The following day was a Saturday.
Koremitsu was tying the laces of his sneakers, and Shioriko, holding Lapis in her arms, looked devastated as she approached him.
“You’re going out again, Big Brother? I thought I could be with you today.”
Recently, Koremitsu had been really busy over the matters regarding Tsuyako and Aoi, and he did not spend time with Shioriko even at home. He felt a pricking pain in his heart, probably sensing that he had made her lonely.
“I’ll play with you tomorrow.”
Koremitsu hurriedly said. Shioriko then covered Lapis white fur over half of her face, and said pitifully,
“But…we can be together today. Can’t I go out with you…? I’ll be obedient.”
“Th-That won’t do. I’ll be with you the whole day tomorrow, Shiiko. Play around with Lapis for today. Gramps will be happy if you play 5-in-a-row with him.”
Shioriko lowered her eyes, looking utterly devastated, and this caused the pain within Koremitsu to pronounce itself. With a reluctant feeling, he opened the doors leading to corridor.
“Koremitsu, look back for a while.”
Hikaru whispered softly at Koremitsu’s ears with amusement.
Koremitsu turned his head behind, and found that Shioriko, who had her eyes lowered gently just a while ago, was making a funny face like a mischievous child, gritting her teeth, ‘ii–‘ and making such a sound.
She probably never expected Koremitsu to look back.
Once their eyes met, her face reddened in an instant.
She yelled, and teetered off to the inside.
Koremitsu was flabbergasted.
Hikaru was chuckling away, seeming thinking that this was unbelievably cute.
“No matter how young a girl is, she probably has all sorts of thoughts about boys in her mind. The impishness Shiiko showed at the end was really cute though.”
“That devastated look she showed before was an act…women are really…”
Upon thinking about the future, Koremitsu felt a chill on his back.
“I do think it is true that Shiiko feels lonely because you ignored her, big brother.”
“Don’t call me big brother there…alright, I’ll accompany her tomorrow.”
Koremitsu grumbled, scowling to hide his embarrassment.
He had agreed to meet Aoi at 11am, at the train station nearest to the art museum.
Miss Aoi will arrive 10 minutes earlier; as Hikaru had said this, Koremitsu arrived 15 minutes earlier.
But even once the appointed time had passed, Aoi did not show up.
“That is strange. Koremitsu, try calling Miss Aoi.”
“I say, if I’m going to call her at exactly the time we’re supposed to meet, I’m no different from a super psychotic guy now, right? Also, aren’t you proud of how you waited six hours for a girl?”
“That is another girl here. Miss Aoi is a serious person and will definitely not be late. Do this for precaution, please?”
“You guys are really overprotective of her.”
Koremitsu grumbled, but as he too was a little concerned. He tried calling her on the phone.
The message he got was that the phone was either not in the service area, or the number could not be reached.
“She’s probably on the train.”
“It’s good if that’s the case…”
Hikaru’s expression was getting more anxious by the moment.
15 minutes passed, and Aoi had yet to turn up.
And then, 20, 30 minutes have passed.
During that time, Koremitsu had called her 7 times, and every single time, there was a caller’s response of the call being unable to pass through.
Even Koremitsu’s face was becoming tense by the minute.
(Did something really happen to Aoi?)
What do I do? Do I go check out Aoi’s house? But this is different from the theme park date. We won’t meet if she’s coming here.
“Damn it. Got to contact her again.”
Just when Koremitsu wanted to call Aoi’s number again, the cellphone in his hand vibrated.
(Is it Aoi?)
It was a private number, but Koremitsu hastily picked up the call.
The voice that reached his ear however was as stone cold as ice.
“Where are you?”
This sudden question came without an introduction.
Feeling incensed, Koremitsu let out a peeved voice,
“How do you know my number, Asai Saiga?”
Upon hearing Koremitsu’s words, Asai Saiga replied back with more anxiety,
“There is no need for me to answer that question, I feel. Which aquarium are you at? Is Aoi with you?”
“Huh? Aquarium? What are you saying?”
“I heard that Aoi told her servants that she is going to the Aquarium, that the art museum is temporarily closed due to renovation works, so you switched locations. I also learned that you sent a message the previous day.”
Koremitsu hung up on Asai, and hurriedly checked through his mailbox.
Hikaru too looked on grimly from the side.
Both of them stared at the small screen, their faces nearly touching each other. It seemed Koremitsu did not have anyone to send messages to.
And thus, he spotted a message he did not remember sending.
The title was ‘A change of meeting location’–
And the recipient was Aoi!
(What’s going on…?)
He held his breath, and read the contents of the message.
The message signal was flickering from time to time; it seemed Asai was furiously trying to call back, but Koremitsu was not in the mood to be bothered by her.
“It seems the art museum is currently closed due to renovation works.
How about we go to the Aquarium instead?”
There was also the location and time after this passage.
(I don’t remember sending such a message before.)
Koremitsu checked through the inbox, but did not see Aoi’s reply.
“Koremitsu, Miss Aoi probably went to that place.”
“Damn it. It’ll take almost an hour for us to get there by train.”
Koremitsu ran through the gantry gates, and barely managed to get on the train that was about to start moving.
He wanted to get over to the written location as quickly as possible.
He felt his gut nearly splinter as he rode on the train. The other passengers had moved aside due to this savage-looking youth gritting his teeth, his temples pulsating, and there was a wide space around him.
His dry eyes were flaring, and all he saw was the time the mail was sent, 7pm the previous day.
What was he doing at that time?
Who was he with
Once Koremitsu recalled this, he grasped his cellphone firmly, nearly crushing it to bits.
He finally made it through the gantry on the concourse.
As there was a lot of people at the station, it was tough for him to move about without knocking into anyone. He and Hikaru split up to look for Aoi, but to no avail.
He took his cellphone, and dialled Aoi’s number again.
With such a wishful feeling, Koremitsu waited, only to be met by the voicemail again.
During this time, the messages from Asai probably kept increasing.
The cellphone vibrated again.
And Koremitsu picked up the phone, saying,
“Aoi’s missing! Senpai probably knows something here. I’m going over to her now. Come along!”
♢ ♢ ♢
Tsuyako was already at the rest lounge of the recital venue.
By the time Koremitsu arrived, she was dressed only in white undergarments, an alluring sight at that, and looked over at him with hazy eyes.
“Senpai…you sent Aoi the message using my cellphone, right? When I went to get the chili dog, you took my cellphone from my bag.”
Koremitsu asked, his teeth gritting.
Beside him, Hikaru’s face was frozen in bitterness.
If possible, they hoped that was not the case.
But at the time the message was sent to Aoi, Tsuyako was the only one who was with Koremitsu at the park at that time, and the only possible person who could have sent that message.
Tsuyako nonchalantly replied,
“Yes…Miss Aoi immediately replied, and I deleted that immediately.”
The thin undergarments wrapped around Tsuyako was just like a mourning gown, and she stared at Koremitsu with those lifeless pair of eyes.
Koremitsu then clenched his fists,
“Why must you do such a thing?”
“…After Hikaru died, I felt very lonely, and I vented on Miss Aoi as my frustration. In the end, Hikaru chose her, and abandoned me.”
The determined, alluring Tsuyako was gradually vanishing in front of Koremitsu’s sights.
The silhouette that took the shape of Tsuyako was gradually becoming blurred, disintegrating into a weak, ambiguous line.
(So senpai likes Hikaru and not Kazauki? is she unable to forgive Hikaru for breaking up for Aoi’s sake?)
Did she do such a thing because she was jealous of Aoi, because she hated Aoi?
Koremitsu felt his mind being pierced through hard. Lots of things, words, voices were jumbled up, echoing within him.
“That is not the case.”
Amidst the chaos, a singular voice rang with clarity.
“That is not the case, Tsuyako.”
The straightforward eyes were staring right at Tsuyako.
Hikaru’s eyes were looking at Tsuyako.
The eyes, the voice; thanks to them, Koremitsu too realized–
Tsuyako’s lie. Tsuyako’s true thoughts.
Koremitsu too exclaimed.
“That’s not the case! If you’re jealous of Aoi, instead of that, why did you leave this message after sending it in my name? Say it!!”
The hazy expression Tsuyako showed was infused with a little spark of emotion at that instant. That was true fear.
There was a heartwrenching feeling.
(Ahh, that’s how it is, senpai?)
“You do not wish for others to realize, right?”
Hikaru asked in a tragic tone.
“You don’t know me to find out right, senpai?”
With such suffocating pain, Koremitsu yelled,
“IF NOT, WHY MUST YOU GO ABOUT DOING THINGS IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY!?”
After sending the message, she could have deleted it with just a little finger.
However, she did not do so.
She left it behind.
She knew that if Koremitsu was to find out, she would be the first suspect!
Hikaru stared at Tsuyako with a condoling expression, his voice reaching Koremitsu’s ears as he guided the latter to the truth,
“I was mistaken. It looked as if you were terrified of the blood of Rokujō that was inside you. You did not deny that either. However, that was not the case! What you fear is not the embodiment of the spider inside you, the fear of Rokujō. Because that is not you!”
“Senpai, you’ve always been scared of Rokujō, right? You’re scared that you’ll be like her, hurting others out of jealousy. You’re scared that you’ll ruin Hikaru’s precious flowers. However, you never did those things!”
Tsuyako’s eyes were gradually showing emotions. Pain, bitterness anguish–
She knelt weakly upon the tatamis, her body cringed as she lifted her head, staring at Koremitsu.
“After the flowers were plucked off, your palms and fingers were still so pretty. There was no traces of nectar, and no marks at all.”
On the night of the garden party.
Tsuyako was standing in the midst of the ripped flowers, but the hands that clasped Koremitsu’s face and pulled him in were so white, tender, beautiful, speckless, and there was an icy feeling to the touch.
When she told Koremitsu of Rokujō’s name, her clothes and hair were ruffled, her eyes dangerous, and though there were many red flowers scattered everywhere, Tsuyako’s hands were pure and pretty.
Koremitsu grabbed Tsuyako’s hand and raised it.
“Senpai, your hands have always been clean! I don’t see any signs of you pulling the flowers out!”
“The black-haired Rokujō you so fear is someone else. That Rokujō is the one ordering you! You are a prisoner of Rokujō, meant to hunt prey down! Tsuyako, you, are, not, Rokujō!”
“You’re not Rokujō, senpai!”
Tsuyako’s face had turned completely pale. The eyes as hazy as the shrouded moon were gradually showing signs of life again.
At the same time, the fear that was sealed away when she shut her heart was probably striking her again.
She embraced her body tightly, starting to tremble.
Hikaru knelt down in front of her.
He lifted his head politely at her, like a knight saving a princess, and started to say with a serious look,
“Now that I think about it, you have been sending out warning signals, right? ‘Rokujō’ has been sealing you, but you tried to struggle from within, trying to send a message to us.”
She said to Koremitsu before ‘Can you please keep watch on me so that I do not destroy them?’
She indicated that she was jealous of Aoi, hoping that Koremitsu and the rest would focus their attentions on her, so that they could protect her.
She taunted him, ‘are you able to stop Rokujō?’, sobbing, ‘there is no way to stop Rokujō. Do not get involved with me anymore.’ All those were the most Tsuyako could do to resist.
“I am sorry for realizing it so late! I have noticed it now! I can be your strength!”
Koremitsu grabbed Tsuyako’s hand, overlapping with Hikaru’s white, slender hand
However, that hand of Hikaru was unable to grab Tsuyako’s hand.
So Koremitsu took his place and held it hand.
As the only person present who could continue to express Hikaru’s will.
“You wanted to give us such notices, right, senpai? Tell me! Who’s Rokujō!? Where’s Aoi?”
Tsuyako lowered her head in trepidation. She wanted to lift her head, but shook her head intently again, and closed the lips that she wished to open.
She was so bounded by the fear of Rokujō, she was unable to let out a single voice.
“Tsuyako, you should be a firm-willed person, a bold, dignified person. You do remember the time when you were expelled from the English boarding school, right? At that time, did you not boldly proclaim to the teachers, introducing me as your lover? That was really amazing!”
“Senpai, you’re someone even Hikaru has fallen for! The most beautiful, dignified red weeping cherry blossom! You shouldn’t be a timid person! Hikaru said that you’re a daring woman! That you were amazing when you were expelled from the English boarding school!”
From deep within her throat, Tsuyako eked a voice,
“But, Hikaru is no longer around…so–“
“As Hikaru’s representative, I’ll assure you that Rokujō’s vengeance can be severed! I’ll break it for you!!”
Koremitsu grabbed Tsuyako’s hand tightly, and swore this with all his might, causing his body to heat up. Hikaru too was looking at Tsuyako with an earnest, prayerful look.
‘I’ll protect you, senpai!”
Tsuyako’s shoulder jerked again.
With a troubled expression, she lifted her face at Koremitsu again.
And Koremitsu glared back at her, ostensibly absorbing her eyes in.
She lowered her eyes, opened her lips a few times again–her eyebrows were trembling as she spoke of Rokujō’s true identity and Aoi’s whereabouts with a voice so small if felt it would vanish.
Hikaru’s voice became gloomy as a result.
Koremitsu gently placed Tsuyako’s hand on the knee.
“I’ll be back before you appear, senpai! Leave it to me!”
He dashed out from the rest room.
Hikaru too moved along with a serious look.
At the entrance, they nearly bumped into Asai.
It seemed Asai had just overheard their words, and was scowling hard. Koremitsu did not give time for her to say anything as he snapped,
“Come with me! Asai Saiga!”
♢ ♢ ♢
“Where is Mr. Akagi?”
Aoi asked warily.
The room was filled with a bright colored table, a sofa, exotic paintings and pots. The carpet no taller than the ankle was neat and glossy, and there was nary a speck of trash.
It did not seem to be a place for the wounded to be sent to.
–Mr. Akagi has an accident. He is currently undergoing treatment.
Aoi suddenly heard these words when she was waiting for Koremitsu, and in shock, got on the car.
However, after riding for a long time, she did not arrive at a hospital, but what seemed like a rural resort.
–Alright, come in then. For some reasons, we cannot send him into the hospital. We have called in a doctor to carry out treatment, so please relax.
The person spoke with a rich, sweet voice. With a gloomy feeling, Aoi entered through the door.
However, it was still too weird.
The building was too quiet within, and there was no presence of humans to be felt. There was something slightly sweet being burned drifting in the air, giving her a nauseous feeling.
“Please let me see Mr. Akagi.”
This time, Aoi spoke with a harsher tone than before.
“Do not be anxious Aoi. Mr. Akagi has just underwent treatment, and is currently sleeping due to the anaesthetic, so let him rest for a while. I shall go brew some tea; please have a seat.”
The other party gave such an excuse, and there was only one person left in the room.
Aoi did not intend to sit on the sofa; the anxiety and doubt started to intensify, her skin feeling prickly as well.
(Is Mr. Akagi really here?)
It was already abnormal that he could not be sent to the hospital.
(And also, why does he know of where Mr. Akagi and I are supposed to meet?)
He said that he was to convey Mr. Akagi’s words to her, but if she were to think about it, it was unnatural.
Aoi tried calling Koremitsu on the phone, but after rummaging through the bag, could not find her cellphone.
(I did bring it when I went out.)
Suddenly, Aoi felt goosebumps near her neck.
(Was it taken away? When he talked to me at the station, and took my belongings onto the car…?)
Though she had said that ‘I do not need help to carry my things’, and wanted it back immediately, at that moment…
Aoi’s heart was racing wildly, her heart breaking down, unable to make up her mind. The slight fragrance engulfing her nostrils caused the throat to be prickly, and her thoughts seemed blurry at that time.
(What is this fragrance…)
It came from the door at the side.
Aoi placed the hand at the handle, opened the door wide, and the sweet smoke came out immediately, causing her to cough softly.
Her eyes were teary, her head dizzy.
However, when she spotted a painting in an extravagant frame on the other end, she felt shocked, as if she was doused with ice-cold water.
That was a painting of Hikaru standing on the school staircase, whilst the bright sun was shining inside, looking back and smiling.
Aoi had decided on this image as she tried drawing him, but she could not draw well as she hardly drew human profiles.
Hikaru’s nose was not like that.
His eyes should be clearer.
His smile should be sweeter, gentler.
She drew a little, and was troubled; she repeated this process over and over again, and finally, if it is this painting, I might be able to show it to Mr. Akagi, she thought.
(That painting was supposed to be missing!)
Asai gave lots of reasons stating that the painting was missing, but Aoi noticed that she was lying. The thief was probably the same person who stole her gym uniform, her textbook, and placed the wilted flower in the shoe locker.
She stumbled about as she entered the room.
She was engulfed in white smoke, the faint looming fragrance was causing her to be dizzy, and she covered her mouth with her hand.
There was a large mirror on the right, and a transparent cage on the rack beside it. There was a chameleon with green scales, hissing its long tongue out.
There was a crimson ceramic stove on the floor; the smoke was coming out from it.
The bed was covered in a bright red cover, as red as poppies, and the painting was at the wall by the side, covered in a golden frame.
Aoi was uncomfortable and hesitant as to whether she was to climb onto the bed, or to touch the bed; thus, she stood by the side, lifting her head to look at the painting.
(That…is my painting after all.)
And that was not all.
The familiar looking palette, brushes, gym clothes and textbooks were thrown into the trashbin. Upon seeing this, Aoi felt chilly.
(Is Miss Tsuyako not the one who did such annoying acts? But she hated me ever since we were young; she plucked out the Tulip buds Hikaru and I grew together, and placed a dead rat at my window.)
Aoi also recalled that Tsuyako had a scandal with Hikaru, for Hikaru was Aoi’s fiance.
She was hated by Tsuyako to such an extent.
Originally, the Udates and the Saotomes were competing families surrounding the Mikados, supporting each other as relatives, and opposing each other discreetly in the shadows. This was the unique relationship the two families had.
Thus, Aoi had assumed that even if Tsuyako was unhappy with her, that was something that could not be helped.
When Hikaru was alive, there were girls other than Tsuyako, girls whose names Aoi did not know of, who did such annoying acts.
To them, it was useless even if she got angry or hurt by them.
The only thing Aoi could do was to despise them.
It was a coping mechanism she learnt, growing up in an elite environment where she was envied by others all the time.
(But, Miss Tsuyako was not the one who did it.)
The one who stole Hikaru’s painting was–
“That painting was really well done…”
The rich, sweet voice cause Aoi to freeze.
She turned around, and found a slender, bespectacled youth holding a tray of red teacups. Hikaru’s older brother, Kazuaki Mikado, stood there.
His thin lips showed a gentle smile.
That ordinary looking youth, or so he was described as, seemed to have become another creature altogether amidst the swaying milky steam.
“You have been watching Hikaru all this time, Aoi. You really like him most.”
That creature was slowly approaching her.
The chameleon slithered its long tongue in the rectangular cage.
“It looks to be incomplete however. I will be delighted if you can continue doing so, Aoi.”
While the voice seemed as sweet and gentle as Hikaru’s, the face was anything but; it was like a serpent, an ominous face and lips giving off such a voice.
(Who is this person?)
It definitely was not the polite, bumbling, goody, ordinary Kazuaki Mikado Aoi knew of.
“Hey, Aoi. Why are you trembling? You look pale.”
He took a small step forward.
Aoi cringed back, and glared.
“Please do not approach me. You are the one who stole that painting, right, Mr. Kazuaki? Not only the painting too; everything else as well–also, what you said about Mr. Akagi being hurt, that he was sent to this house, it was all a lie, right? You lied to me, and brought me to this place. What do you want to do? Return me my phone right now! I am calling for a car to fetch me.”
Kazuaki again showed a smile from behind the smoke.
His beady eyes were showing a condescending look.
He lowered his body as he held the tray, and said softly to the chameleon slithering its tongue in the cage.
“Eh, Third Princess, Aoi here is angry. That is strange? Why must I be scolded by her?”
“Please do not joke around. Think about what you did and reflect upon them.”
The smoke was seeping into her throat, and her head was dizzy, her legs unable to exert strength. Her knees probably would have buckled if she was not angry.
(I cannot continue to inhale this fragrance.)
Sensing danger, Aoi tried to leave the room, but Kazuaki put the tray down, and blocked the door.
“You still do not understand, Aoi.”
With a smirk, Kazuaki gently spoke.
The eyes looking down at Aoi were gradually becoming icy too.
“You were the one who did grievous things to me, Aoi. Cancelling the promise you made with me at the last minute, and wanting to go on an art exhibition with Mr. Akagi.”
Kazuaki stared at Aoi with an icy look, gradually approaching her.
Aoi backed away.
The smoke was spreading bewitchingly, and the chilling uneasiness and fear struck Aoi amidst all these.
After being invited to the art exhibition with Koremitsu, she cancelled the appointment with Kazuaki to go to the classical music concert, saying ‘I cannot go as there is something at school…sorry’. That was a fact.
The guilt was pricking her chest, she wanted to patch things up with Koremitsu no matter what.
At that time, Kazuaki politely smiled, saying, “If it is a school matter, I guess there is no other choice.”
However, this Kazuaki that appeared in front of Aoi was one that inspired fear and trepidation; the demonic smile was closing in.
“Hey, Third Princess, Aoi has been acting like she is a pure innocent girl with a cute face, but managed to hurt someone else so easily. It is scary. Annoying.”
Aoi backed away little by litle.
Once the heel touched the wall, her heart chilled.
There was a bed with bright red covers by her side. Beside the bed was a golden-framed portrait of Hikaru gently smiling.
To prevent Aoi from retreating, Kazuaki pressed his hands on the wall. His flat face was right above hers.
The uneasiness and fear caused Aoi’s petite body to tremble.
“This is not the only time, you know? Back then, you rejected me, Aoi.”
The warmth in Kazuaki’s eyes was diluting. To Aoi, frigid air was even seeping from his body.
“You were the first choice for my fiancee back then, Aoi. However, it was said that Hikaru would be a better choice, and your father, who really doted on you, used the reason of you wanting to marry Hikaru to reject my mother’s proposal.
–Aoi, if Mr. Kazuaki’s mother wishes for you to be her daughter-in-law, what will you do?
That was when Aoi started her elementary school life.
Her father placed her on his lap, asking this.
–It seems young Hikaru’s father wishes for you to be Hikaru’s bride. Who do you wish to marry, Mr. Kazuaki, or Hikaru?
At that time, Aoi was still young, and she did not know how massive a power the Mikados was, what relationship her family clan had with the Mikados, and how they intended to get along in the future.
But even so, she was about to tell from her father’s tone that her reply would affect Hikaru’s position in the future.
Hikaru was the child of a mistress.
There were a few times where she heard of the adults murmurings, saying that Hikaru was ‘a child that should not have been born’, that normally, Hikaru was an entity who could not even step into the Mikados household.
But if Aoi was to marry Hikaru, Hikaru would have the Saotomes backing him.
With such expectations, Hikaru’s father unofficially tried seeking the possibility of Hikaru marrying Aoi
The daughter of the Udates and the daughter of the Saotomes were meant to marry the Mikados’ heirs.
According to the conditions of Aoi’s marriage, everyone would have to recognize Hikaru as a child of the Mikados, and Hikaru could be protected under the Mikados’ name.
Aoi did not understand this much.
But even so, if he gets engaged with me, Hikaru might not be called a child ‘who should not be born’.
That was what Aoi thought.
I want to protect Hikaru.
Thus, with her cheeks red, she pouted her lips in a seemingly angry manner, stealthily whispering her answer with her all might.
–If I am to get married to Hikaru, I can continue to play with Asa…I will choose Hikaru then.
The engagement was decided by the two fathers.
That was what everyone else said.
In fact, it was an unavoidable fate for her as the eldest daughter of the Saotomes main family to marry either Hikaru or Kazuaki.
However, Aoi herself was the one who chose Hikaru from the two.
It had been 10 years since that incident, and being chided by Kazuaki over this matter had caused Aoi to be confused.
Up till this point, Kazuaki had been interacting with Aoi as an elder, though unreliable older brother; they had never held such a conversation once.
However, he probably felt vengeful over Aoi’s refusal to be engaged to him.
For 10 years!
Behind that smile!
With an icy stare of disgust and condescendence, Kazuaki glared at Aoi, curling his lips demonically as he smiled.
With a rich, sweet voice, he said,
“Ever since then, Aoi, you are the one I really hated most in this world.”
At that moment, it seemed that even the breath Kazuaki let out was frozen. The numbing fear passed through her back, causing her limbs to become numb, her throat dry, her breathing ceasing. She felt as if her heart was grasped by a venomous claw, causing her to nearly shriek.
Till this point, she had been envied by others.
There were girls who liked Hikaru, heaving verbal abuse upon hear before.
However, those paled in comparison; he was showing him such filth, distorted malice and hatred, causing her to tremble.
“However, you are Hikaru’s most precious girl. I shall treasure you well.”
Kazuaki’s hand gently caressed Aoi’s face.
The hand, as damp as a fish’s fin, brought a sensation that caused goosebumps to rise on Aoi’s skin again.
(Do-do not touch me. It feels disgusting.)
She only felt disgust from within, but was unable to let out a voice.
“I do know. Your body is still beautiful. You are unlike Hikaru’s lustful partner, the utterly filthy, non-virgin Tsuyako. To his one most beloved, Hikaru never kissed you, keeping it so sacred. It was his bad however; he is already dead, unable to obtain such a beautiful, pure Aoi.”
(What is he saying? N-no, do not touch me!)
The damp hand stroked Aoi’s chin and ears, raised her dry, silky straight black hair, and dropped it.
“Ah, a girl with black hair is still the best. Your hair is so soft and straight like threads, Aoi; so different from the red rustic hair of Tsuyako. It is vexing that Tsuyako, who I do not want, is pushed onto me. However, as I am able to get Hikaru’s beloved in you, I shall forgive her.”
“I-I will not marry-you.”
Aoi finally managed to say this.
But Kazuaki merely felt amusement as he cackled.
“Are you actually planning to go out with that ugly red-colored hound? You are so different in status from him. That hound said that he is Hikaru’s friend or something, and you opened your heart to him out of remembrance over Hikaru? How foolish. Such an uncouth lowlife definitely cannot get together with a princess like you, Aoi. Ahahahaha, this is laughable~ third princess! Such a shaggy dog being with Aoi?”
Mr. Akagi is not a shaggy dog.
She was so terrified her legs were trembling, but once she heard him insult Koremitsu, Aoi was so furious her head was boiling.
Using her hands, she pushed Kazuaki away hard.
“Mr. Akagi is much better than you are! I cannot allow you to look down on him!”
It had nothing to do with pedigree.
It had nothing to do with identity.
The boy called Koremitsu Akagi was straightforward, honest, and a gentle person. Aoi knew all of that!
Kazuaki stumbled, but grabbed Aoi’s shoulder immediately, pushing her back onto the wall.
With a loud thud on the wall, Kazuaki’s fingers were entrenched into her shoulders.
As the head had hit the wall, she was starting to feel dizzy.
“What are you protecting him for? Huh? Why are you speaking up for him? Hah, do you understand your own position? Huh, huh, huh, huh, Aoi?”
The chameleon inside the cage let out a monotonous hiss from the throat.
“Let me tell you who is suited to be your partner, Aoi. I really hate you to the point of wanting to shake that beautiful hair of yours, but I shall forgive you. I will put you by my side, comb that hair of yours with a boxwood comb, litter your clothes and hair with fragrances, and treasure you like a doll. Come, Hikaru too will bless the moment I unite with his most beloved, Aoi.”
Hikaru was staring at Aoi through the tawdry golden frame. As Kazuaki narrowed his eyes in ecstasy, a crude voice rang,
“Hikaru will never give you his blessings!”