“Flowers drenched in the rain are truly charming and fascinating. It really gives off a vibrant array of emotions.”
Hikaru spoke from Koremitsu’s side, his voice gentle.
If that sighing voice was to have an aroma, its elegant fragrance would spread through the humid air of that rainy day.
“The pale blue flowers carry such sweet dew, and the Commelina Grass works so hard to prevent them from falling; the Iris continues to look regal as its delicate body stands proudly; the Hydrangea dressed in water crystals looks so pure and dainty as it gives off a rainbow-colored light—these flowers look exceedingly alluring throughout the rainy season.”
The rainy season had come early; dark clouds loomed above even in the late of May.
Koremitsu walked to school on the pavement that morning.
He carried a dull, dark blue umbrella, and strode forward with an arched back. Hikaru floated at his side without an umbrella.
The school uniform was composed of a white blazer and slacks. This opulent and slick design contrasted starkly with Koremitsu’s gruff personality. It gave the appearance of a fine haute couture when worn on Hikaru.
“Koremitsu, don’t you find flowers and girls to be more mysterious and alluring on rainy days? Whether it’s their tender lips under the umbrella or their delicate neck, white limbs and exquisite hips, those are all so enchanting. The blouses of the uniform drenched by the rain are transparent, showing the lines of their underwear, making hearts race. The fragrance of shampoo from their drenched hair is also worth marveling at, and causes one to inadvertently close his eyes to enjoy, you know?”
“…Not at all.”
Koremitsu retorted with a bitter tone.
“Why would you smell a girl’s hair without a good reason? Are you a pervert?”
Being thought an oddball by his fellow students for talking to himself was an ever-present worry for Koremitsu, so he had refrained from answering Hikaru; however, he could not stop himself from retorting to Hikaru’s prattling of the relations between flowers and girls on rainy days.
“You pervert, harem prince, flower idiot, hook-up devil, self-indulging guy, perverted delusional dreamer, big liar, con artist.”
Even as Koremitsu scolded Hikaru, he attempted to keep his voice low enough to avoid being heard by others on their commute to school.
Hikaru complained with a pained expression,
“That hurts, Koremitsu! Why are you so unhappy?”
You’re asking me why I’m so unhappy?
Koremitsu glared at Hikaru; his eyes were sharp enough to terrify other students, even without glaring.
“Do you need me to tell you why, you lying ghost!?”
Right, Hikaru Mikado was a ghost.
This was why he could go about with no umbrella on rainy days and not be affected.
His shirt was invariably dry and clean, and his blazer constantly a sparkling white; his light brown hair swayed smoothly across his petite, feminine face.
The death of Hikaru, the boy heralded by the school’s students as a Prince, occurred a month ago.
Koremitsu had attended his funeral.
That was a mistake.
It was at that funeral where he found himself haunted by Hikaru’s lingering presence, his ghost.
“I promised the girl I’m engaged to that I’ll give her birthday presents. If I can fulfill this wish, I can ascend to Heaven without regrets. Please help me!”
This request troubled Koremitsu as it implied that he would be accompanied by Hikaru constantly; he would be followed to the bath and the latrine, and so, he reluctantly agreed. Although the mission was troublesome and immensely irritating, he completed it as a proxy.
However, Hikaru still lingered.
He had even continued to say frivolously,
“Actually, there are still another 4 or 5 girls that I’m very concerned about. No, maybe 40, 50 of them?”
Koremitsu had never agreed to aid him with this.
Isn’t 40 or 50 of them too many!? Do you really like to make so many promises with women!? To people other than Aoi!? You harem prince! Casanova! Go die a hundred times over!!!
The thought of it was infuriating.
“Okay now, you should have calmed down by now, right? I didn’t try to trick you deliberately anyway, I want to hurry up and ascend to Heaven too. It’s depressing that I can’t see myself in the mirror. No matter how well-dressed I am, or how handsomely I style my hair, I still can’t see it. I think that my skin is in tip-top condition today too, so springy. My hair feels smooth and elegant and my cuticle layer must be glowing…ahh, I want to see.”
Are you only worried about things like that?
“Koremitsu, you didn’t wish for me to disappear; weren’t you crying your eyes out?”
Yeah! Return my tears! And I wasn’t crying my eyes out!!
“Hey, please agree to my request? Please, Koremitsu! Help me a little more! Lend me your strength!”
40, 50 people is not a little!
No, if he were to count the women filling Hikaru’s funeral parlor,
“Actually, there are another 400, 500 of them.”
might be Hikaru’s next sentence.
Hikaru’s countenance was clearly both innocent and effeminate, but he was an absolute Casanova. Koremitsu wanted no further involvement with him.
“I refuse. I don’t want to approach women for the sake of cleaning up your mess.”
Koremitsu grumbled with a frown, and Hikaru widened his eyes in shock.
“Oh? Don’t you already understand the charms of a woman? You said that Miss Aoi is very cute.”
Koremitsu’s face grew hotter at his words.
It was true that he found Aoi’s various expressions adorable. He had accompanied her to the theme park in Hikaru’s stead, and when he embraced her effeminate, slender body, his heart inadvertently raced.
After finally accepting Koremitsu as a friend of Hikaru’s, she opened her heart to him and would even smile at him shyly.
Whenever they met at the school gate, she would blush and greet him courteously with a well-meaning expression.
“Good morning, Mr Akagi.”
As it was, she left for the art room after school each day and worked on her paintings of Hikaru. She and the other club members had a better relationship now than before.
It was true that Aoi was cute.
The problem, though, was his classmate—
At the thought of that feisty girl with fierce eyes, he curled his lips unhappily.
“Ah, Miss Shikibu!”
After catching sight of her, Hikaru called out to a girl holding a red and purple checkered umbrella.
The veins on Koremitsu’s forehead bulged.
“You see, Koremitsu? It’s Miss Shikibu. Go greet her!”
Hikaru called out to her, energetically urging Koremitsu to do the same. He completely ignored Koremitsu’s frown, either because he did not see it or because that was the expression Koremitsu always wore.
“Uwahh, Miss Shikibu’s legs are pretty after all! Those are really pretty legs, slender and straight~. She looks full of life when she walks. It really brings delight to my heart.”
Koremitsu’s stomach knotted at Hikaru’s profuse applause and the muscles around his mouth stiffened.
“Koremitsu? Why’re you eyeing Miss Shikibu?”
Hikaru, after noticing something was amiss, looked astounded.
At the same time, Honoka, who was about to step through the gateway onto school grounds, noticed Koremitsu.
Koremitsu tensed himself instinctively.
They stared at one another.
Honoka’s eyebrows were raised slightly in a proud manner, her eyes narrowed with an overall unhappy demeanor. The ends of her mouth curled downwards
Koremitsu’s lips shrunk down in reply.
But even so,
He greeted her.
Humph. Honoka snorted, turned away, and left.
Oi! You’re pretending not to see a classmate greeting you here!?
Once again his veins bulged, and he trotted off after her.
When someone greets you, you have to greet them back! Shouldn’t you be able to understand such basic courtesy!? What exactly did I do wrong!? Why’s she so angry with me!?
He gritted his teeth and made his way beside her.
Honoka raised her eyebrows further, hastening her steps. She replied to Koremitsu’s vehement
chase by hurrying away. When he caught up to her again, she sped off.
The two raced each other, each trying to cut in front of the other.
Damn, how can I be losing to a woman!?
He walked forward, forgetting his objective in that process.
“Koremitsu, why are you panting and sweating all over so early in the morning…there’ll be a lot of people staring at you, you know?”
Hikaru gently reminded him.
His inherited savage visage and nefarious aura earned Koremitsu terrifying nicknames during his years in Middle School; these nicknames were carried over to Heian Academy, where he was called ‘Hellhound’ and ‘King of Delinquents’, and was the subject of gossip.
Were anyone to see him as he were, the would probably say something along the lines of,
“The first-year Akagi’s chasing after a girl with a carnivorous look on his face, like a wild beast!”
“Don’t follow me, you delinquent!”
Honoka stopped in front of the stairs, pointing her umbrella to Koremitsu and shaking the residual water at him.
“WHAT ARE YOU SAYING!? YOU THINK I’M WILLING!? IT’S BECAUSE I’M IN THE SAME CLASS AS YOU, SITTING RIGHT BESIDE YOU! AND I’M NOT A DELINQUENT!”
“You look the part with that face of yours!”
Honoka finished her sentence in a vicious manner, and shook her light beige hair – the color reminded Koremitsu of a dead mouse – before walking over to her shoe locker.
What sort of attitude’s that!? There are no good woman after all!
When she had earnestly discussed Aoi with him, Koremitsu felt, for the first time, that there were some good women like her, and originally, he had intended to permanently seal off his woman-loathing grandfather’s catchphrase, “That’s why I say women—!”
But because of the grief Honoka gave him the week before, that notion was rejected.
“YOU SEE, HIKARU!? WOMEN ARE ALL LIKE THAT! I DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH SUCH UNREASONABLE ANIMALS EVEN IF I DIE!”
Koremitsu was overly exasperated that he lashed out with no regard for the stares directed at him.
“Ah…un, but you do have to bear a little responsibility for why Miss Shikibu is being so unfriendly with you. Erm, I think I must have said too much here, right?”
He spoke hesitantly.
“What? Why’re you so indecisive when you’re a guy?”
“Yes, I better not say it or it would be offensive to Miss Shikibu. It’s fine, you’ll understand later, before your 18th birthday… probably.”
He gave a cryptic smile.
Honoka was still close to her shoe locker, and was greeting her friends so cheerily that it made Koremitsu suspect her of having multiple personality disorder.
“Good morning, Michiru.”
“Ah, good morning, Hono~”
“I brought the DVD you said you wanted to watch last time!”
“Wah, thank you, Hono.”
The responsible looking girl with short braids and large framed glasses was their class representative. Everyone called her ‘prez,’ except for Honoka, who would call her by her name.
Oi, she’s so cold towards me and completely different to the others!
Koremitsu’s grievance resulted in a glare and when the braided class representative noticed this, she jumped in fear.
“Ah…go-go-goo-goo-goo-goo-goo-good morning, Mr Akagi.”
She stammered out a greeting.
It was impressive that she could greet him, the hated and feared delinquent, properly; she was a model class representative, and held the title properly by not looking in the other direction and trembling in fear of Koremitsu.
“Michiru, why are you greeting someone like Koremitsu?”
Honoka said unhappily.
This woman really annoys me! Koremitsu’s veins jutted out once more.
“Eh? Lord Hikaru was murdered?”
The sudden question shocked Koremitsu.
Hikaru was beside him, still and somber, with narrowed eyes.
Several girls were chatting in the corridor, sounding really agitated.
“This message says that it wasn’t an accident, but a murder!”
“No way! A chain mail?”
“It’s strange for him to fall into the river on a rainy day though. Why would any sane person go to the riverside when there was such a huge downpour?”
“Was Lord Hikaru really killed by someone?”
Just as Koremitsu began to approach them…
The melody of a famous band’s top hit song chirped briskly.
The sound came from Honoka’s phone.
She pulled her cellphone out from her skirt pocket with a frown and looked at the screen.
After pressing a few buttons,
“What is this…”
Dismay clung to her voice.
“What’s the matter, Hono?”
Michiru glanced at Honoka’s cellphone, and her eyes widened in surprise.
“Ho-ho-ho-Hono! Erm-thi-this is talking about Lord Hikaru’s—”
“Let me see!”
Koremitsu walked over to Michiru’s side and peered over at Honoka’s phone.
The small screen held shocking words.
“Lord Hikaru’s death was not an accident, it was a murder.
The murderer is in Heian Academy.”
Koremitsu gulped dryly as the sound of ringtones filled the air.
♢ ♢ ♢
“Hikaru Mikado was murdered in school!”
This message was first sent last night, but by the following morning, the rumor had reached the ears of every student that attend Heian Academy. During the breaks, the halls were filled with theories concerning the identity of the culprit.
“Maybe a boy did it out of revenge because his girlfriend was taken by Lord Hikaru?”
“No, it must’ve been a girl dumped by that harem prince.”
“The murderer is in the High School Branch, right?”
“Maybe the culprit is in Middle School, or even College.”
“Might even be a teacher.”
Koremitsu walked about gloomily and these speculations were not improving his mood. He made his way to the roof, ignoring the fact that it was forbidden from entry.
The sky that greeted him was tenebrous, and a steady cascade of rain fell from it.
He stood on the roof not far from the door, and leaned against the wall to avoid the rain. He questioned Hikaru quietly,
“…You didn’t fall into a river and drowned? Someone killed you?”
Hiina Oumi of the newspaper club did mention this before,
“It’s just…a little rumor—but Lord Hikaru didn’t die from an accident, but was actually murdered.”
She even said she was digging into these rumors.
Hikaru simply disregarded the rumors.
“I’m a harem prince who goes around hooking up with girls…so I guess there should be a lot of girls who wanted to kill me.”
He spoke with an uncharacteristically mature tone.
His eyes were dull, and there was no sign of confirmation or denial.
After that, Koremitsu could not find a chance to ask him properly, so he did not pay any mind to it, thinking that they were simply baseless rumors.
He did not expect such an uproar to stem from those texts.
Who sent these messages, and for what reason?
Was there a seed of truth to these rumors?
Koremitsu’s reaction to the message, an unpleasant stiffness in his countenance, contrasted greatly with Hikaru’s emotionless expression.
He was silent, only smiling, which was odd for such a talkative fellow. After a moment of silence, he muttered to himself,
“Who sent it?”
And he then resumed his silence.
Koremitsu was unsure of how to react to Hikaru’s spellbound state – he did not know if he should ask what had happened or not; there was a sickening feeling in his gut, and his stomach was knotted so severely he felt nauseous.
If Hikaru doesn’t want to say, I better not ask…
It was then that Koremitsu arrived at the roof; he could ask freely with no worries that others would overhear him, but he was still hesitant.
Maybe this might be related to the reason why he can’t ascend to Heaven and keeps clinging on to me. Some things are better said by someone else, so I can only exert a little pressure…
Koremitsu’s features were that of a delinquent – he was born that way. It was for this reason, and perhaps none other, that his classmates kept their distance from him; Hikaru was his only friend, and the only friend he’d ever had.
He was inexperienced in interpersonal relationships, and he was uncertain as to how much information he could rightfully request from Hikaru without hurting him.
There were many things Koremitsu did not understand.
He abandoned any hope of going on about this with delicacy, and decided to delve straight into the heart of the matter.
He wanted to hear the response of this ostensible gentleman, of this unfathomable troublemaker. He wanted to hear what his friend was thinking.
“What do you think, Hikaru?”
His words tumbled from his mouth awkwardly amidst the quiet rain, and carefully observed Hikaru.
Hikaru did not turn his head, but smiled slightly. His beautiful eyebrows drooped. It was a fragile, lonely smile.
“This is troubling.”
The mumbled words came from behind his smile.
“Why must these rumors surface now? My cause of death is irrelevant; the fact that I am dead remains.”
Koremitsu’s heart beat heavily.
He’s trying to avoid this topic again?
Hikaru slowly turned his stare to Koremitsu.
His elegant features were knit into a serious expression, and he spoke to Koremitsu, who listened attentively.
“If I said that I was murdered, would you catch my murderer?”
♢ ♢ ♢
This is quite the broken apartment.
Koremitsu held his umbrella, his bag slung across his shoulder, and looked up blankly at the building in front of his eyes.
It was after class.
The aged, wooden apartment block he stood at now was a twenty minute walk from school. The buildings gave the impression that they would collapse from the pressure by even the slightest breeze.
The apartments on the block were all two stories high; the block was divided into approximately four separate apartment complexes. The fence and hedges were built from plywood, and the grey walls were full of cracks. However, it looked all the more dilapidated due to the dimness of the rainy day; the atmosphere wasn’t unlike what one would expect to see in a horror movie.
My house is already old enough, but this is worse than that…
Perhaps this truly was the hideout of Hikaru’s murderer.
“Will you catch my murderer?”
“Do you know where the murderer is?”
Koremitsu’s eyes were wide, but he was undecided as to whether Hikaru truly had been murdered or not.
“Hm…I’m not too sure either. I just have a feeling the murderer is there.”
Hikaru’s answer was uncertain.
“Right, I’ll call the police!”
Koremitsu immediately fished out his phone, but Hikaru stopped him, saying,
“I’m not exactly sure, and if the murderer is not there, you’ll be scolded by the police. Besides, what reason do you want to call the police to search the murderer’s residence?”
It was true that he couldn’t say he was instructed by a ghost.
“Anyway, let’s go in and check the situation out.”
How can you say that so simply?…
Although Koremitsu couldn’t easily agree to this, Hikaru was certainly serious and fervent enough to concern Koremitsu; there was nothing he could do but follow his instructions begrudgingly.
“You sure it’s this battered—erm, relic-like apartment that’s like a historic material?”
Koremitsu questioned him once more.
Hikaru’s mood was entirely different from what Koremitsu was accustomed to, and had been this way since they passed the school gates on their way out. He looked at the dirty fence, which was drenched black with rain, with a mixture of nostalgia and serenity on his face.
“Yeah, no mistake about it. Do you see the white flowers blooming at the foot of the wall? They’re shuddering gently, drenched by the rain.”
These sturdy flowers are blooming again…he said while making a dreamy, hazy expression.
“Let’s not talk about flowers now.”
Koremitsu was a little appalled.
“The last one on the first level.”
The curtains of that room were shut, and the room was pitch dark inside.
But there seemed to be someone moving inside, and Koremitsu narrowed his eyes cautiously.
“Alright, let’s go.”
They passed through the fence, and walked to the last door of that building.
The room and the residence behind it were practically sticking to each other; the shadows shrouded the alley, and the visibility was dim. Koremitsu was so tense he was about to have cramps.
They stopped at the last door.
As there was no doorbell to ring, he could only knock at the door.
There was no response.
(No one’s inside? No, I thought I just saw someone moving behind the curtain…)
Kooonn…And there was a little thud that came from within.
The sound was low and soft—barely audible.
Koremitsu was so tense the back of his neck was itching.
“Sorry to disturb you. May I have a moment?”
He muttered and knocked on the door again.
A soft voice came from below the door.
(It seems weird for some reason?)
Why did no one open the door even though there was a sound inside? The location of the sound was very peculiar too.
(It sounds like it came from the bottom…did the person instead pass out?)
Maybe there was someone with his limbs tied up, mouth stuffed, crouched at the door, trying his best to knock the door with his shoulder and head.
This image immediately flashed through Koremitsu’s mind, and he hurriedly grabbed the door handle and twisted it hard.
His umbrella fell out of his hands and onto the alley.
“What’s the matter!? Did anything happen!?”
There was no response, but there seemed to be a groan, and he panicked the more he heard this.
He tried to twist and pry the door open as he slammed on it. The buckle must have been too old as it was immediately slammed loose, and the door fell off with a loud thud. The door was opened!
He immediately rushed in.
“Are you alright?”
There was a stove and sink on the side of the corridor, while the kitchen was on the other.
This cramped 6-tatami sized room did not have its lights on, and visibility was bleak. It was practically a dump, where there were things littered everywhere, either furniture or trash.
There was no one inside?
Just when Koremitsu was stunned by this,
He suddenly heard a cry at his feet.
He lowered his head, and found a white cat sitting there nonchalantly, its eyes giving off a bizarre glow in the darkness.
Was the knocking and groaning made by this cat?
(Uh oh, I ruined someone’s door.)
Cold sweat dripped down Koremitsu’s back, and he found something curled up into a ball in the shadows.
He again gasped in shock.
Once his eyes were used to the darkness, he gradually saw the situation in the room.
There was a double-deckered bed on the left.
Right in front of him was a window with its curtains drawn.
There was a round short table in the middle of the room, with a notepad computer on it. Were the things on the right side an electric fan, a chair, a wardrobe, a cupboard, a golf bag? Besides this random stuff, there were a few photos and papers stuck on the wall.
There was something shaped like a hill on the empty space between the cupboard and the electric fan.
No, it was someone draped in a blanket…a girl.
She was crouched at the wall, and a little bit of white tender skin was shown from under the carpet as she looked over at Koremitsu with a worried expression…she was staring at the red-haired youth who broke the door and entered illegally.
Who was this person?
What was she doing here?
Koremitsu’s mind was filled with questions.
I came here to catch Hikaru’s murderer, right? This girl is the murderer? She looks a little too fragile here.
Flabbergasted, he looked over at Hikaru.
Hikaru however passed by Koremitsu with a relaxed expression, and approached that girl.
Only Koremitsu could see Hikaru’s soul.
The girl used her small hands to tug gently at the carpet as she peeked at Koremitsu. The long hair sliding out from the carpet covered her face and forehead weakly.
Hikaru squat down in front of the girl, and gave a loving and gentle expression as he said.
“Don’t be afraid, Yū. Koremitsu is my reliable friend here. He’ll fulfill the ‘promise’ in my stead.”
Upon hearing this, Koremitsu realized he was tricked.
(You conman! Lying harem prince! What did you mean by ‘will you catch my murderer’!? Acting all serious like that; you were tricking me, weren’t you!? Go down to Hell now and let the king of Hell cut off your tongue!!)
Koremitsu cursed spitefully in his heart.
However, no matter how enraged he was, he could not change the current situation.
Even if he were to try and punch Hikaru, the punch would merely pass through his body; it would neither cause itch nor pain, an act that would merely make him look all the more foolish.
Also, the girl, who could not see Hikaru, was looking up at Koremitsu tentatively.
Even the white cat lifted its head, ostensibly sizing up Koremitsu as it stared at the latter with cold eyes.
(Oi, what do I do now?)
Koremitsu was tense, sweating all over profusely as he gritted his teeth.
Hikaru knelt down beside the girl, and gave a smile with the intent of ‘I’ll leave the rest to you’.
(Damn it, what are you smiling for!?)
Koremitsu tried his best to swallow his roar that nearly came out from his mouth, and stood at the corridor to explain to the girl.
“Ah, well…I’m not a bad guy, I’m Hikaru’s friend, and he requested for me to look for you.”
The soft voice that nearly merged into the darkness came out from the girl’s lips.
The girl was looking over at the door that was still not shut behind Koremitsu. Her eyes were showing a fear that was clearer, stronger than before.
Koremitsu looked over at where she was looking.
The rain seemed to have gotten bigger, and the sound of the raindrops entering his ears got stronger. The rain droplets falling sideways splattered on the umbrella in the alley, and sloshed off it.
“Sorry, I’ll repair the door.”
Koremitsu carried the door that was teetering, and turned to look at the girl.
And this moment, the girl suddenly collapsed, ostensibly falling off after the strings supporting her snapped.
Koremitsu hurriedly took off his shoes and ran over. The floor rattled, and the trash leaning at the wall shook as well.
“Oi! Pull yourself together!”
He stared at the girl’s face as he shouted.
“Damn it, it’s too dark. I can’t see anything!”
He intended to switch on the lights, and tugged at the string dangling from the ceiling, but it seemed the bulb was faulty.
“It’s fine. Yū is very timid. She just passed out.”
Hikaru stood beside Koremitsu, encouraging him.
“YOU CALL THIS ALRIGHT!? DON’T SAY IT AS IF IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!!!”
Koremitsu roared. The blue-eyed cat shrugged with an annoyed look and licked its fore paws.