As it was the day before the culture festival, classes ended at noon the following day.
Upon seeing Michiru arrive at school with her shoulders slumped and face all gloomy, Koremitsu decided to inquire about the ‘promise’, but things did not go as planned.
“Hey, about the promise you talked about yesterday—”
With Michiru staring at him with much despair in the eyes, Koremitsu’s words were stuck in his throat.
If he were to answer here ‘ah, I can’t remember’, he could feel a guilty unease of a compass stabbing at his neck.
And so he had no choice but to play dumb.”
“Ah, erm, it’s not that I actually forgot. I-I just want to confirm. I-is it about the culture festival?”
“Koremitsu, if you wish to lie to someone, you have to act nonchalant, or it will cause suspicion.”
(I’m not good at lying in the first place.)
Back then, his nose would buzz whenever he tried to say what he did not believe in.
Michiru stared at Koremitsu tentatively, and as Hikaru had said, it aroused her suspicions.
Thinking that he would be seen through if he could not continue with the topic, Michiru suddenly changed the topic.
“…The fluorescent lamps are about to fail.”
“It’s been blinking…for quite a while since just now.”
Koremitsu lifted his head at the ceiling.
And Hikaru too lifted his head.
The 5 fluorescent lamps above them did not flicker.
(Anyway, there’s no need to switch on the lights during the day. It’s definitely going to blink.)
“Look closely. The power’s not switched on.”
“No… it’s flickering. Why do you not understand? Hasn’t anyone noticed it?”
Michiru’s voice was quivering, and with a pale face, she returned to her seat.
“This girl’s a little strange after all.”
Hikaru too nodded sternly.
Michiru was distracted by the fluorescent lights above during class, lifting her head to peek at it from time to time, only to lower it in trepidation.
(What’s the promise about it? What’s with the flowers wilting if I don’t fulfill it, the lights flickering and so on? I really don’t get her.)
Speaking of which, she did say things like ‘the flowers wilted’, ‘what will happen to the scattered flowers’ when she laid face up in the classroom.
Back then, Michiru was looking so despondent…
(I don’t know what to do myself.)
Michiru was different from the other girls Koremitsu interacted with to complete Hikaru’s wishes.
There was too little information.
What exactly was Michiru frustrated about? Yearning for? In any case, what kind of person was Michiru Hanasato? Koremitsu only managed to interact with her for half a year.
Furthermore, Koremitsu only managed to talk with Michiru for approximately 2, 3 months.
(If it’s Shikibu…she’s Hanasato’s friend. Maybe she knows the reason why Hanasato’s acting weird.)
Again, Honoka deliberately shunned Koremitsu since morning, never looking at him and never talking to him. She never did explain the reason why she never returned after chasing after Aoi the previous day, and she sat beside Koremitsu, her eyebrows raised as she edited the message with a grim look.
Even if Koremitsu was to consult Honoka about Michiru, perhaps Honoka did not want to discuss about this in any case.
(But Shikibu isn’t the type to abandon her friends.)
Even though the situation between her and Michiru was a little awkward, surely Honoka would assist if Michiru was in any trouble. Koremitsu still trusted this woman called Honoka Shikibu.)
Yes, she may look aloof, but if he was to secretly pass a message to her telling her what he wanted to talk about…
Koremitsu fished out the phone from his pocket, and began to compose the message under the table.
Soon after he sent the message, Honoka’s fingers stopped.
And she deleted it without reading the content.
She was staring at the screen, her lips sealed as she seemed to ponder about something.
Koremitsu stuck his leg out, kicking the leg of Honoka’s chair.
Honoka’s shoulders jolted, and she stared at Koremitsu.
Her eyebrows were raised as she stared him, but Koremitsu’s temples were pulsating, basically saying ‘read the message’. And so, Honoka unwillingly opened the message he sent.
I want to talk.
Come to the rooftop once classes end.
The words were few, but Honoka kept staring at the screen, widening her eyes slightly, before fiddling her fingers again.
Koremitsu kept waiting on the rooftop with Hikaru beside him, and then, he spotted a girl with the hem of her skirts fluttering, as Honoka appeared in front of him with a scowl.
“Thank goodness! You came!”
“It’s not for your sake, Akagi. I’m a little curious about Michiru. She just went to the janitor saying that the fluorescent lamps are spoiled, and asked him to swap them…even though that’s not the case.”
Honoka said so awkwardly.
Her tone was such, and even her face was aloof, not meeting Koremitsu in the eyes. Even so, Koremitsu was delighted that Honoka did come to the roof after reading his message.
He talked about Michiru’s eccentric actions till this point, and Honoka tilted her head aside, looking peeved as she listened.
“She fell asleep face up in the classroom, and starting from yesterday, started to talk about the flowers wilting or something. Now that I think back about it, Hanasato has changed before then. She gave me honey sweets when we were working together. I don’t mind if it’s once in a while, but I already said that I can’t handle sweets, but she said that’s not the case, and gave me such honey sweets every day.”
Honoka frowned furiously.
“I know…I saw Michiru giving them to you during noon break. You ate it up very carefully.”
“I’m swallowing it little by little when I can’t taste a single thing.”
Honoka looked a little perturbed in the eyes, and she scowled.
“I suppose…so. You prefer the spicy flavors though. I was finding it a little strange that Michiru said that you like honey, so she wanted you to try some of her sweets. She was really enthusiastic about it…”
(She said, I like honey…?)
Koremitsu never did say such a thing before.
Typically, the one liking honey was not Koremitsu.
(Wait, did Hanasato,)
Koremitsu ruffled his head as he stared at Hikaru, floating in front as the latter overheard their conversation. Hikaru too lowered his head at Koremitsu, ostentiously realizing something.
(Did Hanasato—somehow think of me as Hikaru or something?)
“The fingers…are so hard and bony…and they’re large…firm.”
Upon recalling the sight of Michiru touching Koremitsu’s stiff fingers with such anguish, Koremitsu heart jolted.
Hikaru’s hand was different from Koremitsu, as effeminate and silky.
At that moment, Michiru was comparing between them…
“Hey, did Hanasato think of me as Hikaru or something?”
Once he noted so curtly, Honoka looked dumbfounded, and her face, originally turned aside, immediately turned towards Koremitsu.
“Are you an idiot!? How do you resemble Lord Hikaru in any way? You don’t!”
“No, I mean she has the image of me as Hikaru’s friend being Hikaru.”
“You two don’t match! Not at all! If you’re going to say such things, Lord Hikaru’s legion of fans are going to pelt you with rotten eggs!”
(Ack, she actually said it to that point…it’s true thought that I don’t have a princely vibe at all.)
He glanced aside at Hikaru floating in the air, and sneered apologetically..
And Honoka, who quietly clicked her tongue, found her face too close to Koremitsu’s, and abruptly turned it around.
“A-Also, Michiru isn’t actually Lord Hikaru’s fan. If I have to say, she hates him.”
“Eh? Someone actually doesn’t like him?”
“Koremitsu, did you just chuckle a little at the end? Are you actually chuffed to bits that I am hated by a woman?”
Hikaru asked with a conflicted tone.
“She’s not exactly antagonistic towards him, but back when everyone was discussing day and night over Lord Hikaru, she would quietly leave. Whenever Lord Hikaru’s surrounded by girls, she would go walk another path.”
“Is that true? She once talked about her white knight, so doesn’t Hikaru actually meet her demands?”
After hearing Koremitsu’s words, Honoka was left seething.
“Yeah, Michiru did like having white knights, but right now, as to why she has fallen for someone like you, I-I did swear that I’ll work hard to pair Michiru with the one she likes, so even now, I still want to cheer for her.”
Once she said this, she became frantic and helpless, so unlike her usual self.
“Wait, Hanasato likes me!?”
Koremitsu widened his eyes, and the moment he said that, he got kicked in the stomach.
This sudden impact rendered his feet unsteady, and his body bent in two.
“What are you playing dumb for!? Aren’t you already doing those things I said!? Yo-you really aren’t reliable at all! Enough already! You’re an idiot, a bonehead, Akagi! Doofus!”
“…Koremitsu, I do have the same thoughts as Miss Shikibu. I did say that you are not dull-witted before, but I suppose I should correct myself, no?”
(Hey! Stop sighing too! Stop looking so shocked, Hikaru! Like I can do anything about that! I was shunned by girls since kindergarten, and I lack experience!)
Honoka had her eyebrows raised , still fuming, and her widened eyes were a little teary. Upon seeing such a scene, Koremitsu felt a little nauseated, his body crumpled.
“!!! Seriously, why does it have to be you! Not only Michiru, but Her Highness Aoi too. Why…actually, I really don’t want to cheer for either side, and to you, I too—but I had enough. My mind’s completely blank. I don’t know what I’m thinking now.”
And with his temples throbbing, Koremitsu yelled.
“YOU SAID THAT YOU LIKE ME, SO WHY ARE YOU CHEERING FOR OTHER GIRLS!?”
Honoka’s jaw dropped, and she was left speechless.
Her face was immediately flushed, and tears welled in her eyes.
Honoka was ostensibly filled with conflicted emotions, either furious, startled, or ready to break down into tears.
“…Akagi, you idiot.”
She contorted her eyes, trying her best to hold that contorted face, lips and eyebrows, and feebly said,
“W-why are you able to say such a thing so easily? It-it’s because of you, being like that…th-that I…”
She blinked her eyes, her throat buzzing, and with quivering lips, she whispered.
“You…really do whatever you want.”
Thinking about how to answer this, Koremitsu was left guilty.
And just when he was about to express himself formally.
Honoka’s eyes shuddered suddenly.
Her face contorted she was gasping for breath.
Koremitsu was taken aback by her expression, and did not know what happened. Hikaru’s fleeting voice could be heard from behind.
Koremitsu too turned his head around with bated breath.
Aoi was leaning on the door, looking extremely pale.
With her lips tightly sealed, Honoka frowned and lowered her head. She then lifted it again, adamantly.
“Have a talk with Her Highness Aoi!”
She let out shrill words at Koremitsu’s ears, and strode forth towards the door with the hem of her skirt and the bright brown hair swaying, moving her slender, straight legs.
Honoka seemed to say something when she brushed by Aoi, and the latter’s shoulders jolted, looking ready to break down.
Honoka passed through the door, and vanished.
And in contrast, an obviously nervous Aoi came over.
Koremitsu’s heart raced, his throat still a little suffocated as the heat in his brain was turned up.
The distance between them decreased little by little.
The sun at noon blazed upon them like a dagger, and the sky was so blue it was dazzling.
Koremitsu’s heart was pounding furiously, practically about to pop out from his mouth.
Hikaru, who should be behind Koremitsu, was probably feeling no different as well, or perhaps he was calmly observing them.
Hikaru did say, You are a person who will treat others precious to you earnestly without begrudging anyone or regretting.
So since Aoi was someone precious to him, Koremitsu wanted Aoi to know of his true feelings.
(But..what are my true feelings?)
And upon facing Aoi on the roof, Koremitsu realized.
What he was truly hoping for.
Aoi stopped in front of Koremitsu.
Her petite body kept shivering, and her thin, black hair was swaying in the autumn breeze.
Hikaru’s white, pure Hollyhock.
The one and only important girl who was supposed to be united with Hikaru.
Back when she had yet to open her heart to Koremitsu, Aoi was beside the window in the arts classroom, saying ‘I do not wish to talk with boys’.
She was obstinate, had a clean streak, and never did show a smile no matter how much Koremitsu tried his best to do so.
—And that’s why I say women!
He did not know exactly how many times he said those words.
Koremitsu intended to finish the work of delivering Hikaru’s presents to her, and never to get involved in her afterwards.
But when he held her hand in Hikaru’s place, when they went to play at the theme park, Koremitsu saw Aoi’s honest, innocent self.
For the first time, he felt that his antithesis, the creatures known as women, were cute and needed much care. The one who taught him that, was Aoi,
And so, Aoi finally opened her heart to Koremitsu, accepting his goodwill.
—Good morning, Mr. Akagi.
—Actually, you can talk to me.
—Can I send messages to you?
There was Aoi, with her cheeks slightly flushed, smiling bashfully.
It was a maidenly voice.
The eyes were so innocent as she lifted her head.
Those were things Koremitsu never saw before, like a blooming white flower in the middle of a barren land, and Koremitsu really had the urge to protect her—
But from the moment Aoi clasped her petite hand on Koremitsu’s stiff, icy hand, Aoi, who had been shielded, ended up shielding and protecting Koremitsu’s inner heart.
It was so filled with pain, memories, forgiveness and chaos, and the moment the emotions were intertwined, Koremitsu found himself utterly mesmerized by Aoi.
(But Aoi is Hikaru’s…)
Aoi opened her pale lips, shivering as she said,
“I-I heard it all, back then, yesterday, what you said to Asa in the student council office, Mr. Akagi, that you would never ever like me.”
Koremitsu felt a hammer pound his head.
Did Aoi hear all that!?
So in other words, Honoka, who accompanied Aoi to the student council office, did—
“Th-that’s because…Saiga suddenly said some weird things…I can’t ever like you because you’re someone precious to Hikaru, so I can’t have indecent thoughts about you…I’m not saying anything bad about you.”
Cold sweat trickled down his best.
Devastated, Aoi lifted her head at Koremitsu.
The large, quixotic eyes were basically saying, those were not the words she wanted to hear.
However, those were the words Koremitsu could only think of.
His feelings for Aoi were blazing like a fever, and his teeth biting at his lower lips as he prepared himself to say that he could not see Aoi as a lover.
—That will not do, Koremitsu.
Echoing in Koremitsu’s mind was Hikaru’s foreboding voice.
—That is creating a reverse effect.
Aoi’s face was contorted as she called out Koremitsu’s name despondently.
At that moment, the blood flowing in Koremitsu’s body boiled, his body seething.
—You were attracted by her in such a helpless manner, unable to be forgiven as you wanted to forget..
Just as when he yelled at Asai, saying that he surely would never fall in love with Aoi.
His emotions were reaching his throat, unable to be contained.
He was angsty as he was unable to rein in the emotions, and when he saw Aoi shiver and lift her head, his yearning of her was aroused. He really wanted to embrace her, to protect her.
—Your heart was latched tightly, never ever able to escape.
Even his breathing because arduous.
His heart was ostensibly taken.
That his all was approaching a single person,
And that he could not think at all!
—This is from my personal experience.
Koremitsu reached his hand out to Aoi.
And at that moment of despair.
Aoi took a step back, exclaiming,
“I-I do not have any intentions about you at all…! I really hate you, Mr. Akagi!”
And Koremitsu’s hand stopped in front of Aoi.
His body went from hot to cold, and the impulse that dominated the heart gradually faded away.
Looking apprehensive, she gave Koremisu a feeble look.
“I…really want to say this to you…I really hate you. I-I really, really hate you…I really abh..”
The final words remained stuck in her throat, and again, she turned around and scampered away as she did the previous day.
Koremitsu’s legs wobbled, and he immediately tumbled over.
His body was as mushy as mud.
“I suppose…it is unbearable to have Miss Aoi say she despises you.”
Hikaru appeared beside Koremitsu without warning, and the latter stared at the door forlornly as he noted demurely.
“I suppose…I’m really useless.”
And so, he remained limp on the scorching concrete, ruffling his hair with his hands as he collapsed his shoulders, spread his shoulders wide, and lowered his head hard.
It was neither Aoi’s intentions nor Honoka’s he could not comprehend.
It was his own.
Whether it was his impulsive urge to embrace Aoi or driven by a screaming Honoka, he said such obstinate words, and felt so remorseful it was ripping his guys. Even he did not know what he would say or do the next time.
He was moved by Honoka, and impressed upon by Aoi; however, he was rejected by both parties no matter who he wanted to choose, and he remained so incompetent.
(Wh-what’s the matter with me!? Was I ever so timid before…? I’m really so stupid. What exactly am I doing here…?)
There was Honoka, almost breaking down in tears as she muttered ‘you idiot’.
Aoi too showed such a face as she exclaimed “I hate you” before turning to leave.
To love, to hate; surely it would be more convenient if the world had such terms that defined things in black and white.
However, Koremitsu already understood the weight of the word ‘like’, and the hidden, conflicted feelings in the word ‘hate’.
(Seriously, what am I doing here…)
“Damn it, I really want to meet Yū!”
He continued to ruffle his head, eking a call.
There was the feeble, dreamy girl who crouched in the dark apartment, dreaming away, like a fish sleeping at the bottom of the sea.
That was the fleeting first love Koremitsu had that vanished in a trice.
—When we meet the next time, I’ll show that I’ve become a girl who likes to smile.
She did her best to smile radiantly when they went their separate ways.
Back then, he assumed he would never have fallen heads over heels for a person in such a manner for the second time.
Whenever it rained, he recalled the scene of them holding hands, watching the blue flowers bloom, and his heart would ooze sweetness.
But after bidding farewell to summer, and as the autumn winds cooled, his memories of Yū gradually faded. He still loved her, but whenever rain came, the unfathomable melancholy gradually faded.
(I wonder…if Yū’s doing well in Australia.)
There was no letter or message.
Yū said that she did not need Koremitsu, and the latter did say that it was fine if she could begin her life anew. If there was anything painful for her, he said that he would fly over to her and find her no matter where he was.
If he was to meet Yū again, this veil of ambiguity would vanish along with the smoke.
And that would clearly indicate what the conflicted feelings were about.
Tranquil and forlorn, Hikaru noted,
“Perhaps you should meet her…just elope…head to an island nobody else knows of , and only have eyes for each other,, and…love as you watch over each other…”
“Idiot…how’s that possible for me…?”
Just when Koremitsu refuted with his head lowered,
A shrill bell rang in the school.
“What now? A fire!?”
Koremitsu got up in an instant.
♢ ♢ ♢
Once news came that the fire alarm was a hoax, Koremitsu returned to the classroom, and found his classmates in confusion.
“Th-this is really bad.”
“Wh-wh-wha-what do we do?”
“Are you fuming, Akagi?”
“I-i-i-it-it-it’s not our fault!”
“But he’s furious! We’ll be killed!”
“Le-le-let’s run away now.”
And the moment they spotted him, the classroom went dead silent.
Koremitsu too scanned the classroom, flabbergasted, and Hikaru too gulped softly.
The floor, tables and blackboards were drenched.
And furthermore, the cardboard sets they diligently worked on were completely soaked.
Michiru, dressed in a half-sleeved gym shirt and half pants, and for some reason, covering her hair with a nurse cap, flusteredly explained the situation to Koremitsu.
“It-it looks like the sprinklers were faulty…and the water splashed out, becoming like this. Everyone went out to shop, so there wasn’t anyone in the classroom, and we couldn’t move the sets out in time…”
But even if anyone was around, no way would they be able to prevent the sets from being wet.
The soaked cardboard were soft and limp, unable to stand at all, and the paintings on them were dissolved by water. The vengeful spirit on the window became vague as a result, and even the appearance had collapsed, identifying it was impossible.
“So-so-so-so-sor-sor-sorry, Mr. Akagi. It’s my fault for going to the Japanese Dance Club and leaving the classroom empty.”
Michiru suddenly burst into tears, apologizing.
The classmates were all terrified, fearing that Koremitsu would explode upon learning that the prop sets, which they made by staying behind after school, were ruined. With pale faces, they stared towards Koremitsu with apprehension.
“Hey…what’s with Miss Shikibu?”
“Honoka’s probably the only one able to stop Akagi now!”
“I think she went to the photography, shogi, ballet and handball club to discuss stuff.”
“Please hurry back, Miss Shikibu!”
There was such mutters going on.
Koremitsu raised his eyebrows, his temples and cheeks pulsating as he pouted his lips, glaring at the soaked sets.
Till this point, he shed much blood and tears.
The only memories he had of the culture festivals were all bad, and he did not really like them at first, to a point one would say he abhorred them. However, he was suddenly tasked to be a committee member of the culture festival.
The little bird envelopes contained information that assisted him, but his classmates did not look like they wanted to be involved, and nobody would have bothered with him if he did not give clear instructions with decisiveness.
Basically, the work was done only by Koremitsu and Michiru, and everyone else slacked off on the first day. On the second day, he went to coax one by one, and finally managed to gather everyone to work, with the prop sets almost taking shape…
Koremitsu was barely able to get along with his classmates, and yet everyone was shunning him in apprehension.
This was completely different from the ‘culture festival’ Koremitsu imagined. The surrounding students were afraid of him as they worked with him, and perhaps they were not happy at all.
But even so, he worked together with Michiru the previous day, and when he saw them at the point of near-completion, there was something surging in his heart.
Either way, Koremitsu clearly felt involved in the preparation of the culture festival, and he really was grateful to Michiru and the sender for helping him.
He wanted to continue on as it was, and make the culture festival a success.
It was a little different from the feelings of what those born winners in life would enjoy in the festival.
That was what he felt back then.
But the scene appearing in front of him was of soaked, limp cardboard, and fudged illustrations—
“Koremitsu…to put it…I understand how you feel. The sets you worked so hard on can no longer be used, and the culture festival tomorrow is wasted…”
And Koremitsu hissed,
“…How can we give up now.”
Hikaru was shocked, and the classmates’ shoulders jerked.
“M-M-M-M-M-M-M-Mr. Akagi, no-nobody else’s at fault here! The one at fault is me for being in charge and not being in the classroom. So-so-so, please calm down!”
Michiru stood in front of Koremitsu, shrieking as she appeared to shield her classmates.
“Stop apologizing! I’m not blaming anyone!”
Michiru widened her eyes.
Their classmates shriveled, fearing that the onslaught was beginning.
But Koremitsu ignored them as he raised his voice further, his eyebrows raised,
“NOBODY COULD HAVE PREDICTED THE FIRE ALARM TO GO HAYWIRE, AND WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! WE CAN’T USE THESE, AND I’M PISSED AND ALL, BUT WE CAN ONLY DO THIS ALL OVER AGAIN! NO POINT IN DISCUSSING WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO! WE’RE JUST WASTING TIME! LET’S GET TO WORK!”
“B-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu Mr. Akagi, the materials are already.”
“Hanasato, you’re on good terms with the janitors, right? See if you can get any usable materials for them. Those two guys down there! Go down to the student council office to explain. That president Matriarch Asa’s someone fair and capable, so make her do some stuff to. If she’s unwilling to help, tell her that I’ll reveal those things if she doesn’t do so! Those 5 guys down there, move those cardboard that can’t be used, and wipe the floor. Hurry!”
Koremitsu barked orders.
And after these responses, they ran out.
“How can we just give up here! Damn it! The culture festival has yet to start!”
Yes! How can they just give up without giving their all until the bitter end?
“Whatever excuses we can make about being unable to make it, leave it when we really can’t make it!”
“Koremitsu! I support you!”
“Yeah, just stand by the side and pray.”
The classroom was suddenly bustling with live.
All the idle people ended up busting their all working, with no exceptions.
Michiru gave a call asking for some materials from the janitors, and got a few people to move them.
The student council too was about to give help.
“I shall make you repay this favor, Mr. Akagi.”
“Yeah, I don’t mind even if I have to cosplay as Santa Claus.”
And with that response, Asai was left red faced.
Once she heard that the cardboard sets in the classroom were rendered unusable, Honoka, discussing about the ballet performance that was to occur the following day, returned in a jiffy. She. Went back, worrying if Koremitsu was feeling down in the classroom, only to find her classmates scurrying around, some sticking dry cardboard on the soaked ones, some ironing the materials and some using bamboo poles to hang them.
None of them looked devastated as they kept calling each other and worked with all their might.
“Mr Akagi, th-the repairs here are done.”
“Okay, there’s still a pile there.”
“M-Mr Akagi, are the ones at the windows okay?”
“Great. I’ll leave that side to you.”
The classmates, who used to shun Koremitsu, let alone avert their eyes from him, were obeying his orders.
Koremitsu kept addressing the problems everywhere, so busy as he cut and pasted cardboard; perhaps he never realized the admiring looks from his classmaes.
As usual, he simply tried to pass this hurdle with simple brute force.
(Seriously…you really defied my expectations…)
Honoka heaved a sigh of relief, blinking her eyes, and left the classroom with a smile to continue with her previous work.
The number of people the student council sent over to help got increasingly fewer, and the sky outside the window got increasingly darker as the patchwork labyrinth was finally completed.
“M-Mr Akagi, the sets are completed, but we don’t have time to change the illustrations.”
One of his male classmates said, sweating all over.
As he said, the colors on both sides of the sets were fudged. They all looked over at him, wondering what to do.
“We won’t be doing the Western style. We’ll be doing Japanese.”
Koremitsu clarified as he prepared a bucket filled to the brim with ink and a thick brush he borrowed from the calligraphy club. He set up the marble, and wrote on it.
The words were all terrifying, vengeance, hate, and with all his muscles, he moved his body, extending his hand as he got down to writing them.
The stoppings were firm, the splashings sharp, the brushstrokes were straight, and the dots were bold!
The wall was gradually filled with powerful words, and his classmates stared, dumbfounded.
“You really showcased your ability, hero.”
Koremitsu grumbled in his heart as continued to write.
Michiru was standing alone behind the classmates, and Koremitsu never did notice that she was staring at him with forlorn eyes.
Her eyes were filled with tears.
♢ ♢ ♢
It was already 1 hour beyond the school’s permitted time for dismissal when they were done with their work.
Asai deemed this one hour to be an exception, and got the teachers’ permit.
Everyone was blushing in happiness as they looked at the completed maze.
“Amazing…I thought it wasn’t done.”
“It feels…more intimidating than before.”
“Yeah, feels like a vengeful spirit will really pop out from the words.”
They chirped away, and after they left…
Koremitsu and Hikaru were left lethargic as they looked at the maze.
“It is finally completed, Koremitsu.”
“You idiot, the culture festival hasn’t started. Tomorrow’s the key.”
“Yes, surely it will be an unforgettable day. I do look forward to it.”
“Let’s go back, Hikaru.”
“Ah, are you a little shy?”
“Like I am!”
The stiff-faced response echoed down the silent corridor.
Only Koremitsu’s footsteps could be heard, and all the classrooms were decorated intricately for the culture festival, with some flowers placed in the large vases at the stairwell.
The sweet scent engulfed Koremitsu’s nose.
“Ah, Fragrant Olives.”
Hikaru stared at the orange flowers, beaming,
“These Fragrant Olives appear to have absorbed the essence of the stairs, snickering away. Upon whiffing the scent, surely I will naturally think ‘ah, autumn is here’. Also, there is a power in this fragrance that arouses my memories. For example…”
“No wonder I tthought there’s the smell of the toilet air fresheners.”
Hikaru, who was boasting his knowledge, could only sigh.
Truly, a lot of things happened on this day.
Koremitsu recalled about Honoka and Aoi, his heart aching.
Also, there was Michiru…she never greeted him when he returned, and vanished without him knowing. Perhaps nothing did happen to her.
The sweet scent of Fragrant Olives caused much heartache.
“Doesn’t this scent stink?”
Koremitsu grumbled, and as he went to change his shoes,
There was a white paper folded into a flower, left quietly in his outdoor shoes.
—I call that person the White Flower.
“Hey, this is!”
Koremitsu picked it up and looked back, and Hikaru too looked flabbergasted.”
“Koremitsu, open it.”
“Open it, and see if there is any message inside.”
Following what Hikaru said, Koremitsu anxiously opened this piece of paper that was folded in a complicated manner,
“The cuckoo in the village where the orange blossoms fall sings and sings on many and many a day.” (TN: Manyoshu 1473, when literally namedrops ‘Hanachirusato’. Translation copied, but I’ll leave a reference note at the author’s notes)
After seeing the words lined the same way as it was on the little birds envelopes, Koremitsu gasped.
(Is the ‘white flower’ that saved Hikaru the same as ‘the bird’!? Then, Shikibu’s—)
Honoka transferred into Heian Academy during Middle School.
So she was not the one who sent the little bird envelopes!
And while Koremitsu lowered his head to read, Hikaru stared at it grimly, seemingly affirming something as he slowly said,
“The white 5 petal flowers…scent…blossoms…cuckoo…ah, I see, I see.”