A culture festival committee member, a shop by the Japanese Dance Club, and the special security team!? How do you expect me to do these three things at once?
During break the following day, Koremitsu grumbled as he walked down the corridor, his eyes despondent.
His face became gloomy as he recalled the conversation he had with Asai in the student council office.
“Special security? What’s that about?”
“It is meant to safeguard against suspicious people like you on the day of the culture festival, and quickly eliminate savage wild hounds like you before they can cause any commotion. This special branch is also meant to bring customers to the places they wish to visit before scary looking delinquents like you do anything to me.”
“Why are you blaming all these commotions on me! And why are you asking me here!?”
“This is because I suppose you, who had always been doing this, know the mentalities and weaknesses of those unruly hoodlums. As they say, fight fire with fire. This is not a ‘request’, but an established ‘notification’. You have no right to deny.”
(~~~~~Ugh, that Asa. I thought she had been a little cuter nowadays, how mistaken was I!? I already have my class and club activities. That’s impossible for me to handle!)
If you refuse, I shall scrap the Japanese Dance Club and forbid your class from participating in the culture festival.”
Asai’s eyes looked extremely serious, and so Koremitsu accepted the task anyway.
Hikaru cheered on enthusiastically while Koremitsu grumbled away,
“Things will be alright when it comes. I had to attend to 7 dates on Christmas, and though I had moments when I thought of giving up, I still managed to attend to them.”
“Don’t associate me with your unrestrained flirting, you bastard!”
Koremitsu accidentally yelled, scaring the students passing by.
And he cringed his head and snorted to hide the awkwardness.
Hikaru chuckled, and his expression became tender,
“But I am as excited now as I was before Christmas Eve came. I did not have much wonderful memories during the culture festival. I was casted as the prince in Cinderella, but there was a ruckus over who got to be Cinderella, and finally, all the girls in class got to be Cinderella, but I was ostracized by the boys as a result. When we had the folk dance, there was another huge commotion as the girls were crowding me, and I was ostracized by the boys again. The takoyaki I bought was toppled for some reason, and the girls argued again. I was called to the back of the gym by the boys, and the girls immediately rushed over to them, interrogating ‘what are you planning to do to Lord Hikaru’?”
“You’re bragging about your popular history again. That’s a lot better than me who’s shunned by the entire class and can’t even touch the class exhibits”
“That is not the case. There was once when I was ostracized by all the boys and girls in my class. That was when I was in 9th grade…”
Hikaru smiled forlornly.
How’s it possible for this guy to be shunned by the girls? Koremitsu was stunned.
And just when Koremitsu was about to ask what it was about.
A breath-like mutter grazed by his ears.
A pretty, adorable girl with long, black, silk-like hair was standing at a corner of the corridor, looking completely skeptical as she stared at Koremitsu timidly with her large, black, glossy eyes.
She did not turn away to leave immediately, but instead, she went towards Koremitsu when the latter approached her.
And while both were much closer than before, they stopped in their tracks.
(Damn it. Why’s my heart pounding like crazy?)
“Ah, erm…are you feeling okay?”
The moment she voiced out, Koremitsu’s ears were burning red.
(What am I saying here? We just met.)
Back then however, Koremitsu did not have the courage to meet Aoi directly. Also, he was concerned about how Hikaru would be looking at him, and thus, he merely said ‘thanks’ and ‘sorry to make you worry about me’.
After meeting Aoi that day, he met his mother near his house, bringing a boy along.
While Koremitsu continued to cry and force a smile, it was Aoi who held his held, and continued to do so even after his mother bowed and left.
The one woman Koremitsu should be protecting in Hikaru’s stead, the most precious woman to Hikaru, reversed the situation by supporting Koremitsu. This was so embarrassing to Koremitsu his face seared.
Aoi’s fingers were so slender, so delicate, yet they filled Koremitsu’s heart with determination and tenderness. Till this point, Koremitsu still continued to recall the feeling on the fingers, and in his palm.
Back then, he was out of character.
Surely it was Hikaru’s fault for those strange words that he became so concerned about it.
And at this point, his mind would sear whenever he faced Aoi, and he would panic.
Aoi too looked tensed as she lifted her face at him, and though she finally summoned her courage to say those words, her voice got increasingly softer.
“I am fine.”
And her face was blushing.
Koremitsu stammered. Aoi again summoned her courage, asking,
“It looks like you became a committee member of the culture festival planning.”
“Eh, ahh…I guess you heard of it.”
“I heard your classmates mention it.”
Aoi answered bashfully, her black, glossy eyes giving off a glint of tenderness.
“Surely your classmates understand how reliable you are, Mr. Akagi.”
(No…that’s not really the case.)
But Koremitsu could not bring himself to deny this after seeing Aoi look so elated, and he felt itchy within.
“Break time is almost over…that’s all, I guess.”
“Yes. Erm…see you later.”
Will they really meet again? Or would she contact him by messages? Koremitsu really could not understand what Aoi was thinking.
And upon seeing Koremitsu’s clumsiness, Aoi let out a sigh of relief, smiling brightly. She then nodded, and left.
Hikaru’s voice came from the side, seemingly summoning an audience with Koremitsu.
“Ah damn it. Class meeting’s up next. Got to decide what we’re going to do for the culture festival. Can we do it well?”
Koremitsu raised his voice, wanting to avoid the topic, fearing that Hikaru would say such strange things again.
“I don’t have time to think about any other stuff with this on my mind now.”
He continued forward, making sure not to look in Hikaru’s direction.
(I really don’t have the time to think about it. The culture festival itself is driving me crazy.)
Koremitsu defended himself in his heart as he returned to the classroom. He met Honoka in the eyes, but the latter immediately looked away.
Besides Honoka, the other students enjoying their break tensed up and averted their eyes from Koremitsu, remaining silent.
It appeared that time was rewinded back to May, when Koremitsu first entered the classroom.
Recently, everyone in class was beginning to adapt to the existence of a wild dog that did not fit in with the rest, and gradually reacted less dramatically in response to his actions. They however began to do so again, and cringed their heads whenever they heard Koremitsu drag his chair. They were all seated way before the bell chimed, and Michiru was the only one looking at Koremitsu worriedly.
(Am I seriously able to be a committee member?)
Koremitsu was angsty with regards to this outlook, cold sweat trickling down his armpits.
“Hm? What’s this?”
There was a brown envelope the size of a notebook, placed at Koremitsu’s table, one he had never seen before. It contained a few pieces of printed papers, and the recipient ‘Koremitsu Akagi’ was written on the envelope. There was no sender written on the back, but there was a little picture.
“It is a bird, is it not…?”
Hikaru, peering from the side, whispered.
Yes, it was the drawing of a bird. Though the lines looked simple enough to pass off as a drawing of an elementary school student, there was no doubt it was a bird.
(Why a bird?)
Koremitsu did receive letters of challenges and other strange messages in his shoe locker. This probably was a similar kind of prank.
He drew out a piece of paper from the envelope, and stared at it,
“Class 1-1. Kimono Cafe.
Class 1-2. Musical drama: Lord Hikaru and the Thousand Roses.
Class 1-3. Floral Exhibition.
Class 1-4. Our Lord Hikaru’s Exhibition.”
(What’s this? What’s with the ‘Lord Hikaru and the Thousand Roses.’ and Our Lord Hikaru’s Exhibition’?)
“Koremitsu, this looks like the events the other classes will be having. All the investigation is done; wow, even the clubs exhibits too.”
Hikaru hollered excitedly,
“This information is amazing. With such information, we have something to talk about in the class meeting.”
Koremitsu replied blankly. It certainly did not seem to be a prank, but rather, an assistance from a kind person.
(But who’ll do such a thing,,,?)
Koremitsu sensed a stare from sidelong, and turned to meet Honoka in the eyes.
The latter was taken aback, and immediately pouted her lips, turning her head away.
The feisty sidelong face was dyed red.
(Did Shikibu do it?)
The teacher had yet to arrive, and homeroom period began.
Holding the papers in hand, Koremitsu got up to the podium. Michiru too stood beside Koremitsu anxiously, telling him with her eyes ‘it’s okay’. On the other side, Hikaru drifted about leisurely, wearing the same chouran uniform and helmet scarf, dressed like a cheerleader, telling him ‘you can do it, Koremitsu’.
(Well, I guess it’s better than wearing a cheerleader girl’s uniform.)
Koremitsu pondered with exceptional calmness.
“As announced yesterday, we’re going to decide on the exhibits to be shown for the culture festival. I’ll first announce what the other classes plan to do as reference, so I hope you guys will give some suggestions.”
His body tense due to anxiety, his voice however was more fluent than the previous day, and he did not bite his tongue or make any meaningless grumbles.
It seemed everyone was listening attentively as Koremitsu announced the items on the list to ease the tense atmosphere in the classroom. Perhaps everyone was amazed that a bonafide delinquent would actually do some reason, and there was a slight change in their stares towards him.
Honoka continued to lower her head and look at the cell phone under her table, but it was obvious she was not doing anything to it.
“—That’s all. I suppose everyone has noticed that there’s a lot of themes relating to ‘Lord Hikaru’. We can follow suit…”
“How about you do a timeline of me? I can provide photos of myself from young till now. That will be really popular!”
Hikaru said with such unabashedness.
“But I do think a different theme’s good too. It’ll be easy to clash if everyone’s doing the same things.”
“I am disappoint, Koremitsu.”
Koremitsu decided to ignore Hikaru, who had his shoulders drooped.
Michiru mentioned timidly,
“But a haunted house and a cafe is very common too.”
“We’ll just think of some new ideas. Anyway, say what you want to do, guys.”
Silence again descended upon the classroom, and his classmates invariably lowered their heads.
“Yo, student number 10!”
There was a boy seated in the middle of the 3rd row from the front, and he suddenly got to his feet.
“What do you want to do?”
“A dango shop, huh? Write it down, Hanasato.”
“Student number 23! What about you!?”
“Hii! Erm, s-sh-sh-shaved ice!”
“Okay, next! Student number 15!”
Whenever Koremitsu called out the student numbers with that terrifying voice, shrieked of agony echoed throughout the classroom. Koremitsu looked around, and the voices would hastily answer ‘haunted house’ or ‘butler cafe’, trying their best to escape from Koremitsu’s glares as soon as possible.
“W-w-wait a sec! I-I-I’m still writing! Eh, erm!”
A panicking Michiru’s writing speed could not keep up with Koremitsu.
“It’s a Yukata cafe.”
Koremitsu snatched the chalk, and scribbled a few words on the blackboard.
Michiru widened her mouth in astonishment as she looked up, and the classmates watched Koremitsu’s abnormally pretty words in unison with amazement.
“Now then, that should be enough. Let’s vote on this.”
Koremitsu slammed his hand on the blackboard, hollering.
And it was 5 minutes before the homeroom meeting ended when they decided the exhibit Koremitsu’s class was to showcase, ‘Supernatural! Home of the vengeful spirit!’
“You’re amazing, Mr. Akagi! That quick action was really amazing! You really are a capable delinquent, Mr. Akagi! Always hiding your talents!”
“…You don’t intend to change the delinquent part, do you?”
It was lunch break, and Koremitsu, having passed the first obstacle, was overwhelmed with fatigue as he laid prone on the chair. Right in front of him was Michiru, exclaiming that he was amazing over and over again.
Hikaru too seemed delighted,
“That really was cool, Koremitsu. The way you called out everyone by their student numbers without any room for rejection feels like a ruthless, demonic sergeant, it was mesmerizing. The ‘Yukata Cafe’ you wrote on the blackboard too caused everyone to widen their eyes and marvel. It really is wonderful and cool that a ‘Yukata Cafe’ has so many strokes in them; I suppose there is not much effect if it had been a ‘Maid Cafe’ instead. Even the heavens’ luck is on your side.”
And Hikaru patted Koremitsu on the back as he said this, but even so, his hand was merely sinking into the latter’s body.
Blushing, Michiru looked up at Koremitsu.
“Speaking of which, when did you begin to investigate the exhibits of the other classes, Mr. Akagi?”
“It wasn’t me.”
Honoka looked extremely despondent as she tapped at the keys. She could hear the conversation between them, but she continued to ignore them. Concerned about Honoka’s actions, Koremitsu curtly mentioned,
“That wasn’t done by me. Some kind person put it in my table.”
“Eh, y-you don’t have to be so humble, Mr. Akagi”
It seemed Michiru did not know how to respond to some special person actually being kind to Koremitsu.
Koremitsu pouted, glancing aside at Honoka.
(Did…Shikibu do it after all?)
♢ ♢ ♢
After that, the envelops with little bird pictures on them continued to be sent to Koremitsu’s table drawer.
There was all kinds of information, containing the schedule until the closing ceremony of the culture festival, the list of request forms the student council received, the information with regards to monsters, how to assemble mazes,shopping lists, and even a list of cheap shopping outlets.
“Amazing. You really know everything, Mr. Akagi.”
Whenever Michiru blushed and looked impressed with Koremitsu, the latter would curtly deny it, and look towards Honoka.
“This isn’t done by me.”
Honoka continued to scowl and tap at the messages. Michiru however was further convinced that Koremitsu was bashful.
“Erm..yes, I understand how you feel.’
And after seeing her nod away shyly, Koremitsu felt that he could not get through to her.
(I really didn’t do it though.)
It was after school, and Koremitsu complained to Hikaru in the empty classroom as sunset shone in.
“Right now, it appears that Miss Hanasato will probably clap and say something ‘Sorry about that, Mr. Akagi. I shall arrange the table’ if you are to flip the table and cause a ruckus.”
“Don’t mention it…can the guy sending the messages hurry up and tell me who he is? Why’s the only thing drawn a bird?”
Koremitsu felt that he was being taunted, and felt extremely jumpy, unable to calm down. While he continued to complain with an increasingly sharp glare, Hikaru calmly mentioned,
“Was there not an additional line added recently?”
“Ugh, I really don’t understand what you mean.”
Koremitsu curled his lips,
That was the first line attached to the side of the little bird.
“Hey, what does the rainy night mean? It’s sunny today and yesterday.”
“Hm, a handle name?”
It was after school when Koremitsu and Hikaru had such a conversation, and there was another envelope with a little bird on it, with the words “The encounter with a friend on it.”
“You sure that’s a handle name?”
“Eh, perhaps it is a code name. Like a treasure appearing on a rainy day, when friends meet.”
“This isn’t some fantasy story! Be serious!”
The next envelope that was sent had the words “Unfinished Journey on it.”, followed by “Rainy night.” and “Jade Piercing Moon.”…the recent one was “Meeting the little sister.”
“All these do contain elegant words, but what are they trying to convey to us?”
Hikaru placed his hand under his chin, pondering.
“The only thing that hasn’t changed is the picture of the bird.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Koremitsu, did you help a hurt bird before? That bird may be repaying you for your kindness.”
Koremitsu yelled while raising his eyebrows, and Hikaru cackled away mischievously.
“I am merely joking. Surely it is a girl who likes you wanting to help you, Koremitsu. For example, there is that feisty, worrisome girl who is like a Heliotrope.”
Hikaru gave Koremitsu a wink, causing the latter to blush.
Did Hikaru too think it was Honoka?
(I guess…Shikibu’s the only strange one who’ll help me out…if it’s Shikibu, she can just stuff the envelope easily into the next table…)
Koremitsu inadvertently reminiscence the itch had he first had. Hikaru beside him was dyed red, his eyes melancholic as he whispered,
“Speaking of which, when I was shunned by the girls in my class, I was helped by this Little White Flower.”
“Little White Flower?”
While Koremitsu was wondering if Hikaru was going to narrate his history as a popular boy again, the latter recounted with his richly sweet voice.
“There was a Cupid in the backyard of the Middle School Campus, and it was said that couples could be together forever as long as they made an oath in front of it. During the culture festival in my 3rd grade, I made flower rings for 5 girls, and swore oaths of love with them.”
“Why did you make oaths with 5 girls at once!? Didn’t you say you spent time with 5 girls on the culture festival too!?”
“But you see, is the culture festival and sports festival not a time when emotions get tempest, and do they not wish to confess? With girls asking me out saying, ‘I have something to say to you in front of the Cupid Statue. Please come’, do I not have to fulfill the promise?”
Surely it would not be a strange sight for Hikaru, who dated 7 girls on Christmas Eve, to receive confessions from 5 girls in a day. Koremitsu however never expected that the boy would actually agree to them.
(This guy’s a harem prince since you. A really annoying brat!)
“I do remember back then, it was the season when the Cosmos and Dianthus flowers were in bloom. I plucked them, tied the stems into a circle and formed a ring. I then gently raised the hand of the girl, and slotted the ring into her finger, telling her ‘I do love you too, Erina’.”
“…So, starting from Erina, you received confessions from Yumi, Misaki, Sayaka or something like every hour?”
“Yes, that certainly seemed like it.”
“Stop admitting that with a smile!!!”
Koremitsu yelled, and Hikaru got dejected,
“Everyone was really happy. However, the fact that I gave rings to 5 girls was quickly revealed.”
The girls, absolutely elated thinking that they were the only ones who made promises of love with Hikaru, were naturally furious. They then complained to the other girls, saying Hikaru was ‘terrible’. As a result, Hikaru was isolated from not only the boys, but also the girls too.
“That truly was a tragedy. Before then, I had assumed that the girls would surely stand by me no matter what happened.”
“That’s your just desserts.”
Koremitsu concluded with a harsh face.
“But on those days of suffering, there was someone encouraging me every day, even returning me my stolen recorder and drawing instruments.”
Hikaru narrowed his eyes, his expression showing life again.
“Someone actually helped you? That’s a strange one.”
It appeared Hikaru paid no heed to Koremitsu’s spiteful words as a sweet smile appeared on his face.
“That person would always fold papers into a flower of 5 petals and slip the into my drawer or shoe locker. That was when I placed a letter with the words ‘To Little White Flower’ in it. It was soon taken away. During the 3 days before I was forgiven by the other girls, I had a dreamy conversation with that person…”
“They forgave you after 3 days!? Those girls are too soft-hearted.”
“It seemed they could not handle ignoring me for so longer. After that, there was a promise made during the class meeting that Lord Hikaru belongs to everyone, and that taking a head start was forbidden.”
“Are you serious!?”
Koremitsu lost all strange to retort as he shrugged. Hikaru beside him however spoke with a sickeningly sweet expression.
“I wrote down ‘can you be my flower’, and the reply I had from Little white Flower was ‘Okay’. That became our final conversation however…ever since then, the messages with the white 5-petaled flower never appeared in my shoe locker again.”
The angelic lips betrayed a sweet, tender smile. Surely, if any girl was to see it, they would be utterly mesmerized.
But Koremitsu maintained a bitter look, saying,
“Hey, are you asking me to find out who made that promise with you?”
“I will not.”
This time, Hikaru smiled so innocently.
“A love where we cannot meet is wonderful too. There is the memory of prettier, fragrant flower, and one will be wondering without being hindered what kind of person she was? Is it a face of a Galanthus popping out from the snow, the poignant White Camellia blooming in the winter cold, or is it the pure white Acacia that scatters its petals in the beginning of summer?”
How much does this guy love flowers and women? Koremitsu was flabbergasted, and turned to the seat beside him.
It was empty…but his mind recalled the profile of Honoka staring at the cellphone screen seriously, sliding her fingers up and down, and his heart ached again.
(Damn it. If you’re the ‘bird’, let me thank you at least.)
The following day, Koremisu decided to question Honoka. His heart had been giddy all this while, unbearable.
Once break time came, Koremitsu got up from her seat and spoke to Honoka.
However, Honoka got up earlier, and quickly shook off Koremitsu as she head off towards another classmate.
“I can go for the group date later.”
“Great! There’ll be more guys joining if you’re joining, Honoa.”
“Do I invite Hori? She just broke up with her boyfriend, and is looking for a new one okay.”
“Horriii!! After school!!”
Honoka was surrounded by a lot of girls, and Koremitsu felt like a dog barking away.
It had been like this unlike school ended. Once homeroom ended, the girls would surround Honoka, enthusiastically leaving the classroom.
And Koremitsu could only place at hand on his face, watching her leave.
“Is the bird really Shikibu?”
Koremitsu had such a doubt upon seeing Honoka’s attitude, asking with a dejected voice.
Hikaru too weakly muttered,
(Argh, I don’t care about Shikibu now.)
“M-M-Mr. Akagi!? Why are you angry!? Did I do something wrong!? I’m sorry!”
It was after school.
Koremitsu and Michiru were alone in the classroom, and they were seated at the same table, facing each other, going over the details of the haunted house. Michiru was pale, shivering.
“I’m not angry. I’m just born with this brooding face.”
In fact, Koremitsu was fuming because Honoka had been ignoring him. It was peeving that Honoka was chatting with other girls, but what infuriated him further was that he could only watch her and grovel about.
(Shikibu’s not my personal consultant, and she’s not the one who’s in-charge of helping me. She has her own relationships with other people. For some reason, whenever I feel troubled, I just expect Shikibu’s encouragement and help to come.)
That was supposed to be the case, he was furious that Honoka merely ignored him and went on a group date with other girls. Even if he was shameless, there had to be a limit to it.
(Hikaru did say that Shikibu’s a pretty girl, has a nice figure, and will take care of others. She’s popular amongst the guys and girls. All the incidents I had with her were just unique situations.)
Koremitsu tried to convince himself, but his face tensed when he saw Honoka frolicking around with others with her back facing him, and he gritted his teeth.
(I’m really close-minded.)
He was apologetic for scaring Michiru too.
Koremitsu placed his hands on the table, lowering his head to apologize.
He would feel uneasy whenever he was apologizing, or apologized to. Ever since he got over the memory of his mother leaving house however, he did not feel so constrained and suffocated apologizing to others.
He had to apologize for those he had to. Only then was he able to convey his feelings to the other party.
Michiru’s eyes widened. Also, she flailed her hands.
“I-it’s fine. You’re not angry here, Mr. Akagi. Eheheh, thank goodness. Really.”
It was not a radiant smile at all. However, it was a plain, refreshing smile, and Koremitsu heart fluttered.
“Miss Hanasato’s smile really is amazing, is it not?”
Hikaru muttered, and Koremitsu nodded.
She beamed away, apparently wanting to cheer on Koremitsu with all her might,
“This is the cast for the monsters. We got the materials here, and we submitted the request form to the student council. All that is left is the maze and the construction of the clothes. It really is going successfully thanks to you, Mr. Akagi.”
Koremitsu inadvertently began to suspect.
(It’s true that we didn’t get into any trouble, and things are proceeding as planned on the schedule…is the preparation work for a school festival really like this? Isn’t this more like more people working together, everything all bustling?)
Leaving aside the ghost Hikaru, Michiru and Koremitsu were the only ones in the classroom. All the details till this point were handled and prepared by the duo.
The classmates too had the attitude of leaving things to Koremitsu, but it was not because they trusted him, but that they were shying away from him, not wanting to get involved with him…
“A culture festival…should involve the entire class, right?”
Koremitsu grumbled softly, “eh?” and Michiru called out in surprise,
“Isn’t it just you and me taking part, Hanasato? Don’t you find it strange?”
He asked with a serious face. Michiru however looked perturbed, fidgeting a while before saying,
“Eh, everyone has their own things to handle…it’s common for such things to happen as a class rep, so it’s not really strange, right? I’m used to doing things alone…”
Michiru had her head lowered as she cautiously narrated, yet to Koremitsu, she looked so forlorn, and it caused his heart to be ostensibly stabbed.
(Speaking of which, isn’t there something strange between this girl and Shikibu? Shikibu’s been hanging out with other girls, and this girl’s always alone. She’s even coming to me to have lunch together…)
And Koremitsu’s group was isolated from the girls in the class.
(Is it because this girl’s shunned for being with me? Unlike Shikibu who has many friends, this girl’s like me, not really the kind to handle other human relationships.)
As he wondered about these probable things, Koremitsu’s head froze.
“Hanasato, you don’t have to accompany me all the time. Don’t you have your own stuff too? You…got to patch things up with Shikibu too.”
Perhaps it was Koremitsu just worrying too much, for he did not have the right to talk about it, him being shunned by Honoka himself.
Michiru looked increasingly perplexed, and she lowered her head for a while, whispering,
“…Mr. Akagi…is there something…from the bird envelop?”
Koremitsu had assumed Michiru would be using it as excuse to hide the awkwardness caused by him, but it seemed that was not the case.
And while Koremitsu remained perplexed over the sudden change in topic, Michiru continued,
“Why didn’t she just admit it?”
Michiru looked ready to break into tears.
“It’s despicable…to remain anonymous.”
Perhaps Michiru too did assume that Honoka was the sender behind all these messages. Koremitsu remained silent as he watched Michiru lower her head and frown, her lips quivering, looking tragic.
Hikaru too stared at Michiru with melancholy.
What can I say here? The moment Koremitsu was about to say something, Michiru lifted her head, wanting to pass it off with a laugh.
“Aha…ahaha, sorry for saying such strange things. Thank you for worrying about Hono and me, Mr. Akagi, but we aren’t arguing. It isn’t what you think…erm…anyway, it’s fine. Instead of that, let’s have some baked sweets.”
Michiru hurriedly took out a blue box from her bag, ostensibly remembering it.
“Erm, let’s see…ahh! Mr Akagi, do you mind sitting here?”
Michiru suddenly became lively as she pulled the chair to the windowside.
“Huh? Can’t I sit here?”
“It-it’s brighter here.”
“There are a lot of particulars girls are concerned with, Koremitsu. Especially when they are giving others their home-made snacks.”
Hikaru cheerfully noted.
(What’s that about?)
Was there any particular etiquette in eating by the windowside? Koremitsu could not understand at all.
However, Michiru, seated by the windowside, was staring back with puppy eyes, and Koremitsu could only stand up, get over, and sit down on the chair.
“Is this good enough?”
Michiru’s face was completely flushed, and she nodded.
(Speaking of which, the sun’s too bright here. It’s too direct and hot here!)
This light was not only dazzling, it was baking Koremitsu’s head. However, Michiru looked completely flushed, her face like the setting sun as she said,
“It-it’s better to button up that one, I think.”
And to satisfy Michiru’s wish, Koremitsu buttoned up the first button, which he normally would never do.
“P-please straighten your back too…”
And he subconsciously straightened his back too.
“There’s still more!?’
Koremitsu raised his voice, half-scaring her,
“P-please be gentler in the way you speaking…”
Koremitsu shut his mouth, and Michiru’s eyes looked mesmerized.
“A dreamy Miss Hanasato really is cool. Right now, you surely must be a prince to her.”
“Hey, Koremitsu. Your back is arched again. You are a prince now; how can you not arch your back? Ahh, don’t raise your leg. Put your legs down.”
(Who’s the prince?)
Koremitsu resisted the urge to raise his eyebrows and lash out.
Michiru looked absolutely elated. There was a lot of trouble caused for her for this culture festival and thus, he decided to play along with her ‘etiquette’ for the time being.
(But it’s still so bright. It’s so hot. My throat’s so dry, it’s crying.)
Michiru looked completely blissful as she looked up at Koremitsu, and she opened the blue box, handing it to him,
“P-please have some, Mr. Akagi.”
The pastel colored macarons were neatly arranged in the box.
Koremitsu, intolerant against sweets, hesitated, but Michiru’s eyes were filled with expectations. Hikaru cheered on from the side “do you best, prince.”
And Koremitsu reached his hand out.
Trying his best not to feel the smell of the yellow macaron, Koremitsu held his breath. It was crushed the instant it touched Koremitsu’s teeth, and something sticky was stuck on his tongue.
(Ugh, it’s sweet…)
The sickeningly sweet fluid spread in Koremitsu’s mouth, and he felt his mind slammed hard by a hammer.
“H-how is it?”
“Ah…uu, it’s very sweet, on the outside, and the inside too.”
It seemed Michiru deemed Koremitsu’s words as a praise as her cheeks became increasingly illuminated.
“It’s honey macarons. There’s honey added in the skin too.”
“Wow. This really looks good. I want to try some too.”
(You damned ghost! I really want to stuff this entire box into your mouth.)
“Mr. Akagi! There’s still a lot! Please have some more!”
A single macaron alone caused Koremitsu much numbing damage, so the thought of finishing up everything in the box caused Koremitsu to be so despondent.
“I really don’t eat a lot of sweets here…”
Koremitsu instead tried another way of hinting to Michiru that he could not take sweets.
But Michiru lowered her eyes, looking ready to break into tears. This caused Koremitsu to feel like he was bullying a small animal.
“Uggh, I’ll have another one then.”
And Koremitsu stuffed another orange piece into his mouth.
It was so sweet his teeth were melting.
“You really are a prince, Koremitsu.”
Hikaru changed into a frilly costume of the middle ages as he floated leisurely above Koremitsu, taunting Koremitsu enough to unleash some murderous intent. At the same time, Michiru pushed the box towards Koremitsu,
“This orange one is a combination of Acacia honey and White Chocolate.”
At that moment, Koremitsu shivered.
He snatched the box from Michiru’s hands, and got up.
“It’s really nice! Let’s share it with everyone! Senpai wants me to show up at the Dance club! I’ll end up rising to heaven if I’m to eat all these alone!”
♢ ♢ ♢
—If it is what you wish… the little forlorn emotion Michiru showed caused Koremitsu to feel guilty as he arrived at the Japanese Dance Club, only to be surprised finding Aoi there.
“H-hello there, Mr. Akagi.”
Aoi nodded, her fingertips resting against the tatami. Her cheeks were dyed red, her long, black hair draped on the shoulders, wrapped around her slender body. As a princess, surely this was an etiquette she was trained to do since young, but unlike Tsuyako’s alluring, pretty actions, Aoi’s actions were overflowing with cuteness.
“Miss Aoi wishes to help up in our shop during the culture festival.”
He let out a startled voice, and Hikaru too widened his eyes.
“Hey! Senpai! Isn’t the exhibit for the Dance Club that—!?”
“A juice stand of Nurses! Was that not because you chose it, Mr. Akagi!”
There was an elegance filling the room as Tsuyako said those words.
“Isn’t that because you just flipped the papers around and asked me to choose one!? It’s not like I like nurses!”
“Of course. You really had a hard choice choosing, Mr. Akagi, whether it is the miko outfit of the Cheongsam.”
And Aoi was blushing as she heard the volleys between Koremitsu and Tsuyako.
Koremitsu then anxiously leaned towards Aoi.
“You just mentioned that theme, senpai! I’m not a sucker for nurses!”
Aoi’s face got increasingly red, and she fidgeted.
“Anyway, Aoi, are you serious? You have to wear nurse uniforms that day, you know?”
“Y-yes, I did hear about that. Miss Tsuyako did show me information about the clothing. That’s…a-acceptable, I guess…”
While he expected Hikaru to actually stop her,
“Miss Aoi in a nurse uniform will be really cute. A white angel~!”
Contrasting his expectations, Hikaru was marvelling away.
And at this moment, a cheerful voice rang,
“Coming through! Hiina Oumi of the news club is here!”
A petite, busty girl with a short haircut appeared, filled with enthusiasm.
“Oumi!? Don’t tell me you’re going to be wearing a nurse uniform too!?”
Hiina’s breasts and meaty thighs were already so big, wearing the uniform alone would have greatly emphasized them. If she was to wear a nurse uniform, surely there would be trouble.
And in a teasing manner, Hiina looked up from below Koremitsu.
“Uh huh? Are you looking forward to me in a nurse uniform, Mr. Akagi! I’m hear to get materials for a special scoop before the culture festival begins, but if you request for it, I’ll be okay with a doctor’s play!”
“Wow, Koremitsu! Hurry up and ask her! I really want to see Miss Oumi in a nurse uniform!”
And Hikaru was pleading with such zest.
(You, shut up already!)
“Of course, you can choose between a Cheongsam or a black suit.”
Hiina said as she leaned her chest over, her shirt unbuttoned down to the second. Her actions were so different from the wise self when there was the commotion about Sora’s pregnancy, so Koremitsu was left perturbed. Though he believed her flaunting appearance defied the down-to-earth personality within, he still could not accept her alluring him with everyone looking.
“Don’t do this.”
Koremitsu pushed Hiina aside gently.
“That is right. Th-that is shameless.”
And Aoi, seated on the tatami as she knelt down, said so unhappily. Her face was flushed red, and she lowered it.
“Oh my, are you jealous, Your Highness Aoi?”
Aoi’s face got increasingly red. Tsuyako too continued to strike the iron while it was hot.
“Yes, Miss Aoi is a vat of jealousy. Whenever I was with Hikaru, Miss Aoi would glare at me with her cheeks puffed. She really is innocent and cute, and I really wanted to make her more jealous then before.”
“I-I am not…a vat of jealousy.”
“Enough already, all of you!”
Once Koremitsu let out this violent roar, Tsuyako chortled.
“Sorry. I am afraid of making Miss Aoi hate me more. I shall be more careful.”
“I’ll focus on getting material then.”
Hiina too nonchalantly mentioned this.
“You have to promote this well and lure the customers.”
“Ah, in that case, please give me some photos. Surely there’ll be a long line of customers if there’s a photo of the Moon Matriach in a nurse uniform.”
“Ah, but if all of it is seen from the beginning, there’s no fun in that. I shall only reveal a little here and give the customers some expectations.”
“I see. How about I publish news of the nurse uniform, and that the Moon Matriach will be wearing it on that day?”
“That is fine.”
Tsuyako and Hiina seemed to have caught on the same wavelength as they enjoyed themselves.
And Aoi cringed back shyly, turning her face towards Koremitsu. Once their eyes met, she frantically lowered her head again.
As a result of that, Koremitsu felt his heart race, and he lowered his voice, asking,
“Are you seriously going to help out at the Japanese Dance Club stall?”
“Will I cause trouble?”
“No. Senpai’s been complaining about a lack of people.”
“No, it is nothing. I…I just want to help.”
“I-Is that so.”
Hikaru too watched Aoi and Koremitsu slightly from the side. This caused Koremitsu much anxiety, his heart tingling.
Suddenly, he realized he forgot about Michiru, and immediately turned back.
Michiru was holding her bag, squatted quietly on the tatami, her head lowered. That lonely, forlorn look caused Koremitsu much heartbreak within. He understood that while most would be cheerful and cause a ruckus, she would be unable to join in, and was unable to endure this loneliness.
(I pulled you here, and I left you aside. Sorry about that, Hanasato.)
Koremitsu hastily raised his voice, saying,
“Ah, Hanasato made some sweets, called macarons or something.”
“I , myself, like macarons.”
“Macarons are like a field of flowers in a childhood world. Let me have a look, Miss Hanasato. My, how cute. Nicely made.”
Hiina and Tsuyako immediately squealed with joy upon seeing Michiru’s macarons.
Aoi looked conflicted, but she too whispered,
It seemed that the vibrant colored sweets, no different from poison to Koremitsu, was a magical-like food that would render girls flabbergasted. The trio grabbed the orange and pink macarons, popping them into their mouths.
“How delicious, Miss Hanasato. Is this honey? It really is wonderful.”
“Ah, so sweet, so wonderful.”
“It really is delicious…erm, do you mind telling me the recipe for this orange one with white chocolate?”
Things suddenly got lively around Michiru.
And her expression too brightened slowly, before she answered flusteredly,
“Ah-erm, that recipe is…”
“Miss Hanasato’s macarons really are delicious. Your method of eating really was too intense, Koremitsu. I thought it would merely look good outside, and filled with sugar blocks inside. It really is great to have everyone taste it.”
Hikaru chimed in cheerfully.
Koremitsu too felt relieved seeing Michiru look over at him in such a worrisome, yet cheerful look.
And the box of macarons was soon empty.
“I’ll follow you for materials during the culture festival then, Mr. Akagi.”
Hiina said this before she left the club room.
“I ate a lot. I have to practice to expend the calories.”
After hearing Tsuyako’s words, Koremitsu’s group too left the club room.
“I-I’ll be headed this way.”
Once they got out of the school gates, Michiru bid farewell.”
“Okay. We’ll start designing the maze for the haunted house tomorrow.”
“Thank you very much for your macarons, and for telling me the recipe too.”
Aoi politely bowed towards Michiru, and the latter frantically flailed her hands, saying,
“N-no need for that.”
She looked extremely bashful, her face flushed as she continued to bow back over and over again before she left.
October was beginning, and the sun was setting much earlier than before. Koremitsu and Aoi were walking side by side down the dim alley.
(Damn it…now we’re alone together.)
Before summer vacation ended, Aoi gave up on taking the bus to school every day, and instead had her family chauffeur ferry her…that should have been the case, for she remained silent as she continued to walk silently and bashfully beside him.
With a tender look, Hikaru stared at Aoi.
(Got to find something to talk about. This is awkward…)
Koremitsu clumsily opened his mouth,
“Well, about today…I was really shocked. Didn’t you hate senpai, Aoi? You decided to help out with the Dance Club though.”
Aoi too timidly answered,
“I still have some reservations…but I can understand Miss Tsuyako’s charms that attracted even Hikaru…it will be too immature for me to have such reservations.”
Aoi cringed her shoulders and lowered her head, seemingly perplexed as she chimed.
It seemed she was really impressed by how Tsuyako was able to honestly provide a baby cot and diapers during the commotion that was Sora’s pregnancy. Tsuyako’s actions showed no jealousy towards a woman who bore Hikaru’s child, and neither was she holding in any anguish. She was simply thrilled to see that Hikaru’s child would be born.
Though it was a misunderstanding, Koremitsu was still relieved that Aoi could let go of her hatred towards Tsuyako.
And surely, Hikaru too would have been relieved about it.
“Also…I never was able to enjoy the school festival with Hikaru.”
Koremitsu inadvertently shivered, his heart seemingly shaken by something close.
Aoi, who had her face lowered all this time, showed haze in her eyes.
“Hikaru had so many vibrant people like Miss Tsuyako around him…and I could not be honest as a result.”
Why did Aoi choose this moment, of all times, to reminiscence about Hikaru with such a helpless look?
Koremitsu was again shaken by Aoi, and Hikaru beside him was watching her silently with a tragic face. The former’s heart raced, and something buried deep within his heart seemed to have been stabbed through.
The sky gradually darkened, and a faint glint lit the roads. Their shadows were shown on the floor, except for Hikaru’s.
However, Hikaru was present, his expression forlorn as he listened to Aoi’s words.
“As Miss Tsuyako had said…I was often jealous like a child…that was why I was unable to convey my true thoughts to Hikaru…th-that is why…I wish to change. If I can have a happy culture festival this year…that was what I thought.”
While she looked ready to break into tears, Aoi turned around, saying,
“Sorry, I shall stop here.”
A black sedan silently arrived, and parked beside Aoi. Surely it had been tailing Koremitsu.
The chauffeur opened the doors.
“Bye then, Mr. Akagi.”
With a soft voice, Aoi said, and her long black hair swayed as she vanished behind the door.
Soon after, the car Aoi rode on vanished at the end of the dim path.
Both Koremitsu and Hikaru watched the car leave silently.
After some itching silence, Hikaru sputtered, his eyes melancholic,
“…The culture festival. Back then, Miss Aoi, she merely glared at me. She would not approach me…whether it was in Middle School…or whenever I was alive. During the last culture festival she had in high school…whenever I called out ‘Miss Aoi’, she would blush and say ‘I really hate you, Hikaru’, and leave me…if back then, had I grabbed her hand, I wished I would have traveled around with her whether she puffed her face or remained furious or not.”
In stark contrast his melancholic face, Hikaru’s voice was as tender as ever.
Even though it caused Koremitsu’s heart to wince further.
Hikaru stared at Koremitsu, saying,
“If it had been you, Koremitsu, surely you would not have made her angry…”
“Why are you saying such things now?”
Koremitsu could not give a reply,
“If you really do love Miss Aoi, Koremitsu, you do not have to worry about me.”
—I shall inform you first. No matter the path you choose, Koremitsu, I shall continue to bless you, so that I have no problems leaving this Earth at any given time.
On that night, when Koremitsu held onto Aoi’s hand, Hikaru said this with a transparent, tender yet forlorn smile. Back then, the smile showed on his lips, eyes and face.
—After 10 years, who will be standing by your side? No matter who stands beside you. No matter who stands beside Miss Aoi. I shall love both of you from the skies above.
An aching pain rose up Koremitsu’s throat.
“Like I can do that! You idiot!”
And he began hollering in the middle of the road.
“Don’t just say those words and be mentally prepared for such things! Get down, roll on the floor and start thinking! No, you may have thought of it yourself, but if you’re going to conclude so decisively like a fine gentleman and speak with such a haughty attitude, won’t that be misunderstood as you not liking Aoi instead! That’s why Aoi’s always saying ‘I really hate Hikaru’!”
Yes. Koremitsu understood that Hikaru loved Aoi, and that since childhood, she had been the most important girl to him.
Despite her not being his beloved, if Hikaru did not fall into the river, and if he was still alive, Aoi surely would have become that. Aoi was Hikaru’s future, his hope. Koremitsu understood all that, because they were friends!
And because of that, Hikaru should be act all mature. It was better for him to follow his nature, to be stubborn and say that Koremitsu should not do anything to Aoi.
“What are you playing dumb for in front of me!?”
His mind sizzling, his throat parched, Koremitsu body was practically ready to explode.
Hikaru closed his lips, showing a despondent look as he listened to Koremitsu.
The dragged shadow on the ground too remained lonely.
Hikaru’s body was so fleeting in the icy night breeze, so pretty, about to disappear at any given time.
“Koremitsu. A policeman is looking over here.”
Koremitsu turned aside, and found a policeman on a bicycle, staring at Koremitsu like how one would look at a suspicious personnel.
He cringed his neck, and strode forth. Hikaru too followed leisurely.
“It’s because you said something strange, damn it.”
Koremitsu’s face was flushed as he grumbled, his veins popping. Hikaru again kept quiet.
Surely, Hikaru had yet to completely give up on Aoi.
And because he knew that, Koremitsu felt so conflicted, so anguished within.