You see, you got baited.
Did you not realize? You have long fallen into the trap of the Rokujō.
You can’t move.
You are ensnared in the crystal, glowing threads, struggling within them, fading away as the filthiest woman on this world.
This is my revenge.
He forgot the promise we made.
Wretched women like you are insolent enough to lure him away from me.
You leashed him firmly, pulling all sorts of strings to prevent me from approaching him.
Thus, I have the right to strangle all the wretched, filthy women in this world to death.
And at the moment when you cease to breathe, I shall sneer at you, you who looked down on me and assumed I was harmless, and I shall say.
You are the one I truly despised.
♢ ♢ ♢
(Well, whatever, I won’t be getting Akagi’s love.)
One had to wonder how many times Honoka deleted Koremitsu’s messages, and she nervously strolled alone down the bustling street in the middle of the night. She was wearing glasses, her hair tied into twin ponytails.
She was to meet the ‘Poppy’ at the alley in front of her.
She gave herself the codename Heliotrope, for even though Koremitsu was annoyed with her, she wanted to be his Heliotrope.
Surely, she did such a reckless action because of Koremitsu Akagi.
If not, she would not have thought of doing the dirty work of heading to such a dim street to buy drugs.
Surely she would be expelled if the school was to know about it. There were a few members of the Yakuza waiting over there, holding drugs. Not all of them were dealing drugs.
Honoka knew that she would be in danger, but she wanted to affirm if the ‘Poppy’ was Yū. If Yū was indeed the drug dealer, she would have to convince her to stop.
If possible, she wanted to end this before Koremitsu found out—
(I know that it’s just me being selfish and trying to satisfy myself. Even so, I don’t want to see Akagi suffer, and this is something I have to do…)
—What were you doing, Shikibu?
After school, Koremitsu glared at Honoka fiercely, interrogating her with a terrifying howl.
—You weren’t paying a visit at the hospital when I met you there. Stop trying to bluff me. Say it!!
Koremitsu was infuriated that Honoka was spying on Yū.
Perhaps the crazy messages that were circulated in school were sent by her.
It was said that Hiina of the news club fell from the stairs due to the work of a vengeful spirit, and was taken away by ambulance, so she ran off the stairs where Hiina fell from.
She then found Koremitsu looking grim, a heinous atmosphere surrounding him, and he stormed agitatedly towards her, grabbing her arm, interrogating, “Your bracelet, what happened to it?”
Once Honoka said that she dropped it, Koremitsu followed up by asking where did she drop it, his other hand handing it over to her.
It was the exact same bracelet as the one she dropped.
—“This is mine…!? You picked it?”
—“Yeah, on these stairs.”
At first, she did not understand his intent at all.
Maybe he’s suspecting if I pushed Oumi down? Once she had this realization, she was utterly furious, and it was most probable that she felt as ashamed as she was furious.
Why will I do such a thing!? Akagi’s doubting whatever I do here! Does he have no confidence in me at all?
She was peeved and shamed, the furor exploding in her mind.
She grumbled, “Why must I be yelled at by you!?”, and Koremitsu yelled back “I’m worried about you!!”
Koremitsu’s eyes conveyed an intense, stern feeling that pierced through Honoka’s eyes.
(Ahh, Akagi’s really worried for my safety. That’s why he’s so angry at me.)
Honoka realized it,
And thus, she inadvertently felt depressed about it.
Her nose buzzed, and she looked ready to break down in tears, but if she did, Koremitsu would be left flustered, and would give his utmost to help her.
But even if it was such an arduous thing to do, even though he was completely battered, Koremitsu would treat her just as he treated the other girls.
However, that was what she really hated.
She really hated herself from showing her weakness to others, and she would not allow herself to do it. If she were to, Honoka would not be Koremitsu’s Heliotrope anymore.
Koremitsu probably would not have thought of Honoka as the reliable Heliotrope anymore.
(I really decided to be Akagi’s Heliotrope.)
She already made up her mind once she revealed on her website that she was actually not a love expert at all.
Even if this love was never to blossom, she would continue to persist.
She wanted to continue being the sturdy, cheerful purple flower Koremitsu cannot live without with.
Koremitsu was dumbfounded as she exclaimed that she did not need his help anymore.
—“There’s no way you can protect two at once!”
After saying that, her heart was again pierced once she wondered if he was hurt as a result.
She could not look at his face directly, and ran down the stairs.
(I love Akagi.)
She was hopelessly in love with him, and she really, really, really loved him.
(But Akagi’s favorite isn’t me.)
Boys typically flock towards those weaker girls who gave off the need for protections.
(Akagi surely won’t end up liking people like me.)
But even so, she wanted to be involved with him.
She did all she could for Koremitsu’s sake.
(Even if we can’t be lovers…I hope to at least be a Heliotrope that can help you.)
She went to the back of an old building down the street, and it was a stark contrast to the clear, bright street outside, being a path that was dark and empty, devoid of people.
One would get the feeling of a ghost appearing there.
Honoka did not believe in superstitions, and was not afraid of ghosts.
However, the damaged building windows were rattling due to the wind, and there was a phantom hand reaching between the gap of the two buildings, grabbing her neck, causing her to feel goosebumps.
(There aren’t any ghosts at all.)
She said as she entered deeper into the alley. Whenever the rustle of the leaf grazed her neck, she would shiver in fear.
(Where’s the Poppy at all?)
She gripped the cellphone in her hand firmly.
At this moment, there was some dim light shining from the road outside, a slender female figure appeared in front of her.
It was a slender body, a pale head.
Long hair draping down.
Dressed in a skirt, holding a crimson bouquet of flowers called the Poppy.
The appearance of Yū Kanai, ever the fleeting figure who stood by Koremitsu, sheltered by the latter, overlapped with the woman holding the bouquet of crimson flowers, and she was startled.
At that moment, the herm of the skirt and the fluffy long hair turned, and the ‘Poppy’ escaped.
She hurriedly fished out the cellphone to take photos, and began to give chase after the ‘Poppy’.
(Did she find me? Is the ‘Poppy’ Miss Kanai after all!?)
The ponytails behind the head swayed violently, and once the glasses slipped, Honoka threw it aside, giving chase as she held the phone with one hand and she pressed the camera shutter.
The crimson flowers the ‘Poppy’ held was scattered, and she dashed off to an alley deep within the darkness within the cluster of buildings. Finally, she ran down to the basement of a 4 level building.
Honoka too dashed down the stairs.
Her footsteps echoed along with the ‘Poppy’s, and she heard the sound of a door opening and closing.
The ‘Poppy’ had reached the level below, and had vanished without a trace.Honoka nudged aside a heavy metal door, and entered the basement, finding it completely pitch dark.
(Miss Kanai…where are you?)
She cautiously entered by using the light from the cellphone, and the crimson flowers from before suddenly appeared.
There was probably a light inside the bouquet. The thin, translucent petals that covered the stems became a lamp, as dim as a flickering, burning candle, swaying away.
“Are you in there?”
Feeling completely tense, she approached the flowers.
Once her eyes got used to the darkness, she could at least see who was the one holding the flowers.
A slender body, with long wavy hair.
Honoka’s voice echoed from the icy walls, only to have something powdery thrown at her face out of a sudden.
The numbing fragrance entered her nose, and she was left coughing helplessly. While she snivel and coughed with teary eyes, it appeared the other party ran out of the basement.
As the bouquet was thrown aside, the crimson flowers spread in the darkness, scattered all over the flower. She heard the door being shut, and though she kept coughing, she continued yelling,
“Miss Kanai! Listen to me! I won’t tell Akagi or anyone else that you’re selling drugs! I’m willing to delete the photos I have if you will stop! So—”
Her head got dizzy, probably due to the powder kicking on. She stumbled to the door, but could not open it.
The door was locked from the outside?
She felt chilly within, and at the same time, blue smoke came through the gap in the door.
A sweet fragrance.
The same scent as the powder she was thrown with!
(I can’t breathe it in!)
She instinctively realized, and held her breath, trying to pry the door open, but no matter how she tried to turn the handle, push or kick at it, the door would not budge.
“Miss Kanai! Please open the door! Miss Kanai!”
No matter how much she yelled, there was no response. She did not know whether there was anyone opposite. Perhaps the other party had already left for quite a while.
(Got to call the police—)
She fished out the phone from her pocket. Even in the darkness, she was familiar with the positions of the buttons, and she could input the characters accurately without looking.
The moment she began however, she suddenly stopped.
(If the police come, Miss Kanai will be arrested.)
At the very least, they would question her on what actually happened. Even if Honoka did not mention, the former would be investigated as the Poppy, and the potential drug trade would be looked into.
Honoka’s fingers stopped on the button.
(What do I do? I have to to get out of here. But how?)
She made use of the light from the cellphone to wander around the room, looking for other exits, if there was anything to unlock the room.
It appeared that this basement was abandoned, and there was a lot of broken items scattered all over the floor, such that one had to wonder how many times she tripped over those items.
Just when she was at a loss on what to do, a sweet scent drifted in from between the gap of the door, filling the entire room, and she was left faint and limp.
She lost her poised decision making ability, anxiety rose in her head.
Once she heard the sound of fire burning outside the door, she was shocked.
(You’re kidding…a fire!?)
She hurried off to the door.)
She held the handle, and the sharp heat caused her to relax her hand.
She hurriedly retreated, and the phone on her other hand dropped off.
A fire blazed on the other side of the door.
Honoka bent down to pick her phone up, breathing in some of the sweet smoke drifting between the door, and collapsed onto the floor.
She kept coughing, the scenery in front of her swirling.
(Where’s my phone?)
She tried to reach her hand out, only to collapse weakly.
Her heart was pounding so fast it seemed she just went through a track meet, and her head got increasingly tense. A gong rang at her eyes, and the building was swirling around.
(I can’t find my phone.)
The temperature of the icy floor was gradually increasing. If this was to keep up, she would probably be burned to death
(I never got to date a guy)
Her personal Purple Princess website was filled with lots of love stories, but she secretly admired those that could kiss their boyfriends on the ferris wheel in a theme park, hold hands and watch the stars at the coast while the moonlight shone upon them, those that would book a karaoke box with their flustered boyfriends, making them sing love songs, and wanting to sing another one for them.
From the moment she got interested in Koremitsu, whenever she had an idea of the date, the idealized partner would be him.
(I-I’ve only been to the pool and karaoke with Akagi. I never did go to a theme park, an aquarium, a zoo, a game center, a seaside, skiing or anything like that.)
At this point, she was curled up, coughing away, unable to move. What am I thinking of right now? she was still peeved at herself for being so carefree, and looked ready to burst into tears at any given moment.
(There’s no way I have a chance to kiss Akagi on the Ferris Wheel or something.)
Akagi likes girls who are completely different from me, and that will remain the same.
(But Akagi, I like you.)
She loved his determined eyes.
She loved his rigid, yet earnest words.
She loved his roar, and his stammer whenever he got flustered.
She loved his stiff, yet cheerful ‘Yo’ whenever he greeted her.
She loved his bony hands, and even the way he raised his eyebrows, give that cringed face, and remained silent.
No matter who Koremitsu loved at this point, Honoka could not contain her deep love for him.
(Akagi’s really a bad person. Whenever I want to resist him thinking ‘what kind of joke is this? What is it about him that I like?’ he always shows me that cool side of his.)
—I’ll protect you!
The first time she felt interest in him was when she first heard those word, when she saw Koremitsu giving her a grim look.
Once she knew this man was different from others, Honoka gradually gravitated towards him.
—“I haven’t forgotten, Shikibu. About you saying you like me.
—“I don’t really know what sort of feeling this is,”
—“And even though you asked whether you can like me, I still can’t answer it now, but I’ll definitely find an answer!”
—S-so-so anyway, can you please wait for just a little?”
It was the end of summer vacation, on that night when everyone was gathered at the riverbank. Back then, Koremitsu stared at Honoka, his face blushing as he said this.
I’ll definitely find an answer, so anyway, can you please wait for just a little?
Honoka’s cheeks were flushed, and she nodded.
It was an important promise.
Koremitsu definitely would not lie about it. Thus, he would not let Honoka’s confession come to pass for nothing, and he definitely would give her a response.
No matter the final outcome, Honoka was delighted that Koremitsu was willing to think about her. Once she heard that she had to wait, her heart began to throb.
(I’ve yet to hear Akagi’s answer. No, I don’t want to die yet. Not yet! I can’t die like this without hearing his answer.)
Suddenly, an intense melody rang in the darkness.
It was the passionate love song from her favorite band.
The ring tone indicating Koremitsu!
With her utmost, Honoka reached her hand out to the source of the melody.
Her fingertips touched them, and once she received the call, she heard Koremitsu’s voice.
“You finally picked it up, damn it! Where are you right now!?”
Once she heard Koremitsu bellowing, Honoka’s chest was filled with agitation.
“I-I’m in the basement…A-Akagi. There’s a fire.”
She could no longer think. She reported on her position, and it appeared Koremitsu could tell that Honoka was in a critical situation.
“I’m going over now! Hang in there!”
“Akagi, my confession, give me a reply.”
“Give me a reply now.”
“Wh-what are you saying?”
“I-I can’t wait anymore. I may be burned to death before you even get here.”
“You idiot! Don’t die now!”
“I definitely won’t be able to ascend to the afterlife if I don’t hear your answer.”
“Who allowed you to die? Stop thinking such nonsense now and live on!”
“Yeah! Live on! So tell me right now! I’ll possess you if I become a ghost without hearing your answer, Akagi~~! I don’t want to do such an indecent thing!”
“If you are to haunt me as well, what am I to do?”
“So give me a response!”
She wanted to be dumped before she departed.
With that, she would leave her mortal life without regrets.”
“Seriously, you are the classmate who just so happened to sit beside me!! You aren’t my love interest!!!!”
Honoka yelled as she placed her ear on the phone.
Suddenly, the door opened.
The smoke came roaming in.
Standing on the other side was a panting Koremitsu, his face completely contorted.
After that, he yelled at Honoka, the latter still dumbfounded.
“You’re one huge idiot!! Honoka Shikibu is not an ordinary classmate to me!!! She’s a woman I like!!!!”
♢ ♢ ♢
Honoka Shikibu is not an ordinary classmate to me!!! She’s a woman I like!!!! Koremitsu yelled the moment the door was opened.
His heart was pounding furiously from the moment he dashed through the ticket gantry till the moment he found this room in the basement.
Please be safe He prayed quietly as he darted through the crowd, putting his phone at his ear. Even after he managed to get through however, she demanded a confession from him. He was shocked and furious, almost crushing the phone in his hand.
(What are you thinking when your life’s on the line, you idiot! You say that you’ll haunt me as a ghost? Hikaru alone is enough to cause me much trouble! If you’re going to come into the bathroom with me, what am I to do!?)
I definitely won’t let you die!
Thanks to Honoka’s interrupted words, he dashed down the stairs leading to the basement, and found an abnormal situation in front of him, one beyond expectations.
There was a censer in front of the door, and sweet smoke and flames rose from there. The door was already scalding, and a burning pain permeated through his body the moment his skin touched it. However, he did not care as he turned the knob, and pushed the door down.
I worked so hard at such a crucial moment; breathing this is—he grimaced, his mind about to melt. Honoka however shouted, <em>Seriously, you are the classmate who just so happened to sit beside me!! You aren’t my love interest!!!!
You’re really a troublesome woman! A dolt of a woman!
You aren’t just some ordinary woman! If you’re just an ordinary classmate, why am I being so heartbroken!?
She was always like this. She never held back when she talk, and suddenly, she told him “I think I like you”, and then she blushed, following it up with “like, not love!”, and never gave him a chance to answer.
After that, she kicked Koremitsu, having assumed he was a lolicon. To correct his lolicon tendencies, as she said, she proceeded to read some gravure magazines in a karaoke box with him.
And there was the moment when she suddenly appeared at Koremitsu’s corridor.
The time when the duo sneaked into the school pool in the middle of the night, when she placed her head at his chest in a bashful manner, sweetly asking,
“You better protect me, okay?”
That caused his heart to throb. After that, when they met in the library, she said
“…I think it’s better for us to see each other less often.”
But when she was at Koremitsu’s house.
“I-is it alright that…I find myself liking you?”
The way she lifted her head bitterly to look at him caused his heart to throb.
Koremitsu had always caused trouble for her, always needing her help. However, his heart kept pounding whether he got her involved. Her words and actions were always so ludicrous that he could not understand, let alone think about it.
There was no woman as troublesome as she was.
If they were just mere classmates, he would have kept his distance without saying another word.
The reason why he never did so however was that she was no ordinary classmate to him.
—“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.”
The words he said to Hikaru were not a lie.
He trusted Honoka.
It was neither a boast nor a wish. Looking at Honoka’s utmost efforts, Koremitsu gradually realized that the goodwill she showed her never changed in the slightest.
—“I’m your Heliotrope after all.”
Honoka had a cheerful face, candor tone, and blabbermouth of a tongue. That appeared to be for granted.
Yū herself did call Honoka ‘Mr Akagi’s Heliotrope’.
And when he thought about it, while all his interactions with the other girls were due to the promises Hikaru had to fulfill, Honoka was the only one different.
He recruited Honoka for assistance to understand Aoi’s true feelings, but Honoka was not one of Hikaru’s flowers.
She willingly approached Koremitsu, and she was the one who got down to interact with him verbally, a wildflower who bloomed for no one.
Then, she became Koremitsu’s Heliotrope.
She did her best to help Koremitsu, to support him, and finally fell in love with him.
—I think I like you.
He could not forget.
That was the one actual confession Koremitsu received.
Honoka was the first to love Koremitsu, the one shunned by everyone else. She did not love Koremitsu for being Hikaru’s representative, but for how Koremitsu was.
That was why there was no way he could forget about it!
That was why they were no mere classmates!
Before he got to this place, Koremitsu kept recalling the words he read on Honoka’s webpage in the train, all the efforts she put in for his sake, the times they were together. While being in such dire stress, he vented all his restrained emotions with gusto,
“Honoka Shikibu is not an ordinary classmate to me!!! She’s a woman I like!!!!”
Having witnessed Koremitsu’s new hairstyle for the first time, Honoka, still sprawled on the floor, looked up at him.
He grabbed her arm, and stormed off.
However, the entrance was blocked. They could not get out.
While he cussed, Hikaru said,
“Koremitsu, there is a fire hose at the wall.”
Koremitsu turned to where Hikaru was pointing, and had a closer look. He was unable to see it clearly however, as it was probably too dark.
“Over here! Hurry!”
Koremitsu followed Hikaru’s lead,
“Wait for me.”
He let go of Honoka’s arm, raised the fire hose, and grabbed it without a second thought. He held the lever, pointed the hose at the fire, and the foam proceeded to extinguish.
The foam mixed with the fire, and after a while, the fire was finally weakened, only extinguished completely when the fire was completely put out.
Koremitsu then scaled the narrow staircase, dragging the lifeless Honoka with him.
Honoka’s feet were already unstable, but she still wanted to push him aside.
“Enough alright. Just lean on me!”
Having said that, he grabbed Honoka by the shoulder and pulled her over.
Though she was weeping, Honoka continued to put up a facade.
“Wh-what’s with that…why, did you save me—I told you I don’t need your protection. You idiot, idiot…idiot.”
It seemed there was such a scene before…Koremitsu’s heart was suddenly griped.
It was after he had a kiss with Tsuyako in the garden party.
At the backyard of the school, Honoka wailed as she slammed at Koremitsu’s chest.
He recalled the bittersweet feeling of Honoka sobbing and flailing her fists weakly at his chest.
Like before, her hands and hair were resting on him, her breathing beating down on his throat and face, her trickling tears gradually dampening Koremitsu’s shirt.
And just like before, he was shocked by Honoka’s petite shoulders.
“You’re the big idiot here. Why didn’t you hurry up and call me for help?”
“You’re definitely thinking that if the police knows that Yū’s selling drugs, things will get complicated, right?”
Once he said this,
Honoka, stammering away, was left speechless.
“I guess that’s it. The reason why you tailed Yū is because you got evidence that Yū’s the ‘Poppy’, right?”
Honoka averted her eyes, pouting, and remained silent
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You think I’ll falter because of that?”
Honoka’s shoulders shook a little. She worriedly lifted her head at him, hesitant to speak.
That was the answer.
He already knew of Honoka’s intentions the moment he browsed through that personal website.
Everything was for Koremitsu’s sake.
—Just like you, she’s the type who wants to protect others.
This girl here is definitely like me.
They were similar in how they had the heart to protect each other, how they worked so hard that they failed, how they kept ignoring their surroundings as they kept moving forward with zest, and even how they remained morose.
Honoka kept her lips sealed, and that clumsy sight of her dour self caused Koremitsu to feel love for her.
“You said that I don’t have to protect you…but I want to. I can’t leave you alone when I know that you’re in danger.”
He immediately conveyed his feelings.
Yes, he wanted to protect.
It did not matter whether Honoka was weak or strong.
It was because it was Honoka that he wanted to protect her.
Honoka’s face was contorted, her eyes again glittering, and she chided him,
“I say, why must you keep saying such things…y-you just said that you like me. That’s a lie. I won’t be haunting you as a vengeful ghost even if you do tell me that you don’t have any feelings for me.”
“I say, it’s not like I don’t have any thoughts at all?”
Why did she remain this obstinate even at this point? Did she still think Koremitsu did not love her.
Even on her personal website, she ranted about how he never thought of her as a girl, how she would have an unrequited love, how she kept swiveling on the chair—
But even so, didn’t you provide lots of love advice, Purple Princess? Argh, you aren’t a Love Expert after all. I’m completely fooled by you.
If I don’t clarify things now, this stupid woman won’t understand.
Feeling completely vexed, Koremitsu declared solemnly,
“I like you, Honoka Shikibu!”
He tried to repeat himself, but this girl falling in love with Koremitsu for the first time, let alone a love expert, had yet to completely understand what was going on. There seemed to be something probing her chest, as Koremitsu proceeded to embrace Honoka.
Honoka’s body froze for a while, and remained in Koremitsu’s clutches, unwilling to part.
And then, with a choking voice, she said,
“I’m so happy I can die right now.”
“You idiot. I won’t let you die like that.”
Love gradually aroused in them as they embraced each other with increasing might. The stench of sweat could be scented upon, and their heartbeats could practically be heard, the sounds beating in harmony—
At this moment,
“Erm, Koremitsu, I know this is a critical situation where we finally made it out of a crisis, and I do know that I am being a hinderance here, but I suppose we should be leaving here. A love scene in a night alley is probably a little too much for you to handle.”
Koremitsu abruptly released his hands from Honoka.
Koremitsu could only watch on wryly.
Why did you let go so suddenly? Honoka stared at Koremitsu unhappily. If Koremitsu was to give a dodgy excuse, Honoka would misinterpret it as him not liking her in one bit, and would give him a flying kick.
Feeling fidgety, Koremitsu racked his brain for an answer.
“Speaking of which, erm…why did you think Yū was the drug dealer?”
No matter how tense Honoka was, surely she would not have suspected others for no proper reason? There definitely had to be be something.
Honoka suddenly scowled, remaining silent and somewhat hesitant.
“Yū’s not the drug dealer. Tell me all you know.”
Once Koremitsu said that, Honoka finally spoke.
“I got a message saying that Miss Kanai’s selling drugs.”
As expected, Honoka received a message from the Poppy. Who was the person, and for what purpose, did she do such a thing.
While Koremitsu looked on grimly, Hikaru noted,
“I suppose Miss Shikibu did take a few photos of Yū before this. There should be a photo of that person who arranged for Yū’s return, no?”
“Hey, show me the photos you took.”
Honoka handed her cellphone over to Koremitsu with a stoic face.
He opened a folder titled ‘Kanai’, and the photos were displayed one by one.
There was Yū holding the bouquet of Poppies in her hand, riding on a car, entering a serene looking isolated house.
From there on—
Koremitsu stopped his hand from flipping to the next image.
Hikaru too watched on with a stiffened face.
Shown on Honoka’s screen was a genial, bespectacled youth with frail shoulders.