(Damn it, I got careless.)
Koremitsu drifted in the water, thinking glumly.
(I just relaxed carelessly after seeing Shikibu pull Hanasato up.)
He actually let his guard down at the end. At this point, Honoka must be panicking.
(That girl is so feisty and short-tempered, but she’s unexpectedly a crybaby.)
Koremitsu could not help but imagine Honoka charging towards him angrily, her face all teary, and his heart ached. He wished she too did not jump into the river and try to look for Koremitsu.
It was terrifying, and it was rather plausible.
Also, if he was to be discovered as a floating corpse, Koharu would surely give him a good scolding.
—Why are you always causing trouble! It’s a miracle that you’re able to get into a prestigious, refined private high school! And you end up absent from the opening ceremony because you’re hospitalized! You say that you were knocked down by a truck at the red light? You think you’re an elementary school kid or something?
Ahh, that was the moment when Koremitsu was hospitalized and bandaged like a mummy.
Because of that, Koremitsu’s plan to actually make friends once he entered high school, and spend his life like an ordinary student, was drastically altered. He was completely devastated, but he was feeling frustrated to hear his uncompromising aunt nag at his ear.
—Shut up already! Just put my change of clothes down and go back!
Once he said this to Koharu, his ear was nearly ripped off.
—That Koharu. She’s abusing me now that I can’t move. Damn it, damn it!!
Once Koharu returned, Koremitsu grumbled away, and then, he saw the flowers sticking into the vase by the windowside.
They were refreshing white flowers blooming from the stem, a soft little feather growing on the bud, akin to a newborn’s hair.
Isn’t it inauspicious to have white flowers in a hospital?
Koremitsu wondered as he stared at the white, fluttery petals. he felt the anxiety and frustration in his heart silently dissipating.
It was useless of him to be so frenetic.
This is fate. Friends too are the same; when the ripe is ripe, maybe I will have friends.
Koremitsu managed to force himself to think positive.
After that, he kept staring at the flower whose name he did not know of.
On the day before Golden Week, he went to school on crutches.
After that, he passed through the central corridor, meeting a handsome boy standing by a pillar.
The morning sun shone upon his soft hair, and he dazzled with light. The boy’s lips, eyes and nose, everything was the completely opposite to Koremitsu, so soft, so tender.
Is this a dude? Or a lady? Right when Koremitsu was wondering, with a rich, sweet voice.
The boy called out to him,
—You are the first year Koremitsu Akagi, no? Is this your first day attending school?
He looked at Koremitsu, beaming cheerfully.
(Hm? What’s going on? Why is it that I’m thinking of the first time I met Hikaru? Is this the dying light I see before I die? I’m doomed.)
He still could not end up becoming like Hikaru. He would be scolded by Koharu, and make Honoka cry; neither was a fine option for him.
He anxiously looked around,
—Where is this place?
Before he realized it, Koremitsu found himself in a place filled with lush, just like a forest.
He lifted his head, and found a cloudless sky above him, the bright sun shining upon him. Purple Violets, yellow Dandelions, and white Clovers.
(Is this the fabled garden in heaven?)
If it was, surely it was getting worse for Koremitsu.
He heard that in such moments, the departed family members or close ones would come to welcome the dead. In his case, would it be the father of his who died when he was in elementary school? or Hikaru?
(I’m definitely not going with them.)
In any case, he had to find a way to get away from this place first. Koremitsu decided to walk towards the forest.
There was warm air, birds chirping, and the rippling sound of flowing water. The atmosphere was extremely tranquil, and the grass at the feet were soft. The grass at the feet were also tender, and the flowers in the Spring swayed with the gentle breeze.
(Maybe it’s not a bad thing if I can live my life leisurely in such a place after I die…ack—I’m not dead yet.)
Koremitsu shook his head firmly.
Suddenly, giggles could be heard.
(Is there anyone?)
There was delighted laughter, akin to birds chirping. There was not one, but two people laughing heartily.
This blissful atmosphere was such that Koremitsu worried that if such a savage looking man was to suddenly barge in and interrupt them, it would be awkward. Thus, he hid behind the trees, watching them.
The sight in front him caused him to gasp.
The numerous Wisterias entangling the trees were draping many purple Wisterias. Whenever the wind blew, the little petals would sway left and right, gently falling.
The falling petals gave off a tender light under the sunlight, and new Wisteria petals fell upon them. They were elegant, tender, falling one after another, and it felt as though this would last all of eternity.
It was a waterfall of Wisterias.
A girl, probably 15, 16 in age, was side by side with a boy in 1st grade, seated in the pile of purple Wisterias gathered at the bottom.
It seemed they were whispering something to each other, and they brought their faces to each other, giggling.
Their faces were extremely identical. Both of them had crystal clear white skin, clear eyes, and soft lips. The girl’s soft hair was long enough to reach her hair, and was absorbing the sunlight, looking utterly dazzling. The boy’s hair too seemed to be glowing like an angelic’s halo.
The Wisterias falling from above surrounded the duo, and the girl with dazzling hair and slender shoulders sat with her legs crossed, her skirt spread. A boy neatly piled the petals upon her legs.
Such a beautiful, Sacred scene riveted Koremitsu’s heart more than any painting or movie he had seen.
With her white, long fingers, the girl grabbed a violet petal that landed on the boy’s tender lips, showing a smile.
The boy happily showed a smile.
Both of them loved each other so much they could not help themselves. They were thoroughly lost in their blissful world just be being together.
They were smiling at each other with such eyes.
The boy approached the girl, his eyes sparkling with innocence.
—Hey, are you willing to be with me forever? For—you are the one I love most in the world.
The girl acted like the boy’s older sister, gently answering his childish whim.
—It is impossible to do so ‘forever’. Do you not have to return back to Tokyo once Spring break ends?
—I do not wish to go back. I want to stay here—I want to be with you.
—No can do. If you do not go back, your father will be sad.
The boy looked lonely, and the girl kissed him gently on his cheek.
It was a touch on the most precious item.
—You do not have to worry. We can meet again in the next vacation. During that time, I shall be here no matter what.
—You will be here during the next summer vacation and the vacation after that?
The boy’s cheeks blushed, and again his eyes showed a glint of delight.
—Can we watch the Wisterias together?
The girl’s lips curled into a sweet smile.
—The Wisterias only bloom in Spring, but we can look for flowers that resemble Wisterias together.
—Yes! It is a promise then! We shall look at the Wisterias together in Spring, and once they wilt, we shall look for the Wisterias fallen on the ground together. We will do this, forever.
Anyone would probably smile upon hearing the word ‘forever’ from such a young boy.
The girl’s eyes squinted amicably,
—Of course. It is a promise.
And she raised her pinky.
However, the boy suddenly got up, bent down, and placed his tender lips on the girl’s lips.
—Men and women do this when they promise to be together forever, right?.
The girl blushed, and covered her lips with her hand.
The boy in turn looked worried,
—Am I wrong?
He asked, and the girl put her hand down, smiling,
—No. But…you cannot do this to any other girl.
The boy’s face glittered, and with all his might,
—I understand! So, please do this to me too.
The girl widened her eyes, and again, she lowered her eyes, looking slightly flustered as she faltered. She lifted her head tentatively, and in an instance, kissed the lips of the boy who was giving her an expectant look.
The boy beamed as brightly as the sun at noon.
—So we will be together next year, the year after, and every year after that!.
—Yes, we shall always be together.
The girl blushed, and with a shy, tender look, she muttered,
—While we are away from each other, I too will pray. I pray that—I will becoming the happiest person in the world.
—Then I will too! I will also pray to God! I will pray—that you will have a very, very happy life, always smiling.
The happy lovey dovey moments filled the blissful time. So embarrassed, so delighted they were, and yet what a sacred time passed.
The sweet stares entwined around each other gave the vibe of a fantasy.
During this time, the violet Wisterias fluttered with the breeze, and the petals fell silently upon them, gathering by their feet.
So elegant, yet so sweet, they gently fell.
It was a silent gentle waterfall of Wisterias.
Koremitsu’s heart was griped as he watched such a scene.
The promise they both had would never be fulfilled.
Koremitsu knew that.
The girl called out the boy’s name endearingly,
And the boy looked delighted as he answered.
A gust blew.
The Wisterias swayed violently, and his vision was clouded by their violet petals. They danced in the air, and it was a tender, elegant, sacred, and adorable violet.
On the other side of the petals, the laughters of the girl and the young boy, Fujino and Hikaru, gradually faded.
The violet Wisteria petals filling the vision gradually lessened, and once his vision cleared again,
Replacing the girl and the boy standing in front of Koremitsu was a 15-year-old Hikaru, showing a faint smile.
He was dressed in school uniform, white-sleeved shirt and trousers, not even a single elegant Wisteria to be seen in his Wisteria fence, and the many petals that fell had completely vanished.
The season transpired from Spring to Summer, and the green grass swayed with the breeze, giving off a refreshing fragrance.
“Was that you and Fujino just now?”
Koremitsu asked, and Hikaru answered,
With that beautiful, forlorn smile,
“This place was where I first met that person…she was standing under those falling Wisteria, and asked me “You are Mr Hikaru, no?” Her voice was delightful, like a goddess.”
Koremitsu recalled the duo chortling away under the fluttering Wisteria branches.
They were both innocent and pretty, looking utterly blissful.
Back then, Fujino was of a similar age to Koremitsu was at this point. Though she remained a beauty, the past Fujino was so optimistic, so vibrant, compared to the current self, though beautiful, had a face clouded with gloom. Her lips were often beaming like the petals, and she was radiant.
If it was that girl appearing on the other end of the violet waterfall, smiling, surely Koremitsu would have assumed her to be a goddess.
Fujino once looked afar with an anguish look, indicating that there existed a special encounter that would occur in an instance.
Just as Hikaru fell in love with Fujino on first sight, Fujino probably felt that the effeminate boy looking back at her, piling the petals on her hair and shoulders was adorable, and was mesmerized by him.
What Koremitsu just saw was certainly the scene lingering in Hikaru’s heart.
“During that period, we were not really bothered by the relationship of aunt and nephew, stepmother and stepson, and it was really a wonderful time…we would chat under the Wisterias until the sun set, and we were covered by the petals, falling into dreamland, or leisurely strolling through the forest together, learning flower names…or play in the river while in our clothes, getting ourselves wet…”
The playful girl and boy.
Made a promise to view the Wisterias in the next Spring together, and the following Spring, and the one after.
An eternal oath.
So naive, so innocent—yet so heartfelt.
—It is a promise.
—Yes, it is.
Fujino was never always so gloomy, anguished.
She did not become an adult so suddenly. She had a time when she was still a youthful, radiant girl, a history of being with Hikaru. As a bystander, Koremitsu felt his heart gripped by the warm, blissful history.
Perhaps, during the painful moments when Fujino began to stray away from him, when both of them did not talk with each other, Hikaru would open this inner room to reminisce the past.
And then, he found the beautiful days they could no longer head back to, his heart left broken as a result.
With a distant look similar to Fujino’s, Hikaru said,
“When I had a fever, that person was always beside me, taking care of me…she kissed me while I was asleep…so…I too kissed her when she was tired and sleeping.”
“You really were a pervert since young, huh.”
“I do wish to her if she is someone I do like. it is normal.”
“What is normal about preferring kissing to a pinky swear?”
“But I really believed that I had to kiss if I wanted to make a promise.”
“You weren’t playing dumb there, right?”
Koremitsu looked utterly skeptical, and Hikaru immediately denied,
“No, of course not. I was never such a scheming person.”
“But you never abided by your promise not to kiss other girls.”
Once he retorted, Hikaru gulped,
“Erm, that, I thought, was that I could not kiss any other girl when the promise was in place…”
“You gave girls flower rings at the back garden in your 3rd grade, and swore that you would love them forever. You’re telling me that you never kissed them?”
“I did not! Not at all!”
“Not at all?”
“Erm…I would do so from time to time after I grew older…that promise was invalid once that person married my father.”
“You really are a perverted prince.”
“Do not call me that! At least call me a harem prince instead!”
Hikaru exclaimed in protest, and suddenly lowered his head, his eyes looking bleak,
“…I suppose it is because of this fact that our wishes were never fulfilled.”
He muttered sadly,
“If I had only kissed that person in my entire life, will we be able to be together forever?”
Koremitsu’s heart was gripped.
The promise between man and woman, Hikaru and Fujino, would never be fulfilled.
And because of that, both of them had to be tortured endlessly.
As Fujino had said, their meeting was a misfortune in itself.
Koremitsu muttered to Hikaru as the latter kept his head down,
“…When you received that letter from Fujino, you knew why she called you out, didn’t you?”
Hikaru bit his lower lip, remaining silent for a little while, and started explaining,
Perhap Hikaru dragged Koremitsu to such a place because he wanted to explain this matter…
“…I graduated from Middle School, and once I was thoroughly rejected by that person at the resort, I was really anxious. I began to consume a pile of flu medication, nearly drowned myself in the pool in the middle of the night, slit my wrists, and played such tomfoolery that the ambulance was required to deport me to hospital. I nearly died, and I had a hard time living.”
‘You’re really calm at this.”
The slash marks Tsuyako was concerned about were probably from that time. Looking at how few people knew about it, perhaps Hikaru bandaged it himself after all? Humans do not die that easily.
But even so, Hikaru was suffering so much, struggling. Even though Hikaru went out with so many girls, Fujino was still the dearest to him, his first love, the lone, unrivalled flower.
“But during Spring break, when I saw you knocked down by the truck to save the old man, my heart was filled with hope. I really wanted to say ‘If I have him as my friend, will things take a turn for the better’?”
“Why mention this so suddenly?”
Koremitsu frowned, asking.
He was thoroughly bandaged, lashed at by Koharu, and did not attend the opening ceremony. Would anyone else of the same age, having witnessed someone knocked down by a truck, think of a bright future as Hikaru did?
Hikaru quietly smiled,
“You really were a fated encounter for me. The reason why I decided to actually go out with Miss Aoi for real was because of you…it was only a few days before you came to our school that I learned of that person’s pregnancy, but I did not think of the possibility of the child being mind, so I was really so depressed, so heartbroken because of that. But I was thinking “Ahh, now it is really over. I can really end it now…I want to be friends with you, and I shall protect Miss Aoi and Miss Aoi alone”…”
Hikaru seemed to be watching a distant dream as he muttered,
“I arranged for the birthday presents to Miss Aoi before I left for the resort during Golden Week. That person just so happened to be there too, and I told her that I wanted to date Miss Aoi. I thought it would all end like that, that she and I could finally be liberated from the long suffering we had. Alas—”
Hikaru’s face lost its smile, his eyes looking bleak.
“That person did not look happy at all.”
Hikaru’s little hiss caused Koremitsu’s heart to jolt.
“Instead of that, she gave me a look of despair.”
Koremitsu could easily imagine Fujino’s expression.
Because that was surely the same face as what Hikaru was showing.
It felt as though Hikaru was pushed into the darkness, an endless abyss as he showed that dark, hollow expression. His frozen face was coupled with his slightly quivering lips.
Hikaru clasped his hands together, looking as though he was giving a confession as he lowered his head weakly,
“Back then, Koremitsu…I was thoroughly lured by the despair shown in that person’s eyes, and my soul was about to rush out of my body…I had decided to spent my future with Miss Aoi—my heart felt so warm, so satisfied because of that, and I thought I could forget about that person once and for all. I thought that together with her, I could be forgiven, liberated and happy.
The anguished voice of one robbed of his chance for redemption stabbed into Koremitsu’s heart, one knife at a time.
Hikaru did love Aoi. He really yearned a future to be with Aoi.
(But even so, that wasn’t good enough?)
Again Koremitsu felt Hikaru’s despair, and quizzed in his heart.
“When that person gave me a chiding look, I understood. The pain will never end. No matter who I ended up with in the future, I could never give up my thoughts for that person. The moment I was encapsulated by those person’s dark, alluring eyes, I again understood that I could never forget about that person.”
The reason why the two of them were so similar was because they yearned each other so much.
Fujino once said that such a rabid love was no different from a curse.
Narcissus, who fell in love with his handsome self reflected on the water surface, became frail and feeble because of the love that could never be fulfilled, and finally, he became a flower. However, Narcissus was the fortunate one for finally meeting his end, for he did not have to suffer anymore.
Hikaru and Fujino’s love never reached a conclusion. They both knew very well that the one they loved most was each other. Thus, no matter how painful it was, they could never put an end of it. The new hope because a new despair.
It was because they realized this that Hikaru was utterly weary.
It was because he once had such a hope that his despair was stronger than it used to be. It was so painful it felt as though his gut was bitten. Even so, he had to continue living.
What Tsuyako was so worried about, and what Asai predicted, all became reality.
Hikaru yearned death.
“I came to the riverbank in the middle of the night, and that person pointed the knife at me, asking ‘Why did you have to make this decision’. I would have been fine with it if it was jealousy at MIss Aoi, but that was not the case.
—Why did you make that decision?
As the storm blew and the rains poured onto the dim riverbank, Fujino pointed the knife at Hikaru, asking,
Why did you make such a decision? It is futile for you to do this.
How much more despair do you still wish for?
“That person gave me a painful look, saying that she wanted to end our suffering, that there was no other way other than for our existences to vanish completely from this world. I…too did think that way…I thought that person was the one who grabbed my arm when I fell into the river, and was about to be swept away. It was impossible for a girl to pull a boy like me up with her strength, and if that kept up, she would have drowned as well. I knew that even if I did make it onto land and save my own life, that person and I will suffer the same regrets, the same pains, so…”
“So—you said ‘that is enough’.”
Back then, Hikaru surely did give a relieved smile.
And then, he let of of his hand.
That was what happened in the stormy night, everything that Hikaru withheld from Koremitsu till the very end.
Hikaru however frowned sadly,
“In the end, even though I died, nothing did change. Everyone wept at the funeral, Miss Aoi yelled angrily at my photo ‘You liar’…yet that person, she continued to smile. Even though I am to vanish from this world, nothing will change. The pain will continue. Once I died, that person understood that what was supposed to be salvation was not it at all. The me inside her heart remains a curse…so, she could only smile.”
Koremitsu recalled the smile Fujino showed at the funeral.
The tears rolled down her cheeks, yet her lips showed a smile.
It was serene, genial, somewhat delighted. Having witnessed Fujino’s pain, and having heard her confession, Koremitsu understood that it was not a smile born out of delight.
As Hikaru said, all Fujino could only do was smile.
Hikaru bore the same guilt, and he became a corpse.
But even so, she could not be redeemed.
She could not give up on her obsession.
Nothing could end.
Realizing this anguish and sorrow was supposed to be a routine for him. Nothing else, other than a smile, could maintain his sanity.
Aoi directed her anguish into hatred, trying to forget Hikaru’s death, and just like her, Fujino continued to accept the torment upon her guilt-riddened future, and barely managed to maintain her sanity.
Both Fujino and Aoi, the flowers who anguished at Hikaru’s demise, caused Koremitsu’s heart to writhe.
With a heavy tone, he muttered,
“Why did you have to give up, saying that ‘it’s enough’? It’s just as you did when we were supposed to deliver Aoi’s presents. You just said ‘that is enough’, wanting to give up. Like that’s going to happen.”
—Koremitsu…that is enough.
—Forget about it.
Hikaru knew very well that Koremitsu was trying his best to approach Aoi,and was pushing her to her limit. Back then, he muttered with such a frigid, faint smile.
He said that he could no longer give Aoi any happiness because he was a ghost.
Koremitsu yelled at Hikaru at the roof, saying that he would convey Hikaru’s feelings to her, so Hikaru should not give up,
Hikaru noted wearily,
“Yes. It was insufficient at all. I should not have let go of my hand back then. I should have struggled until the very end. If I could have been your friend sooner, perhaps the outcome would have changed. I should not have given up until the very end, just as how we delivered the presents to Miss Aoi. Perhaps this might save that person’s heart, and I may still remain on this world.”
With an anguished look, he said, showing a poised look thereafter,
“However, it is pointless to talk about it now. Let us think of what is to come.”
Hikaru’s voice became optimistic.
Ever since then, Hikaru never said the words ‘that is enough’.
So Koremitsu said,
“Right, we can’t be yapping away right now. Got to convey your feelings to the woman you love most.”
The conversation they had on the roof.
Just speak up, and I’ll definitely fulfill your wish.
That apprehensive stare Hikaru gave back then was now filled with utmost trust, directed at Koremitsu,
“I shall leave it to you, Koremitsu.”
“Alright, leave it to me.”
Koremitsu too gave the radiant smile he could not give back then.
♢ ♢ ♢
“Akagi, wake up! Akagi!”
The first voice entering his ears was Honoka’s, pleading for him.
Koremitsu opened his eyes, a soft towel draped around his body, and found that he was not outdoors, but indoors. Honoka’s eyebrows were raised, and it appeared she was desperately trying not to cry—giving Koremitsu a feeble yet feisty look. Upon seeing that face, Koremitsu heaved a sigh of relief.
(Ah, I’m back.)
The flower of love that blooms towards the sun—the purple Heliotrope.
Koremitsu’s cheeks and lips naturally relaxed.
Honoka looked to be on the verge of tears, and just when she was about to tell Koremitsu off furiously, she blushed, unable to say anything.
“Big brother Koremitsu!”
Pushing aside Honoka and grabbing Koremitsu was Shioriko.
“Thank goodness! You finally woke up. Miss Shikibu isn’t the only one calling for your name. Shiiko has been doing so too! It just so happened that Miss Shikibu managed to squeeze by your side and shout right at you! Shiiko has been shouting your name more times than her.”
Shioriko buried her head near Koremitsu’s neck, wailing as she yapped.
“You’re alright, Shiiko.”
Koremitsu felt relieved inside, and he reached a hand out to pat Shioriko on her head. The latter then lifted her face, her large eyes filled with tears as she puffed her cheeks, glaring at Koremitsu,
“Why didn’t you come save Shiiko? Shiiko has been waiting for you to save her, big brother! Shiiko’s hands and legs were tied, her mouth were sealed tight, and she was locked inside a safe. She couldn’t breathe, and nearly died, but Shiiko kept believing that you would definitely come save her, big brother! A-an-and in the end—Shiiko doesn’t want that kind of person saving her!!!!!”
Shioriko bawled out loud as she pointed a finger with much disdain. The ‘kind of person’ she despised was Tōjō.
It seemed he was the one who saved her.
Ever since Shioriko’s good friend Lapis went to the Tōjō, Shioriko had despised him as though he was an abductor, and she probably felt displeased to owe him a favor.
“I thought it was big brother Koremitsu who arrived, but when I woke up, I was holding this guy! It’s terrible! My body and soul is stained! Disinfect me now!”
“Akagi, I swear that I did not do anything.”
Tōjō hastily explained.
“Ah, I got it. Thanks for saving Shiiko, upperclassman Tōjō.”
Tōjō was flabbergasted to hear Koremitsu address him as ‘upperclassman’ for the first time.
“I never thought there would be a day when you would actually call me ‘upperclassman’.”
“Shiiko, thank everyone properly now.”
“Uu…thanks. But, I won’t forgive you for carrying me here—I thought it would be a Princess carry. I was so nervous my heart’s pounding when I had my eyes closed! And it hurt when the tape was ripped off me!”
“That was not me. It was Asai—”
Tōjō’s stare was directed at Asai, who did not speak till this point.
“The pain will only last for that moment if I were to rip it off at once, no?”
Asai noted coldly.
“…Asa, I did ask you to please be gentle about this, right?”
“Ahaha, Miss Asai certainly looks rather delicate, but is unexpectedly clumsy.”
“Ahh~, so this is how the Matriarch Asa is really like.”
“Yes yes, Asai never showed any delicacy at all~”
Aoi, Tsuyako, Hiina joined in, followed by Kazuaki. This left Koremitsu dumbfounded.
“I do not wish to be told off by any of you for not being delicate.”
Asai coldly frowned, and explained the situation to Koremitsu. Tōjō, Asai and Aoi went off to save Shioriko, and in the meantime, Tsuyako and Hiina were headed to Koremitsu and the others by the riverside. Kazuaki only joined them later.
It seemed the one who got Koremitsu out from the river was the rescue team called in by Mikoto.
They contacted Koremitsu’s family member the previous day, stating that Shioriko was fine. However, Koremitsu was curious as to who the ‘family member’ was, whether it was his aunt Koharu or his grandfather Masakaze. If the was the latter, Koremitsu would be in trouble. Surely Masakaze would kick up a fuss and ask why such a serious matter was hidden from him alone.
Mikoto, Fujino and Michiru were not present.
Honoka followed up, stating that Fujino and Michiru were resting in their rooms. Mikoto was with Fujino.
“How’s Hanasato doing?”
“She’s not hurt because you protected her, Akagi. I don’t think she slept at all the past few days. She is sleeping soundly now.”
Honoka looked a little gloomy.
However, she immediately beamed, saying,
“I’m relieved that you finally woke up. I’ll be going over to Michiru now then. I hope that I can be by her bedside when she wakes up.’
“Oh…go ahead then.”
“Right, see you later.”
Honoka walked out of the room.
At that moment, Koremitsu realized that on a closer look, Honoka’s eyes were red.
She was not the only one. Aoi, Asai, Tsuyako, and Shioriko who had her body sprawled over Koremitsu, puffing her cheeks, “Miss Shikibu doesn’t have to come back now”, had red eyes. Even Yū, standing silently right beside them, giving him a fleeting, hollow stare, was the same.
(I made everyone worry…)
Koremitsu’s heart was griped, and at the same time, once he realized how many people were worried for him, a warmth slowly flowed through his body.
“Goodness, I was really worried too, Mr Akagi! There is no way you can get a decent doctor in a rural resort, and I said many times to get a helicopter to a Mikados’ hospital, but that evil Asai kept refuting my suggestions. It is all her fault if you are to die~!! But it is a good thing that you are alive~! That is because I infused my power of friendship into you~!”
Leaving aside whatever that power of friendship it, I’m thinking that you were trying to get to me in some way,Koremitsu immediately decided. It seemed Kazuaki did believe in the power of friendship once Koremitsu woke up,
“To make you livelier than before, I shall infuse more friendship power into you, Mr Akagi~”
and he grabbed Koremitsu from opposite Shioriko.
Koremitsu sat upright in shock.
The sudden action caused Shioriko to nearly slip from the bed,
“Hey, stop it already.”
“There is no need to be ashamed about it. It is normal for friends to save this.”
Kazuaki grabbed Koremitsu by the neck, unwilling to let go.
(You’re not normal at all!)
Just when Koremitsu was about to push Kazuaki away,
“…Mr Kazuaki. If you wish to be Mr Akagi’s friend…I do feel…that is not…how you should do it…”
Everyone present gathered their eyes upon the owner of the voice.
The once staring at Kazuaki with a fleeting expression was actually Yū.
(That was Yū saying that, right?0
Kazuaki, who was chided, looked as stupefied as he was when he got slapped by Yū.
And Tōjō, who had a one-sided crush on Yū, widened his eyes as well.
“You can’t…just keep conveying your feelings…if you are friends…you have to think of Mr Akagi’s sake…”
Yū’s voice was soft as she stammered. However, her tone was adamant, and surely,nobody would not have missed out on what she said.
Kazuaki’s cheeks immediately blushed. He let go of Koremitsu, and said in a huff,
“I-I know that! You do not have the right to be nagging at me here, Yū~! Also, I am much~older than you are, and my social etiquette is much better than you ex-NEET.”
Tsuyako, who remained terrified of Kazuaki even till this point, and Aoi, who remained wary of Kazuaki, gave Yū startled and admiring looks.
Asai scowled, and Hiina beamed, having found this to be amusing.
Koremitsu felt a delight in his warming heart as he witnessed first hand the change Yū had.
(I guess she’s fine even without me taking care of her)
Koremitsu pulled the blanket aside, and stepped onto the floor. Aoi noted worriedly,
“Mr Akagi. You should have a rest.”
Tsuyako too stopped him,
“Yes. Do not force yourself.”
Koremitsu diverted his stare beyond them.
His friend was showing a tender expression, standing there.
He exchanged looked with Hikaru, and his lips curled into a smile.
“I’m feeling fine now. Right now, I still have something to do.”
Feeling extremely relieved, Koremitsu declared to Aoi and the rest.
“I made a promise with a friend.”
♢ ♢ ♢
Fujino was not in her room.
Koremitsu got onto the car Asai arranged for, and went to the hometown of Hikaru’s mother From there, he walked to a nearby forest.
The forest was about to welcome a winter colder than it was. The trees were covered with red leaves, and the brown leaves fallen onto the ground were dried. The air too was frosty, but the sun shining down from above was bright and clear.
With the eyes as clear as that sunlight, Hikaru walked beside Koremitsu.
Soon after, Koremitsu found the scene he saw in Hikaru’s inner room when he passed out.
His field of vision suddenly widened, and the rack of wild Wisterias entered his sights. Fujino had her hair let down as she kept her back turned on Koremitsu, seated under them.
Mikoto, who was standing quietly behind Fujino, noticed Koremitsu, and stealthily backed away from Fujino.
It was Mikoto who informed Koremitsu of this place when the latter inquired with regards to Fujino’s whereabouts. For a long time, Mikoto watched Fujino suffer from the forbidden love; one had to wonder what thoughts she harbored…
Koremitsu walked forth, hushing his footsteps.
The instance he passed by Mikoto, they met each other in the eyes.
Koremitsu nodded at Mikoto, and with her refreshing eyes, Mikoto indicated “Please.”
What Koremitsu saw in his dream was the green Wisteria vines that bloomed; whenever the spring breeze came, violet Wisterias would rain upon them. At this point, those Wisterias did not exist; only the vines, a little brown at this point, were left behind. Fujino stared at this void, and Koremitsu stopped beside her.
“You met Hikaru at this place, right? He said he thought you were a goddess.”
The white, slender shoulders quivered slightly.
With tears lingering in her eyes, Fujino looked forward, not saying anything at all.
“You two would play at the river, not caring that your clothes got wet.”
“You two also checked on the names of the flowers, strolling in the forest.”
“When Hikaru had a fever, you remained by his side and took care of him.”
“You made a promise with Hikaru that you’ll be together forever—”
“Why are you stating this now?”
Fujino finally spoke up.
The feeble voice asking Hikaru sounded so feeble, and it was a hidden plea, hoping that Koremitsu would not continue to pester her. Her faltering eyes were filled with anguish.
Upon seeing Fujino being like this, Hikaru too looked anguished.
Koremitsu noted seriously,
“Because I want you to remember. The time you spent with Hikaru wasn’t just filled with sad things.”
Fujino pulled the shawl on her shoulders, and shrank back, lowering her head. The feeble, tender voice eked from her pale lips.
“This morning…I received a notice from the Mikados main house. My husband managed to be alive…”
Isn’t that a good thing? While Koremitsu nearly blurted that out, he noticed the gloom in Fujino’s eyes, and swallowed those words back.
“But I do feel guilty for being unable to return to that man. When Miss Hiroka…brought the will my husband wrote…I read it. That person…knew everything about my relationship with mr Hikaru.”
Hikaru gasped, and Koremitsu was stunned.
(Hikaru’s dad knew about their relationship!?)
He knew of the relationship his wife and son had? he knew that his wife might not be bearing his own child, but his son’s child?
Hikaru widened his eyes, his face frozen.
With her eyebrows in a frown, Fujino shrank back invariably, seemingly guilt-riddened.
“But even so…that man never rebuked me, and he apologized to me many times for breaking the relationship between me and Mr Hikaru. He said that I looked really happy when I was with Hikaru, and he felt as though Mr Hikaru’s mother was still alive. So, he married me so that I could always be with Mr Hikaru…he wanted to personally protect me, who really resembled my older sister Kiriyo, and the child she left behind, Mr Hikaru…no matter what happens, the child inside my belly…will be deemed as the son of the Mikados’ head…”
Fujino’s voice was filled with helpless despair and agony, and Koremitsu too felt his heart writhe.
Hikaru was thoroughly stupefied by the shocking facts Fujino divulged, remaining still.
When did Hikaru’s father knew of the relationship between his wife and son?
What sort of feelings did he have when he viewed them? Why did he forgive the?
He forgave the twisted betrayal of the one he loved most—
Fujino embraced her quivering body.
“Nobody…wishes to judge me. Mr Hikaru…chose death so that I did not have to take action…nobody is left to judge me…”
She confessed her sins, was fearful because of her sins, suffered because of her guilt, but nobody was willing to judge her. She was never judged, nor forgiven. The fear she had as a survivor caused her to despair.
The white face paled further, and her eyes were filled with utter malaise.
The sin she committed with Hikaru was grave. At this point, she could not continue to live without being impeached.
“You already suffered enough punishment. You have to continue living even after Hikaru died.”
Koremitsu solemnly noted, the voice heartfelt.
Hikaru, standing beside Koremitsu, too straightened his back as he sealed his lips.
I’m correct here, right, Hikaru? That’s what you wanted to say to Fujino, isn’t it? You didn’t want to ascend to the afterlife because of this incident, did you?
Koremitsu silently affirmed in his heart, and he slowly voiced out every word in the tense air.
“Don’t restrain yourself too much.Don’t think of everything between you and Hikaru as a curse.”
Fujino kept her head lowered, not moving at all. None of the words could reach Fujino’s heart, for she rejected redemption.
So Koremitsu asked,
“Why did you want to meet me? Why did you contact me through Mikoto Ono?”
Fujino’s eyebrows quivered; the fingers clutching at the shawl shivered a little.
“Isn’t it because you want me to confirm the existence of Hikaru, which you denied, as his friend?”
Fujino utterly denied Hikaru, saying that it was fine if he was not born.
At the raging riverside in the middle of the night, she showed such a pale face, a gloomy expression.
But in fact,
“Isn’t it because you wish that I say, it’s great that Hikaru’s around? Isn’t it because you want someone to tell you that Hikaru too went through happy times?”
Koremitsu’s heart got increasingly hot as he watched Fujino with her eyelids lowered and lips sealed; with a firm tone, he declared,
“So I’m going to tell you this. Hikaru had a romantic relationship he could never get anything from; he was sad, really in pain, but he met many flowers, and he really treasured them.”
How did Hikaru love.
How did Hikaru live.
“You know of Hikaru’s childhood friend, the white Hollyhock, right? Hikaru was afraid of being hated by her, so he never did anything to her. Because of that, she thought Hikaru never loved her, and lashed out loud at his funeral photo. Hikaru really treasured that Hollyhock though, and prepared 7 presents for her birthday, planning to confess to her. The presents were delivered by me to him though. That Hollyhock was really happy, and cried a whole lot, saying that she loved Hikaru since young over and over again. Hikaru’s feelings were actually conveyed to her.”
—I love you most, Hikaru…I really love you…love you.
Back then, Aoi lifted her head as she watched the water droplets that fell like shooting stars, covering her mouth with her hands, muttering “I love you” to Hikaru, conveying the thoughts in her heart.
The pure, white Hollyhock dearest to Hikaru.
“The Moonflower who was bullied at school, and shut herself in an old, tattered apartment was also saved by Hikaru. Hikaru would visit her and tell her about the many beautiful flowers growing outside. That Moonlight is now standing firmly on her feet, saying what she wants to say whenever she wants to!”
The fleeting Moonflower that bloomed in the middle of the night was Hikaru’s ‘healing’.
For her, the peaceful, tender time spent with Hikaru was solace for her forlorn soul.
With Hikaru around, Yū was able to have peaceful dreams in that dim room. Because of that, she was able to venture the world outside in her dreams, and then she walked out on her own will.
“The Purple Gromwell, whom Hikaru helped buy the house back and took care of, is now my little sister. That grandpa of mine who hates women so much really dotes on her. Thanks to her living in our house, it has gotten lively. It’s Hikaru who got us to know each other. Hikaru was worried about her, and didn’t wish for her to become like himself, unable to cry. She’s still young, so even though she’s so haughty and a brat at heart, Hikaru continued to watch over her kindly, minding that she doesn’t fall over.”
—Hikaru…thank you. I really love you.
Back then, she grabbed Koremitsu by the arm, saying the words she really wanted to say to Hikaru before he died. She then lifted her head towards where Koremitsu was looking at, crying as she said that. That girl was Hikaru’s ‘joy’.
Hikaru once noted with a look of ecstasy that he was really looking forward to seeing how much of an outstanding lady the girl would become.
“The red weeping cherry blossom kept thinking that she’s ugly, and obeyed what others told her to do. However, Hikaru found her before she bloomed, when she was still a pile of brown branches, and told her that one day, he would make her the most beautiful flower in in the garden. Right now, the red flowers on the branches have bloomed, making everyone stop to look at her and be mesmerized by them. It’s Hikaru who let her bloom! That red weeping cherry blossom also confided that even if God is to allow her to change fates with others, she’ll choose her fate now!”
—I really fell into an enchanting love with Hikaru.
—Hikaru’s words allowed me to becoming the red dancing princess.
The one often showing a bright smile on her red lips was Hikaru’s ‘pride’.
Hikaru’s face was so radiant when he said that he could not find a girl any prettier.
No matter when it was, Hikaru was really devoted to his flowers.
He really loved the flowers he met, listened to their words, and continued to infuse them with the water called love.
“The Saffron Hikaru met over the internet was actually the Saffloer. He never did see her face, but he really liked her, saying that she’s serious, gentle and unique, mysterious and charming. That Saffloer called Hikaru the ‘Polar Star’, saying that she’ll definitely love him if she met him.”
I like Mr Polar Star not because of his appearance, but because of his inner heart. I don’t need to know how he looks like, because to me, Mr Polar Star is the most handsome boy in the world. Beni, with the orange sunstone Brooch pinned to her chest, declared this—she was Hikaru’s ‘mystery’.
Having seen Beni’s unique face, Hikaru did not falter in the slightest, instead saying ‘it is cute!‘ from the bottom of his heart. This caused Koremitsu to realize that Hikaru was not simply a frivolous harem prince, and a different opinion was formed, that Hikaru was a man amongst men.
“The Morning Glory closest to Hikaru gave up her dreams of building a Tsuchinoko Theme Park to protect Hikaru, becoming a dictator who likes playing those conspiracy plans. Hikaru knows that the infuriating Morning Glory is actually a devoted, cute girl. Since elementary school, he made a promise with that Morning Glory to go on an adventure together!”
—You…came to pass on Hikaru’s message to me, as his friend?
Asai cried as she watched the field of blooming Morning Glories. She was a reliable girl, Hikaru’s guardian’.
Hikaru was so concerned with his infamously overbearing childhood friend, always stating, ‘Asa is a kind person at heart’.
“Hikaru was sincere to the Broom Tree that was so similar to you. Like you, the Broom Tree kept trying to escape from Hikaru, and Hikaru really was grateful for encountering her. Because of Hikaru, that broom Tree understood how charming of a flower she is, and I can say that she’s a changed person.”
—Goodbye, Mr Hikaru.
Sora, who embraced Koremitsu in school as everyone else looked on, whispered farewell. She was Hikaru’s ‘yearning’,
“The Tachibana flower that tried to replace you, and that Poppy that did a lot of bad things, they loved Hikaru so much they went crazy, but Hikaru never gave up on them.”
—Koremitsu, I do think I understand how Miss Hanasato became like that. I too was on the verge of going mad when that person told me that she had father’s child. Miss Hanasato is still the ‘grace’ of that instance, a cute white Tachibana flower that has a memorable fragance.
—I do apologize for what happened with my brother, but I do wish that you get along well with him. He is born as the eldest son of the Mikados, and he probably was suffering, having to live while hiding his true self.
Hikaru really showed utmost care for those flowers.
He really watched over them.
He really loved them.
The flowers loved by Hikaru were so blissful.
Hikaru’s eyes were so tender, so satiated as he watched those beautiful flowers bloom.
Fujino continued to keep her head lowered, her eyes showing some deep anguish.
But her lips slowly opened, and a voice she desperately eked out entered Koremitsu’s ears.
“Did Hikaru…really live a happy life?”
Koremitsu sensed that the voice that might freeze in the air contained Fujino’s earnest wishes, and he felt his heart filled.
—While we are away from each other, I too will pray. I pray that—I will becoming the happiest person in the world.
Fujino, who was still a young girl back then, made that promise with the young Hikaru with her clear voice.
Mikoto once said that when Fujino first met Hikaru, she found him to be really beautiful, innocent, cute, an angel whom she swore to God she would keep happy.
(You always wished for Hikaru’s happiness, right? You thought you ruined his happiness.)
This, more than the pain of being unable to touch him, more than the fear of being unable to see the future, tormented Fujino more, and till this point, was lashing at her heart.
It was she who made the dearest person to her so unhappy.
It was she, more than anyone else, who wished for Hikaru to be happy, and she robbed the bright future Hikaru should have.
She said they should not have met.
She said Hikaru should be born in a world without Fujino.
And with that, Hikaru would attain happiness. Hikaru would not be tormented and despaired by his 15 years of life, and lost it.
She actually loved Hikaru, earnestly hoping that he would be happy—wishing that he would be the happiest person in the world!
Fujino bit her lower lip, her shoulders shivering. The lowered eyelids were showing tears. Hikaru watched her with an anguished expression.
Fujino could not hear Hikaru’s voice.
So Koremitsu kept pouring his emotions into his shout,
He loudly declared Hikaru’s thoughts to the flower dearest to him,
“Yeah!! Hikaru really had a fortunate life!”
Fujino only saw Hikaru’s sad looks. It was this friend of Hikaru informing her that that was just one side to Hikaru.
She said Hikaru was unfortunate?
That he should not have been born?
Not at all!
“How can anyone not be happy, to be loved by so many flowers, to love all his flowers with all his might?”
Koremitsu filled his chest with the refreshing Winter air below the Wisteria vines where both Hikaru and Fujino made their promises, saying,
“I’m fortunate to meet Hikaru too! A lot of wonderful things happened! A lot of happy moments occurred! It’s Hikaru who brought these moments to me!”
Hikaru would talk with his gentle, sweet voice to Koremitsu, who was only able to name a few flowers, rattling about stories of the Silk Tree or the Chinese Trumpet Vine, or preaching that the girls were all flowers. Thanks to Hikaru’s appearance, Koremitsu did not feel shunned by his classmates as he was before.
Surely, he never would have a chance to go to the theme park or the pool if he did not become friends with Hikaru. Ever since that encounter, Hikaru yelled at the riverbank “Koremitsu is my friend!“, and consoled Koremitsu whenever the latter was feeling downhearted. Because of the culture festival, Koremitsu was accepted by his classmates, and they shared their delight with him.
There really were countless incidents where Koremitsu would be so fortunate, thinking “It’s great to have Hikaru around!”
With a teary smile, Hikaru listened to Koremitsu’s words. His lips were quivering slightly,, and the eyes that should not be able to cry were actually filled with tears.
Fujino too lifted her exquisite face stiffly, looking up at Koremitsu with the same teary eyes as Hikaru.
Koremitsu stared back at Fujino passionately, telling her adamantly,
“Hikaru’s definitely fortunate! But he still has his lingering thoughts to his flowers, and he can’t leave!! That’s why I promised to be his representative. You’re the last one!!”
The wisteria Hikaru loved.
Hikaru’s final burden.
“Didn’t you make a promise with Hikaru that you’ll be with him forever? I don’t care whether you sinned or not; if you can’t forget about Hikaru, don’t forget about him then. You got to remember Hikaru and make sure he lives in your heart forever. Your happiness is Hikaru’s greatest wish!”
In the distant past, Hikaru looked up at the girl Fujino under the Wisteria vines, earnestly stating,
—Then I will too! I will also pray to God! I will pray—that you will have a very, very happy life, always smiling.
Just as Hikaru built a room in his heart to reminisce the wonderful days he spent with Fujino, Koremitsu too wished for Fujino to firmly lock the wonderful memories she made with Hikaru in her heart.
Fujino’s lips were quivering. Perhaps she recalled the innocent conversation they had under the Wisterias back then. She sobbed, her eyes filled with tears.
“You got to live on. When you’re finally able to smile even after bearing all the guilt and punishment, Hikaru won’t have any more wishes left!”
Hikaru gave Fujino a pleading look.
The promise and wishes could never be fulfilled. Even so, as long as their beloved obtained happiness, as long as she felt that this encounter was irreplaceable—
Fujino trembled, eking each word with a feeble voice,
A beautiful tear fell from her eye.
“That Mr Hikaru was able to be born…that I met Mr Hikaru…”
The frigid, white whites clasped in front of the shawl. Koremitsu—and Hikaru watched with bated breath as Fujino’s voice melted in the frosty forest air.
With tears in her eyes, a heart-wrenching glint filled her eyes.
“I…loved Mr Hikaru.”
That was the other feeling Fujino had.
The truth Fujino hid.
Even though it was painful, even though she denied it, she loved Hikaru.
She was happy when both of them made the promise.
Koremitsu saw clear, transparent droplets seep from Hikaru’s eyes, a few of them dripping onto the white cheeks, fluttering like the Wisterias.
(Hikaru, have you realized it? You’re crying.)
A depressed Hikaru would note forlornly ‘I cannot cry’. At this point, he was crying.
(Ah, such beautiful tears.)
They struggled at the bottom of the vortex of violet Wisterias, suffocated by the love. At this point, the love finally ended.
“Thank you. Now Hikaru will be able to head off to the other world.”
Fujino continued to weep, with an adorable, tragic expression on her face as she looked to Koremitsu’s side. Did she notice Hikaru beside him? Or was it that she was speaking to the distant past where they both spoke innocently under the Wisterias?”
Fujino sobbed, muttering,
And so, Hikaru, with tears on his face, beamed, answering gently,
♢ ♢ ♢
It really does feel good to cry, Koremitsu.
It feels like all the sticky, vexing emotions within my body was washed away with the tears.
Right now, I am able to reminisce many things with a thoroughly refreshed attitude.
I loved that person so much that my heart was breaking, aching so much I wanted to shout.
I experienced the dark days where I could not see the future, and also others.
With the thoughts I could not sever no matter what, that person and I were only despairing in the bottom of the Wisteria abyss.
I had to give up on that person.
But I could not.
Once I saw the mirror, that person’s tragic face would appear on it. I really wished to go mad immediately, but I was in such pain that I was almost there. In fact, I could not allow myself to go past my breaking point.
At those moment, whenever I returned home, I could hear the Middle School boys in front of me talking.
One of them had his head lowered dejectedly, and the other was patting him on the shoulder, saying,
“Cheer up. You only had a breakup. Don’t you have me?”
“Thanks…it’s great to have you as a friend.”
Before I realized, I found myself staring at the back of those two with admiring eyes.
I wish to have friends.
With a friend, I could discuss with him in such situations. I could share this pain, and surely I could move forward.
I yearned for it.
And that wish came true. I met you, Koremitsu.
A red-haired who ran right at a truck to save an old man—a boy of my age was willing to fight for others. Back then, I thought you were strong and amazing, like a hero.
Right, the friend I wished to have back when I was younger was a boy who was like a hero!
I want to be friends with him! Surely I will be able to change.
Be friends with him! Change myself!
And so, I sent the Japanese Magnolias, and visited you at the hospital. I told you before, the floral language for the Japanese Magnolias is friendship.
I was so nervous, and once I handed the flowers to the reception, I ran off. However, I earnestly prayed that once you got to school, the floral language would come true.
To be friends with you—
The moment I decided that, I felt that everything became bright and cheery.
The future I could not see appeared clearly in front of me.
You would scowl and watch me hold hands with Miss Aoi. You will hear me out impatiently, smiling from time to time, giving a tender look.
I would fall in love with Miss Aoi.
I would introduce you to her as my dearest.
And then, you will have a cheerful girl who likes to smile as a partner, and the 4 of us can go out together.
That dream never happened. On that night when the winds blew, I did something Miss Aoi would scold me for, calling me “Liar”, something I cannot refute. Miss Aoi is not the only one however; I too had many people mourn for me.
But you heard my plea for help, and turned your head back
You were willing to be my friend, listen to my one-sided wishes, and granted the flowers in my heart a tender farewell, lending me strength with all your might.
It really is great to have you.
And I can finally say goodbye.
The days where I loved that person, and suffered for it.
With the first tear I ever shed in my life, farewell.