It was pitch dark outside the window, and there was a downpour. The rain pelted upon the windows, ostensibly trying to smash them; the winds roared.
The winds were also howling on the night Hikaru died.
It was said that he was engulfed by the flooded river, and swept away by it.
The Heavens practically arranged the same stage as before.
(They still haven’t found Hanasato and Shiiko?)
Koremitsu could only spend arduous moments waiting after Asai contacted him. Why Michiru? Is Shioriko okay? Such thoughts surged in his heart, and he felt a hand with sharp fingernails gripping his heart, not letting go.
Whenever the windows were rattled by the winds, Koremitsu got jumpy.
Mikoto was not around; she was probably out to contact the ones searching for Shioriko. The only ones in the room were Koremitsu and Fujino, and Hikaru the ghost.
Fujino was seated on the sofa, lowering her head sadly. The dim lights and the flames from the fireplace shone upon Fujino’s clear white skin.
The light brown hair strands draped upon the shawl resting on her frail shoulders, and fell from it; despite this, she was so beauty it was breathtaking. She lowered her snowy nape, her long eyelashes casting a cast on the gloomy eyes.
Hikaru again lowered his head.
He too lowered his beautiful eyes beside Koremitsu, his lips curled into a knot, looking utterly distraught, rooted at his place.
(What exactly is this guy thinking now…?)
Was he worried about Shioriko’s safety? Or was he left utterly heartbroken seeing his beloved woman being so despondent?
Assuming that it was Hikaru being his usual self, if there was a really depressed woman in front of him, he would embrace her even though knew he could not touch her, and say some sweet words in an attempt to console her.
But in Fujino’s case, he was unable to look at her directly.
But even so, they do really appear to be a chip off the block, really identical.
They were blood-related aunt and nephew, and they were so similar in appearance, but that was not all. The reason why Hikaru had such an uncanny resemblance with Fujino was because their expressions and mood were so alike.
The movements of their eyebrows, how their lips squirmed, how they lowered their eyes.
And even the way they lifted their heads was so alike.
Was Hikaru like this when he was alive?
Hikaru once said in his anguish that he pursued Fujino numerous times when he was alive, and Fujino always rejected him…
—I had always loved her since I was young. Just seeing her causes my heart to feel warm and fuzzy. I feel like I am in Heaven whenever she smiled.
—I once thought that it will be fine if she and I are the only ones alive on this world. I love her so much that I cannot stop myself.
—But…she married someone else.
—I was in 6th grade when she became the second wife of my father. It was tormenting to be with her, so I left home during Middle School.
On that day when Hikaru confessed everything he had kept secret in his heart, he lowered his eyes despondently.
Back then, Koremitsu did not know that Fujino was a blood-related aunt to Hikaru.
But even so, he knew that Hikaru could not forget the person who became the wife of his father, was suffering as a result. This too caused Koremitsu’s heart to be gripped.
—After we went our separate ways, I fell deeper in love with her, and I…committed that one grievous sin.
The gravity of this confession weighed on Koremitsu’s heart more than that instance before, causing the latter to be suffocated.
Hikaru continued to talk about that one instance he shared with Fujino back then.
He never did mention what were the circumstances.
But it was just once, and ever since then, they never did it again.
—It was just once…really, just that once. After that, that person would keep shunning me, and the most she did in front of everyone was to greet me at bare minimum. She never did say any tender words that would give me hope. It appeared that she wanted to forget about what happened back then—no, she wanted to pretend that it never happened.
What exactly were Fujino’s feelings when she committed that one grievous sin with her nephew? Was it because she was unable to resist Hikaru’s passionate advances? Or did Fujino too wish for it?
The sight of her eyes and head lowered slightly resembled that of a nun, and one could not imagine the exuberance and passion Hikaru once mentioned.
Fujino’s thoughts were harder to comprehend as compared to Hikaru, and nobody could determine her true intentions. Did Fujino really not send a letter to Hikaru on the night he passed away?
Fujino was not rattled by Koremitsu’s words.
Koremitsu tried to recall Hikaru’s narration of what happened that night. Having done so, he found Hikaru’s words to be someone ambiguous as well.
—On the night I fell into the river—I was called out by her through a letter. She never wanted to make eye contact with him, but she suddenly wanted to meet me…I was really uneasy, I did not know what that person was thinking…but she wanted to meet me, and I had to go…
Hikaru said that his vision was blurred by the turbulent winds and rain, his body staggered, and he slipped into the flooding river.
—The moment when I fell into the river…someone grabbed my hand, trying to pull me up. I still remember the feeling of those hands that tried to grab me.
—Someone? Not your stepmom?
—It was night, and it was raining furiously…I…could not see clearly. However, those hands certainly felt like a woman’s so they are…
Those slender hands could not grab Hikaru’s body, and Hikaru was finally swept by the river, ending his 16 years of life.
—…I fell into the river…this is without a doubt. That person was not responsible…but…if that person was the one who tried to grab my hands…I will cause her another layer of guilt…I already hurt her thoroughly because I so loved her…
—I am scared, Koremitsu. Scared—of that person’s heart…what was that person thinking at that moment? What exactly was she thinking about me? How will she view me in the future—I am terrified, really, really terrified, so much that I cannot take this anymore…
Was Fujino the one who wrote the letter? Or was it someone else? If it was Fujino, was there a reason why she had to do it on a stormy night? Why did she have to hide such a thing?
The flames flickered in the fireplace, and the rain pelting on the windows got more intense. Only the sounds of the rain, winds and flames were left in the house.
The blade of the knife placed by the window glittered a frosty light under the lamps.
Hikaru continued to keep his head lowered, the dangling hands clenched firmly. Fujino too had her eyes lowered, not moving at all.
The room was filled with such painful agony.
(Speaking of which…why does Fujino want to meet him?)
Fujino had been shunning Hikaru when the latter was alive. After he died, she claimed to not know anything about Hikaru at all.
But through Mikoto, she went through the effort to make contact with Hikaru’s friend—Koremitsu. Surely something was amiss here? If she really did have Hikaru’s child, she should be more willing to forget the sin she committed with Hikaru.
Koremitsu recalled the expectant eyes Fujino seemingly had when he arrived at the resort, followed by the words “I have been waiting for you for a while…Mr Akagi”, which seemed to imply that she was expectant.
Suddenly, Fujino’s sealed lips opened slightly.
Koremitsu’s heart jolted.
Hikaru’s shoulders too shivered as he looked over at Fujino.
With her beautiful, melancholic eyes, she stared at him, her expression the same as whenever Hikaru mentioned his depressing past. She did try to restraint her emotions and talk calmly, but her eyes and lips showed a tranquil melancholy, a fleeting expression—
The feeble voice came from Fujino’s pale lips,
“When…did you first become friends with Hikaru?”
Fujino’s words were no different from a mother asking the friend of her son, an older sister asking the friend of her little brother, and this caused Koremitsu, so tense as he was, to feel surprised.
Hikaru’s expression was slightly relaxed.
That beautiful woman who was said to be a Goddess in a legend was looking at Koremitsu with clear eyes, causing him to stiffen, and answer stiffly,
“…I entered High School with Hikaru. He borrowed a textbook from me a day before Golden Week started.”
“Classics—he said he forgot it, but I didn’t have Classics lessons that day, so I didn’t have it.”
Koremitsu recalled the story he told Tsuyako. Perhaps Fujino was just like Tsuyako, hoping to hear what happened to Hikaru when he was alive.
Perhaps she just wanted to lament the death of the stepson she could not love when he was alive.
Tsuyako cheerfully noted ‘Hikaru really did not do his homework’ upon hearing that Koremitsu did not have the textbook, but Fujino looked depressed.
“Golden Week…this year?”
“Ah! I only got to talk with him on this, but we promised to be friends—that day feels like it was 10 years ago or something!”
Koremitsu frantically excused.
He was worried if Fujino would suspect if Hikaru would privately message somebody he only interacted with for one day.
But Fujino looked afar with anguished eyes, muttering with a forlorn, clear voice,
“I suppose…such things are possible to. Everything can be decided based on a certain moment…”
Tears of sadness welled in Fujino’s eyes, and Koremitsu was left breathless by the beauty shown.
Was Hikaru’s encounter with Fujino just like that? If Hikaru was 5, and Fujino married after graduating from college, that means she would be around 15…
Like Fujino, Hikaru too was looking afar.
—…Never…did I once view her as my aunt.
Koremitsu recalled Hikaru’s bitter murmur, and his heart too was griped.
Could humans fall in love even when they were 5 years old?
Was it really love at first sight?
(I don’t really know about it. I’ll say that 5-year-olds are little brats with snot all over their faces…)
He thoroughly remembered yearning for the love of his always sobbing mother, so much that his heart ached.
Thus, he could understand the pain and suffering children go through in desiring others. Despite growing into adults, the intense feelings that lingered in the heart back then were special, unable to be forgotten.
Fujino again asked Koremitsu gently,
“It seems you have been calling yourself Hikaru’s representative.”
“I made a promise with him.”
The beautiful eyes faltered slightly.
It seemed her heart was gripped by the word ‘promise’.
“He promised me not to let the flowers wilt. That guy will always give a serious look, saying ‘Girls are flowers, so there is a need to take proper care of them’.”
Melancholy gradually filled Fujino’s eyes, but the eyes were clear as heartbroken.
“What kind of person…do you think Hikaru is?”
Why did Fujino appear to be suffering so much? Why was it that despite Hikaru not being on this world anymore, she never did show a sign of forgetting the pain…?
“Well, Hikaru looks lively, but he’s quite a lonely guy. He appears frivolous, but is unexpectedly a serious guy.”
For Koremitsu, Hikaru was such a complicated boy. He had many secrets, and was unwilling to reveal his true thoughts. No matter where he was, he would be with the ones thinking about him, devoting his all to them.
“Then, what kind of person do you think Hikaru is?”
Fujino again lowered her head.
Her eyelashes lowered, and there was silence. She looked lonely, but soon after, she muttered,
“Hikaru—is a tragic child.”
Her tone was filled with anguish.
Hikaru, listening in on Fujino’s words, too showed grave sadness in his eyes.
“Hikaru probably suffered through many unbearable things since his childhood…but he was always smiling.”
Fujino’s distressed voice, coupled with Hikaru’s bereft expression, gripped Koremitsu’s heart hard.
“Yeah. It looks like…he made a promise with his mother. That he has to smile even when he’s sad.”
—You have to smile no matter what happens. By doing that, everyone will love you
That was the talisman Hikaru’s ill mother left for her child before passing away early.
Even if others do bully you, give them an earnest smile.
Even though the one bullying him was ‘fate’ itself…
With tears welling in her eyes, Fujino muttered,
“If only he was able to cry…”
After hearing those words, for an instance, Hikaru looked utterly distraught.
However, in his attempt to dispel this emotion, he immediately raised his already sealed lips, softened his eyes, and showed a tender—beautiful smile.
That was the faint smile Hikaru would show when he was truly depressed.
Hikaru could not cry.
So he could only smile.
Upon seeing Hikaru being like this, Koremitsu too bit his lower lip.
—How does it feel to cry?
The admiring voice he once heard lingered sadly in his ears.
Was there anything he could say for his friend, that friend who was much more sentimental than anyone else, yet could not cry?
Just when Koremitsu was about to speak up.
A commotion sudden occurred outside the door.
A furious female growl came from outside, and it seemed there was some kind of dispute. That was followed by footsteps headed towards this room.
Fujino raised her eyebrows slightly, and Hikaru nervously stared at the door. At this moment, a tall woman dressed in black fur coat and a scarlet one-piece dress stormed in without knocking.
Fujino stood up.
The one giving that anxious exclamation was Hikaru.
(If I remember, Hiroka’s—)
Upon recalling the identity of the guest causing this commotion, Koremitsu too was taken aback.
Kazuaki’s mother, the ex-wife of Hikaru’s father. Tōjō once scowled and exclaimed “I cannot let Aoi marry into that family with such a terrifying mother-in-law.” Hiroka Udate appeared with her eyebrows raised, glaring at Fujino so furiously that sparks could fly, hollering,
“Your husband is dying, and you are moonlighting with a high school boy? You are the death of me, you woman!”
Hiroka berated Fujino with a shrill voice, and Koremitsu stared at her, dumbfounded.
Was this the infamous mother of Kazuaki, Hiroka?”
Her eyeshadow and rouge was thick, and her face was pretty, but she did not to appear as her age. As Kazuaki’s mother, it appears she was more than 40 years old, but she appeared to be in her twenties. She was tall, had large breasts, a slender waist, and a nice figure comparable to that of a foreign actress. The make-up probably had something to do with it, but the shape of her grim looking face was distinct. The red hair had elegant curls at the end, and the hair was let down.
She really resembled her relative Tsuyako. In contrast to Tsuyako’s cheerful, alluring presence, Hiroka might have the alluring presence down, but the initial impression of her was that of being unapproachable.
If Tsuyako was the red weeping cherry blossom blooming elegantly, tenderly alluring others, Hiroka would be the thorny red rose.
(This aunt here came to complain about be getting together with Fujino. You got to be kidding me!?)
Koremitsu got up from the sofa, and Mikoto, who caught up to Hiroka, naturally slipped in, standing in a position where Koremitsu’s face was blocked, stating calmly,
“Miss Hiroka, Mr Akagi is a guest I brought over to visit Miss Fujino What you just said is not a fact at all; Miss Fujino is currently recuperating in this resort, and it is due to the Head’s kindness for she is about to give birth. Please do understand.”
“And you should have known about the Head being in critical condition last night, Miss Fujino.”
Hikaru widened his eyes in shock. Koremitsu too let down his clenched fists.
(Hikaru’s father is in critical condition!?)
Koremitsu did hear that Hikaru’s father was not in a good condition.
That was why he supported the factions lead by both his ex-wife, Hiroka, and the current wife, Fujino, to set up the position for his successor, for them to carry out a skirmish secretly.
In that battle, Hiroka’s only son, Kazuaki, did a gaffe that could not be overturned, and the Wisterias were deemed to be more likely to wind. However, the reason why Hiroka suddenly barged in did not seem to be because she was peeved, nor out for revenge.
“Why are you not with him right now!? I am not that man’s wife now, you are, Miss Fujino! For him, you and I are just other women, not that Miss Kiriyo who gave birth to that dead brat! Now that he is dead, that man has nothing he loved left behind, and does not have any longing for this world now. That man has, and will always love Miss Kiriyo! You can at least be her replacement!”
Hiroka’s holler were like blazing arrows, piercing through the atmosphere of anguish.
Koremitsu was stupefied.
Neither Fujino nor Hikaru spoke up as they listened to Hiroka’s words painfully. In contrast to the lively Hiroka, Fujino was akin to a corpse.
“You really are just like that hateful woman! Miss Fujino! When that man married you as his wife, I was really terrified, seeing how you resemble that woman so much, I thought that man used the Mikados’ research facilities to create a clone of Miss Kiriyo. For that man, you are just a replacement for her, but you already knew that when you accepted that man’s request to marry into the Mikados! Even so, you still became the Head’s wife, so you have to fulfill your duty until the very end! Just stay by his bedside and pretend to be Miss Kiriyo! If Miss Kiriyo is to tell him to remain alive, that man will come back even if he is in Hell! Or will he think that Miss Kiriyo has come to welcome him, and he will die? I suppose that is a good thing to you.”
Hiroka vented her feelings onto Fujino, not giving a room to breath. Fujino merely closed her eyes, and Koremitsu knew that action would further incense Hiroka.
“…I will not be going back.”
Hiroka scowled deepened, her face contorted as she yelled,
“Why!? Because you have a reason not to meet him? Because the child in your belly is not that man, but that devil?”
Obviously, the ‘devil’ here referred to Hikaru.
“That is not my child!”
Koremitsu too stood in front of Fujino,
“Hey! I’m Hikaru’s friend. She definitely has the kid of Hikaru’s dad here! Hikaru’s stepmom wasn’t willing to talk to him.”
Perhaps Hiroka saw the scathing messages, lost her cool, and started yelling without checking the details.
However, Hiroka gave Koremitsu the look of one looking down on a mongrel, saying,
“I received a message saying that the child in Miss Fujino is that devil’s. I thought it was baseless slander, but I had someone investigate just in case.”
She then turned her eyes towards Fujino.
“Miss Fujino, that child did meet you when you lived in this resort back in March, no?”
Fujino remained unmoved, merely standing there, her eyelids lowered, looking gloomy.
“I did visit her, but that was because I could not hold in my emotions. I was the one who came here, but she did not let me in at all.”
Hikaru frantically explained.
“Yeah, Hikaru did come to this resort, but he said that he was not let in at all! The kid in the belly has nothing to do with Hikaru!”
Hiroka continued on, not giving Koremitsu a look,
“Yes, you did chase him away, Miss Fujino. However, you caught up to that child afterwards, and spent the night with him at the Church! That was when you were impregnated!”
Koremitsu felt a rock slammed at his head.
Hikaru too paled as he stood there.
Hikaru said that on the night Fujino rejected him, he met a woman at the Church too comfort his broken heart. He was reunited with the woman in that Church, Sora, embracing her tightly in the darkness, while the moon was shrouded by the clouds, until the morning.
“I…that night…I should be…with Sora…”
The quivering lips continued to stammer. Hikaru was probably recalling what happened back then.
Though he kept thinking, he could not deny it. Doubt, fear, despair entwined in Hikaru’s heart.
Koremitsu too could not refute.
There was no way such a thing could happen. Right, this should not be true.
Koremitsu felt the pain of his brain suffocated, his neck choked as he slowly looked towards Fujino’s belly.
It was covered by the shawl, so it was not obvious on first glance. Perhaps the life growing inside it however was Hikaru’s—
“…This is not Hikaru’s child.”
Fujino continued to keep her head low, muttering,
“Hikaru and I…never had such a relationship before.”
Fujino’s pale face looked utterly perturbed, her lips quivering. She said that she never did have a relationship with Hikaru, but that was a lie. Fujino did have that one instance with Hikaru when the latter was in 8th grade.
Thus, what Fujino denied was not a factual refute.
Perhaps it was a lie when she said that the child was not Hikaru’s!
Rage was blazing from Hiroka’s eyes. Her shoulders were huffed, her eyebrows raised, and her face was red due to rage. She took out a horizontal envelope from her bag, and tossed it to Fujino.
The envelop hit Fujino right in the face.
Mikoto was taken aback, and Hikaru too leaned forward. Fujino merely kept her eyes closed while the envelope hit her, and she then lowered her head. her white face was cut by the side of the envelope, causing it to bleed, yet she lowered her eyelids, remaining silent.
“We shall know the truth once the child is born and the investigations are done. if you continue to insist that the child is his, go ahead. If you dare say that your child is that of your blood-related nephew, I will never forgive you! I will never allow him to be born, even if you do, I will choke! I already regretted not doing that when Miss Kiriyo gave birth to that devil.”
The red hair danced in the air as Hiroka stormed out of the room.
Mikoto bowed as she watched Hiroka leave.
And with the footsteps departing, Mikoto approached Fujino, picking up the envelope that dropped by her feet, before reaching her hand onto Fujino’s back—
“Please allow me to treat your wounds.”
She brought Fujino out.
During that time, Fujino continued to look down, her eyelashes lowered, her lips sealed, and her eyes remained hollowed as she lowered her head.
Koremitsu and Hikaru were the only ones left in the room.
The storm that was overpowered by Hiroka’s words started to buzz again, declaring their presence, and the damp windows were rattling due to the winds.
There was a fire in the fireplace, but it appeared the room was much colder than before.
Hikaru collapsed to the floor.
Surely it felt strange to say to a ghost ‘hang in there’, but Hikaru was utterly pale, his skin looking as though it would vanish at any given moment. His limbs and lips were quivering.
“How…did I not realize it…”
Hikaru’s feeble stutter was so despondent, so feeble, it was horrifying.
“That night…when Sora embraced me…it was so warm…so comfortable…during then…I fell asleep…and then…I woke up in darkness…Sora was looking down at me…and I reached out to her, calling her ‘Sora’…I pulled her close, and she embraced me…and then…we remained…until the morning…when I woke up, Sora vanished…I had…a white shawl on me…that shawl…was of fine quality…something really expensive…the usually thrifty Sora cannot possibly have such a thing…”
Hikaru kept his head lowered, the soft hair strands draped upon his face, covering his pained expression.
However, he never did try to disguise the pain and despair in his voice.
“That night…the one who comforted me…was Sora. But the one, who bonded with me…was not Sora…”
He had a secret encounter with his dearest. Normally, it was something worth being happy about, or something of a blessing.
However, if the life that was not desired resided in her.
That it was the child of the blood-related aunt and nephew—
“That person…has…my child…in her? Can such a child…be born?”
Hikaru’s misery caused Koremitsu to feel gloomy as well.
It was unlike the moment when Sora confessed to be pregnant.
If the father of Fujino’s child was really Hikaru, it would be out of wedlock, a child born out of incest.
Fujino and the child would continue to bear that crucifix for the rest of their lives.
Hikaru, who was told by many ‘if only you were not born’, would leave behind a child that should not be born.
Fujino should know it was a sin.
(Why did she send Hikaru back after he came all the way to the resort, and yet gave chase after him? Why did she pretend to be Sora and embrace Hikaru?)
They could not do such a thing.
For that would bring about misfortune.
She knew that, so why did she!
Hikaru lifted his head, and grabbed Koremitsu, his hands and arms entering Koremitsu’s body. Even so, he continued to look at Koremitsu, his face completely contorted as he yelled,
“What do I do no, Koremitsu! That person intends to give birth to that child! She will do it no matter who objects! What do I do now! I am already dead—”
Koremitsu too realized the gravity of the situation, and remained silent.
His body, with Hikaru’s hands reaching inside, was shivering.
The fact Asai was worried about became reality.
(What do we do now!? If the kid’s going to be born, that kid’s a lost cause just like Fujino!)
Would Hikaru go insane?
Would he continue to linger and wander around the world?
Would Fujino live the rest of her life, unable to smile or yell, just like a living corpse?
Such a notion caused Koremitsu to feel his chest being ripped apart.
Suddenly, the cellphone in his pocket vibrated.
Koremitsu fished out the phone with one hand, and checked the message.
Another anonymous message!
He opened the message, and attached to it was a photo of Shioriko tied up with duct tape and rope, collapsed somewhere.
Come to the place where you betrayed me, at the same time as that night.”
That was the line in the message.
The message was signed off with the name ‘Fujino’.
While Hikaru remained in utter despair at this point, Koremitsu gritted his teeth as he glared at those words—and the photos of Shioriko tied up.
(You too, Hanasato. What’s wrong with you! What are you thinking!?)
♢ ♢ ♢
The moment she firmly believed Lord Hikaru was in Koremitsu Akagi’s heart was when Koremitsu compared her to the Tachibana flowers.
He called out Michiru’s name, and with a serious look.
—You’re like the Tachibana flowers. You’re plain, but you have a gentle memorable fragrance. I think that’s very good.
It was almost the same words as what Hikaru said during their elementary school days, that he liked the Tachibana flowers. Those words throbbed Michiru’s heart.
But something was amiss.
Koremitsu was definitely a gruff, crude person, and it seemed he would not know of any flower names at all.
—Hono, does Mr Akagi like flowers?
—Eh!? How’s that possible? He probably has an interest in eating flowers. Ah, but…
—H-he does know of a species called the Heliotrope…it’s not a common flower name…he said that a friend taught him that.
As far as Michiru could see, Koremitsu Akagi had no friends at all. It was said that was the same before he entered the Heian Academy High school branch, that the people around him kept shunning him.
It seemed Koremitsu told Aoi and Asai that he was Hikaru Mikado’s friend.
There was no chance for Hikaru and Koremitsu to interact. The only day where they could meet was right before Golden Week, the day Koremitsu attended school.
She was surprised to see Koremtisu attend Hikaru’s funeral, but back then, Koremitsu was scowling away, looking peeved, and did not seem to be mourning the death of a good friend.
So when did he become Hikaru’s friend?
Aoi, who had been ignoring Koremitsu at first, ended up greeting Koremitsu cheerfully whenever they met. Koremitsu too was making visits to Yū Kanai, whom Hikaru visited at her apartment numerous times. Shioriko, whom Hikaru reached out to, was adopted by Koremitsu’s family. Tsuyako, who was the prettiest flower amongst Hikaru’s garden, started to trust Koremitsu. having observed these, Michiru was thinking “Maybe—”
And then, once Koremitsu said those words to Michiru, she understood.
Hikaru’s body was haunting Koremitsu. He was living inside Koremitsu, with a will of its own.
That had to be the reason why Koremitsu knew of things only Hikaru did, and how she would occasionally see them as one entity.
Hikaru is not dead
He is still alive!
This firm saved the other Michiru inside her heart, that battered soul would kept stating all her grudges to the one she loved.
That Michiru too loved Hikaru. No, it was a deeper love than that.
On that spring, when she was 14, she arrived at the resort in Shinshu, and heard that Hikaru too was at a nearby resort, in a retreat with his family.
She came to the Mikados residence, thinking ‘Can I meet him? Just a peek will do.’ She nervously wandered around, and Hikaru appeared.
Michiru was very delighted, and from that day onwards, at the resort, she would tail Hikaru.
On a certain day, she saw that beautiful, dreadful sight.
The beautiful, violet flowers hanging off the wild Wisterias.
Hikaru was standing under them.
His white skin and faint brown hair sparkled under the dazzling light, the violet Wisterias seemingly raining upon him like a waterfall as he reached his slender arms towards them.
And then, he dotingly embraced those fallen petals.
They were like cicada skins, scattered all over the floor, none of them in his grasp.
But even so, Hikaru reached out to embrace those flowers, his sidelong face looked anguished.
After Hikaru left, it was a beautiful woman who had the exact same face as Hikaru, stealthily appearing while seemingly evading others, squatting on the piled Wisterias. She touched the violet petals Hikaru touched with her white hands, giving an endearing, tragic kiss.
A pearl-like tear slid down her white cheek.
Soon after, she sat in the middle of the Wisterias, curled up, ostentiously sinking in the abyss of the Wisterias.
The violet flowers made no sounds as they gathered about her slender arms, breasts, throat and legs.
A secret love—
Michiru’s heart race, and her cheeks, ears and head were searing.
She practically forgot how to blink, and everything was kept in her heart like a special present.
Those two so loved each other.
But even after shying away from the public eye, they could neither meet, let alone talk.
Even so, Michiru understood.
That Wisteria was the dearest to Hikaru—
Michiru was aware that she was just an unimpressive, boring girl, unable to remain in Hikaru’s eyes
If I’m to maintain a pure heart, one day, Lord Hikaru will find me. Just as he said I am like the Tachibana flowers he like.
That was what the Michiru on the surface wished.
The other Michiru however felt that it was merely a daydream, and had long given up on it.
Because of that, she admired the forbidden relationship between Fujino and Hikaru.
The only one who was a match for the beautiful Hikaru was the similarly beautiful Fujino.
But they could never fall in love in this world.
Such a tragedy.
Such a sweetness.
She saw how they yearned each other, and wanted to touch their world—no matter how little it was. That was why she stalked Hikaru and Fujino, and kept following them.
Whenever the Mikados had a party for those relevant, she would surely attend and observe them.
Hikaru and Fujino would never converse with each other in front of others, but when nobody else was looking—
She saw Hikaru pick up the champagne glass Fujino used, miserably kissing it; she saw Fujino stroke the chair Hikaru sat on, lower her head, and show a teary sight in her beautiful eyes.
She saw Hikaru give a forlorn stare at the painting Fujino saw, and saw Fujino pick up the rose Hikaru approached and had a whiff of, hurt by the thorns on the rose, covering her fingertips with such guilt, lowering her head—
Whenever Michiru saw such sights, she became increasingly expectant.
And then, she ended up hoping that she would one day become like Fujino, able to have the forbidden love with Hikaru.
Michiru knew that it was an unhealthy thinking, and so she found herself to be shameful for thinking that way, burying such thoughts deep within her heart.
But the other Michiru became ‘Fujino’, inciting the forbidden thoughts she had for Hikaru.
The reason why Hikaru could never converse with Michiru in front of everyone, wander through the flowers, create scandals with girls was that they were secretly in love.
His true love was Fujino.
Ironically, this thinking saved the Michiru on the surface. Hikaru kept ignoring Michiru because he was trying to hide his secret romance with Fujino.
Due to that, the sadness and despair of being omitted by Hikaru vanished, and even the sweet loving words Hikaru said to other girls became sweet pain to her.
The Michiru on the surface, and the one on the other side co-existed as such, wandering around each other.
Michiru knew that the other Michiru was just her imagination.
When exactly did it begin?
The woman called ‘Rokujō’ would begin to sweet talk by her ears.
—Hey, remember me?
When she was little, she met a red-clothed woman in front of the shrine at the Udates.
She could no longer remember the face and profile of that woman; all that remained in her heart was that red one-piece dress and the red flowers swaying in front of the shrine.
It was a terrifying, noble woman with power—
The embodiment of the spider
—I have been growing inside your heart. Pluck the flower, and let me out.
—With that, I will grant you the power of the spider. Get the lover in your hands, crush him, and let him be yours forever.
The venomous red flowers were swaying.
And so, Michiru plucked it.
Thus, the Michiru on the other side was able to hear ‘Rokujō’s’ voice, and use its power.
—To get the one you love to love you back, just devour the thing that person loves and replace yourself with it. Sometimes, you will have to devour the one you love..
—You are to devour the Fujino if you wish to become the real Fujino..
Michiru Hanasato was gradually disappearing.
But even so, it did not matter to her. Michiru was never needed by anyone. Nobody would call her by her name; even her own family hardly did so.
Michiru’s mother was very strict, and would slap Michiru’s palm whenever the latter did something wrong, always compare her to her outstanding older sister, lamenting “Why is it that your older sister can do it, and you cannot?” Her mother was also spiteful that her father bore a little brother with another woman, and she kept nagging at Michiru, “Even though he’s a boy, a child born out of wedlock is still a child born out of wedlock. You two are the legitimate children of your father, so you have to be smarter and more elegant than that mistress’ boy.” But despite hiring a few tutors, Michiru never displayed any outstanding talents, and remained an unimpressive, dull-witted girl. It seemed her mother was vexed by it, for one day, she sighed, saying, “That is enough.” and stopped scolding Michiru.
She had no hopes for Michiru!
Even Honoka too, the only one who called Michiru by her name, felt pity for the dull-witted Michiru, who was in Heian Academy since kindergarten. She was with Michiru, only wanting the latter to be her foil.
So whenever Honoka called her Michiru, the latter’s heart would ache, and she felt suffocated.
Michiru too was displeased to see Honoka being interested in Koremitsu, Honoka blushing and flustered because of him.
When Koremitsu fulfilled the promise Michiru had with Hikaru, she thought she would no longer be any inferior to Honoka.
But she was wrong.
The feelings she had for Honoka, whether it was anxiety, restlessness or hatred remained etched in her body, and never vanished.
Why? I shoud be satisfied?
I should be happy!
I should be blissful!
At that moment, Rokujō again muttered.
—No. Michiru may be satisfied, but Fujino is yet to be. The promise Fujino made with Hikaru has yet to be fulfilled. You will continue to remain so pathetic until the promise is made, a human inferior to Honoka Shikibu, always being pitied.
“I shall…never allow anyone to look down on me again.”
Michiru muttered to herself, her black eyes giving off a cold glint as she stared at the black metal safe.
Some kicking could be heard from the inside of the door, only for them to completely vanish.
The storm continued outside the window.
It was just like that night, the night when Hikaru betrayed, the night when Fujino betrayed.
Let it begin all over again.
And then, fall in that pure love with that most dazzling boy in the world, completing that process neither Honoka Shikibu nor anyone else could obtain.
Michiru switched off the light, only holding a torchlight, and opened the cabin door.
The winds were strong enough to rip the door down.
Michiru’s face was dampened by the rain, her soft hair strands swaying in the wind. She was about to be knocked over by the winds, and she took a step into the dark storm while wearing her school uniform.
“I will go on to fulfill that promise…Hikaru.”
♢ ♢ ♢
It was near midnight when Asai and the rest learned of a high school girl resembling Michiru Hanasato bringing an elementary schoolgirl onto a taxi, and they asked the driver for Michiru’s destination.
Leaving aside Michiru, the driver had quite an impression the bright-eyed pretty girl. It seemed Michiru told the driver, “We’ll be headed to our relatives’ home later, but my little sister is too tired that she’s sleeping.”
Asai sent a message notifying Koremitsu that they were off to save Shioriko, and with Tōjō and Aoi, they got on a car to give pursuit.
(Michiru Hanasato is not sane at the moment. We have to stop her before it is too late.)
And if Shioriko was to have nary a scratch on her, Asai would be too ashamed to meet Koremitsu.
The torrential downpour meant that it was difficult for the car to move forward. Right when she was feeling frustrated, a call reached her.
Hiina notified Asai that Michiru went to a mega electronics shop to purchase a vault, and the destination was a cabin of Michiru’s relative in Shinshu. That relative was overseas, rarely in Japan. This matched the destination the taxi mentioned, and it appeared Michiru was hiding there.
Rather than feel relaxed however, the fact that Michiru bought a safe unnerved Asai.
Once she heard that the safe was large enough to stuff an elementary school girl inside, Asai felt a chill running up the spine.
Tōjō and Aoi heard the call inside the car, and they probably thought of that incident too. Their faces froze.
This incident was revealed.
But to Asai and the rest, it was a tragic incident of an elementary schoolgirl close to them accidently locked inside a safe.
The victim was of a similar age, so for quite a while, Aoi would tug at Asai’s arm firmly whenever they passed by the safe at home.
That girl was a relative of the Hanasatos—Michiru’s family. In that case, Michiru probably had a deeper impression of it.
“Is…Miss Hanasato actually going to put Shiiko—”
Aoi shivered, and Tōjō grabbed her shoulders, trying to encourage her. Asai’s tone too bleakened,
“We have to hurry.”
♢ ♢ ♢
(I feel suffocated.)
Shioriko realized that the more she struggled, the lesser the air inside, and so she curled herself in an unnatural position, silently waiting.
However, the air was thinning. She could not hold on for much longer.
(Save me, big brother Koremitsu!)
♢ ♢ ♢
(Were you walking down the riverside in such a large rain?)
The winds did somewhat calm down, but the rain continued to pour, stabbing at the land. His feet were muddy, and the umbrella was of no use at all.
Koremitsu went off to the riverside where Hikaru died, along with Mikoto and Fujino.
Both Mikoto and Fujino were wearing hooded raincoats, and large, bead-like raindrops fell from them. Fujino kept her hood as low as possible as she lowered her head and moved forward. Her eyes could not be seen, but the face and lips being lit by the torchlight was pale.
Before she went out, Fujino stared at the knife placed by the windowside miserably, and kept it in her clothes.
Koremitsu saw Hikaru shiver as the latter saw this, his face contorted, seemingly fearing something.
—You’re going to bring the knife out? It’s dangerous. Don’t do that.
In response to those words,
—This is…a talisman.
A lifeless Fujino answered.
Her voice was flat, and an ominous feeling grew in Koremitsu’s heart.
Mikoto merely watched Fujino with those refreshing eyes, and did not stop her from bringing the knife out. Neither did she stop Fujino, who was about to give birth, from going out in this stormy night—
As they approached the river, the waters whipped harder and harder. The river was practically throwing a tantrum.
(Going out now is already dangerous. Coming to the riverbank is suicidal.)
What sort of feelings did Hikaru have when he arrived at the river?
And if Fujino did call Hikaru out, what sort of feelings did she have?
Once he knew that Fujino might be bearing Hikaru’s child, Koremitsu was left wondering about her thought process.
What was she thinking when she took action.
Why did she shun from Hikaru, and yet did something that could have caused Hikaru’s child to be born?
Fujino lowered her head, covering her face.
Hikaru too appeared to be in great distress. Both of them looked as though they were about to be executed.
(Damn it! I can’t see the road in front! What’s Hanasato planning to do in this weather?)
The message that was sent along with Shioriko’s photo stated that the promise with Hikaru was to be completed.
After reading the content, one would know that it was not directed at Koremitsu, but at ‘Hikaru’.
But Hikaru was already dead.
(Or is Hanasato able to see Hikaru?)
But even so, Hikaru did say at the resort that if the sender was ‘Fujino’, that the promise between ‘Hikaru’ and ‘Fujino’ could be fulfilled, then there was no way it could be fulfilled.
Hikaru was in such despair when he said this, and had no strength to sigh. His expression and voice were utterly languid—only filled with misery.
—Because, there was only one promise I made with that person when I was younger, for us to be together before.
This happened a long, long time ago, and can no longer be fulfilled. Now that I am dead, it is absolutely impossible.
It was true that unless Hikaru revived, such a promise was impossible.
No, there was still a way.
However, that was too frivolous, and Koremitsu decided not to think about it.
(Anyway, let’s find Hanasato first and talk it out.)
Suddenly, he found a swaying light amidst the grass patch opposite the river, akin to ghost lights.
Koremitsu shone his flashlight, and the raindrops falling diagonally were revealed in the orange light. He saw Michiru wearing the school uniform, her hair ruffled by the wind as she stood there.
Michiru did not hold an umbrella, and was thoroughly soaked by the roak. One had to wonder if it was because of the hair sticking onto her face, or because of the little smirk on her lips—
Michiru was giving off an alluring presence, one drastically different from before.
Right, just like Kazuaki was wearing the wig and female clothing—
And with an intonation similar to Kazuaki’s, she said,
“You are rather punctual there, Hikaru~~~~”