavens.
With such thoughts and sweet anguish, she continued to quiver and embrace her wounded lover.