The following Monday.
The third year, Shungo Tōjō, brought his lunchbox to Koremitsu’s classroom during lunch break.
“Come out. You know the reason.”
Looking at his frowning face and stern expression, one could definitely tell that he was not looking for Koremitsu just to have lunch.
It was the time of the season where the summer heat truly starts to exert itself, but the shrubs in the school garden was as cool as ever. Two men were sitting on the rocks surrounding the stone tablets, eating from their lunch boxes. Hikaru too was seated on one of the rocks, watching the duo nervously.
Tōjō spoke up,
“Why did Aoi not ask me for help? Asking you to act as her boyfriend is a grave mistake, and we ended up having to get that foolish young master Kazuaki for help. Argh, why was I at a study meeting when Aoi secretly took action without Asai knowing.”
Tōjō brought the lunchbox to his lips, the delicately made contents rich in color and balanced in nutrition. He scooped the food skillfully with his chopsticks while he uttered regretfully.
And then, he glared at Koremitsu and lambasted him,
“You were being too sloppy, Akagi. Since you agreed to act as her boyfriend, how can you let yourself fool around with Tsuyako? Do you not know about what happened to Hikaru?”
(How in the world does this guy know so much? It’s like he saw it for himself.)
Koremitsu pondered, and answered,
He answered coldly, and Tōjō’s frown deepened when he heared that.
“You should have known how shocked Aoi would have been right? That fiance of hers had been fooling around with other women, and she finally managed to steady herself after he died. Now a mistress of that scum of a fiance is trying to hook up with the one Aoi has feelings for–no, I would say it is about trusting that person rather than having feelings for, nothing else at all–anyway, Aoi has been distrustful of other men because of that foolhardy casanova of a fiance. Now the person she miraculously trusts is fooling around with that foolish fiance’s mistress, and Aoi so happened to witness the entire scene.”
In the face of Tōjō’s merciless verbal beatdown, Hikaru clutched his chest in anguish.
“Mr Shungo always had a very bad opinion of me. If I recall correctly, he has been aloof to me since young, though I do not really expect him to like me…”
Koremitsu too remained speechless.
“Aoi has been so dejected, it was pitiful. Yesterday, she was holding that fat cat, hiding inside the room, and unwilling to come out. Maybe one day she will say that she will bring that cat with metabolic syndrome out and be a nun.”
“Mr Shungo also hates Miss Aoi’s cat…however, Miss Aoi may really say such things as she is overly pure.”
Hikaru noted worriedly.
Koremitsu felt his gut wince.
He sent Aoi a few calls, and even a few mails, that Saturday evening. She never picked up the calls however, and never replied to the messages.
On this day, he immediately went to Aoi’s classroom the moment he got to school. Asai however was right beside Aoi, her arm wrapped around Aoi’s shoulder, preventing Koremitsu from entering.
Even so, Koremitsu shouted at her,
Aoi lowered her head with a stiff expression, and Asai approached him, saying with a condescending look.
“Aoi does not wish to speak to you. Do not show your filthy face to her again.”
During that time, Aoi never turned to look at him again, remaining still as she cringed her shoulders.
(Damn it, I know it’s my fault this time, but I can’t stand being ignored by Aoi with such a painful look…)
“What in the world was that Tsuyako thinking? She caused quite some trouble with Hikaru back then. The women of the Udates, including ‘that one’ are all hard to deal with. Seriously, why did she do such a brazen act in front of everyone else? Is it because of the spider blood?”
Koremitsu remembered Tsuyako mention something about the spider, a chill gripped his heart.
“What has sempai got to do with the spider blood?”
He asked.Tōjō seemed hesitant, apparently choosing his words carefully before talking.
“It is said that the Udates’ women are all descendants of a spider, that they have a very strong possessive urge, extremely obsessive.”
Koremitsu inadvertently looked down at the arm Tsuyako grabbed; the scratch marks were still on it, and his skin felt an urge.
Hikaru suddenly spoke adamantly.
Koremitsu turned around, and found Hikaru to be staring at Tōjō sternly.
“Tsuyako never showed any signs of possessiveness towards me, and she never showed any obsession..”
Hikaru narrowed his eyes, giving the harshest tone and expression he ever showed at Tōjō, causing Koremitsu to be taken aback.
Tōjō, unable to hear any of Hikaru’s words, continued on while frowning,
“I suppose this incident was meant to frustrate Aoi. Tsuyako has always been like this.”
“You do not understand Tsuyako at all! She definitely is not someone who would deliberately bully others like that!”
“Ever since she came back from Japan, she has been much flashier in showing off.”
“But Tsuyako always attracts lots of attention because she is really pretty! What is wrong with flaunting her beauty?”
“Even if I do ignore the thing about Aoi, I would advise you not to be so close with Tsuyako. The Udate women are all like a time bomb; even if she tries to woo you, you must not fall for her. She is the descendant of a spider that wrecks men.”
“Those men were the ones who fell for Tsuyako’s charms. It is not Tsuyako’s fault! Besides, this thing about being the descendant of a spider, is that not just some outdated ancient myth from a thousand years ago?”
Hikaru continued to unleash wave after wave of vehement protests.
(Can you please don’t argue over my head like this, you guys!?)
“You need to be careful with choosing the woman to go out with, or are you a fool who accepts all comers like Hikaru”
“What is the matter now? Are you not being so picky even though you are still a virgin, Mr Shungo?”
(Calm down here, Hikaru! Don’t reveal other people’s private information like that! That has nothing to do with being a virgin or not!)
Koremitsu beseeched in his heart, but of course, Hikaru could not possibly hear it. Even if Koremitsu wanted to grab Hikaru by the shoulder and stop him, his arm would only pass through him.
On the right side was Tōjō, insisting that he dissociate himself from Tsuyako, and on the left was Hikaru shouting, “Tsuyako definitely has a reason for doing that! It is not to make Miss Aoi unhappy! Tsuyako is like the red weeping cherry blossoms, proud and regal!”
Koremitsu gritted his teeth, and exclaimed,
“I don’t care about Hikaru and me, but stop pointing the blame on sempai!”
Tōjō’s eyebrows twitched slightly.
“I do blame myself for being too careless to let that sort of thing happen in front of Aoi, and I really feel apologetic for that. Like Hikaru said however, sempai isn’t that sort of woman who would deliberately do such annoying things.”
Tōjō frowned hard, his stare harsh. Koremitsu however glared back, and concluded,
“I’ll ask sempai as to why she did such a thing, and I won’t let the same thing happen again.”
Is that enough now, Hikaru?
“At least say something to defend me, please?”
Hikaru continued to puff his cheeks, but Koremitsu ignored him.
Tōjō gave a distasteful look, and said,
“This is depressing…I thought you would be a more reasonable man than Hikaru.”
He sighed, gave a stoic, unemotional look, and declared,
“If you are going to continue getting along with Tsuyako, do not ever approach Aoi again.”
He took his lunchbox wrapping and left for the school building. Koremitsu gave a bitter look, and grumbled,
“Argh, now on top of Saiga, even Tōjō has his eyes on me. I can’t approach Aoi like this.”
“Mr Shungo is too inflexible. I really have to thank you though, Koremitsu, for rebuffing him about Tsuyako.”
“I got no choice. You’re the one yapping beside me. Besides…she’s still my sempai.”
Koremitsu believed that Tsuyako was not a woman who would kiss someone else just to annoy Aoi; he had the same feeling as Hikaru.
He was concerned about Aoi, but first, he had to solve the situation regarding Tsuyako.
“And then? What’s the thing about the spider?”
“Sorry. I am not certain about it.”
Koremitsu stared back.
Didn’t you argue to Tōjō that it’s a myth from 1000 years ago or something?
Hikaru curled his lips,
“There is a shrine worshipping the spider in the Udates’ main house. It was said that during the Heian Era, a deceased Udate woman became a spider, but it was a taboo to reveal it openly back then. As far as I know however, the Udates all hate spider. I feel that regarding the spider, Tsuyako…seems afraid of it rather than despise it. She would tremble with a pale look even though there was only a little spider crawling by.”
–if the spider covers the moon–that woman will appear–
Tsuyako murmured in anguish as her eyes showed a hazy expression akin to that of the hazy moon.
At that time, it seemed Tsuyako was a completely different person…
“Damn it. Time to get back to class. We’ll talk about this later.”
Koremitsu walked off with an anxious feeling, and at that time,
He found Honoka standing in front of the tall green bamboos.
Honoka pouted her lips slightly, her eyes filled with firmness and weakness as she stared back at him.
(Damn it, when did she come here? Did she hear me talk to Hikaru? In that case, am I some dangerous guy who’s talking to myself here?)
Koremitsu panicked, and Honoka said something that shocked him more,
“I was there, that Saturday night.”
“There, as in…”
“The garden party.”
“Working as a part-time waiter there.”
Koremitsu’s mind was drained of blood at that instant.
Hikaru too widened his eyes in shock.
Honoka continued to pout as she mumbled in a dry, monotonous tone,
“You and upperclassman Tsuyako.”
“Embraced each other.”
“And kissed each other.”
Honoka raised her eyebrows harshly.
(That usual thing’s coming!)
Koremitsu instinctively exerted strength at his chest.
But no matter how he waited, the killer kick never came.
What replaced it was a feeble fist touching his chest, devoid of any strength.
A completely lifeless voice rang at his ears.
And another fist tapped upon his chest–
For every ‘idiot’ Honoka said, there was a weak fist hitting her. Her head was lowered, and the light blond hair was draped over her face, covering her expression as she continued hitting him.
The fists tapping him were weaker than the instance Shioriko slammed at his chest–however, Koremitsu seemingly felt the impacts striking his heart directly.
Honoka’s shoulders were trembling.
Koremitsu grabbed her slender wrist hesitantly, and she lifted her head.
Koremitsu’s breathing practically ceased once he saw her crying look.
Those feisty eyes were filled with clear water, tracing her cheeks in the form of teardrops.
Honoka kept gritting her teeth, staring at Koremitsu furiously.
She moved her lips, wanting to say something. However, it seemed she could not let out a single sound as she choked and sobbed a few times. Whenever that happened, she would lower her eyebrows, her eyes teary; in the end, she shook his hand away, seemingly unable to endure this situation any further as she said again,
And so, she ran off.
Koremitsu widened his eyes, watching the slender legs and back depart away gradually.
He exhaled slightly.
He took a short breath again, and exhaled again.
But in the end, his breathing could not be reverted back to normal.
His heart was pounding like crazy.
“Th-that shocked me.”
Koremitsu still had his eyes widened as he muttered from deep within his heart.
He was really, really, really shocked by that!
(She actually showed such an expression.)
Koremitsu was really inept at dealing with crying women.
When he was in elementary school, his mother abandoned him and ran away from home, sobbing and saying ‘Sorry’ over and over again.
Whenever he saw a crying woman, Koremitsu would feel his chest tighten, suffocating him.
But when he saw Honoka’s sobbing face, due to his shock, his heart pounded wildly before he could feel anguish.
“Hikaru, you said that women….”
Koremitsu was about to speak up, only to stop afterwards.
The bell indicating the end of noon break ran amidst the refreshingly hot summer wind. Koremitsu sprinted to the classroom.
(So women…can show expressions completely different from before.)
—DID YOU FORGET THAT I SAID I LIKED YOU?
Honoka screamed that in the midst of the classroom, her cheeks puffed.
Koremitsu gritted his teeth, murmuring in his heart.
(How can I forget that, you idiot.)
And beside him, Hikaru showed a tender, anguished expression befitting an adult.
♢ ♢ ♢
Honoka never once glanced at Koremitsu during the entire 5th period. She had her head lowered as she held the cellphone tightly under the table. Even so, her shoulders would twitch slightly whenever Koremitsu fidgeted or dragged his chair about slightly.
Koremitsu too was conscious of Honoka’s reactions, causing his back and neck to stiffen.
(If sempai’s problem can be settled, I’ll ask Shikibu if she wants to go to the pool.)
There’s a chance that I’ll be rejected…but I have to ask her at least.)
(But first, I need to know why sempai did that. Got to be sure about that.)
Koremitsu intended to head to the roof and plan out his actions with Hikaru as he went out of the classroom. At this moment,
“Mr Akagi! This is bad!”
Hiina Oumi of the newspaper club came running over, her large breasts bouncing.
“Her Highness Aoi is hurt! She’s sent to the infirmary!”
“What did you say?”
♢ ♢ ♢
By the time Koremitsu and Hikaru rushed over to the infirmary, Aoi was nowhere to be seen.
“Hey, what happened to Aoi!”
“Where is Miss Aoi?”
Koremitsu raised his eyebrows as he panted, and after asking the infirmary teacher, learnt that Aoi merely had an abrasion on her feet, causing them to be dumbfounded.
The young infirmary teacher tentatively said that Aoi’s class had P.E. for their 5th period, and after returning from the sports hall, she changed from her sneakers into the indoors shoes. She was injured due to a ceramic fragment inside the shoes.
“Damn it. Why’s that Oumi exaggerating things like this!?”
Koremitsu cussed on the corridor.
“But it really is dastardly to place a ceramic fragment in a shoe. Who did it? Miss Aoi has been bullied like this a few times before…even if she tries to act tough, she must have been really hurt inside.”
Hikaru looked furious as he said worriedly.
“Yeah. It’s unforgivable to do something like this to someone else’s shoe.”
Koremitsu went over to Aoi’s classroom to have a look, and found that she had retired for the day. It seemed Asai too did the same, probably to send Aoi to the hospital for added precaution.
(Isn’t she being too overprotective over Aoi?)
Both Asai and Tōjō would become overprotective when it came to Aoi. Hikaru too was the same in that aspect.
“Koremitsu, do you mind heading to the entrance? They probably would call for a car; perhaps Miss Aoi has yet to leave.”
Hikaru pleaded, probably unable to relax if he could not be sure of her safety.
Aoi looked frail, white, and had a pure and innocent personality. One would definitely worry over her safety, hoping that she would not be hurt. Koremitsu himself understood this feeling.
He quickly changed his shoes at the entrance, and found Aoi and Asai standing at the main gate.
He hid behind a tree to avoid Asai’s detection, and slowly approached them. Aoi lowered her head dejectedly, while Asai stood beside her with a stoic look.
Hikaru’s expression too became gloomy, probably because Aoi was too downhearted.
At this moment, a vehicle arrived, stopping in front of them.
Koremitsu had assumed it would be a black Benz, but unexpectedly, it was a refreshing blue colored call. Koremitsu could not tell what brand it was, but it seemed casually cute.
A bespectacled, skinny youth was seated at the driver seat, looking very happy as he chatted with Aoi and Asai cheerfully.
Koremitsu narrowed his eyes sharply.
It was the person who was with Aoi at the garden party.
Hikaru murmured in shock.
“You know that guy? I remember you did call his name at the garden party too. Who is he? Why’s he here to pick up Aoi?”
Hikaru answered with a hazy, hollow expression,
“That person is my older brother. He is the child of my father’s actual wife, and I am the child of the mistress.”
He inadvertently shouted.
Aoi probably could not hear that voice clearly, but right when she was about to get on the car, she suddenly stopped, and looked back.
She stared over at Koremitsu’s direction with a downhearted, feeble expression, seemingly looking for someone.
Upon seeing her being in such a mood, Koremitsu felt gloomy, as if his heart is being pinched.
If not for Asai’s presence, he would have gone up immediately and apologized to her for what happened during the garden party.
Aoi got on the car as she turned back with a gloomy look.
(…Sorry about that, Aoi.)
Koremitsu watched her leave in agony.
At this moment, he smelled upon a scent.
It was a thick, rich sweetness, the aroma of putting the sacrifices into a fire when praying at a monastery…
Koremitsu felt a chilly presence on his back, and turned back abruptly.
Just like that night at the garden party, Tsuyako was standing right there.
He felt his hairs stand.
Hikaru too gasped in shock.
Tsuyako was not looking at Koremitsu.
She was staring intently at the direction where Aoi and the rest had departed, her eyes as hazy as the shrouded moon.
The hem of her skirt was messy, her short-sleeved blouse crumpled, three of her buttons were unbuttoned.
Also, her breasts were completely drenched, her underwear could vaguely be seen, and the wet areas of her skirt were showing a black color.
Her red hair was ruffled, draped upon her pale face like blood trails.
Engraved in Koremitsu’s eyes was a living demon with supernatural beauty and alluring charm that would befuddle his heart.
The red hair swayed in the stale wind.
With her back turned to him, Tsuyako walked away.
She was stumbling, struggling with her limbs as if they are gagged together, unlike her usual perchance of taking light strides, dancing with a fan in hand.
Koremitsu called for her, but she never looked back.
“Koremitsu, after her!”
The bell indicating the 6th period had rung, but Tsuyako continued to the courtyard instead of the classroom.
With the sweltering summer sun above, the red hair rustled dryly.
(Damn it, this is becoming just like the garden party. What’s the matter with you, sempai?)
Koremitsu clearly recalled the unnatural coldness from her hands when his face was brought to her, and the coldness of the lips that came at him. These caused a chill on his back.
–Do not go to Miss Aoi.
— I will ‘prune’ flowers like her if you do so otherwise.
Like under the alluring hazy moon, Tsuyako’s red hair swayed under the blazing summer heat, her gloomy expression watching Koremitsu.
(Don’t tell me that the one who put the ceramic fragment in Aoi’s indoor shoes–)
Hikaru had repeated over and over again that Tsuyako was not this sort of person; Koremitsu too believed in that.
But if it were this Tsuyako–
–If you are not around, that woman will capture me.
–I will be ensnared by the spider web, unable to breathe and dance.
Her fingertips were clawed deep into his flesh, seemingly ripping his arm apart.
That voice was filled with dread.
(Who’s that woman? Is she the one commanding sempai? Where’s that woman exactly?)
Hikaru, following by sight, looked solemnly at Tsuyako’s back.
Koremitsu’s palms were sweaty.
Tsuyako did not stop as she went around the school campus, arriving at the courtyard.
Suddenly, Hikaru remained still, seemingly jolted by a major shock.
Koremitsu too gasped as he looked over at the courtyard.
And then, he heard Hikaru’s astonished voice,
“The flowers…have fallen.”
There were the Orange Chinese Trumpet Bells, thin red Oleanders, the white Hibiscus with red tints in the middle.
These flowers Hikaru had praised with exuberance were ripped off pitifully, their remains scattered on the dirt and lawn.
Some of the flowers were crushed, some were trampled in the mud, and they were all scattered everywhere.
There were still flowers on the tree crowns, but only branches were left at the bottom. The green vines of the Orange Chinese Trumpet Bells swayed in a razed state with the wind, like a wrecked swing.
It was practically a scene of fallen flower remains.
The red-haired Tsuyako was in the midst of such remains, her back facing Koremitsu’s group.
Her disheveled hair let out an alluring beautiful, her straightened back showing incomparable dignity. However, her tightly clenched fists were trembling, and upon seeing that, Koremitsu called out tentatively,
Tsuyako looked back, giving a relatively normal look, a helpless girl lacking vitality. Upon seeing this, Koremitsu relaxed slightly, and clumsily asked,
“Classes have started. You’re skipping them?”
Her eyes were filled with trepidation as she stared at Koremitsu.
“…Mr Akagi…you are not going to class either…?”
Tsuyako whispered back.
“I’ll do so if you return back to class.”
“…How cheeky of you.”
Tsuyako curled her lips, but was unable to smile even though she wanted to, the voice stuck in her throat as she hoarsely replied in a pitiful manner.
“That thing I did…that night…I do apologize for that. Is that your first time, Mr Akagi?”
Koremitsu answered with a scowl, and Tsuyako lowered her eyebrows, seemingly relieved.
“Really? That’s good.”
“If it was your first kiss, you would have been left with a bad memory. It would have been a pity…”
Tsuyako’s pained tone and expression seemed to indicate that she was really sorry about it.
“What happened to me doesn’t matter. Since I’m a guy…I’ll just think of it as an accident and forget about it. Anyway, instead of that, you should be apologizing to Aoi.”
Tsuyako lowered her eyelids.
“Sempai, why did you do such a thing?”
She curled her lips in melancholy, not answering at all.
Worried, Hikaru placed his hand on Tsuyako’s shoulder, and brought his face to her cheek.
After some silence, Tsuyako turned her back on Koremitsu, seemingly wanting to escape from him as she reached for the Oleanders. The white, silky hand stroked the red petals, the shoulders trembling
“The flowers…have fallen off.”
The anguished voice sounded heartbroken.
The flowers fallen at Tsuyakos feet rustled on the grass.
“Hikaru…really likes the flowers. No, it was beyond that; he really loved each and every flower with all his heart…it is the same with the flowers in this courtyard…he has been taking care of them lovingly, very happily…’The first Hibiscus is budding flowers’, the Purslanes are a little unenthusiastic, let us provide some shade for it’ ‘The Teddy Bear flowers are finally starting to bloom. They are a species of sunflowers, their petals as fluffy as a bear’s furs…”
Koremitsu could not see Tsuyako’s expression
But her words were filled with a tinge of sadness, causing his heart to inadvertently tighten upon hearing.
Hikaru too watched Tsuyako’s slender shoulders in melancholy with his beautiful eyes.
If Hikaru were still alive, he would have embraced Tsuyako at this instance; he however was a ghost, and could no longer water the flowers, build a shelter, and comfort a lover.
“…Hikaru took care of me the same way he took care of the flowers. I really hated my hair before I met Hikaru…I always cut my hair into a bob, trying my best to look unimpressive as I could…I did not dare to express my views back then, and always had my head lowered…I really did not want to study in a boarding school in England when my family demanded that I do so, yet I did not dare to refuse…”
Her feeble intermittent voice rang so hollowly in Koremitsu’s ear.
The melancholy in Hikaru’s eyes was started to worsen.
“…After staying in the boarding school, I was still feeling self-abased…the girls around me were all very dazzling, cute, looking very happy, but I am neither pretty nor cute…I was so pessimistic thinking that I was different from everyone else..when I hear others talk about love, I would cringe back in pity, because I knew such a fantastical thing could never happen to me…”
Koremitsu could not understand why Tsuyako was so lacking in self-esteem when she was in England.
The Tsuyako at this point was so beautiful and alluring even Honoka was envious of her looks. She was even hailed by everyone as the red dancing princess.
She actually had such an inferiority complex?
Koremitsu could not believe it at all.
“Back then, I always felt that I was a brat with rusty colored hair, that nobody would care about me. However, I met Hikaru.”
Tsuyako’s gloomy voice was mixed in with a tinge of delight.
Hikaru too was probably reminiscing of the past, his eyes filled with tenderness and anguish.
“It was during Spring, when I was 14, and I returned to Japan. There just so happened to be this garden party…it was dark…I did not want to feel neglected amongst the clouds, so I went to a place with few people. I saw a sakura tree that had yet to bloom, and felt that it was just like me…just like that, I lifted my head, and Hikaru walked out from behind that tree, basked under the gentle moonlight…”
When she saw this moon spirit-like pretty boy, she was so shocked her heart nearly ceased. “What were you doing?” she asked, “Viewing flowers.” and Hikaru answered.
–There are no flowers here.
–They will soon bloom. The branch here will cause the most beautiful sakura flowers to bloom. Ah, how beautiful they are. I am looking forward to it.
And then, Hikaru pointed his index finger at Tsuyako’s unimpressive red bob hair, saying innocently.
–Your hair certainly is a beautiful red. If you leave it long, it will definitely resemble the red weeping cherry blossoms. I am looking forward to it.
Hikaru narrowed his eyes in an intoxicated manner, ostensibly watching a certain piece of expensive item.
Nobody had looked at Tsuyako with such an expression before.
Nobody had praised the rust-colored hair she had an inferiority complex over, saying that it was like a red weeping cherry blossom.
“Because of the words Hikaru said, I became the red dancing princess.”
On the night before she returned to England.
Hikaru suddenly visited the Udates, to her surprise. He snuck in during the middle of the night, with everyone else oblivious.
Tsuyako frantically pulled Hikaru into her room.
What are you going to do if my father or anyone else spotted you? Tsuyako was very anxious, and Hikaru smiled at her gently, saying, “It is alright”.
–Why are you able to remain so calm? You just did something unbelievable. Are you not scared of that?
–I am not. I am someone who will be forgiven no matter what I do.
He said serenely.
The doubt, fear in Tsuyako’s heart seemingly melted away.
She could boldly entrust her all to Hikaru.
I definitely can change.
Tsuyako had this thought, and believed it.
“I dreamily fell in love with Hikaru, and he even visited me in England. When I found him sneaking around the dormitories, my heart was racing, thinking that I could do such a bold thing. I left my hair long, my teacher applauded my dancing, and I was really happy every single day…after transferring back to Japan, I could see Hikaru any day I wanted, so no matter how anyone criticized or spite me, I never cared about it. I was basically drowning in an eternal party…however, Hikaru seemed really fragile when I met him at the villa during the Golden Week this year….”
Tsuyako’s voice broke up.
The tattered petals were quivering on the floor.
Tsuyako’s back never showed any movement.
“Hikaru probably committed suicide.”
She suddenly whispered these words, and Koremitsu gasped in shock. In the meantime, Hikaru’s face lost all emotion.
“Because, there were slash marks on his wrists.”
These words caused Koremitsu’s heart to pound wildly, and he inadvertetly turned to Hikaru’s hands.
The white slender arms were reaching out from the summer uniform shirt.
The crystalline skin never had any marks or moles, and the two wrists showed nary a scar.
(But Hikaru’s a ghost…I can’t possibly be seeing the same body as the one when he was still alive…)
Koremitsu had this doubt as Hikaru showed a hollow expression, looking overly quiet.
He was typically so innocent and optimistic, but at this point, seemed a completely diffferent person.
Whenever Koremitsu saw this face, he had a fear, thinking that he knew nothing about Hikaru, worried that he was only seeing the appearance Hikaru showed.
Hikaru drowned in a river.
That was a fact.
But was that death really due to an accident?
Or was the truth written in the past chain mails, that it was a murder?
Tsuyako said that he committed suicide.
Koremitsu had all sorts of hypotheses, doubts and views, but could not be certain on which was correct.
The only one who knew the answer, Hikaru, would not say anything.
What exactly was Hikaru thinking after hearing Tsuyako’s words?
What was he thinking?
Tsuyako probably would not have imagined that Hikaru was right beside her, listening in.
She brushed her ruffled red hair, and wailed with an anxious expression, saying to Hikaru,
“I was scared. I did not dare ask him where those scars came from, but I just could not help but worry. That was why I kissed him.”
Tōjō had furiously stated that Tsuyako kissed Hikaru brazenly at the turf club during Golden Week.
Aoi also said that she could not forgive Tsuyako whenever she thinks about how Tsuyako might been the last one Hikaru kissed.
However, the kiss at the turf club contained the worries Tsuyako had.
She bit her lips, and lowered her eyes.
“After I kissed Hikaru, he stated with a calm look that we cannot do such a thing again, and he broke up with me.”
She spoke in distress.
Hikaru remained stoic, but his eyes were showing anguish.
Yes, Hikaru decided to break up with all the other girls he dated, so that he could focus on being with Aoi.
We can no longer date like before.
I can no longer be your lover.
To those women, these words might have been so cruel.
But Tsuyako lifted her head abruptedly, speaking in a stiff tone,
“None of those matters. Even though Hikaru broke up with me, I just needed him to fulfill that most important promise, as long as he was in my world.”
Her pale face was flushed slightly, her neck straight.
Only at this instance did she revert back to being her usual proud, regal self.
In the face of the might she showed, Koremitsu could practically feel a slap on her.
The most beautiful, imposing red weeping cherry blossoms in the garden..
However, her eyes showed a depressed tint, and in her misery, she spoke hoarsely,
“But Hikaru is dead…”
Her face was contorted, she tried her best to gulp her breath, and held onto Koremitsu, seemingly unable to support herself.
In his panic, Koremitsu supported the warm, soft body, and the lump of red hair was draped upon his arms.
“Why? Why did Hikaru die? You can answer me that, right…Mr Akagi!?”
Tsuyako narrowed her eyes, seemingly enduring this tremendous amount of pain as she yelled at Koremitsu.
The voice was filled with utter sadness.
The white slender fingers grabbing Koremitsu’s shoulders were trembling.
Koremitsu too felt his chest being carved out.
The seductive Tsuyako, the Tsuyako who loved to smile, the Tsuyako who remained poignantly unmoved by all the stares and gossips as she held her head high, Koremitsu’s first ‘sempai’–
She spoke to Koremitsu at the courtyard corridor fearlessly, danced elegantly in the club room, latched onto him by the elbow as they walked about in school, continued laughing beside Koremitsu; all these images in his memories were completely different from how she was at this point, causing his gut to wrench.
He really wanted to do something for her.
He really hoped that he could help her, that he could save her.
But he too did not know the answer to Tsuyako’s question.
Koremitsu never heard anything from Hikaru about the latter’s feelings, thoughts, his death, the long story that encompassed everything.
Koremitsu did say that he would wait for the day Hikaru would explain everything.
He could not tell Tsuyako whether Hikaru did on his own will, or that he was murdered, or that it was due to an accident.
Koremitsu gritted his teeth as he answered.
At this moment, a stern voice replied beside him,
“If you can get the answer, will you revert back to how you were before? If I tell you what happened to me…tell you all the sins I committed fully, will you be how you were before?”
Koremitsu gasped as he looked over at Hikaru.
And Hikaru watched on with a solemn, stiff expression.
His eyes were filled with adamance, that if Tsuyako wished for it, he would fully explain everything if it could really help her. No matter how much of a taboo it was, how despairing it was, he would say it all.
Koremitsu felt a dizziness as he gulped nervously, and said,
“If…if you know how Hikaru died…will you become how you were before, sempai?”
Tsuyako looked up at Koremitsu, her eyes showed a great quiver.
She wanted to know, yet she was of knowing–the complicated feelings caused her face to freeze, and then, she weakly let go of the hands grabbing Koremitsu’s shoulder.
She then muttered in a lethargic manner,
“This…is how I already am. The rusty hair color, a woman filled with vengeance. I really hated the girl who was beloved by her fiance, and doted on by everyone around her. I grumble every single day, wondering why my hair is rustic, and not black…”
The dry lips showed a tragic smile.
Hikaru’s eyes too were filled with distress, the glaring summer sun shining down on everyone.
The petals leaking red liquids were scattered all over the ground, and the shadows casted by Koremitsu and Tsuyako covered them. Hikaru was definitely present, but his shadow was not.
She shook her head.
“Well, I suppose it does not solve anything. Hikaru is no longer around, and the moon is still shrouded.”
She spoke adamantly, her lowered stare trembling slightly.
“Once the moonlight vanishes, the spider will appear to bind everything together The flowers will all wilt as well.”
“What’s it about the spider, sempai? I heard that you have a shrine worshipping one at your house. Is it related to that? Also, the ‘woman’ you said before…”
At this moment, the clouds covered the sky.
Tsuyako’s eyes lost all luster, now shrouded in haze.
Her expression was ambiguous, her lips, nose, eyebrows–her silhouette was becoming blurred.
“Locked in that shrine…is a woman who became a spider due to excessive love and envy, devouring her husband and the mistress…to prevent her from continuing her acts, she was worshipped as a goddess. That was a long time ago, probably in the Heian Era…I am her descendant.”
Warm gales started to blow, and the red hair fluttered like fresh blood.
Hikaru, standing beside Koremitsu, gasped in shock.
The girl with Tsuyako’s appearance stood in the middle of the flower remnants, her expression hazy, saying,
“The woman who ate her husband and the mistress–is call Rokujō”