A few days before before summer vacation ended.
They were invited by Tsuyako to a fireworks festival at the riverbank near the school.
It was convenient when everyone brought their sparklers and rocket fireworks, enjoying themselves. Speaking of fireworks, it certainly was an exciting plan to Koremitsu, who normally planned sparklers by himself at his own house.
“It is the first time I am playing with fireworks by the riverbank too. So fireworks are not just played at private beaches, huh? Watching fireworks from pleasure boat or the top floor of a hotel does have their own charms, but the river does give a flowing vibe.”
Hikaru too was delighted.
It will be great if you can bring your little sister along. Tsuyako said, and so, Koremitsu brought Shioriko along to play. Including the members of the Japanese dance club, Honoka and Michiru, there was also a sullen looking Tōjō and an overly chirpy Hiina Oumi.
“Why are you two here?”
Koremitsu asked as he stared at them, and while Tōjō’s frown intensified, Hiina beside him poked her head out, speaking with clarity,
“Well well, isn’t this a good thing? It’s good for us to be able to improve the closeness between upperclassmen and underclassmen.”
“I do not intend to improve my relationship with all of you, but rather, I am concerned that when Aoi comes here, if she gets hurt by the fire from the light or such, or if she gets hurt by the sparkers and rocket fireworks, so I came to have a look.”
Koremitsu was about to retort that Tōjō was being too overprotective, but in contrast,
“Wait, Aoi will be coming?”
“…Ah, yes, Aoi…and Asai.”
And just when both Koremitsu and Hikaru were looking extremely stunned.
“Welcome, Miss Aoi, Miss Asai. It is good that both of you are able to make it as promised.”
Standing in front of the grinning Tsuyako was the frozen face Aoi and the stern looking Asai.
“I-I just want to play with some fireworks.”
Aoi looked back and forth between Tsuyako and Asai, meeting them in the eyes before she answered, this, and Asai shot Tsuyako a frigid stare, answering brusquely,
“I am just here to supervise all of you so that you do not get into trouble.”
Tsuyako gave a bewitching smile, saying,
“Is that so? But I am glad both of you are willing to accept my invitation. Please enjoy yourselves however you want.”
Asai’s eyes still seemed cold, and Aoi too turned her head aside, looking perturbed and annoyed, her eyebrows frowning.
Both of them left the scene without looking at each other
But after that, the candle used for lighting fireworks was blown out due to the wind, and Aoi tried using the lighter to light the candle again, only to no avail. At this moment, Asai approached her.
“If you are going to cover the candle from the wind using just your fingers, 10 years will be insufficient for you to light it. Please lend me that.”
Aoi turned her head around in shock, and upon seeing Asai, immediately straightened her back as she showed a feisty glint in her eyes.
“I can do this myself. Please hand me that lighter.”
And after she said this with a convicted voice, she reached her hand out.
Asai gave a cold stare back at Aoi, and after a pause of silence,
“…You are not supposed to just tap at it. You need to rub it hard.”
She restrained her emotions as she spoke stoically, and placed the lighter on Aoi’s hand.
Aoi widened her eyes, looking ready to burst into tears, and bit her lips, remaining silent. She then showed a serious look as she stared at the lighter.
After rubbing the fingers a few times, she managed to start a fire.
Aoi opened her lips slightly, her expression relaxed.
And Asai continued to stare at Aoi silently.
Once she finished lighting the candle, Aoi looked over at Asai tentatively.
And once their eyes met, both of them gave perturbed looks, averted their eyes again, and left awkwardly.
However, Aoi still went over to Asai’s direction.
And Asai stared in Aoi’s direction immediately afterwards. Koremitsu and Hikaru watched on from the sidelines.
“Asa and Miss Aoi may not be able to revert back to that sort of relationship back then. But as time passes, both of them should be able to have a new, better relationship than before.”
Hikaru, right at the river that was glittering with moonlight, was basking under the clear moonlight, his expression tender as he spoke.
And Koremitsu spoke cheerfully,
“If you as the childhood friend says so, I guess it’ll definitely end up that way.”
The wind rustled at the river surface and grass, and it was a little humid and warm, with the summer still lingering.
While the stoic looking Asai held a stick firework in her hand, Hiina, holding two fireworks in her hands, approached the former.
Aoi looked troubled when Tsuyako approached her to mingle around with an earnest smile, helping to make some of the fireworks.
And Tōjō was staring intently at the cat called Lapis, now in Shioriko’s clutches. He tried to reach his hand out to it, only for it to slip away, and he was left confounded.
Koremitsu saw Honoka playing with fireworks at the riverbank, and walked over to her.
And once she noticed him approaching, she looked around, pretending to sense that there was movement around her, only to give a quick glance in Koremitsu’s direction.
And when Koremitsu took a step forward, Honoka backed away a little.
He took another step, and Honoka averted her eyes, nudging back a little.
(What is she so fidgety about?)
And so, Koremitsu took a large stride forward, closing the distance to Honoka in one go, and grabbed her hand, staring at her.
He seized the opportunity to speak up before Honoka could, clearly showing that he was unwilling to let go.
“Thank you for that talk we had just a while back. It really helped me out a lot. Well, that’s not the only time; thanks for everything! I’ve been causing you trouble all this time right, Shikibu? I feel that I’m able to see something I never saw before after talking to you!”
And Honoka stared at Koremitsu with her face all reddened.
Enduring the shame within him, Koremitsu confessed earnestly,
“And well, I-I may be a little stubborn, and I hate keeping a distance from you, you know? It’s like whenever I avoid you, I feel like I got a stomachache from food poisoning or something.”
“I don’t really know what sort of feeling this is, and even though you asked whether you can like me, I still can’t answer it now, but I’ll definitely find an answer! S-so-so anyway, can you please wait for just a little??”
His face was scalding.
And his hand, now holding Honoka’s, was so hot it was about to melt.
But Koremitsu felt that no matter how ashamed he was, no matter how disgraceful it was for him, he had to convey these honest, unpretentious feelings he had pondered so much to Honoka no matter what.
The other firework in Honoka’s hand burned its final lights, slowly sizzling and reducing to ash, falling to her feet.
She lifted her head, and looked at Koremitsu, completely flabbergasted, nodding,
And then, she lowered her eyes bashfully, muttering,
“I shall be waiting.”
After hearing this voice that oozed of sweetness, Koremitsu grew increasingly embarrassed, his entire body so ticklish he wanted to roll about on the floor. However, he scowled, groaned, and nodded with Honoka.
Hikaru behind him was enjoying himself, muttering,
“This is your first promise with Miss Shikibu. It will be great if I can be still on this world and hear the replies from your mouths.”
At this moment, Shioriko suddenly barged in,
“Big brother Koremitsu! Shiiko wants to play with the mouse fireworks, wanna let it spin and bounce about!”
“It’s too dangerous, no way.”
“You can just watch over me, big brother.”
She grabbed Koremitsu by the hand, and pulled him away from Honoka.
“But it won’t bounce around with me watching.”
“Then, how about we play with some normal sparklers instead?”
An obstinate Shioriko dragged Koremitsu with both hands, her cheeks puffed. Michiru Hanasato was in the other direction, raising her eyebrows as she placed her hands in front of her petite chest, looking at Koremitsu.
She seemed a little lethargic, but for an instant, showed a faint smile.
As usual, she ran off to Honoka.
Aoi and Tsuyako were lighting the fireworks by the riverbank, firing them in unison, and the red, blue stars glittered, lighting the river surface.
And at the same time, cheers and laughter of joy danced together towards the summer night sky.
(I can’t see the Summer Triangle and the Milky Way here.)
But surely, on the other end of the atmosphere, the stars would be dazzling brightly, just as he had witnessed at that hill.
Shioriko and Hiina let one rocket firework after another, creating a ruckus.
“Hey, don’t fire it at someone!”
He warned them, and looked over in Asai’s direction, seeing her narrowing her eyes as she looked up at the sky. She seemed forlorn, but her back was straightened like usual, and she was giving a positive look.
And the moment she noticed Koremitsu staring at her, she lowered her lips slightly, pouting.
(I know what you were thinking about)
And Koremitsu too showed such an expression as he pouted his lips too.
Once Asai guided her eyes towards his side, she showed a tender expression.
And then, she turned her head aside again, showing an exceptionally grim look as she approached Koremitsu.
“Mr. Akagi, I have something I wish to talk to you about.”
“Yes, as Hikaru’s friend, you have to hear this.”
Koremitsu was surprised to hear Asai say the words ‘Hikaru’s friend’. However, there was no time for any sentiments as she continued her words with a grim look,
“The true identity of the one Hikaru truly loves. This love that was unable to come true became his—”
Recalling Yū’s words, Koremitsu was rendered breathless.
And a serene voice rang beside him.
With a pale face and a determined look, Hikaru stared at Koremitsu and the rest.
“Regarding that, please allow me to say it.”
♢ ♢ ♢
“I say, Third Princess, Hikaru’s beloved is not little Aoi, no?”
There was a bewitching light glowing from the moon after.
Kazuaki was leaning by the rail at the villa’s balcony, staring at the stars that were somewhat blurry, talking to the chameleon.
“We were completely fooled. It was…truly unexpected.”
Amidst the rustling breeze, he continued to fiddle with the long black hair and the hem of the scarlet one piece dress, opening his lips smoothly.
“Hu hu hu, can you believe it, Third Princess? Hikaru’s beloved is Hikaru’s—”
♢ ♢ ♢
I tried to hate.
I tried to show disdain.
But I could not.
The fact was that it was determined you were my ‘beloved’ the moment you said the first beautiful line to me.
Yes, my beloved is always you.