“Is all your luggage here?”
“…Yes. I threw away a lot of things after much deliberation, and this is the only one left.”
Yū raised the bright sky blue suitcase and pet carrying case as she smiled radiantly.
It was a few days after Koremitsu dragged Yū out of the house, and ran in the rain…
The sky was clear, there were no clouds to be seen, and the bright sunlight rained down on their heads.
Yū was in front of her apartment, waiting for a taxi.
Later, she would be headed to the airport.
She chose to finish the school leaving procedures, live with her mother in Australia, and continue her education there.
“Oh…well, it certainly is more convenient to travel with.”
Koremitsu wanted to chat as if it was normal, but he was still sobbing away, and it seemed he would bawl out if he relaxed in the slightest.
—Once Yū’s vengeful spirit is liberated, she will go to Australia.
On the day Koremitsu declared to Asai he would protect Yū, Hikaru said this to him with conviction.
—Yū’s mother has been calling her, telling her to live together in Australia, but she refused every single time. However, her father is increasingly burdened and unable to pay for her living expenses.
There was no choice for Yū but to go to Australia.
However, she did not dare leave her apartment, let alone suffer in a foreign country with a language she was unacquainted with, and she rather die at home.
—If you do not do anything, perhaps you might be able to maintain the current situation.
Hikaru was ostensibly saying something he did not want to as his tone was weak and dejected, his expression gloomy and dull.
—There is no way Yū’s parents will want to see their daughter starve to death…they will probably continue to send her financial aid. In that case, Yū will be able to have her usual happiness, and you can have Yū, who belongs to you.
However, Koremitsu stared at Hikaru, and answered that it did not matter even if he could not meet Yū. He had to chase the vengeful spirit away and prevent her from crying whenever she recalled the past.
On the day they were viewing flowers in the park, Yū and Koremitsu were seated side by side on the bench, talking,
“…Papa did not send any money over since the last month. He told me over the phone that his new wife has a new child, and he has no ability to provide any living means for me. He even apologized to me and told me to go to mama.”
The sun was shining brightly after the rain stopped, and Yū lowered her head dejectedly,
“I threw a tantrum and ignored papa and mama’s advice. I thought they only cared about their new families or job, that nobody really cared about me, that I might as well just die, and I really hope I can die in my sleep…it’s as you said, I’m…running away from reality…”
Though she was sad, she was trying her best to talk with her teeny-weeny voice.
Thus, Koremitsu was paying utmost attention to her.
“I don’t know whether I can get along well with mama once I get to Australia. She’s a very shrewd and practical person…she never liked my attitude, and always taught me to be more proactive, or told me to get out and move, and even said I’m very stubborn, and I need to make more friends. It really caused me a lot of pressure…I can’t handle being in a school in Japan; it’ll be much tougher for me when I go to Australia to study, and I may end up being bullied. I’m really scared when I think about this…”
Her hand, which was holding Koremitsu’s, started to tremble, but she lifted her head gingerly,
“I…won’t run away. You brought me out of that room, and showed me so many wonderful things in the outside world beyond my imagination.”
She was really trying her best to convey her feelings to Koremitsu.
“I’m going to look for mama there and work hard. I won’t run away this time.”
And so, Koremitsu answered her.
He resisted the urge to call her to stay, and tried his best to speak with an encouraging tone.
“Sure, go for it.”
(The furthest I went was Osaka during my Middle School graduation tour, and now she’s flying to the Southern continent!? The seasons are complete opposite here! Isn’t that too far, damn it!)
Koremitsu had cried out and voiced his grievances to Hikaru the previous day, and thus, on this day, he tried his best not to cry, and closed his eyes and lips hard. Hikaru however showed a mature expression as he watched Koremitsu from sidelong.
“Do you regret it?”
After Hikaru had asked this the previous day, Koremitsu answered with snot and tears riddled on his face,
“Don’t be stupid. Of course I’m not regretting this one bit.”
The efforts would all be wasted if he were to cry at this point. Hikaru would certain tease him for being such a crybaby despite his appearance.
But when he saw the taxi approach, he still felt his heart ache.
Yū too was startled, and looked over at Koremitsu worriedly.
Her hands that were holding onto the suitcase trembled, her eyebrows were drooping down, and her face was pale.
Koremitsu wanted to cry, and Yū looked ready to cry soon as she said with a perplexed tone,
The taxi stopped in front of Yū.
With a crying face, Yū staring at Koremitsu with tears in her eyes.
If he spoke up and asked her to stay—if he reached out to grab Yū’s hand, pull her close, and tell her not to leave—I’ll think of a way to protect you somehow, perhaps Yū might nod her head.
Perhaps she might always stay with him.
This impulse swept through Koremitsu like a storm.
Her moist eyes and pale lips were trembling with anxiety.
She was to head to a distant country with a language she was unfamiliar, with no friends. She would be alone, and for an introverted girl like her, there was no doubt she was terrified. She must have been afraid, terrified to a point where she was unable to handle it.
It was still not too late. There was still a chance for him not to lose her.
As long as he said not to go—
—I…won’t run away. You brought me out of that room.
The words Yū managed to eke out with her voice at the park after the rain rang in his mind again.
This was the first time Yū, who was always hiding in a corner of the room, draped over with a blanket, decided something on her own will.
Koremitsu clenched his fists and yelled,
“WHETHER IT’S IN THE PAST OR THE FUTURE, TELL ME ABOUT ANY TROUBLE YOU HAVE IMMEDIATELY! WHETHER IT’S BY CALL OR MESSAGE! DON’T HIDE ALONE AND BROOD OVER IT! I’LL PROTECT YOU NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO!”
Yū’s face showed a frown.
In fact, he really hoped to see Yū attend school again, make a bunch of new friends, and live her school life happily.
This was not because he was lavishly hoping she would have lunch with him, that they would attend and leave together school together. For him, it would be enough to see her being happy as long as they were in the same place.
This was the last little wish Koremitsu hoped for.
However, he did not regret it.
No matter whether it was chasing the vengeful spirit with all his might, or dragging Yū out to run in the rain,
Or it was when he kissed her with just apprehension in the park.
At this moment, he was to watch her leave.
And he would definitely, definitely not regret it!
Like Koremitsu, Yū too widened her eyes as she held her tears back, and clenched her fists tightly.
“Yes, thank you. I’m fine.”
She tried to act optimistic as she said with a trembling voice. At this moment, her pet carrying case shook.
The lid opened, and it immediately leapt out agilely and crept to Koremitsu.
Lapis walked towards Koremitsu and Hikaru, and swayed its tail vigorously. It then proceeded to turn around and lie down. The Lapis-colored eyes were looking up at Yū, ostensibly ready to send Yū off together with Koremitsu’s group.
Yū seemingly returned back to her life when she hid in the cramped room under the blue blanket as she showed a fearful, dumbfounded expression. Soon after, she bit her lips hard, ostensibly hiding her pain.
With a sense of loneliness and thanksgiving mixed within, she said,
“So Lapis…you want to leave me too. Up till now…I had been a scaredy cat, and wouldn’t let you go out. I’m sorry…thank you for being with me all this while…”
Lapis let out a clear purr, seemingly saying she was no longer a scaredy cat.
With Lapis, Koremitsu and Hikaru watching, Yū sat on the taxi.
From the window, she said,
“Akagi, I won’t be a flow that blooms in the night anymore. I’ll become a flower that blooms towards the sun.”
Her cheerful eyes were filled with tears as she smiled.
“When we meet the next time, I’ll show that I’ve become a girl who likes to smile.”
Koremitsu too wanted to smile to her.
But no matter how hard he tried to raise his lips or move his face, his body would not obey. His throat and eyes were heating up, and the salty and bitter fluids nearly overflow, to a point where he had to try his best to hold it it.
Koremitsu frowned and tried his best to squeeze out a flat voice. He wanted to smile and make Yū relax more, but he just could not do so no matter what.
The taxi departed away, and Yū’s silhouette gradually shrank.
(If you have any trouble, say it out! I’ll rush over to you…b-but…I hope such a thing will never happen again! It doesn’t matter even if we don’t meet. It’ll be a thousand times better as long as you’re happy! It’s fine even if you don’t call or send a message!)
Lapis was sticking at his feet, and Hikaru patted him on the shoulder.
Koremitsu still ended up breaking down in tears.
♢ ♢ ♢
The next day,
Koremitsu’s eyebrows were raised higher than usual, his lips tightly curled, his eyes bloodshot as he went to school, and his classmates backed off from him in fear.
There was a new rumor in school, saying ‘he was a delinquent more terrifying than a vengeful spirit’.
“I heard he challenged the vengeful spirit barehanded.”
“Even the vengeful spirit was scared away by that delinquent.”
This rumor of unknown origin instantly spread throughout the school, but Koremitsu was currently not in the mood to bother with that.
After school, he was at the parapet on the roof, and there was a breeze with a breath of summer.
A plane flew by the blue sky.
Yū must have reached there already.
The ‘pixie girl’ with the gentle smile had disappeared.
Despite some loneliness, he felt contented for being able to see such a radiant smile from Yū.
That was most likely Koremitsu’s first love.
He inadvertently reflecting on it, wondering how many times Hikaru went through such turbulent moments of meetings and separation?
Hikaru too floated beside Koremitsu and looked afar with a calm expression, albeit mixed with some loneliness.
—I want to give them the best farewell.
Hikaru had once stated this before.
He did not want to give his beloved flowers atonement or repentance, but a gentle farewell.
He really loved them from the bottom of his heart.
Those were treasured memories that were irreplaceable.
Perhaps he was not just a frivolous casanova of a young man.
(I think I’m starting to understand what he feels)
Hikaru too would be lost, and afraid.
But he tried his best to think for others. His smile and sweet talk was not for himself, but to comfort the wounded hearts of others.
In his heart, there was a blue, lonely, peaceful ocean.
—In essence, Yū is just like me.
—We are scared of being hurt, and scared of hurting others. We just want to remain in a quiet closed space, living in a peaceful, constant life.
Why did Hikaru still remain on this world even after after?
Why would he sometimes look in a distant place alone?
There were still many things Koremitsu did not understand.
(As long as Hikaru remains on Earth, I’ll continue to be with him until the end.)
Koremitsu leaned towards the fence as he said to this enigmatic friend of his,
“Are you 100m closer to Heaven now?”
Hikaru answered gently, his golden dazzling hair swaying gently.
“Then I better get ready and practise how to smile.”
“Yes, if you send me off with that smile you showed to those girls in the chemistry classroom, I think I will still have some psychological trauma in my reincarnation.”
“OKAY, DON’T MENTION THAT INCIDENT AGAIN!”
“They said your smile is more terrifying than a vengeful spirit.”
“DON’T SAY IT!!!”
Koremitsu was flushed red as he roared out at the teasing Hikaru.
In the future, he would have to learn how to smile.
If, on one day, he would have to separate from an important person again, he had to brighten that person’s heart with a smile.
He would have to endure the pain of separation and earnestly bless the person who was leaving.
He would have to show an indomitable, firm smile, and tell the other person he is alright.
“Koremitsu, do you know the floral language of yellow Roses? Not the large ones though. The small one. The very cute kind.”
“How do I know? Why are you asking me this out of a sudden? Stop acting now and just tell me directly if you want to.”
Hikaru was ostensibly demonstration as he showed his most radiant smile to the frowning Koremitsu.
“It is to ‘leave with a smile’.”
♢ ♢ ♢
“I heard Miss Kanai went to Australia to live with her mother.”
In the bamboo forest at the back yard, Hiina Oumi said this with a deliberate tone to Shungo Tōjō, who was staring at the stone monument.
“So Mr Akagi really fulfilled that ‘promise’.”
He uttered without looking back.
“It seems he’s really good friends with Lord Hikaru. He must have heard quite a few things from the latter, maybe he’ll say everything if we agitate him.”
Shungo however showed a stern expression on his face as he interrupted that clear voice of hers.
“Don’t spread that sort of message again. This method is too underhanded.”
“I would say it is the best method to lure out the murderer. Also, the one spreading the rumors about Yū kanai was not me. If you suspect anything…”
“I am not suspecting you.”
“…Are you still having a grudge that I stated you’re the culprit behind this in front of Mr Akagi? That’s an act to lure out information about how Mr Akagi is like~ and also, the Matriarch Asa will view that I have no relationship with you, so it’s a good plan that kills two birds with one stone. Did I go overboard with the acting?”
She said with an unconcerned tone.
“I’m not having any grudges over anything.”
“Of course, you aren’t such a petty person after all, Upperclassman!”
Hiina spoke with a deliberate cheerful, voice, and then said sternly like a completely changed person.
“I do feel the one sending the rumors that hurt Yū Kanai through the mails…must have been someone who truly loved Lord Hikaru. Right, it must have been someone who loved him so much to a point of killing off.”
At this point, Shungo was wondering what kind of expression was Hiina showing on her face exactly.
Was it a mature, aloof expression that was very unsuitable for her?
Or was it that of an innocent youth’s, enjoying the moment.
He pondered for a while, but did not want to look back and confirm.
Shungo recalled the moment when he met Hikaru at the turf course in Shinshu, that hollow and fragile smile of his when Shungo acted rudely to him, and the wound on his wrist…
(I really couldn’t ask at that sort of moment.)
This incident would still remain in his heart.
Perhaps one day, it would be an ace that would change the relationship between the Tōjōs and the Mikados…
Right, there was no time to be depressed over Yū Kanai.
The more aces he had in his hand, the better. Because of this, he silently accepted Hiina’s presence.
Shungo continued on to the classroom, and never looked at Hiina once even till the end.
He seemed to hear Hiina’s soft voice of admiration from behind,
“…We shall always be allies, big brother.”
It was really soft.
Shungo however pretended not to hear and walked off without looking back.
♢ ♢ ♢
Koremitsu looked back, and found Honoka standing behind with a worried look.
“…It’s about time for class.”
She said to him nervously.
Koremitsu had sent her a message the previous day, informing her of Yū’s actions in finishing the procedures to leave school, and that she flew off the Australia the previous day.
Honoka did not mention about that, but rather, walked towards his side cautiously, and reached her hand to grab the fence. If he was to keep staying here and not attend class, it was very likely Honoka would stay behind to accompany him.
(As expected…she’s really a good person.”
Just when Koremitsu was about to say, “Let’s head back to class”, he found Honoka, with her head turned towards him, stare at him with a convicted expression.
She stared at a puzzled looking Koremitsu with a timid look on her face, and with a trembling—and serious voice, she said,
“I’m sorry for saying this at this time—but, I think, I like you.”