Hikaru led Koremitsu to his upper class apartment which was a mere twenty minute walk from the school.
It was said that the apartment complex was owned by Hikaru’s father; Hikaru used to live alone in one of the apartments.
The entrance was equipped with an automatic lock, and the caretaker was a man well into his years.
“I’m Hikaru’s friend. Can I go to his room? There’s something I lent him.”
The caretaker eyed Koremitsu’s disheveled hair and uniform circumspectly.
“Nope, I can’t let in anyone I don’t know. Besides, how would I know that you’re Master Hikaru’s friend?”
As expected, he was refused.
Oh damn, what do I do now?
Koremitsu grimaced and speculated over his next move when he his thoughts were interrupted by Hikaru.
“Tell him you’ll bring him the limited chestnut-steamed Yōkan from Taiseido next time.”
What’s that? Koremitsu lowered his head in wonder.
“I’ll bring you the limited chestnut-steamed Yōkan from Taiseido next time as a gift, if you want.”
He secretly lifted his stare, and saw the caretaker’s eyes widen as he shuddered.
What’s going on! Does he have a heart attack!?
Just when Koremitsu was panicking, tears welled up in the caretaker’s eyes.
“Is that so…Young Master Hikaru said when he went to the villa that morning ‘I’ll bring you that limited edition chestnut-steamed Yōkan from Taisedo’. That’s because he saw this recommendation on television a few days ago and said ‘It’s looks really nice. Let’s go and try it together, Mr. Maezono’…Young Master Hikaru was very emphatic with others around him ever since he was young…”
He inadvertently choked on his words as he said this.
“It’s really great to see that Young Master Hikaru has a male friend. He always talked about how he wanted to have a friend of the same gender.”
He said delightedly as he let out snot, opened the lock, and brought Koremitsu to Hikaru’s room on the highest level.
“The room is kept in the same condition as when Young Master Hikaru is alive. Just give me a holler when you want to head back.”
The caretaker said this, and went back to his room.
“Mister Maezono used to be my father’s chauffeur, and I’ve been well taken care of by him ever since I was young. Even when I started living alone, he kept coming over to talk with me like a real grandfather, and he would worry about me whenever I returned home late.”
Hikaru spoke with a reminiscing voice.
“When did you start living here?”
“Since the first year of middle school.”
He answered without hesitation.
First year of middle school, huh? Wasn’t he still a kid back then?
Koremitsu felt a little shocked.
The room with the wooden-tiled floor was extremely wide, and there was no carpet laid out.
There were practically no furniture, let alone a television. There was a sofa, a large dining table that was inappropriate for someone living alone, with 4 chairs lined around it. The table looked like it had not been used before, and one could get a feeling that nobody lived here before.
The caretaker did say before that this was the condition of the room when Hikaru was alive. Did Hikaru live in this lonely room every day?
“I was the one who suggested that I should live alone. I’ll gain more freedom like this.”
Hikaru was dressed up in shirt and jeans as he moved around barefooted (this was most probably Hikaru’s casual attire), and Koremitsu felt a sense of loneliness when he saw Hikaru in this state.
Perhaps it was because he saw Koremitsu’s utter silence that Hikaru grinned and said heartily.
“My father was very rich, so I never had any worries financially, and I lived a carefree and lazy life. I don’t have to contact my family when I have girls living in my house. Nobody will tell me off even if I stay at a girl’s house for a few days, and I can go out in the middle of the night if girls call me.”
“Tch, you’re already a Casanova in middle school!?”
He felt a loss of words,
—I can’t sleep alone because I’m scared of loneliness.
He recalled the words Hikaru used to say, and felt his chest tighten.
—and I can only relax when someone accompanies me…
Don’t tell me this guy dated so many girls because he’s too lonely?
The moment he thought of how Hikaru looked as he cupped his knees in the midst of this wide room, sparsely filled with furniture, Koremitsu showed a serious expression.
Koremitsu himself understood the loneliness of having no parents best.
After being with Hikaru for such a long time, there was one thing he understood.
His smile isn’t to be trusted.
Even if it was unbearable to a point where he had to cough out blood, even if the loneliness felt like it was going to pry a hole open in him, he would continue to smile.
This made Koremitsu really frustrated.
Hikaru opened his eyes gently as he gave a gentle smile.
“There should be a photo album in the closet. I brought you here to show it to you.”
“So the extremely pretty flowers you’re talking about refer to the photos?”
“Are you hoping for a blond maid to invite you in?”
“Shut up, I already told you that I hate women, you idiot.”
“Then, how about I change into a maid outfit and say to you, ‘welcome back, master~’?”
“No way, that’s disgusting.”
“But I feel that it should suit me somewhat.” As Hikaru rambled on, Koremitsu opened the closet embedded into the wall and took out several photo albums that were stacked inside.
He sat down on the wooden floor, flipped the albums, and found many baby photos inside.
Are these Hikaru’s photos?
Hikaru had an angelic face when he was a baby, a stark contrast to Koremitsu’s savage-looking face ever since he was born.
Some of Hikaru’s photos showed him smiling gently, some showed his sucking on the milk bottle as he widened his round eyes at the camera, some showed him reaching his small maple leaf-like hands as he chortled, and some showed him taking a nap with a furry puppy-like toy.
There were so many of these photos that could make it as the cover for a baby magazine, to a point where it felt endless.
“…Dude, are the pretty flowers referring to you? You want to show me your baby photos?”
His eyes were certainly large and round like a girl’s,
But even so, Koremitsu had no interest in such cute things. Even if there was certainly a rare beautiful baby, he would naturally get frustrated if he were to continue looking on at the same baby.
“They’re at the back.”
Hikaru said as he sat down beside Koremitsu, browsing the photo album.
“Tch, aren’t they all baby photos. And—”
Koremitsu spotted a photo, and his hand that was flipping through the pages stopped.
These were Hikaru’s photos as a baby, but there were no one else in the previous photos. However, there was a woman cradling Hikaru in the photo.
The young woman sitting on the chair smiled gently at the camera, and she looked exactly like Hikaru.
But this face…
“Hey, is this your mother? I saw someone similar to her during your funeral. Is she your relative too?”
The woman he was referring to was the woman dressed in black at Hikaru’s funeral, weeping and smiling.
Koremitsu himself was perplexed by this smile.
He wondered who that woman was, and why she was able to calm so calmly at the funeral.
Hikaru’s voice stopped out of a sudden.
Intrigued, Koremitsu looked over, and he spotted Hikaru’s gloomy expression.
Did I ask something I shouldn’t have?
Hikaru bit onto his lips hard, seemingly in deep thought, and Koremitsu had a bad feeling about this.
As he wondered about how to break this silence however, Hikaru immediately lifted his face and grinned heartily.
That clear yet transparent smile made the previous expression of tension seem like an illusion.
“Yup, that’s right. She’s a relative of my mother.”
“I see. No wonder the likeness is there.”
Koremitsu too answered with a clear voice. He felt that there was a need to do so.
He felt that he should not ask about that woman again.
“I want to show you what’s further behind. Keep flipping, Koremitsu.”
He flipped to the next page.
What appeared on it were not baby photos, but photos of Hikaru as a toddler. He continued to flip the pages, and found photos of Hikaru, aged 5-6, standing with girls of around the same age.
There were two girls on the photos; one of them was an intelligent looking girl with radiant black hair who stood a little taller than Hikaru, while the other was a girl, shorter than Hikaru by half a head, with a white ribbon tied on her loose and beautiful black hair.
There were many photos of the trio or two-man shots taken by one of the girls.
The tallest girl amongst the trio would give a serious look practically all the time when their photos were taken, and the shortest girl with the ribbon on her head would show varied expressions on the photos.
She would sometimes puff her cheeks, sometimes widen her eyes as her face was blushing, sometimes pout away with tears in her eyes, sometimes fidget away due to shyness, or would chuckle from time to time.
“Is the one with the ribbon Aoi?”
Hikaru answered gently,
“Yes, and the other one’s Asa.”
His expression was so gentle as he looked at the photo.
“Asa, as in the one who told Aoi to ignore me? So she’s Asa.”
Koremitsu glared at the intellectual looking girl on the photo.
“Asa’s name is called Asai, and she’s my cousin on the paternal side, Aoi’s close friend. Aoi and Asa are a year older than me, and they’re my childhood playmates. The three of us were together since we were very little.”
On one hand, Hikaru’s expression still looked so radiant.
When the trio was lined together, the calm and aloof Asai would stand in the middle. Hikaru stood on the left with the smile plastered on his face, while Aoi was shyly fidgeting away on the right side. It seemed that Aoi was glancing aside at Hikaru, but she would deliberately turn her petite face away whenever it was time for them to take photos together.
Koremitsu glanced aside at Hikaru, and discovered that their faces were nearly sticking together as the latter looked back with his clear eyes.
He then spoke with a gentle tone that was full of love,
“Miss Aoi was a little clumsy when she was young…and she’s shy…she always had Asa accompany her when she comes over to my house. She would blush and say something like, ‘Asa said that she wants to come to your house to play, Hikaru, so I came along’. She loves to drink the sweet milkshakes, but will scowl in front of me and drink sugarless coffee…that’s the kind of child she was.”
That was a really sweet expression.
That was really a gentle narrating voice.
As he listened on, Koremitsu experienced a new, fuzzy feeling in his heart.
He could not comprehend what this was, but he did not really hate this sickeningly sweet feeling that had a little warmth and a little sadness.
“When I secretly added sugar into Miss Aoi’s coffee, her eyes will widen into a round shape, and she would blush as she stared back at me. She’s really cute, so I could not help but start adding sugar into her coffee secretly. Miss Aoi would then look at the cup to prevent me from doing so.”
It was a like a blissful daily episode.
His expression looked like it was going to melt.
“Miss Aoi looks really cute when she’s shocked, and her reactions after that became interesting and cute too. Thus, I could not help but tease her again and again. However, it seemed that Miss Aoi was angry as she told me off for teasing her even though she was older than me, and that I’m rude like a delinquent.”
Hikaru’s voice got a little softer, and he showed a thin smile on his face.
“My betrothal with Miss Aoi was decided by our families, but I feel that it’s fine for her to be my ‘most beloved’…”
The eyes were full of gentleness and sadness as they glanced aside at Koremitsu.
“…Miss Aoi…was my ‘hope’.”
That was a silent voice that was ostensibly about to dye his heart.
Before arriving here, Koremitsu was very infuriated with Aoi.
He even advised Hikaru to forget about this obstinate and incomprehensible woman.
However, the Aoi that was left in Hikaru’s heart was probably deeper than what Koremitsu could even imagine…she spat such overboard things in front of Hikaru’s face, but Hikaru’s affections for her had never changed.
Hikaru showed a tint of loneliness on his face.
“That’s why…even though it’s easy for me to embrace other girls, I just feel…that Miss Aoi is the only one I can’t touch. Maybe it’s because I’m scared that she’ll really say that she hates me. Because Miss Aoi…is really a very important person to me.”
Koremitsu’s heart was hurting.
The anger he had for Aoi faded gradually, and what came in place of it was a surge of sadness.
“Don’t you have many other women beside Aoi?”
“Then, haven’t you thought of breaking up with them for the sake of Aoi?”
Once Koremitsu asked this, Hikaru’s eyes turned hollow.
“…About that, it might be despicable of me to say this, but I should say probably not. That’s because I can’t just do all that for Miss Aoi’s sake…however, I guess I’ll have to clear a line with the other girls if I want to live with Miss Aoi. If I don’t do so, there won’t be a new beginning…the birthday gift was an opportunity, so I sent a letter before heading to the villa…and prepared the remaining gifts.”
His voice sounded a little harsh, and he suddenly shut up midway through.
The light brown eyes under the lowered eyelashes showed a darkness that was miry.
Koremitsu did not know how Hikaru managed to date so many women went out with, and did not know what Hikaru was planning to cut off in order to start afresh.
If one were to calm down and think, he would realize that breaking up with the other women for the sake of Aoi was a little too selfish.
Those who were unpopular with girls would definitely lash out at him after hearing such troubles, and the girls who were dumped may be vengeful enough to choke him to death.
But Koremitsu could not even say anything to tell off Hikaru—after seeing the latter’s sad and dull eyes.
Hikaru’s body was no longer on this Earth.
He could no longer be together with Aoi, who he described with such a gentle expression.
Hikaru remained silent.
And Koremitsu suddenly tensed up.
Th-this is a chance for me to repay him for comforting me at school. Pull yourself together, there’s still tomorrow—oh wait, this guy doesn’t have a tomorrow. He’s dead.
His temples rose up, and he decided to pat Hikaru on the shoulder first before talking.
But of course, his hand passed through Hikaru’s shoulder, and the momentum caused him to slap his hand on his chest.
As it was overly forceful, his body was knocked back in the face of this impact his chest was undefended against.
“? What are you doing, Koremitsu?”
Hikaru asked in a perplexed manner as he looked down at Koremitsu, who fell with his back on the floor after the hit.
“S-shut up! I’m doing gymnastics!”
“Why must you be doing gymnastics now? I think I just heard your head crash into the floor too.”
Koremitsu was flustered as he was flailing around helplessly.
And at this moment, an icy voice suddenly rang in the room.
“Are you someone who likes to roll about and mutter to yourself in someone else’s house?”
He got up in shock.
An icy cold stare was looking down on Koremitsu, and a tall girl with long radiant black hair was standing at the living room’s door.
This person is—
She had an elegant-looking face, she had wise-looking lips, a clear pair of eyes, and remnants of her childhood look.
Most importantly, one could tell who she was from the depreciating look she gave at Koremitsu.
Hikaru called out the name that appeared in Koremitsu’s mind.
So she’s that Asai!
Hikaru’s cousin, Aoi’s close friend—
“You’re Koremitsu Akagi from class 1-5, I presume?”
Asai said out Koremitsu’s name as if she just uttered out something filthy.
The radiant black hair was in no way inferior to Aoi’s as it dangled down her shoulders, but it had a different atmosphere from the latter. Asai was a lot mature than the tender Aoi, and there seemed to be a chilly atmosphere surrounding her.
Aoi’s height was a little below the average for girls, while Asai herself was slightly taller. Both of them were slender, but Aoi’s thinness gave a fragile vibe, and in contrast, Asai gave the feeling of being firm from head to toe.
This forceful attitude caused Koremitsu to feel nary a good vibe about her in this situation, and that she was a disgusting and snobbish woman.
Speaking of which, wasn’t this Asai the one who calmed Aoi down and brought her away when the latter started the commotion at the funeral?
Koremitsu reminisced, getting up on his feet to glare back at Asai.
“So you’re that Asa.”
“I don’t remember allowing you to call me by this name.”
Unmoved, Asai coldly retorted.
“It can’t be helped. I don’t know your full name anyway.”
“Is that so? Thank you for informing me. Now, why are you here?”
“I’m Hikaru’s cousin, and I was requested by his father to clear up the stuff he left behind. The key’s entrusted to me too.”
Despite Koremitsu scanning her in a bad mood, Asai was not afraid at all, and she looked back at Koremitsu and said,
“Then, what about you? Why are you here? Mister Maezono actually opened the door for you. You look like a hoodlum with little verbal capacity, but you can talk, unexpectedly.”
Koremitsu frowned unhappily.
Hikaru immediately tried to calm him down.
“Asa’s trying to make you angry. Calm down and don’t get caught in her pace.”
Koremitsu immediately swallowed the words he wanted to utter out.
“I lent a book to Hikaru.”
“Proust’s ‘In the shadow of young girls in bloom’.”
“Pr-Proust’s ‘In the shadow of young girls in bloom’.”
Koremitsu answered as what Hikaru told him to, and Asai raised her eyebrows slightly.
“I’ve been reading his ‘In Search of Lost Time’, and just finished reading the first volume ‘From Swann’. ‘In the shadow of young girls in bloom’ is the second volume.”
“He just finished reading the first volume ‘From Swann’ of the ‘In Search of Lost Time’ series. He got attracted to Proust’s work, and borrowed the second volume from me.”
Upon hearing this, Asai’s eyebrows twitched anxiously.
Koremitsu heaved a sigh of relief as he saw this reaction, but Asai pressed on.
“So that means you read through this ‘In the shadow of Young Girls in bloom’. What kind of content does it have?”
Hey, what kind of story is it, Hikaru?
He gave Hikaru a look, but the latter answered in a troubled manner.
“I’m sorry, but I haven’t had time to read it. I just left it alone as there were too many dates. But you see, this book looks like a theme that girls like, right? That’s an 85% chance of it to be a love story, you know.”
You idiot! What if it’s not! Besides, why would you tell me the name of a book you’ve never read before?
As Koremitsu continued to ask Hikaru while giving several expressions, Asai asked further.
“What is it? Can’t you answer?”
“It’s a book belonging to a relative anyway. Who knows what it’s about?”
He protested to remove himself from the situation.
“And to whom, might I ask, does it belong?”
“What has the owner of the book got to do with you?”
“Calm down, Koremitsu. Asa’s not waiting for an answer, but whether you’re guilty.”
Hikaru had already forewarned him, but Koremitsu, who gave a stiff expression as he stared into space, was deemed suspicious by Asai the moment he let out a trembling voice.
“Aren’t you the uninvolved party here, Mr Akagi.”
She sounded like a prosecutor interrogating a criminal.
“What do you mean?”
“I knew all about you approaching Aoi. How is it possible that you’re Hikaru’s friend? He doesn’t have a male friend at all, not only within school, but also out of it.”
“I’m his first friend.”
“That’s how you tricked Aoi, I suppose? Saying some stupid lie that Hikaru’s presents are with you for the time being; you’re the fourth one to pretend to comfort Aoi ever since Hikaru died. This caused Aoi to hate men all the more, and your method’s the most stupid of them all.”
“I said before that this isn’t a mean to approach Aoi, and I’m not lying to her! Hikaru requested me to pass on his feelings to her.”
Asai narrowed her eyes to a slit, and her icy stare was like a sharp blade.
Koremitsu felt a chill on his back.
There seemed to be a tranquil fury going on around her, and she spoke with a voice colder than before,
“Then tell me about it. I’ll decide for myself whether these feelings are for Aoi to hear with my ears. Same for the presents; you’ll have to get my approval if you want to give them to Aoi.”
“But that will be meaningless! Hikaru requested me to pass them to Aoi, not you. I can only say those things to Aoi, and those presents are to go to her directly!”
He stared back at Asai as he concluded.
But the latter remained unmoved.
“Then, can you prove that these things you want to pass on really came from Hikaru?”
Koremitsu was speechless.
—You first entered school after Golden Week. Asa said it that you only appeared once in school before Hikaru’s death, and that you can’t possibly be Hikaru’s friend.
“I remember very clearly on the day you entered school that the rumored infamous freshman arrived with a crutch and bandages, causing quite a commotion in school. Why is it that he would request you, a student like you with a notorious reputation, to pass on his feelings for Aoi?”
My reputation isn’t for you to deal with. He muttered in his heart, but was unable to argue back.
That was because, if one were to consider this normally, it was impossible for Hikaru to request Koremitsu to present the presents to Aoi.
“And what exactly are Hikaru’s feelings? Don’t tell me Hikaru still likes Aoi? The way he likes girls is practically a disease now; he’s certainly not a match for the pure Aoi, and he’s been making her angry all this time.”
These stated facts caused Koremitsu to be even more at a loss of words.
Hikaru too showed a troubled and stiff expression.
Damn it, how can I lose to you!?
“Yeah, Hikaru’s one real playboy! He’s a harem bastard alright! But he still loves Aoi! It’s because there’s nothing fake about his feelings that I want to pass them on to Aoi!”
Koremitsu raised his chin as he exclaimed, and in response, fufu, Asai snorted.
“What’s so funny!”
“As expected—I can’t believe that you’re Hikaru’s friend. That’s because you’re the complete opposite of him. Hikaru looks very carefree on the carefree, but he’s very inexplicable within—a complicated person who looks like he has something he wants to hide within. And you are gruff, simple-minded, savage-looking, and don’t look smart. I suppose Hikaru is certainly dumber than I thought for choosing you to pass on these words.
“What did you say!”
Asai then concluded without mercy,
“It’s impossible for you to express Hikaru’s feelings.”
She said with a heinous tone.
The smile had already disappeared off her face, and her icy cold expression ostensibly pierced through the heart as it fixated on Koremitsu.
It felt like she was saying: What can someone like you understand about Hikaru?
Anxiety rose up within him.
His head and ears were boiling, about to give off a shrill sound. Koremitsu yelled back, ostensibly trying to reflect Asai’s expression,
“I’M HIKARU’S FRIEND! WE ONLY MET ONCE WHEN HE WAS ALIVE, BUT WE DID MEET DURING THOSE FEW MINUTES! AND THAT’S HOW WE BECAME FRIENDS!”
At first, they were merely ‘temporal’ friends.
Hikaru’s ghost haunted him, asking him to do all sorts of strange errands, and he felt frustrated by it.
Hikaru would follow him to the lavatory, to the bath, and would often say some teasing things that caused Koremitsu to once wish for him to disappear into heaven.
He was perverted, loves women, was a fanatic over flowers, and was a bastard who had a meaningful life in a completely different world from Koremitsu.
They would never understand each other, ever!
His stomach would itch unbearably whenever he lied that Hikaru was a friend.
But once he understood that Hikaru’s affections for Aoi were sincere, his view of Hikaru changed for the better to a small extent.
He felt that he should help Hikaru pass his feelings to Aoi.
After that, Koremitsu’s trauma awoke, and when he was sobbing and bawling his heart out, Hikaru was the one who comforted him.
Hikaru listened to his unreasonable grievances, accepted them, and even said some shallow words to motivate him.
Koremitsu knew that Hikaru would use a smile to express the pain of his loneliness.
“Hikaru’s a real friend of mine! I don’t care if you’re God or the president, I won’t allow anyone to deny this! I can lift my chest and proclaim boldly to the entire world that Hikaru’s an important friend of mine!”
Beside him, Hikaru’s eyes widened upon hearing this.
Asai bit her lips tightly as she stared at Koremitsu coldly. A blue-white flame seemed to grow within her long narrow eyes.
“I’ll definitely pass on that guy’s feelings to Aoi! Just wait and see!”
He concluded with a determined will.
Asai replied calmly.
“You really annoy me to a point where I want to cut your mouth out with a chopper.”
“What a coincidence. I’m infuriated to a point where I want to stuff your mouth and eyes with spice powder, but I’ve said what I wanted to say, and there’s nothing left for me to say to you. I’m leaving.”
After saying this, he head off to the corridor.
Asai remained silent.
Koremitsu was unable to tell what her expression was as he had his back turned against her, but he sensed that she was definitely staring at him.
He said to her without looking back,
“If you find this Prout’s ‘In the shadow of the young women in broom’—return it to me. That’s gramps’ book.”
Once they left the apartment, Hikaru spoke up,
“Koremitsu…I’m sorry to say this, but the author’s name is Proust, not Prout; and the name of the book isn’t ‘In the shadow of the young women in bloom’, but ‘In the shadow of the young girls in bloom’. And speaking of which, I think you just mispronounced ‘bloom’ as ‘broom’.”
“Ack! I messed up! To think I tried to act cool here, damn it!! How embarrassing!”
The sky was starting to darken.
Koremitsu grumbled on as he walked down the quiet road under the street lamps, lined with the park and library beside him.
“You told me to calm down, but I ended up yelling. I really could not take it.”
Don’t agree to this without hesitation!!
He muttered in his heart.
“But I’m happy. You said to Asa that I’m a real friend of yours.”
Koremitsu glanced aside at Hikaru, and saw him smiling back. The white street lamp shone upon his face, and his hair, eyes and lips were radiant.
He looked overly delighted, blissful, and his image as a pretty boy dazzled even more, causing Koremitsu to be at a loss of what to do.
“T-th-tha-that’s because I was angered by that woman, so I accidentally…”
“Was that a lie?”
“No, that’s not it. I really, thought of it this way. That’s why I said it out…”
Upon hearing this, Hikaru felt all the more delighted.
Ahh, don’t show that expression. My ears are going to let out steam now.
“I suddenly feel like shouting now, okay? Others can’t hear me even if I shout out now.”
Koremitsu wanted to stop Hikaru, but he had already started yelling.
“KOREMITSU AKAGI IS MY FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDD!!! WE’RE FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS!!!”
“Shu-shut it, you!? It’s embarrassing!”
“FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS! KOREMITSU AND I ARE REAL FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS!!!”
“Shut up! I told you to shut up!”
Koremitsu’s face and head were about to boil in heat. Someone – anyone – please stop this drunkard!
“FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS! WE’RE REAL FRRRIIIEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS!!!”
“Ah, right. We’re not temporary ones, but real friends. You had enough? Stop yelling. Please, stop it already!”
Koremitsu knew that nobody around them could hear it, but he was utterly embarrassed to near death.
Hikaru himself however probably felt relieved by this as he yelled all he wanted. “FRIENDS! WE’RE FRIENDS!” after this, he swapped his words,
“I LOVE MISS AOOOIII!!”
He yelled delightedly.
“I WON’T CHEAT ON HER ANYMORE~!!!”
“I’LL TREASURE MISS AOI WHOLEHEARTEDLY~!”
Hikaru looked up at the night sky with a dazzling expression in the middle of the road as he yelled out with his sweet voice.
Perhaps he was overjoyed, to a point where even Koremitsu was affected by him.
“Oh! I’ll bear witness!”
He raised his right hand forcefully.
“I too won’t lose to Asai Saiga! I’ll definitely pass on your feelings to Aoi.”
“Okay and once the birthday presents are given to Aoi, let’s go get some girls.”
“Wait, didn’t you say you’re going to be devoted to Aoi only? Why are you changing your mind so quickly?”
“But it’s not about me, but about getting a girl that matches you, Koremitsu. I’ve decided! I’ll get a girl who can really laugh for you.”
His eyes were bubbly, and he sounded really excited.
“Aren’t those women who like to laugh very noisy?”
“That kind of woman is suited for you. She’ll laugh for you too, and you’ll feel like laughing whenever you’re with her.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“I can even hear your delighted laughter, Koremitsu.”
“That’s definitely your hallucination.”
The surroundings were filled with utter silence.
There was only one shadow cast onto the ground, but even so, the two good friends walked side by side under the sky dyed a thin black in nature’s ink as the stars began twinkling on their way home.
“Hey, Koremitsu, do you know where people go after they die?”
Hikaru asked in a sprightly manner.
“Who knows? I never died before.”
“I think they go to space.”
Hikaru lifted his head.
And Koremitsu too looked up at the sky.
In the blurry black sky, the little stars were twinkling.
Their lights were weak, but they were certainly twinkling.
This was the night sky of a city.
“See, don’t they say that people become stars when they die? The souls that leave the human bodies will leave Earth and enter space. Also, since the consciousness exists in an infinite space, souls can fly about freely. The stars we see might be the souls of the departed.”
Hikaru’s voice was soft, yet still very clear.
His meditative expression looking up to the sky shone a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
Koremitsu felt the onset of tears welling up.
“I’ll head to space one of these days.”
Upon hearing Hikaru’s words, Koremitsu was assailed by an inflow of emotions.
“When the time comes, you’ll definitely be bawling your heart out.”
“I-I won’t cry, idiot.”
He glared back with his burning face to deny this, and Hikaru returned Koremitsu with a happy expression.
“Un, that will be better. I hope you’ll send me off with a smile.”
He spoke ever-clearly.
“It’s a promise, Koremitsu. Bid me farewell with your best smile when I head for space.”
Koremitsu’s whole body felt immobilized.
One of these days, Hikaru would leave Earth for space.
Until the day when his wish would be fulfilled—
Idiot…don’t make me sad now. Look at our current situation here. We finally became friends, you know.
He spoke to himself in his mind, but was unable to say it aloud, and talked about something else with a serious expression,
“I say, stop making empty promises like this. The way you go about doing this, you definitely have some promise with another girl.”
“It’s not a random promise. I’ll only honor important promises.”
“Don’t tell me your dating plan is an important promise too!?”
“Of course. This is a very important promise for me.”
“I never asked to come along and do that.”
“Then let’s make an appointment first.”
“How petty. Aren’t we friends?”
“Even if we’re friends, no way.”
“You’re really strict.”
Hikaru shrugged his shoulders.
“Speaking of which, when you met me in the beginning, I think you said something about ‘there’s something I want to ask of you or something’.”
“Ah, about that…”
Hikaru stared afar and smiled.
“Hey, what’s with that little chuckle? Now I’m curious. Tell me.”
“I’ll say it if you’re willing to go dating.”
“What kind of request is that!?”
“Then what do you want to do?”
“Ugh, you’re really despicable. Besides, how are you going to date when you’re dead?”
Unaware of it, the pair had strolled through the riverside lane leading to the school.
Blades of grass on the campus lawn quivered under the nightly breeze, glistening verdantly in moonlit reflection.
The river flowed calmly, and there was a sweet fragrance lingering about the moist air.ful
Under the starry night sky, they both continued to tease one another as they walked on.
Just like companions with ten years’ friendship shared –