After many trials, Koremitsu and Hikaru found that it was possible for Koremitsu to maintain a certain distance from Hikaru in spacious areas. They could only be distanced a maximum of three meters from one another. In cramped spaces like a porta potty, they would be forced together in proximity. If Koremitsu did not move, Hikaru would be unable to leave the space.
What kind of joke is this? Now we have to stick together just to use the toilet?
The occasional couple of friendly girls might have held hands before going into separate stalls, but sharing the same lavatory was downright awkward for two boys. Intensifying the issue for Koremitsu and Hikaru to share a washroom was the fact that, above all, they were mere acquaintances.
Koremitsu recalled the uncomfortable feeling of facing Hikaru and urinating, his face feeling like it seethed with fire as he blushed.
Nothing seemed more troublesome than Hikaru’s presence. Hikaru’s request needed to be fulfilled as soon as possible so he would ascend into Heaven.
The next morning, Koremitsu walked into school with this steadfast determination.
“This is my first time riding on a bus full of people.”
Hikaru poked out his head playfully from a gap in the mass of humanity aboard, the many passengers inside packed like a can of sardines. There seemed nothing more supernatural than the sight of his wispy face overlapping those of strangers in such a crowded setting.
He was not concerned about Koremitsu, who had been looking away from him deliberately. Hikaru went on muttering to himself once they each got off the tram and started for school.
Along the way, Hikaru turned to speak.
“I used to be a gardening rep, and we’re to bury seeds like Dahlia and Lemon Grass this May. What activity are you involved in, Koremitsu?”
Unaware of it, Hikaru had called him “Koremitsu” instead of “Mr Akagi.”
Koremitsu opened his mouth to chide Hikaru for being overly familiar with him, but Hikaru interjected.
“I said that because we are both ‘designated’ as friends from now on. It would be distant of me to call you Mr. Akagi at this point in time, right? You can call me Hikaru, too, Koremitsu.”
He continued instantaneously, making a segue away from any argument.
“So, what did you do? You joined a martial arts club, right? Was it boxing or kung fu?”
“I was a member of the Pet-Raising Committee in elementary school. At the time, I took care of turkeys and rabbits.”
Frowning, Hikaru gave a slightly subtle response.
“I see. So you liked animals.”
“Turkeys are delicious when baked.”
The words fell without any complement from Koremitsu.
“That red nose is really cute. Just like a Red Spider Lily.”
Hikaru did not seem to mind as he continued the conversation one-sidedly.
Was this carefree prince really aware that he had died?
Koremitsu held back from throwing a tantrum over him as they stepped through the elaborate school gate.
Heian Academy was a school with all educational facilities from an affiliated kindergarten to university. The middle school and high school had different gates, but were located in the same area of campus.
Koremitsu took his shoes from the locker and started changing into them.
Hikaru let out a sigh.
He read a school news report with a photo of when he was alive pinned to the notice board in the corridor.
There were pieces of colored paper stuck beside it, with words of grief handwritten over each.
“I loved you most.”
“I definitely won’t forget you.”
“Lord Hikaru, you were once our youth.”
Even now, there were still girls crowding at the board, their eyes bleating red as they wrote messages.
Among them, there was a girl who was crying as she read each of their sentiments. She covered her face in both hands, her good friend beside her in consolation, despite being teary-eyed just the same.
Koremitsu felt his entire body being tied down to the ground.
I say, even though you don’t have friends, aren’t a lot of people sad over your death here?
His body felt a slicing agony, and his chest was ablaze with heat.
He thought that Hikaru might shed a tear, but a gentle voice rang beside him instead.
“You are like a Daisy swaying in the spring breeze. Please, do not cry. Tears do not fit you.”
Hikaru unexpectedly approached the sobbing girl, reaching his hands to her back.
He slipped his arms around and embraced her as though she were a fragile item with what seemed to be remarkable experience (however skillful the display was, though, his disembodied arms entrenched within the girl’s body). He proceeded to speak softly into her ear.
“Do you know what the Daisy represents in the language of flowers? It means to be ‘cheerful’. Here, smile. Show me that cheerfully smiling face of yours.”
The scene left Koremitsu at a loss for words.
What, exactly, was going on?
Hikaru closed his eyes slowly and let out a certain sweetness from between his lips. A glowing radiance seemed to emit all around him as he let out a spine-meltingly enchanting voice.
Koremitsu stood by with a frozen expression as Hikaru again approached another girl, held onto her trembling, little hand, and passionately brought his lips to her ears.
“Over here, you who are like a Blue Cornflower, please pull yourself together. Cornflowers represent ‘happiness’ here. Are you not normally bubbly and radiating with hope?”
He floated around and appeared among the girls who wept, stroking their hair and clasping their hands.
“To you, who is like a Buttercup in the wild: You look cute when you smile. Ah, the one who is like a Snowdrop there, the same goes for you as well. If you cry like that, your beautiful eyes will melt away. Will you stop crying if I kiss you?”
He held the face full of large, rolling teardrops in both hands as he gently came nearer. At this point, Koremitsu could not contain himself.
“STOP IT RIGHT THERE, YOU BIG PERVERT!!”
Hikaru was taken aback as he turned to look at Koremitsu.
Koremitsu furiously stormed at Hikaru.
“What love messages are you spouting off!? Think of your own predicament here! This isn’t the time to talk about such squirmy things behind other people’s backs! Are you an idiot!?”
Hikaru wasn’t accepting of Koremitsu’s frustration as he rebuked.
“To me, I cannot imagine myself leaving a crying girl alone. If you see a wilting flower, will you not you feed it with water and fertilizer and take care of it with all your strength?”
“Like that has anything to do with me! I was a pet feeder! I wasn’t a gardening rep!”
“Then, if you see a wounded cat, you should cradle it gently and treat its wounds, right?”
“Of course not. Stray cats will just lick their own wounds.”
“There are some wounds that cannot be treated just by yourself…hey, Koremitsu, the others are looking at us here.”
The moment Hikaru pointed this out, Koremitsu felt paralyzed.
Of course, there was no way anyone else could hear Hikaru’s voice.
He looked around stiffly, realizing an empty space of some two meters in radius that came to form around him.
The girls ceased crying as they cringed at the sight of Koremitsu with horrified expressions. The moment their eyes met Koremitsu’s, their shoulders jerked, and they looked away.
Don’t I look like some dangerous guy who’d yell without warning in the corridor?
He had originally decided to act decently in school so that he would not be nicknamed anything embarrassing like ‘The Red Devil’ ever again. Would his plan be ruined now?
He strongly wanted to salvage the situation in some way, but stronger forces meant that he could only give off cold sweat. He was rendered speechless in the shock of the moment.
Slowly, his face was burning up.
This is bad. Is my face red now?
“I…I’m not talking to you guys—at all!”
He snarled with a flustered look on his face and hurriedly left the scene.
“Don’t worry, Koremitsu. Your reputation will not be shaken just by entering the school and yelling in the corridor all of a sudden. Besides, you’re the 27th king of delinquents, who single-handedly beat up an entire army of delinquents. There is no worse reputation than this, now, so please relax.”
What kind of consolation is that!?
He swore in his heart never to speak to Hikaru in front of anyone again.
Due to the shame and regret of his mishap, Koremitsu’s expression felt three times scarier than usual – his eyes ten times sharper. He reached the classroom, opened the back door, and found a petite girl standing before him, nearly passing out on the spot.
“Hah…good, good morning…Mr Akagi.”
A plain, bespectacled girl who wore her hair in a short braid, she was the class representative.
Koremitsu did not know her name, and the other classmates called her ‘rep’ just as well.
He remembered the first day he stepped into this school after being hospitalized.
“I heard that he’s the legendary delinquent…”
“Students from other schools came looking for trouble with him during Middle School, and there was a bloody incident…”
“He beat 10 people to near death.”
There were all sorts of outlandish rumors about him.
He was avoided by his classmates, who came to believe these rumors as they became increasingly worse with time, and she was eventually the only person who would talk to him.
“We-well…I’m the class representative…pl-please take care of me, Mr Akagi. If- if there’s anything you don’t know, you may ask me.”
Her face was markedly tense. She was so nervous her greeting could only be uttered in a sort of shrill.
“Thanks. Where’s the canteen?”
That was what he wanted to say, but just as Koremitsu was about to answer back, the class representative hastily spoke.
“Th-the-then, in that case, I’ll take my leave.”
She seized the opportunity and darted back to her seat like a rabbit desperately fleeing ravenous wolves.
Koremitsu watched as she kept her hands clasped together; shuddering at her desk, obviously praying that he would not try speaking with her. If he actually got to ask where the cafeteria was back then, she would probably have screamed and hid herself under the table.
Even though it ended up this way, she still fulfilled her responsibility as a class rep, and whenever her eyes met Koremitsu, she would characteristically tell him “Good- good morning.” Or “Good- goodbye.”
Normally, she would walk away immediately after saying her piece, but she remained this time where she was, tentatively asking him a question.
“Mr Akagi…you attended Lord Hikaru’s funeral yesterday, didn’t you– are you familiar with him?”
It seemed that she, too, was present at the time.
He wanted to answer that they were not really on close terms, but beside him, Hikaru nagged, saying that they were designated as friends.
“We are close friends now, Koremitsu.”
Since when are we close friends!?
There has to be a limit to your shameless attitude!
Just when he was about to yell out, he recovered, gritting his teeth with a frown.
That was a close call. I nearly scared everyone again.
The next moment, however, the class rep was jumping like a hare.
“So-sor-sorry for asking you in such an interrogative manner. It’s fine, you don’t have to answer here!”
Her face turned red and she ran off.
He looked angry when he gritted his teeth and frowned, so it came as no wonder that she was terrified. She returned to her own seat, her short braid trembling with prayer as before.
“A girl like her, who gets shy very easily, is really as cute as a plum blossom changing colors.”
Hikaru spoke in a relaxed tone.
No, that’s not being shy. She… looks terrified, no matter how I see it.
Koremitsu wondered that if he were to think about things enthusiastically like Hikaru, he would probably die with a smile on his face, too. He felt envy towards Hikaru for this, but did not want to allow these feelings to get the best of him as he went to put his bag onto his desk.
Koremitsu’s seat was closest to the corridor, on the last row.
He glanced at the seat opposite the narrow aisle. The girl seated there did not look cheery this morning as she pouted and frowned, handling her cellphone.
She composed messages by sliding her fingers rapidly across the screen.
She was always using her phone, whether it was before school or during a break.
Her bright, tea-colored hair went down her slender shoulders, covering the temples and nestling upon her ears. Koremitsu noticed her fingers did not stop. Her eyes carried a certain ferocity as they glared more intensely than before, and she seemed engrossed in the messaging as she stared at the screen of her phone.
She completely ignored the savage delinquent beside her.
It was one thing for Koremitsu to be troubled by everyone’s fear of him, but it was something worse that she paid him virtually no mind at all. She did not even make a glance at him, let alone greet him. One might wonder what her problem was.
The girl sat beside a frustrated Koremitsu, still minding her own business as if nothing was amiss. She had a strong will in her heart to match her utter fearlessness.
No, I guess she is also mistaken to have a violent personality because she was born with fierce-looking eyes and left alone because of it. This is why she’s been using her phone to pass the time. She’s probably someone very lonely.
This line of reasoning brought the flame in his stomach to quell.
But to Hikaru, hovering beside him, it seemed that no matter how strange the girl’s carelessness about anything around her was – no matter how she ignored Koremitsu’s presence – they were both points of attractiveness.
“A girl that’s thoroughly focused on doing something is just like a crimson Hibiscus. Is she sending a message to her boyfriend?”
Hikaru tried to peep on the contents of the phone.
“Hey, stop it.”
Koremitsu warned him softly.
The moment he said that, the girl beside him stopped her fingers from typing at the keys, and turned to glare at Koremitsu.
Her eyes were giving off a sharp glint, like a feline unwilling to be approached
He wanted to explain that he was not talking to her, but he did not say so.
He decided to glare at her, something he regretted doing.
A male classmate yapped loudly as he sprinted off to the classroom door.
“Oi! The Delinquent King suddenly went crazy at the shoe lockers! It seemed that he yelled at the sobbing girls leaving their messages at Lord Hikaru’s notice board, ‘WHAT ARE YOU CRYING ABOUT, YOU BUNCH OF LEWD FEMALE DOGS! I CAN LICK YOU ALL UP IF YOU REALLY WANT HIM THAT MUCH!’ That’s really barbaric, satanic—ack!”
He probably let out the ‘ack!’ at the end was because he sensed the murderous desire radiating from Koremitsu’s body.
At that moment, he became soaked in cold sweat, at a loss of what to do.
“No…er-erm…‘The Delinquent King’ doesn’t refer to our ‘Master Delinquent’ in this class…th-they’re from another class…well, erm, about that…I’M REALLY SORRY!”
The boy knelt down on the podium to beg for forgiveness, and his onlooking classmates had the color leave their faces.
I’m the Delinquent King no matter what now? What are you apologizing for, you idiotic bastard!?
As Koremitsu’s heart sank into despair, the culprit Hikaru spoke with amazement as he gave a look of lamentation.
“Wow, this is the first time I have seen someone kneel for forgiveness. It sure has an unforgettable impact on me. I rwill definitely do this to a girl next time.”
While the commotion continued, the girl sitting next to Koremitsu kept to her frown as went on messaging.
♢ ♢ ♢
The freshman, red-haired delinquent had forced his classmate to kneel down and ‘apologize’.
Once that classmate apologized, he was unable to even walk properly, had difficulty talking, and retired for the day.
This rumor quickly circulated around school.
After class, a depressed Koremitsu arched his back as he sauntered down the 3rd level corridor.
The students who brushed by him kept their distance, avoiding him like a plague.
“Cheer up! There is nothing that can shake your legend as the strongest now.”
It still can’t be considered consolation at all!
My already-poor reputation just took a turn for the worse. Whose fault do you think it is here!?
This carefree bastard here’s already dead, and yet he’s still trying to hook himself up to girls without any restraint.
“…Don’t you realize that you have a responsibility here?”
He clenched his fists as he muttered the question.
“Eh, because of me? But Koremitsu, I still feel that when I see a crying girl, I should comfort her with my best effort.”
Hikaru spoke almost like he was narrating his beliefs.
“Well, once my wish is granted, I will go to Heaven peacefully. I will cause you a lot of troubles before then, but please endure for now.”
Hikaru’s voice carried an admiring tone, and it was hard to begrudge him any further.
He looked like an easygoing prince, but he was unexpectedly clever.
I know this and still hang out with him.
Koremitsu turned to look at Hikaru and question him.
“Let me ask you again. That girl’s definitely in the arts club, right?”
The moment those words were said, Hikaru’s eyes grew tender and that amorous drive of his kicked into gear.
“Yes. She would always be painting in the arts room after school. She is like a princess from the Heian era. Her silky black hair is dazzling. She is delicate, pure, extremely refined as a lady, and a very cute girl.”
Even if you talk about your own lover like that, I can’t feel anything at all.
This was a reference to the princesses of the Heian Era, such as those mentioned in the textbook who wore Ceremonial Dresses. The raiment was often tight and the wearer’s body would bulge. Furthermore, the girl’s long hair would be troublesome to wash, and it seems disgusting to have many fleas and lice inside.
What exactly am I thinking of here?
“But she’s your girlfriend, and you are on good terms to the point that you were planning to celebrate her birthday together, right? It was your funeral yesterday. Won’t it be hard for her to attend club activities after such great loss?”
Perhaps she was resting at home, unable to attend school.
“Ahh, yes, you do not have to worry about this. Aoi will definitely be in the arts room like usual.”
Hikaru’s voice sounded vague all of a sudden as he looked away subtly.
Koremitsu betrayed his concern about this aloud.
Well, it’s fine, I suppose. If she’s here, I can hurry up and settle this quickly.
He did not delve his thoughts into the matter any further as he arrived in front of the arts room. He then proceeded to open the door.
Wah! They’re all girls!
The aroma of perfume fluttered in the wide classroom. Bright sunbeams shone in through the wide windows, and there were tables, chairs, plaster statues, canvas littered all over.
There were probably eight girls inside.
They were doing their own designs, coloring, reading magazines that were left aside and doing manicures for each other as they chatted away.
To Koremitsu, all the girls looked the same to him.
At the same time, the girls on the opposite side were stunned by the arrival of the legendary red-haired delinquent who had suddenly barged in.
The classroom immediately descended into silence.
Their frozen expressions and terrified eyes signified a strong fear and helplessness. One of the girls doing a manicure was holding a cover in one hand and glass bottle in the other as she shuddered to Koremitsu’s glance.
“Ah…is someone called Aoi Saotome in?”
He felt a pain near his stomach, probably due to nervousness, and his expression was more stricken than usual. His wolf-like, sharp eyes were something he was born with, and he could not change it.
The club members were all afraid as they retreated to the window.
At this moment, there was a girl exuding certain pride who continued to paint alone.
Her locks were long enough to reach her waist, and had a pretty white butterfly ribbon tied on. She was a little shorter than average, and she looked thinner than average, too.
Huh? Where have I seen this person before…?
As he tried to recall the girl’s identity, she stood up and gave a menacing expression as she walked toward Koremitsu.
Her limbs were extremely thin, and her face was so small Koremitsu could cover it with his hands.
Her long hair without frills swayed sweetly to the girl’s stride. Long eyelashes were like a framed border to her eyes, which were so large they looked like they were about to drop, and she shot a belligerent look at Koremitsu.
The moment he saw her stern expression, he realized it.
I see! She’s the one who caused the commotion at Hikaru’s funeral!
“YOU ARE REALLY AN IDIOT FOR DROWNING IN A RIVER LIKE THAT! THAT IS SO EMBARRASSING! I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE STABBED TO DEATH BY A WOMAN! IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO MUCH OF A PLAYBOY THAT KARMA STRUCK BACK!”
There was no doubt that she was that girl.
This voice rang inside his ears again.
Oh damn. Is she the one you can’t let go of in your heart!?
That girl, Aoi Saotome, walked towards Koremitsu and stopped in front of him.
Koremitsu intended to explain things first, but she interposed first.
A voice fraught with disgust filled the room, denying him.
I haven’t even said anything here!
Aoi again emphasized with a forceful tone.
“I refuse. I refuse anything you say! I do not like men, and I do not want to say anything to you here!”
After that, she bit her delicate lips and turned her back.
What in the world is with this woman?
At this point, Koremitsu was speechless instead of being infuriated. There was no way out; he could not back away from here even if it was for the sake of his life .
“Wait! Actually it’s about Mika- Hikaru…”
He wanted her attention, but unexpectedly, the flowing black hair flourished as she swung away.
“I-I-I-I-I- I really hate everything about that person! I felt… tainted the moment I heard his name!”
She seemed ready to kill with her eyes as she growled, slamming the classroom door right in front of a completely disconcerted Koremitsu.
Koremitsu was shut out, quietly whispering to Hikaru.
“What’s going on…aren’t you two dating or something?”
Hikaru, floating behind Koremitsu the entire time, gave a bitter smile.
“Instead of saying that we’re dating, I would say that…we’re betrothed.”
This might happen in the Heian Era, but High School students are being betrothed in the modern day – the Heisei Japanese Era!? Well, I suppose that’s normal among the rich.
Koremitsu looked again at Hikaru, who responded with a cool expression.
“Miss Aoi had always been upset with me, saying things like ‘You are a useless harem prince’, and ‘You are a guy in love who switches partners every day.’ Well, I do not have any male friends, so I had been playing with girls since I was young. I would not refuse any request that came my way, and I would happily accept gifts if a girl had any good intentions. Whenever I see a pretty lady, I think it would be impolite of me if I do not try to strike up a conversation with her; and when I see a cute girl, I’ll definitely go to her and tell her that she’s cute. I can not sleep when I’m alone as I’m scared of loneliness, and I can only relax when someone accompanies me. Right! Women are like flowers, and I think it is a man’s responsibility to blossom their beauty! This is something that surpasses the exalted Law of Nature, something equivalent to the principles of religion– uh, huh? Koremitsu? Why are you holding your head? It looks like the veins are popping from your temples. Are you listening to me? In other words, my passionate love for the existence known as female is like my passionate affection for flowers—”
That’s enough. Don’t continue any further! Don’t talk about exalting or surpassing with such a serious look!
Koremitsu yelled in his heart, only more convinced that this person was really a playboy.
He probably tried to sweet-talk girls to gain their affections before, just like how he did so this morning. If his fiancée had witnessed it, she would definitely have called him out for cheating on her. There were only women at his funeral, so it was to be expected that she would give him an ear lashing.
To think that he could call her his ‘girlfriend’ unabashedly.
“…Can we end this partnership, Mikado?”
Stunned, Hikaru answered in turn.
At this point, Koremitsu could only think of breaking away from Hikaru and returning home.
Koremitsu was fooled by Hikaru’s claims of having no friends at all. He, who could only eat alone at lunch, was different from Hikaru, who definitely had companionship to enjoy. Hikaru would be surrounded by girls, some of them even waiting to serve him their hand-made lunches.
There was no reason for Koremitsu to help this Casanova.
But if he did not help Hikaru move into the afterlife, Hikaru would be watching him whenever he went to the toilet, and when he might be bathing, sleeping or doing anything at all.
Koremitsu could not take this shameful play if it kept going. He was already viewed as a delinquent and avoided at all costs by fellow students, so he would be unable to take it if someone called him a possessed man who often spoke into the air.
As expected, he had to fulfill Hikaru’s wish as soon as possible.
Tch, never mind!
Koremitsu endured the unhappiness in his heart as he opened the arts room door again.
“Aoi Saotome. I—understand your feelings very well! Your fiancé Hikaru continued to fool around with other girls, and he’s the worst worthless harem bastard, but-”
Aoi came over and slammed the door shut again.
Koremitsu was not dejected, however, opening the door for another go.
“But—Mi, Hikaru always had a thought for you in his heart, and he let me, as a f-fr-fri-friend—“
The door was shut again.
The next moment he opened the door,
“Finish off what still needs to be done!”
Again, he tried. However, this time, there was a click from the other side of the door as it locked.
Damn it. The door’s locked from within.
“No! I still have a duty to pass on Hikaru’s words to you!”
Koremitsu yelled to the other side, hitting the barrier between them.
“I’ll reject any religious advice here.”
It elicited harsh reception from the halls.
“LISTEN UP, AOI SAOTOME!”
The moment he yelled, the door opened…
Colored water was thrown onto him.
“I do not want to hear anything about you or Hikaru. I do not want to listen to anything involving men – especially anything that involves Hikaru! If I had to choose between hearing about Hikaru and a slug soup, I would rather have the latter!”
Hikaru, who was beside them, clutched at his chest after taking this searing hit.
The door was slammed shut and locked again.
Koremitsu was dripping with dirty water from head to toe.
Are you kidding me…?
Flabbergasted, it took a moment for the full weight of everything to occur to him.
“That’s why I say women–!”
♢ ♢ ♢
Miss Aoi is a pure princess.
Hikaru had been shielding his fiancée.
As her name suggests, impure things cannot approach a pure white Hollyhock.
Once he reached home, Koremitsu dipped himself in the bathtub, his eyes fixed upon the ceiling.
He was not in a stupor or anything of the like. He stared at the ceiling because Hikaru, still dressed in school uniform, was floating up there, surrounded by steam.
“Hollyhocks are flowers that bloom in midsummer. When there is enough ventilation and sunlight, the green stems will grow straight and produce creamy pink flowers. They are cute, but I find that white flowers suit Miss Aoi much better; they were ostensibly brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusades. A flower that blooms in the Holy Land is perfect for Miss Aoi.”
He continued to prattle on, and it was impossible to tell if he was either defending Aoi or promoting himself as a gardening representative.
Why is it that I have to listen to a guy’s speech when bathing…?
“I do not want to listen to anything involving men – especially anything that involves Hikaru!”
Koremitsu grew depressed thinking about the fiery angst in Aoi’s voice as she yelled. He was dealing with a princess who showed her disgust and opposition right from the get-go.
Hikaru’s wish seemed like it could never be fulfilled.
Will I end up as some delinquent haunted by a ghost for the rest of my life?
He felt that he should not have gone to the funeral.
If he could talk to his past self, Koremitsu would advise turning home from the funeral, lest he suffer more than he already was.
Besides, wouldn’t it be that I’m not the one? Won’t it be better for him to possess someone else?
It would be preferable if Hikaru chose a friendly and disciplined student. As Koremitsu saw things, Aoi would not have been so wary of this other person, and would have accepted the gifts without any hassle.
There would be a stark contrast made from the fierce-looking delinquent known as ‘The Wild Beast’s Roar’ trying to approach her.
“I can only ask you for this favor, Mr Akagi.”
“I do not have any real friends…”
He recalled the look Hikaru gave him in that earnest plea, and an inexplicable sense of responsibility came over him. A faint ache reached his heart.
“This is very important, a very important promise.”
Well, you said it there. Ugh – can’t you stick onto someone else? Do I really have to do this? Guh…
He leaned his face against the bathtub, muttering. Hikaru, who had finally closed on his Hollyhocks talk, spoke to him with a meek expression.
“Koremitsu, I just realized something.”
Don’t tell me you have a brilliant plan to win over Aoi’s heart, even as she’s starting to hate men more and more by the day?
Koremitsu looked up with anticipation, but what he saw was Hikaru dressed in a purple tuxedo as if he was in the Takarazuka Revue.
Koremitsu fell backwards at the sight, Hikaru following through with pride.
“I can change my clothes using my imagination. See, this is good too, right? This one is also great.”
He proceeded to swap clothes, switching between tennis clothes, jockey attire, casual outdoor clothing, clothes befitting of a bespectacled elite salary man, and so on.
Hikaru made no reservations with his experimenting.
“Hey, this suits me most, right? I always wanted to try this out at least once.”
He even ended up in full Japanese Court Dress regalia.
“Hey, which do you think is the nicest one? It is this one, right? Ah, I really want to take a photo, but I guess I will not be shown. I cannot see myself on the mirror, which is really inconvenient. I cannot even see my own face.”
Hikaru sighed with regret.
Koremitsu really wanted to splash water on him, but held back knowing the water would just pass through.
Instead, he buried his head and shrugged his shoulders to show his frustration, bitterly speaking to Hikaru.
“You… bastard… whose sake do you think I’m suffering for!? Don’t do some fashion show so carefreely over there!”
Hikaru realized that he was in the wrong and felt ashamed of it.
He swooped down in front of Koremitsu, closed his shoulders, and got into Seiza position again (even so, his knees did not touch the floor at all).
“Well, yes, I am reflecting on it. I was too excited before…and I have been troubled over having to rely on you all this time, Koremitsu. I tried everything I could to help – supernatural things like using telekinesis to move objects and possess animals, or to possess your body and talk to Miss Aoi directly.”
“Whoa, don’t enter my body now. I’ll get goosebumps.”
“Don’t worry, I did not succeed.”
“Is that so?”
Koremitsu heaved a sigh of relief.
“In that end, I could only change my clothing.”
That isn’t useful at all, you know.
“By the way, how should we move forward? Your fiancée finds your name impure because you’d been fooling around with girls back when you were still alive, and she’s rejecting us.”
“Hm, Miss Aoi is a serious person, but this is a cute point about her. It looks like we can only open her heart slowly until she’s willing to listen to us.”
“Uwa-! You want me to open her heart!? Why is it that I have to try getting into a woman’s favor? And you’re calling her cute? Are you out of your mind!?”
“Please do it! You’re the only one who can hear my voice, Koremitsu. If you’re able to beat an army of delinquents, you’ll definitely be able to open Miss Aoi’s heart.”
“I said before that this has got nothing to do with delinquents! Don’t look at me so expectantly! Besides, I couldn’t get along with women, kids and animals at all ever since childhood. My standing around alone and breathing is enough for those guys to hate me.”
“Leaving aside women and children, what about the animals? Didn’t you say that you were in charge of taking care of them when you were young?
The Heian Era-styled Hikaru held onto a fan and covered his mouth, and the crown with long cloth attached tilted sidelong with his head.
“Erm- yeah…I took care of the turkeys and the rabbits in elementary school, but they never approached me during the 6 years I dutifully fed them and cleaned their huts. Whenever I stepped into that rabbit hut, they would panic and run into a corner to hide, leaning on each other and trembling. The turkeys would also cringe whenever I looked in…”
Koremitsu recalled his past with gloom written on his face, Hikaru’s face showed a forced smile in return.
“Is- is that so?”
He changed the defeated tone in his voice to recover himself.
“But that’s still amazing! You still took care of them even though they were afraid! Not just anyone can do that. You’re like a modern-day Buddha to be able to put in all your effort despite the stereotypes thrown onto you!”
“I can’t bring myself to be happy with that kind of follow-up.”
“That’s why, when dealing with Miss Aoi, please use that compassionate attitude to fight again. It’s alright, Miss Aoi is very elegant. No matter how much she hates you, she won’t kick at you. The bucket’s too heavy, so she can’t use that to splash water on you; she had to use palette before instead.”
He continued with what could not even amount to an argument.
“Speaking of which, aren’t you a harem king beloved by everyone here? You’re an expert at luring in girls and understanding their hearts anyway. Don’t you have any useful suggestion here?”
“What expert do you mean? I’m not a host. Also, my methods may be too tough for you.”
Hikaru stared at Koremitsu, seeming to have a difficulty articulating what he meant by that.
“Never mind. Let’s try it.”
Despite offering, Hikaru was not enthusiastic.
“Anyway, try smiling.”
“What I mean is that you show the ‘I have an interest in you, too’ look. Try smiling like me.”
Hikaru gave a smile as gentle as the breeze.
It was a really cheerful smile – dazzling. That emotive feel the corners of his eyes seemed to display not to be forgotten.
“Woah…I think my heart just fluttered!”
Despite the other person being a guy.
“If that can’t work, try closing your eyes softly and saying ‘I don’t feel like going home today’ with a lonely look.”
Hikaru closed his eyes.
Effortlessly, he transitioned into a tragic expression. A fuzzy feeling that would encourage anyone to protect him wholeheartedly washed over Koremitsu.
“Woah…now I’m really captivated by that.”
This guy’s really amazing! As expected of the harem prince! No wonder everyone at his funeral were girls!
He thought these words to himself; words that would devastate Hikaru if said aloud.
“Alright, let me try this.”
Koremitsu rose from the tub optimistically, facing the mirror with a ‘smile.’
“Eh? What is it? Koremitsu?”
“Well, I can’t move my face muscles.”
HgCnI V01 081.jpg
How could this happen? He had gone long days without smiling at all in the past, and through this time, his facial muscles grew weak.
No. Thinking about it, Koremitsu realized that his baby and kindergarten entrance photos all showed him giving hideous looks, his eyes glaring like they were about to attack the camera.
Is that so? So I’m not good at smiling, huh?
But it was not in his nature to retreat before the battle began. He forcefully lifted the ends of his lips and tried flashing a ‘smile’.
The mirror reflected the devastating sight of a savage-looking boy, his facial muscles twitching. If a few blood stains were added onto the face, it was likely that any girl would faint upon seeing it.
Even Koremitsu was horrified by the look of that menacing person in the mirror. It was chilling even in spite of the fact that he was his own bathroom.
“Ugh – not giving up yet!”
He flared his nostrils and gritted his teeth to try again, but the harder he tried the more he could only see his reflection becoming increasingly horrendous.
“We– well, Koremitsu, you shouldn’t force yourself there.”
Koremitsu turned to Hikaru, his hands still pulling his face.
“Ah–a-a-and then, I think it’s better for you to have a serious expression than a smile given your personality, Koremitsu. You see, you’re really manly, unlike this tender me!”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah! I think you’re really suited to act in those cold-blooded acting roles or those V-cinema films! Men really admire that stuff.”
Hikaru tried his best to enliven the mood.
“Yeah. I guess it’s true that it’s unmanly to start smiling foolishly when there’s nothing funny.”
Koremitsu pulled himself through.
“Then, I’ll try to look bitter and lonely…”
He tried to show the “I don’t want to go home tonight” expression.
He closed his eyes and lowered his shoulders.
However, as he glanced up and eyed himself in the mirror, he found that there was a man looking back at him with black aura and vengeful attitude.
Instead of a “I don’t want to go home tonight” vibe, he was giving off a “Let’s start the hell’s banquet tonight” kind of vibe.
Koremitsu was dejected in front of the mirror.
“Actually, you look best when you’re naturally Koremitsu! I think you already have enough charm yourself!”
“I don’t need you to comfort me!”
Koremitsu lifted his head of red hair and shouted angrily.
“It’s impossible for someone like me to open a girl’s heart when no nearby female dog, cat, ferret or hamster will even approach me! I’ll be haunted by a perverted prince in costume floating over my head even when I bathe!”
“Don’t be like this! Don’t give up on yourself like that! If you’re unhappy about me wearing clothes, I’ll take them off. You see?”
Before he finished his words, the Heian-era noble clothes immediately vanished. Hikaru appeared nude as he floated about the rising steam.
Suddenly, this naked male had appeared before Koremitsu’s eyes.
He reeled back in shock, and this momentum caused his head to slam into the wall. He then slipped in all his confusion, landing with his body sprawled and facing up.
The glass door of the bathroom slid open, and there was Koharu, dressed in a flimsy pinafore, standing with her sleeves rolled up as she growled.
“Koremitsu! What are you doing alone in here!?”
Koremitsu apologized, and at the same time, felt it was a good thing that Koharu could not see Hikaru.
That was because a stark naked Hikaru was floating in front of her, his mouth still showing no signs of stopping.
“Your older sister is either the Trifoliate Orange-type or the Mandrake-type. She’s really amazing.”
“Idiot, she’s not my older sister. She’s my aunt, divorced once, and is a 36-year-old hag.”
Koremitsu slipped out these words reflexively. Koharu returned them with a beating.
♢ ♢ ♢
The next morning, Koremitsu found his bento placed on the chabudai.
He thought that it was to make up for the excessive beating from the previous day, and brought it to school. When he opened the lunch box during break, he found that it was filled with red bean paste.
“She wants a fight with me!? That 36 year old!?’
“Amaazing…it’s really red bean paste. That doesn’t seem appetizing at all.”
Hikaru muttered as he floated above. He was dressed in the white suit and black pants of the school uniform.
Koremitsu stuffed the bento box back into his bag and walked out of the classroom.
“Where are you going?”
“To the snack shop. I can’t possibly have red bean paste for lunch.”
He headed off to the snack shop located at the end of the second level.
However, he arrived a little too late as there remained only a slice of yakisoba bread, a piece of jam bread, a chocolate roll and a slice of sugar toast available.
Koremitsu did not like to eat sweet things. To him, the bread with jam and chocolate roll were evil.
Thus, he could only choose the yakisoba bread.
Well, I guess it’s good that there’s still yakisoba bread left, rather than having nothing to eat…
With a gloomy look on his face, he reached his hand forward.
Simultaneously, another hand reached in from the other side, also grabbing the yakisoba bread.
This is bad. My lunch is doomed if I can’t buy this.
Koremitsu immediately looked in their direction with his trademark glare.
In the face of his savage expression and hideous stare, any ordinary person would have crumbled on the spot. A devilish aura seemed to glow behind his slightly arched back.
However, the other person grabbing the yakisoba bread was someone Koremitsu knew.
The fierce-looking girl beside me in class!
This person next to him shared a shocked expression with Koremitsu. However, it quickly changed into an antagonistic stare.
She raised her eyebrows, her eyes burning like flames as she glared back at Koremitsu.
It was unbelievable to think that in the face of this person known to others as ‘The Hellhound,’ there was a girl who still kept her fighting will.
However, he would definitely not hand over the yakisoba bread to her.
The two of them were like wild animals that had just met their natural enemies, as each of their expressions, tense lips and quaking brows were trying to scare the other off.
“~~Uu (Hey, let go of it. That’s my prey.)”
“Uuu~ (No way. I touched it first!)”
Neither would back down as they argued intensely.
In the midst of the silence now between them, sparks flew.
What should I do?
In terms of strength, he definitely would not lose to a girl.
However, if he were to pull the bread by brute force alone, he may end up ripping the plastic packaging, and the bread may end up dropping onto the floor. If he tried pulling with a firmer grip, he would end up pinching the bread.
Got to think of a plan here…!
“Koremitsu, you’re dealing with a girl here. Just give her the bread! Ladies first!”
Behind him, Hikaru spoke in amazement.
“No way! Even though she’s a woman, I won’t hand over my lunch to her!”
He let these words slip and showed an opening in his regret for saying them. The fiendish girl proceeded to kick Koremitsu in the knee.
It was a brilliant kick, one encompassing the perfect harmony of speed, timing and power perfectly.
Koremitsu lost his footing, and the bread slipped from his hand.
The enemy took the bread mercilessly.
Koremitsu looked over and found that she had already paid for and kept the yakisoba bread for herself.
She took the bread, turned around leisurely, and looked over at the enraged Koremitsu.
Her glossy, light beige hair swayed.
“It’s your fault for taking me lightly as a girl.”
She spoke with an icy tone, seemingly mocking him, and took the yakisoba bread and a cup of latte coffee before promptly leaving.
Koremitsu watched her long, slender legs in a short skirt disappear gradually from his field of vision.
“Ugh, why is she so violent!? I let her get what she wanted.”
“Yeah, those are nice looking legs.”
Nothing was left on the counter for Koremitsu’s lunch.
“Why is the other stuff sold out already!?”
He yelled as he rattled the empty cases, frightening the bread shop lady.
“Damn it – that girl… I hope she becomes afflicted with a cellphone-reliant disease and sends so many messages that she develops tenosynovitis until her fingers drop off.”
Koremitsu, who was on the rooftop meant to be prohibited, ate his lunch of red bean paste, milk, vegetable juice, sports drink and vitamin water as he continued to lament away regarding the injustice he just suffered.
“That’s enough already. Isn’t it, Koremitsu? She’s a girl, after all. A delinquent like you will be hated by others, you know.”
“I’m not a delinquent.”
“If you want to deny it, you have keep your actions in check.”
Hikaru’s chastising started to cause Koremitsu a migraine. Before now, the only one who complained was Koremitsu about Hikaru’s own mannerisms.
What in the world? Why is he acting all mature all of a sudden?
He remembered that when Hikaru was arguing with him in front of the shoe locker, he claimed that he “couldn’t leave a crying girl alone,” showing a stern expression.
In fact, this guy’s very gentle with girls. Is this the definition of a gentleman? Well, maybe it’s an overstatement, but I do feel unhappy that it’s somewhat true.
“Also, the one sitting beside you in class is Miss Shikibu. You should get along better with others.”
“She’s named Shikibu? How do you know her name?”
“Really, Koremitsu, how can you not know the name of the girl sitting beside you? And she’s so pretty too; she has such cute eyebrows, and she’s a really attractive girl. Regarding this Miss Honoka Shikibu, she’s a rather popular person.”
“Huh? That cold-hearted girl who keeps sending messages?’
Koremitsu once thought that since she gave such a fierce look as she sent messages, throwing off an ominous presence, she was definitely the type of person to be isolated by the others in class.
“Miss Shikibu’s not only popular with the boys. There are quite a lot of female fans out there, too. She’s athletic, often helps others, and has a very keen sense of chivalry. She’s someone the girls really admire.”
As in, being helpful to others!?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what those people think at all!”
“Even if you look away and deny it…don’t you find that Miss Shikibu has very nice looking legs!?”
“AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT THE WEAPON USED TO KICK ME IS ATTRACTIVE!?”
“That feisty expression of hers really entranced me.”
“I just find it disgusting.”
“Her hair’s an alluringly smooth, tan color.”
“How is that squirrel-like color nice to look at?”
“…I say, Koremitsu, aren’t you being too picky with girls?”
“Yeah. Gramps has always been telling me not to be too kind to girls.”
Hikaru sighed, continuing.
“There’s nothing more beautiful and cute than girls in this world. They’re gentle, yet hardy.”
The insistence carried in saying this was something Koremitsu felt he could never understand in all his life, and he wanted it to remain that way.
Women were an existence foreign to Koremitsu, as he would eye them with gloomy pupils at times – they in all their inexplicable fragility before him.
“If only you could understand the beauty of girls.”
Hikaru muttered in a sad tone, quickly changing his voice to be cheerful again.
“Okay, how about you try dating a girl? Let’s go a find a girl who can make your heart race. I’ll demonstrate to you. Then, let’s call in two girls and go out as a group of four. It’ll be fun!”
“Aren’t you already dead?”
“Seriously, this is something important, okay? I see you forgot that you’re a ghost with his funeral rites done.”
Hikaru let out a snicker.
“It’s definitely your fault.”
Almost in complete disregard of Koremitsu’s outburst, Hikaru spoke gently in a register that seemed to bleed a wonderful fragrance with each word.
“Because you were able to hear my voice, and you could talk with me. It feels like I made a friend. We can go to school and return from school together, we can go to each other’s home – we can even chat with one another during class breaks or lunch break.”
Koremitsu’s head started to feel hot.
What in the world is this guy saying?
Koremitsu’s heart started to waver for some ridiculous reason, and he was caught in confusion.
Is- is that so?… Is this what going to school, returning from school, and having lunch with a ‘friend’ means? I see, so that’s how it is.
He mused what Hikaru said.
His face felt like it was in sweltering heat.
His chest began to itch so much, it was nearly unbearable.
“We aren’t exactly real friends, but just ‘designated’ as such, right?”
As he spoke, he deliberately averted his eyes from Hikaru. The latter remained calm in reply.
“…Well, yeah. We’re just ‘temporary’ friends until we give Miss Aoi her gifts.”
Koremitsu realized that he may have hurt Hikaru’s feelings when he said they were only ‘designated’ as friends. His heart ached at the thought with an abnormally strong sense of loneliness.
“Oh, so I’ll just help you complete your wish and let you ascend to heaven! I really can’t stand it whenever you start to explain things related to flowers. Speaking of which, flowers wilt very easily, and they can snap easily; they can be crushed easily, can’t be eaten, and serve no other purpose whatsoever.”
Koremitsu did not know what to do about this inexplicable loneliness inside him, his voice gruffer than before.
There was no reason for him to mention flowers.
Hikaru was still as optimistic as ever.
“Ah, yet there are edible flowers, like dandelion, violets, roses, and more. They taste rather good as well. Oh yes, let’s invite girls to pick some grass next time.”
Koremitsu, trying to contain his unease until this point in time, could only show bewilderment in his eyes upon hearing Hikaru’s proposal.
Hikaru started to explain excitedly.
“In other words, let’s go pick edible grass in the wild next time. Those girls who like to go outdoors to the hills and forests are really cute, and we can increase our intimacy with others as we make food. Also, it can satisfy your desire for food, you know? Ah, but I feel that girls prefer to have someone giving them the flowers instead of enjoying them. If you pick a simple flower that can only bloom in the wild, her affection for you will increase greatly!”
Koremitsu tried to picture the scene in his mind.
“You see! There are dandelions everywhere! Let’s have dandelion tempura and boiled dandelion for dinner tonight!”
On some verdant grassland, Hikaru held dandelions in both hands, a radiant smile on his face.
For reasons unknown, there was Yodel music in the background.
He was surrounded by a hoard of unfamiliar girls.
“Kya! You’re amazing, Hikaru!”
“I want to try out your cooking, Hikaru!”
They were jumping about and cheering with delight.
“—For example, a crown made from dandelions or White Clovers will be very effective. For a hardy boy like you, people will like it if you can make a flower crown clumsily. She will definitely feel very touched. Even if it’s only a flower, you can put it on the ring finger. That would be equally effective. I’ll teach you how to do it; it’s very simple, and I’m sure you’ll agree, Koremitsu—”
“Didn’t I tell you not to talk to me about flowers and women already, you harem prince!?”
Koremitsu’s harsh words were a thin veil over the regret he had for his insensitivity with Hikaru. The pain in his heart lingered, but heavy atmosphere was lifted with Hikaru’s suggestion.
As expected, this guy’s just a carefree harem bastard!
Hikaru shrugged his shoulders, feigning resignation.
“Looks like I failed.”
“Anyway, now’s not the time to try and hook up girls, but to seriously think about how you can pass your feelings on to your fiancée. Your fiancée is rather tough to deal with. The gifts you want to present her aren’t the sort that can be stuffed into a shoe locker, after all.”
This was the most troublesome thing for Koremitsu.
Hikaru promised to give Aoi six different presents on her birthday, but they were not things that could be bought in a shop and given to others so easily with a “Hi, please accept this.”
In order to make her accept all these presents, the notorious Koremitsu Akagi had to act as the messenger for Hikaru Mikado and make Aoi accept these presents willfully.
Can I really do this?
We’re just ‘temporary’ friends after all.
Koremitsu frowned with a groan, Hikaru speaking up.
“Ah, I just forgot something very simple.”
“Only Miss Aoi and I know about my promise to give seven presents to her.”
“In other words, if you tell her this, it proves that you’re my representative, and she may actually open her heart to you.”
“Ohh – this sort of thinking certainly can work!”
Koremitsu poked his body out.
“You should have said that right from the beginning, you bastard. Now we have some progress.”
“Ahaha, I was really absent-minded.”
“Looks like my days of going to the toilet and bathing alone are just over the horizon!”
Under the cerulean sky, they both held each other’s tender hands like genuine friends (even though it was impossible), and they took the moment to savor their happiness.
♢ ♢ ♢
Lunch break ended, and once Honoka Shikibu could catch the sight of Koremitsu on his way from the roof toward the classroom, she glanced over with a wrathful expression.
Koremitsu also remembered his own grudge of having his yakisoba bread taken away, and intended to glare back; but the hope that he could still resolve the situation regarding Aoi prevented him from doing so.
Humph. I’m not some petty guy who sweats the details.
He chose to ignore her.
The school day came to an end. Koremitsu stood from his chair and headed off to the arts room on the 3rd level to fulfill his responsibility as Hikaru’s messenger.
“Huh? Nobody’s around.”
“It looks like we’re a little early.”
There was no one in the classroom – only a stone plaster for design looked back at them. The canvas and easels were lying in a corner.
“This is…Miss Aoi’s painting.”
Hikaru floated to a canvas piece and smiled.
Koremitsu, too, walked over and took a peek.
“Eh- that’s unexpectedly…well-drawn.”
He was not simply complimenting her for the sake thereof, but was truly enchanted by it.
It was a painting of the school’s staircase drawn from the bottom stair and looking upwards. The painting was made to look like it was shrouded in a layer of golden mist, covered along with a splendid mix of calming hue.
Rays of light that shone in from the top of the stairs were warm, and one could not help but close his eyes and feel their embrace. However, there was a sense of loneliness in how this scenery had no one in it.
Is this gentle and slightly lonely painting that cynical girl’s…?
“Miss Aoi is very good at painting backgrounds, whether it’s the stairs, the school’s shoe locker, the corridor, the book racks in the library, the stage of an empty gym, the water cooler in school—she’s always able to use soft colors and depict the minor details ordinary people don’t normally notice.”
Hikaru looked like he was the one who painted the piece of art as he proudly smiled.
Gazing upon the painting, his eyes were intense – like they were protecting treasure – and were filled with what seemed a medley of powerful emotions. Sunlight danced off of particles in the air all around an open window, where they fluttered as Hikaru stood.
This guy’s an unrepentant playboy, but his feelings for Aoi are real…
Even Koremitsu, who was slow-witted in matters of romance, could understand a little of what Hikaru felt as he examined Aoi’s painting.
He, who was unwilling to help Hikaru before – only hoping to send him to Heaven – after seeing Hikaru’s sincere affection for his girlfriend, truly wanted to pass Hikaru’s feelings on to her.
I’m just your ‘temporary’ friend for now… but I ended up accepting your plea because of fate. I’ll definitely help you present your gifts to Aoi. I’ll definitely express to her your feelings.
He said this to himself as a commitment.
“What are you doing?”
A tense voice came from behind.
A pale-faced Aoi was standing in the doorway. She frowned slightly, biting her lips in anger.
“Please get out.”
Her slender shoulders trembled. Perhaps she was fearful of Koremitsu’s appearance.
“Miss Aoi, please listen to Koremitsu.”
Hikaru said this, ostensibly to try calming her down.
His voice could not reach Aoi’s ears.
“As I’d said yesterday, I don’t want to talk to you in any way.”
Koremitsu looked over to Hikaru with an expression that said “Leave it to me.” He stiffened his facial muscles, gave the most serious expression he could muster, and walked towards Aoi.
Aoi not alone in her shock with this.
“I haven’t presented Hikaru’s second gift to you.”
Upon hearing this, Aoi’s body convulsed. Her eyes betrayed surprise. She was, without a doubt, rattled that Koremitsu referenced something only she and Hikaru could know.
Alright, it looks like I got her attention.
He glanced aside at Hikaru, who had been watching them tensely and giving a thumbs up, indicating that things were proceeding smoothly enough.
“Hikaru promised to give you seven gifts, and the remaining six are with me for the time being. I hope to give them to you on your birthday, so on that day, please—”
Suddenly, a bag was thrown at him.
As Hikaru called out, “Miss Aoi, please stop!” the bag hit Koremitsu square in the face.
“What- what in the world?”
Aoi looked like a cat with its hairs standing as she panted in heaves and glared at Koremitsu.
She was livid.
Her fists were now trembling more than before the moment Koremitsu spoke. She was biting her lips harder, and her eyebrows were lower.
Before Koremitsu could understand what was going on, she threw everything from paint brushes to wash pails to drawing pencils.
“Please don’t make such a lie! Why would Hikaru ask you such a thing before he died!? He died from an accident!”
Argh, I forgot about this.
The moment Hikaru gave Aoi her first present, he was unable to know that he was about to die.
“Miss Aoi. Koremitsu heard from me that I intended to give seven presents to a very important girl, and he decided to help me in order to fulfill this mission!”
Hikaru continued to explain as he stood beside them.
“Tha-that’s right! I’m Hikaru’s – friend! I heard about the seven gifts before—that he wanted to hand those gifts to a very important girl!”
He shouted as he dodged the brushes and pencils. As he was too anxious, he ended up saying things without order.
“You first entered school the day right before Golden Week. Asa said that you only appeared once in school before Hikaru’s death, and that you can’t possibly be Hikaru’s friend. She said that you intended to lie to me; she said that your words are all lies, and that I shouldn’t listen to you.”
Who’s Asa? Oi!?
“Miss Aoi. Please calm down. I’ve been close friends with Koremitsu for a long time.”
“That’s right! I’ve been sworn brothers with Hikaru for ten years already.”
“Hikaru never had any male friends ever since kindergarten! All his playmates were female! That’s what Asa said too! Hikaru can’t possibly have any male friends!”
Then again, who’s this Asa anyway!?
There were red, blue, black, and green paints tubes thrown right at him. Aoi, who was panting erratically on a canvas now, gritted her teeth as her eyes became hot flames.
“If what you said was even the slightest bit true, that means that Hikaru told others of the promise he had with me. He definitely leaked it out during a pillow talk with another woman, and that woman told others out of excitement, only for you to hear it.”
“That’s not true, Miss Aoi!”
Hikaru grew desperate.
Aoi lost control of her emotions. No matter how they tried to deny her accusations, she would refuse to hear them out.
“GET OUT! PLEASE GET OUT! PLEASE DON’T TREAT ME LIKE AN IDIOT! EVEN IF ASA NEVER SAID SO, I WON’T FORGIVE A DESPICABLE PERSON LIKE YOU!”
Aoi continued on the assault, looking like she would even throw the canvas and easels over.
“This won’t do, Koremitsu. Let’s try again another day.”
“I say, Mikado. You aren’t really trustworthy, aren’t you?”
Koremitsu raised his bag face to block the projectiles thrown at him on his escape. Aoi did not cease until Koremitsu was out the door. He then opened it again.
“I’ll come back!”
He yelled as he poked his face out from behind the bag, and a palette hit his chin, knocking him back.
He slipped and tried to regain his balance, but ultimately failed as he fell onto the floor in the halls.
There was a high-pitched voice, and Koremitsu’s nose picked up something sweet, his face buried in something soft.
Hm? What is it? Why are there cushions on the floor?
“This, this is bad, Koremitsu! Even I’ve never done such a thing in the school corridors before!”
Why is Hikaru so anxious?
At the next moment,
He was hit hard in the chest.
He lifted his head and found Honoka Shikibu’s face inches away. Her face was flushed red, and her murderous expression looked right back at him.
Shikibu’s breasts were right below Koremitsu’s face, confirmation that the cushion-like thing from before was Shikibu’s cleavage. The worst part was that Honoka’s knee pressed into his abdomen.
A more forceful impact came. Shikibu clenched her fist and hooked it from the right side into Koremitsu’s forehead.
Koremitsu rolled off her.
“PERVERT! MOLESTER! GO DIE!”
Shikibu proceeded to kick at Koremitsu’s shoulders and abdomen with her heels and toes.
Koremitsu cried in anguish as he took her kickboxer-like hits.
“Miss Shikibu, you’re mistaken! This was an accident!”
Hikaru tried his best to explain, but, as had already been proven once that day, his explanations were futile.
Shikibu gave a scornful gaze down at the walloped Koremitsu, who laid motionless in his disheveled uniform.
“If you dare to push down another girl in school and bury your head in her breasts again, I’ll beat you up good!”
With this declaration, she walked off.
A crowd formed around Koremitsu as onlookers started their exchanges over the fight.
“Shikibu’s so cool.”
“The delinquent sure has it rough.”
Aoi, who was standing at the door, had her input also.
“…It’s just like what Asa said. You’re the worst.”
She muttered it coldly, slamming the door shut.
Amid the strewn textbooks and stationery, Koremitsu sprawled on the floor.
Damn iiiit!!! Didn’t I crash into Shikibu’s breasts because of the palette you threw at me!? And that Asa or whatever definitely hates my guts, right!?
He vociferated in his mind.
A voice beside him rang louder than the others.
“Koremitsu! Hang in there, Koremitsu! Don’t die off too!”
Hikaru said some ominous things.
♢ ♢ ♢
“As expected, women are no good. That fierce-looking girl kicked me without giving me a chance to explain, and that fiancée of yours just went crazy and threw all the brushes and paint at me! I’m not some shooting target, for goodness’ sake—! That’s why I say women—!”
Koremitsu sat down atop the tatami mat in his house, muttering his grandfather’s catchphrase to vent his frustrations.
He still felt sore from the beating he’d received from Shikibu; his wounds were so bad that he’d nearly been hospitalized.
“Anyway…I’m really sorry about all of this.”
Hikaru, carefree by nature, could only be seated and apologize to Koremitsu.
“For Miss Aoi to have deemed me so untrustworthy… It’s not as though I’d never expected it, but I couldn’t have imagined that it would be so serious… Has Miss Aoi taken my treatment of women to heart? But each flower has a charm of its own.”
“Your reflection on this had better be as deep as the sea, you big pervert.”
Hikaru shrunk at his words.
“So what should we do now? She has treated you like a playboy who blabbered about this during a pillow talk with girls, and because of that, her defenses are even greater. Can we really open her heart before her birthday?”
“I forgot that Miss Aoi is different from the other girls.”
Hikaru frowned dejectedly.
“I can’t compose myself whenever I face Miss Aoi…even when I was alive, I did a lot more things to make her angry than to make her happy. Uu – I’m really a useless playboy.”
“Don’t say that you’re a pretty boy, alright? Besides, we can’t let this continue.”
“We may need someone who understands a woman’s heart to give suggestions.”
Koremitsu was surprised by the usefulness of Hikaru’s proposal.
“For example, we need a knowledgeable and gentle big sister, admired by all the underclassmen girls, someone everyone can talk to. Much like the flower of love from South America, Heliotrope – called purple fragrance in Japanese – a reliable woman with radiance, elegance and great knowledge.”
Suddenly, they both heard a cheerful song.
“Wh-what is that?”
It was a hit song from some popular band. The lyrics of the female vocals were an encouragement for love. However, one had to ask why it sounded in the first place.
“Koremitsu, your phone’s ringing.”
Koremitsu did not remember setting this song as his ringtone. That aside, it was unbelievable for him to ever receive a message.
He rummaged through his bag and found the phone flashing.
The phone was lavender in color, decorated with sparkling accessories, and there was the keychain of an ugly bear, or whatever it was, dangling from it.
“This phone isn’t mine.”
“It seems that it belongs to a girl.”
The phone continued ringing. Shall I pick it up?
He flipped the phone open, but he was unfamiliar with how it worked. He randomly pressed a few buttons, and the ringing stopped. Then, a message log appeared on the screen.
“To: Purple Princess: regarding the first date I had with Tomonori (>_<)”
He continued to the other messages.
“Re: Purple Princess: I’m going to confess tomorrow~~”
“Purple Princess! Yuuki wants to talk to you regarding her ex-boyfriend!”
“Re: Purple Princess: I made up with K.”
He scanned through the list, and found the name Purple Princess all over the place.
“Purple Princess? That’s an idiotic name.”
He commented, and Hikaru injected.
“I heard of it before. It’s something the girls talk about between…well, wait, please let me recall. My memory increases tenfold as long as it has anything to do with girls. Oh yes, that was when I was walking back with the second year, Miss Reiko from Seibi Academy after we went to see the Renoir exhibition…”
He put his hand below his chin, and pondered for a while.
“Oh yes! She’s a mobile novelist!”
“A mobile novel?”
“Yes, it’s a sweet love story with lots of mood whiplash. Once she uploaded it onto the blog, there were a lot of replies asking for suggestions with love, and she’s hailed as the ‘expert in love’. Can your phone access the net, Koremitsu?”
“…I guess, but I never went online before.”
“Then, let’s try looking for this Purple Princess.”
With Hikaru guiding him, Koremitsu used his phone to enter the name ‘Purple Princess’ as a search query.
The top search showed a blog called ‘Purple Princess’s Mansion’.
Koremitsu clicked on it, and there was a dazzling, purple-based webpage with all sorts of functions on to boast.
There were a few sorted tabs that included ‘novel’, ‘love talk’, and ‘diary’. He clicked on ‘novel’, and there appeared prose in many paragraphs and line breaks.
“The breath sighing from the raccoon
Descends upon my face.
My heart aches
It looks like I’ve really fallen in love.”
A spicy breath? Heart ache? I don’t understand at all. And speaking of which, this is a novel? Or is it a poem?
He tilted his head, clicking on the ‘love talk’ tab.
“Today, I’ll answer Miss Cactus Flower’s troubles!
This is the mail sent from Miss Cactus Flower!”
“Purple Princess, please listen to me.
I’m a first year high school girl who really loves K from my class.
K treats me as a mere friend and never treated me as a girl before.
K likes Y-bi, my clubmate, and he actually asked me to help him ask her if there’s anyone she’s going out with.
What exactly should I do here?”
After this question, there was the Purple Princess’ answer:
“Miss Cactus Flower!
You must definitely show your feelings to K.
I know you’re scared of breaking your relationship with K, but it will feel even more unbearable if K goes out with another girl.
You should take action now!
To make your confession a success, this Purple Princess will give you some tips.
First, you have to let K know that you, Cactus Flower, are a girl. This is the most important thing!
Your hairstyle, jewelry, and makeup should all be a little girlish.
And then, if K asks you what’s going on, you should look weak and answer feebly.
“There’s someone I like, and I hope he notices me.”
After that, K will probably wonder who the person you ‘like’ is.”
Such questions and answers about love continued on the page.
Koremitsu looked at the phone.
“…Hey, the owner of this phone inside my bag is the ‘Purple Princess,’ right?”
“From the title of the mail, it certainly seems that way.”
“I just got kicked badly by Shikibu in front of the arts room, right?”
“Yeah, her skirt was exposed quite a bit. Her pretty legs could be seen, and her thighs were in clear view.”
“Once she went off, I stood up – the stuff in my bag dropped everywhere when I got up. I was embarrassed and furious, and anyway, I just picked up everything on the floor and put them into my bag…”
Hikaru and Koremitsu looked at the phone with intrigue.
“Maybe Shikibu’s phone…was inside there.”
“That’s a possibility.”
“In other words, this phone…”
Koremitsu had a bad feeling as he spoke.
“Is Shikibu the Purple Princess?”