“Miss Aoi, do you mind heading over to Miss Asai and request her to stamp this application form?”
Upon hearing Tsuyako’s request, Aoi’s petite body shivered, not knowing what to do. Honoka in turn was packing her uniform for the culture festival, looking on.
The lowered eyelashes covered her eyes, and she sealed her peach-colored lips, pondering seriously
“Mr. Akagi was just summoned by Miss Asai over the PA system. You must be feeling worried, right?”
Tsuyako said this, revealing an alluring smile.
Honoka too was taken aback, sensing that these words were said for her.
(I-I, won’t be so worried about Akagi…I haven’t been talking to him for quite a while, and I’ve been trying my best to avoid eye contact with him…)
But for some reason, whenever the image appeared in her mind, that of the red, ruffled, messy hair, the sharp eyes, the boy with his back arched, her heart would flutter in angst.
(Akagi…probably thinks I’m ignoring her…I kept clinging to him, causing him much trouble. While Akagi became a committee member of the culture festival, all busy over the culture festival, I slacked off and went back. He’s definitely angry at me now…I feel like I’m no longer that reliable Heliotrope…)
—You’re really a good person.
—It’s great to have you around, Shikibu..
Surely those were not words to be spoken to a girl. He did not comprehend a girl’s heart, merely jesting.
But even so, whenever she thought of how she was trusted by Koremitsu, her cheeks would inadvertently broil, and the more she thought of him, the more she would swirl around on the swivel chair.
(Even though we’re classmates, I’m happy exchanging messages with Akagi, going to the pool with him.)
She could no longer converse with Koremitsu as she did before.
—“You’re lying, Hono. You really like Mr. Akagi, don’t you?”
It was after school, in the empty classroom, when Michiru went straight to the point, causing her heart to wince in bitterness.
She instinctively denied Michiru’s words.
—Th-that’s not true! Didn’t I say so many times already that he and I are just classmates?
And with forlorn eyes, Michiru stared at Honoka, so impudent in defending herself. She then sputtered and shivered, saying,
—Then, please don’t be so nice with Mr. Akagi in front of him. Don’t tease him. Don’t talk to Mr. Akagi with a red face. Don’t worry over Mr. Akagi. If you don’t like him…pl-please don’t get in my way…
Michiru, who used to be tentative about aggravating others, and would never state obstinate matters no matter how maligned she felt, actually stated her thoughts clearly, not shunning from Honoka’s eyes. The latter was completely crushed by Michiru.
And she nodded stiffly.
Michiru heaved a sigh of relief, and then, with a teary look, she turned her back on Honoka, departing alone.
Honoka was left alone, and pricking kept striking her chest, regret and guilt conflicted within her.
She was Michiru’s friend, and yet she lied to the latter.
And till this point, she continued to maintain this lie.
Whereas Michiru actually conveyed her feelings to Honoka.
(It would have been fine if I said that I like Akagi back then, right?)
And while she continued to endure the ripping inside her heart, she continued to peek at Koremitsu and Michiru, the latter having recommended the former for the culture festival committee, the two of them working together to prepare the props during break or after school, and she reflected upon her actions.
Michiru was doing her best, trying to help Koremitsu; that should have been what Honoka should have been doing, yet even when Koremitsu came to talk to her, she would ignore him with a frozen face.
The expression Michiru showed Koremitsu was so honest, so full of vitality. When she saw Michiru present her homemade sweets to Koremitsu during the break, Koremitsu received them with a sour look, cautiously taking one bite after another. After he expressed his thanks in such a tentative manner, Michiru was beaming so brightly, so captivating; even a girl like Honoka felt this way, and surely to Koremitsu, she must have been very cute too. Koremitsu was beginning to realize Michiru’s good points, and surely he would approach her. Thinking about this, she was a little peeved a Michiru, and more so at herself.
(And besides, the one Akagi has his eyes on—isn’t Michiru…)
Her heart, and her entire body, was tense.
Aoi again lowered her head flusteredly.
Honoka heard of the awkward relationship between Aoi and the student council president Asai, hailed the Matriarch Asa. The talented woman, a close confidant of the Mikados, had been protecting over the pure, innocent girl called Her Highness Aoi. This was the relationship all the students in Heian Academy would know of, and yet there was some change in their relationship.
Both of them were invited to the fireworks event held by Tsuyako at the riverbank, but they deliberately shunned each other.
“Hey, Miss Aoi, is Mr. Akagi still at the student council office? I sent him a message asking me to come here for the timeslot allocation, but he has been completely ignoring me. Do you mind calling Mr. Akagi back here when you ask Miss Asai to stamp this document?”
Surely Tsuyako knew of some discongruence between Asai and Aoi, but she still tried getting Aoi to go to Asai, perhaps to mend the relationship between them. Tsuyako, looking so carefree, was probably a sentimental woman who cared for others.
Asai and Aoi both showed contempt at Tsuyako over the scandal involving Mikado Hikaru, and yet Tsuyako was trying her best to be the matchmaker. The same thing happened when she got Aoi to assist in the Japanese Dance Club exhibition, as she cheerfully spoke to Aoi, prudent in her choice of words, showing concern so as to not let the latter feel downhearted.
Surely it was Tsuyako’s kind intentions to let Aoi handle Asai.
Aoi probably would understand this.
Surely however, it would be awkward for Aoi to head over. The sight of her lowering her head, sealing her lips tightly was really heartwrenching. Honoka herself did have an awkward conversation with Michiru, and the memory of it was inadvertently reflected on Aoi.
“Erm, can I go with you?”
Aoi widened her eyes at Honoka.
And Tsuyako giggled.
“Oh yes, I suppose it is better to have two people go drag Mr. Akagi from Miss Asa. Please do so, Miss Shikibu, Miss Aoi.”
“Okay, let’s get going, Your Highness Aoi.”
While Aoi let out a soft whisper, her shoulders raised apprehensively,
“Righto, we’re going, Tsuyako-senpai!”
Honoka stood at the door, deliberately raising her voice.
“Be careful on the way, Miss Shikibu, Miss Aoi.”
Tsuyako’s radiant, red lips too bloomed as she showed a cheerful smile.
And so, with Aoi beside her, Honoka walked down the corridor.
It was the eve of the culture festival, so the dismissal time was later than usual, and she could hear the buzz from the surrounding voices, and the ripping sounds of work.
While walking with her head lowered, Aoi whispered bashfully.
“Thank you for accompanying me. I may find it a little awkward going alone…thank you.:”
The long black hair dangled down her shoulders, swaying with the breeze. Her petite body retreated, her cheeks slightly flushed, and she looked so prim, so proper, so fleeting, it was impossible to see that she was Honoka’s upperclassman.
(Ahh, she’s so cute…)
Honoka’s heart too started to ache.
And then she sheltered those emotions, answering with her usual tone.
“No, I just wanted to come out and get some air.”
Aoi’s expression became increasingly docile and demure, and she sealed her lips together, asking tentatively,
“Mr. Akagi has been busy preparing the class exhibition, has he not? I have yet to see him appear at the Dance Club…”
“Eh? Ah, yeah.”
Upon hearing Aoi inquire about Koremitsu, Honoka felt a stab through her heart.
Her mind immediately recalled the sight of Aoi and Koremitsu holding hands.
Once she learned from Aoi that at the cafe, Koremitsu inadvertently met his mother who left home, she really could not rein in her worry, and that night, she approached Koremitsu’s house.
There was a woman she never met before, standing in front of Koremitsu. There was a boy beside the woman, holding her hand. In turn, Aoi grasped onto Koremitsu’s hand while the latter remained teary.
At that moment, she felt that she lost.
Having witnessed that scene, Honoka had given up.
When Koremitsu’s love, Yū Kanai, chose to head to Australia to live with her family, Honoka felt that she was not a part of Koremitsu’s love, and yet she continued to fight on. She got conceited in thinking that she, not Yū, was the one woman closest to Koremitsu.
She tried conveying her feelings to him many times. Even though Koremitsu could never forget about Yū, he never shunned Honoka, and did go to the pool with her, telling her ‘I haven’t forgotten, Shikibu, about you saying you like me’. He even made a promise with her to respond to her feelings.
And so, she ended up liking him more.
And the hope grew in her heart.
Even though they were classmates on good terms with each other, surely Koremitsu would view Honoka as a woman and fall in love with her.
And yet the conceited fantasy vanished the instant she saw Aoi hold hands with Koremitsu.
The princess Aoi certainly did not match the gruff civilian Koremitsu.
They were polar opposites, yet with similar feelings, they bonded together firmly.
Honoka could not comprehend.
She was torn within.
(So Akagi has fallen for Her Highness Aoi…)
Surely she could not convey her intentions to Michiru for she knew that she had already given up.
So she silently nodded when Michiru warned her not to get in her way.
(What kind of a love expert am I? A reliable advisor for those girls who lost their way in love? I’m so foolish and timid, it’s embarrassing.)
And as she continued to brood so incessantly, she felt the distance between them increasing.
Aoi lowered her head silently, perhaps because they were approaching Asai.
(She’s thinking about Akagi, isn’t she…?)
Once they reached the door, Aoi took a little breath, and was about to knock on the oor.
Only for a shrill voice to ring behind the door.
“Aoi’s the only one impossible for me!!”
♢ ♢ ♢
“Aoi’s the only one impossible for me!!”
Koremitsu hollered at Asai, his throat ostensibly ripping out, and his head, mouth, ears and throat flaring.
He was blazing.
Asai had her arms folded in front of her, a scowl on her pretty face.
And Hikaru too watched Koremitsu agonisingly.
Agitated, Koremitsu knew that he would be in a tight spot, but he could not stop himself from lashing out.
When Michiru questioned him on the roof, asking if he did like Honoka, he immediately answered ‘I do’.
He always felt Honoka was a good girl.
So when he was asked if he ‘liked’ her, he answered in affirmation without a single hesitation.
He blurted it out, gasping for breath.
But he certainly could not answer Asai’s question.
Yes, definitely, even if he had to be interrogated or tortured! He could not day this even if his body was torn apart.
He could not think about it!
His body started to sear, his breathing discomforting, his eyes were bloodshot as his temples throbbed.
“Aoi’s the most precious girl to Hikaru, and I can’t ever like her in this aspect because of that!”
♢ ♢ ♢
“I can’t ever like her in this aspect because of that!”
Koremitsu’s bellow echoed into the ears of Aoi and Honoka behind the door.
The roar, a wild beast’s cry, shook the ears to numbness, and the heart ached slightly.
Aoi widened her eyes, her body shivering. Her serene, pure face was smeared with shock and despair, and her eyes grew increasingly moist. Her slender throat was choking silently, and the raised hand that was to knock on the door just remained there, lost.
Once that hand continued to clench like one hoping to latch a safety belt, Aoi chose not to knock on the door, instead turning to run away.
And Honoka frantically gave chase.
“Your Highness Aoi, please wait!”
With bated breath, she gave chase with all her might.
Aoi herself galloped and stumbled as she dashed down the corridor and scaled the stairs. The black glossy hair swayed behind her head.
“Your Highness Aoi, wait!”
Perhaps Aoi did not hear Honoka’s voice; Surely she was stupefied to hear Koremitsu’s comments.
She stumbled, and placed her hand on the wall, possibly due to having exhausted herself running down the corridor. She remained collapsed on the floor.
“Your Highness Aoi.”
Honoka hastily got over to her, and proceeded to kneel down as well. The moment she held those slender shoulders, the tears dripped from the round doll-like eyes, dampening the snowy cheeks.
“M-Mr. Akagi was being so kind with me…because I am Hikaru’s fiancee.”
Aoi sobbed as she whispered.
And she placed her small hands under her mouth, clasping them together. She continued to shiver and speak out, unable to rein in her tears.
“I too…will probably never like Mr. Akagi ever.”
Honoka’s body and heart throbbed.
(That isn’t the case. Even—even if Akagi himself said this—)
She felt an itching in her throat, her chest compressed, and she was so suffocated, in such pain. She knew she would be left in a disadvantage, Honoka felt that she had to express these words.
How was she supposed to let Koremitsu’s intent be ruined by those words?
“That isn’t it…Akagi…! His feelings for you are…!”
♢ ♢ ♢
Koremitsu’s voice became increasingly hoarse.
And while the rampant heat flowed throughout his body, the regret that struck him left him with remorse.
(Why am I yelling like an idiot here?)
Hikaru too looked on worriedly.
Asai was fuming, scowling, her face increasingly stoic as she watched this foolish man in front of him. This caused the latter to be increasingly anxious.
“…Sorry. I got a little agitated.”
“How many times have you been apologizing?”
Asai coldly noted.
“If you are going to keep apologizing, the value of it will decrease. That reckless, infuriating attitude of yours certainly fits you better.”
She was aloof in face, but perhaps she was encouraging him.
“I shall pretend that I did not hear your words then. In fact, I suppose I just heard a mad dog howling away, and I am not so sure what it was all about.”
“If you are intending to thank me, I suppose you can forget about it. I may feel worse off to be thanked by you.”
The vicious words were sweet as nectar to Koremitsu.
And thanks to her, Koremitsu managed to basically calm down.
Asai again turned her head aside.
“Mr. Akagi, do you understand why I placed you in the special security group?”
Upon being questioned this so suddenly, Koremitsu answered without hesitation.
“Because you hate me? You want to cause me trouble?”
Asai, who had disdain at Koremitsu, was actually shoving him work. Those two reasons were the only ones he could assume.
Asai was immediately left fuming, and scowled.
Was that the wrong answer?”
“You are the only boy I allowed to call me Asa.”
“Yeah, you don’t have any friends in the first place.”
“…That is not what I meant.”
Asai’s lips pouted further, and she showed some displeasure in her eyes.
For some reason, she sighed.
“I still have a lot of documents to read through.. Since I have no time to continue chatting with you, please head out.”
She coldly retorted.
Once they exited to the corridor, Hikaru grimaced, saying,
“Koremitsu, have your obliviousness increased by 70% with regards to Asa?”
“Well, do not mind about it. It does appear that you are able to get along with Asa there, but I suppose she might be feeling angsty within. This may be the first time for Asa…but it is said that first loves never work out…”
“What are you getting at!?”
“What I am saying is that anyone will feel anxious dealing with this for the first time, and panic, unable to do anything.”
“…I really don’t get what you mean.”
Koremitsu kept his scowl, but he felt relieved within after seeing that Hikaru, in front of him, was able to talk with him.
(I’m not a brat here…I can’t keep yelling away like this…)
Once he returned to the classroom, he found it quiet.
(Did Hanasato go to the Dance Club?)
Tsuyako said that they were to be allocated timeslots manning the beverage stand, so he was to head over as well.
Once he bent down to pick up the bag hanging by his table, he was taken aback.
There was someone lying down there.
It was Michiru!
With her hands clasped together on her chest, she was lying on the floor in her uniform, facing upwards, her eyes closed.
Koremitsu hurriedly leaned forward.”
“What is the matter, Miss Hanasato!?’
Hikaru too panicked as he yelled.
Michiru slowly opened her eyes.
She then closed her eyes again, looking very sleepy.
“So you returned.”
Her voice was a little slurred, perhaps because she was sleepy.
“Like that’s the point here! Why are you sleeping on the floor!? You scared me into thinking you’re a dead body here! Anyway, isn’t the floor hard and cold!? If you really want to sleep, go to the Japanese Dance Clubroom. There’s still some tatami there!”
Michiru widened her eyes, and looked down at Koremitsu while lying face up.
Her eyes again looked as forlorn as a forsaken puppy.
And then, both their faces were so close to each other’s; upon realizing something was amiss with this position, Koremitsu suddenly got flustered.
“Anyway, g-get up for now.”
He turned aside, saying this gruffly, and heard Michiru’s anguished voice.
“The flowers have scattered…”
He turned around, and found Michiru still lying down, looking at the ceiling in grief. However, they were not staring at the ceiling in particular, probably staring at something instead.
“Flowers? Will flowers bloom at this time?”
Hikaru looked stupefied.
And agony continued to flick in Michiru’s eyes.
“You haven’t realized…I guess…this can’t be helped…if I’m to…just silently…wait for it all to scatter…nobody around them will notice…and they won’t notice it scattering…it slowly piles up…and then it gets buried.”
Michiru did not seem to be sleeptalking here.
However, the eyes staring at the ceiling looked a little damp.
“Hey, what will happen to the scattered petals?’
“Won’t they become fertilizer?”
“…Is that so?”
She weakly muttered.
“Did something happen?”
“Then get up. Sorry to keep you waiting. I never thought that you’ll be waiting for me.”
“It’s nothing, just that I wanted to wait for you, that’s all.”
“Hurry up and get up now.”
He held Michiru by the hand, and pulled her up.
Michiru sat upright, and stared at Koremitsu’s hand that was grabbing hers.
“Mr. Akagi, your fingers…”
“Eh? Wh-what is it?”
Michiru wrapped both hands around Koremitsu’s, and leaned her face over, using her own fingers to touch each of Koremitsu’s, staring at them intently, and making him angsty.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what are you doing here!?”
Whenever Michiru’s slender fingers touched Koremitsu’s fingertips or the gaps between them, he would feel itchy.
And Hikaru, watching sidelong, widened his eyes.
“The fingers…are so hard and bony…and they’re large…firm.”
Michiru’s eyes again dampened. She lowered her eyebrows, looking anguished and forlorn as she stroked at one of Koremitsu’s fingers, touching it, and bringing it to her lips.’
Koremitsu was taken aback, and his face and neck were completely beetroot.
Hikaru too inadvertently leaned forward.
His tongue was a little numb to his commands.
He pulled his hand from Michiru’s, and continued to shiver.
Speaking of which, if Tsuyako herself was to do this, he could understand, even though he would be a little startled.
It would not be strange for that upperclassman, so cheerful and flirtatious, to do such things.
However, Michiru was not this kind of person; to Koremitsu at least, she was Michiru Hanasato, the serious class representative.
“You overslept, right!? That’s definitely it! Huh? You didn’t sleep last night, did you?”
“…I always sleep 8 hours a day.”
“This amount of time isn’t enough! You got to sleep 10 hours a day!”
“Go back and sleep now. It’s the last day before the culture festival tomorrow, so things will get busy. Get some good rest for today!”
With puppy-like eyes, Michiru stared at Koremitsu’s frantic self, and twirled the curls of her hair.
“No, Mr. Akagi, you’re going to the Japanese Dance Clubroom, right? I’ll go as well. Upperclassman Tsuyako called me there.”
“I-I see. Erm—”
The cellphone in the pocket vibrated.
Flipping it open, he found that the message was from Tsuyako, prompting him to hurry over.
“Not good. Let’s hurry over, Hanasato.”
Michiru still looked as lethargic as before.
What Michiru did just now was undoubtedly strange for her usual self. It felt strange ever since she started rambling about the full course of a lover’s progression.
Perhaps Michiru did encounter something troublesome herself. Koremitsu had an ominous feeling.
And Hikaru, floating in the air, looked nonplussed as well.
♢ ♢ ♢
“How slow you are, Mr. Akagi.”
Tsuyako beamed as she welcomed Koremitsu’s arrival.
“Did Miss Asai not let you go? I did request Miss Aoi and Miss Shikibu to go fetch you, but they came back running, terrified. I even asked if they actually saw the both of you making out in the student council office.”
“Upperclassman Tsuyako…! I-I-I didn’t see such a thing!”
Honoka stood up, yapping away, and Aoi sealed her lips tightly as she turned her head aside.
Recalling what he hollered at Asai in the student council office with regards to Aoi, Koremitsu began to feel a little jumpy.
(Damn it. If Shikibu and Aoi came to the student council office, maybe they did hear those words!)
Surely it was great that they came back running.
“Oh, Mr. Akagi, you are being sweaty here. Did you and Miss Asai actually—”
“That’s impossible! I just reported to her about the culture festival!”
“I suppose that is the case then.”
Tsuyako gave him a wink.
Koremitsu tried his best not to look in Aoi’s direction. Having just squabbled with Asai, surely he would be unable to remain calm if he were to look at Aoi.
Right in a corner of his eyes was a tense-looking Honoka, glancing her head aside. She pouted her lips, looking a little tense.
There was no change there as well…
(I didn’t manage to find out if the bird’s envelopes are from her.)
His chest felt tightened.
Michiru looked gloomy beside Koremitsu, and only Tsuyako was beaming away, cheerfully chatting with them; if not for that, the entire room would be in somber silence.
By the time he realized it, even Hikaru was staring in a certain direction bitterly.
The forlorn look was certainly staring at Aoi.
(Why must you…show that face…)
The love, anguish and longing Hikaru showed for Aoi was crushing Koremitsu’s chest, and he tried his best to look away from her.
(I can’t meet her in the eyes.)
But Hikaru’s eyes became increasingly agonized, and Koremitsu’s consciousness was gradually focused on Aoi.
So their eyes met.
Enduring the shock in her heart, Aoi had her head lowered as she endured her suffering, placing a hand on her knee onto her other hand.
The eyes were dripping with tears, and at this moment, Aoi looked in Koremitsu’s direction, her heart ostensibly pierced.
Once their eyes met, Aoi widened her eyes in shock, a tear falling as a result.
And the tears began to flow as she hurriedly turned aside and got up.
Honoka was taken aback, and so was Tsuyako.
“Miss Aoi, what is the matter? Wh-why are you crying…?”
“S-sorry…I got, sand in my eyes.”
Ekeing those words out, Aoi dashed out of the classroom.”
The moment Koremist wanted to give chase.
“Hold it there, Akagi!”
Honoka yelled, her eyebrows raised as she widened her eyes. She was fuming, but more than that, she was distraught.
And that sadness struck Koremitsu, thunderstruck and perturbed, unable to move.
“…You’re really an idiot, Akagi.”
Once she muttered this, Honoka gave chase after Aoi.
“Why, can’t I…help?”
Koremitsu continued to remain dumbfounded, and Michiru watched him in sadness.
The one clearing the wreckage after all that was Tsuyako.
“Well, Miss Shikibu does seem to understand why Miss Aoi is crying. Please leave it to her for now.”
She spoke with the tacticum tone an upperclassman should have.
Hikaru himself watched the door Aoi left from with a clear, anguished expression.
And he kept watching, like an angel with its wings clipped, unable to fly…
♢ ♢ ♢
Neither Honoka nor Aoi returned to the clubroom on that day.
Honoka did send a message to Tsuyako, stating that Aoi’s chauffeur would be here to retrieve her bag, and that Honoka will bring their bags to the chauffeur.
They would return home just like that.
There was nothing on Koremitsu’s phone, and neither Honoka nor Aoi sent any messages to him.
On the way back at night.
Koremitsu gritted his teeth as he walked down the cold street with the cold breeze blowing at him, clenching his fist and grumbling.
“Tch, why did Aoi cry, and why is Shikibu fuming at me, telling me not to come? Did I really do something? I really don’t understand!”
Honoka was an important classmate to him, and Aoi was the one woman important to Hikaru.
Koremitsu wanted to protect both sides no matter what, and would not allow anyone to hurt them.
Once Aoi bawled and raced out of the classroom, Honoka gave Koremitsu a disappointed look, not allowing him to pursue.
Tsuyako did say that Honoka seemed to understand the reason for Aoi’s tears.
(What’s with her anyway?)
His gut began to wince.
His teeth were gritted too tightly, and his head a little swelling.
“Do you really not have a single clue?”
Hikaru, who remained silent all this while, inquired.
And when Koremitsu turned his head to Hikaru, the latter was staring back sternly.
“You are a little ditzy and dull-witted when it comes to dealing with Asa, but this method does not actually work on all women. At first, you could barely understand a woman’s feelings because you had so little interaction with them, that you lacked experience.”
With a mature, tacticum tone, he said to a dumbfounded Koremitsu.
“But as of now, you are no longer the same as you were before.”
The eyes showing earnest trust reflected Koremitsu’s face as the latter curled his lips.
“Koremitsu, the intent you have in dealing with others is neither of arrogance nor callowness, and you are not a coward who pretends to look annoyed. You are a person who will treat others precious to you earnestly without begrudging anyone or regretting.”
Hikaru’s white skin and tender hair could be seen clearly under the shimmering silver moon.
It was a forlorn, yet tender and refreshing look.
And the rich voice added on to a layer of melancholy in Koremitsu’s heart.
“So do think hard again about why Miss Aoi cried, and why Miss Shikibu was furious. In that case, surely you will understand their feelings. It appears however that there is a thought within you that you cannot approach Miss Aoi any further.”
Hikaru’s face became increasingly grim, startling Koremitsu.
“That is creating a reverse effect.”
And Hikaru spoke with a terrifyingly ominous tone that shook the heart.
“You were attracted by her in such a helpless manner, unable to be forgiven as you wanted to forget. Your heart was latched tightly, never ever able to escape.”
Hikaru’s eyes became bleak and dreary.
Koremitsu could understand that he was talking about Fujino, and there was a pressure in his heart.
Hikaru fell in love with the stepmother he should not be loving, causing his downfall, and because of her, he gave his life.
“This is from my personal experience.”
After chiding with much somberness, Hikaru tried to advise Koremitsu, looking worried for his friend,
“If you do think that Miss Aoi is someone very important to you, Koremitsu, do not create a taboo for yourself, and do not come up with wrong feelings. Convey your true thoughts to Miss Aoi, and love her as a girl. This is a wonderful thing for you and Miss Aoi.”
There was some forlornness mixed in Hikaru’s steady, tender eyes, and they lingered for quite a while.
Those words pricked at Koremitsu’s chest.
“I guess it’s impossible…to go after the woman my friend had fallen for since young.”
“Koremitsu, I am already dead.”
And while Koremitsu yapped away, Hikaru frowned, looking perturbed,
“But there’s still more of them, right!? There are still many flower buds drooping around, clinging onto me, right!? And to do that to Aoi in front of you…that’s impossible!”
“If you’re to swap positions with me, what will you do!? If I become a ghost, and entrust my most beloved lover to you as my replacement to make her happy, what will you do?”
“Of course, I will become lovers with all of them, and make them happy.”
They were discussing about the most depressing thing they had talked about, yet Koremitsu felt that he was too foolish.
Hikaru too watched Koremitsu grimly, conveying that his words were unfiltered and serious, and that caused the latter further troubles.
“Stop answering me so directly, you harem prince! Anyway, what do you mean by all of them!? I don’t have any lovers! I’m always alone!”
And just when Koremitsu lashed out.
He could hear a girl’s voice behind him.
Turning back to look, he found a person collapsed on the floor.
“Is that not Miss Hanasato?”
He hurried over, and found Michiru’s soft hair littered with grass as she was about to get up.
“Hey, you alright?”
“Ah, M-Mr-Mr-Mr-Mr Akagi, you were going so fast…the distance between us was increasing, and I saw you stop, so I tried to approach you, an-and I tripped over.”
“Isn’t your house in the opposite direction?”
Michiru lowered her eyes, looking teary as she grabbed the hem of Koremitsu’s shirt.
“It-it’s the culture festival soon…if I don’t go now, the flowers will…”
“What are you saying now?”
Seeing Michiru act a little strangely, Koremitsu inadvertently felt a chill down his back, and wanted to stand up.
But Michiru tugged at Koremitsu’s shirt, lifting her head up at him like an abandoned puppy.
And then, she pleaded.
“Did you forget the promise we had?”
“I-if you don’t abide it well…the flowers will be scattered. They’ll wilt in a place nobody can see…! In that case, I’ll…”
Crystalline tears slowly welled in her eyes.
Koremitsu managed to overcome the trauma caused by his mother, but he was still hapless against a girl’s tears. He made Aoi cry, and even Michiru…
Michiru seemed utterly terrified of something as she grabbed onto Koremitsu’s shirt tightly, shivering like a frail flower swaying in a breeze.
“What’s the promise you’re talking about? What’s with you? Did something happen? Tell me everything, Hanasato!”
But no matter how Koremitsu tried to get through to Michiru, the latter closed her eyes and kept shaking her head.
♢ ♢ ♢
In the meantime, Michiru remained silent in thought while Koremitsu carried her and sent her home.
Michiru’s house was a classic, antique build with sturdy doors. Walking down the wall covered with tall trees, the scent of sweet tangerines could be whiffed.
“…T-thanks for sending me back.”
With tears in her eyes, she timidly entered the doors.
After reaching home, Koremitsu soaked himself in the bathtub, asking Hikaru.
“Did I make a promise with Hanasato?”
And in the bathroom filled with mist, Hikaru too answered with a serious look,
“Probably not, I suppose.”