Michiru slept for two straight days, and due to her family’s request, she was transferred to a hospital in Tokyo during this time.
Koremitsu too was arranged by Asai to be warded in the same hospital as Michiru due to the scrapes and cuts all over him, and had a few days of check ups.
“You guys are making too much of a fuss out of this.”
Koremitsu muttered bashfully as he saw Aoi, Tsuyako and the other classmates bring in flowers and fruit baskets, only for Koharu to pinch his ear spitefully again.
“Stop giving a patronizing look. How many times must you get hospitalized before you’re happy!? And I thought you calmed down a little.”
Shioriko’s abduction was discovered by Masakaze.
“Grandpa Masakaze is really furious at you, big brother…he said that you hid it from him even though I was in danger…Shiiko kept saying that it wasn’t big brother’s fault, but grandpa wouldn’t listen. He’s flailing his fists in the garden, saying that he’s going to teach you a lesson when you get back…big brother Koremitsu, I think you should be safer if you remain hospitalized for another half year…”
Shioriko lowered her shoulders dejectedly as she peeled the apple into a bunny.
(Well, that is to be expected.)
Koremitsu was already mentally prepared. In any case, he hoped that the elderly Masakaze would not sprain his back while being so amped.
It was during this time that Michiru woke up.
In the morning, Koremitsu, who was discharged earlier, went to visit Michiru along with Honoka. Michiru had her hair let down, glasses put on as she lowered her head blankly. But once she saw Honoka, her face stiffened as she stared at the latter warily.
Honoka too looked tense.
(Hey, what’s going on now?)
The tense atmosphere caused Koremitsu to frown. At this moment, Honoka put the cake into Koremitsu’s hands.
And then, she rushed towards Michiru, giving her a slap.
The sharp sound shocked Koremitsu, and he nearly dropped the cake.
Koremitsu wanted to stop her, but he could not do so as he was holding the cake. In the meantime, Honoka raised her eyebrows, exclaiming,
“When have I ever shown you any pity and thought of you as a foil? I never did!”
Honoka’s voice was so loud, one would worry that the nurses would rush in. Michiru placed her hand on the cheek Honoka just slapped, and she grimaced unhappily, glaring back at Honoka.
“I was happy to have you as a classmate when we got into High School. The reason why I remained with you is because you’re my friend! You don’t think of that? If you hate me, and you find that it’s unbearable, then it is—”
Michiru suddenly exclaimed,
“Don’t say ‘that is enough’!”
Honoka was taken aback, and went silent.
Michiru scowled, covering her ears with her hands, and shivered like an adolescent child.
“M-mom…just came by, gave me an impatient look and told me ‘that is enough’—mom still has my older sister she can be proud of as a daughter—someone inferior like me can only be told off ‘that is enough’—”
Michiru eked her voice, painfully venting,
—Lord Hikaru too. When he let go of my hand, he said ‘that is enough’! He said the same thing mom did…!
Koremitsu recalled Michiru saying the exact same words when he jumped into the river to save her.
And just as she did back then, Michiru was shivering and whimpering. Honoka embraced her, looking to be on the verge of breaking down into tears as well.
She brought her face close to Michiru as the latter covered her ears, saying,
“I won’t say that…we’ll always be friends after all.”
Michiru lowered her hands tentatively, but she continued to weep as she remained wary, putting on a facade as she said,
“I-I hate how you’re always on the heroic side, Hono…”
Honoka too sobbed as she answered,
“Yeah. If you thought so, you could have told me this. I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m reckless after all.”
“I might end up stealing Mr Akagi…away from you.”
“I’ll make sure not to let that happen.”
“I-I hate you for being a goody-goody.”
Michiru tugged at Honoka’s clothes firmly.
And the latter embraced the former firmly.
(Looks like things have calmed down…)
Koremitsu heaved a sigh of relief, and turned his eyes to the side.
Hikaru was standing there, beaming with a tender smile as he watched Honoka and Michiru.
Despite bidding Fujino farewell and finishing all his wishes, Hikaru had yet to vanish,
“Will I end up like Princess Kaguya and have someone pick me up? I will have to leave in any case, and I do wish to stay till Christmas.”
Hikaru leisurely noted.
The strands of his hair was dazzling golden as the sunlight shone in through the hospital window.
Perhaps it was because he had no lingering wishes that he looked more dazzling than before, and Koremitsu felt conflicted within, wondering “Is it really alright for a ghost to be dazzling like this?”
At this moment, the rich, sweet voice entered Koremitsu’s ears.
“Miss Hanasato was not satisfied even though my promise with her was fulfilled, and that is because she needed to establish another promise—together with Miss Shikibu’s words. This time, Miss Hanasato will surely be fine.”
Koremitsu silently agreed.
Shikibu’s the flower of love guaranteed by Hikaru. She definitely won’t let go of your hand.
After embracing Michiru, crying with her, and finishing all her consoling words, Honoka left the hospital along with Koremitsu, and lowered her head, fidgeting.
(Is she embarrassed that I saw her give Hanasato a slap?)
“Well, it’s great that you’re able to talk with Hanasato.”
The moment these words were said, Honoka’s face immediately turned beetroot.
“Eh? Ah, yes!”
She stammered, her eyes swimming about before she lifted her head at Koremitsu,
“E-erm,! I did tell Michiru that I’ll do my best, but it’s a little—no, I’m very nervous about this! But, I-I’ll do my best! I’ll snatch you back even if you do change your mind, Akagi.”
Honoka finished off her words, and gave a feeble look on her face, blushing as she ran off.
“What was that?”
Koremitsu was dumbfounded as he watched the back vanish beyond the street in an instance, accompanied by those nice, long legs.
“Maybe she’s worried if you have fallen for Miss Hanasato.”
“Not at all.”
He grumbled as he strode forth.
(That Shikibu’s thinking too much. Or is it that I’m unreliable?)
Just when Koremitsu was frowning, the cellphone in his pocket rang.
It was from Yū. Koremitsu took the phone out.
“Hm? What’s the matter?”
“You are discharged..today, right?”
“Yeah. Just left the hospital.”
“Sorry…that I wasn’t able to visit you.”
Koremitsu did notice. Aoi, Asai and Kazuaki took turns to visit, but Yū did not send a message, let alone visit him.
However, Koremitsu felt that it would be strange of him to ask Yū “What are you doing”. thus, he was hesitant on contacting her.
“I will…be headed back to Australia tomorrow. Can you go on a date with me before then?”
That was the promise they made before Shioriko was abducted.
Koremitsu too a deep breath, calming himself.
And then, he gave a serious answer,
“Got it. I’ll go wherever you want to meet up.”
♢ ♢ ♢
Once he got home, Koremitsu was worried that he would be visiting Yū after being beaten by Masakaze with a bamboo sword, and that she would be terrified. Would he have to go on a date with her while in bandages? Luckily for him, all he took was an iron punch to the face.
Koremitsu took a punch from Masakaze, and crashed into the fusuma of the living room, and fell along with it into the neighboring room. However, Shioriko grabbed Masakaze’s arm, wailing as she pleaded,
“If you continue to punish big brother Koremitsu, Shiiko won’t talk to you again, grandpa. Shiiko likes you, so Shiiko will be sad if Shiiko can’t talk to grandpa. Please forgive big brother Koremitsu.”
Masakaze, who really doted Shioriko, clenched his trembling fists, and after groaning for a while, he muttered, “Humph. You got sent flying from such a weak punch. You’re lacking in training. Not enough effort.” He turned his back on Koremitsu.
“Thank you, grandpa Masakaze. Love you.”
Once Shioriko hugged him, Koremitsu’s grandfather blushed.
And then, upon seeing the damaged fusuma, Koharu hollered “Why didn’t you fall the other side! Of course you have to make sure the doors and windows are open!” She punched Koremitsu on the top of his head, and ordered him to repair the fusuma
And again, Shioriko,
“Shiiko is big brother Koremitsu’s savior. Big brother has to treasure Shiiko well.”
And Koremitsu was forced to make a promise with Shioriko to go to the zoo, aquarium and planetarium.
Shioriko then gave a nonchalant look, which Koremitsu realized that she was shedding crocodile tears, inevitably feeling pity for his grandfather. However, Masakaze made a promise with Shioriko to go to the Go club together, and was happy about it, so Koremitsu decided to quietly accept the truth. If not, his grandfather, who was finally cured of his bias against women, would probably end up not trusting them more than before.
In any case, though there was a bruise on his face, Koremitsu decided to go on a date with Yū on that particular day.
And 10 minutes before the appointed time—
The place Yū designated was an indoor tennis court for country club members only.
“I have been to this country club. The requirements to join as a member are very strict.”
“You sure this is the place?”
Koremitsu saw the counter that was as posh as a luxury hotel, and murmured in a shocked state.
Member? Entry requirements? This was a foreign concept to the ordinary high school student Koremitsu.
(Yū’s family is probably ordinary too. What’s going on?)
Koremitsu did not dare approach the counter as he brooded before it. Hikaru then advised,
“Koremitsu, the security guards are looking at you. The passers-by having been gossiping about you too, so before you get whisked off as a suspicious person, do hurry and register at the counter, or you will be late for your date.”
Koremitsu approached the counter, deciding to watch how things played out.
The two ladies at the counter were obviously terrified, but the moment Koremitsu awkwardly stated his name—
“Mr Koremitsu Akagi? Yes, we have a reservation.”
Suddenly, they were being polite. Another staff member even approached him with an overly courteous attitude, saying, “this way please.” and led the way.
“Thank goodness you were not chased out.”
Hikaru gave a wink from the side, and was glared back.
Soon after, Koremitsu arrived at a posh changing room.
“Please change your clothes here.”
The staff member handed him what appeared to be tennis wear and shoes,
(Ack! Do I have to wear these!?)
Koremitsu widened his eyes.
The top was a collared white shirt, while the bottom was shorts.
“Wow! Hurry and wear it, Koremitsu!”
“Like hell I’m wearing it!”
“It doesn’t match me, right?”
“That is not the case. You will gain quite some attention entering the court with how you are dressed now. You will be embarrassing Yū.”
Once Hikaru pointed that out, Koremitsu could only change his clothes. His temples were twitching as he removed the parka and T-shirt.
(Why do I have to wear this?)
Koremitsu wore a white tennis wear, wore a borrowed jumper over it, and sealed it up tight.
“I do feel it is cooler of you to have it a little unzipped.”
Hikaru too changed into tennis wear like Koremitsu did as he chimed in from above. He, wearing tennis wear, looked so suited for it it was infuriating, and he looked 10 times as refreshed as he was before.”
“Shut up. I’ll feel chilly if I open the zip too much.”
Koremitsu impatiently responded, swapped his sneakers for tennis shoes, and went to the court.
The indoor court felt warmth even in Winter, and the air-conditioning was adjusted to a very suitable temperature. However, there was no one other than Koremitsu to be seen.
“Is this club always lacking in business or something?”
“No. I do suppose that the entire court was booked.”
Koremitsu again widened his eyes.
“Mr Akagi…I kept you waiting.”
The fleeting voice echoed, and upon looking back, he found Yū standing there.
Both Hikaru and Koremitsu were greatly taken aback.
Yū was actually in tennis wear.
No. Koremitsu too was in tennis wear, so it was very likely that she was wearing a matching outfit. Koremitsu’s impression of Yū however was that she would wear knee-length skirts, and he never did see her in uniform before, so the impression was set. At this point however—
The white tennis skirt was reaching midway through the thighs, and the pure white legs reaching out from the skirt were so shockingly slender that Koremitsu was looking there.
It was not the first time he saw a girl’s legs, but that Yū actually wore that, giving an unexpected and rare, intrinsic value in itself. This cause Koremitsu to stare at them for quite a while before he recovered.
(Am I a pervert with a foot fetish or something!?)
He gingerly lifted his stare, and found Yū showing a smile on her face.
Her white face was a little beetroot, and though she was nervous, her stare at Koremitsu was neither of disgust nor belittling. One might say that she looked utterly delighted.
The soft, long wavy hair was parted into two tails below the ears. That hairstyle too looked really refreshing and cute, causing Koremitsu’s heart to pound.
Hikaru ribbed Koremitsu with his elbow, but of course, the elbow sank into Koremitsu’s arm. That however probably meant ‘praise her already’. He was giving a vague grin.
Koremitsu averted his eyes, uttering,
“Ah…you’re wearing something different from usual. Well…that’s a lot.”
“Is it strange…?”
Her voice sounded a little worried.
“No, not at all, I guess?”
“Koremitsu, do you not know of any other words to praise you? The last time you went to the pool with Miss Shikibu and the others, you drove them crazy by telling them ‘yeah, it’s fine’! Using that line more than once is a show of laziness!”
(Shut up! It’s rare to find a 10th grade boy like you who can just make up a spiel of sweet talk on the fly!)
Koremitsu bellowed in his heart, but at the same time, he wished for Yū to be as happy as she could be on this day, so he added,
“It’s a refreshing feeling…I’ll say that it suits you.”
For Koremitsu, this was all he could muster. He glanced at Yū, who was beaming away.
She softly replied, her voice filled with delight over Koremitsu’s praise.
Just when Koremitsu was feeling awkward—
“It does suit you too…Mr Akagi.”
And those words dragged him back into reality.
(Oh, right. I’m wearing the same clothing too!)
Yū’s tennis wear was so shocking that Koremitsu forgot about this.
(Yū says that this suits me? No no no, it doesn’t suit me at all. Doesn’t look like it no matter how I see it.)
Koremitsu understood very well that there are times where kindness would hurt others.
“I-is that so? Thanks.”
He turned to the side, muttering.
“Mr Akagi…can you let me take a photo?”
Koremitsu turned his head back, exclaiming,
“When I’m dressed like this!?”
“Koremitsu, you cannot be too loud when talking. Yū will be scared.”
After being told off by Hikaru, Koremitsu hushed his voice.
“Y-you can, but can you do so after I’m done changing out of this?”
Yū silently lowered her eyebrows.
“…Mr Akagi…the condition to rent the court…was to take a photo of you in tennis wear…”
“Kazuaki booked the court and borrowed these clothes?”
Koremitsu was utterly dumbfounded, and Yū nodded.
“I never did much sports, so I wish…to experience it with you, Mr Akagi…I went to request Mr Kazuaki for help. He was furious…and said I was bold.”
Rather than bold, one would say that Yū was fearless. Speaking of which, Yū did give Kazuaki a verbal lashing at the resort.
Back then, Koremitsu felt moved that Yū had gotten stronger; at this point however, he was speechless. Yū did not seem to have realized how astounding a thing she did as she continued calmly with her fleeting voice,
“However…he gave me a condition to take a photo of you in tennis wear, Mr Akagi…so I accepted it with reluctance…”
Back when Yū was envied and bullied by the girls at school, she was utterly terrified when Honoka came to her apartment along with Koremitsu, worried that she would be bullied again. At this point, even though Kazuaki did all he could to frame Yū, the latter was earnest to him, and Koremitsu could not understand.
Leaving aside how Kazuaki might appear, Koremitsu did not think that Kazuaki, having shown his real personality, was likeable, approachable in any way, though it might be conflicted with what he said about being friends…
Perhaps it was because Kazuaki was Hikaru’s half-brother, and had the same voice. Surely, Hikaru’s existence was so important to.Yū.
“You…do hate taking photos after all, right?”
Yū asked, looking devastated. Her slender fingers were already grabbing the cellphone firmly.
(Ugh, looks like I don’t have a choice.)
Koremitsu did not want Yū to show such a face on this day.
“Don’t show anyone else other than Kazuaki.”
Yū’s eyes immediately sparkled.
She looked really elated, and began snapping away excitedly.
“Koremitsu, perhaps you can try smiling and not stand there with such a terrifying face, okay? How about a pose with the racket?”
Hikaru gave a bunch of advices from above.
“Will I enter the photo?”
He was holding a racket that appeared in his hands, and bent his back, standing behind Koremitsu, giving a swinging pose.
(Wait, what if this ends up as a photo with a supernatural phenomenon and published in an occult magazine?)
Koremitsu wanted to kick Hikaru aside to shoo him off, but he knew it was meaningless, and could only endure it impatient.
With a scatterbrained, fleeting expression, Yū adjusted her position as she continued to snap photos of Koremitsu.
“Erm…can you…please take a photo with me?”
Yū asked tentatively,
“I won’t show it to anyone else…not even Mr Kazuaki…I’ll treat this…as a treasure for myself.”
Koremitsu gave a serious look back at Yū, and after a while, he answered,
Yū smiled, and silently leaned towards Koremitsu.
She then reached her hand out, turning the cellphone camera towards themselves.
Koremitsu’s lips still remained tense as he looked at the phone. Once Yū saw that the photo was taken, she showed the brightest smile on this day.
There was a cold looking Koremitsu on the photo, coupled with Yū showing a sunny smile.
Koremitsu’s lips remained stiff as he watched Yū embrace the photo and mutter this.
“Koremitsu, I shall be waiting. Have fun playing.”
Hikaru muttered, and vanished from Koremitsu’s sight.
“Let’s play tennis, Yū. It’s my first time playing, and I don’t know the rules at all, but I think it’s interesting to hit the ball back and forth.”
Koremitsu said, and Yū gave a glowing smile as bright as the sun, answering,
“Yes…I’ll definitely be happy whenever I’m doing something with you, Mr Akagi.”
After holding the racket, running around on the court and hitting the ball to each other, it appeared to Koremitsu that Yū’s proficiency in sports was worse than he thought.
She threw the ball high into the air, but the swing could not match the speed of the falling ball, and it would land by her feet every time. Whenever she threw the ball higher, thinking that it would work, the ball would land 2m away from Yū.
Yū then threw the ball higher, and the ball landed on her ball. She knelt down, and Koremitsu hurriedly ran over from his side of the court.
“Hey! You alright?”
Yū put her hand on her head, and shyly answered,
“I-I’ll…hit to your side next time, Mr Akagi.”
She declared that with a determined face, and she tried to stand up, only for her hand to slip, and she fell again.
“I-I’m fine…I’m fine.”
Koremitsu grabbed her arm to pull her up, and she shyly lowered her head.
“Ah, serving’s unexpectedly hard. I’ll try it this time.”
Koremitsu took the ball, and returned to his side.
“I’m hitting it over—!”
He deliberately yelled, and like what Yū did, he threw the ball up with one hand.
And then, he swung the racket down hard when the ball fell.
He felt something!
Koremitsu yelled in his heart.
The ball flew by Yū and the baseline, hitting the wall at the back, and finally fell.
“Eh…you see, a serve’s really hard.”
Koremitsu blushed as he said that, and he looked back and forth between Yū and the racket. Both of them obviously were left at a lost.
“Sorry! I cannot watch this any longer!”
At this moment, Hikaru drifted towards Koremitsu, holding a ball and racket he created, and played the role of a coach.
“It is too hasty for you and Yū to start doing overhead services, Koremitsu. First, get used to the feeling of hitting the ball. Let the ball bounce off the floor once, and swing the racket as though you are scooping it out. Do it like this. Bend your waist down.”
Hikaru probably was used to tutoring girls. Koremitsu did as Hikaru said, and let the ball bounce off the floor once before hitting it. The ball then landed in Yū’s court, and bounced up.
“You’re amazing, Mr Akagi.”
Both their faces brightened.
“Hm, your sports proficiency is good after all, Koremitsu. You just need to practise a bit to get the hang of things. Now, try aiming at the area in front of Yū. Swing it like this, and tilt the racket to this angle. Also, make it slower so that Yū has an easier time hitting the ball back.”
Koremitsu glanced aside at Hikaru as the latter explained and personally demonstrated. He let the ball bounce on the floor, and hit it towards Yū’s court.
The ball was hit a little awry, but Yū raised her racket to hit the ball courageously.
It appeared Yū wanted to hit the ball before it landed, but she missed, and was dejected as a result.
Hikaru advised her,
“Do not mind about that, Yū. Try waiting for the ball to bounce off the court before hitting it.”
“Hey, I guess it’s easier to hit the ball after it bounces off the floor. Try again and go for it!”
Yū too gave an adamant nod.
Hikaru again demonstrated, and Koremitsu followed suit. The ball glided through the air with a gentler arc, and landed in front of Yū.
Yū stared at the ball intently, waited for it to land, and cautiously swung her racket.
The ball passed the net weakly, gently landing on Koremitsu’s court.
“You did it, Yū!”
The trio ran towards the net, appearing as though they just won the Wimbledon, their faces showing delight.
“Okay! Now try hitting a rally to each other! Try hitting at least 5 times.”
“We’re hitting a rally now.”
Both of them ran to their sides of the court, and started hitting.
Yū kept missing at first, and even though she would hit, the ball would not pass the net, so they could not continue the rally. As Hikaru was an outstanding coach however, the two of them could maintain their rallies.
Once there was some improvement, they felt elated.
“Okay! 7 times next! And after that, 10 times!”
They slowly aimed for their target, and finally, had a rally of 16 hits.
Koremitsu would hit his shots lighter for Yū to hit back, but it was interesting trying to control his power. Whenever Yū swung her racket hard, he felt happy.
Yū too was the same; whenever her racket hit the ball towards Koremitsu successfully, and when the latter desperately ran for the ball, her eyes sparkled.
Hikaru vanished midway through this, and by the time they realized, it was noon.
“This is the first time I went through such an intensive exercise.”
Yū cheerfully noted as she let out a lot of sweat.
“I made a lunch box. Mr Akagi, please have some.”
“Oh, I’m feeling hungry now.”
Yū cheerfully took out a multi-layered lunchbox, and it was filled with Nori riceballs.
“I do think…sandwiches are cute…but I think you would prefer…riceballs, Mr Akagi…so I made many flavors out of them.”
With a smile on her face, she handed the riceballs to Koremitsu.
“Yeah, I do prefer riceballs.”
Koremitsu grabbed a riceball Yū made, and it was filled with a large, flavorful piece of fried chicken.
“It’s really good.”
Once Koremitsu said this, Yū’s lips showed a smile, her face blushing.
Besides fried chicken, there were salmon, meat-potato, hamburger fillet fillings, and other rich assorted flavors. As Yū was looking delighted, Koremitsu ate 5 of them, and felt that his belly was about to be busted.
They played tennis again to help each other digest, and after that, due to Yū’s request, they went to an arcade.
Koremitsu had never made a friend before, and thus, he never stepped into such a place. All the games were a new experience for him.
He played a fighting game with Yū, lost himself with the crane game, and because Yū said,
“Mr Akagi…that one…looks interesting…”
They went to the photo booth.
In the bustling Southern country-themed booth with coconuts and dolphins drawn on it, Koremitsu’s scowling face was shown. He was so nervous that his face was frozen, and he tried to force himself to smile, only for his face to look scarier.
Yū too was a little surprised, beaming, her smile looking happier than usual.
She gave an earnest smile, holding the seal in the photo booth and the dolphin toy she obtained from the keychain in front of her chest.
“The treasures…have increased.”
Suddenly, Koremitsu felt his heart ache.
The time for Yū’s flight back to Australia approached, and there was still some time till sunset, so they went their separate ways in front of the station.
There were several pedestrians moving past Koremitsu, and it was really noisy, with the vehicles rushing through and the people chatting away.
Yū looked up at Koremitsu with her fleeting eyes, muttering her earnest wishes,
“Thank you for today. I did many things I didn’t think I could do before…I’m…really happy. Mr Akagi…will you go on a date with me again?”
“No, this is the last time. I got a woman I like, so I can’t date any other women.”
With a serious look, Koremitsu blurted this to Yū.
A smile quietly surfaced on Yū’s face.
The noise overlapped with this silence. Soon after, Yū calmly said,
“It is Miss Shikibu, isn’t it?”
“When I…paid a visit to Miss Shikibu…I had a wager with her, whether I can earn your heart back through this date, Mr Akagi…she must be feeling worried now.”
Koremitsu recalled the uneasiness Honoka showed when they went on their separate ways, and inadvertently frowned.
(—Seriously, that girl.)
The surrounding was noisy, but it seemed there was a silent space emptied here at the place both Koremitsu and Yū stood.)
Then, Yū gave a forlorn look, saying,
“When I met Miss Shikibu at your house…I had a feeling that you would be with her…the one you really love is definitely…a girl like Miss Shikibu…”
On the day Yū went to Koremitsu’s house…
Once Koremitsu got home, he found Asai and the others gathered in his room, and he was feeling panicky.
At that moment, what expression did Honoka show?
Koremitsu felt that she was peeking at Yū nervously.
When he sent Yū back, Koremitsu told her that those were the precious flowers to Hikaru.)
Amongst them, Honoka was the only one unrelated to Hikaru, and she was the one girl Koremitsu approached, the girl who fell in love with him.
—…Shikibu’s my classmate, a good person…Hikaru once said that she’s like a Heliotrope.
In response to Koremitsu’s words,
She’s definitely a cheerful, determined…wonderful person, no?
Yū muttered those words.
“You’re very kind, Mr Akagi…so you can’t leave any girl weaker than you alone…you helped me too…but if I wasn’t that weak…you definitely wouldn’t be concerned about me, and you would not have thought that you were in love with me…that is what I think. If I really wanted to have you, Mr Akagi, I shouldn’t have left that apartment. You would be with me forever if that happened…”
Yū’s soothing voice dragged Koremitsu back into the cramped room that was akin to the bottom of the sea, filled with a mysterious hill of trash, and sealed windows.
During the peaceful, agonizing time he spent with the weak and feeble girl with the fleeting eyes…Koremitsu felt a sweet and sour throbbing, and he was feeling angsty back then.
“But even though you loved my old, weak self who wasn’t willing to leave my house, that was different. I wish that you choose me now that I’ve become stronger…”
“That wasn’t just a feeling.”
Yū widened her eyes.
“I did fall in love with you, Yū. You;’ll always be my first love.”
Koremitsu told her firmly.
He stared at the startled Yū.
For Koremitsu, the time he spent in the little world Yū locked herself in was filled with first-time experiences, sweetness, angst and pain.
It was an irreplaceable time.
Yū slowly raised her lips, showing a fleeting smile.
“My first love shall always be you, Mr Akagi.”
Then, with a cheerful face, she said,
Her slender back turned towards Koremitsu, and she quickly entered the crowd, her flowing long hair swaying in the air.
She walked on fearlessly with her own legs.
The love Koremitsu had with Yū definitely ended at the moment they held hands in the rain and saw all kinds of flowers in the park.
Hikaru once said that Koremitsu would lose Yū if he was to let her outside.
Once she stepped outside, Yū would not be simply a dream created by any man.
Surely, she would sprout and bloom new flowers. Her serene grace would contain grit, always blooming proudly.
Koremitsu’s heart ached as he watched Yū vanish into the passing crowd.
And then, he let out a long sigh, scowling.
Alright, now what do I do with this reckless love rookie who doesn’t know what’s going on?”
Koremitsu squirmed, and whispered to the friend who should be right behind him,
“Hikaru, lend me your knowledge.”
♢ ♢ ♢
(I guess Akagi went back to Miss Kanai after all)
Honoka was restless since the morning. One moment, she would be staring at her phone in front of the table. The next moment, she would be hugging her pillow on the bed, and then she would stand up and wander aimlessly around the room.
On that morning, she received a message from Yū,
“I’ll be having a date with Mr Akagi now.”
Honoka felt her heart wince. This day finally came.
While Honoka was hospitalized, Yū came to visit her, and she said with a fleeting face,
—I made a promise with Mr Akagi to go on a date. If Mr Akagi changes his mind and falls for me…can I go out with him?
Yū’s tone and expression were calm and delicate, but Honoka was overwhelmed by her, as she had never conversed with Yū before, and the latter asked her for permission. Honoka answered,
If Akagi really falls for you, it’s not an issue of whether I allow it or not. If that happens, I can’t do anything about it.
Honoka tried her best to remain calm, but her mind was in complete chaos. If she was to meet Koremitsu at that point, surely she would flustered and tell him, “Don’t go on that date with Miss Kanai! Didn’t you say you like me?” That was why Honoka scampered back home once she got discharged, without waiting for her family members to pick her up.
Yū said that she would message or call Honoka with regards to the outcome. After that, Shioriko was abducted, and it was not the moment for that. Shioriko returned safe and sound however, and Koremitsu was discharged after he was hospitalized for checkups.
—I will be returning back soon. Do you still remember that date?
Two days ago, Honoka received a call from Yū.
—O-o-o-o-of course I do. You can choose a time you want to date Akagi, Miss Kanai.
Honoka answered shrilly.
“I’m really an idiot! I shouldn’t have made such a promise with her. Akagi would have fallen for Miss Kanai again. She’s so slim, delicate and feminine, so anyone will have the urge to protect her. She’s right in Akagi’s sweet spot!”
Honoka collapsed onto the bed, hugged her pillow, and rolled about.
He does like that Miss Kanai that much after all
Koremitsu returned home with Yū on the day everyone went to his house, and he sent Yū back alone. The atmosphere between them was very good.
“Got to believe in Akagi. The date’s because Akagi goes by his word. This will definitely be the last time—ahhhh!!! I never dated Akagi before!”
Despite Honoka’s unforgettable memory of the two of them sneaking into the school pool in the middle of the night, that did not seem to fit the atmosphere of a normal date.
“If we’re to break up without even dating, auu~, I should have known this would happen. I should have dated Akagi earlier.”
Honoka again rolled about on the bed, her eyeballs rolling with tears welling from them. She hugged the pillow and muttered for a while, and then—
“Their date should be done by now, right? I don’t know what will happen. Shall I call Miss Kanai or Akagi to confirm…? I can’t do it!”
She sat upright, and shook her head hard. It was too terrifying for her to do so.
“Go-got to update my blog…”
The “Purple Princess’s Mansion’.was a blog for Honoka to publish her cellphone novels, but the comments column was where girls would share their love troubles.
There was a period when Honoka was called the ‘love expert’, and she got giddy as a result. A few days ago however, she admitted on her blog that she never dated a boy before, and she had an unrequited crush on a boy.
She was already mentally prepared to receive a backlash from her viewers for lying to her, that there would be a lot of protesting messages. In fact, Honoka did have them, but there was an overwhelming number of messages ‘Knowing that you have an unrequited crush just like us and is worrying about love makes you more approachable, Purple Princess. Let’s work hard for our romances to succeed. please continue to hear our troubles’. The number of clicks sharply increased, and there were more love inquiries as compared to before.
Honoka opened her blog, and scanned through the comments, readying herself to answer.
“To the Love expert, Princess Princess.
This is my first time leaving a comment here. Right now, I’m feeling troubled because of love, so I decided to discuss this with you.
I recently confessed to someone I like.
That person’s my classmate, the one seated next to me.
That person has scary eyes, a poor attitude, is always staring at the phone, and she has a tendency to kick, always ready to raise her leg to kick. At first, I thought that person was really unbelievable.
But when I was in trouble. That person was always listening to my troubles earnestly, helping me.
That person worries about others more than being selfish about it, a really good person who’ll always help others.
I’m starting to understand that person’s good points more and more now, and I think I do like that person, but that’s just a like as a classmate.
But once that person confessed to me, I started to be more aware about that person.”
For some reason, this clearly resembled her relationship with Koremitsu.
“I was kissed by someone else, and that person saw me. She scolded me, calling me an idiot, and slammed at my chest. My heart was pounding like crazy.”
“That person once booked a karaoke box, and suddenly started reading a swimsuit gravure magazine with me inside. We even had a commotion at the pool, and my pants slipped as a result. There was once when I got back, and saw that person welcoming me with a floral-patterned apron.”
Honoka’s heart jumped, her cheeks searing.
“That person assumed that I made someone pregnant, and baked calcium-rich cookies for me. Once that person’s friend confessed to me, that person then said to keep the distance from me.”
“Isn’t that person referring to me now?”
“I don’t know when exactly did I start to have feelings for that reckless, crass person, feelings beyond that of a classmate.”
“That person was in danger because of me, and nearly died as a result. That was when I realized that I love that person, not like as a classmate. It’s because that person is that person that I like that person.”
Honoka’s heart raced, and the face staring at the screen got increasingly scalding, her fingers unable to stop as she rolled the mouse.
“I clearly told that person that I like her. That person however isn’t just reckless, she’s a blockhead. She’s unlike the Purple Princess, an utterly hopeless rookie at love. Right now, she’s still worrying if I’ll move on to another person.”
“I-isn’t it you whose actions are weird…you’re the stupid one? What’s with that ‘rookie at love’ anyway?”
“What do I do to convince that bipolar, reckless, foolhardy, incorrigible love idiot of my feelings? Please answer me.”
The message was signed off with the ID ‘red hound’.
Honoka did not know whether she should be angry, embarrassed, or swirling around on her swivel chair. In her confusion, her cellphone rang, indicating a message,
It was Koremitsu!
Koremitsu sent a message!
Honoka hastily opened a message, and the topic was ‘love consultation’. Attached to it was Honoka’s blog address,
“Come to the riverside for the reply”.
That was the text attached.
Honoka got into action faster than she could think.
She got up from her chair, grabbed her cellphone and the travel pass, and dashed out of her house.
The sky was dyed orange by the sunset, and the clouds was beginning to have a pink hue on them. Honoka raced down the road under the setting sun, her heart ripping apart. She went through the gantry, darted into the carriage, and was puffing away as she tapped away at the message,
“To Red Hound,
Is there anything else you’ll like to say? All I remember is that strange matter of booking the karaoke room to read the gravure magazines!”
After a stop, the reply came.
If you want to hear it. Come with your reply.”
Honoka then texted back,
“You idiot. I’m on my way.”
Another station later, and the other party replied,
“Don’t run away, you love rookie.”
“Which one of us is it?”
Honoka texted back, and once she arrived at the train station closest to school, she started running away.
While the orange sun continued to set, Honoka continued to wheeze as she dashed down the riverside that was dyed red, turning her head around to look for the sender.
The water and grass were dyed a burning red, and the cool breeze rustled the silver grass by the riverbank. Standing there was a boy holding a cellphone, with a head of messy red hair—like a red dog.
Koremitsu looked up and stared at Honoka with his sharp eyes.
Honoka, utterly delirious, got ready to run down to the riverbank,
“You idiot! It’s dangerous!”
And Koremitsu ran over.
The grass by the river caused Honoka to slip and fall on her butt, and she slid down with amazing force.
Honoka inched towards Koremitsu.
Koremtisu scowled as he ran towards her, reaching his arms out to embrace her, and they tumbled around a few times on the grass.
On the silent grassland, the only thing they could hear was their erratic breathing. They felt each other’s breathing on their faces.
Honoka looked down, and found Koremitsu’s face right in front of her.
His lips curled, Koremitsu stared back at Honoka seriously.
He, who nearly drowned in the stormy night, woke up in this position the following morning, and at this moment, it was more embarrassing. His hands were on Honoka’s waist and back, and their legs were intertwined.
Neither of them knew who brought their faces closer in, Koremitsu, or Honoka.
Honoka felt her heart breaking apart, and her cheeks were flushed red, tears welled in her eyes and she gently placed her lips on Koremitsu’s.
At the same time, she muttered in her heart.
(Akagi, this is my ‘answer’)
♢ ♢ ♢
“Thank you for sending me off, upperclassman Tōjō..”
“Not at all. You did not notify Akagi?”
It was the airport hall, and Yū was conversing with Tōjō.
“I bade Mr Akagi farewell before I got here.”
He probably was off to visit Honoka.
(Miss Shikibu…I suppose you do not have to report the result to me. I lost the bet. Mr Akagi did not falter. He told me that he likes you…)
She should have been mentally prepared, but her heart ached so much.
“Upperclassman Tōjō…which me do you think is more charming…the old me…or the current me?”
Tōjō was speechless, appearing to be at a loss.
Shungo Tōjō had once told Koremitsu that he preferred the old Yū. To protect her, he arranged for a female bodyguard to live in the apartment beside Yū, and even made sure Yū was not expelled due to a lack of attendance by pulling some strings.
And that Tōjō was unable to answer Yū’s question.
(I suppose…upperclassman Tōjō…finds my old, tender self more attractive after all…)
Just when Yū began to feel downhearted about this,
“Is this even a question? The current Yū is a thousand times better!”
Kazuaki stormed in with a huff. With the rich, sweet voice of Hikaru’s, he rattled on,
“The old Yū was a shut-in and so gloomy, I can tell that she is a slut who puts up the facade of a weak virgin that sleeps around with other men; it is to be expected that she is abused by her fellow females. The current Yū is natural and bold, and though infuriating, I do not have to worry about your feelings all the time. I do find you much better than before.”
“…Mr Kazuaki, didn’t you tell me over the phone ‘How can I possibly send you off’…”
Yū was dumbfounded that Kazuaki suddenly appeared at the airport, and she softly inquired. The latter then raised his eyebrows,
“I did not come to send you off. I came to grumble at you! What happened to the photos of Mr Akagi wearing his tennis outfit? Just standing there? A jumper on his upper body? What in the world? An elementary school kid can take better shots than you. An-anyway. the ones that say that old Yū is better are those that can only accept their fates as virgins forever.”
Kazuaki concluded, not realizing that he too belonged to that group. Tōjō in turn looked utterly devastated.
Surely, this was an encouragement for Yū who was rejected…though he would say so, Kazuaki would probably lash back with ten times the furor.
Thanks to Kazuaki, Yū felt a warm feeling in her heart, and smiled,
“Yes. I do prefer my current self.”
♢ ♢ ♢
“Hey…brother. I can understand how you feel now, but we should be going home now, right?”
Yū got onto the plane, and Kazuaki left, leaving Hiina to call out to Shungo, now crouched on the airport hall.
Shungo had reminded her over and over again not to call him brother with others around, but he had no strength to even rebuke her,
“I-I did not segregate women…by whether they are virgins or not…I just wish for women to be cautious and not be promiscuous…uuu, my pride as a man lost to Kazuaki.”
Hiina too knelt down, patting Shungo on his shoulder.
“You haven’t lost, brother. You’re cooler than anyone else.”
She chirped, and with a matured, tender voice, she spoke,
“If you like virgins, I shall remain a virgin forever, big brother.”