–Shiiko, the Summer Camellias have bloomed.
That was Tomohiko’s final line.
Tomohiko probably was back to how he was before when he said this with a gentle smile, for he mentioned viewing the blooming white flowers with his granddaughter, and not his daughter.
Upon hearing this description by the nurse, Shioriko bit her lips, looking ever so remorseful.
What was she regretting about?
Was it about not seeing her grandfather in his last moments?
Or was she regretting fighting for his sake.
The funeral was simple.
Masakaze and Koharu were in-charge of handling all the preparations.
Masakaze was very begrudging against women, and Koharu had a strong distrust of men. Though their relationship was usually poor, they still worked together in such moments and went about doing things quietly.
Both Koremitsu and Hikaru stood by Shioriko.
Shioriko never said a single thing throughout the funeral as her hands remained limp on her thighs, her eyes hollow as she looked down.
Kuze too attended the funeral.
He proposed to take Shioriko in, and Masakaze answered that it would be for her to decide.
“Please come with me.” Kuze said with a fragile look, and Shioriko, dressed in a simple black one-piece dress, remained silent as her eyes remained lifeless.
She however nodded slightly.
Most likely, Masakaze was worried that Shioriko would not accept his proposal, and so he looked relieved once he saw her reaction.
However, both Koremitsu and Hikaru looked on with heavy hearts, looking hesitant on whether to speak out or not.
Two days later.
Kuze chose a cute laced blouse and skirt for Shioriko, and the latter changed into it obediently, carried her Capybara plushie, and bowed deeply, saying,
“Thank you for your hospitality.”
She then turned to Koremitsu, and frowned slightly.
Once she whispered this, she sat on the car Kuze sent over, and left.
Koremitsu, Hikaru, Masakaze and Koharu remained in front of their house, and looked in the direction Shioriko left until the car had disappeared.
“Right…time to wash the clothes.”
“I need to do some writings I was requested to do.”
“I need to go to school.”
“Koremitsu, you’re wearing your left and right socks wrongly.”
Everyone began to move off awkwardly, ready to do their things.
Koremitsu clicked his tongue, wore his socks correctly, and left for school.
(It’s not like I won’t see Shiiko again.)
He knew where she lived, and could visit her anytime. If she was in trouble, he could still help her.
But no matter how Koremitsu tried to console himself, he was unable to cheer up.
Hikaru too was unable to cheer up after all…
(He’s most probably thinking of the same thing as me.)
However, both of them could not say what they were thinking, and it was likely they were both distressed.
Koremitsu removed his shoes in front of the shoe locker, and suddenly, someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
He looked back, and found Honoka staring at him cheerfully.
“Shiiko’s returning to her father today, right? It’s great that she can live with her family.”
Koremitsu had already notified Honoka, Aoi and Hiina through the cellphone, since they had helped him search for Shioriko, that Shioriko’s grandfather had passed away, he would take absence for the time being, and that she would live with her father.
(They probably won’t be staying with each other…but she has nobody other than Kuze as family…)
But Koremitsu was unable to say this as he saw Honoka looking happy that Shioriko was living with her father.
Kuze had bowed formally to Masakaze, thanking him for taking care of his daughter, and had vowed to be a good father.
“The best thing children can have are their parents.”
“Miss Shikibu’s right.”
Hiina suddenly interjected between Koremitsu and Honoka.
“The best thing is to live in a family. A family is a precious treasure!”
She grinned as she spoke with certainty.
Koremitsu turned away from the pair and hissed this as he walked down the corridor.
Hikaru too chimed in lifelessly.
“It is really great that Shiiko can be with her father.”
“…Right, I, guess.”
While both of them plodded on with gloomy looks,
Asai Saiga stood in Koremitsu’s way.
She seemed extremely furious, her temples practically bulging as she glared at Koremitsu with acrimony.
Standing beside her was Aoi, who tried to pacify,
“Please do not do this,Asa.”
She was tugging at Asai’s arm, but the latter was contentious as she said,
“It certainly was shallow of you to casually say ‘it’s great that she can be with her father’.That father of hers has other family members; if he brings a mistress’ child in, it will ruin his image. He can only give her monthly pocket money and not admit to their relationship. He will send the child to a boarding school overseas, and will not intend to carry out his duties as a father! What happiness is there for the child!? You really are an imbecile!”
Koremitsu was speechless.
He never expected Asai, always so aloof and calculative, to lambast him so loudly, so agitatedly. What she said too…
(Shiiko will be sent to a boarding school!? I never heard of that! And if he’s not going to admit their relationship…)
No, he could certainly realize if he thought of it. Kuze had a wife, children, and even grandchildren; on top of that, he had prestige, fame. How could he ever admit that he had an illegitimate daughter still studying in elementary school, let alone the fact that her mother gave birth to her at the age of 15?
For Kuze, Shioriko was a stain that was not to be revealed to the world…
(But Kuze personally visited us, and asked us to hand Shiiko over to him. It looks like he really likes her; Shiiko also didn’t refuse, so I…)
Hikaru was completely aghast.
“Of course she’s happy.”
Hiina suddenly interrupted, sounding confident as if it was a matter of fact, and continued,
“That father must have sent her to the boarding school for her sake. That’s why the daughter will be happy to accept the father’s decision.”
Asai looked at Hiina with disdain.
Feeling apprehensive as she was not too certain on the situation, Honoka stared at Asai, Hiina and Koremitsu in turn.
Hiina’s words caused Koremitsu to be rattled for a second time.
(For Shiiko’s sake? It’s true that it’s better to send her to live leisurely at a boarding school rather than let her be ostracized for being an illegitimate kid.)
Did Kuze protect Shiiko in his own way?
Does he truly love Shiiko enough, and made sure that she’s not lonely?
Most importantly, is Shiiko happy?
Koremitsu did not know the correct answer; his heart was pounding wildly, his brains nearly exploding.
At this moment, Aoi slowly spoke up,
“I feel Shiiko…is like Hikaru.”
Koremitsu was startled.
“Hikaru too…his mother died when he was young, and he was brought into the Mikados…”
Hikaru shivered, and stared at Aoi.
There was a tinge of sorrow in his eyes, and his eyebrows slowly fell.
His expression reminded Koremitsu of Shioriko as she left.
Back then, she frowned as she quietly bid farewell in a lonely manner.
There was also the hollow expression she showed at Tomohiko’s funeral.
Her eyes were red and swollen back at Hikaru’s funeral, and she was sobbing away, clenching her fists.
She looked completely dazed as she nodded when Kuze requested to take her away.
She glared at Koremitsu, resisting the urge to cry as she shouted ‘don’t treat me as a kid’
She was sobbing and snivelling as she leaned onto Koremitsu’s neck when they were sleeping together.
And she had a stoic expression on her face when the vehicle fetching her had arrived.
–I did not want Shiiko to turn into a child who cannot cry.
(Right! Shiiko never cried since the moment her grandfather died!)
Asai was right, he really was a fool.
He only realized it now!
Koremitsu gritted his teeth, and clenched his fists. His head was sizzling to a point of numbness.
Honoka was shocked to be called so suddenly.
“Tell the teacher that I’m leaving early.”
Aoi and Hiina widened their eyes.
Koremitsu then said to Asai in disdain,
He then walked to the shoe locker.
(I actually owe this damn annoying woman two favors.)
“Wait! Akagi! What do you mean you’re going off early!? You just arrived at school!”
Koremitsu ignored Honoka’s holler as he continued to change his footwear, and walked out to the school entrance whilst the morning sun shone brightly.
Upon seeing Koremitsu head the other way, the students arriving at school were intimidated by his raised eyebrows, stiff facial muscles and fiery glare, prompting parting aside in the process.
As Koremitsu strided forth, he asked the friend behind him,
“What do you say, Hikaru?”
He could sense a bewildered breath from behind him, followed by a hesitant voice,
“…I did feel that Shiiko currently needs a guardian. Since Mr Soichiro does seem to dote on Shiiko, and since she did not refuse, I really had no reason to object. It is not a bad thing for Mr Soichiro, who is wealthy and influential, to take care of her.)
(We’re thinking of the same things, worried about the same things.)
“But when Asa said congratulations…I felt really shocked.”
(Yeah. That woman’s words were like a sucker punch onto my face.)
“I felt heartbroken when Miss Aoi said that Shiiko is like me.”
(Yeah. I realized when I heard Aoi say that.)
Koremitsu’s pace hastened as he glared at the school gates in the front, and he yelled,
“Say, what do you want, Hikaru!? Don’t tell me that you’re already dead or that you don’t want to cause trouble for me and my family or what Shiiko feels…I’m asking you ‘what do you think’!!!”
So Hikaru, tell me now!
A passionate voice rang.
“I do not want to hand Shiiko over to Kuze!”
“You really like to dily-daly! Why do you think I want to hear your voice!? Don’t keep your troubles hidden inside! Just tell me all the important stuff!”
And then, he puffed his chest.
“Leave it to me!”
He sprinted with all his might.
♢ ♢ ♢
Shioriko stared blankly out of the window.
“It’s about time for us to leave.”
Kuze prompted her gently.
In a while, Shioriko would be lodging in her new school.
“The new school is a good place with natural beauty everywhere.”
Kuze walked towards the corridor as he was seemingly comforting Shioriko, who listened in silence.
Kuze had been kind to her ever since he learnt that she was her daughter.
“Maybe you won’t think of me as your father immediately, but I’ll take care of you nicely as my daugher.”
Kuze once tested Shioriko’s response back when she was with the Akagis.
He gave her a cute blouse and skirt that were laced, shoes, and all the daily commodities he prepared for her were all quality, high-end products.
However, the clothes, towel and pencil case she originally had were thrown away.
The pencil case was a birthday present Tomohiko bought for her the previous year, and she had always treasured it.
Even though it was thrown away, she was not angry, for her mind had become completely b;ank
She always thought of her amiable, kind-hearted grandfather, who always had a smile on his face. As she grew up with her grandfather, she felt that her grandfather needed her; thus, she had to protect him.
She was adamant in earning back her grandfather’s house.
But he was dead.
He was unable to say his final farewells.
It felt surreal seeing him lying on the bed with a white cloth…
From that moment on, Shioriko felt as if she was on a separate plane from reality, feeling as if the transpired events was simply something she witnessed on television.
No matter how Kuze tried to be kind to her, or decided to send her to boarding school, she never expressed a single opinion.
Kuze felt the Capybara plushie Koremitsu’s grandfather bought was too childish, and snatched it away the instance they reached home, stuffing it into a box.
She had no idea whether it would be delivered to the boarding school.
The letter from Mamoru Yoshikuni, which she had been keeping as a talisman, remained folded in her pocket, hidden within.
Though she knew Yoshikuni was not her real father, she was unable to let go of this letter of concern to her mother.
“What’s the matter? You seem out of sorts. Are you afraid of living in a boarding school? It’s fine. I’ll look for you during the holidays. You can also stay in this apartment when you come back from Tokyo.”
Kuze said with a smile.
That was what her grandfather always said.
He would always such words to a miffed Shioriko with a gentle smile, whether it was when the umbrella he left in the Go club vanished mysteriously, causing him to be completely drenched, when the persimmons were eaten by the crows, or when he lent all the notes in his wallet to a needy friend.
When grandfather was hospitalized, Shioriko was extremely distressed, and Hikaru too spoke to her with a gentle sweet voice,
–It is alright, Shiiko.
Every night, he would kiss her on the cheek and neck.
Shioriko always felt that her grandfather and Hikaru were too kind, that they did not understand the perils of the world, that they were not strong enough to be her support.
Thus, she told Hikaru that she wanted a fierce, loyal, savage-looking dog.
If she could ever have such a dog, she could chase the creditors away, and she could use him to teach the bad guys a lesson..
Hikaru narrowed his pretty eyes and gently stated,
–I’ll get you a good dog who can protect you, one you can rely on..
–I’ll put him in the house that is to be kept for you. You will come by often to meet him, right?
Shioriko understood very well that Hikaru gave her an excuse so that she would go back to that house.
But she thought that it would be a wonderful life to raise such a dog in her beloved garden with Hikaru, laughing away as they watch her grandfather do his gardening.
Soon after however, Hikaru drowned in a river…
Depressed and distressed, she bawled her heart out at the funeral.
There was no way he could fulfill his promise to give her a dog.
However, Koremitsu appeared.
This red-haired boy had a black dog collar, looked extremely ferocious, and thought lanky, looked very strong, and matched all the criteria for the ‘dog’ she wanted.
She thought that it was the ‘dog’ Hikaru gave.
But this dog would not listen to her orders at all, and would retort back no matter how she scolded it. ‘Argh, I don’t want such a stupid dog’, she would think at times.
She never called his name once before.
She always treated him as a watchdog, and it would be too embarrassing to call him by his actual name.
But why was she thinking only about his name, that terrifying ever-angry face of his, that baritone voice?
–Alright. Let’s do calligraphy. Try writing something. Anything you think of.
–Don’t toy with other people’s hearts like that! Kids should go back home and do their homework once they’re done with school! You damned brat!
–I’ll be your dog until you grow up.
Koremitsu had been frowning all the time, curling his lips as he watched her from the moment Shioriko decided to leave with Kuze, when she bade farewell to the Akagis and rod on the car that came to pick her up.
(Why show such an expression?)
(What can I do? I can’t stay at your house forever right? Kuze’s my only family left.)
Shioriko was already a 4th grader, and yet she understood the situation.
She just wanted to protect her grandfather, but in fact, it was the other way around.
She was still a weak child. She could not stay alone in that apartment, let alone buy back the house by herself.
She knew all that clearly.
The sunlight outside the apartment was strong, sizzling to a point of dizziness.
A black sedan was parked at the entrance.
The chauffeur opened the door respectfully, and both Shioriko and Kuze got on.
(There’s nothing else I can do…)
(I’m just a kid.)
(I can only obey the adults.)
The car soon moved off slowly.
The image of Koremitsu curling his lips gradually faded away. Even the sound of Kuze speaking beside her felt distant.
It felt as if they were talking to her from another planet…
She was trembling due to her heartache; her heart was completely empty, and it seemed she was stepping on the brakes, telling herself not to think too much
(I felt very hollow too when grandpa died, I didn’t shed a single tear. I cried so hard at Hikaru’s funeral…will I ever cry again?)
The sweat seeping from her neck and back cooled, and her fingertips and toes were becoming icy.
Suddenly, the vehicle stopped.
Shioriko fell forward, and nearly knocked into the front seat.
“Wha-what’s going on!?”
Kuze, who also fell forward, yelled,
“Someone suddenly barged in!”
The chauffeur said anxiously.
There was a youth, carrying a school bag, standing in front of the windshield, dressed in short-sleeve shirt and uniform pants, wheezing as he stood in the middle of the road.
The blazing red hair fluttered in the wind, and the savage dog-like glare was piercing the car.
Suddenly, the door lock was opened.
“You mustn’t! Shioriko!”
Kuze wanted to stop her, but she opened the door and poked her upper body outside.
She stepped onto the ground, and Kuze grabbed her left arm.
“You mustn’t go, Shioriko!”
Kuze harshly said.
At this moment, Koremitsu yelled,
Her body shivered.
“Come here Shiiko! I’ll take care of you until you become a real woman! I’ll protect you…in Hikaru’s stead!”
The red hair swayed in the sweltering wind, covering the forehead. Below it, a pair of blazing eyes were staring right at her.
The promise she made with Hikaru…
All emotions surged within her heart, causing her dried eyes to be moist with tears, blurring her vision.
She recalled Hikaru’s voice.
–I am going to give you a fierce dog. When I am not around, he can protect you in my place, and you will not feel lonely again.
Hikaru gave a refreshing smile as he pointed his pinky at her.
He gave Shioriko a savage-looking, ferocious yet loyal dog with bloody red hair.
–This dog will improve our bond, so I have to choose carefully.
–Just tell me any requests you have, Shiiko. Fawn over me all your want. You’re the one I dote on most.
–You will become a fine and proper lady in the future, Shiiko. Before then, will you allow me to take care of you and meddle in your affairs?
–To my cute Shiiko, once Golden Week ends, let us go choose a dog I promised
I want to give you the best dog.
I want to give you a dog that will strength our bond.
A reliable, loyal dog that can protect you.
–It is a promise, Shiiko.
That was the last pinky swear they made.
Shioriko recalled Hikaru’s voice, and then recalled the words her grandfather would often say with a sagely face.
–Shiiko, people will lose certain things, and will gain certain things back.
The two people supporting Shioriko were her most beloved, and had been pushing her on with gentle smiles.
The dog Hikaru promised her–Koremitsu–reached his arm out to her as his red hair fluttered.
Shioriko pushed Kuze’s hand aside and immediately sprinted forward.
Kuze called for her.
She ran into Koremitsu’s chest and climbed upon the sturdy chest giving off a feral smell, tears flowing down her eyes.
She called over and over again.
Tears flowed over and over again, drenching Koremitsu’s shirt, but she could not stop. She again called his name over and over again, as if checking if it was really him.
Koremitsu! Koremitsu! Koremitsu!
Koremitsu too embraced Shioriko.
“Is this really okay, Shiiko?”
He asked unhappily, sounding rather clumsy,
Shioriko shook her head hard, and answered,
“I-I want to be with you!”
His shirt was completely drenched, and it was all wrinkled as Shioriko was grabbing onto it.
At this moment, Kuze’s voice came from behind.
“Please let go of my daughter.”
Koremitsu continued to embrace Shioriko as he lifted his head.
Kuze was staring at him sternly.
(Humph…I knew things aren’t going to be that easy.)
Both Koremitsu and Hikaru understood this well.
(But you’ve decided to bring Shiiko back right? Hikaru.)
He exchanged looks with Hikaru.
Of course. Hikaru’s eyes were saying this, and he took a step forward.
“Let us make a deal, Mr Kuze.If you return Shiiko to us, we will not pursue the matter of Mamour Yoshikuni.”
The angelic pretty sidelong expression spoke in a clear voice.
And Koremitsu conveyed his words as they were.
“Let’s make a deal. If you hand Shiiko to me, I won’t press on regarding Mamoru Yoshikuni.”
Kuze looked enraged.
“That again? You have no proof of that. Yoshikuni’s letter only mentioned about the child.”
Hikaru remained unperturbed as he continued,
“It is true that Mr Yoshikuni’s innocence cannot be proved from the content of the letter. However, you forgot something; the mail address on the envelop.”
“Have you carefully read the address on the envelop?”
The instant Koremitsu said this, Kuze frowned.
So what? He seemed to say.
“The date on it was July 20, 10 years ago, and the letter was sent from the post office in Hamada…”
“The date on it was July 20, 10 years ago, sent from the Hamada City Post Office!”
Kuze gasped in shock.
He probably realized once he realized the date, and his face was completely frozen.
Hikaru continued without skipping a beat,
“The mass food poisoning incident Mr Yoshikuni tried to cover up 10 years ago was regarding the marine day celebration in Shimane Prefecture. Currently, the festival is held on the 3rd Monday in July, but it was set on July 20th before the law was corrected in 2003. In other words, that day 10 years ago was the marine day, and it was sent on that day.”
“The July 20th 10 years ago was the Marine day, when the mass food poisoning happened. This was delivered into the Hamada City post box on the day of the event!”
Kuze sneered, and said,
“…Of course. Kuze had instructed the people there to cover up the incident on the day of the event.”
“Right, and on that day, ‘you were eating with associates in a Tokyo restaurant.”
“On that day, you were eating with associates in Tokyo, and you never took a step into the place of incident?”
“Of course. I had sufficient alibi.”
Kuze stared at Koremitsu with a sharp look.
Shioriko seemed uneasy, and tugged harder at Koremitsu’s sleeve.
Hikaru then continued,
“But the letter Mr Yoshikuni wrote clearly stated that he would meet the father, which means you.”
“In Shiiko’s letter, Yoshikuni wrote ‘I’ll meet the father immediately’. That father is you!”
Shioriko rummaged her pocket.
She opened the folded envelop, read through the address, and then opened the letter, reading it with a trembling voice,
‘It’s still hot today…Are you feeling already? I’ll go meet father after this…telling her that you’re pregnant and plead for his approval. “
The teary face winced childishly, and the fingers holding onto the letter was shuddering.
She blinked, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She gritted her teeth, and gave Kuze a chastising stare.
Kuze was speechless, sweat filling his forehead.
“10 years ago, on July 20, you were not in Tokyo, but in Shimane, and you ordered Mr Yoshikuni to cover up the food poisoning scandal. This letter and address is the proof.”
“You were at the scene of the incident on that day, you bastard. You even instructed Yoshikuni to cover up the mess, just as he had told the police. He was following your instructions back then, which means that the one lying wasn’t Yoshikuni, but you Kuze!”
Koremitsu’s bellow was as deafening as thunder.
Clearly, Mamoru Yoshikuni never told the police that he once wrote a letter to Shioriko’s mother.
Perhaps he was worried that she would get involved, and with his superior pushing the blame onto him, the false alibi being validated, he felt that it would be useless to try and defend himself, and perhaps he was in despair on him.
He was last seen at the platform, knocked down by a passing train.
Nobody knew whether the cause was mental weakness due to excessive stress, or suicide.
But that letter showed a lot of things.
Mamoru Yoshikuni must have been a kind person.
And Kuze drove such a man to death. This notion caused Koremitsu to be completely infuriated.
(You hid yourself in a safe place and told your kind subordinate to bear all the blame, you bastard. Some philanthropist you are!)
Flames of rage were practically blazing from his eyes.
Even Kuze’s own daughter was glaring at him furiously.
In the face of these furious looks, Kuze frowned, and insisted,
“Wh-What letter? You can make up as many of this as you want. That’s not enough to be evidence!”
Hikaru calmly continued,
“Yes, but it is enough for the police to investigate the incident 10 years ago again. Your company is undergoing a massive power struggle, do you think you can remain safe as you last did 10 years ago? Maybe there would not be traitors like Gohara or tabloids on the weekly magazine 10 years ago, but your influence is not as great as it was before. You will definitely lose if such shocking news is announced.”
Hikaru stared at Kuze with pity for an old man who was trying hs best to hide everything, but was gradually wilting away.
Koremitsu barked like a wild dog in his heart.
(I won’t pity you! I’m not revealing these things because of you, but for Shiiko’s sake! I won’t forgive you! Until your death, I want you to know that people know about the bad things you did!)
“Even if it can’t be used as proof, your enemies can use this letter to look into the incident 10 years ago and topple you!”
Kuze paled, and frowned as he gritted his teeth.
After panting unbearably for a while…
“Shioriko, do you mind handing that letter over to papa?”
He spoke with a coaxing tone,
“Papa will become poor if the police catches me, and you won’t have any pretty clothes to wear, no pretty house to live in. Papa can’t bring you overseas or to posh restaurants to eat.”
Shioriko however was no longer being the weak girl with a blank look on her face, as she reverted back to her feisty, courageous self that was willing to con adults. She leaned onto Koremitsu, holding that letter tightly.
“I don’t need those things.”
She glared at Kuze.
“I want to be with Koremitsu. Even if you give me a billion yen, I won’t hand the letter to you This is a memento from papa. My papa’s a good man!”
Hikaru smiled heartily.
The atmosphere around him was glowing, clearer than ever, as if the sun was shining all over him.
Koremitsu then said to the gobsmacked Kuze,
“Send all of Shiiko’s luggage to my house.”
He then placed his hands on Shioriko’s shoulders, and turned away.
Hikaru and Koremitsu were standing side by side along Shioriko as they walked off.
“Erm, Ko-Koremitsu…is it really fine? An elementary schooler needs to spend a lot, right? like nutritious lunches, travelling fees, textbook expenses…ah, I’ll work hard to earn my own money so that you won’t be troubled. I just need to catch 10 sparrows every month…”
Koremitsu flicked a finger on her forehead, “Ouch!” and she cried out with a teary face.
“You’re not allowed to catch sparrows, damn it. I’ll hang you off the ceiling if you dare do that.”
“Koremitsu, what you said sounds like child abuse.”
“Shut up, it’s education.”
“I didn’t say anything…but really…about money…”
“There’s a room in my house, and I can give some of my food to you. If there’s a need for money, I’ll go work. Didn’t I say that I’ll be a dog protecting you until you grow up? Don’t worry about those things and be a brat.”
Koremitsu’s mother eloped and ran away from home when he was young, and his father died. Masakaze and Koharu did everything for him after that, and he did not know whether he, as a high schooler, would be able to do what they did. The actual situation had to be much worse than what he imagined.
But at the school gate, both Koremitsu and Hikaru had the same thoughts, and Koremitsu had his mind made up as he sprinted.
“Hikaru’s my friend, and you’re the Purple Gromwell he so treasures. I won’t let you wilt.”
With the tears filling her eyes, she held onto Koremitsu’s arm.
“I…wanted to say something to Hikaru when he was alive.”
She spoke hoarsely as she lowered her head.
“But I couldn’t say it. If only I was braver back then.”
“Try saying it now. He’ll definitely hear it.”
Koremitsu looked at Hikaru as he patted a hand on Shioriko’s head. Hikaru’s gaze met his as he showed a beaming smile.
Shioriko lifted her head, her teary eyes facing the direction Koremitsu was looking at. After some silence, she snivelled, and earnestly whispered,
“Hikaru…thank you. I really love you most.”
♢ ♢ ♢
It really is a pity that I died, Koremitsu.
If I lived on, maybe Shiiko would have married me.
Hm? You are asking me how many wives I want? This is not the Heian Era where one man could have many wives, that I have to watch myself?
I-I understand.Please do not glare at me angrily with such a seething look.
When I imagine the possible things I could have done if I were alive, I would be really happy, excited.
How beautiful of a woman will this child become in 5, 10 years?
How tall will she become? How alluring will her body curves be like?
Her eyes, nose, mouth, how will they develop? What kind of a beautiful flower will she bloom into.
I definitely am not harboring any vile intents; this is simply delight and blissfulness over the maturation of a young seedling sprouting its leaves and imagining what the colors and aroma of the flowers that will bloom in the future will be.
For I am ‘someone who will never change’.
You say you do not understand? Anyone can change?
But I feel that there are some who will never change no matter how they struggle, how many times they met up and broke up with others.
Some people have their hearts lingering in a certain place in a past. No matter how they tried to break away, they end up returning there.
My time…had already ceased.
Like the prince who was unable to find that special flower.
I hope that I will never change, but I feel that my unchanging self is abnormal and lonely, like it was casted out from the world. I felt helpless, lonely, like pores being perforated in me.
Thus, I hope to be like the prince who gained solace in the ever change Purple Gromwell. I feel really happy watching Shiiko’s development, imagining her future.
Shiiko is my ‘happiness’.
The time we spent together was refreshing, filled with surprise and new discoveries.
After I became a ghost, I became even more of ‘an unchanging being’.
I hope that Shiiko will become a perfect, fine lady as she continues to grow.
She probably will remain hurt for a while since she lost someone important to her.
But I am relaxed for you are with her.
She is a good child, but she is too independent, and will not reliable on others. Sometimes, she can be verbally uncouth, she does have a foul streak, and she may anger you from time to time.
Sometimes, she will be downhearted, slamming your chest while crying, causing you to be at a loss of what to do.
In such situations, I hope that you can listen attentively to what she had to say
And then, pat her on the head, tell her,
‘It is alright’.
If someone near her can tell her this, she will definitely feel a lot more relieved.
And this will become more effective if it comes from you.
For you are a hero.
I am not saying this at random.
You did all the requests I made to you, no matter how tedious they were, and did them impressively.
Thank you for taking Shiiko away from Kuze.
Thank you for being the loyal dog protecting Shiiko.
Thank you for fulfilling my wish.
I am a worthless ghost who cannot help with even the task of moving houses…
But I am still on Earth, harboring unchanging love, protecting all of you as you change.