The moving of Shioriko’s belongings finally ended on a bright Sunday.
The Akagis’ guest room became Shioriko’s.
Koremitsu mumbled and fumbled, sweating profusely as he explained how he took Shioriko away from Kuze to Masakaze and Koharu.
He told them that though Kuze was Shioriko’s relative, he could not acknowledge her, and had to send her to a boarding school in the countryside, that Shioriko herself wished to stay with the Akagis.
He was mentally prepared for any refusals that might come. Kuze was Shioriko’s father after all, and even if he could not acknowledge her, Koremitsu should not have broken their relationship apart.
But an unexpected event happened.
The news broadcast on the television reported that Kuze was requested by the police to cooperate in their investigations due to a bribery issue to a politician. Also, there was news that the politician was involved with Kuze’s alibi in the mass food poisoning incident 10 years ago. Thus, all the media stations were investigating the truth of the matter.
Masakaze and Koharu assumed that Koremitsu’s decision was based on this commotion, and allowed Shioriko to stay at the Akagis.
After Koremitsu said that he would work part-time to pay for Shioriko’s food and school fees…
“What did you say!?”
“We’re not so poor that you have to go out and work!”
He was immediately rebuffed.
Kuze did not ask anything, either due to being blackmailed by Koremitsu, or that he was occupied by the media and police scrutiny.
“Hikaru, was the police investigation just a coincidence?”
Koremitsu asked, and Hikaru answered with a wise expression,
“Who knows? Mr Soichiro’s influence had waned gradually over the years. Perhaps it was only a matter of fact that this happened.”
“That’s reaping what he sowed.”
But ultimately, Kuze was still Shioriko’s father, and Koremitsu was unable to be happy over this turn of events.
Shioriko too watched the news with conflicting emotions.
But after the luggage was shifted in, and the guest room became a child’s bedroom, she still gave a cheery smile after.
“You’re no longer a guest now, so you have to do housework too. I just call you Shiiko instead of little Shiiko now.”
“Okay, aunty Koharu.”
“Play 5-in-a-row against me later.”
“Yes, grandpa Masakaze”
Shioriko got along amiably with Koharu and Masakaze.
And even Koremitsu…
“Thanks for coming to school with me, big brother Koremitsu “
The next morning,
Shioriko was standing at the elementary school gate, smiling as she carried the school bag on her back and a grassy green pochette.
It was still early, and no students could be seen in school.
She was not formally inducted into the school until the procedures were done, but Shioriko would be attending this school from this day onwards.
“I did the procedures along with aunt Koharu on Saturday. I know all the places, including the staff room, so it’s alright. You’re going to be late if you don’t go to school, big brother.”
“It’s your first day at a new school. I’ll accompany you.”
“You still don’t trust me? I said it’s fine already.”
Shioriko grumbled, but she was delighted that Koremitsu was showing her concern.
Big Brother–Koremitsu was not used to this honorific yet, and would blush whenever he heard this.
Hikaru beamed, and teased,
“Big brother Koremitsu here worries too much~ if you worry too much, Shiiko will say ‘Big brother is so fussy’. Right? Big brother?”
(Don’t you dare call me big brother! Are you doing it on purpose!?)
“Is that so? Well…give me a call immediately if something happens.”
Koremitsu turned away, ignoring Hikaru. He sounded like a real big brother, and was about to leave,
“Eh, big brother.”
Shioriko’s wide eyes were looking up at Koremitsu.
“You said that you want me to become a real woman, so when I grow up you’ll take my viriginity in Hikaru’s stead. It’s a promise.”
Koremitsu was flabbergasted as he heard this, and Shioriko cheekily grinned as she stuck a tongue up, shaking her green pochette and bag about as she ran into the sparkling school.
Is that a joke!? Or is that serious? It’s bad if it’s the latter!
“That’s not what I meant when I said that–!!!”
Koremitsu hollered, and Hikaru, on standby by the side, hurriedly warned,
“Koremitsu, you must not! No matter how charming Shiiko is, you have to wait another 5 years…no, another 20!”
“Why’re you becoming a sane person out of a sudden!? Of course I have no intentions of doing that!”
“But the two of you are living under the same roof. Maybe one day you will suddenly be enticed with lust…”
“Don’t talk of me as if I’m you!”
Koremitsu bickered with Hikaru as he went off to his school.
The African Lilies growing by the roadside were in bunches, giving off a sweet aroma from their irises.
Upon seeing these African Lilies, Hikaru, who was smiling just a while back, suddenly showed a tender hazy expression.
Who exactly was that beautiful woman, who shed tears to the same kind of flowers, who resembled Hikaru so much?
Why was Hikaru so anguished when he looked at her.
–Some who will never change no matter how they struggle, how many times they met up and broke up with others.
Koremitsu felt his heart ache as he recalled Hikaru saying this with a thin smile.
He spoke softly to avoid others from hearing him.
“You say that you’ll never ever change, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
Hikaru widened his eyes slightly, and stared at Koremitsu.
Koremitsu lowered his head, and said unhappily,
“Even if you’re dead, you’re changing little by little. The same goes for me. I thought I would be treated as a terrifying delinquent for the rest of my life, and now I have friends, I have a cat, and an additional little sister. I would never have envisioned myself making such changes soon after I was hospitalized. Besides, isn’t our relationship changing all the time? I understand you much better than when we first met on the corridor. I thought you were just an annoying handsome guy back then, and now I view you as my friend.”
Damn, this sounds just like a confession!
His lowered face was seething as he suddenly lifted his head.
Once he saw that Hikaru was listening attentively, he felt his ears and face heat up, and raised his eyebrow.
“What do you mean by you’ll never change? Aren’t you being too thick-skinned here? Do you want to remain as a ghost forever? You got to be kidding me.”
He rubbed his nose as he said so. At this point, he was no longer concerned with the stares of the passers-by.
Hikaru widened his eyes.
Right. That day would come.
Until then, let’s hope we’ll continue to change.
Let’s hope that we can continue to understand each other more.
The radiant smile on Hikaru’s face was bubbling.
“Yeah. You always exceeded my understanding every single time. Perhaps I am changing because I was too shocked.”
“I should be the one saying that.”
Koremitsu retorted as he walked down the long dirt path.
He was a harem prince, a casanova, a martyr for women, and also a ghost…
Koremitsu met this troublesome being, became friends with him, and as he progressed into the new world day by day, his view of humans slowly changed.
He once thought Aoi was a gentle princess, but never expected her to be that decisive. Hiina Oumi of the newspaper cliub, who loved to cause ruckus everywhere, was unexpectedly fond of her family. The moment she saw what happened to Kuze on the news, she even commented with a serious look,
“No matter how many evil deeds he did, family’s still family. If it were me, I would surely stay by my family.”
And Asai Saiga, ever the thorn in Koremitsu’s existence, spoke spitefully,
“You brought that girl home? It really is pitiful of her to live with a wild dog like you.”
Hikaru however said,
“Asa may act like this, but she is really worried about Shiiko.”
Koremitsu did not know whether those words were to be trusted…
Koremitsu suddenly spotted a pair of familiar slender legs walking in front, and sprinted to them, calling out,
Hikaru inadvertently chuckled upon seeing Honoka being so frantic.
“Miss Shikibu’s response really is cute.”
Honoka’s eyes were looking around.
“Eh, well, Shiiko moved to your house yesterday, right? Can I really say ‘it’s great’ now?”
Koremitsu answered, and Honoka finally relaxed her shoulders in relief. She then blushed, looking rather shy as she said,
“I don’t really understand the situation like the Matriarch Asa and the rest, but I’m being such a busybody. I was worried…and I couldn’t help much in the end. But it looks like you’re fine now. That’s great…”
She smiled as she lowered her head.
Koremitsu too felt cheerful, Honoka’s embarrassed smile was seemingly seeping into his chest.
“Thanks Shikibu. You being with me was a great help already.”
Honoka, upon hearing that, was boiling in embarrassment.
“Wh-What,,,? Why’re you saying such things!? I’ll charge you consultation fees the next time! Don’t just look for me whenever you need help! Really, y-yo-you, i-i-i-i-i-id-idiot!”
(I’m thanking you here. Why are you talking about consultation fees?)
Koremitsu looked completely confused, and Hikaru teased,
“From the looks of it, it seems you are still no sure as to why Miss Shikibu is fidgeting about, no? You still have lots to learn, Koremitsu.”
Koremitsu glared at him,
Shut up, you noisy ghost. Koremitsu thought.
Honoka, who had been calling him an idiot up till this point, pouted, and said,
“E-Erm…about the pool…”
“Are you really going to the pool with me once you’re done?”
Her voice trailed off towards the end.
That embarrassed sidelong expression caused Koremitsu’s heart to pound. He recalled Honoka’s confession to him on the roof, and felt a ticklish sweet feeling inside him. He was blushing as he pondered over it, and answered,
“I-I’ll be going then!”
Honoka had turned beetroot as she ran off with her skirt flustering. After running for some time, she suddenly stopped, and turned back with a blushing face. At this moment…
Aoi was panting as she ran towards Koremitsu.
Honoka gave her an intrigued look.
(Aoi…? What’s it about?)
“Miss Aoi, the ribbon on your hair is loose”
Koremitsu, Hikaru and Honoka remained still as they watched Aoi show such an anxious look.
She suddenly stopped in front of Koremitsu, looked ready to burst into tears at any given moment, and said,
“Mr Akagi, please be my boyfriend!”