It was said that she was about to give birth in December, this young woman with an anguished face was seated on the sofa, not looking like someone who was about to give birth.
Her upper body was slender, and another reason for that was the skirt and shawl covering her belly; however, the gloomy expression practically lamented everything, and unbefitting of the woman carrying a dazzling life in her belly.
The prettiest flower in the world.
Certainly, this description was as appropriate as it could get. The tenderness and elegance of her beauty was masked with gloom, and it was because of that gloom that made her prettier, more akin to something out of a fantasy.
“I have been waiting for you for a while.”
The helpless, expectant eyes back when she welcomed Koremitsu were now looking at her slender, white fingers.
Her despondent eyes were lacking in life, like a hollow abyss, only showing some life when looking at Koremitsu from time to time.
Koremitsu was seated on the sofa facing Fujino.
Mikoto in turn was seated at the sofa perpendicular to the duo, and Hikaru was standing right opposite her, facing Koremitsu sidelong.
Like Fujino, Hikaru’s face was pale and in anguish, his eyes showing the same gloom. It appeared their hearts were linked, that he too was able able to sense the pain and anguish she had.
“…This morning, I too did receive messages signed using my name.”
Fujino informed Koremitsu with that beautiful yet gloomy voice.
Koremitsu requested for Fujino to show her phone, and the words shown on the screen were practically the same as the one sent to Koremitsu.
The only difference was that the messages sent to Koremitsu were calling for ‘Fujino’, but the messages sent to Fujino were addressed as ‘I’, ‘I’ have to start over at that place again, ‘I’ have to go out again tonight, actions to prompt her.
“I have no clue as to the incidents in the message…and I do not understand what it means by ‘that place’ and ‘start over’…”
Fujino’s eyes lowered as she whispered.
The white, speckless face looked increasingly fleeting, perhaps because her face was already pale.
Did she really not have a clue? Or was it that she was masking her true thoughts out of fear out revealing the scandal involving her and her nephew? Fujino’s voice and expression were too tragic, tranquil that Koremitsu could not determine.
Hikaru too could only stare at Fujino in pain. He never spoke ever since they got here, and it appeared he was about to vanish at any given moment as he chose not to give any opinion, merely rooted to the spot.
The setting sun outside the window was starting to grow dark.
At this moment—
Hikaru suddenly widened her eyes.
He stared at the window that was dyed golden.
Not the window.
Hikaru was staring at the silver knife placed beside the window, between the jewel box and the china dolls.
It was as big as a fruit knife, and the hilt and grip were finely ornamented.
Looking at how it was placed, it appeared to be a decoration rather than for use. However, it seemed different compared to the jewel box and the doll, and appeared rather intimidating. However, Koremitsu probably would not have such a huge reaction if Hikaru did not.
(What’s with that knife?)
Hikaru was still staring at it.
His face showed anxiety and shock, watching it intently with bated breath.
Soon after, Hikaru’s face slowly became that of deeper anguish. He looked away from it despondently, and never looked at it again, merely keeping his head low, biting his lower lip.
Koremitsu felt restless, frustration and apprehension rising up his throat.
Both Hikaru and Fujino were hiding something.
Koremitsu was guessing that they had something they did not wish to talk about.
But at this moment, Shioriko was in danger.
With a stiff, stern voice, Koremitsu said to Fujino,
“That night, when Hikaru drowned in the river, he sent me a message telling me that you sent a message, that he’s going out later.”
♢ ♢ ♢
“Why is Aoi here?”
Asai gave Tōjō an utterly berating look.
The field could be seen from the student council room of Heian Academy, and the sunset shrouded upon it. The light was lit in this room, and inside the room were the most powerful figure in the school, the master of the room—the student council president Asai Saiga, Tōjō, a year older than Asai, and deeply involved with the Mikado Corporation, and there was Tōjō’s cousin, Asai’s childhood friend—Aoi.
“Miss Tsuyako, Miss Oumi, may I ask why are you here?”
Asai’s temples were throbbing more than before.
“Tōjō, did you inform them of this?”
Asai treated Tōjō as an equal, despite the latter being older by a year.
“Aoi just so happened to be at my house when you contacted me.”
Like Asai, Tōjō too was showing a displeased look. Aoi popped out from the side, looking serious.
“I was helping Lapis with her labor. Please allow me to help with Shiiko’s matter.”
Tōjō probably was easily coerced by Aoi when the latter said something “If you will not let me go, I will never talk to you again, big brother Shungo.” It was Asai’s miscalculation that Aoi was at Tōjō’s house, but the latter was utterly spineless. Unlike her meek, demure appearance however, Aoi was a stubborn girl who would never back down once she made up her mind. As a childhood friend, Asai knew this best…
(Guess I got no choice.)
Just when Asai sighed.
“Your Matriarch Asa, I shall help too.”
“You thought you could exclude me? How cruel of you, Miss Asai.”
Hiina and Tsuyako too chimed in heartily. One had to wonder what sort of means they used to find out.
“Please do not underestimate my information network.”
“Miss Oumi informed me.”
Asai again sighed—only for someone unexpected to open the door and pop in, and the sigh got stuck in her throat.
“Do you mind if I join in too~~~, Asai?”
All the people gathered in the student council office turned towards the door in unison.
Tōjō looked on grimly, Aoi’s face froze, and Tsuyako shrank back in fear. Hiina merely widened her eyes, and showed a boyish chuckle.
Asai’s eyes were coldly staring at Kazuaki Mikado.
He, who wailed and bawled so hard as he sat on the floor, ruining his formation and lipstick in the process, interjected calmly, ostensibly having forgotten what happened the previous day. One had to suspect his mental makeup.
“You are investigating Shioriko Wakagi’s abduction, am I correct? I wish to have Mr Akagi owe me a favor. Ah, no, I suppose it is strange to put it this way. Perhaps I should have said that I wish to show my sincerity after all? Ah, but you have to tell Mr Akagi that I did provide some information. I suppose it is useless if I am to explain this myself, no? Also, I do feel that all of us here do have similarities. Mr Shungo is someone who cannot have anything less than a virgin for a girlfriend, no?”
Tōjō’s face cringed.
“It seems Asai too will remain a virgin forever.”
Asai too was speechless.
Kazuaki then chirped,
“See. We do get along.”
“Do not associated us with you!” “As if we do!”
Asai and Tōjō refute resonated in unison.
“Aoi too, I hope you not hate me here—I shall pretend that your cold rejection towards me never happened before.”
“…Now you are putting this strangely. It sounds like I am the one who did such cruel things to you, Mr Kazuaki.”
Kazuaki then continued,
“However, I cannot accept Tsuyako no matter what. Tsuyako is no longer a virgin, and also a large ugly woman. Those breasts too are lewd and unappealing, and I am embarrassed to be with you. Ah, yes, you can simply stay away from my sights. Great, I shall do this from now on. I shall not look at you, Tsuyako, so do not enter my sights nor talk to me. You have to ignore me, and I shall do the same.”
“…Should I be happy here?”
For a long time, Tsuyako was bounded mentally and tortured by Kazuaki. The one hailed as an absolute beauty by many showed a conflicted look.
“I suppose it is fine to have Mr Kazuaki help—”
“Why, thank you. I do have such uncouth girls like you with huge breasts, but I will thank you.”
The self-centered Kazuaki incited a murderous vibe from Asai, and Tōjō’s face remained constricted.
Hiina was the only one grinning away, not minding Kazuaki’s presence at all.
“Well then, I shall begin. I did ask the counter girl who wanted to be my lover, who placed the blade and thumbtacks in Yū’s room. That girl’s name, well, it is either Miss Sawachi or Sawamura, but anyway, I heard what are the characteristics of the one who called herself my representative. Let me think, about 15-16 years old, 150cm or so…”
Kazuaki enthusiastically provided the information; it appeared he really wanted to assist Koremitsu.
Asai had many issues with this, but first, she held her emotions in check as she paid attention to the exact rich, sweet voice Hikaru had.
Who was able to obtain the information in all the chain messages?
Who was able to obtain a chopper from the Home Economics room, pins from the floral arrangement club, and slipped them into Asai and Aoi’s drawers?
Who exactly did the school surveillance cameras catch during that period?
The culprit had to be one of the people in school.
And not just an ordinary student.
It had to be of someone with quite a family prestige—someone close to the Mikados.
Someone who could control the students, and obtain information.
And despite that, the presence being low-key.
Using all the information at hand, and after proposing and refuting several possibilities, there was only one possible person.
Tsuyako muttered, her voice clearly rattled.
“I cannot believe it either…”
Aoi’s face too showed surpirse.
“I am surprised too, but this deduction matches the testimony from that counter girl at the hospital. About 150cm tall, petite, a round face, curly hair that reaches the shoulders.”
Hiina said, her eyes poised and sharp. Asai herself was quietly confident.
That person was from Koremitsu’s class—
♢ ♢ ♢
“It’s already past 5…”
Once she saw that the sky outside the window was dark, Honoka checked the time on her cellphone, and muttered to herself,
(How’s…Akagi doing right now? Did he meet Miss Kanai…?)
She was seated in front of the desk in her room, tucking her legs onto the swivel chair, her forehead on her knees. Back then, she would eagerly swivel around on the chair, but on this day, she was not in the mood to do so.
(I really want to give Akagi a call…I really want to talk to him directly…)
However, she already made a certain bet in the hospital with Yū in the hospital, so she could not call.
Yū probably would be calling sometime soon regarding the result…however, Honoka’s cellphone showed no activity, and not knowing whether it was a good thing or not, she could only cup her knees firmly.
At this moment, a pompous melody rang from the cellphone on the table.
Honoka picked it up without affirming who it was, answering with a shrill voice.
But the voice that entered the ears was not Yū’s.
It was an older woman…
♢ ♢ ♢
“That night, when Hikaru drowned in the river, he sent me a message telling me that you sent a message, that he’s going out later.”
Koremitsu glared at Fujino, gauging her response.
Hikaru hurriedly leaned forward,
He pleaded. His eyes looking frenetic, ostensibly wishing for Koremitsu not to mention it.
However, Fujino’s lowered eyebrows quivered slightly, and with those gloomy eyes, she watched Koremitsu quietly, whispering,
“I did not write a letter to Hikaru.”
The pale face showed pain and anguish, just like before, but she did not seem to falter because of Koremitsu’s words. She slowly shrank back, and it appeared all emotion, other than anguish and depression, had vanished from her heart.
Showed no sign of shock or anxiety on her calm Japanese doll-like face. Never once did she interrupt Koremitsu and Fujino’s conversation, only listening to them attentively.
Hikaru was the only one staring at Koremitsu, his eyes frantically moving around, his lips quivering, wanting to say something, but he seemed lost, not knowing what to do.
(It’s like Fujino’s the dead one here…)
Compared to Hikaru, she was lacking in response—no. Fujino practically showed no response at all. She was a beautiful corpse called anguish, and it got Koremitsu more infuriated.
At this moment, the cellphone in the pocket vibrated.
It was from Asai.
He received the call, and brought the phone to his ear.
“Mr Akagi, we know who has been sending the slandering messages. Your little sister should be with her now.”
Asai noted sternly.
“Who is it!!!?”
Koremitsu yelled agitatedly, but the name that entered his ears was one he never once thought of.
A dumbfounded voice slipped from Koremitsu’s lips.
“Yes. Your class representative.”
Asai’s voice was more monotonous than usual. Surely she wanted to inform Koremitsu as calmly as she could.
Thanks to that, Koremitsu was able to quickly recover.
“Koremitsu? What is the matter with Miss Hanasato? Is she—”
Hikaru’s face was stiff as he asked.
The petite, plain looking Michiru Hanasato appeared in Koremitsu’s cooled head.
Michiru, who had her hair tied in braids.
Michiru, who had her glasses removed, let her hair down to reveal little curls.
—good, good morning…Mr Akagi.
Both Michirus would widen their eyes, and their voices will shrill.
He then recalled Michiru saying that she wanted to be the number 1 class representative in Japan, showing that determined smile; his mind then got increasingly cooled.
She was unimpressive, but she had a faint aroma, an honest classmate who was deemed by Hikaru to be a Tachibana flower.
“Hono, Hono! she would often go around shouting this, looking so fidgety and hapless around Honoka.
Michiru’s family too had a long, ingrained relationship with Hikaru’s.
Since elementary school, she had been the class representative. She knew of the students information, and was able to obtain more information independently.
Asai’s poised voice stated these facts to Koremitsu’s ears.
Hikaru too remained silent midway through, his expression grim as he listened to the message that came from Koremitsu’s phone.
Mikoto too watched Koremitsu silently with those refreshing eyes.
Fujino’s expression too seemed to show worry for Koremitsu.
Once Asai’s report was over, Koremitsu sank into silence, and echoing in his mind was his own dumbfounded voice.
(Hanasato…is the Poppy?)
♢ ♢ ♢
The passionate, intense melody chimed just as Honoka picked up the phone, shocking her. It was the personalized ringtone for Koremitsu.
The reason why her tone was so stiff was because of the phone call she received the previous day. Since yesterday, her good friend, Michiru—
“Shikibu, you feeling okay there?
Koremitsu sounded really anxious. It appeared he was not worried about Honoka’s condition, and wanted to ask something else, but he was stammering.
After fumbling over his words a few times, he asked gingerly,
“Erm…I want to ask about Hanasato…has she been acting weird recently?”
Normally, Honoka would have found this question to be very weird. However, she quickly answered.
“Michiru’s mom just called me, saying that she hasn’t been home since yesterday!”
Koremitsu seemed to let out a groan.
“Any place where you think she might be?”
“I don’t know. I did call Michiru, but I couldn’t get through. Did something happen to her?”
Koremitsu definitely knew something. His grim voice and vague tone indicated that something bad was going on. With bated breath, Honoka quizzed nervously. After a long groand, Koremitsu hesitantly answered,
“I’m guessing…that Shiiko might be with Hanasato.”
“With Shiiko? Why?”
“…I’ll tell you later. Have a rest first. Listen. Don’t do anything crazy like yesterday. Just stay there.”
The phone hung up.
“What’s going on…”
Just when Honoka was about to call back, another call came.
“Miss Shikibu…? Erm, it’s about Mr Akagi…”
A fleeting voice rang in her ears.
Honoka agitatedly asked,
“Miss Kanai? Akagi just called me—he seems weird. Do you know anything?”
♢ ♢ ♢
(…My butt feels cold.)
Shioriko’s consciousness was blurred, and that was the first thing she thought of.
She was seated on a hard, icy place.
(Yucks. I don’t like this place.)
She tried to touch the floor with her hands to confirm the texture, but found that her arms could not move.
Her arms could not move freely, and neither could her legs, as no matter how she tried to stand up, her legs were tied together, unable to be free.
(No way, I got tied up…?)
Shioriko was fully awake.
She was seated inside a black metallic box. Through her eyes, Shioriko knew that it was a metal box as large as a cooler room, and it terrified her.
Luckily, the door was not sealed.
However, Shioriko’s arms were tied to the back, and her hands were sealed by something akin to duct tape. Furthermore, there was more duct tape attached to her ankles, and her body too was tied up in rope.
It was no wonder then that she could not move.
That was not the worst for her however. She could see a black skirt and legs in black kneesocks right outside the safe door.
That was the girls uniform of Koremitsu’s school.
“Ah, so you’re awake?”
That person leisurely spoke.
The owner of the voice bent down, looking at Shioriko, who was taken aback as a result.
The earnest round eyes.
The round face.
The swaying curls of the hair by the shoulder.
A genial smile on the lips.
However, she did not seem gentle in a slightest, and neither did she looked leisurely. Shioriko felt that the eyes staring at her were giving a vibe of squashing the innocence of a bug, and delighting in morbid emotions, thoroughly terrifying Shioriko.
Yes. Shioriko was sprayed with something at the park, and she was rendered unconscious.
Shioriko notied that Michiru was sending a few suspicious messages titled as ‘the Poppy’, aiming to sow discord around Koremitsu.
Once she questioned what Michiru was aiming at, suddently—
At that moment, as she fell to the ground, Shioriko saw Michiru give an ominous smile, and the image of that appeared in her mind. It overlapped with the iamge of the current Michiru, now bending down to look at Shioriko, and the latter felt a chill down her spine.
It was a voluptuous smirk, a fiendish one!
Shioriko’s first impression of Michiru when they first met at the park was that she was a clumsy, yet serious class representative.
However, the Michiru at this point was completely different from before.
It appeared that a woman much older, innocent and lethal, had possessed Michiru’s body, smiling with her face, speaking with her voice.
“Where did you take me to? What are you planning?”
Shioriko had difficulty breathing, her throat ostensibly choked. That, coupled with the pressure on her chest caused her to nearly lose consciousness several times, yet she continued to glare back defiantly.
She did not know where this place was, and with her limbs tied up, she could not escape. All she could do was to wait for someone to save her, and buy some time.
Don’t worry. Big brother Koremitsu will definitely come. It’s fine. I don’t have to worry.
I definitely won’t be scared.
Michiru narrowed her crescent, alluring eyes, tenderly speaking with the tone of one lecturing a child,
“When I was younger…I met a girl, a relative of mine called Akari…her father found a mistress and left home, so she ended up living together with her mother. She was 2 years younger than me, just like a little sister to me, a very cute girl.”
What is she saying?
The tender voice seemed to caress Shioriko’s skin, and the latter had goosebumps rising on her.
The smirk on Michiru’s face got increasingly tender, and bewitching.
“But when she was playing in the safe door, the door was accidentally locked. She could not get out, so she suffocated as a result.”
Shioriko gasped. Wait,
“Akari’s mother bawled really loudly at the funeral, but immediately got married with another man. It was said that man really hated Akari, so everyone was badmouthing the mother, saying that she sacrificed Akari for her own happiness. That however is the truth. The mother was smiling brightly when I met her a week later, and she did not seem to be grieving over Akari’s death. Surely, she sacrificed to be one with her dearest, and attained happiness. Since you are cuter than Akari, Shiiko, God will surely be willing to fulfill my wish—”
Shioriko was shivering; she understood was Michiru was after.
“Stop it, Miss Hanasato.”
She tried to retort back firmly, but the voice that came out was feeble,
“Miss Hanasato? Who’s that?”
Michiru merciless taped Shioriko’s mouth, showing a sneer.
That sneer was filled with malice, instantly freezing the struggling Shioriko.
“My name is Rokujō, and I shall become Fujino, his dearest.”
Yes, that was what Michiru called herself before Shioriko passed out.
She called herself Rokujō.
While Shioriko widened her eyes, the heavy doors let out an icy sound, slowly closing.