The first time Shungo Tōjō met Hikaru Mikado, it was during the beginning of Winter in his second year of Middle School at Heian Academy.
He was with his parents, visiting their relatives, the Saotomes, and found a cute, pretty child playing with his cousin—Aoi—planting bulbs in the garden together. That would be Hikaru.
That child’s round face was pink on the cheeks, and the wide eyes with long narrow eyebrows let out a brilliance of purity whilst his muddy hands were digging the dirt beside the bulbs.
That soft, light brown hair looked dazzling like gold under the clear sun of winter, and the person was practically an Angel from a picture book.
(Who is that girl playing with Aoi there?)
It was really rare to see the shy Aoi play with someone other than Asai.
Aoi’s face was completely red, her mouth pouting tightly as she seemed to be angry.
Whenever that girl spoke to Aoi with a bright smile, Aoi would immediately look away flustered.
However, whenever she turned and talked to Asai, who was growing plants with her on the other side, Aoi would shyly glance to the side, and then blush and look to the other side again.
Aoi and Asai were in the First Year of Middle School, a year younger than Shungo.
Was that girl of the same age as them?
Unknowingly, that girl was the only thing in his eyes.
Aoi and her friend, Asai, had long, glamourous hair, and were exceptionally outstanding beauties with no particular defects to speak of. However, the girl beside them was no less inferior, and was even the fairest of them all.
Shungo felt an inexplicable allure from her, and that was a characteristic the girls around him never once had.
That girl suddenly stood up and tottered her way towards the storage shed in the garden.
She wanted to move a large bag of fertilizer, and though she managed to carry it, she was moving rather awkwardly.
“Seriously, what are you doing, Hikaru!? It’s too dangerous!”
Her face blushing, Aoi immediately ran over.
Asai however continued to look on with a coy expression unfitting of a child.
Shungo managed to reach that girl faster than Aoi, and helped her carry the fertilizer bag.
The girl turned towards Shungo, and her large eyes grew larger. The eyes and hair were light brown in color, and from close up, they were so pretty he was infatuated with it.
Shungo felt his heart pound like crazy.
“This is too heavy for a girl. Let me carry this.”
Shungo’s sudden appearance caused Aoi to be shocked, and then, once she saw Shungo help carry that bag from behind the child, she immediately pouted unhappily.
Shungo wondered that Aoi must have been jealous after seeing him treat another girl so nicely. Aoi was a child, so this was to be expected.
Though he was just a year older than Aoi, this was the conclusion he came to.
“Erm, are you Miss Aoi’s big brother…? I am not a girl though.”
A sweet, cute voice that matched the appearance came from close range.
This time, Shungo was the one flabbergasted as his eyes widened in surprise, his mouth ajar.
“I am a boy.”
The child said with an angelic voice.
Shungo felt cheated, and unhappily moved the fertilizer to the flowers. “Thank you.” The boy thanked him in a very cutesy manner, but he did not answer or look at the latter as he hurried back into the house.
Shungo second meeting with that child was during the New Year party hide at the Mikados’.
He overheard his 3 older sisters, who were natural chatterboxes,
“Look! That’s the ‘child who should not be born’!”
He turned around, and found ‘him’, dressed in a child-sized suit and shorts.
That child was surrounded by a group of lavishly dressed big sisters, and then responded to them with an earnest, cute smile. They too started chatting with him with grins on their faces.
Shungo’s sisters’ interest in watching commotion was brazenly shown in this case.
“Eh? That child is ‘Hikaru’? That cannot be! He looks really cute.”
“It is because he is brought to the Mikados main family that Kazuaki and his mother had to leave as a result.”
“So he is the heir to the Mikado family? He really is ‘a child that should not be born’.”
“But he is really cute, and his hair color is pretty too! He is like a foreign prince. I want to go over and talk to him!”
“Are you not blind? B-But, I think…I may have some interest.”
Shungo paid attention to their gossip.
In the past, when he eavesdropped on the adults, he learned of the existence of a ‘child that should not have been born’.
Whenever the adults talked about it, all of them would frown and grumble.
(So the one I met at the Saotomes was Hikaru Mikado…)
From the attitudes of the adults, Shungo had assumed Hikaru was a gloomy child, and did not expect the latter to be so carefree, dazzling, to a point where he was practically engulfed in light. He could have enjoyable talks with women, old enough to be his mother, or women that were even older, and gain their doting love.
Right. If he were wise, he would definitely be unable to smile so carefreely.
Upon seeing that pretty face that was like a guy, Shungo suddenly recalled the awkward incident involving him at the Saotomes, and suddenly felt bitter.
The first person he ever felt his heart flutter towards was a boy…and it was to Hikaru Mikado of all people.
(That might be my first love…no, that is definitely not it! I am just mistaken! That cannot count!)
Good thing I found out about his gender soon after…Shungo secretly heaved a sigh of relief deep within.
♢ ♢ ♢
Because of these past incidents, Shungo never liked Hikaru afterwards, but because of their family standings, he could not ignore the latter, and this infuriated him.
For generations, the Tōjō had served the Mikados. Shungo was furious as he thought it was a misfortune how that lecherous, frivolous harem prince would become his future superior.
(But I never expected Hikaru to die at such a young age…)
And Shungo never thought there would be a day he would be so agitated after Hikaru died…
On a certain holiday, Shungo was in the family kitchen, preparing some breakfast though it was a little late. He strained the lettuce leaves that were to be used for the salad as he pondered.
On the day before Hikaru died, he promised Shungo he would break Yū Kanai free from her past demons, and walk out of that tattered apartment.
After that, Hikaru’s friend, Koremitsu Akagi finished his wish and completed the promise.
It was great if Yū could continue enjoying her new life in Australia cheerfully.
The girl who ate lunch alone in the serene bamboo forest, her face filled with blissfulness.
Shungo really liked her silence and her shy attitude.
Shungo’s taste was in females that were obedient, quiet and supple, for he had several vicious talkative older sisters who were frivolous, and would treat their little brother as a servant.
During the Heian Era, the Crown Prince that later became the Emperor Sanjō ordered his concubine Suishi to hold onto a block of ice, and said to her, “If you really loved me, you mustn’t let go of the ice until I say to stop.” He then forgot about it, and by the time he recalled, the ice had melted, and Suishi’s hands were frozen purple. But she held on to this ice block silently, and never grumbled a single word.
If Shungo had dared to say, “This is the ideal woman”, he would be lambasted to high heavens by all the women in the world, and his sisters would definitely beat him up good.
Even so, he could not help but find himself infatuated with abnormally docile females.
Unfortunately, such women normally would not dare to approach Shungo, and would run away before they even got acquainted.
Considering how there would be three potential sister-in-laws that would be hard to get along, his future in attaining a wife would be tumultuous, to say the least.
Even if he could find someone he could fall in love with, she might faint after seeing those sisters of him glare at her if she were that serene and introverted, let alone chat…there would never be a good outcome for him.
But speaking of which, the Concubine Suishi did have the casanova Minamoto no Yorisada wooing her, and it was a fact that they became husband and wife, and even conceived a child together…
When he heard of how Hikaru often visited Yū’s apartment, he was furious and deflated within, dejected to a point where his gut hurt.
(I should not thank Hikaru after all…maybe it is because of his regular visits that Yū Kanai was unwilling to step out of her house. And he has countless relationships with so many girls…humpt, that person’s heinous acts are unmeasurable.)
As he furiously shaved the red carrot…
“Big Brother Shungo!”
A pretty girl with long flowing black hair and a white sash tied upon it came running in with her cheeks puffed.
That would be his cousin Aoi.
Aoi had just celebrated her 17th birthday, and there was a trace of mature charm in her innocent nature as she had become prettier than before.
But in Shungo’s eyes, Aoi would always be a cute cousin to him.
As the youngest child, he was oppressed by his three sisters, and thus, he doted on Aoi like she was his own little sister. The person who was born to be a part of the board of management must definitely not be like Hikaru, for he would be frowned upon by his subordinates. However, he was always amicable and caring to Aoi.
“Good morning, Aoi. Why did you look for me? What happened? Ah, I just baked some Quiches here. It’s chicken and herb flavor, your favorite. There is still some Compote in the fridge too.”
Shungo’s interest was cooking, and he was very detailed in the ingredients he used. Naturally, he had confidence in the flavor.
“That isn’t important!”
Aoi refused readily, surprising him somewhat.
“Seriously, everyone is so mean! They actually said Mr Akagi is more savage than a vengeful spirit, and said he even beat it down until it submitted, and devoured it fully! Asa even said, “It will be great if that sort of man better head off to a country full of vengeful spirits and stay there forever”. That was really cold of her!”
Aoi complained furiously.
It seemed she was angry about how Koremitsu Akagi’s reputation in school had been freefalling…
“Everyone is so mean with their words; Mr Akagi will definitely be hurt if he hears that. He really is too pitiful, and Asa even added on to the wounds by saying “What a pity. If that person is so sensitive to this, he would have been embarrassed enough to lock himself in and never come to school.” No matter how much she hates Mr Akagi, there is no need for her to be so cruel in her words! I do not want to talk to her about Mr Akagi again! Big Brother, can you please help Mr Akagi somehow?”
She was huffing in fury as she stared at Shungo with a sincere expression.
It was because Asai, whom Aoi always relied on, would not help, that she chose to look for Shungo.
Asai grew up together with Aoi, and was her good friend and guardian. It was unexpected to see the gentle and obedient Aoi not listen to Asai’s words, and because of Koremitsu Akai…
Aoi and Hikaru were once betrothed.
Whenever that playboy Hikaru, who had countless girlfriends, was mentioned,
“Daddy and the rest all decided on the marriage. I really hate Hikaru!”
Aoi would insist, but everyone who knew Aoi well could tell she really liked Hikaru ever since young. This was also one of the reasons why Shungo was unable to get along with Hikaru.
After Hikaru died, Aoi lashed out at his funerary photo, and created yet a ruckus, which really worried Shungo. However, it seemed she was a lot more emotionally stable recently, and she started to smile.
She also was on better terms with the arts club members, who she once disputed with.
Also, she never relied on Asai’s influence to do this; she did all of this through her own efforts.
As for the reason why Aoi became so optimistic…
—Mr Akagi helped Hikaru present a present to him.
Aoi answered shyly with a gentle smile.
So that person not only changed Yū, but Aoi too?
Shungo had complicated thoughts regarding Koremitsu Akagi; though he marveled at the latter’s attitude, he was not willing to recognize it. Besides, who was he exactly?
His family background and upbringing were completely different from Hikaru’s, and their personalities were miles apart. How did he end up being Hikaru’s friend?
How much of Hikaru’s matters did he know about?
Aoi’s voice however dragged Shungo back from his deep thoughts.
“Big Brother, please listen to me, okay? Mr Akagi looks scary on the outside, is very crude when talking, and looks prone to violence, but he is really a good person. When we went to the theme park…”
Aoi recalled about something, and her face suddenly reddened.
Suddenly, Shungo felt an ominous premonition in his chest.
“Why are you so worried about Akagi? Have you fallen for him?”
He tried to probe by asking nonchalantly.
However, Aoi immediately blushed, unable to say anything.
Her stare floated around continuously, her hands were pressed on her blushing cheeks, she was panicking, and then, she lowered her head,
She answered with a teeny-weeny voice.
And then, she raised her blushing petite face and insisted,
“But Mr Akagi is really a nice person! And he is Hikaru’s friend! Because he really took care of me, I want to repay him somehow…so-so, I-I-I definitely, definitely, definitely do not like him!”
(THIS IS BAD!!!)
Shungo’s face paled, and it seemed this ominous premonition became reality.
(Aoi, you must not! This Big Brother will definitely not agree to this!)
He hollered out deep in his heart like a foolish big brother doting on his little sister.
No, Aoi just had not recovered from the shock over Hikaru’s death yet. She is just lost, unable to comprehend the situation, because she has been pampered since young, never met such a savage person, and suffered quite a culture shock.
Right! That is definitely not love!