“If we are talking about pretty princesses that can be met in the Summer wild, I suppose they would be lilies.”
It was summer vacation, and half of August had passed.
Koremitsu was sweating all over, starting from the forehead, as he worked on his holidays assignments in the room devoid of an electric fan. Hikaru, in turn, spoke coolly.
“The lush green grass shall absorb the heat of Summer, and on the other side of the grass, there stands the slender figure of a girl radiating a refreshing feeling, such that one can forget the searing heat with just a glance at her. Oh yes, there is such a waka recorded in the Man’yoshu.”
Then, he sung with a richly sweet voice,
“’On the grassy wayside, the lilies bloom. With a smile, shall I call you my wife?’ What it means here is that even amidst the green grass, if I am able to see your smile bloom like the lily, is that sufficient for me to call you my wife? The lily that appears here has to be pink, a cute Princess Lily. This ‘hime’ princess reminds of the ‘himi’ in the word ‘secret’, cute and yet has some voluptuous sense to her that causes a man’s heart to flutter. Hey, Koremitsu, you do not have to frown like that and try to imagine it like solving an official event. Just imagine a girl amidst the tall, lush grass, peering at you. At the moment your eyes meet hers, she will say to you ‘don’t just call me your wife’, her cheeks blushing.”
“Like I know anything about that.”
Koremitsu fanned himself with a circular silk fan as he answered nonchalantly.
“You look very hot there yourself. Anyway, since you’re a ghost, hurry up and cool this room down.”
“Please do not be unreasonable. You do know very well that I am a useless ghost who cannot do anything other than to cosplay, right? Oh yes, how about I try putting on a tennis outfit. I suppose surely it would be like living in a summer shelter. Perhaps I would be able to feel the cooling breeze blowing upon the silver birch grove.”
Once he said that, he immediately transformed into a white tennis wear with white shorts, his light brown hair swaying gently in the air, radiating a clear smile. There was a blue wrist guard on his arm, and his head had a similar colored band on it.
“What do you think, Koremitsu? Do you feel refreshed like the blooming lilies at a summer shelter resort?”
Hikaru tried swinging his racket at Koremitsu, but no wind was blown at him. Quite the opposite, it caused Koremitsu’s head to boil, and his body to sizzle.
“That’s enough already and get back to the corner, shut up and sit in a Seiza.”
“That is cruel of you, Koremitsu. It is rare to have a summer vacation, and you are focusing on doing homework since morning. The thing about summer vacation is that you have to wait till the end of it and copy from other girls.”
“Stop saying such despicable things with that angelic pure smile. Also, if I’m going to ask someone to lend me homework with that bad man look of mine, it’ll just be assumed as intimidation.”
One of them was Hikaru, hailed a harem prince with girls offering themselves freely to him. At the other end of the spectrum is himself, called a wild dog and being ostracized out of fear. Clearly, their positions were different.
“Hey you, let me copy your homework.”
If Koremitsu were to say that, the girls would definitely leave their notebooks on his desk with trembling hands, and run off.
“Eh? But if it is Miss Shikibu, I suppose she will be willing to let you copy.”
Koremitsu let out a groan,
“And her face will probably turn pink like the princess lilies, ‘I-I guess I have no other choice!’ saying something like that shrilly.”
“D-Don’t mention about Shikibu…”
As it was too embarrassing, Koremitsu’s body started to heat up again, his face beetroot like it had been ironed through.
On a certain previous night, he sneaked into the school pool with his classmate Honoka Shikibu, splashing water at each other, chasing each other in the water–and on top of that, they did things that would cause people to blush. Ever since then, whenever Hikaru mentioned about Honoka, Koremitsu would sense an itchy, mysterious feeling in his heart.
In the end, Koremitsu would avert his eyes inadvertently and fidget. His voice would also sound strange.
And Hikaru would put an aloof, conceited face as he watched Koremitsu’s weird responses, which in turn would piss Koremitsu.
“Hey, Koremitsu, forget about homework and ask Miss Shikibu out. Oh yes, how about calling Miss Aoi out too and we go on a double date, the 4 of us? Wow~ that might be enjoyable!”
“Won’t the passers-by just look at me as if I’m a two-timer or something!?”
“Eh? You do intend to two-time on Miss Aoi and Miss Shikibu, Koremitsu?”
Hikaru was taken aback.
“Like I am! What are you talking about!? How can I possibly do something like that!? I’m not you.”
“Well, that is true after all. Ah, that really shocked me. However, I do wish to make something clear. What do you think about MIss Aoi?”
“Wh-what do you mean…of course she’s your fiancee.”
“Wait, anything else?”
Hikaru approached Koremitsu with a suspicious look, and the latter panicked,
“Do you not find Miss Aoi to be really cute or something, like she is someone you have to protect?”
“Y-yeah, compared to the beginning when she just flat out ostracized everyone, I suppose Aoi has changed completely, and is really cute, or maybe her expression is somewhat gentle, and that she suddenly became rather feminine…I think she’s a woman important to you, so I feel that I have to help her if something happens to her.”
“Koremitsu, as expected, you…”
Hikaru again looked extremely rattled.
“I said it before already, it’s not like that.”
“You’re annoying, damn it. Didn’t you look really cheerful, saying ‘oh, this is fine, I think’ when you let me pretend to be Aoi’s boyfriend?”
And so, Hikaru immediately puffed his cheeks,
“That was merely just to maintain a facade, and back then, Miss Aoi did look really troubled. At that time, that was all I could say. I really felt conflicted inside me, even if you and Miss Aoi were pretending to be a couple. Of course, it is not a lie that I wish Miss Aoi could be happy, and that you are my friend, my hero. Both of you are most important to me, b-but when both of you were chatting in front of me, I felt as if it was some sort of a penalty game. And and also, Miss Aoi’s lover has to be more handsome than me, has a more pleasant voice than mine, is more interesting than me, is more knowledgeable about floral languages than me, and more…”
“I get it! I get it already! Calm down now! Approach me anymore, and your head’s going to go through my own head!”
Koremitsu tried his best to curb Hikaru, his back leaning on the desk.
(This kid’s hard to understand. Rather gloomy too.)
“I don’t want to do anything to my friend’s girlfriend, and Aoi won’t have any thoughts about me.”
“Is that really the case? You have become quite the popular man yourself recently, Koremitsu. Somewhat cool.”
“W-what nonsense are you spouting?”
The description of being popular truly was a complete transformation from his old self, where girls started to shun him since the beginning of middle school. Koremitsu’s face started to heat up.
Hikaru continued to pout as he wanted to continue, only for the cellphone on Koremitsu’s desk to ring.
Once he spotted the caller, Koremitsu let out a weird sound.
Of all moments, it had to be Aoi.
(Damn it. What’s with this timing?)
But just when he was still holding onto the cellphone, the ring stopped.
Koremitsu was so shocked, he merely stared at the phone blankly.
“What was that? A wrong call?”
“So it was from Miss Aoi?”
Hikaru glanced aside, looking as if he had expected it.
(Argh, I’m not a woman here, so stop looking at me like some sort of widowed woman. Ah damn it, I can’t call back now.)
“Well…I guess If she really had something, she’ll call back.”
Cautious about Hikaru’s stare, Koremitsu said with a nonchalant tone, placing his cellphone back on the desk.
At this moment, the phone rang again.
He felt his heart jump out of his mouth. However, he saw that the caller was not Aoi, but an anonymous number.
He received the call, placed the phone at his ear, and heard a timid voice,
“E-erm…Mr. Akagi? Do you know who I am?”
The image of the bespectacled class representative with braids appeared in his mind. She sounded really delighted, and answered,
“Yes, th-that’s right. This is Michiru Hanasato. Ah, s-sorry about this. It’s rather sudden…were you surprised? I got your number from Hono, Mr. Akagi…”
Why would Hanasato of all people call me at such a moment? Is this what a network is about? While Koremitsu pondered about it, Michiru stammered, before continuing,
“Mr. Akagi, d-d-do you want to go for a study meet?”
“Yes. At the library. Shall we do our summer homework together? I’m calling Hono along too, the three of us.”
When Honoka’s name was mentioned, he felt his heart jump.
“Erm, is that not good? Are you busy today?”
“No, I’m doing my summer homework now.”
“I see. It will be more efficient for us to work together. Why don’t you come along, Mr. Akagi?”
She invited him passionately.
He answered, and she sounded more delighted, seemingly relieved,
“Thank goodness. I’ll see you then. With Ho-Ho-Ho-Hono.”
After she informed him the location of the library, the phone call was halted.
“A study meet with girls? I suppose that is some kind of a summer vacation event, no?”
His mood now uplifted, Hikaru spoke cheerfully,
“Hey, isn’t Hanasato supposed to be terrified of me or something?”
“I do suppose it has to be because she knew that you are not a savage delinquent. And this probably is to help repair your relationship with Miss Shikibu. Girls always do like doing such things.”
“Okay now. It is not a good thing to keep a girl waiting.
While Koremitsu panicked, Hikaru chimed in cheerfully
Koremitsu informed his aunt Koharu that he would not be having lunch as he was going to the library. Shioriko, carrying Lapis in her hands, overheard this and exclaimed,
“I wanna go too!”
“No, I got others with me this time. I’ll bring you out next time, Shiiko.”
Koremitsu recalled how at the start of the summer vacation, he brought Shioriko, Honoka and Michiru to the pool, creating such a ruckus, and because of that incident, firmly refused. However, Shioriko’s eyes seemed uneasy as she asked over and over again,
“Who’re you going with?”
“People at school.”
After hearing such vague words from Koremitsu, she grabbed his arm, not too weakly, and not too strongly.
“I want to go too. I’ll stay put obediently, okay? Pretty please, big brother?”
She continued to shake his arm gently as she begged,
Because of his little sister begging him like this, Koremitsu faltered. While he groaned, the white cat Lapis got down to Shioriko’s feet, and stared at Koremitsu coolly with her blue eyes like a passer-by.
And at that moment, there was a voice from the side,
“Shiiko, you have to go for dodgeball practice!”
“See, your friends are waiting for you now. It’s important to remain in contact with your friends.”
“I’ll go cheer for you at the tournament.”
Koremitsu left the still displeased Shioriko behind and turned to leave the house through the corridor,
“Ahh, she really is puffing her cheeks round there. You do have to give her quite the service when you get back home, big brother.”
♢ ♢ ♢
Koremitsu went to the public library near the school. Under the midsummer sun’s rays which seemed ready to bake anything, entering through the automatic doors and into a wide open air-conditioned room felt like just like entering the freezer.
He spotted Honoka dressed in casual wear, her notes spread all over the table, approached her tensely, and called her out.
Honoka lifted her head in surprise.
The chair let out a loud thud, and she, basked in the stares of the onlookers, shrank back, her cheeks red. She then looked up tentatively at Koremitsu, and whispered,
“Wh-why are you here, Akagi?”
“Huh? I got called here by Hanasato. The three of us are doing homework together.”
Honoka widened her eyes.
And suddenly, she became flustered,
“You’re kidding…! That Michiru…”
While she continued to mutter,
“You didn’t hear from Hanasato about me coming here?”
“I-I’m just invited here to do the summer vacation homework in the library…”
For some reason, Honoka looked really troubled.
And after that,
“Mr. Akagi, you came by!”
A delighted voice rang.
Koremitsu turned back to look, and his jaw dropped.
Honoka too looked dumbstruck.
Hikaru was left amazed.
Michiru, who said that she would wear the school uniform when going out, was at this point dressed in a lemon yellow one-piece dress fit for summer, coupled with a white cardigan with frills on it. Also, there was a little ribbon-shaped necklace around her neck.
That was not all.
She was not wearing her glasses, and her hair was not tied in braids. The soft, gentle-looking brown curls were rolled to her shoulders, swaying lightly. Perhaps she had put on contact lens, and the large eyes usually hidden under the spectacles were no longer covered. She looked up at Koremitsu shyly.
He unconsciously affirmed.
“Yes, that’s right. Erm…since it’s summer vacation, I thought maybe…I could be a little more bold. Do-does it suit me?”
“Very cute~! The old-fashioned glasses give the vibe of a serious-looking girl, and it does look nice, but this one does suit you well too, adding quite some splendor to it. The refreshing Tachibana flower gives off a sweet fragrance that causes my head to get dizzy!”
(Anyway…that’s quite the change.)
If he had not heard her voice, he would not imagine the plain, rigid and bespectacled class representative to be the same person as the one in front of him.
Koremitsu was left so surprised he could not say anything, and Honoka, giving the same stunned look, stated clumsily,
“That’s not true. It really suits you there, and you really look cute, Michiru.”
“Don’t you think so too, Akagi?”
She looked up at Koremitsu worriedly, saying this to him.
“Eh, yeah, I guess. It’s nice, I suppose.”
Koremitsu could sense some seriousness in Honoka’s stare for some strange reason, and could only stammer back. Michiru’s face was dyed pink as she gave a bashful look.
And meanwhile, Honoka’s expression was a stark contrast, completely frozen.
“M-Michiru, seriously there, why didn’t you tell me Akagi was coming? It shocked me there.”
“Sorry, Hono. But I thought that you’ll be fine with Mr. Akagi around. Erm…is that a bad thing?”
Michiru suddenly became quite tentative.
Honoka’s lips were lifted, becoming a pout,
“That’s not the case. With Akagi here, I don’t have to worry about him trying to woo other girls. It’s just that…I was really shocked.”
Honoka spoke with her usual carefree tone.
“Okay now, stop spacing out while staring at Michiru, Akagi. Hurry up and sit.”
Saying such words to Koremitsu violently.
Koremitsu was about to retort back, saying that he was not looking, only to find that Honoka was already seated behind him, causing him to miss out on this opportunity.
And Koremitsu too pulled out the chair, sitting down uneasily,
“Ah, Koremitsu! You cannot sit there!”
It seemed Hikaru exclaimed something.
Michiru took the seat beside Koremitsu, and sat down.
Seated opposite Koremitsu was Honoka, her expression a little stiff.
For some reason, Hikaru had his head in his hands.
(What’s bad about this seat? It’s not like there’s some doodle or glue on it.)
Hikaru was amazed by Michiru’s transformation back then, praising her to be really pretty cute; at this point however, he looked feeble and timid, ostensibly at a loss of words. This caused Koremitsu too to be restless and unable to calm down.
“Mr. Akagi, may I know how far are you done with the maths paper?”
Michiru spoke to him shyly.
Koremitsu flipped through the question pages with his fingers clumsily, and answered,
“Wow, Mr. Akagi. You did do your homework seriously.”
“Can you teach me this question, Mr. Akagi?”
And whispered this and that to him.
As both of them were seated together, their shoulders were naturally touching each other, while Koremitsu backed away slightly, wondering if they were too close to each other. Michiru too looked as if she realized the distance between them, fidgeting about as she shrank back. She however did not seem to hate it, merely a little shy.
In response to Koremitsu’s constrained explanation,
“Thanks. Your explanation was easy to understand Akagi. Ah, please teach me this too.”
Michiru answered, and she approached Koremitsu, controlling her distance.
On the other side, Honoka was completely quiet, as if she forgot to breathe as she closed her lips tight, her shoulders and face frozen as she flipped through the dictionary, translating English.
She would sometimes show a feeble look as she stared at the hair swaying on Michiru’s shoulder and pink cheeks. Whenever that happened, a weaker expression would show.
She tried her best not to look at Koremitsu in the eyes. She clumsily averted her eyes away from his face. Whenever Koremitsu said something however, her shoulders would jump slightly.
Honoka did not say anything ever since she sat down, and this caused Koremitsu some concern.
(I’m not sure since I’ve never been invited to a study meet, but is it this kind of thing? Isn’t it supposed to be more friendly?)
The atmosphere at this point could not be called amicable. It was solemn.
Hikaru too looked perplexed as he watched over the trio.
It seemed that Hikaru did say Michiru was intending to patch Koremitsu’s relationship with Honoka, no? That did not seem to be the case at all.
(Well, it’s okay whether she does so or not.)
After about an hour, Michiru got up from her seat.
“I’ll go to the washroom for a little while.”
Once Michiru walked off, the atmosphere between Koremitsu and Honoka got worse immediately.
(…Is it better for me to talk to her…but it looks like she’s concentrating on working on her homework…how am I supposed to talk to her…?)
Koremitsu could not find anything else to say, and said so gloomily.
After he said that, Honoka’s shoulders jolted again.
She answered, lowering her head.
And then, both of them went silent again. Koremitsu frowned, wondering, ‘Is this a bad topic to start with?’ At this moment, Honoka spoke up,
“About Michiru…when I told her she could be prettier, she refused, saying that it would not suit her, that it would be better for her to be like this…”
It seemed Honoka had some complicated thoughts about Michiru becoming beautiful. She sounded somewhat vague as she said this.
She then closed her lips shut, and when Koremitsu wondered if she was going to remain silent, she stood up and clumsily raised her bag, saying,
“I’ve got to update my blog now. I’m going back.”
Koremitsu got up anxiously, but Honoka whispered,
“…I think it’s better for us to see each other less often.”
Huh? What’s she talking about?
Honoka suddenly said some ridiculous words, leaving a dumbfounded Koremitsu behind as she slung her bag on her shoulder, lowered her head, and hurriedly left.
What is going on here!?
“I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s going on at all. Hey, Hikaru, can you translate what she just said there?”
He lifted his head, looking at the specialist of the girl’s heart.
“Hm, it is not impossible, but well…the situation has become quite complicated. The friendship between girls can be unexpectedly tough to deal with. To put it, such a development is beyond my expectations… Which should be prioritized? Friendship or love? Even now, I am troubled by this.”
Hikaru muttered, clearly of no use here.
At this moment, Michiru returned.
“Eh? Hono went back already? Th-then…I’ll be alone with you, Mr. Akagi…anyway, how about we have lunch together?”
“Sorry, I’m going back too.”
Koremitsu said as he stood up.
“I can’t understand anything about women.”
Koremitsu muttered with a bitter look as he strode off to the exit.
She was so happy at the pool, and then she placed her face at his chest.
—You better protect me, okay?
She said those words to him with a sweet voice.
What did she mean by keeping a distance between them?
While Hikaru looked perturbed as he watched on, Koremitsu frowned and slouched his back as he exited the library. The cellphone in his pocket vibrated.
When he finally pulled it out, the vibration stopped.
He checked the caller, and again, it was Aoi.
Koremitsu’s eyes became sharp this time.
“Something happened to Aoi after all?”
This time, Hikaru did not show any jealously, merely looked worried.
“How about giving Miss Aoi a phone call, Koremitsu?”
Koremitsu immediately dialed back, but his line got cut off, only leaving a voice message beep.
He was sure she was on a day off from her part-time work at the cafe.
“Let’s just go to her house, alright?”
Seeing that Hikaru nodded in approval, Koremitsu walked off.
♢ ♢ ♢
There was a sharp looking, red-haired, delinquent-like Koremitsu wandering around the posh looking residence on the private land barricaded by tall walls; clearly, he did not fit in well with the surrounding elegance. The next question would be whether he would be deemed a suspicious person and get taken away by the police for questioning.
He actually wanted to give a serious look.
He gave Aoi a few calls on his way to this place, but as expected, it was hung up.
(Did something happen at her workplace? Did Hikaru’s older brother do something again?)
Unlike Hikaru, Koremitsu did not have romantic feelings for Aoi. It was only because of Hikaru that Koremitsu was able to be on such terms with Aoi.
And thus at this point, his feelings of wanting to protect Aoi was not simply because it was at Hikaru’s behest, but that he really wanted to protect her. He never denied this.
For Aoi was so pure, so pretty, yet so fragile…
For Aoi was the first girl Koremitsu felt was cute…
Suddenly, Koremitsu heard a grim voice,
“That is enough already, Aoi.”
Koremitsu inadvertently stopped in his tracks.
Standing in front of Aoi’s house was a tall, intelligent, mature looking girl, chiding Aoi loudly with an unnatural look.
“I know you are in the house. Why are you not picking up the phone? If I am willing, I can go to your house and ask someone to open the door.”
Hikaru muttered as he floated about.
Chiding harsh words into the phone was Hikaru’s cousin, the student council president Asai Saiga.
“What are you playing at? If you are not going to come out, how am I to know? I called you not to hear the purring of that house cat that is always thinking about sausages. You also hid the fact that you decided to go do a part-time job from me, no—Aoi!”
It seemed the voice message had ended.
Asai frowned her thin long eyebrows, looking distressed as she stared at the phone. She dialed again, placed the phone at her ear, and closed her lips as she emitted fury. It seemed Aoi did not pick up the phone again as Asai’s expression grew grimmer by the moment.
“What are you thinking…Aoi.”
“You got into an argument with Aoi, Asa?”
Koremitsu asked as he approached Asai.
Asai’s shoulders shivered, and she spotted Koremitsu. Her eyes looked like blades as she narrowed them.
“How many times do I have to repeat that I do not wish to be called Asa by you. Is your brain like a bird that forget everything after three steps?”
She spoke coldly.
“Why’re you being so loud for? It’s because your eyes became so sharp that Aoi’s scared and hiding from you.”
Asai’s eyes shot an icy glint,
“Neither Aoi nor I have anything to do with a bird-brained wild hound. Why are you wandering around Aoi’s house? If you continue to stalk Aoi, I will have to lock you into a mental asylum in the hills.”
Asai raised her chin slightly as she stared at Koremitsu, but she did not seem to be in good condition. Is Asa pushing herself again? While Hikaru stared at Asai worriedly, the latter’s upper body passed by him as she tumbled forward.
“That’s dangerous—you didn’t sleep again?”
Koremitsu frantically grabbed Asai, and she, now in Koremitsu’s arms, froze, seemingly humiliated, and pushed him off hard.
“I slept—well enough. It is just that when I saw your obscene self, my body just felt uncomfortable.”
Asai spoke with a cold, haughty tone.
“Aren’t you swaying? Don’t collapse now.”
Hikaru too was beside Asai chiming, “That is right, Asa. It is better to rest now,” in an enthusiastic voice
“Are those not unnecessary remarks from you?”
Asai averted her eyes, letting her long black hair sway in the air like a whip.
At this moment, her cellphone vibrated.
Once she checked who the caller was, her pretty face contorted inadvertently, and at that instance, a lethargic expression was betrayed. She then seemingly reproached herself as she reverted back to being steely as she picked up the phone,
“Yes…my intentions have not changed. Even if you do leave, I do intend to fight on until the very end, and it is not that there is no hope. As long as I can get the word of the Asagao Princess, the balance of victory will tilt to our side. No, I intend to topple it.”
When Asai whispered the name ‘Asagao Princess’, Hikaru’s eyes faltered for some reason, and he looked downcast.
(What is she talking about?) Koremitsu too wondered as he eavesdropped.
A black foreign vehicle suddenly appeared out of nowhere, stopping in front of Asai, and the chauffeur opened the door for her. She rode on that vehicle, and vanished from Koremitsu’s sights.
Left behind was the stench of the exhaust gases that were released.
“And she wouldn’t say goodbye! She’s the same annoying woman as before! Argh, even if you kneel and beg me, I wouldn’t want to get involved with you!”
Koremitsu’s temples were bulging as he concluded,
Hikaru suddenly spoke seriously.
After seeing Hikaru’s serious look, Koremitsu could not help but back away.
Hikaru was staring at Koremitsu, looking really worried, and then he suddenly floated in front of the latter, and knelt down on his knees. He then lifted his head at the latter with a grim, meaningful look.
“There is something I wish to ask of you.”
“H-hey, don’t just kneel in the middle of the road. Speaking of which, your request is going to be about a woman—”
I get that already, so just stand up. Just when Koremitsu was about to say this, Hikaru groveled, lowering his head.
“Please fulfill my initial promise with Asa in my place no matter what.”