Hellping

[Hikaru V9] Chapter 4

The next morning, after four days of absence, Koremitsu attended school.

“Mr. Akagi, you caught a cold?”

His classmate Yoshida asked while they were at the corridor.

“Eh? Ah, yeah.”

It appeared he missed classes because he was assumed to be ill. Surely, it was much different from when he took a little break, and ended up rumored to be off for a country delinquent tour.

“If you don’t mind, I can lend you my notes during the break.”

After hearing that, Koremitsu was touched.

He entered the classroom, and saw Honoka at her seat, fiddling with her phone with a terrifying face. She was frowning, pouting, staring at it intently.

“Yo…”

She was taken aback by Koremitsu’s sudden greeting, and hurriedly hid her phone, turned her face aside, and said,

“M-morning.”

And then, she continued to fiddle with her phone again.

(What’s with her? She’s looking flustered after seeing me.)

Just like the expression she showed at the hospital Yū was staying at…

Just when Koremitsu was starting to be concerned about Honoka’s attitude, his cellphone suddenly vibrated.

His face immediately stiffened, but the sender was Michiru.

(Huh?)

Koremitsu lifted his head, and spotted Michiru holding a cellphone, staring at Koremitsu at his seat.

(Why must you send a message? Can’t you just come over directly?)

He opened the message.

“Please come to the roof during the break. Don’t let Hono know about it.”

“I suppose it is not a love confession.”

Hikaru too spoke grimly as he watched the stern expression on Michiru’s face.

 

During the break after the first period.

Koremitsu went to the roof, and Michiru was already there.

The sky before Winter was clear, and the blustery gales caused one to shiver due to the cold.

Koremitsu slowly approached Michiru, and the latter went straight to the point, worried about the lack of time,

“Shiiko came to our school yesterday. I told her that you were on leave, and she was shocked. You didn’t inform your family members that you weren’t attending school, Mr. Akagi?”

“Well, yeah.”

Koremitsu answered, feeling startled,

(Shiiko actually came to school?)

Koremitsu and Hikaru stared at each other.

(Did Shiiko ask me to sleep with her because of this? Why didn’t she ask me why I skipped school? What was so urgent that she had to come to our school?)

“You’re going to talk about Shiiko, right?”

“There’s still more…”

Michiru’s words remained vague, her expression gloomy.

“I also wanted to talk to you about Hono, Mr. Akagi. She has been acting strange recently.”

“Strange?”

Michiru lifted her head, and gave Koremitsu a serious stare,

“Hono had been either late for school or taking early leave when you were on leave, Mr. Akagi—this had never happened before, and when I asked her, she merely said that something serious happened to a relative. She was fiddling with her phone at school, doing something, and sometimes, she never noticed that I was trying to talk to her.”

“Isn’t she always like that…?”

Honoka would spend most of the time playing with her phone in class. One could say that it would be strange for Honoka not to be on her phone.

“That’s what you assume when you don’t pay attention to her carefully, Mr. Akagi. Hono looked really scary when she stared at the phone. Her eyes were red, and her lips were purple.”

Doesn’t she always have that fierce look… Koremitsu wondered, but he was still curious as to Honoka’s earlier reaction. Also, she was acting as ‘strange’ as what Michiru said when they met in the hospital.

While Koremitsu remained silent and pondered, Michiru looked hapless as she explained.

“Did Hono do something to Miss Kanai…?”

“What do you mean?”

Koremitsu raised his eyebrows, scaring Michiru enough to shrivel. Hikaru too casted a harsh stare at her,

“Y-you can’t mention this to anyone else, and not to Hono, okay? She definitely won’t want you to know about this. She usually won’t do such a thing, so you must keep this a secret between us.”

Michiru kept asking for an assurance, and whispered,

“A-a while back, I was using her phone, and I so happened to see what was inside…there’s a folder titled ‘Kanai’ inside, with a lot of Miss Kanai’s photos in there.”

“!”

Koremitsu gasped.

Hikaru too looked thunderstruck.

“Hono has been acting strange ever since you and Miss Kanai were reunited. I feel that Hono won’t do a bad thing, but I’m imagining bad things out of this.”

“I’ll go ask Shikibu…”

Koremitsu hissed.

“Eh!?”

Michiru raised her voice in surprise.

“Wa-wait, Mr. Akagi…! I told you not to tell Hono—I said it’s to be kept a secret between us—wait, Mr. Akagi!”

Michiru scampered after Koremitsu, the latter storming towards the stairwell door.

“Koremitsu, I do not think it is wise to interrogate directly.”

“I know.”

Koremitsu answered, his eyes looking forward.

Once he got back to the classroom, he spotted Honoka staring at the cellphone with bloodshot eyes. The thin chain bracelet attached to the wrist swayed gently.

“Shikibu.”

Honoka was startled, and hid the phone under the table before turning towards Koremitsu.

“We met in the hospital, right?”

“…!”

Honoka was shocked.

“We did, once.”

She raised her voice, answering shrilly.

“Is there a problem?”

“Who’s the relative there?”

“Eh?”

“What kind of relative?”

“Wh-what’s with—”

Honoka was flabbergasted.

“Your grandpa? Uncle? Or cousin?”

“Wh-wh-wh-wh-why are you asking these now?”

Koremitsu stared at Honoka, restraining himself as he hissed,

“Nothing. I just want to know what were you doing at that place.”

“!”

Honoka gasped.

“Answer me, Shikibu.”

Honoka bit her lips as she stared back, her eyes looking lost. Just when she was about to weep in her weakness, she suddenly raised her eyebrows, yelling,

“It’s my great-great grandpa!”

She grabbed the phone, got up, and ran out of the classroom.

“Ah, Hono!”

Michiru, returning from the roof, gave chase after Honoka.

Koremitsu slumped into his seat, folded his arms, and gritted hard.

“Tch, your great-great grandpa’s still alive!?”

♢ ♢ ♢

Honoka left Michiru aside while the latter kept inquiring into what she said to Koremitsu, “Sorry, got to use to the washroom”, and she proceeded to the cubicle.

(What do I do now!? Akagi will definitely realize it! He’s definitely suspecting me now!)

She sat on the lid of the toilet bowl, her hands grabbing the phone firmly as she murmured.

 

—Answer me.

 

She recalled Koremitsu’s furious glare when she was interrogated, and felt her gut wince. Koremitsu already knew that she was not at the hospital to visit a relative.

It was a grave misfortune for Honoka to actually meet him.

(How can I possibly say that I was at the hospital to investigate the message stating that Miss Kanai was dealing with drugs!?)

 

—She returned back to sell off the drugs imported from overseas.

 

Honoka initially did not believe in this suspense drama-like turn of events. How could that gullible Yū actually be so bold and proactive?

Thus, Honoka tried to convince herself that this was some harmless rumor, and secretly investigated Yū.

She did not expect to see Yū walk out of the room with crimson flowers in her hands. The bouquet of flowers she held was the Poppy, the codename in the message. Yū also was not alone.

There was also a lanky, bespectacled youth dressed in a suit.

He looked frail and unreliable, but he was dressed in quite the pompous clothing. He was also abnormally close to Yū, and the latter did not seem wary of him.

(I think I saw that man before…)

She tried to recall who he was, but was unable to remember when exactly did she see that plain face.

All she knew that he was intimate enough to spend a long time with Yū in the same room, and that caused her mood to worsen.

She recalled the message stating that Yū Kanai betrayed Koremitsu Akagi and had an illicit relationship with other men; her imagination took a turn for the worst.

(Did Miss Kanai betray Akagi to date that guy?)

Honoka too did her investigation on the drugs based on the message.

The address and codename included in the address immediately appeared in front of her.

The seller was the ‘Consort Yu’, the codename was the crimson Poppy flowers.

Honok did a site search regarding eyewitness reports on the ‘Consort Yu’, and the appearances and attire matched that of Yū who was holding crimson flowers.

She also once took a taxi to tail Yū. The latter’s car stopped in front of a dated residence some distance away from the residential block, and Yū walked over with bouquet in hand, only reappearing two hours later.

Yū did not have those flowers in her hand when she left.

Because of that, Honoka handed all of her part-time work salary earned from street sample distribution to the taxi driver.

If one was to open the ‘Kanai’ folder in Honoka’s phone, one would be able to discover a vast amount of photos taken over the past few days.

Yū holding the crimson flowers.

Yū riding a car with the bespectacled youth.

Yū smiling as the youth cupped her shoulder.

(What am I doing actually!?)

How despicable was she to stalk her love rival and secretly take photos of her with another boy?

She peeked into another person’s private life, and left a large amount of evidence.

(But if Miss Kanai’s really the ‘Poppy’, the drug dealer…I can’t leave her alone.)

The bell chimed, and silence befall the toilet .

Michiru probably gave up and returned to the classroom.

Honoka remained seated on the toilet bowl, the cellphone again vibrating in her hand, and an unread message appeared.

Feeling that there was no turning back, she opened it.

♢ ♢ ♢

More than 10 minutes had elapsed by the time Honoka returned to the classroom.

She excused herself to the teacher, explaining that she felt unwell, and sat down beside Koremitsu.

In fact, she was looking pale. The teacher even told her worriedly, “You may head to the infirmary”.

“I’m fine.”

Honoka whispered,. Michiru was at her seat, and she turned to Honoka with an anguished face.

Koremitsu too was feeling under the weather, his gut aching.

After that, Honoka ran out of the classroom during the breaks, and only came back right when classes were about to begin.

Clearly, she was trying to avoid Koremitsu and Michiru.

“I gave Hono a message, but she never replied”

Michiru noted dejectedly.

 

During noon break, Hikaru quizzed Koremitsu with a grim look.

“Do you think Miss Shikibu did something bad to Yū?”

“She’s not that kind of person.”

Koremitsu answered.

The purple Heliotrope would never be so conniving; it would face any situation head on, and fight it. If the enemy was disadvantaged, it would reached its hand out to help. That was the kind of person she was.

“You really do trust Miss Shikibu, Koremitsu.”

Hikaru answered gently.

Feeling bashful, Koremitsu answered.

“Yeah, if there’s only one person in the entire school I’ll choose to trust, that’ll be her. It’s that kind of trust.”

Till this point, Honoka helped out Koremitsu so many times as an earnest Heliotrope with her sincere actions.

He thought of the pouting face staring at him, the earnest busybody of a classmate…

“So, between me and Miss Shikibu, who do you trust?”

“Shikibu. You’re hiding too much stuff, and you’ll bluff me with those nonchalant faces.”

“Now that hurts.”

Hikaru showed a hapless face, and chuckled,

“You are the one I trust most in this world, Koremitsu. Since you believe in Miss Shikibu, I shall believe in her too. I do believe she is not one to look for trouble, and even if she did, there has to be a reason.”

“Yeah…”

That was the issue.

A groan escaped from Koremitsu’s sealed lips.

“It’ll be great if Shikibu isn’t caught in some dangerous matter.”

He really hoped she was not bullied like Yū.

Surely the feisty Honoka would never be cowed, and would search for the culprit alone. However, he had yet to understand why she had so many photos of Yū, why she appeared at the hospital, and what was with this entire chain of events…

“I can be certain however that she has reasons for not saying this to you.”

“Damn it. How am I supposed to make her speak? She’s tougher to deal with than Yū.”

“Perhaps you can try embracing her and tell her ‘I’m worried about you’ with an anguished voice. I suppose however that at the end of it all, Miss Shikibu will simply remain silent, saying ‘I still can’t tell you’.”

While Koremitsu was blushing over Hikaru’s preposition, speechless.

Hiina appeared on the rooftop,

“It’s been a while.”

With a boyish, mischievous face, she approached Koremitsu, her greeting lively as ever.

“You were on leave for so long, I thought you eloped with Miss Kanai.”

(What’s with that out of a sudden?)

Before Koremitsu could reply, Hiina suddenly looked grim,

“But it is great that you are here. Everyone has been acting strange when you weren’t around, Mr. Akagi.”

 

—She has been acting strange recently.

 

Michiru’s voice suddenly reconciled with Hiina’s words.

Was she referring to the one being strange all over school?

Before Koremitsu got himself preoccupied with Yū however, Asai, Aoi and Tsuyako were already acting strange…

“The Matriarch Asa and Her Highness Aoi have been glaring at each other with frosty eyes, remaining silent. Nobody around them dared to talk.”

That was just as what he saw before.

(Was it like that afterwards?)

Hikaru too inadvertently frowned.

“The Moon Matriarch had all kinds of spider paintings and toys into her clubroom every day; she has been acting cheerful, but she must be feeling pressurized within, I guess.”

“Spider!?”

“That is terrible! Tsuyako is really terrified of spiders!”

Tsuyako’s family, the Udates, worshipped a woman who transformed into a spider and ate her husband and the mistress. She was always afraid of that myth.

Koremitsu remembered how she would pale whenever she saw a spider, no matter how small it was. Surely she would not be able to last if she was to see them every day.

“Why’s this happening?”

“Some chain message was spread around saying that she’s scared of spiders.”

Hiina showed her phone to Koremitsu.

Red words were lined on the phone.

 

“Tsuyako Udate shall be judged in the name of the Poppy. All that resist fate shall have calamity wrought upon them.”

 

The colloid, corroded feeling lingered in Koremitsu’s stomach.

The Poppy’s judgment was not limited simply to Yū!

While Koremitsu’s attention was focused on Yū, the entire school was caught in the dominion of the Poppy.

(Damn it!)

The strong sense of fury boiled in his heart.

Hiina spoke with a calm tone.

“Back then, it seemed a vengeful spirit lingered around in school. No, even now, it’s—”

“A vengeful spirit…”

There exist a vengeful spirit—Asai did mention this before. The fear created by the student nobles in the sealed room was coupled with their guessing, causing it to actually exist.

Perhaps the students who threw the spider toys into the Japanese Dance clubroom were afflicted by the spirit.

“How stupid.”

But that was the case.

Hiina gave Koremitsu an expectant look.

“It is you who dispelled the rumors of Miss Kanai’s spirit reviving, so maybe this time, you can…”

At this moment, Hiina’s cellphone chimed. Once she had a look at it, she became tense.

“It looks like the Matriarch Asa and Her Highness Aoi have an argument. Let’s go.”

“Asa and Miss Aoi!?”

“Hey, Oumi! What’s with that!?”

Koremitsu yelled as he ran alongside her.

“As I said, it appears that they’re having a go on the corridor!”

“Perhaps Asa and Miss Aoi are fighting each other, pulling each other’s hair, and punching each other!?”

(That’s impossible!!)

If that was to happen, the only explanation would be that they were possessed by some spirit.”

Huffing and puffing, Koremitsu ran to the second level corridor.

“Over there!”

Hiina pointed at a group of people; arguments could be heard from there.

“That is enough already. I know that you are the one who placed the chopper from the home economics room in my drawer, Aoi.”

“I do not know about that. Did you not put a pin holder from the floral arrangement club in my shoe locker, Asa?”

“Enough with the irrational assumptions. You are actually able to remain so calm after getting so many dress pins from the dressing room and putting them in my locker.”

“You are the shameless one here, Asa. You soaked my gym clothes in water, threw it in front of the arts room, and even revealed the side with my name on it.”

“Did you also not trim my skirt, put it on a hanger, and left it on the student council office door while I was having PE? Even writing a nameplate over it?”

“I did not!”

The voices clearly were from Asai and Aoi, but the arguments were such that Koremitsu doubted his ears many times.

Hikaru too gulped and widened his eyes from time to time.

“Enough already, you two! How undignified can you be!”

“Be quiet, Big Brother Shungo!”

“Mr. Tōjō, do go bake some milk-flavored Chiffon cake for her.”

“Do not look down on milk-flavor. Do you think you are amazing for drinking sugarless coffee?”

“Did I say that?”

“You said it, in the message!”

“I never did send any message. Did you not send a few weird ones yourself?”

“How can I possibly be sending any to you when we are on harsh terms!”

Koremitsu broke through the crowd, and poked in.

Asai and Aoi were not ‘fighting’ each other, but their heads were almost hitting each other as they glared. Tōjō, on the other side, was giving a wry face.

“Hey, give it a rest already!”

Koremitsu shouted, and the duo turned to him in unison, their faces blushing.

“Mr. Akagi…”

“…Uu.”

Their faces were beetroot as they stared at him with frozen looked. The bell indicating the end of noon break rang, and they awkwardly turned their faces aside, returning to their classrooms.

“Why did they stop when Akagi suddenly shouted…they would not listen to me…”

Tōjō muttered, looking extremely incredulous.

The students that were flocked together too dispersed. Everyone was talking about what just happened, and the murmurs spread around the corridor like unnerving vengeful spirits. Koremitsu looked on grimly.

Hiina, standing beside Koremitsu, gave a wise, boyish stare,

“The Matriarch Asa and Her Highness Aoi said that they received messages, no? As for whether it is that ‘Poppy’s work, I do have some interesting rumors that I can look into.”

“What rumors?”

“Give me a day. I’ll report to you.”

Hiina cheerfully noted, looked over at the dejected Tōjō with a chortle, and left.

♢ ♢ ♢

It was the 5th period break.

Koremitsu scowled as he watched Honoka scamper out of the classroom, and walked towards Tsuyako’s classroom.

‘You finally came to school.”

Tsuyako appeared delighted once she spotted Koremitsu, beaming.

“Oh? What is with that grim look? Ah, I heard that Miss Asai and Miss Aoi just had a spar with chopper and pinholder, Miss Aoi throwing some pinholders, and Miss Asai parried them with the chopper. I really wanted to have a look at it myself.”

Tsuyako chuckled, being as cheerful as ever.

Her cheeks however looked a little slimmer, her eyes red.

“Senpai, I heard you got a lot of spiders thrown into the clubroom…”

“Oh that? Just some paintings and toys. They are not real. I was terrified of them at first, but I am used to it.”

Koremitsu felt pained to see Tsuyako smile and pretend to be strong.

Hikaru too looked pained.

“Can’t I just write some words on a piece of paper ‘Spiders are forbidden’ and stick it onto the door?”

“Thank you. Surely your words will be highly effective.”

On this day, Koremitsu made the promise to write the words at home and hand it over the next day, and left Tsuyako’s classroom.

He walked down the corridor, and sent Asai a message, “I got something to talk to you. You mind?”

Asai’s reply was prompt—“I do not have anything to say to you”.

“!!—she’s the one who openly summoned me through the PA system. What’s with this?”

“Asa really likes to seize advantage over the weaknesses others have, but she does not want to show her weaknesses.”

“That’s terrible of her! Humans shouldn’t be like that!”

Koremitsu retorted at Hikaru’s follow up(?), the ends of his lips curled.

He sent the same message to Aoi, and this time, he got another quick reply.

“Understood. I shall wait for you at the rooftop after school.”

Koremitsu was relieved that Aoi did not refuse him.

After school, Koremitsu went to the roof, and found Aoi waiting for him with a teary look.

”I-I am really sorry…to show you such an uncouth side of me.”

Her large black eyes were oozing out tears, and her white face was scarlet. The long black hair flowed as Aoi bowed, embalming her petite body..

Her face was so heinous when she had that argument, yet she cringed and lowered her head when facing Koremitsu. At this point, she was the exact same person as the one with the usual cleanliness streak.

157

Koremitsu felt relieved—but at the same time, he was heartbroken by Aoi’s ailing self.

“Did something happen between you and Saiga? If there’s anything bothering you, just tell me.”

Aoi lowered her head as she remained silent, and Koremitsu waited patiently.

“I am…very troubled.”

She lifted her head, whispering,

“But,”

Her clear eyes were looking up at Koremitsu,

“This time, I want to do my best by myself.”

With earnest eyes, Aoi pleaded to the startled Koremitsu with a desperate voice.

“I had received lots of care from you all this while, Mr Akagi. Whenever I felt troubled or worried, you would come to me and lead me by my hand; for that, I am happy. However, I cannot be letting you hold my hand forever, Mr Akagi, for it is no different from letting Asa do the same. So—I am in trouble, but I wish to handle my own troubles.”

Koremitsu was speechless, and while he remained dumbstruck, Hikaru’s face became increasingly stupefied from the side.

Aoi smiled bashfully.

“Once everything is over, I will confess to you again. At that time, please think of me.”

Her determined, earnest eyes pierced through Koremitsu’s heart, and Hikaru’s eyes wavered in a fleeting manner.

The blooming white flower on the Sacred grounds were no longer caring out its own prettiness. Instead, it wanted the glint and sturdiness of the sword to dazzle—yet it was heartbreaking.

“…Understood.”

That was all Koremitsu could answer at this moment.

Aoi’s cheeks blushed happily, and as she leisurely bowed, the long black hair swayed in the wind. After that, she left.

Koremitsu sat on the icy concret; he, along with Hikaru, stared into the sky like idiots.

The sky was like a canvas dyed completely blue. It was radiant, yet forlorn.

Koremitsu blurted a weary voice,

“…I always took the words ‘I’ll protect you’ so lightly…”

Perhaps that was a phrase more burdensome than what he had immediately.

“…”

Hikaru pondered with a melancholic look, looking hesitant to speak, his eyes lowered.

Koremitsu too gritted his teeth with bitterness, and stared into the sky. The dazzling sun brought discomfort to his eyes.

Was it not a form of arrogance to boldly proclaim that he would protect? That was why…

 

—I feel pained…to be with you, Mr Akagi.

 

The way he said the word ‘protect’ was too simplistic and comforting to him, so he never thought of the other party’s will, reasons and reservations.

Whether it was Aoi’s feelings…or Yū…

The loneliness spread in his heart.

Feeling skeptical, he opened his phone, and gave Yū a call.

He placed the phone at his ear, and waited with bated breath, only to be left on voicemail. He sighed, and put the phone back into his pocket.

(That Shikibu too…what am I supposed to do…)

He recalled the forlorn silhouette of the back that left the classroom, and his heart got increasingly pained.

“Let’s go back.”

“Yeah…”

He raised his heavy hips, and left the rooftop. While walking down the stairs, he heard the siren of an ambulance.

“What’s the matter…?”

The crowd was bustling.

The students returning home chattered, their whispers reaching Koremitsu’s ears.

 

“—she fell.”

 

“She is unconscious.”

 

“The news club—”

 

The vengeful spirit struck, amongst such words, the name Oumi was mentioned.

A sudden shock came, Koremitsu’s head practically hammered.

(Oumi!?)

“Koremitsu!”

Hikaru too was stupefied.

“Hey! What happened to Oumi of the news club!?”

The whispering students lifted their heads in response, and let out startled voices. They then answered Koremitsu with quivering voices, saying that Oumi fell from the stairs, lost her consciousness, and was carted by the ambulance to the hospital.

Another shock struck Koremitsu’s head.

 

—I do have some interesting rumors that I can look into.”

 

—“What rumors?”

 

—“Give me a day. I’ll report to you.”

 

Half a day had yet to go by after he bade farewell to Oumi. One had to wonder how that nimble, energetic girl fell down the stairs and lost consciousness on this day.

Was it a coincidence?

The sound of a bug buzzing could be heard in his ears. Several people were muttering, and though he could not hear what they were saying, they were all female—

 

—The vengeful spirit is at work.

 

(How can such a thing be possible here!)

He shook off the ominous cloud roaming over his head, and went to the stairs Hiina slipped down.

There was nobody at all. Nobody dared to approach, possibly because they were terrified of a vengeful spirit possessing them.

The transparent sun rays shone upon the forlorn, mystifying corridor.

Suddenly, he spotted a glittering item.

“There seems to be something over there, Koremitsu.”

Hikaru muttered. Koremitsu went over to the glittering item, and bent down.

It was a long, thin silver chain.

It appeared to be a bracelet.

Startled, Hikaru widened his eyes. Koremitsu too immediately realized upon seeing that reaction.

(Doesn’t Shikibu always have such a chain with her?)

Koremitsu himself was unable to discern girl accessories. A chain was already a simple thing, and there were many similar ones sold at the shop. t seemed Hikaru had determined that it was the same as the one Honoka had.

Koremitsu too recalled the silver chain dangling on the wrist, and the hand holding it now became icy.

Here was the item similar to the Honoka always wore, and the stairs Hiina fell from.

What exactly did this mean—

Koremitsu held the chain firmly. Suddenly, footsteps could be heard.

Honoka came upstairs, appearing to be checking on what was going on.

Once she saw a heinous looking Koremitsu on the stairs, she gasped.

“…Akagi,why are you.”

“Oumi fell from the stairs, and got sent to the hospital.”

“…I just heard about that.”

She whispered.

“…I heard that she fell here.”

“Why did you come all the way here?”

“Can’t I? Didn’t you come here?”

Honoka turned her face aside.

Koremitsu approached her, and grabbed her right arm.

She widened her eyes,

“Wha—”

While Honoka tried to swing Koremitsu’s hand aside, the latter exerted more focus in his grip, and looked up at her.

Then, he saw that the silver chain bracelet on Honoka’s wrist, the one he saw in the day, was gone. Upon seeing that, the irises of his eyes cauterized along with his head.

“Let go.”

“Your bracelet, what happened to it?”

“Huh?”

Honoka looked completely perplexed.

“I’m asking where exactly is your bracelet. Didn’t you always have it on your wrist?”

Overwhelmed by Koremitsu’s presence, Honoka’s eyes weakened a little.

“I lost it today…”

“Where?”

“At the classroom veranda. It fell.”

Her eyes and tone got feisty as she said, and she forcefully removed herself from Koremitsu’s grip.

Koremitsu handed the bracelet to Honoka, and the latter was flabbergasted.

“This is mine…!? You picked it?”

“Yeah, on these stairs.”

“Eh?”

Honoka’s face again looked perplexed.

“And then?”

Koremitsu pressed on with an intimidating vice.”

“What were you doing, Shikibu? You weren’t paying a visit at the hospital when I met you there. Stop trying to bluff me. Say it!!”

Fury and anxiety ascended Koremitsu’s throat.

Honoka Shikibu would not belittle or hurt others without any baseless reason.

Koremitsu knew that very well.

It was because of that however that Honoka took action alone behind Koremitsu back, and that was making his anxious and furious, his head about to explode.

What was she thinking exactly? Why did she want to search through Yū’s photos?

Did she take them while stalking her? Why?

(Why’s your bracelet at the place Oumi fell from!?)

He wanted to understand, even when it meant grabbing Honoka’s shoulders.

If not, Honoka would continue to do some strange things behind Koremitsu’s back. There was a chance Honoka herself could be in danger, just like Hiina who was hospitalized—if it were to end up being an irreversible trauma—

If she was to to lose her life because of that!

Honoka’s lips quivered as she stared at him.

“Why must I be yelled at by you!?”

“I’m worried about you!!”

Upon seeing Koremitsu vent his erratic feelings upon her, Honoka showed a faint expression for just an instance. Her eyes became a little moist, and she then pouted, giving Koremitsu a tragic look…

She then raised her eyebrows, and in her protest, gave Koremitsu an emotional outburst.

“I don’t need your worry! You’re always skipping classes to meet Miss Kanai!!”

Koremitsu was speechless.

Honoka’s expression contorted, and she kept yelling.

 

“There’s no way you can protect two at once!”

 

Koremitsu stood there, dumbfounded, seemingly slapped in the face.

Was it wroong for him to say he would protect? Was it shallow? Arrogant?

The conflicted feelings swirled in his mind, ensnaring his heart.

 

—I’ll protect you!

 

He said this to Honoka, and to all the other girls.

If anything was to happen to him, he would definitely help them.

I’ll definitely protect you.

To Koremitsu, it was a matter of fact that he was to protect those weaker than me.

He just wanted to protect those in trouble.

But as Honoka had said, it was impossible for him to protect two at once.

Honoka kept clenching her fists, yelling with such agitation,

“I’m strong enough that any half-hearted worry is troublesome to me! Stop caring about me!!”

The thin brown hair and mini-skirt spun half a round in the air, and she turned to leave, her long slender legs strode off, not caring to be with Koremitsu for even a second longer.

He had to give chase.

If he did not, Honoka would continue to leave, be distant, and vanish.

If he was to give chase—

The cellphone vibrated in his pants pocket.

He stopped in his tracks, wanting to yell as he fished the phone out, and opened the anonymous message.

 

“Koremitsu Akagi shall execute Yū Kanai by the gullotine in the name of the Poppy.”

 

An image appeared in his mind; one with a chilling, shiny blade cutting at Yū’s slender neck—and then at Honoka’s, and then Koremitsu’s.

Koremitsu felt a chill down his back, his body covered in cold sweat.

“Koremitsu, give Yū a call.”

Hikaru’s anxious voice could be heard from the side, and while his vision remained blurred, Koremitsu gave Yū a call without a second thought.

Tak…an emotionless sound was followed by the voicemail.

 

—I can’t protect, can I?

 

—Two at once?

 

—I can’t protect, can I?

 

He had to give chase after Honoka.

He had to be with Yū.

He had to—leave one behind.

Honoka’s dashing footsteps down the stairs could no longer be heard.

“!”

Feeling incapacitated as he tried to save his hide, Koremitsu darted down the stairs.

To the hospital.

To Yū.

♢ ♢ ♢

I’m like a spider resting on the petal, eyeing its prey. This is to rid the other women trying to bewitch him.

Everyone thinks of me as an honest, harmless person, so I can blend into anything no matter what happens.

Nobody that approach and talk to me will put their guard against me.

Most would open their hearts when they feel I am more foolish than them, and they can be manipulated.

 

For example, her.

She’s not used to seeing her love interest being lured by a girl more tender and weaker than her, that he kept being with her all the time, doting on her like a princess.

On the surface, she appeared to be a trusted assistance. She believed she could act nonchalant if she could just offer herself to her, but she had only hate for the girl beside him.

What can she do to remove that girl from his side.

 

Yes. There are many girls other than her who thought they were the one special to him.

There’s the one who assumed herself to be more collected, more manipulative than anyone else, yet she makes decisions based on emotions, her plan completely flawed.

There’s that one girl who grew up sheltered by the people around her, feeling conflicted about it, and tried to gain independence by working at a cafe.

There’s that one girl who’s carefree, always saying things boys like to hear, pretending to be a good woman, but is a flirtatious one.

There’s that girl who went everywhere sniff, the area below her nose like a rotten mongrel

There’s the girl who used her prepubescent as a weapon, latching onto her target with innocence.

And there is the one who deemed herself to be the righteous one, obsessed with the superiority of protecting those weaker than her—

 

I, fused with the Rokujō, is able to see with her eyes, use her power.

While the foolish—wretched women are buried in distrust, I shall flame the unrest, and stoke the hatred.

 

He betrayed you.

He’s fooled by that woman.

You’re the only one who can save him.

 

Wretched people will cannibalize each other, destroying themselves.

They should reveal, slander, despise, curse, and sink to the bottom.

 

 

 

 

“In the name of Rokujō, ‘I’ shall command.