Honoka switched on her home computer, accessed her homepage, and the luxurious wallpaper and fancy words on the purple wallpaper appeared in her eyes.
This “Purple Princess’ Mansion” was a website she set up two years ago, could be navigated through computer or cellphone, and had publications of the novels she wrote.
The enthralling and sickly sweet love stories she wrote were popular with the girls, were highly rated, and her website was a hot favorite.
The author, Purple Princess, was hailed as a love expert, and the blog comments and mailbox were all filled with comments and mails about girls venting their love frustrations, asking the Purple Princess for suggestion.
And so, the Purple Princess—Honoka, personally answered all the questions one by one.
“Hello there, Purple Princess!
I’m a student in my second year of Middle School.
I just started dating with my boyfriend for around a month.
He’s a candid sporty boy, joins the tennis club, will bring me to watch soccer or tennis matches when we’re on dates, and may even play some basketball while we’re on the road.
I feel happy when I go out with him…but I’m completely useless at sports, and I don’t understand when I watch sports（≧д≦）ノ
Whenever I play tennis with him, I just can’t catch the ball; I really feel like carry!
But he always tells me, you can improve if you practice more, A-mi, do your best! And will bring me to play tennis again the next week.
I really like him, but if this keeps up, I just feel that it’ll be painful going out with him at this rate!
What can I do? I’m really, really troubled here!
I read the novel that’s updated this week! I was really excited when I saw the scene where Takuma chased after Natsuno from behind and hugged her tightly!! ノノノ▽ノノノ
“Hello there, Miss A-mi,
It’s really a troubling matter that his interests don’t match yours.
My friend complained before that on dates, she wants to go to pasta and crepes shops, but he would always bring her to ramen shops when she doesn’t want to!
She too is like you, Miss A-mi, in that she likes her boyfriend too, and doesn’t want to make him unhappy. That’s why she didn’t say she didn’t dare to say she prefers pasta.
One day, she finally summoned her courage, and her boyfriend was very surprised by it, Why did you keep quiet about it!? He even chided her angrily for this.
Later, when they dated, they would take turns going to ramen shops and the shops she recommended, and she happily said that though she doesn’t like pork ramen, she does find salt ramen to be really delicious.
So, I think you should try talking it through with your boyfriend, Miss A-mi.
You may be scared and nervous.
That’s why this Purple Princess will give you an advice.
Before you begin, hold him gently by the hands.
If he’s shocked, and asks you “What’s the matter?”, continue holding his hands, lower your head slightly, show tears in your eyes, and look at him with your most pitiful expression.
You must tell him your thoughts with a feeling that you mustn’t let go of those hands. and he’ll definitely understand!”
After finishing her reply, Honoka recalled something she did not want to recall, and started feeling depressed again.
She leaned her right cheek on the table, and let out a sigh.
(Why does my heart hurt whenever I think about Akagi…)
On the previous day, when she lent Koremitsu the foldable umbrella at the park’s stage, he frowned hesitantly.
But after a moment of doubt, his stiff expression suddenly relaxed a little.
—Then…I’ll use it…as a talisman.
When he said this line awkwardly, Honoka was nearly moved to tears.
Her throat felt a little pricky, but she was still happy, smiling away like a fool.
—Right, it’ll definitely work.
After saying that, she pushed the umbrella into Koremitsu’s hands.
With a teary, smiling expression, she watched Koremitsu hold her umbrella, and walk into this windy, stormy night scene under the protection of that umbrella.
What was that feeling all about?
That night, she received a message from Koremitsu,
“Sorry to trouble you today.
The umbrella was very useful.
See you at school tomorrow.”
The dry content in this message caused a mix of emotions to swirl inside Honoka, and she felt happy yet uneasy within.
(Has he talked to Kanai yet?)
She wanted to ask, but was so terrified that she could not do so, and she did not understand why she was so terrified.
“It’s good that I can be of help.
See you tomorrow.
She was overwhelmingly hesitant, retyped her message a few times, and only managed to type these words in the end.
After that, she kept waiting, but never received a response.
(Akagi’s not that type of person in the first place…)
Honoka clearly knew, but she felt really lonely deep within.
In the morning, Koremitsu returned the thoroughly dried, carefully folded umbrella to Honoka with both hands.
“Your umbrella really helped me out.”
When he bowed deeply, Honoka was staring at the swirl in the middle of that red hair, suddenly felt her heart tighten, and was very sentimental.
“I-It it’s nothing, why must you exaggerate it this much? I want to know more about…how Kanai’s doing?”
Koremitsu averted his eyes and coldly answered,
“I promised Yū that I would find her umbrella.”
“Umbrella? Are you talking about that one from one year ago? That’s impossible!”
“Even if it’s impossible, I have to do it.”
Koremitsu said with an adamant tone.
The determination revealed in his eyes as he looked aside caused Honoka to feel unbearable, as someone ostensibly squeezed her heart.
After that, Koremitsu squirmed and returned to his seat with an arched back.
Once the first period exam ended, he immediately walked out of the classroom, and did not return for a while.
With a drained expression on her face,
“Akagi’s up to no good again, Honoo!”
Michiru ran over to notify her, and right at that moment, the second period bell rang. A while after the exam began, she spotted Koremitsu’s return.
He was burning with fury all over, and it seemed he was really unhappy as he frowned while writing on his script.
After the exam ended, he immediately got up and walked out of the classroom.
(Argh, seriously, what’s that Akagi doing!?)
Honoka was completely perplexed as she saw this, and was so tense her gut winced.
“I HEARD AKAGI RAPED A GIRL IN THE MALE TOILET!!!”
Once a certain boy ran into the classroom, yelling this, Honoka practically felt her eyes darken in front of her.
(AKAGI!! JUST WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING HERE~!!!!!!!)
Koremitsu was late for the next period’s exam, and never gave Honoka a single glance. Once the exam was over, he was called by a teacher, and walked out of the classroom.
Unable to resist the urge, Honoka pursued him from behind.
As she continued to loiter outside the student counseling room, a petite yet busty short-haired girl called her.
“Are you waiting for Mr Akagi too, Miss Shikibu?”
It was Oumi Hiina of the news club.
She was purportedly the girl whom Koremitsu dragged into the boys toilet.
She, who was once Honoka’s classmate in Middle School, pretended to be affectionate with Honoka as she said,
“Why is it that Mr Akagi was the only one called here? Isn’t that too unfair? Is President Saiga pretending to use her authority to be alone with him, secretly playing an SM game?”
Her heart full of doubt, Honoka whispered to Hiina, asking,
“O-Oumi, I heard Akagi rap—what is going on anyway?”
“Oh, that’s how it is though. My purity’s been stained. Mr Akagi will take responsibility, I suppose?”
Honoka was not amused upon hearing Hiina’s joking tone.
“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way Akagi will do that sort of thing! He looks like a delinquent appearance-wise, but he’s a real blockhead with an upright personality. He won’t care about anything unless it’s a girl he likes!”
Once she argued back,
“Ho ho, it looks like you really understand Mr Akagi, Miss Shikibu.”
Hiina smiled at Honoka with her eyes narrowed, causing the latter’s face to blush all over.
“I-It’s nothing. I just discussed some things with Akagi before, so I’m a little concerned about him.”
“Discuss? What did you talk about?”
“Nothing to do with you.”
As both of them discussed with hushed voices, Koremitsu’s outburst suddenly came from behind the door.
“I’LL PROTECT HER THIS TIME!”
Even through the door, these words clearly rang in Honoka’s eyes, and pricked her chest.
Hiina waited at the door, eavesdropping inside.
Honoka did not want to listen, but was unable to resist the urge as she too placed her ear at the door.
And immediately, she heard Koremitsu’s voice, clearer than ever,
“IF THERE’S A VENGEFUL SPIRIT, I’LL BEAT IT UP GOOD SO THAT IT WON’T APPROACH YŪ AGAIN!!”
The footsteps approached, and the student counseling door suddenly slammed open.
Honoka and Hiina hurriedly ducked behind the door, and Koremitsu did not notice them as that red hair and slightly arched back departed in fury.
Honoka watched him with a nearly broken heart.
“…I’ll protect her, huh?”
With her face sticking to the table, Honoka muttered to herself.
Unknowingly, it started raining outside, and the lonely sound of raindrops could be heard in short bursts.
“So I’m not…the only one.”
Her heart started to ache again.
This was not an unbearable sudden pain, but ever since she heard those words from Koremitsu outside the student counseling room, her heart started to ache.
When she had a little scuffle against Asai because of Koremitsu, “If Saiga tries doing anything, I’ll protect you” Koremitsu said to her.
He said it impassionedly, without any pretense, ostensibly treating it as the divine duty of a man.
It was different from the ‘protect’ he said adamantly that day.
The ‘protect’ he said did not have any special significance…why did her heart jump because of it? That was really stupid.
“…I don’t have any special feelings for Akagi, he doesn’t treat me as a love target, just someone he can discuss things with…I mistook him for a pervert at first, kicked him…and deliberately chose to ignore him…it doesn’t matter to me who he likes…”
That should be the case–
But why was her head hurting so much?
Why was her mind always thinking of Koremitsu?
Honoka sat up and shook her head head. She stared at the computer, and found there was a new message on the board.
“This is my first comment.
I’ve always been concerned about someone, and has been waiting for contact from him. When I don’t see him, I feel sad. Why is this so?
I quarrelled with that person the last time.
He said my thinking was wrong, and I was shocked; I felt he did not understand my feelings at all.
That person’s completely different from me, and sometimes, I’m really scared of him.
He sent a message to me, apologizing, but I didn’t reply.
I hope he’ll abandon me, not send a message to me, and not to look for me again.
In that case, I will be able to live my life peacefully again.
But once that person never sent a message to me, I started to worry again, and I feel reallty lonely.
What is the matter with me exactly?
If we meet, we’ll definitely argue with each other again.
That person’s words will definitely hurt me.
But I still want to meet him.
I know I’ll definitely regret it, but I want to meet him.
I’m still waiting for that person to send me a message.
My heart is really in a mess, and I just can’t calm down.
Even if I close my eyes, I can’t sleep.
What can I do to become my original self?”
This message coincided with Honoka’s feelings, causing the latter to feel heavy-hearted and sad.
Once they met, she would feel anxious.
Even if he was in front of her, she would feel there was a divide between them for some reason.
But when they did not meet, she would always think of him.
In the past, that was definitely not the case.
(Seriously, what will be a good thing to do?)
“What is love, I wonder?”
This voice was feeble, to a point where did it not resemble hers, and she suddenly felt helpless, on the verge of breaking down in tears.
Honoka was supposed to be the one hearing others out, helping others…
However, she felt she was the frustrated one, the one who needs to look to others for help.
(If it’s me, what sort of suggestion do I wish to hear? What exactly do I want to do?)
Honoka tentatively typed at her keyboard.
“It will be really difficult to regain your original self, so I can’t give an easy answer to you…
But if you honestly face your feelings and try taking a step forward, perhaps you may understand.”
♢ ♢ ♢
“…Try taking a step forward…”
Yū muttered the words on the screen.
There was a clear blue curtain covering the window.
Raindrops continued to patter outside the window.
Yū recalled the feeling of the icy water pattering on her skin, seeping into her clothes, and immediately felt goosebumps rise. She tugged harder at the blanket covering her from head to toe, and cringed.
“I can’t do it…”
Yū could take nary a step out.
—Yū, let’s go to school.
He was frowning as he seemed really angry, and spoke to Yū, who was utterly terrified.
—It’s not normal to keep locking yourself in the room every day, and it’s not good for your health either. The line between reality and delusions will also become vague.
His eyes were blazing like fire as he stared at Yū.
—Better get out and walk before your legs start growing fins!
Yū felt that Hikaru’s friend, Koremitsu, was a good person.
At first, she was very terrified of him, with his red hair, savage eyes, and stiff expression, but soon, she realized though his manners were crude, his actions were sincere and gentle.
He brought the rock sugar Yū liked as a gift, was blushing away when he gave her a transparent puzzle as blue as the sea, and helped her change the light bulb.
Whenever Hikaru looked for her, he would sit at the middle of the room, smiling gently. Koremitsu however seemed to be worried about something as he sits at the wall near the entrance, slouching his back unhappily. However, ever since Koremitsu appeared there, she started to feel more at ease.
When Koremitsu blushed, saying that he had never fallen in love too, she saw the same loneliness he had in his eyes, and suddenly felt a sense of familiarity between them.
However, he said the one thing Yū did not want to hear.
After the divorce with her father, Yū’s mother migrated to Australia for work, and would continue to send messages to her.
All the messages were talking about the same thing, every single time,
“How long are you going to shut yourself at home?”
“You can’t possibly lock yourself inside the house forever?”
“You dad has a new family and has a new child; there’s no way he’ll have time to take care of you. You’re 16 now, how about you wise up?”
Yū’s mother would keep telling her to be more mature, telling her this was the right thing to do, but upon seeing such commanding lines, Yū felt heaviness in her body, her body ostensibly sucked into the darkness of an abyss.
Recently, whenever Yū’s mother sent a message, Yū would delete them all without reading.
She always felt it was difficult to communicate with her mother ever since her parents divorced.
No, it started long before that.
When Yū was neglected and spited at by the other girls, her parents were busy talking about divorce, not realizing she was talking less at home, and not realizing her frustrations to a point where she could not eat.
When waking up in the morning, she knew she had to go to school, but was so terrified that she would break out in cold sweat.
Perhaps the indoor shoes would disappear from the shoe locker again.
Perhaps there would be graffiti all over her table.
Perhaps someone would curse her, “You’re just a lowly commoner, and you dare to brazenly approach a noble!”, “You look very obedient for a vixen”, “You’re really the best at seducing others”.
Whenever she raised her umbrella, she could hide her cheeks, red with shame, and her teary eyes. In there, she could at least gain some solace.
The bright blue umbrella with an angelfish printed on it was a birthday gift she received on her first year of Middle School. After going out to eat with her parents, they went past a department store on the way back.
“That umbrella’s pretty!”
She ran over to the store, her eyes dazzling.
And then, she carried the umbrella, wrapped with a golden ribbon, with utmost care as she returned.
That day, both parents were smiling brightly at Yū.
It was a really, really important umbrella to Yū.
An umbrella that would always protect Yū.
An umbrella that would always shelter her from the stares filled with malice.
A magic umbrella that could help her reminisce the wonderful moment.
But the umbrella disappeared.
That umbrella was the only thing barely supporting her heart.
The black, large fish had opened its mouth and devoured the angelfish full. The spiteful voices rang in her mind, shrilling echoing.
—I heard your umbrella disappeared?
—Too bad then, but I guess it couldn’t be helped.
—If you walk on with your uniform completely drenched, maybe an old man looking to hook up with a girl will call out for you?
The laughter continued to echo her ears over and over again.
She again recalled the despair she felt at the school gate, when the heavy downpour nearly pierced through her skin, and her body tensed up, aching.
“You’re too strong…there’s no way you can understand…”
He did not know how terrifying it was for her to walk out of this cramped room, and did not know how painful it was for her to obey her mother’s command.
Like how a fish could only live in water, Yū could not breathe whenever she stepped outside the door. No matter how many unfriendly stares and words he faced, Koremitsu had the courage to fight back; that was why he could not understand.
Like his mother, Koremitsu felt her life was abnormal.
If he met her, he’ll definitely call her to go to school.
Yū’s wish did not meet Koremitsu’s hope.
“I’ll get your umbrella back for you.” Koremitsu had said.
But how could that be possible?
She did not believe Koremitsu, and did not believe his fantasy.
At this point, even if she met Koremitsu, she would simply feel depressed, not knowing what to say next, and not knowing how to face him. She could no longer fall asleep in front of Koremitsu’s sights.
(Hikaru’s not like Akagi…he won’t say such cruel things to me…)
He would not ask why she did not attend school, would not say it was an abnormal thing, or that she was peculiar, and would not tell her she should not continue on like this—
—You’re like a Moonflower, Yū.
He gently narrowed his eyes, telling Yū what kind of flower she was.
—It is a fragile flower that cannot bloom under the sunlight, and that makes it all the more delicate, adorable…and pretty. The white petals that bloom under the darkness make it pure and gentle. When looking at it, you will feel that you are in a dream, able to gain that moment of peace.
Hikaru’s sweet gentle voice slowly wrapped around Yū’s heart.
—Hikaru, do you like Moonflowers?
—Yes, I really do. I can continue to look at them for an entire night.
It will be best if you remain as who you are, Yū, and continue as a flower that blooms in the night.
That sort of flower had its own value. Those were gentle, moving words—words she would never ever forget.
He continued to describe the names and shapes of the beautiful flowers he spotted in the park or on the roadside, as Yū could not take a single step out from her apartment.
—Hikaru…are you, happy…?
He was too gentle, and had no request of her as he simply smiled. Thus, she could not resist the urge, and asked worriedly. With clear eyes,
His tone was very calm, and did not carry any sense of pretense.
—Then what about you? Are you happy?
And thus, Yū too showed a sincere smile, “I’m happy” and answered.
—As long as I stay here, I feel happy. Nobody will say anything cruel to me here…I don’t need to be scared, I don’t need to go around hiding…and I can go anywhere whenever I close my eyes…I can see all sorts of beautiful things…
She rubbed her cheeks on the blanket as she closed her eyes.
It was soft, gentle…a relieving touch. She really wanted to stay there forever.
Hikaru too answered her softly.
—Yeah, this place has everything…this is the most comfortable place in the entire world.
They both closed their eyes and let time pass as they listened to the gentle waves only they could hear.
But Koremitsu definitely could not hear the waves. He definitely could not see the scenery both Yū and Hikaru saw.
Only Hikaru could understand her. That was why she only needed Hikaru and Lapis’ company.
On this day, Lapis was seated at the windowside, looking outside the window through the seam of the curtain.
It was the position Lapis took most of the time.
It had been almost a year since Lapis first came in. Its hearing sense was bad, and it was a cautious, slow kitten with a habit of staring at things.
Yū would occasionally recall what happened at school, and whenever she shuddered in fear, her heart would calm down whenever she stared at Lapis’ wise lapis-colored eyes that were staring at her.
Lapis was always sitting beside Yū as the latter cried in despair, whether it was on the day her father called, telling her he could not protect her living needs, on the day her mother came to the apartment to look for her for the one and only time, “If you like to wait here, just starve to death!” and lambasted her, on the day she received news of Hikaru’s death through the phone.
But once she calmed down, Lapis would walk away on its own and sit at the windowside.
And continue to look outside.
Lapis was a cat who liked its freedom, and perhaps it really wanted to get out. Like Hikaru, it might leave Yū one day.
(And I’ll be alone.)
Yū suddenly felt a sharp pain in her heart, and her hands, grabbing onto the blanket, started to shudder.
The golf bag her father once used, the electric fan and stove her mother treasured; at this point, those were trash they had discarded.
And Yū was abandoned by them.
So Lapis would…and Koremitsu would…
(No! It’s scary! I don’t want to think about it again!)
“Try taking a step forward, perhaps you may understand.”
Understand? What would she understand?
The oxymoronic feeling of fearing a meeting with Koremitsu, and yet hoping he would send a message?
Yū slowly turned her head to where Hikaru often waited at, and spoke with a faltering tone,
“Hikaru…if you’re here…you should be able to tell me, right?”
Hikaru had once gently told Yū, “Because you never loved me”.
He was staring at her with a sad clear expression, and said she would one day understand the delight of love.
At that time, Hikaru was bitterly clinging on to love.
No, he must have been bitterly clinging to love even until his death.
He continued to pamper her with pure, unadulterated love and tenderness, without hoping for anything in return, cared for her, comforted her, and at the same time, truly loved the one person he could not embrace.
Whenever he thought of that person, the sidelong profile of his clear face would darken with much loneliness—the dreamy eyes showed much pain and suffering, but continued to endure…
A few times she woke up from her shallow sleep, and saw Hikaru put his forehead on his tightly clasped hands, his eyes closed. Then, he would open his eyes, and show a light smile in a forsaken manner.
That smile made him look all the more in pain than when he closed his eyes hard…and more the lonelier.
Why did Hikaru want to have that painful love? Why did he not give up?
Yū tentatively looked over at the place covered by the curtain—where Lapis always looked at, and muttered blankly.
“Love…what is it?”
And at that moment, the cellphone on the table vibrated.
She shuddered in shock, and was practically unable to breathe when she checked the message.
Once she discovered it was a message sent from Koremitsu, her heart, which had skipped a beat, started beating intensely again.
The stiff finger opened the content of the message.
Yū widened her eyes in shock.
There was a short line on the screen,
“I’ll chase that vengeful spirit away tomorrow.”
♢ ♢ ♢
It had been raining since morning on the third day of the Mid-Terms, and it was really cold.
The Heian Academy High School students who were carrying umbrellas as they headed to school found a mysterious line of words at the corridor near the shoe lock, and were all terrified.
“The vengeful spirit has cometh.”
There was a horizontal line of thick black words, written in brushstrokes, on the white wall, and the strokes tailing downwards and sideways could not hide the force used to write it. The ink sprayed everywhere was like scattered blood, life-like to a point where it could ostensibly jump out from the wall.
The students were thoroughly shocked as they saw that line of words, and their hearts were ostensibly pinched by a black hand as they stood where they were, shuddering in fear.
It was not too long ago that the chain mail regarding Yū Kanai was circulated all around, so everyone immediately associated the school’s vengeful spirit with the words in front of them.
It was the same that time, when the umbrella was hung up, dripping terrifying black water, dirtying the windows and wall.
The vengeful spirit from the past was ready to strike again.
This was an omen.
It was a school with lots of traditions, filled with children descended from families lasting since ancient times.
In this unique sealed spaces where unscientific superstitions like divinations and curses were highly believed in, the power of this vengeful spirit would be fulfilled to the fullest.
The fear budding in the students increased the existence of this vengeful spirit, and scattered into every single corner of the school.
“The vengeful spirit has appeared!”
“What will happen this time?”
“Someone’s going to be eaten up again!”
Some of the girls were broken to the point of tears, and there was a massive commotion on the corridor.
Koremitsu kept his mouth sharp as he stared at this scene sharply.
He continued to stare at the terrified response from every single person, like a wild dog hunting its prey, and after a while, walked away from this commotion with his back slouched.
And so, Asai Saiga stood in front of him with a stern look.
“You really like to create commotions here, Mr Akagi.”
Her voice was filled with anger.
“What do you mean?”
“You wrote those words, did you not?”
“Who knows? Didn’t that vengeful spirit write it?”
Asai’s face immediately cringed, and he showed an icy glint in her eyes.
“I will know just by investigating into it a little, but even if I do not, I know that this tomfoolery is done by none other than you.”
“Is this a compliment to me?”
Upon seeing how Koremitsu intended to play dumb till the end, Asai raised an eyebrow.
“I did not expect you to be a beast lacking such common sense. What do you intend to do next?”
Koremitsu glared defiantly at Asai, his expression vicious to a point where she was momentarily at a loss of words.
“If you want to know what happens next, just watch quietly.”
In the meantime, Honoka was hiding behind a corner on the corridor, her breath abated as she watched Koremitsu depart and Asai, who was glaring at him.
(Did Akagi write those words?)
Koremitsu’s grandfather managed a calligraphy class, so Koremitsu must be well-skilled in writing brushstroke words. Honoka too once saw the words he wrote, and they were neat and pretty.
(But why must Akagi create such a large commotion?)
♢ ♢ ♢
“Once the exams are over, come to the chemistry laboratory.”
Upon seeing the content of the letters slipped secretly into the shoe locker, the girl turned deathly pale.
It has arrived!
The fearful silence had continued on since a month ago.
Whenever she walked on the corridor, whenever she chatted with her friends in the classroom, she would feel a sharp stare, and would inadvertently turn behind to look.
She could not see that person, but that sharp stare continued to linger in her hearts, and that cold voice was something she could not shake off in the end. Their backs felt cold, and the blood was drained off their face.
Whenever she thought about this before their slept, she would shake their heads hard in fear, and cringe her body.
Every day, she would be practically jittery every single time.
When would it be over?
No, when would it ‘begin’?
This long time of being observed caused them to be on the brink of collapse—and recently, it had finally started to improve for the better.
But at this point, the day of judgement had arrived.
Signed off at the end of the messages were the words,
“From the vengeful spirit.”
The girls averted the stares from beside them and secretly hid the messages into the pockets of their uniform before proceeding down the chilly corridor.
It continued to drizzle outside the window, and it caused her gut to wince further in fear.
Right, it was raining on that day—
The frozen fingers opened the door leading to the chemistry laboratory.
5 umbrellas were opened in a line, hanging off the window grids.
The black liquid dripped down from the tip of the umbrellas, and the smell of ink reached her nose, followed by the sound of screams,
“IT’S THE VENGEFUL SPIRIT!”
“THIS IS REVENGE!”
The screams continued to linger in their ears, and a large black typhoon swirled, devouring them whole as they were unable to resist in any way. Some of them stared blankly at the black droplets dripping from the umbrella, something that should not be happening.
Upon hearing someone call for her, the girl turned around in shock.
Once she opened the door, she closed her eyes in fear.
Once she opened them, she saw the window drenched completely in rainwater, the ivory-coloured curtains that were collapsed to the side, and the pale faces of 4 people.
“You…received the letter too?”
“So, all of us are here.”
Silence descended upon the scene.
Every single person lowered their heads, ostensibly not wanting to look at each other. The sound of rain and the damp rotten smell of grass and leaves roamed in the classroom.
Finally, someone became impatient with the heavy atmosphere, and spoke up,
“…Who wrote those words on the wall…”
Another person said with a shuddering voice,
“The one who wrote to us…is probably the same as the one who wrote those words, right?”
Another person said,
“I thought…this was already all over.”
And then, they started to talk frantically,
“What do we do? Is Upperclassman Tōjō still mad at us?”
“Must be. He’s definitely furious. His tone was calm back then, but his expression was really scary. He must be the same one this time.”
“This has nothing to do with me! I wasn’t the one who stole Kanai’s umbrella!”
“Really? You’re the one who really loves to bully Kanai most.”
“Don’t kid around, Abe. You’re the one who went overboard, I only joined in later. You hid Kanai’s umbrella, right? That’s why things ended up like this…
“You want to push the responsibility onto me? Wasn’t Marika the one who suggested ostracizing Kanai and hiding her umbrella?”
“That’s not it. Kawai’s the one who suggested it first. I was simply following her. The umbrella has nothing to do with me.”
“No, the one who hid it was Marika. You were the one who spread the photo that Upperclassman Tōjō was sharing an umbrella with Kanai, and even said that we definitely mustn’t forgive her.”
“That’s what Abe said, right!? Abe said Kanai went overboard, and that we must teach her a good lesson.”
“I don’t know anything about that umbrella! Before Upperclassman Tōjō scolded us, I…”
“I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!”
Someone finally broke down, crying.
“I DON’T WANT TO BE OSTRACIZED BY EVERYONE AND STARED AT WITH COLD EYES AGAIN LIKE THAT TIME! WE’RE COMPLETELY TREATED AS BAD GUYS THAT TIME!”
“I HAD TO QUIT THE TEA CEREMONY CLUB BECAUSE OF THAT INCIDENT AS WELL!”
“And we got lectured by Upperclassman Tōjō…”
“That’s because Kawai did something she shouldn’t have done!”
“DIDN’T YOU ALL AGREE TO JOIN IN TOO!”
“AND WE’RE ALL TREATED AS THE BAD GIRLS. UPPERCLASSMAN TŌJŌ EVEN SAID “YOUR HEARTS ARE SO BLACK THEY CAN’T BE HIDDEN. I DON’T WANT TO SEE SUCH WRETCHED STUDENTS IN OUR SCHOOL”!”
“Upperclassman Tōjō’s obvious still fuming over it.”
“WHAT EXACTLY DID WE DO WRONG!? THIS WOULDN ‘T HAVE HAPPENED IF KANAI NEVER TRIED TO HOOK UP WITH UPPERCLASSMAN TŌJŌ!”
“THAT’S RIGHT! KANAI’S JUST A COMMONER WHO JOINED SINCE MIDDLE SCHOOL, AND SHE DARED TO ENTICE HIM!”
“IT’S ALL KANAI’S FAULT! SHE NOT ONLY SEDUCED UPPERCLASSMAN TŌJŌ, BUT ALSO LORD HIKARU…LORD HIKARU MUST HAVE BEEN KILLED BECAUSE HE WAS WITH HER! THAT’S WHAT ALL THE CHAIN MESSAGES SAID!”
“NO DOUBT ABOUT IT! KANAI’S DEFINITELY POSSESSED BY A VENGEFUL SPIRIT!”
“You girls are all really black-hearted.
Koremitsu crawled out from under the table as he said furiously.
The girls, who were bickering furiously just a moment ago, “HIIIII!!!” screamed as they remained rooted.
With his back slouched, Koremitsu’s eyes were burning with anger, and he walked past the black heatproof tables as the footsteps echoed.
“Even till now, you continue to push responsibilities around, and you think you have no blame at all? If I squeeze your hearts out, there’ll definitely be black water flowing out like ink.”
You wanna try this? He raised his eyebrows as he ostensibly said this, and looked over at them, one by one.
Those girls were utterly terrified as their face immediately cringed, and they shuddered all over.
(There’s no point getting angry with them at all.)
Upon thinking about this, Koremitsu bared his teeth and raised the edges of his lips
The girls widened their eyes, and took a few steps back.
“Don’t you ever dare badmouth Yū Kanai again, and don’t you dare bully her, or you won’t even have to wait for the vengeful spirit to take action. I’ll rip those impure mouths of yours out first!”
Koremitsu continued to keep his lips curled up as he said with a vicious stare.
He wanted to smile, but those girls,
Screamed in terror as they dashed to the door, their faces riddled with tears as they intended to escape, and crashed into each other in the end. They were unable to move, and were screeching in fear, hollering, collapsed on the corridor in a bunch like an avalanche, and without caring the fact their skirts were flipped, their hair messy, they scampered away with no regards for their lives.
Every single one of them fell twice, thrice before they completely calmed down.
Well, who cares about them anyway?
Koremitsu was more concerned by the fact that those girls screamed “HE’S SCARIER THANA VENGEFUL SPIRIT!” when they were escaping, and that was something he could not comprehend.
Was that not too much of an exaggeration?
He was feeling depressed within, and beside him, a voice rang,
“I am starting to pity those girls a little.”
Hikaru showed a wry smile.
“Your smile is way too potent. Remember, never ever use it in a love scene.”
“No need for any unnecessary remarks.”
Koremitsu answered unhappily.
Besides, was there any reason to pity them? He really liked to pamper girls.
“I just can’t smile anyway, and I’m still angry with you. Don’t you randomly talk with me.”
Hikaru shrugged and smiled slightly.
“But…after seeing how those black-hearted girls continued to push blame around, there’re some things I don’t understand, like Tōjō’s case.”
Koremitsu folded his arms as he tilted his head in doubt. Hikaru seemed to have understood everything as he showed a wise expression, saying,
“Then, I suppose we should look for Mr Shungo.”
♢ ♢ ♢
Luckily, Tōjō had yet to leave school.
“He should be there.”
With Hikaru leading the way, Koremitsu arrived at a bamboo garden in a corner of the school. There were short shrubs growing at their feet, and the bamboo and plants bristled whilst the breeze blew.
After walking for a while, they could find a stone monument surrounded by rocks covered with algae, and Tōjō was standing beside it, holding a dark green umbrella.
He was standing still, and his eyes were closed as he was ostensibly meditating.
Koremitsu, holding a navy blue umbrella, approached Tōjō, and the latter must have heard the sound of train pelting on another umbrella as he opened his eyes, before giving Koremitsu a sharp unwelcoming look
Koremitsu too glared back, saying,
“I have something to talk to you about.”
“I however have nothing to talk with you about.”
The baritone rang clearly.
Tōjō was about to turn away and leave, but Koremitsu called out to him with a loud, clear voice,
“Just listen to me first I’m going to talk about the real identity of the vengeful spirit.”
The dark green umbrella stopped.
“I summoned the girls who tormented Yū and questioned them already.”
“They said so already?”
There was some doubtful undertone in the voice coming from behind the umbrella.
“Yeah. They sure talked quote a lot.”
Koremitsu pretended to remain calm as he answered coldly, silently observing Hikaru’s reaction.
Hikaru was floating silently between Koremitsu and Tōjō, ostensibly observing the standoff between both parties.
At this point, Koremitsu still did not understand what Hikaru was thinking, and did not understand the intent behind ‘those words’ he talked about the previous day.
(I don’t care anyway. I just want to help Yū as much as I can.)
There was no time to think about it; if he kept staring at Hikaru, Tōjō would be suspicious. He definitely could not show any form of hesitation or openings in front of the latter.
Right, the important thing was the guy in front of him, shrouded in arrogance befitting that of a noble.
For he could possibly be the mastermind behind the commotion of the vengeful spirit a year ago, causing Yū to be terrified of going to school.
Koremitsu tried his best to look away from Hikaru, and glared at the sturdy back under the dark green umbrella.
“They all said the same thing. To paraphrase them, I wasn’t the one who stole the umbrella.”
You hid the umbrella, didn’t you?
I didn’t. Wasn’t it you?
All the girls said they were not the ones who took the umbrella, and started pushing blame amongst each other. From their words, Koremitsu could not detect a trace of remorse in their words.
“Maybe they really didn’t steal Yū’s umbrella, but was treated by everyone as the culprits, and because they were frowned upon by their classmates, they panicked.”
—I DON’T WANT TO BE OSTRACIZED BY EVERYONE AND STARED AT WITH COLD EYES AGAIN LIKE THAT TIME! WE’RE COMPLETELY TREATED AS BAD GUYS THAT TIME!
—I HAD TO QUIT THE TEA CEREMONY CLUB BECAUSE OF THAT INCIDENT AS WELL!
The girls were screaming hysterically, at their top of their lungs, insisting they were innocent.
“Of course, they deserved it, since they were definitely bullying Yū. They saw that she was frustrated over the loss of her umbrella, and continued to mock her spitefully. However, they never thought about reflecting on their actions, and simply thought about how to change their unfortunate situation where ‘they were blamed because they never did anything bad’. They felt they’re the victims, thinking about how to protect themselves—that’s why they decided to ‘make themselves as victims that can capture the attention of others more’.”
The bamboos shook harder, releasing a rustling sound.
Tōjō looked around and frowned.
The rain fell from the sky like arrows.
The uppity expression under the dark green umbrella still did not show any weakness.
But he did not turn and walk away, but stood where he was, listening attentively to Koremitsu.
“The next day after Yū lost her umbrella, their umbrellas disappeared, and were found hanging on the window grill in the chemistry classroom. That was something they scripted and enacted themselves, to gain some sympathy, to remove themselves from suspicious.”
The wind made a mess of Koremitsu’s red hair.
Tōjō’s black hair swayed as well.
“So what? Does it have anything to do with me?”
It seemed he had no intention of bothering with it as he asked coldly.
Koremitsu’s temper immediately flared.
As expected, he’s not some minor character who would reveal any openings. Fine, I’ll rip off that arrogant mask of a noble you have!
Koremitsu’s eyes were blazing with rage, and he concluded in a taunting manner,
“Of course it does. That’s what I think.”
Show me some panic, Tōjō.
Let me see your face contort, your voice shudder, the way you look lost.
“Because they’re obviously not scared of the vengeful spirit, but you, Tōjō! They never said anything about the vengeful spirit at all, and they merely parroted the words ‘Upperclassman Tōjō Got angry’ over and over again.”
He showed the smile both Hikaru and the girls were highly disparaging of.
It was a horrifying that was definitely not something that could be used in a love scene where tenderness was required, but something very suitable for a duel.
He bared his teeth and raised the edges of his lips. His eyes were dazzling as he grinned.
For the first time, Tōjō looked shocked as he widened his eyes and cringed back.
“You said something to them.”
Koremitsu’s face had a terrifying face as he uttered out the words those girls said with pale faces.
“Your hearts are so black they can’t be hidden. I don’t want to see such wretched students in our school.”
Tōjō’s face darkened as he narrowed his eyes. Koremitsu continued to attack relentlessly.
“It’s true that they dangled their umbrellas, but you’re the one who poured the ink on the umbrellas! The reason why they did all of these was all because of you, Shungo Tōjō!”
A vengeful spirit originates from the malice in a person’s heart.
However, the vengeful spirit that gained sentience was manipulating by this person!
The black water dripping down the tips of the umbrella was the message he gave those girls.
Secretly implying the black hearts they could not hide.
He used such a method to threaten those shallow girls, and achieved some objective as a result.
In the midst of this bamboo forest, Koremitsu stared at the upperclassman with an uppity expression, dishevelled hair, and a contorted handsome face, roaring,
“WHAT EXACTLY WAS YOUR OBJECTIVE!?”
At this moment, a voice came from behind.
“It’s revenge. He wants revenge on Yū Kanai.”