“Listen up, we still have three days ‘til Aoi’s birthday. It’s Saturday tomorrow, so today will be the big day. Let’s buck up.”
The following morning, a Friday, Koremitsu enthusiastically departed from his home. He disembarked at his bus stop and went along the path leading to school.
“Asa might be planning something to deal with us.”
Hikaru spoke worriedly.
“She gives off this vibe that makes her seem black-hearted, and her glare has weight to it. I guess she might be some boss commanding delinquents to do dangerous things or something.”
“I-I can’t really deny it completely, but.”
“Are you serious!? She’s the mastermind?”
“Probably not to that extent…yeah…”
Hikaru stumbled over his words.
“But Asa is a strong and wise person. She’s a lone child, so she treats Aoi like she’s her little sister. She often says I’m insincere to Aoi. She likes to help others, and is very understanding.”
“I say, aren’t you too protective of girls. Tch—wait, don’t tell me you dated that damn arrogant woman too?”
Hikaru merely answered a startled Koremitsu’s question composedly.
“Nope. Even if I’m the only man left in this world, Asa won’t go out with me. Even if the world’s about to end, we won’t be together.”
His voice was delicate yet unyielding.
Koremitsu looked to the source of the voice and saw Honoka dashing toward him, entirely unconcerned about her disheveled skirt and tousled hair.
Her eyes were wide, and she scowled; she showed both her slight anger, and her fragility. She abruptly took hold of Koremitsu’s hand.
“Wha-what are you doing, Shikibu?”
“Thank goodness. You’re alright!”
“Huh? What are you saying?”
“I called you so many times, but you didn’t pick up your phone, so I was worried about you…”
Koremitsu rummaged through his bag for his phone and found there were more than 10 missed calls from Honoka.
Such a long queue of incoming calls was new to him.
“Oh, I switched it off.”
“What kind of explanation is that?!”
Honoka’s eyebrows rose slightly.
“Well, actually, hardly anyone called me before.”
“Then why did you have a phone in the first place? Don’t you know how I felt when I called you—uuu?”
Koremitsu asked dazedly; Honoka looked to him and answered with a grimace.
“The Matriarch Asa asked me about you yesterday.”
“Saiga? Ahh, Asa, so she’s the president, huh?”
“A-Asa! You called the president Asa—!?”
Honoka was stupefied.
“What’s she shocked about?”
Koremitsu could not comprehend the situation, and glanced aside at Hikaru, who seemed to empathize with her as he shrugged his shoulders. However, this reaction confused Koremitsu all the more.
Koremitsu, not having the ability to comprehend the situation, glanced aside to Hikaru. His empathetic feelings toward Honoka were apparent, and he shrugged his shoulders. This served only to intensify Koremitsu’s bewilderment.
Honoka precipitously clasped Koremitsu’s collar and pulled him to her.
She pouted, her cheeks puffed out, and stared at Koremitsu.
“Really, don’t you~ understand the situation at all? If we’re talking about this Asai Saiga, the Matriarch Asa of the Second Year, we’ll be talking about the student council president of the high school department. Also, she was already the student council president in both elementary school and middle school! She’s of the top class elite among the ‘nobles’ here, one with extreme power. It’s said that even teachers don’t dare defy her.”
Honoka furiously described a rumor stating that an employee of the administration branch once defied Asai and was transferred out, and another explaining how a particular teacher, dissatisfied with Asai’s behavior, ‘resigned’ less than half a semester into the school year.
“Instead of calling them close friends—you might say that the president Saiga is like a guardian to Her Highness Aoi, and it seemed that all the boys who want to approach Her Highness Aoi were monitored by her. The president had a calm expression when she was asking me about you, but her eyes were really cold, and it really scared me…she definitely had her sights on you because you wouldn’t let go of Her Highness Aoi. You wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called you, so I thought you…”
Koremitsu regarded Honoka’s eyelashes – tears of uncertainty clung to them in spite of their feisty image.
…Why does she look so agitated and desperate?
Koremitsu had never before been so close to a girl, and an abnormal feeling came over him.
“Miss Shikibu’s worried about you. Such a good girl.”
Hikaru vocalized this daintily.
“I see, so you’re worried about me? Thanks.”
Not a second after the words left his lips, Honoka’s face was flushed red. She loosened her hands from his shirt with an impressive swiftness.
“Wh-wha-what are you saying!? Who’s worried about you here…you’re just someone who can get up even after being kicked a hundred times. I just got provoked by president Saiga and advised you; nope, not worried about you at all—I’m just scared of getting involved because she thinks I’m your accomplice—”
She turned from him and spoke harshly.
“Miss Shikibu sure is cute.”
Koremitsu, who watched Hikaru as he snickered, was perplexed.
“Anyway, you’d better comply for the time being.”
“That’s impossible. We just had an argument yesterday.”
Honoka turned back to Koremitsu; her eyes were opened wide, and her exaggerated expression was befitting of a comedian.
“We met each other on the way home, and she bossed me around as if she were important. I lost my temper, and shouted ‘Who would listen to you, you bastard?’.”
“Why did you say that—!?”
Her gaze fell as she shouted.
“It can’t be helped. I couldn’t back down in that situation.”
Koremitsu’s answer came through pouted lips.
“You’re really an idi—”
“If Saiga tries to do anything, I’ll protect you.”
Idiot—before Honoka could finish her sentence, she was, for some reason, rooted to the spot.
Blood rushed to her face; both her ears and her neck were crimson. She averted her gaze from Koremitsu.
What’s going on? What’s with her? Why’s her face blushing?
“Koremitsu, you don’t have the right to call me a playboy. You do have talent.”
What nonsense are you spouting? Koremitsu thought in protest, but he repressed these words to hear Honoka’s response.
“You-you idiot! You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll protect myself. Humph, don’t look down on me. I-I-I-I-I-I don’t need your help, humph.”
She exclaimed this with her eyes moving about rapidly.
“Really—now’s not the time to worry about others. You don’t understand your own situation. Why are you acting cool, saying that you will pro-protect me or something…no, my face is all heated up. Everyone’s looking at us!”
Koremitsu, after he had recovered, found that there was truth in Honoka’s words; the students gave them surprised looks as they passed by.
“Keep your distance from me when you’re talking. I don’t want to be misunderstood for going to school with a delinquent.”
Honoka shied away, hiding her flushed, petite face, speeding ahead of Koremitsu.
“I’M NOT A DELINQUENT!”
“DON’T TALK TO ME!”
Honoka further increased the distance between them.
“Ugh, I really don’t understand women—”
He thought she was worried for him because of the way she approached him, but she became angry without explanation; she would go on to blush and her expression would be, for a moment, vulnerable. The next moment, she was bitter once more; her moody vacillations were too rapid.
Koremitsu followed Honoka, a distance of several meters between the two, with Hikaru’s enthusiastic chatter coming from his side.
“Miss Shikibu sure is cute. Her feisty personality and innocence is the best combination. She’s so adorable. You should now go forward, grab her hand and say ‘I want to go to school with you’. She’ll blush even harder, this Miss Shikibu. Ahh, I really want to see this.”
Seriously, you…what about Aoi?
Koremitsu glanced to Hikaru condescendingly.
Really, what am I getting all flustered for?
Honoka hurried onward, her heart in total disarray.
My face is definitely all red now.
The previous day, when Asai Saiga had summoned Honoka to the student council room, she’d thoroughly questioned Honoka about Koremitsu.
Because you seem close to him, Miss Shikibu—she said.
Her beautiful eyes emanated a pressure that made Honoka shudder in consternation.
“Akagi may look like a delinquent, but he’s really a serious and hardworking guy, and he really devotes himself fully to the girl he likes! He won’t be violent to girls—and he’s definitely a gentleman! He likes cats—I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but he’s articulate, and he’ll finish his assignments seriously—”
If Honoka were to defend Koremitsu, she would surely be deemed an accomplice. To make Asai her enemy would be foolish.
She understood this, but could not restrain herself.
“Koremitsu Akagi is a decent man who looks much better than his appearance!”
Why in the world did I say something like that? The president didn’t say anything after hearing it. It’s really scary.
“If there’s nothing else, I’ll make my leave.”
She spoke courageously and took her leave.
I can’t believe I actually did that.
Her actions were ludicrous; she had taunted the Matriarch Asa.
She was in no place to call Koremitsu an idiot.
The president won’t hold back now, no matter what. If she does anything to me…
“I’ll protect you.”
She recalled his words, the serious expression on his face, and her own searing face. She had never expected a hero’s line to cross over from a love story into reality.
UWWAAAAHHH. NO! DON’T!
She reached the corridor, perturbed.
Honoka noticed something unusual.
There was a crowd in the corridor.
The girls, their eyes filled with tears, said things like, “This is too much,” and “Who did this?”
She hurriedly changed her shoes, and walked toward the crowd.
Her braided friend, among others, greeted her.
“What happened, Michiru?”
Michiru glowered as she muttered.
“It’s too much—someone cut the little papers stuck beside Lord Hikaru’s news bulletin—”
Honoka turned her attention to the bulletin board.
The colored papers, full of memorial notes and messages to Hikaru Mikado, had large crosses carved into them.
What is this?
Koremitsu stood at the hind of the crowd, his demeanor especially serious. He stared at the news bulletin and the colored papers.
The bulletin and papers had crosses hacked into them.
“I love you the most.”
The words, etched across shredded papers in black ink, hung alongside Hikaru’s picture.
Koremitsu looked breathlessly to Hikaru, who was staring at the notes written for him which were now covered in large crosses.
What exactly is going on? Who did it?
Koremitsu pushed his way through the crowd, moving onward.
Those who saw Koremitsu’s stiff, vicious countenance shrunk away from him.
A path opened before him, and his surroundings calmed. With the crowd spectating him, he drew near the bulletin board and came to a still.
He stared at the notes and colored papers with pursed lips.
They were probably sliced through with a penknife. The surface was not jagged, but very neat.
The resemblance between these crosses and the cross drawn on that canvas weighed on his heart.
Two blacks lines jutting across the sunlight-filled stairs.
Two black lines.
He felt the sliced surface of the notes with his frigid fingers, and a small object fell from inside the envelope and landed atop his right foot.
He knelt to retrieve it. It was a small silver star, half the size of a grain of rice.
Hikaru leaned in to examine it.
Just as he began to speak.
Koremitsu turned to the voice and saw a rigid looking male teacher, a young female homeroom teacher beside him.
The homeroom teacher stood tentatively, but the venerable male teacher spoke firmly,
“Please, come with us.”
He could tell by the homeroom teacher’s troubled demeanor and the male teacher’s stern voice that there was no good to come of it.
“This is the Teaching Staff Head, Mister Nishidera.”
Hikaru spoke with a tense voice,
Koremitsu’s voice followed,
With that as their answer, they followed the department head.
Spectators’ curious stares prodded them like needles.
Koremitsu, from the corner of his eye, saw Honoka worriedly watching him depart.
“Is he the culprit? He’s already been called over to the office by the Department Head, you know?”
Behind them, such chatter could be heard.
“A student stood up as witness, saying that you were the one who sliced the colored paper with a knife.”
He was led to the cramped counseling room, and the Teaching Staff Head spoke chidingly from across the conference table.
The words drained and stunned him.
The Teaching Staff Head spoke sternly,
“I can’t tell you who they were, but there were three students, not one, who reported you, saying that they personally saw you cutting the colored papers with a knife.”
He came to a sudden realization.
Saiga did this, didn’t she?
If she hadn’t, why would three people have testified to witnessing him cut the notes when he was innocent?
Honoka said before that President Saiga would not forgive her enemies, and that all the students who opposed the president vanished for no reason.
Honoka had previously stated that President Saiga was unforgiving, and that all the students to oppose her had vanished with no ostensible reason.
Damn, this is too despicable, Asai Saiga. Is it your modus operandi to frame people?
His face stiffened, and his chest boiled.
Hikaru, after taking note of Koremitsu’s twitching eyebrows and fury filled eyes, offered some advice.
“You didn’t do this, Koremitsu. I can vouch for you since I’m with you twenty-four hours a day, so please calm down. Just hold on for now and listen to the Teaching Staff Head.”
Koremitsu took a breath to calm himself.
Were it not for Hikaru’s avocation, the situation would have worsened.
He probably would have shouted for the Teaching Staff Head to bring in both the students who framed him and the student council president, Saiga.
“I didn’t do this.”
He concluded as he stared at the Teaching Staff Head.
Both teachers, the Teaching Staff Head and the homeroom teacher, were slightly taken aback by his calm denial.
“But I heard that you yelled at the students sticking their notes on the board a few days ago, didn’t you?”
“Well…I wasn’t yelling at them, and I have nothing to do with this.”
“So, you mean that the witnesses were mistaken.”
“I don’t know since I’m not them, but I know all too well what I did yesterday. I left school before the final dismissal time, so if they really saw the culprit, it wasn’t me. Besides, I wouldn’t do that kind of thing anyway.”
“Then, is there anyone who can prove that you left school at that time.”
“I met President Saiga when I went over to Hikaru’s apartment. The president should be able to prove it.”
The name alone caused her vexation.
He tried his best to suppress the rage which rose in his chest as he spoke, but the Teaching Staff Head gave an arrogant look at Koremitsu, and said without wavering,
“I’ve already asked Saiga about that.”
“You called yourself Hikaru Mikado’s friend, but were infuriated when Saiga pointed out that it was impossible.”
That was truly the case.
It sounded like Koremitsu was lying about being Hikaru’s friend, and was a lunatic with an inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Saiga definitely implied this when she spoke with the Teaching Staff Head.
“Maybe it was because you were overly excited that she was worried that you might do something overboard. She said you might have returned to school after that, and that you had enough time for you to do something like this.”
WHAT KIND OF JOKE IS THIS!? He nearly exploded.
“Hang in there, Koremitsu!”
Hikaru restrained him.
“I get it, I get it, okay?”
He managed to calm himself, but his heart was racing, and his head was seething.
His breathing was erratic.
The Teaching Staff Head and the homeroom teacher were probably taken aback by his the fury displayed in his eyes and breathlessness as they froze.
“I didn’t—do it. Hikaru’s my friend; I won’t tear messages meant for a friend.”
His voice growled with fury, and his throat was burning.
“You really didn’t do this?”
The Teaching Staff Head asked again in an irked manner, and Koremitsu nearly lost his temper, but was stopped again by Hikaru.
The Teaching Staff Head sighed and said,
“I’ll talk with you again once I talk with Asai.”
Koremitsu was finally liberated, and the bell indicating the end of the first period rang.
“I heard that Akagi was summoned to the staff room by the Teaching Staff Head because he was the one who cut the news and the colored paper.”
“So that delinquent did it after all.”
“I’ve already thought about it. His facial expression was exaggerated when he roared at the girls on the corridor. He had that scary expression on his face this morning too.”
“How can he be possibly be Lord Hikaru’s friend? They’re so different it’s like a Prince and a slave.”
“Yeah, nobody will believe him—”
“Speaking of which, I think he attended the funeral?”
“He was. So what? He’s a ghost stalker? He definitely cut the papers because he was angry about everyone ignoring him when he said he was Lord Hikaru’s friend.”
“He’s the worst.”
These ramblings, and others like it, came from in front of him.
“Tch! That damned woman…I won’t forgive you, Asai Saiga.”
He gritted his teeth and walked through the corridor to the classroom.
She framed me as the vandal, so I’m completely isolated, but she’s too naïve. I was already isolated. I’m already used to such slander.
“…Did Asa really do this?”
Beside him, Hikaru closed his eyes slightly and muttered pensively.
“Doing this isn’t Asa’s style.”
“What are you saying?”
Koremitsu spoke softly.
It seemed like something that cold-blooded woman would do, but Hikaru’s normally clear face was clouded.
“It’s Asa’s style to frame you as the culprit, Koremitsu, but…the one who cut the news and papers might be someone else. Asa simply used it to her advantage.”
“Because if Asa knew who did this, she definitely wouldn’t slander you, definitely not. Asa wouldn’t do such a dangerous thing.”
The fervor in Hikaru’s eyes was quickly fading to nonexistence.
He seemed to be entirely preoccupied by himself, ruminating for an answer; his icy countenance that of a complete stranger to Koremitsu.
For Hikaru’s face to bear anything but a smile was disconcerting to Koremitsu, and when he recalled the cross drawn on that canvas, his chest ached as though it were being torn.
Honoka ran to him.
“Akagi, are you alright?”
She looked to be a combination of flustered and worried as she looked up to Koremitsu.
“Did the Teaching Staff Head look for you?”
“He asked if I was the culprit, but I didn’t do anything.”
He was still furious with Asai and the Teaching Staff Head, but he gave his best apathetic look as to not worry Honoka; however, he still had the face of a scoundrel.
Honoka pouted her lips in an ostensibly embarrassed manner.
“Is, is that so. So nothing happened.”
She muttered coldly.”
“Why are you talking with the delinquent Akagi, Shikibu?”
“How disappointing. To think that you became a delinquent too, Shikibu.”
Koremitsu heard some people mutter,
And at the next moment, he bellowed,
“ALRIGHT, THAT GUY WHO SAID DELINQUENT! YOU CAN CALL ME ONE, BUT SHIKIBU’S NOT ONE!”
“What are you doing, Akagi—”
Honoka’s eyes widened, and she tried to stop Koremitsu.
Hikaru, who was immersed in his own thoughts, hurriedly advised Koremitsu too,
“Koremitsu, it’s like you to be angry for Honoka. You’ll cause trouble for Miss Shikibu too if you exacerbate things further!”
Koremitsu immediately stopped him.
“What’s he doing? Being angry back at us?”
“He’s the culprit who cut the paper on Lord Hikaru’s bulletin.”
Other voices rang, and Koremitsu clenched his trembling fist as his temple veins were about to explode.
At this moment,
“That’s not true. He’s not the one who cut the papers and the news cutting!”
Koremitsu doubted his eyes and ears.
Hikaru too stood there, unmoving.
The one exclaiming with a pale face was Aoi.
Why would Aoi!?
Koremitsu held his breath, and Aoi’s voice continued to ring.
“No! he didn’t do it…! It’s not him. It’s not him!”
Her trembling tender body was ostensibly about to snap, and her eyes were filled with anguish as she kept telling them.
Her pale face and straight flowing black hair was all messy.
Her voice was becoming weaker, and she cuddled herself, seemingly chilly, and lowered her head.
The second lesson bell rang coldly across the silent corridor.
Koremitsu’s arms were slumped weakly as he stood there, and he immediately had the image of the large cross on the canvas and Aoi drawing it in his mind.
♢ ♢ ♢
During lunch break, while Koremitsu went to the roof with bento in stow, he heard rumors about the slashing.
“I heard that it was Lord Hikaru’s fiancée who did it.”
“Her Highness Aoi did belittle Lord Hikaru a long time ago, and even on that day…”
Hikaru, who was beside Koremitsu, remained silent with a stiff expression.
They arrived at the room, and Koremitsu sat his buttocks down with his legs outstretched.
“What do you think? Did Aoi really do it?”
He whispered hesitantly,
“I don’t know. But Miss Aoi does have a motive.”
He frowned as he answered painfully.
Aoi did not say that she was the one who cut the paper, but the ‘it’s not him’ line from her sounded like she was trying to shield Koremitsu, or rather, she might be guilty over her crime.
If Aoi was really the one who cut it all, who knows how cruel it’ll be to Hikaru…?
What would he have to do about the birthday presents he promised to give Aoi on Sunday? Hikaru’s expression was all gloomy, and Koremitsu was at a loss of words.
Damn it. I might as well be the culprit!
Frustrated, he bit into the extremely large Inarizushi (TN: Sushi of Fried tofu fill with rice inside).
Suddenly, something glittered beside Koremitsu.
And then, a chime rang, and a girl aimed her camera right in front of him.
She had tomboyish short hair, and though she had a petite physique, her silky thighs and the protruding chest on her shirt made her bewitching.
“Sorry, Akagi! Can I have a photo please? From this direction.”
She immediately darted in front of him without his permission, and her cellphone screen flashed again. A cackling sound rang, indicating that the photo shoot was done.
“What are you doing!?”
“Hello, I’m Hiina Oumi of the news club, the second girl in class 1-4. My blood type is AB, birthday is February 3rd, Aquarius. As for my tastes in boyfriends, I like the intellectual kind with glasses on. I’m willing to do anything to get a quick breaking scoop, whether it’s to wear a school swimsuit, cat-ears or clean the toilet. My favorite food is pasta, and I prefer to sprinkle lots of cheese over it rather than have the Neapolitan meat sauce on it. I think it’s best to have Neapolitan pasta with cheese right? There’s a café called ‘April Fools’ in front of the station, and including coffee, red tea, herbal tea or their homemade mint ice-cream, the entire set is worth 850 Yen. That’s really the best one for me. Are there any other questions?”
She was speaking very quickly midway through, but the final few words were too faster that Koremitsu’s mind was utterly confused.
Wearing a school swimsuit, cleaning the toilet, or whatever, what was going on? No, before that.
“Why did you take a photo of me when I haven’t allowed you to?”
And in this situation?
He glared back like a beast, but the girl did not seem to mind.
“I did ask if I could take a photo.”
“But I didn’t allow you to.”
“Well, let’s not fuss over such trivial stuff. Now, the topic of our scoop, Akagi, you’re Lord Hikaru’s friend, right?”
She would probably say something like she could not believe it.
“I’m investigating into something regarding Lord Hikaru. Thus, I’m collecting all sorts of information.”
“You’re still going to write a Hikaru’s memoriam during this commotion again?”
“Ahh, you sure were unlucky this morning, Akagi, weren’t you? But I have no intention of focusing on this trivial matter of someone’s act of personal revenge. Well, a coming-out party from Her Highness Aoi certainly is exciting, but this is really a 3rd-rate act. What I’m looking into is the issue of ‘The truth behind Lord Hikaru’s death’, that’s all.”
“The truth, behind Hikaru’s death?”
As Koremitsu remained puzzled, Hiina grinned as she said,
“It’s just…a little rumor—but Lord Hikaru didn’t die from an accident, but was actually killed by someone.”
Koremitsu let out a slight gasp.
Was Hikaru possibly killed by someone?
What’s going on, Hikaru!?
He turned to the man himself, and saw Hikaru give a grim frozen expression into the sky that could have frozen the atmosphere around them. Hikaru bit on his lips that were usual smiling gently, his face was face and his eyes were sharp.
Koremitsu immediately had goosebumps.
Was she telling the truth?
“Hello there, Akagi? Why are you looking behind?’
As Hiina called out to Koremitsu.
“So you’re here, Akagi!”
Honoka opened the door to the roof, and she exclaimed with a tone of desperation.
“What is it, Shikibu!?”
“Her Highness Aoi’s in trouble! She’s taken away by Lord Hikaru’s fans! The situation is very bad!”
“Ahh, Her Highness Aoi had been badmouthing Lord Hikaru up till now, making his fans really unhappy. With this incident, it’ll be past their breaking point.”
Hiina said this rather expectantly. Koremitsu left his bento behind and ran over to Honoka.
“Where did they go, Shikibu?”
“To the woods!”
Koremitsu dashed hurriedly down the stairs.
“Ah! Wait a moment! Akagi! I haven’t had my material yet—!”
Hiina chased after him with her chest bouncing about.
♢ ♢ ♢
You’d better not have anything happen to you, Aoi!
He did not expect to see students being called out for personal revenge in this prestigious school of princesses and young lords. If women were to get hysterical, who knew what they could do.
As Koremitsu sprinted down the stairs, Hikaru exclaimed climatically,
“Listen to me, Koremitsu. I feel that Miss Aoi’s not the one who cut the paper. She may have a ‘motive’ for doing this, but it’s not her character to actually ‘carry out the act’. Of course, it’s not Asa too. Even if Asa knows that Miss Aoi drew a cross on her canvas, she won’t suspect Miss Aoi.”
Koremitsu darted through the corridor and ran out of the school building without changing out of his shoes. During this time, Hikaru continued with a serious expression,
“That’s right, Asa definitely didn’t know that Miss Aoi drew a cross on the canvas. That’s why, when there was the slashing incident, she felt that it could be used to her benefit, and she could frame you for this incident.”
Koremitsu panted, looked around, and ran straight to the woods.
Hikaru’s voice got more uptight,
“The crux in this situation is why the culprit would deliberately draw a large cross on the memorial. If it’s not a coincidence—there has to be an intention behind this, and the culprit will show up. Miss Aoi’s not the culprit, and it’s not Asa. That means—”
A voice rang, sounding like it ripped through the air sharply,
“You’re just betrothed because your parents decided the marriage!”
He turned his head towards where the voice came from, and saw Aoi standing with her back against a large trunk. She bit her lips tightly, and she was frowning with a pale face.
There were approximately 10 girls surrounding her.
And they were ostensibly taking turns to tell her off.
“Even if you weren’t loved by Lord Hikaru, it’s embarrassing that you still hate him after his death and rip the papers!”
“Lord Hikaru certainly is pitiful to have a vicious woman like you as his fiancée. No wonder he went to flirt around.
No matter how much she was scolded, Aoi kept silent with a stiff expression. Her eyes were showing a firm glint, and her tightly shut lips were not saying a single word.
“What are you staring at? Say something? Are you looking down on us because you think you’re a ‘noble’ who’s been in the school since kindergarten?”
The girl who was irate by Aoi’s attitude raised her hand.
“I’ve always disliked you for a long time.”
Koremitsu sprinted over as he hollered,
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE—!”
Aoi widened her eyes.
And the other girls looked over at Koremitsu.
Koremitsu barged his way amongst them and stood in front of Aoi, shielding her.
“Don’t you lay a hand on her! She’s a very important person! If you want to vent your anger, come at me! I’ll take a beating from you for her sake.”
Right! Aoi’s a very important person to Hikaru. That’s why I have to protect her!
Upon seeing the savage-looking Koremitsu with messy red hair pant as he hollered, the girls were rooted to the ground in fear.
“COME HIT ME!”
Koremitsu roared out at the girl who raised her hand.
“Wha-what are you doing? Didn’t she completely ignore you, splash you with the paintbrush water, and cut up the papers everyone wrote to Lord Hikaru? And you still want to protect her after all this? Are you an idiot?”
The girl glared timidly at Koremitsu.
At this moment,
Hikaru, who was beside them, spoke sternly,
“No, Miss Aoi didn’t do it.”
Koremitsu immediately turned towards Hikaru.
Hikaru’s expression was as firm as his will, unfettered, and he looked towards the girls surrounding Aoi.
They could not see Hikaru.
And they could not hear his voice.
But Koremitsu could hear him.
That was why,
“Miss Aoi isn’t the one who cut the colored papers and the news.”
That was why he had to convey Hikaru’s words.
He had to protect this Aoi Hikaru so loved.
The girls widened their eyes in shock, and Aoi, standing behind him, was taken aback.
Hikaru looked like an Archangel sent down by God as he pointed a long finger at one of the girls.
“You’re the one who did this.”
Koremitsu grabbed the hand of the girl Hikaru pointed to and raised it up.
The girl who had been hounding Koremitsu up till this point let out a soft cry.
Honoka gasped, and Hiina took her phone out as she got ready.
The polished nail on the right hand’s finger dropped as Koremitsu grabbed it, and the stars and flower shaped glass fragments were glittering.
They were the same stars as the ones that dropped onto Koremitsu’s toes.
Hikaru spoke quietly,
“Why are there large crosses on the news and the papers—as for what this means, it means that the culprit was definitely in the arts room, and saw Miss Aoi draw the cross on the canvas. She did not like Miss Aoi, and did this to push the blame on her.”
Koremitsu digested the meaning of Hikaru’s words as he growled,
“You’re from the arts club, right? You saw me being scolded by Aoi, and also saw her draw that large cross on the canvas. That’s why you deliberately cut the news and papers in large crosses to shift the suspicion to her.”
The girl grabbed by the hand froze tersely, and then struggled like a fish biting on hook, trying to break free from Koremitsu’s hand. But once she knew she could not escape, her expression contorted, and she looked like she was hoping for Koremitsu not to speak on any further.
“Tha-that’s because…I couldn’t forgive her.”
The girl showed fear and apprehension on her face as she moved her dry lips.
“That person kept calling Lord Hikaru useless, a scum amongst men, and even said something like he deserved this for what he did.”
Her tentative-looking eyes had anger and sadness as she said ‘this person’, and she growled these words.
“Wh-when Lord Hikaru was around, I couldn’t approach him because I was too nervous…but that person, even when she became Lord Hikaru’s fiancée so easily, said such…such overboard things—if I were her, I would have ripped my mouth out and not say anything…if I were Lord Hikaru’s fiancée, I’ll definitely treasure him more than that person. I’ll thank God every day…but this person keeps deriding him, and she’s his fiancée.”
When she finally finished, she broke down in tears.
Koremitsu weakened, not knowing what to do.
When Aoi drew the large cross on the canvas, Koremitsu too could not suppress his anger as he roared out at Aoi.
He understood all too well the feelings of the girl Aoi hurt.
Koremitsu let go of her hand, and she immediately knelt down, her skirt lying on the grassy patchy as she sobbed weakly.
“Lord Hikaru…has always been my idol. I was satisfied with just looking at him from afar, but he’s now dead…I won’t…won’t be able to see him again…”
Hikaru too showed a depressed look, and got down on his knees to clasp the girl’s hands, seemingly apologizing for not being able to accept her feelings.
Even though the one she hoped to meet was standing right in front of her, she could not sense him clasping her hand, and she continued while sobbing.
“I already knew…this is just envy on my part…but…it’s really painful…I couldn’t control myself…I’m sorry…I’m sorry.”
The other girls too apologized as they lowered their heads.
“Pl-please forgive me.”
Koremitsu, who was already apprehensive over being apologized at, had sweat dripping as his head started to heat up as he shouted,
“Idiots! Don’t apologize to me or anything! You shouldn’t have done this if you had known that you’re going to apologize like this!”
Suddenly, a hoarse voice came from behind.
“…Is that so.”
Aoi, standing behind Koremitsu, continued to mutter.
“…Please don’t…do this too. Please don’t…apologize.”
He turned around, and saw Aoi’s expression look paler than before. Her eyes were shut, and she seemed to be writhing as she breathed.
“I…wasn’t the one who cut the papers, but…I already thought about it.”
Startled, Koremitsu’s voice was stuck in his throat. Hiina watched on with a calm expression, Honoka and the other girls shocked onlookers.
And then, there was a color tint of agony spreading in Hikaru’s eyes. For every moment Aoi spoke, her petite shoulders would tremble, and the agony got concentrated.
“As you have said, Hikaru never loved me. He was chasing other girls…and I despised him for it. He fooled people like that, and died in that manner…he didn’t consider the feelings of others until the end.”
Aoi suddenly could not continue any further. Her contorted expression showed that she was about to cry, and she had already revealed the sadness and bitterness within.
“I always thought of tearing down those colored papers so that I won’t have to remember them…whenever I see those things related to Hikaru every morning, I really can’t help but want to tear them off…so, that’s why, when I saw the slashed news and papers…I—I mistakenly thought that I did that…”
Aoi’s delicate body looked frailer than before, and her face got paler. Her large eyes were seething with agony.
“I THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE GREAT IF ALL MY MEMORIES OF HIKARU WOULD VANISH!”
The moment she cried out—Koremitsu felt he had heard the sound of Hikaru’s heart breaking.
Hikaru, who was the prosecutor of sorts before now, stood there like a convict being judged for heavy crimes.
He did not argue as he closed his lips, and his sad eyes showed helplessness—
Aoi then lowered her head and ran away.
Koremitsu followed after her.
“Don’t follow me! Hikaru’s feelings—affections— for me are like the stars in the sky falling down on the ground; they don’t exist!”
Aoi exclaimed as she ran.
These words carved Koremitsu’s heart.
Why must she keep saying such things?
Hikaru was certainly right beside Aoi.
He still remained on this world to fulfill the promise he made with her.
And she actually said something like it’ll be great if he disappeared—that she can’t help but wreck it. Why must she let out such a heartbroken voice, such a painful expression, why—
His chest felt tight, and he had difficulty breathing as his body ached.
Hikaru said that you’re his hope! Even so—
“Please! Wait! Aoi Saotome! Listen to me!”
Aoi ran from the courtyard to the corridor, and Koremitsu tried his best to catch up. He felt Hikaru’s presence behind him, his pain, and continued chasing after her.
There’s not enough time.
Aoi’s birthday was on Sunday – two days from now. If Koremitsu could not open her heart before than, he would not be able to pass on the remaining 6 birthday presents, and he would not be able to pass on Hikaru’s feelings to Aoi!
Even though this was already Hikaru’s last chance!
Hikaru could not celebrate Aoi’s birthday with her already!
“Stop right there! Aoi Saotome! I have something I want to give you!”
Aoi dashed up the stairs.
The light of noon shot through the windows on the stairs.
“Hey! Aoi Saotome! Saotome! Aoi! –Miss Aoi!”
The moment he called out to her, she stopped in her tracks.
However, she did not look back and knelt down weakly.
She was everything but alright.
Koremitsu sprinted to her.
“Miss Aoi! Miss Aoi!”
Aoi was still groggy as she closed her eyes, worn from it all, breathing with pain. Even when Koremitsu was carrying her, she showed no reaction. Koremitsu was shocked to realize how light Aoi was.
“Hikaru, where’s the infirmary?”
“Lead the way.”
He carried Aoi as he ran to the infirmary.
On the way back, Koremitsu went by Honoka and Hiina, who caught up.
“Wait! What’s going on!? What happened to Her Highness Aoi!?”
“Wow, a Princess Carry! May I take a picture!?”
“Idiot! I’ll kill you if you dare to take one!”
He yelled these words as he ran off.
♢ ♢ ♢
Koremitsu let Aoi lie on the infirmary bed, and finally heaved a sigh of relief.
His hair and clothes were drenched in sweat to a point where he could squeeze it out.
“Overexertion, lack of sleep, and malnutrition.”
The infirmary teacher frowned.
Koremitsu learned that Aoi felt uncomfortable during a lesson a few days ago, and came over to the infirmary to rest.
“At that time, I emphasized to her that she had to have the minimum amount of sleep and nutrition. Looks like she’s still thinking about Hikaru, really, who can blame her…?”
The teacher said with distress. Hikaru lowered his eyelashes, seemingly accepting this lecture.
Once lunch break ended, Koremitsu was advised by the teacher to return to the classroom, and he insisted.
“I want to stay with her!”
His attitude was unexpectedly adamant, and he hammered himself down to the bed.
“Teacher, please let Akagi stay here.”
The teacher finally relented, whether it was because of Honoka’s request, or that the teacher was terrified of Koremitsu’s intensity.
“No need to thank me. Her Highness Aoi…it’ll be great if she can get well.”
She whispered, and left the infirmary.
Koremitsu looked down upon Aoi, lying on the bad.
Lack of sleep? Overexertion? Malnutrition? What in the world?
“This person…she’s always trying to act tough, but always so reckless.”
She continued to insist on going to school, and continued to stay inside the arts room to paint after school—she looked like she was living the same life she had when Hikaru was still alive, but in fact, that was not the case.
She agonized all this time.
Aoi had been trying to force herself to act tough – maybe because she did not want others to notice this pain within her.
A tear slid from the corner of Aoi’s closed eyelid.
Hikaru knelt down beside the bed, his eyes filled with regret as he looked at Aoi’s sleeping face.
“…Miss Aoi, definitely realized that the one who cut the news and the papers was from the arts club…she felt that she herself had a motive for doing this, which is why she continued to blame herself…this is the kind of girl she is.”
—No! he didn’t do it…! It’s not him. It’s not him!
Aoi looked like she was almost in tears as she repeated these words in the corridor.
At that moment, Aoi was certainly defending Koremitsu.
Even though this was out of her own guilt.
—I…always thought of tearing down those colored papers so that I won’t have to remember them…
Those words were Aoi’s true thoughts too.
—when I saw the slashed news and papers…I—I mistakenly thought that I did that…
I THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE GREAT IF ALL MY MEMORIES OF HIKARU WOULD VANISH!
Aoi was trembling back then.
She never had any feelings for Hikaru in the first place.
Koremitsu thought of Aoi’s state of mind when she said this, and Hikaru’s feelings when he heard this, and felt hot inside.
“…Miss Aoi had always been like this. Whenever she’s extremely sad, whenever she felt like crying, she would force herself to say ‘there’s nothing wrong’, puff her face to look away…”
Hikaru said with melancholy.
She looked angry on the surface because her inner heart was saddened.
She saw herself as being unloved by Hikaru, causing her to be saddened and cry out in gloom.
Koremitsu recalled how, in his youth, he drew many crosses on the writing paper when his mother left him.
Aoi was just like him.
Like Koremitsu, she would protect her inner heart by denying everything.
Aoi in the photo album would glance at Hikaru when she was slightly away from Hikaru.
But when both of them were together, she would look away.
Hikaru knew more than anyone how clumsy Aoi was, the pain she had. Thus, when Aoi vented out her feelings, Hikaru’s heart felt like it was butchered through.
He lowered his eyes as he looked down at Aoi sadly.
He wanted to use his fingers to wipe the tears off Aoi’s crying face, but his fingers passed through.
Hikaru’s face was full of anguish.
Koremitsu observed this, and his heart felt like it was torn asunder.
He really wanted to tell Aoi that Hikaru was standing here.
He wanted to tell her that Hikaru was worried about her.
But no matter how many times Hikaru tried to touch Aoi, he failed, and he could only retract his hand in a forlorn manner.
He bit his lips, showed a depressed look as he looked at Aoi longingly, smiled, ostensibly trying to endure the pain—and said gently,
“Koremitsu…there’s a vending machine in front of the infirmary. Can you get a can of milk shake so that Miss Aoi can drink it when she wakes up?”
The bell indicating the end of the 5th period rang.
Koremitsu stood up from the pipe chair and silently walked out of the infirmary.
His heart was still aching because of the smile he saw on Hikaru’s face.
He hesitated for a moment, dropped a coin into the vending machine, and turned to Hikaru anxiously.
“Well…I shouldn’t be asking this in this situation.”
He tried to remain calm as he pressed on the button indicating the ‘milkshake’ choice, but his throat was trembling as his fingers were dripping with seat.
“Are…you really…killed by someone?”
GATAN. The sound of the milkshake can dropping rang.
Hikaru gave an abnormally calm expression as he looked back at Koremitsu silently.
“That’s because the News Club girl said so.”
“I can ignore it if it’s made up.”
“I’m not too sure.”
He spoke with an adult-like tone.
“I’m a harem prince who goes around hooking up girls…so I guess there should be a lot of girls who wanted to kill me.”
He avoided this topic in such a vague manner.
Why did he want to avoid this topic?
Koremitsu thought about it, and he felt a chill up his back.
What exactly was the ‘rumor’ Hiina Oumi heard about?
Hikaru went silent.
Just when he felt something icy stuck in his throat.
Asai Saiga was standing there with an admonishing expression.
“I heard that Aoi fainted.”
“She’s resting on the bed now.”
He answered as he took out the milkshake can.
The can was still scalding, and his fingers were hot.
Asai suddenly frowned.
“It’s for Aoi to drink when she wakes up.”
Once he said that, Asai’s expression became sharper.
“…Did you hear it from Hikaru? That Aoi likes milkshake more than coffee.”
Koremitsu was about to return back to the infirmary, only to be stopped by Asai’s stern tone,
“Akagi, please return to the classroom. I’ll take care of Aoi.”
“I still have some things I want to say to her.”
“Your presence would only cause Aoi’s body condition to worsen. Speaking of which, did Aoi not faint because of you?”
Hikaru’s expression froze.
Koremitsu too stopped in his tracks.
It was true that Koremitsu was the one who kept chasing after Aoi, causing her to end up in the infirmary.
Also, the reason why the girl from the arts club blamed the paper slashing onto Aoi was because Koremitsu went over to the arts room every day, and Aoi kept badmouthing Hikaru.
Koremitsu kept running forward to express Hikaru’s feelings, but never considered the consequences, and did not notice that Aoi did not have her proper meals, did not sleep well, and was in agony the entire time.
He was enraged by Aoi’s words, and lashed out such overboard comments to her.
She must have been terrified to see a savage-looking wild dog hounding her, barking at her. What Koremitsu did may have opened the scars within Aoi all the more.
Right beside Koremitsu was Hikaru, who lowered his head sadly.
Koremitsu grabbed onto the milkshake can, his skin almost scalded as he was unable to argue back.
Did I force Aoi into despair?
Asai showed displeasure on her face.
“It’s my fault for not taking care of Aoi and leaving her alone today. I do have to reflect on this. From this moment, I won’t allow any of Hikaru’s fans to hurt Aoi.”
“Those girls have their troubles too. Don’t punish them for it. if Aoi knows about it, she’ll definitely blame herself.”
Koremitsu stared back at Asai.
“I don’t want to be advised by you regarding Aoi.”
Asai retorted with a berating tone.
She then looked at Koremitsu with an icy stare.
“If, even if, you’re Hikaru’s friend, you can’t use this as an excuse to hurt Aoi verbally. I definitely won’t recognize someone like you as a representative for Hikaru.”
All her words were piercing through Koremitsu’s chest.
His hand that was holding the milkshake got number and number.
“One more thing, Koremitsu Akagi, it’s impossible for you to express Hikaru’s feeling. Nobody can.”
He had to say something.
He was Hikaru’s real representative, and he had to fight back.
Right, I have to say something s-
He sank into deep thought while enduring the pain of his gut being ripped apart, looking for words he should say.
At this moment, a quiet voice rang,
He could not believe that these words came from Hikaru directly.
Hikaru stood between Koremitsu and Asai, showed a light smile on his face tersely, and shook his head,
“Forget about it.”
Forget about it?
What are you saying, Hikaru?
As Koremitsu was about to collapse on his knees, Asai said,
“I’ll celebrate Aoi’s birthday with her to make her forget all about Hikaru. Speaking of which, the burden of being Hikaru’s fiancée was already too much for her.”
As Hikaru listened to these words, his face was contorted with bitterness.
—I THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE GREAT IF ALL MY MEMORIES OF HIKARU WOULD VANISH!
Koremitsu saw Hikaru’s suffering expression as the latter was trying to get him to agree, and he could not counter Asai’s argument.
He handed the warm milkshake can to Asai.
“Give this to Aoi.”
He grumbled as he left the infirmary.
His body felt torn apart as he thought about how he did not finish the errand.
Hikaru remained silent as he followed Koremitsu sidelong. It was a weak existence, one almost devoid of existence.
They were about to reach the classroom.
Koremitsu whispered to Hikaru as he walked on,
“Do you really think this is for the best?”
Hikaru went silent for a moment, and then spoke,
“Asa might be right…”
His hollow expression was full of despair, and he let out words of regret.
“I kept hurting Miss Aoi up till now. It’s too late to try and salvage anything here. Maybe I’m just trying to satisfy myself by fulfilling this promise…and I made my beloved Miss Aoi—cry again.”
His lowered eyelashes trembled, and his voice was filled with unrestrained pain.
He lifted his head and smiled with an anguished expression.
“And Koremitsu, I can’t give Miss Aoi happiness as a ghost now. Maybe it’s time to give her a new start.”
“In the arts room, when I told Miss Aoi to move her lips if she could hear my voice…I still had that little hope even though I know it’s impossible…even though Miss Aoi was angry, even if she would look away angrily…but she never noticed me in the slightest.”
At that time, Hikaru and Aoi were almost sticking together.
Hikaru’s weak eyes were ostensibly pleading for Aoi to look at him.
But Aoi never looked back as she continued to draw the large cross on the canvas.
She said that Hikaru was the worst liar.
Koremitsu’s hand that was holding onto the milkshake can still felt hot.
He was unsatisfied, full of angst, and he had difficulty breathing.
He could not endure the sight of Hikaru’s smile again as he lowered his head.
What Asai said was true.
It was too much for the serious-natured Aoi to bear the burden of Hikaru’s fiancée. She must have been hurt, seeing Hikaru flirt around with so many girls to the point where he became infamous as a playboy.
But it was too snobbish of Hikaru to say that he wanted to express his love only at the point of his death.
Koremitsu too bore the crime as the representative, defending Hikaru even though he knew about this.
He kept repeating his one-sided approach, caused the incident, and forced Aoi into despair.
He really wanted to fall on his knees in regret.
But even so, is it really alright to give up like this?
Is it good to let Aoi’s birthday pass by without doing anything?
And am I—going to watch Hikaru give up like this without saying anything?
He arrived in front of the classroom.
Honoka was certainly worried over Koremitsu as she waited inside the classroom.
She left her seat, poked her head out from the rear door, looked around the corridor, and asked, “How’s Her Highness, Akagi?”
Honoka heaved a sigh of relief, and at the next moment, she opened her eyes frantically,
“Wait—where’re you going?”
Koremitsu growled gruffly and passed by the classroom door.
The class bell rang from above.
“WAIT! AKAGI! COME BACK FOR CLASS! THE SIXTH PERIOD ISN’T OVER YET! AKAGI! AKAGI~!”
Honoka hollered out from behind.
But Koremitsu did not care as he ran forward in large steps.
“Koremitsu? What’s wrong? You just passed by the classroom, you know?”
Hikaru said with bewilderment.
Koremitsu wordlessly ascended the stairs.
He gritted his teeth and took one heavy step after another as he climbed.
“Koremitsu, hello, Koremitsu? Do you hear me?”
He climbed up onto the top level, and opened the door leading to the roof.
The wind blew towards Koremitsu from the front, and his crimson hair fluttered.
He stepped onto the roof, closed the door, and roared,
Hikaru’s eyes widened.
Koremitsu looked up, and vented out all the emotions he held within like a torrent.
“I CAME HERE BECAUSE I WANT TO TALK WITH YOU! DON’T YOU GIVE ME THAT WORTHLESS EXPRESSION! DIDN’T YOU HAUNT ME BECAUSE YOU WANT TO PASS ALONG YOUR FEELINGS TO AOI!? YOU’RE DEAD, BUT I CAN HEAR YOUR VOICE CLEARLY! I CAN DEFINITELY HEAR YOUR WORDS!”
He thumped his chest violently.
Hikaru was in awe at the declaration.
Koremitsu’s unwavering spirit could be realized from his expression.
It was an expression that said, Are you really going to give up here?
Were those feelings you showed when you looked at the album truly this downtrodden?
You looked at Aoi with such passion in the arts room – can you treat the feelings you showed back then as nothing?
“ISN’T AOI YOUR BELOVED!? DIDN’T YOU SAY THIS TO ME!? DON’T TELL ME THAT’S A LIE!? DIDN’T YOU SWEAR NOT TO CHEAT AROUND AND BE WITH HER FOREVER!? WERE THOSE ALL LIES!?”
Hikaru’s face turned pale, the ends of his lips curled up.
He smiled. It was no longer a warm smile, but a tense one that hinted at a searing pain inside.
“I’m not lying. I’ve always loved Miss Aoi.”
“Then…we have to tell Aoi this no matter what. Aoi has always thought that you never loved her.”
-For me, genuine affection is like stars in the sky falling down to the ground – it doesn’t happen!
Aoi’s voice echoed in his mind.
What were the chances of a meteor dropping? Why did she have such belief?
“DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT YOU WON’T LEAVE A CRYING GIRL ALONE? WON’T YOU WATER A FLOWER THAT’S WILTING? THEN TELL HER, TELL AOI HOW MUCH YOU VALUE THIS PROMISE WITH HER! I’LL PASS HER YOUR WORDS, YOUR FEELINGS! JUST SAY ‘PLEASE’, BECAUSE WE’RE FRIENDS—I’LL DEFINITELY PASS ON THE FEELINGS TO YOU! IF AOI’S TEARS CAN’T BE WIPED AWAY, I’LL USE A HANDKERCHIEF TO WIPE THEM OFF ON YOUR BEHALF! ARE YOU STILL GOING TO SAY ‘FORGET ABOUT IT’ HERE!?”
He roared aloud, his throat feeling like it was about to explode, continuing in his mind.
Say it out.
Just say the word ‘please’.
If you give up like this, Aoi won’t know your feelings for her forever.
She’ll just think that she’s not loved because she doesn’t know how you feel, and will think that she’s just designated as a fiancée.
Koremitsu’s mother left her family without leaving a single word to her son.
Koremitsu could not give his mother a present.
But Hikaru should have something he wanted to give to Aoi.
Aoi should have the privilege to accept Hikaru’s present.
That’s why, say it to me—
Hikaru closed his lips slightly and frowned as he looked back at Koremitsu.
His clear eyes were filled with bitterness and anguish.
Those lips trembling lips of his uttered words.
This line was enough for him.
That night, after Koremitsu left the apartment, Hikaru shouted to the inked night sky that they were friends, and Koremitsu felt a rising sense of delight and embarrassment.
Those words alone allow me to overcome all difficulty to see all his wishes through.
I can agree to those words without asking for anything in return.
For a sake of a ‘friend’, I can do this confidently.
“Alright, leave it to me!”
His chest was filled with delight.
The delight rose from the bottom of his belly, and he exclaimed as he ran out.
Honoka was leaning at the side of the roof leading to the roof, feeling extremely nervous.
She skipped class and followed Koremitsu up to the roof because she was worried about him.
She heard a growl from the other side of the door.
Was he arguing? With who?
The moment she put her hand on the door handle, a hearty voice rang in her ears.
“Alright, leave it to me!”
The footsteps approached, and she hid behind the door. The door then opened, and a cheerful Koremitsu sprinted out with his red hair flowing.
Eh? Wait, what’s going on?
His stiff face looked extremely painful when he came back from the infirmary, but now, he looked radiant and dazzling, as if a light shone upon him as he shot out like a bullet.
The unforgettable bright red hair, that reliable yet reckless attitude of a bratty king, and the expression of invincibility of caused her heart to throb.
It felt like the moment she fell in love with a novel on first sight last night—
Koremitsu raced down the stairs like a wild dog that had been newly freed.
And he dashed through the corridor without hesitation.
Wings were ostensibly attached to his feet as he did not feel tired at all.
He reached his hand into his pocket.
It had the 2nd present he bought from the ticket shop two days prior.
It may be the first time he bought such a thing, and the attendant was startled when he endured his shame to ask gruffly, “Please give me two.”
What he touched let out a rippling sound from within his pocket.
Aoi walked out of the infirmary with Asai supporting her.
Her petite face was still pale.
She wanted to endure her tears as she bit her lips and lowered her head.
Koremitsu called to her.
Aoi immediately raised her head, shocked.
She moved in front of Aoi, ostensibly trying to hide her, but Koremitsu did not mind as he dug out the item from his pocket and handed it to Aoi.
“This is the second present!”
Aoi looked even more startled.
The folded envelope was crumpled as it had been in his pocket all this while. He placed it in Aoi’s hands.
“It’s a ticket to the theme park! Let’s go there on Sunday!”
He looked at the rooted Aoi and quickly spoke with force to emphasize.
“We’ll meet at 1pm at the station near the school! It’s a promise”
“I’ll celebrate Aoi’s birthday.”
Asai spoke coldly and tried to snatch the ticket from Aoi’s hand.
But Aoi grabbed onto the envelope with the ticket firmly.
This caused Asai’s expression to freeze.
Aoi bit her lips painfully, not indicating whether she would go or not.
As he looked at Aoi’s eyes, Koremitsu gave her a confident nod.
“I’ll be waiting! Definitely! You definitely must come along! I’ll hand over the remaining 5 presents!”
Holding onto the ticket, his fingertips shuddered slightly with a twitch.
“You don’t have to listen to him, Aoi.”
Asai held Aoi’s hand and walked beside Koremitsu.
But Aoi eyed Koremitsu rigidly.
“You must come if you want to know Hikaru’s feelings! Aoi!”
Shocked, Aoi jerked as she turned around and looked forward.
Koremitsu watched Aoi move forward with her head down, and cried out to her in his heart.
You definitely must come, Aoi. You have the privilege to accept what Hikaru wants to give you.
At the same time, Hikaru—
Stood beside Koremitsu, rapt with the intensity of the moment, speaking to himself.
“I’ll be waiting, Miss Aoi.”