By the next day, news of Koremitsu impregnating Asai had reached the entire Heian High School Affiliate.
No matter where he went,
“I heard that the delinquent king made the Matriarch Asa pregnant.”
“I heard it’s been 4 months now.”
“Is it true that the Matriarch Asa threatened the delinquent king to get married with her?”
There were such whispering that caused Koremitsu much consternation.
“So you are the type of man to act early, you bastard…!? The thing about you being on bad terms with Asai is all a fake!? I still have no understanding however what is good about Asai, no, before that, what does Asai see in you, you bastard, in other words, what sort of development caused this event, no this is truly a coarse way of asking. My apologies, please forget about that. Everything that happens between man and woman is really beyond what I can imagine. Asai is still a woman after all. Hah! Are you thinking of doing such incorrigible things to Aoi too! Never with Aoi! Not Aoi!”
Was threatening him,
“Congratulations, Mr. Akagi, do you mind asking Miss Asai whether she wants paper diapers or cloth diapers?”
Tsuyako too teased him. And Beni Hitachi, the pen pal from another school he met during summer vacation, sent him a mail, stating,
“Mr. Akagi, is it true that you’re going to get married? There’s rumors of that the student council president of Heian Academy did it with the red-haired delinquent king circulating around in our school like crazy. Does this have to do with you?”
And inside the classroom,
“I-I-I-I-I-I-I do believe in you.”
Though she had a change of hairstyle, Michiru’s hairstyle did not as she stammered, and Honoka, sitting beside him,
“Akagi’s kid…Akagi’s kid…”
Was muttering a mantra with hollow eyes.
During the break, Asai sent him a mail that was filled with murderous intent,
“Ignore what anyone else say at this point. If you dare any anything unnecessary, I will kill you.”
Nonetheless, she was unable to hide her usual poker face whenever they met, and she was pouting her lips, blushing.
“That Matriarch Asa is all dere here!”
“That Matriarch Asa’s stomach contains the delinquent king’s baby after all!”
The commotion got increasingly chaotic, and there continued the vicious cycle of Asai gritting her teeth, giving a murderous look of wanting to eviscerate everyone.
That was merely the commotion that happened before lunch break.
(I didn’t do anything that would have made her pregnant…)
Making his way back, Koremitsu was too tired to even raise his eyebrows that he slumped into the chair. Hikaru, right above him, was either having his hands clapped together or his head lowered.
“A-Akagi…I can believe you, right?”
Honoka, who was entranced in her own world, suddenly turned his face to Koremitsu and stared at him as she said that,
“!!! Of course.”
“Y—yeah. There’s no way Akagi and the Matriarch Asa would…do such a thing…”
One had to wonder what she was thinking as her face went beetroot.
And while even Koremitsu was blushing,
He spotted a delicate, pretty girl with long black hair at the corridor, seemingly looking for something.
She looked extremely pale, her shoulder shivering slightly as she peeked into Koremitsu’s classroom. Once their eyes met, her shoulders jerked in shock as she showed a feeble, hesitant look, seemingly wanting to say something as she looked back at him.
Koremitsu immediately stood up and went off in Aoi’s direction.
Behind him, Honoka let out an unreliable voice.
Once Aoi noticed that Koremitsu was headed in her direction, she averted her eyes, intending to leave in a hurry.
“Miss Aoi, please wait.”
Hikaru pleaded with a desperate expression, and Koremitsu, in his delirium, grabbed her arm without a care.
Aoi was shocked.
And Koremitsu spoke with a serious tone,
“You came here wanting to tell me something, right? I got some things to say to you too, Aoi. Do you mind being with me?”
And so, he lowered his head as he held a thoroughly skeptical Aoi by the hand, heading to the roof,
Within the shade formed by the overbearing sunlight, Koremitsu let loose of Aoi’s hand. She looked at her feet, and let out a little whisper,
“I…Asa…Mr. Akagi’s child…erm…”
“I don’t have a kid with Saiga, and it’s not mine.”
Koremitsu was worried if Aoi was fretting too much over this matter.
While the relationship between Aoi and Asai showed signs of recovery during the fireworks festival Tsuyako organized, the relationship was still delicate. She probably let her thoughts run too much when she heard that Asai was pregnant with Koremitsu’s child or something.
She was the only one Koremitsu had to explain matters to no matter what.
Naturally, it was difficult for him to mention that the child within Sora may be Hikaru’s.
But after hearing Koremitsu’s words, Aoi’s face went pale.
“If it’s not your child, Mr. Akagi…then, does it mean that it is Hikaru’s?”
Both Koremitsu and Hikaru widened their eyes in unison.
Both Asai and Aoi were probably too sensitive when it came to Hikaru’s matters.
Well, Hikaru himself was probably the worst form of existence to cause others to immediately assume ‘pregnant with a child = is it Hikaru’s child?’.
(Isn’t this all your fault for saying that all the girls are pretty flowers, wandering around and having fun?)
“Is the child within Asa’s belly Hikaru’s?”
Aoi leaned forward, the silky black hair blown by the breeze at the roof.
“Mislead her, Koremitsu!”
“Th-that’s not it! It’s another woman who got pregnant!”
“Another…! Then is it true that Hikaru has a child!?”
“Ahhh, you revealed it Koremitsu!!!!! Was that actually deliberately? Hey, was it deliberate!?”
Hikaru was in the air, hugging his head as he writhed.
You’re blaming me now!? Isn’t this all because you’re fooling around too much!? Koremitsu lambasted in his mind as he saw Aoi’s teary face, muttering away what do I do now
The tears slowly seeped out from her eyes, and she quivered.
She probably heard all sorts of rumors of Hikaru fooling around when the latter was alive, but it was too much for her to hear that he had a child. She could no longer chide him for he had already left.
Well, the culprit was certainly beside him, writhing around. Fortunate or not, she would no longer be able to see that person or hear his voice,
(Damn it, you’re always causing me trouble.)
He was extremely furious at his Casanova of a friend, but still, he placed his hands on Aoi’s shoulders.
And Aoi widened her eyes in shock.
“The thing is that Hikaru may have a kid, and that’s because he’s that sort of person! The one he chose in the end is you, Aoi! His feelings for you aren’t a lie!”
“What Koremitsu said is correct, Miss Aoi!”
Hikaru too was seemingly revived as he clenched his fists and nodded.
“Hikaru broke up with the other girls so that he can protect and be with you alone, the important person to him. Please believe that about him!”
“Please believe Koremitsu’s words here, Miss Aoi!”
Hikaru too was serious.
Aoi initially stared at Koremitsu in surprise, and then, the eyes were gradually hazed with anguish,
“…I understand. If you say so, Mr. Akagi.”
She whispered, but she did not seem convinced.
Her red teary eyes were lowered slowly, and she remained silent.
The strand-like black hair swayed fleetingly, and Aoi looked more fragile than before, to a point where anyone was able to send the skepticism and sadness emitting from her slender shoulders. Seeing this, Koremitsu felt really depressed.
I’ll be the one to protect her.
For an instance, Koremitsu felt this feeling surge within him.
That was something he could never say to Hikaru or Aoi.
♢ ♢ ♢
It was after class, and with the complicated feelings he got from Aoi, Koremitsu went off to Sora’s apartment, still feeling perplexed.
(I guess I feel this way, guilty…definitely because of Sora.)
Aoi was never able to united with Hikaru when he was alive.
But Sora was entrusted with Hikaru’s child.
And because Hikaru died, that was something Aoi could never ever do…
One had to wonder who was the blissful party between Aoi and Sora, and as a boy, Koremitsu would never know…
He stood in front of the door, the intercom rang, and Sora exited.
“Why are you here?”
She looked extremely shocked.
“I got something I want to be certain of.”
He responded with a sullen, serious look, ostensibly plotting something as he looked hesitant, and walked in.
“Come in. It’s no different from yesterday.”
Koremitsu placed a plate of pickled paprika that was served on the plate in this room filled with the aroma of green tea and paprika, gulped down the tea, and stared at Sora, saying,
“You said that the father of the baby is an angel, right?”
“But an angel can’t give you living expenses, and he can’t change diapers. How do you intend to raise him when he’s born? What about college?”
“I intend to take leave from college.”
Sora answered without a second thought, her gentle tone not showing any signs of being worked up.
“I do intend to do some part-time translation work involving English and Chinese. The Church will also assist me however they can. I’ll get past this by being a little frugal.”
That’s still too hard for you, while Koremitsu was worrying about this.
“I am a frugal person.”
Sora tried to pacify Koremitsu with a cheerful voice,
“With 100 Yen, I can make 3 cans of side dishes, and theChurch speaker will help me with the recycling. The water used to wash rice especially can be reused quite a lot. I was very good at that when I was still in elementary schoo.”
The sincerity in her expression was never frivolous, and her thorough explanation was such that there was no way to refute it.
“Did your family say anything, Sora?”
The mole beside her eye became more apparent, and there was a tinge of loneliness reaching him,
“I didn’t let anyone in my family know about this. Father has just started a new family. I can’t be bothering him now.”
“Sora’s mother died when Sora was still in elementary school. I suppose her father was remarried.”
Hikaru chimed in with melancholy.
(I see…she doesn’t have any family to rely on…)
At this moment, he remembered Yū, now residing in Australia.
Back then, Yū had her money supply cut off due to her father’s remarriage, and she lived alone in that tattered apartment.
But unlike Yū, who seemed to be disappearing like a dream, he could feel that Sora’s tone, attitude and heart were exceptionally sturdy. The room was as neat as how he saw it the previous day; the alluring sunlight shining in from outside the window.
Sora herself took up a piece of pickled tomato, and popped it into her mouth.
She curled and twisted her lips,
“I suppose sour is the best taste after all.”
“Sora, the pickles.”
“But in fact, I really am not good with sour things. However, once I got pregnant, I saw everyone eating a lot of sour things, so I thought it may be good to do this. Any mother would wish for their child to have something nice to eat after all. There is a certain person who wrote a thesis saying that a pregnant lady should be eating honey-covered bean jam and fruit 3 times a day. Thinking about that, I think that I can eat anything.”
“…Stop with the nonsense.”
Looking over at the kitchen, he found many cans of dried plums and radish pickles,
“You don’t like eating them, but you made quite a lot.”
Sora narrowed her eyes, her smile this time tender and warm.
“I am a klutz of a mother who dotes on her child very much.”
She answered with a delighted alto voice.
Koremitsu’s heart was filled with a little tension.
And Hikaru’s eyes too were filled with heavy tension.
To cushion herself, Sora reached her legs wide and sat down, getting into her usual posture as she began to knit a sock.
“This sock too…is already the 5th pair. I accidentally knitd too many of them. The child will soon grow up, so after I knit a pair, I have to make a larger pair the next time.”
The clear sunlight at the end of summer shone upon the natural, long hair, reflecting a golden color. The eyes lowered were that gentle, and the fingers holding the sewing needle were white and slender.
“It seems that when the child is born, I’ll be knitting a sock as large as Santa’s Christmas bag.”
She continued to knit one step at a time, gently doing so with love for the fetus in her tummy. The threads were a clear blue, and a cheerful sky gradually cleared as the white fingers weaved the golden needle about.
“I really am a klutz of a mother here.”
The tender words were oozing with earnest love, causing the heart to tighten.
She probably was not confident in raising a child alone…
Yet there was nary a panic to be felt from Sora. One could see her knit socks for the child that was to be born with a blissful expression. From time to time, she would pat her hand on the tunic above her belly, smiling gently.
A gentle yet determined profile.
There was no sense of sadness from her at all, and furthermore, one could sense a solemnness from her—
Koremitsu endured the sweet yet bitter feelings in his heart as he watched her.
♢ ♢ ♢
(The only ‘mother’ I know of is one that keeps crying every time…)
On his way home,
Koremitsu heard the chirps of the cicadas as he dragged his feet, recalling the scene of his mother leaving home when he was still in elementary school.
—I’m really sorry, Mitsu.
The mother who continued to sob with her head lowered.
Feebly apologizing ‘sorry’ over and over again whenever she saw Koremitsu’s face.
Though she was not too fond of going out, and often lingered in a corner of the room, making small, felt things, ostensibly engrossed in her own world…the thin, slender silhouette looked increasingly tragic.
—I’m really sorry, Mitsu.
There was the petite figure holding the large luggage bag, gradually departing under the dim road ights in the middle of the night.
And on the other side was his young self, standing and clinging to the window, praying for his mother to return.
That wish was never granted.
Koremitsu continued to scowl, and Hikaru did not disturb him. All this time, Hikaru had been ponering silently and solemnly, seemingly recalling something once he heard Sora’s decision.
Koremitsu reached home, opened the sliding door, and the white Lapis poked its head out from the living room.
Lapis did not ask where Koremitsu was, merely staring at him coolly with its Lapis-colored eyes.
Recently, whenever Koremitsu returned home, Shioriko would come scurrying out and greet him, shouting, “Welcome back! Big brother Koremitsu!” She however did not appear today.
In contrast, Koharu, wielding a kitchen knife, poked her head out from the kitchen.
“Welcome back, Koremitsu. Go clean up the bathroom before dinner.”
It was Koharu’s style to leave her red hair unkempt, and wear a T-shirt and trousers with messy hems. She would wear a short apron around her waist whenever she was working in the kitchen.
“Got it…” he answered, and then, he asked, “Where’s Shiiko?”
“We ran out of soy sauce, so she went out to buy it with the old man. She said that the old man came along as its too dark and dangerous, but it’s just a 10 minute trip to the supermarket, and isn’t the outside rather bright too? He said that he’s going out to buy some Go magazine in the meantime, but the issue this month’s already sent over, and he even yapped saying that he saw it. I’ll say he’s one clumsy grandpa doting on Shiiko rather than bonehead.”
She answered with a stunned look, shrugging her shoulders,
—I really am a klutz of a mother here.
Sora’s soothing alto voice rang in his ears, and his heart ached yet again.
And suddenly, he asked Koharu, who was headed to the kitchen,
“Erm…when someone’s pregnant, is there something I can get or help out with?”
Koharu frowned hard, contorting the tip of her nose, and she glared furiously,
“Did you make some Missy pregnant or something here?”
And she pointed the kitchen knife at Koremitsu’s nose.
“Really? That lady who came to eat with us that day looked like she had a lot on her mind.”
“You’re talking about Shikibu? Shikibu’s my classmate—anyway, I didn’t do anything, whether it’s to Shikibu or any other girls.”
I can’t stand being mistaken for a scoundrel who made a girl pregnant by my own family! He denied this with all his might.
And so, he asked,
“It’s not me…an acquaintance I know of is going to give birth. The kid’s dad died…and there were some things she couldn’t leave it to in the family. Well, I guess giving birth is quite the big thing…huh?”
“Of course. It’s a matter of life and death.”
Koharu put the knife down as she concluded. And she probably thought of something, for she asked,
“How many months now?”
Koharu sank into a long, deep thought.
She probably recalled the time when she gave birth. Perhaps too, as a woman in a similar circumstance, she was worried about Sora, who was to give birth to a child alone. The child Koharu gave birth too was soon taken by the father after the divorce, and she never saw him again. It was said that she found out about her husband’s infidelity when she was pregnant, and adamantly proposed a divorce. Either way, it was not a happy pregnancy.
Finally, with a scowl, Koharu spoke up,
“I’ll come up with a list later stating all the preparations needed before a pregnancy. If you feel that there are needs you really need, take as much as you want.”
♢ ♢ ♢
(Akagi’s reading stuff about child raising again…)
A few days after the furor over the pregnancy caused by Koremitsu Akagi.
Koremitsu was reading a book titled ‘First labor and child raising’ solemnly, one page at a time, and Honoka, seated beside him, was fiddling with her cellphone as she watched on tentatively,
“The classmate I’m interested in made a girl pregnant 。 ゜( ゜´Д `゜ ) ゜。’
What do I do now?
By Hono Hono.”
She left this message on an internet imageboard without any anonymity.
The ones answering this question would probably be torn on what to do. Even Honoka would be troubled by anyone asking her similar questions on her own website.
And the moment she thought of that, she received her message on her blog address.
“Purple Princess, please hear me out!
I think I may be pregnant here! (T□T)
And it may not be my boyfriend’s kid, but B’s kid, whom I have an affair with!Σｗ(ﾟдﾟ`)ｗ. Do I lie and say that it’s my boyfriend’s kid here, or do I ask B for compensation and abort the kid? I’m so troubled by it that I can’t sleep for nights （∩ ∩）
I’ve been without my period for 3 months already.
My weight has increased by 10kg.
At the rate this keeps up, I feel like I’ll give birth tomorrow.
Purple Princess, please give me some advice here + ~ 。°(>o<)°。”
(~~Like I would know what to do there!)
“Purple Princess, I’m troubled here.
I bore a baby, but my boyfriend wouldn’t recognize it.
He actually said ‘Is this really my kid'(;△;)
What do I do now?(つД `)。*
(Why are these messages coming one after another~~~!!!)
Actually, she recalled what she updated on her mobile phone noel a few days ago, that a rival to the heroine Natsuno appeared, pregnant with the lover Takuma’s child, and had an impulse to slam her head on the table.
(I accidentally added this into the novel because of the shock about Akagi!!! Ahhhh, what do I do now anyway?)
She hastily erased the urge to beat her face up in her mind as she reverted to the love expert Purple Princess, answering the questions,
“First, go buy some medicine to check for pregnancy, and see if you’re really pregnant. Try summoning your courage and visit the nearest drug store （°`▽`°）”
“I think that if you really love your boyfriend, you’ll actually want to give birth to the kid(・ω・)
If you actually believe in your feelings, try saying to your boyfriend ‘this is the kid of my beloved, you, and I’m not willing to abort it. I’m going to raise it alone even if I have to do it alone’.
The most important thing is not to say it with a hateful tone, but to say it with a determined smile.
If the boyfriend says ‘I’m sorry, I’ll be a good dad and allow this kid to be born’, it’ll be all okay`“(@^▽^@)/
But if he’s to leave it as it is, and think that it’s too inconvenient, I’ll say it may be better for you and the baby inside not to give birth（。> O <。）
I hope that you’ll have a good outcome (￣+￣)
Once she was done sending the messages, she looked over at the imageboard she posted on, and found a few replies,
“In this case, I think you can only give up now.”
“This guy you like is just someone you’re really infatuated with, isn’t it, Hono Hono? I think it’s better for you to find another guy you’re more fond of.”
“A student, and he already made a girl pregnant? What’s so good about such an irresponsible guy here?”
After looking at the replies in front of her, Honoka felt sharp stabs in her heart, and felt regretful that she asked for help here.
(L-look for another guy I’m fond of—I-I”m just thinking of Akagi’s matters here. But Akagi’s just thinking of that girlfriend he impregnated here—ahhhhh seriously, my mind’s going crazy!!)
At the very least, she understood that Akagi’s partner was not Asai.
2 days ago, a teacher said to Asai ‘do you mind coming to the counselling room’, and in front of the other students,
Is something the matter? Is it that I have to take a virginity test here or something?”
The latter asked with a frigid tone and expression capable of freezing the entire classroom over.
After hearing that, the teacher retreated slightly,
“N-no, I guess there is no need after all. Just a misunderstanding.”
Such a rumor immediately spread through the school, and at this point, everyone knew that Koremitsu’s partner was not Asai.
In other words, anyone who was to casually spread such malicious rumors would definitely receive a calamitous amount of vengeance if Asai were to hear about it, so everyone was probably terrified of such a prospect. Furthermore, the delinquent Koremitsu and student council president Asai had such differing positions and personalities.
And in the end, everyone concluded that nothing happened between those two.
However, the rumor remained as to who Koremitsu actually impregnated, and this was the source of Honoka’s troubles.
(If it’s not the Matriach Asa, who else can it be? Oumi once said that Akagi’s been to a college girl’s apartment many times…don’t tell me it’s the girl he gave chase to that day!?)
That definitely had to be the case.
At that moment, Koremitsu was practically in a trance, and paid no heed to anything other than the girl.
At this time, he paid no heed to the surrounding stares and rumors, reading intently the books on how to raise children.
From her seat afar, Michiru had her head tucked in, shocked as she watched on.
What exactly did Michiru think about the rumors of Koremitsu impregnating a girl? Would her attitude towards him cool down a little because of this incident?
Honoka too reevaluated matters from her own perspective.
She was still terribly shocked that Koremitsu’s child was to be born soon.
But he looked so serious holding the books about child raising. To Honoka, this was the forthright attitude of Koremitsu Akagi that really moved her.
(Akagi’s just a high school kid…and he’s already taking responsibility for what he did here. He wants to be a dad…)
The world would be harsh on him, and it would be a difficult, arduous ordeal.
(But that’s because…Akagi’s serious.)
Her heart throbbed, Honoka shut her cellphone and lifted her head.
(I can’t leave him alone like this after all!)
♢ ♢ ♢
Honoka, seated beside him, fiddling with the phone with her eyes raised, looked over grimly as she suddenly stood up.
Hikaru, floatng above Koremitsu’s head, was too taken aback as he leaned forward.
Honoka slammed her hands onto Koremitsu’s table.
And then, she gritted her teeth, shouting,
“I’m going to help you as your Heliotrope!”
♢ ♢ ♢
The next day,
There was a pile of baby magazines laid out on Koremitsu’s table,
“My friend’s older sister gave birth last year, and sent a pack to me saying that these aren’t of any use now. She said that the ‘Eggs Club’ is a magazine to be read before labor, and the ‘Chicks Club’ is to be read after labor. There’s a summary of the methods selected by the hospitals, the fees for pregnancy tests and so on. Looks, the summary for baby foods here is really detailed, right?”
Honoka laid the books out as she gave Koremitsu a forced smile.
There was a similar situation before.
It was a similar expression to the one back in the first semester, when Koremitsu was reported to be suspected of being a lolicon, Honoka brought him to a karaoke suite, and suddenly laid out a pile of gravure magazines with a blushing face to read with Koremitsu, trying to correct his lolicon tendencies—
Koremitsu understood that Honoka was doing it for himself. He was grateful to her for preparing all these revealing gravure and baby magazines and researching (?) on them with him, and was sheepish about it.
(But something just feels wrong about it.)
“This baby food here looks delicious, isn’t it? It’s called fruit udon. Eh, shred the cooked udon, add some diced peaches and bananas, mix them together, and cook them together. Add in some snapper shreds, and you can how it as an ordinary dinner. Hey, Akagi, which one do you want?”
“…I-I’m bad with baby food.”
And the child was yet to be born.
“It’s not good for a pregnant lady to not move at all. It looks like they can do a little yoga. How about this cat pose? Relax your limbs, tuck your tummy in and raise your buttocks. I say you should try this in the Japanese Dance clubroom after school.”
“…Why do I have to do gymnastics here?”
The moment Koremitsu got up,
“Akagi, where are you going?”
“To the changing room for PE next. Anyway, you’re to go as well, right?”
“You can’t do intense sports like soccer and basketball here! What if the belly is wrecked here! Try enduring a bit and do that cat pose!”
“I say, I’m not the one giving birth here! I’m not going to do either that cat pose or the dolphin pose here!”
It had been like this since morning.
“Miss Shikibu really is conflicted between her feelings of wanting to wish you well as a father, Koremitsu, and the unbearable feelings that you actually became the man for another woman.”
Hikaru earnestly muttered,
(I say now. I’m not the father here! Aren’t you the papa here! Go do that cat pose!)
Koremitsu glared aside at Hikaru, muttering in his heart,
“Akagi, look at me. Listen to what I say here!”
Honoka held Koremitsu’s face, and forcibly tilted it towards herself,
“I say, Shikibu.”
Honoka’s hands remained on Koremitsu’s face, probably because of Koremitsu’s serious look back at her.
“I’m really grateful that you’re helping me out with the kid, but there’s no need to be so serious here, right?”
“I-I’m not being so…”
Ah, did I say too much here? Koremitsu too had his voice stuck in his throat.
Honoka pried her hands away from Koremitsu’s, and with a complicated look of feisty and weakness, she lifted her head at Koremitsu,
“I-I just want to help you out here…Akagi.”
After hearing this reply, Koremitsu felt an aching in his chest.
“If you say that you want the kid born, I want to help you with that, Akagi.”
“I said already that it’s not me…”
While his shoulders were slumped weakly, this time, it was Michiru who came running towards them,
“M-Mr Akagi! I-I-I’ll like to help you in getting the kid born like Hono. I-I’ll keep watching until your kid’s born.”
She exploded with these words that left Koremitsu all the more lethargic.
“These are my little tokens, a baby towel, underwear, diapers, and warmers.”
She stuffed these things, packaged in all kinds of colorful ribbons and wrappings, into Koremitsu’s arms.
“I-I-I heard that warm baby diapers are better than cold ones here.”
The serious class representative seemed to have done her own research.
At this point, he could only say these words.
Later, at noon break, Tōjō and Hiina appeared one after another.
“It looks like it is not Asai’s child. I was wondering why would there be a man willing to be with that Asai here, but I suppose it is a pity. I assumed incorrectly that Asai became a mother, but since I did ask others to send it over, do give it for that child to use when it is warm. These are customized baby bottles, customized bibs, and a silver spoon.”
“It is expected to be born in winter, right, Mr Akagi? This is a classical music CD for the fetus. Make sure to listen to it; it’ll calm people down. These are some dried sardines here. Hope that a strong baby will be born after eating these.”
She laid out the items one after another.
“All of them are good people.”
Though Hikaru did say this with a gracious feeling, Koremitsu, being blessed “Please have a healthy baby” with his classmates staring at him, was not the direct beneficiary.
During noon break, he evacuated to the Japanese Dance Research Club with a lunch box in tow, only to find Tsuyako there.
“Miss Shikibu and Miss Hanasato came to me asking to come up with a party celebrating the birth of your baby, Mr Akagi. You really are beloved here, papa.”
And she teased him.
“I don’t want a party or anything like that. Don’t think of adding on to the mess here, senpai.”
“Oh ho ho, the more you say you do not want it, the more I feel like doing it.”
“Spare me already. The kid’s going to be born, but it’s not mine.”
“Oh my. I heard that you are devoted to researching on the baby books.”
“That’s because…this kid doesn’t have a dad, so I thought I could at least do something here. It’s not like I’m not involved however.”
After this exchange, Tsuyako’s face darkened,
“Is it…Hikaru’s child?”
Koremitsu was left speechless.
(Ack, I blurted it out again…!)
And Hikaru’s face showed a feeble smile incapable of putting up any resistance.
“Is that so? Hikaru’s child, is it? Ah, why did I not notice it before? There is no way you would cause a girl to be pregnant, Mr Akagi, but since you are researching on books about babies, I cannot think of any reason other than it being Hikaru’s child.”
After saying all these in excitement, trails of trails suddenly appeared on Tsuyako’s face,
After seeing the crystal clear tears trickle down before his eyes, Koremitsu, inapt at dealing with women tears, immediately panicked.
Hikaru too was embracing Tsuyako by the shoulders saying, “Tsuyako. Please do not cry anymore! I am sorry!” looking extremely lost. Naturally, Hikaru’s hands were unable to touch Tsuyako’s shoulders, and his voice could not reach her.
“What do I do now? I am happy now.”
Hikaru widened his eyes.
Tsuyako placed a hand over her face, showing a little opening,
“Hikaru’s child would actually be born. I assumed that I would never be able to see Hikaru again, yet the child that will inherit Hikaru’s blood will be born…will he resemble Hikaru in looks? Is he a boy, or a girl? I am chuffed to bits here. What do I do here, Mr Akagi? I really…really am delighted…my tears cannot stop…”
Her shoulders quivered as she continued to sob,
Tsuyako, never to show her own suffering and tears to Koremitsu or anyone else, was so overwhelmed with joy and tears, and her expression was etched deeply in Koremitsu’s heart. Hikaru too looked ready to cry without tears as he embraced Tsuyako tightly, his cheeks carassing hers.
Tsuyako continued to sob as she said,
“Thank you for informing me of such an important thing.”
“No…the kid’s not born yet, actually.”
And while Koremitsu sat down shyly and fidgeted,
“Please allow me to assist with the baby. I shall have to order a customized baby cot, a customized baby car, and a customized music box.”
She said to him,
♢ ♢ ♢
It was after school. Sora looked a little annoyed when she saw Koremitsu visit her apartment again, this time with a large number of baby items in both hands,
“There is no need for you to visit me every day, you know.”
She said as she brewed some tea.
“Hey, don’t do that. I’ll do that!”
Just when Koremitsu placed the items down and frantically ran off to the kitchen,
“You really like to worry here.”
She beamed serenely.
The moment he looked back, the thin fragrance of green tea and grapefruit spread from her hair, to all over the room.
“It is good for the child inside if I move about a little.”
“But, if there’s a little mistake.”
He did realize that he was a little overly paranoid, but Koremitsu memory of pregnancy was fuzzy as he was still in elementary school when Koharu gave birth, and he never was pregnant himself. He was always worried if the child would pop out from the belly if anything was to happen.
Sora again was wearing a loose tunic. The belly itself did not seem too overly obvious, or perhaps Sora herself was slender, for even though it had been 7 months, there was no obvious change to the belly. This however caused Koremitsu to worry that a little impact would hurt the baby, and cold sweat trickled down.
Thus, whenever Sora stood up, squat down, or tried to walk,
“I’ll do it.”
“You can just sit down, Sora.”
“Wait! Don’t touch!”
He ended up standing, squatting and surrounding her from behind,
“You really like to worry, Mr Akagi.”
And every single time, Sora would respond with a troubled smile.
Koremitsu was not the only one experiencing ‘labor’ from up close, for Hikaru too was no better,
“Sora, you cannot move such a heavy thing. Ahh, if you squat down now, the burden on the belly will—”
He would dither,
And while the two boys were left flustered, Sora’s eye, with the mole beside it, looked a little relaxed,
She answered with a delightful alto voice.
And then, she gently knitted socks for the child, placing the hand on the belly from time to time to calm them down.
But anyhow, Koremitsu would end up seeing his mother’s silhouette over the scene in front of him.
“Hey…aren’t you worried, about giving birth to a kid alone?”
Recalling the sight of his sobbing mother who was always curled every day, his heart continued to ache as he asked this stiffly. Sora placed her hand gently on her tummy, answering with a calm down,
“This child continues to encourage me.”
“You love…this kid?”
There was no hesitation in the gentle voice.
And she narrowed her eyes blissfully.
While thinking about why Sora would show such a blissful look, Koremitsu felt conflicted emotions of joy and sadness, his nose itching.
(Did my mom put her hand on the tummy and smile gently like this when I was in her tummy..?)
Did such a thing happen before?
He could only remember the sight of his mother crying.
Lead astray by his past memories, Koremitsu’s emotions collapsed into darkness, and he clenched his fists.
“Actually, you don’t have to be so worried. You still have your studies and club activities to worry about, right? It seems that you came earlier than yesterday.”
“Well, actually, the 6th period’s self-study, so I came scribbled some stuff on the printouts and came over.”
Suddenly, his forehead was hit with a smack.
“I say, this isn’t a good thing, you know. Self-study is still part of the lessons, so you have to stay in the classroom until the very end. If you dare slack off again, I won’t let you inside again.”
She puffed her cheeks, her tone similar to a big sister telling off a child. Her face then sizzled, and the area around her mole was gradually dyed red.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I mistook you for my long lost brother, so I.”
She muttered shyly.
Koremitsu remained stunned as he stared back at Sora.
It was the first time he was lectured so gently. Whenever Koharu got angry, she would end up swinging her arms and legs at him, and his mother who left house kept crying and apologizing, never once telling off Koremitsu.
Due to the soft hit, the heat on his forehead gradually dissipated.
Feeling surprised and bittersweet within, Koremitsu recalled the time when he was still a child, probably loving his mother.
(Wh-what stupid things am I thinking about here?)
He immediately felt embarrassed by it, but for an instance, he was unable to escape the gentle touch that surrounded him,
A worried voice rang at the ears of Koremitsu, who was lost in his own world.
Stunned, Koremitsu looked back,
“D-don’t ever slack off in class again, okay?”
She lowered her reddened face, curtly telling him off.
And then, she raised her head tentatively, easing the eye with the mole beside it as she watched Koremitsu. The tender expression of a mother protecting a young child caused Koremitsu’s heart to wench further.
“But I’m Hikaru’s friend here, so I want to help you out in his place, Sora.”
“Didn’t I say that this isn’t Hikaru’s child?”
She lowered her eyes, her expression ostensibly telling ‘what a troublesome kid’. To him, this image of of her looking a little teary reconciled with the image of his mother who left home.
Unable to find the source of his stinging emotions, Koremitsu muttered,
“Hikaru always yapped here and there about promises and such, so there definitely is one, isn’t there? Let me be the one to fulfill it then! Please tell me anything you wanted Hikaru to do when he was alive.”
He wanted to something for Sora.
Not just for Hikaru’s sake, but for himself.
He wanted to do something for Sora, who was protecting the fetus in the tummy, who was to become a mother.
With a tragic expression, Sora answered,
“I personally have no wishes for myself.”
Hikaru, having anticipated that Sora would reply as such, looked back bitterly at her.
Koremitsu too grimaced, transiting from the surrounding tender atmosphere to one where cold water was splashed upo him.
From the aroma pot rose the green tea and apricot fragrances Sora brewed, and the room was bright and warm.
I dislike promises.
Because they will never be fulfilled.
Sora once said this to Hikaru.
And she placed her hand on her tummy, narrowed her eyes as she smiled. Her face was so peaceful, so wise, and so satisfied…
But Koremitsu’s heart tightened when he saw Sora’s expression suddenly vanish and gradually grow distant.
The petite image that gradually faded away under the street lights flashed by in his mind.
Hikaru too bit his lips tightly, looking at Sora with anguish.
♢ ♢ ♢
“…Kaoru, Izumi. I guess it is Kaoru after all.”
Once he got home.
Koremitsu entered his grandfather’s calligraphy classroom in his house, and with penbrush and ink, wrote out words on the calligraphy papers laid out on the writing table.
Hikaru was thinking of a name for the child, so Koremitsu accompanied him and recorded all the names Hikaru said.
He wanted to write out the names with thick lines, but the lines just seemed so feeble and weak.
“I suppose it is best to have a child both girls and boys can use…for I do not know how long I can still remain on this Earth.”
And after muttering this,
“An-anyway, it’s still too early to start worrying about this, isn’t it?”
He vented out the emotions he kept within.
“Anyway, Sora is more important here. Sora was always like that; when I was in Middle school, she would go to Church every day, and I would not be able to meet her. Sora had a little brother in kindergarten back then, and I kept accompanying him, waiting for Sora to appear. I once requested for the little brother to sneak Sora some letters, but Sora never once replied to me.”
Don’t go about asking kids to do such things here! While Koremitsu was dumbfounded, Hikaru gave a sheepish look.
“I dated many girls later on, and understood a lot from them, but I have yet to understand Sora.”
The hushed voice, coupled with the lowered eyebrows, looked so heartbreaking; the lucid eyes showing anguish and turmoil.
“All the girls are like pretty flowers, needing the water called love to hydrate them, but no matter how much is given to them, they will never be satisfied. This is the path needed for them to bloom splendidly; as long as I am needed, I will give it all to them no matter how much it is. Sora however—did not need it.”
If you had wanted it, I could have given it all to you no matter how much it is; even if you want me to hold the blooming blue flowers by the river and fall in.
Hikaru definitely protected the women he loved with utmost might, and definitely watered them so that they would bloom fully.
Except for Sora—
“Why exactly did she reject my feelings and promises, and yet she accepted me? Girls would normally begin with ‘no’ at first, but they were never sincere about it. Sora’s ‘no’ is different from the other girls’–yet the arms that embraced me were so filled with love, so tender. Thus—I suppose Sora did not hate me…”
It was extremely rare that Hikaru finally concluded that there was a place for him in her heart.
(No, with this guy, I know that he’ll end up falling for himself if he meets himself in the eyes.)
In any case, perhaps it was a rare experience for him to be rejected by a girl after all.
Leaving aside his stepmother Fujino, Sora, who both accepted and rejected Hikaru, was an anomaly herself.
(She actually caused the harem prince Hikaru to show such a bewitched look…is there a chance that he never pursued any girls other than Sora?)
Fujino herself was a taboo.
But Sora, who resembled Fujino so greatly, could not be obtained no matter how he tried to pursue her. Even if he felt that he did enter her arms, she had already vanished before he realized it.
And Hikaru’s shoulders slumped as he continued,
“The first time we met, I said to Sora ‘you are like a Japanese Cypress, Sora’. Now that I think about it, that was not a good there. The next time we met, she said ‘I did see the Japanese Cypress, but it looks like a large, bushy moss ball, not a pretty flower at all.’, and I told her ‘that is definitely the Japanese Cypress. It can also be called the Hahakigi, but the fabled Hahakigi does not exist any more. I cannot explain very well what sort of plant it actually is, but it should be the same as the Japanese Cypress, with a thin, tender stem, and has a cute, round and lush shape of a broom, what a beautiful flower’. And once I said this ‘but it doesn’t have any flowers, and it’s not like a flower—”
There was heat in Hikaru’s voice, and surely he told Sora these words so desperately in the Church at the beginning of March, when the piled snow had yet to melt.
“That is because the Japanese Cypress blooms as strangely as a ball of fur. The little fruits growing on the twigs can be eaten, and they are called the caviar of the fields. They do have a strange scent, but they are called ‘flowers’.”
He clasped his hands tightly, looking on like a puppy,
“So I said to Sora ‘That is not the case. The Japanese Cypress is very beautiful, marvelous when the red leaves appear, like the coral reefs—so beautiful that I have to wonderful if the fabled Hahakigi was like this. Let us go look for it next time’. Sora however turned her head aside, telling me so forlornly ‘I don’t want to make a promise’. Argh, I really do not understand. Hey, Koremitsu. What do you know now?”
“How will I know anything even you don’t know of?”
He growled back at Hikaru, who had his his head cuddled.
(Ugh, I don’t know anything…about women at all.)
Why give birth to me if you’re going to dump me…
He practiced on the papers over and over again his mother’s favorite word so that he could give it to her on her birthday.
It’ll be good if mom can be happy.
It’ll be good if mom can smile.
With such anticipation filling his heart, he practiced over and over again.
And the words ‘love’, ‘dreams’, ‘stars’, ‘hoped’ littered the floor—
(I never gave a single one to her.)
Hikaru watched on worriedly, wondering what exactly happened as Koremitsu gripped the brush tightly, the latter’s face froze as he gritted.
At that moment,
Koharu came in.
“Didn’t I tell you to come for dinner at 7?”
“Ah, sorry…it’s that time already?”
Koharu glanced at the words Koremitsu word,
“What’s with these words?”
“Ah, erm, the kid’s name. I’m thinking about which one’s the best right now.”
“This isn’t something you can decide, right?”
“Though you say that, I think it’s good to have a backup. Ah, the Wakame and Shimeji mushrooms pickles you gave me aren’t very sour, Koharu. She’s glad to be able to eat a lot of it.”
“Is that so…”
“She can’t take sour stuff very well, but she’s still trying her best…is this what a mother’s about?”
“Taking tender care even before the kid’s born.”
—I’m really sorry, Mitsu.
There was Sora, who eased the corner of the eye with the mole, smiling gently
There was Sora, who had a blissful look as she placed her hand on her tummy.
And on that Sora was the image of his mother’s sobbing face, utterly contrasting Sora’s, the voice hoarse.
“Are all of them like that…even my…”
Did my mom ever love me before?
Yeah, I want to ask her that.
Does she love her even if her life’s in danger?
Did I ever, love my mother?
But all the words remained stuck in his throat, becoming a pool of bitter saliva.
Perhaps Koharu knew very well what Koremitsu was about to ask. She curled her lips and scowled, remaining speechless.
Hikaru too stared at Koremitsu worriedly.
Koharu then sighed, and said,
“Your mom…got remarried again. Not with that teacher, but another guy again. You also have a little brother.”
Now that was the first time he heard about it
“You want to meet her?”
He felt a stab in his heart, and the images of his mother’s gloomy expressions appeared in his mind one after another.
“I don’t know.”
“Is that so?”
It seemed Koharu knew of his mother’s address.
For Koharu herself did have heart-to-heart talks with his mother in the past…
He recalled the sight of his mother embracing Koharu tightly, sobbing incessantly.
She threw out the little felt bear mascots she made onto the floor At that moment, they both had a long talk, and Koremitsu, who was still in elementary school back then, should have overheard them.
He was standing behind the sliding door, curled up as he listened intently on the surrounding movements.
At that moment, his mind was shrouded in darkness. His body was scalded by the hot water-like heat and pain.
(Yeah, back then, mom—)
Damn it! Stop!
The gradually awakening memories were severed by his heart.
Don’t recall any more.
The more he recalled it, the more his body was scalded and ached all over. In an instant, Koremitsu closed his eyes.
Hikaru worriedly called out,
Koharu remained silent.
While Koremitsu gritted his teeth to endure the pain, scampering footsteps could be heard,
“Aunt Koharu, grandpa Masakaze’s prompting you for dinner. Shiiko too is too hungry here!”
Shioriko’s cheerful voice rang.
Koremitsu opened his eyes, and found the twintails swaying about, scuttling towards Koremitsu with a cheery face as she latched onto his arm.
“Come quickly too, Big Brother. Tonight’s dinner your favorite spicy Jjigae stew.”
Gradually thawing Koremitsu’s heart were the tender, warm arms and the innocent sparkling eyes that lifted with the head.
At Shioriko’s feet was Lapis, lifting its head as it looked up at Koremitsu, calmly purring away.
“Wait, Shiiko, you can’t take spicy stuff. What if you hurt your tongue again?”
“Don’t worry. It won’t be spicy if I add mayonnaise.”
“Mayonaise? That’s heresy.”
“It’s fine. Shiiko wants to eat whatever Big Brother Koremitsu eats.”
“Well then, I’ll try some mayonnaise too.”
“Yes! It’s delicious!”
The innocently beaming Shioriko, his petite stepsister, dragged him out of the calligraphy room.
Hikaru looked rather relieved as he watched Koremitsu, while Koharu looked on with an unchanging scowl.