Upon looking back, Koremitsu fouind Hiina Oumi and Asai Saiga standing there, sharing an umbrella for some reason.
With an unwilling look on her face, Asai was holding a dark red umbrella resembling a large flower, whilst Hiina, standing beside her, was holding a closed mint green umbrella, her expression lively to an astounding level.
(Was it Hiina who said Tōjō wanted revenge?)
“I just so happened to meet President Saiga over here, so I came here to eavesdrop.”
She said unabashedly as her thick lips were brimming with a smile.
However, Asai showed more distaste as compared to before.
“I am standing here as the Student Council President, having decided I have the right to know the situation. Do not associate me with you.”
She said harshly.
“Oh my, don’t be so harsh with your words. Are we not eavesdropping partners sharing the same umbrella now?”
“You are the one who snuck under my umbrella.”
“It’ll be too obvious if both of us share the same umbrella. Of course I have to know how to respond to the situation here.”
“Is that so? Our cover has been exposed; you may proceed out now.”
“Are you not too cold, President?’
Koremitsu interrupted their never-ending conversation,
“Hey, Oumi, what did you mean when you said that?”
Like a fearless youth, Hiina stared at Koremitsu and everyone else present with a lively expression.
Then, she opened her umbrella.
“It’s nothing at all. I am just telling the truth.”
She raised the umbrella over her head and approached them as she talked, ostensibly testing the reactions from all the parties present.
“Heh, Upperclassman Tōjō.”
Hiina walked to Tōjō, looked up to him, and again showed a fearless smile as she rattled on,
“Are you very vexed that Yū Kanai would not obey you? The reason why those girls, who had been tormenting Miss Kanai, probably hung their umbrellas umbrellas because you did something to prompt them, and made everyone think that Miss Kanai was afflicted with a vengeful spirit, preventing her from attending school as a result. You must have felt she was a hinderance, right? For a mere peasant who entered this school only in Middle School dared to dump you, and kept being in the same school as you?”
Koremitsu felt his body heat him as his glare got sharper.
(Is this the reason?)
Did he want to chase Yū away because of this reason?
Was this the aim of the vengeful spirit?
No, Hiina Oumi was just using this as a feint, to incite, to confuse, and to lead Tōjō into telling the truth. It need not necessarily be true.
(Don’t be fooled by this. Got to look into this clearer.)
Tōjō frowned hard as he heard these words, but once Hiina stopped talking and looked back with an expectant look, hoping for a response…
“…Yū Kanai was never someone I fell in love with.”
Just like how he conversed with Koremitsu, he answered with that stiff, business-like tone.
Asai watched over this with her narrow, long, knowledgeable-looking eyes, ostensibly wondering what the truth was truly all about.
All of them were looking tense, and Hiina was the only one grinning happily as she casually made a shocking comment.
“That’s how it is. How can Upperclassman Tōjō, whose ego is higher than that of an ordinary person, endure the pain of being rejected by a dispensable woman. More unfortunately, after Miss Kanai started locking herself in her house and started living alone, Lord Hikaru even visited her apartment. You must have been all the more furious with that, right? Lord Hikaru was the young lord to the Mikado family, whom the Tōjō family served. As long as the situation does not change, your standing will basically be that of an eunuch assisting the prince Lord Hikaru. The Tōjō family is truly a prestigious one, but it is not at the highest order. You must have felt very incensed that someone, whose hierarchy was something you can never succeed against, who took the stares of admiration from half the female student population, was in the same school as you too? In fact, even in terms of popularity, Lord Hikaru vast exceeds you. Ah, I’m sorry. You probably do not care about who those girls fawn over, Upperclassman Tōjō, but you do view Lord Hikaru as a rival. You must have been enraged that the girl who refused you actually accepted Lord Hikaru, for this means that Lord Hikaru has more masculine charm than you. Thus, your hate was not simply directed at Yū Kanai, but also Lord Hikaru.”
Upon hearing this, Asai shuddered.
Koremitsu too gasped in surprise.
(What is Hiina trying to get at here…?)
Tōjō however remained unfazed.
Hiina’s shirt was soaked by the rain that splattered her sidelong, and the lines of her underwear were revealed, but she was unabashed as she raised her busty chest higher, continuing delightfully,
“I heard something when I was cleaning the toilet out of interest. Upperclassman Tōjō, you went to a resort in Shinshu during Golden Week this year. Oh my, it seems Lord Hikaru was in a resort at Shinshu that time too, right? Well, it doesn’t matter, since it’s a vacation hotspot for political and financial powers. It certainly is normal if the Mikados’ resort is located near the Tōjōs’. There are few things you can do over there, so it must have been easy meeting someone you do not want to meet, I suppose? Thus, you two really met at the horse turf in the forest. I suppose this is a prank caused by God, huh? You had a quarrel with Lord Hikaru, whom you deeply resented, probably because he looked so dazzling riding on the horse. I heard you yelled at him, and grabbed him by the collar on horseback. This really isn’t something the refined and courteous Upperclassman Tōjō would normally do.”
Koremitsu tried his best, telling himself not to be shaken by the facts Hiina revealed, but he still felt confused deep within, his throat heated.
She said Tōjō once met Hikaru at the holiday resort?
And had a quarrel with Hikaru?
(I never heard of it!)
It seemed Hikaru’s cousin Asai had already known about this, and her poker face remained unmoved as she continued to stare at Tōjō intently, ostensibly watching the latter’s reaction.
Tōjō stared at Hiina silently.
His handsome face was contorted slightly, but his back was still straight, and his expression remained cold and aloof.
(What is this guy thinking anyway?)
Tōjō’s remained as stoic as ever, causing Koremitsu to inadvertently feel anxious, and a little mystified.
(Is he hiding something?)
Hiina seemed to be teasing Tōjō as she raised her pitch.
“That evening, you visited Lord Hikaru’s villa.”
Koremitsu’s heart immediately jumped.
Asai’s eyes showed a sharp glint.
“And then, what did you say to Lord Hikaru? Did that conversation cause you to increase your hatred for him?”
Tōjō did not answer.
He merely kept his lips sealed.
Hiina then confused,
“Did you kill Lord Hikaru out of your hatred of him, that Yū Kanai was taken away?”
The strong winds blew, and the bamboos let out a rustle as they tilted.
The raindrops slid off the bamboo leaves, and fell upon Koremitsu’s face.
Hiina showed a boyish energetic smile,
Tōjō stared at Hiina with a condescending look, and just when he was about to open his tightly sealed lips…
“That is correct. Mr Shungo was really agitated, to a point where I felt he wanted to strangle me.”
Koremitsu heard this gentle, delightful voice.
Tōjō could not have heard this voice, but he kept his mouth sealed.
Hikaru’s voice continued to echo in this bamboo forest, as the rain descended.
“He yelled at me, saying “The only thing you know is how to befuddle a person’s heart. It would have been great if you were not around”.”
At this point, like a beautiful flower, Hikaru stood silently between Koremitsu and Tōjō.
And at this moment, he finally did something.
Koremitsu stared at Hikaru in surprise.
This neat, delicate-looking youth was in the midst of a torrent, and yet was neither drenched nor stained.
The strong gales that brushed through the bamboos became a gentle breeze in front of his elegant face, and gently blew by that light brown hair.
Neither Tōjō, Hiina nor Asai could see him.
But Koremitsu could.
And only he could hear this sweet voice nobody else could hear.
Hikaru’s voice, Hikaru’s words.
“Mr Shungo said those words not because of malice or envy.”
Why did he suddenly interrupt?
Hikaru’s deep-looking eyes turned towards Tōjō without hesitation.
Tōjō could not see those eyes, and could not hear that voice.
Of the ones present, Koremitsu was the only one able to see Hikaru, hear and pass on Hikaru’s message. Did Hikaru decide to speak up because he timed this situation perfectly?
(Argh, he’s asking me to pass the message again?)
I’m all confused now because you said this so suddenly! At least tell me of this beforehand! Koremitsu was overwhelmed by Hikaru’s serious tone before he could complain, and exclaimed,
“Tōjō did not kill Hikaru!”
Tōjō showed an obvious, startled expression.
He widened his mouth slightly, and widened his eyes as he stared at Koremitsu.
“He was truly angry enough to kill, and even told Hikaru “t would have been great if you were not around”, but that was not out of malice or malice.”
Why the heck am I speaking up for Tōjō?
Asai and Hiina looked surprised as they stared at him.
Koremitsu was furious, his veins bulging as he tried his best to listen to Hikaru’s voice. The latter however did not give Koremitsu a look, but stared at Tōjō with a reasonable look, and his girlish, graceful lips continued to let out these words,
“Mr Shungo wanted to protect Yū. He wanted to save her.”
The clear voice had a tinge of sadness in it, coupled with a feeling of compassion that suppressed it. There was a cloud of haze fogging his eyes.
“Tōjō—actually wanted to protect Yū, to save her. That’s what you hoped to do.”
Koremitsu passed on Hikaru’s words as the latter’s spokesperson, but he was more surprised than anyone else.
(Is that really the case? Tōjō? You did all that to protect Yū ? But you snobbishly said that girls who entered in Middle School aren’t those you like, and you even said you know what kind of girl you should date…)
Tōjō was ostensibly having a loss of breath, his lips shuddering as his eyes widened blankly. He never showed any reaction after Hiina said so many things, but he was clearly rattled at this person, not bothering to hide his expression. It seemed, at this point, that whatever Hikaru said was true.
This caused Koremitsu to feel all the more inexplicable.
“On that evening, Mr Shungo looked for me because he wanted to apologize to me for the insolence he caused at the turf during the day. Mr Shungo was always a courteous, edified and dignified person.”
“That evening, you looked for Hikaru because you wanted to apologize to him about the unruliness you did at the turf that day, and you had reflected over your actions properly.”
Tōjō frowned, ostensibly at a loss of how to loss.
Koremitsu too felt troubled.
He was shaken, and he was heating up. That aloof and arrogant Shungo Tōjō, who would trample on others mercilessly, was practically a changed man.
Was it that he was not the culprit behind all this?
Hikaru’s gentle voice continued,
“Mr Shungo must have felt I was a very frivolous person, for he saw I was dating so many girls at the same time. I was riding on a horse with a girl back then, and even kissed while we were riding. It was obvious he would be angry as a result.”
“…Well, it couldn’t be helped. Anyone would have thought of punching that guy for making out so passionately outdoors in the middle of the day.”
Once Koremitsu said those words, Tōjō’s eyes widened.
Why was it that he could describe it to such detail? It was like Koremitsu witnessed it personally at the scene, and was able to eloquently describe something only Hikaru and Tōjō knew…
Of course, Tōjō would be confounded by this.
Even Hiina and Asai were staring at Koremitsu intriguingly.
“When Mr Shungo met me at the villa, he was only talking about Yū. He even lashed out at me saying, “Is Yū Kanai merely just one of your playmates?” That was the first time I saw him being that agitated. Obviously, he was really concerned about her. He was worried when he saw the latter shut herself in, unwilling to come out, and even hired a woman to stay next door and protect her…whenever I looked for Yū, that big sister would pop her head out to look and prevent me from doing anything bad. Whenever we were too quiet inside the room, she would worry that we were doing something bad, whether it would be knocking on the wall to create noise, break the atmosphere by playing some ballads or folk songs, or even start shouting loudly. She was acting as a hostess, but it was very unnatural for her to be home both in the day and at night. It would be more suitable if she were acting as a shut-in designer or manga artist.”
Hikaru’s words were like a puzzle being rebuilt, gradually piecing together a complete image of the situation.
Upon hearing that, Koremitsu was amazed and full of admiration.
The glitzy woman next door, who would glare and lash out at him without warning, and even slam the wall, was doing those things for such a reason.
So Tōjō was really trying his best to protect Yū!
Koremitsu felt his chest tighten upon hearing this.
“You…were always thinking about Yū, to a point where you hired a woman to stay next door and protect her.
Koremitsu’s voice was filled with pain, and Hikaru’s voice and expression was full of bitterness,
“Mr Shungo had been secretly exerting his influence in school to prevent Yū from being expelled despite her not attending school for a year. I suppose it is most likely that Mr Shungo was the one who notified Yū of my funeral date after I died? The sender of the message was a series of unintelligible letters ‘upvkpv’, but if we swap them for the alphabet before them, it would become ‘Toujou’—Tōjō.”
The little cellphone screen showed the message informing her of Hikaru’s death.
That message was sent from Tōjō to Yū.
“You were the one who told Yū the funeral date. If the alphabets of the name was changed to the ones before, it would become your name—’Toujou’.”
The gale stopped, and the forest was left only with the weak drizzle sound.
Tōjō closed his eyes with a heavy heart, showing a weak expression very unfitting of him.
Hiina was staring at Tōjō, looking like she was about to break down for some reason.
Asai frowned, her expression condescending and yet sympathizing.
“In that case, it would be impossible for you to harm Yū.”
Hikaru did not say this, but Koremitsu did, and this was his thought as sadness and pathos lingered in his heart.
“You are right, Koremitsu. Mr Shungo was in a tight position when Yū was bullied by those girls, and it was inconvenient for him to interfere, but he did warn them.”
Koremitsu knew that too.
The girls said so in a terrified manner,
“Your hearts are so black they can’t be hidden. I don’t want to see such wretched students in our school.”
Those words were not said after they hung their umbrellas, but before then—he said this to the girls when they were tormenting Yū, before Yū’s umbrella got stolen.
—I don’t know anything about that umbrella at all! Before Upperclassman Tōjō scolded us, I…
Right, they did say this with a pale face.
“You even warned those girls not to bully Yū, thinking that this would cause them to quiet down somewhat. But they saw how shocked Yū was because the umbrella was stolen, and started to have the urge to continue bullying her. That time however, they paid the price, and were deemed by everyone in school as the culprits who stole her umbrella, were ostracized. They then decided to take their umbrellas away secretly and act as victims, and you found out about their sneaky act,Tōjō. Thus, once they left the chemistry classroom, you poured ink on the umbrellas, indicating to them that you knew everything. Once they saw the blackened umbrellas, they were utterly terrified when they realized that was your warning. That was practically you telling them, your hearts are this corrupted, to them, being the target of your wrath was much more terrifying than facing a vengeful spirit. They definitely felt it was better being dead after being glared at by you every single day.”
Koremitsu had left the letters in their shoe lockers.
“From the vengeful spirit.”
Upon seeing this name, they were shuddering all over, thinking Tōjō was the one who wrote it.
The time to make up for their sins had arrived!
“Right now, I guess Yū won’t be bullied by anyone else again, but that day, something even you did not expect happen. Someone saw Yū running at school, dirty all over, holding her umbrella! This caused the rumors to spread, saying that the black umbrellas were hung up as Yū’s revenge, and that she was possessed by a vengeful spirit.”
What was it about Yū’s living spirit that was witnessed?
‘That’ was most likely…
In this hazy rain, where there was barely enough visibility, the truth that originally could not be seen was starting to reveal itself.
Hikaru stared at Koremitsu with an empty expression, causing the latter to recall the transparent yet hollow eyes of Yū, and to recall the words Hikaru told him the previous day. He suddenly felt gloomy in his heart.
However, Koremitsu did not say the truth behind this living spirit.
Tōjō too probably realized it.
But that would be a test that Yū would have to face in the future, and at this point, other truths had to be uncovered.
He too would have to tell them to Yū.
—You will lose her.
Hikaru’s voice continued to echo in his ears.
—I know how to avoid this situation.
On the previous day, Hikaru was staring at Koremitsu with a gloomy expression, ostensibly revealing a tragic prophecy that was unavoidable.
And yet Koremitsu…
(You really know how to worry blindly…)
Raised his chin confidently as he shook off the worry in his heart.
And just like the choice he made back then, at that point, he only wished for one thing.
To save Yū.
To support her, prevent her heart from breaking down further, corroding, he had to reveal the truth.
The crux would be the person in front of him.
Shungo Tōjō, who was forcefully holding the handle of the dark green umbrella, his face contorted bitterly, grimacing.
“Tōjō, you had been protecting Yū for a long time because you thought you had to take responsibility for Yū being seen as a vengeful spirit. Your actions were all for her sake.”
Hikaru too must have felt Koremitsu’s determination.
With a sad expression, Hikaru said,
“Mr Shungo told me furiously at the villa, “Leave the other women and focus on dating Yū Kanai. If you can’t do that, break up with her.”. He then lowered his head and begged me, “Please let go of her. Please let go of her so that she can leave the house. If you keep looking for her, she may never step outside the house, for she may feel this is happiness”.”
Hikaru, who did not know how to cry, would always smile when he felt lonely or sad—
And at this point, Hikaru’s lips showed a faint smile.
Koremitsu suddenly felt his heart tighten in agony/
“Do you think it doesn’t matter anyway after seeing Yū lock herself in the house like this!?”
When Koremitsu questioned this, Hikaru merely answered quietly, “I am merely a ghost.” Perhaps he too knew he was one of the reasons why Yū shut herself inside.
“…You even begged Hikaru to leave Yū, telling him it was for her sake.”
Tōjō exerted more strength on the umbrella handle.
The rainwater pelted hard on the umbrella.
Hikaru said to Tōjō with a clear expression,
“I answered, “I understand”.”
“Hikaru answered that he promised you.”
“For it was really time for me to separate from others. Not just Yū, but also with the other girls…I went to the resort, having made my decision. That was why I promised Mr Shungo to let Yū return to the outside world.”
The dark clouds blocking Koremitsu’s eyes immediately dissipated, and he finally understood.
The ‘promise’ Hikaru made with was not Yū.
This agreement was something made between Hikaru and Tōjō!
The heat swirling within Koremitsu flushed towards the same direction.
There was no hesitation on his part, and he could say this decisively,
“There’s no reason for Tōjō to kill Hikaru! Hikaru has promised to leave Yū, to liberate Yū!”
Tōjō continue to stare at Koremitsu, viewing the latter as an equal in this case. He stood still as he remained silent for a moment.
“…Let me tell you the story of a fool.”
He muttered, ostensibly talking to himself.
“…That person really loved this corner of the campus, and would come here whenever he wanted to be alone. Most of the students knew about this, so there would hardly be anyone who would come here. However, she…probably did not know, for she had no good friend who could tell her this. One day, at noon, she arrived here, sat on this rock, and started eating.”
Tōjō stared at the rocks, surrounding the stone monument, with algae growing on them. His expression softened somewhat, and then became melancholic.
“She was alone, but looked very at peace, very satisfied…and then, that fool appeared. That fool did not want to scare her, and thus, merely stood at the side for a while, choosing not to make a sound, and returned to the classroom. The next day, she too was here, and once she saw him, trembled in fear. Even after hearing him say that she could continue to eat at that place, she remained hesitant, and after a moment of hesitance, said thanks with a tentative whisper, cringed back and continued eating shyly. The next day, she did not appear, and it would have been great if it ended…but a few days later, there was a sudden downpour, and he was hiding in a building to seek shelter from the rain. She was holding an umbrella, and just so happened to pass by. When she noticed him, she showed a hesitant look again. Neither of them knew each other, but she had a gentle nature, and could not pretend to ignore him. Thus, she tentatively raised the umbrella for him, and accompanied him to a place where he could hail for a taxi…”
Tōjō’s tone was calm and insipid as he talked about Yū.
“…He should have rejected her proposal back then. Even till this day, he really regretted walking under her umbrella.
Tōjō did not mention his feelings for Yū at all.
But the tone, filled with suppressed emotions, amplified them and expressed them clearly.
The bamboo garden, grass, the rocks covered with algae, the stone monument…
In the midst of this serene scenery, that girl, who stealthily crept into this space, was deeply attracted by him.
Her shocked expression and shy demeanour caused him to have great feelings for her.
Upon seeing that introverted girl summon the courage to share the same umbrella with him, he really could not refuse, for there was a sweet emotion involved.
I am very clear on exactly what kind of woman I should go out with.
Tōjō, who said those self-righteous words harshly, knew that if he fell in love with a woman of a different family prestige, the other party would be stacked with grievances.
At this point, Koremitsu understood the meaning behind those words.
The more Tōjō liked Yū, the more he did not dare to approach her,
But even so, he could not give up on her completely.
He even hid his family name, hid his identity, and protected her silently.
The stare Koremitsu felt in front of Yū’s house must have been from Tōjō too.
—Mr Shungo was always a courteous, edified and dignified person.
Koremitsu stared at Shungo Tōjō as if he was meeting a man for a first time.
He stared at the upright body, the lips full of masculinity vibe, the firm-willed eyes.
What did he feel when he, who could not love freely, saw Hikaru enter one love relationship after another as if he was viewing flowers?
One could only imagine how spiteful he was of the latter.
Koremitsu too really hated Hikaru, and felt he was a popular cad, a casanova, a young lord without any worries.
But was that not admiration?
Was it not because Tōjō found Hikaru dazzling, for the latter was able to do something he could not?
(If we have to say this, I might be the same as him…)
And they fell in love with the same girl.
“…Sorry for punching you yesterday.”
Koremitsu said awkwardly.
Hiina and Asai widened their eyes, but Tōjō showed a self-depreciating smile.
—I suppose it’s good that Mr Shungo got punched once.
Hikaru said this gently when Koremitsu was in front of the basin, feeling downhearted.
—As the heir of the Tōjō family, I suppose nobody in this school would dare to beat Mr Shungo up.
At this moment, Koremitsu recalled that when he raised his fist, Tōjō did not do anything to dodge.
Perhaps he took that punch willingly.
It was something unseen, undiscovered, unknown.
The fingertips, wrists, throat, heart that were frozen due to tension the previous day were gradually filled with a silent power.
Hikaru stared at Koremitsu quietly.
This was something that could be understood without words.
(Ohh, I finally get it now, Hikaru.)
The thing blazing deep within Koremitsu’s heart immediately ignited, and the flame rose. Koremitsu yelled at Tōjō,
“AS A FRIEND OF HIKARU, I’LL FULFILL THAT PROMISE YOU MADE WITH HIM! I’LL DO WHAT YOU AND HIM AGREED ON!”
Hikaru narrowed his eyes, completely touched.
Hiina leaned her upper body forward in surpise, while Asai was frowning, biting her lips.
With a serious look, Tōjō stared at Koremitsu.
“I shall leave it to you then.”
He said quietly—and gave a deep bow.
Koremitsu too answered with a deep voice,
“Leave it to me.”
He held onto the umbrella handle hard, turned away, and walked on the mud-troddened ground.
The raindrops continued to pelt upon the umbrella.
At this moment, he found Honoka standing at the back door of the school campus.
It seemed obvious she came here, worried about Koremitsu.
Before she could call out, she caught herself, probably because she saw the serious expression Koremitsu showed, revealing his steadfast attitude.
Koremitsu nodded slightly at Honoka, and walked out of the school gate.
Hikaru too followed silently, his expression as bleak and serious—and filled with decisiveness like Koremitsu’s.
Both of them knew how great of an ordeal awaited them.
—You will lose her.
Those words kept ringing at Koremitsu’s ears since the previous day, and Hikaru told him about how to avoid this.
On that night, as the cold rain descended upon the road, Hikaru told Koremitsu, who was looking aside stubbornly, how to avoid a tragic ending with a sincere attitude.
(Let’s go, Hikaru, we’re going to save Yū from the demonic clutches of the vengeful spirit.)
Koremitsu reached his hand into his pocket, and took out his cellphone.
After searching through the phone book, and upon finding Yū’s number, he placed the cellphone at his ear with a glum expression.