Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Itakoro:Volume3 Chapter2
Chapter 2: It's Time for Sparrow Hunting
The following day after school, Koremitsu received a call on the cellphone from Shioriko, who seemed to have waited for his dismissal time.
“Come over right now, dog.”
After giving the instructions, she hung up.
“Did you really teach that brat any etiquette on being a lady? She's not showing any manners at all!”
“Of course I did treat her as a fine lady. Whenever we walk, I would stand at the roadside, and I put a handkerchief on where she sits whenever we sit on a bench. I carry her up the stairs, I bring her to the arts museum or the theater during the holiday. Also, Shiiko looks cute in whatever she wears; there was that one moment when I bought five dresses for her. Shiiko said that she never ate any Japanese Spiny Lobsters before, so I requested a chef to prepare a full course for her. I wanted to order some personalized stationery for her—but well, it was refused because many stationery shops could not finish the order in time.”
“That's not educating her, that's pampering her. I think you were just irritating her, you bastard.”
Koremitsu grumbled softly as he walked down the corridor, headed towards the shoe locker.
Over there, he found Honoka who left the classroom earlier standing alone in front of the shoe locker.
Just as Koremitsu was unable to voice out,
“Well... about Upperclassman Tōjō,”
Her voice was shrill as she looked around slightly, frowning as she said so. And then, she became fidgety,
“I-I-I-I-I don't really care at all either way.”
She hurriedly said, but her face was completely flushed red, and her irises were rolling about.
“It's good after all!”
“Ah, Miss Shikibu!”
She did not respond to Hikaru's call to stop (naturally), and hurriedly stumbled off.
“Ah-Ah, she is going to fall down if she walks like that again. I have never seen her walk like that before.”
“~~~~~Tch, let's go.”
“Is it alright not to follow her?”
“She definitely ran off like that because she doesn't want to talk to me.”
“I do not think that is the case however...”
Hikaru showed a worried look, and Koremitsu frowned his lips in a scowl as he quietly put on his shoes and walked out.
(Damn it. I don't know what to say to her even if I chase her now.)
He muttered quietly in his heart.
“Seriously~, you're too slow, dog!”
Shioriko, carrying the school bag on her back, was at the meeting spot located at a bus station on a bustling street, stamping her little feet on the ground angrily.
Koremitsu glanced over, and saw that her black hair was bundled into twintails, a light grass colored pochette slinging diagonally.
“Ahh, you don't have the collar on you! You have to have the collar on you. You are my dog after all.”
She puffed her cheeks unhappily.
“Did you bring the collar along? Put it on! Right now!”
Who in the world wants to put on such a thing!? Koremitsu wanted to roar back, but he recalled that he decided, with an open heart to become her dog.
“Guh, is this good enough?”
And so he put on the dog collar obediently.
Shioriko's face reddened slightly as she looked up at Koremitsu and giggled,
“That's right. From now on, you have to keep putting the dog collar on.”
Though she sounded snobbish, her smile was innocent befitting her age.
“Shiiko aaaaalways wanted to have a dog, so she must be really delighted now. The plan to gain her trust by acting as a dog is a success.”
Instead of trust, it felt more like a master-slave relationship.
“Oi, I do have the collar on me now but my name is Koremitsu Akagi, not 'dog'.”
Though he did say to Honoka “You can call me a wild dog if you want!” when he consulted her regarding Yū, it was really infuriating for him to be called 'dog, dog' all the time.
Besides, she was a brat who was less than half of his weight.
However, the brat lowered her stare condescendingly.
“Calling someone like you a dog is enough. Do you want me to call you a pervert? Or a loli-dog? Or something else?”
“Hikaru may be a perverted lolicon, but I'm not!”
Koremitsu said without hesitation.
“That's too much, Koremitsu.”
Hikaru frowned and protested.
Shioriko however showed contempt at Koremitsu's words as she went down the street filled with people walking around.
“All the men in the world are like that, always thinking of lewd things.”
“Your view of men is way too harsh for a 4th grader, no?”
“A suuuper pretty girl like me has been harassed by many disgusting men ever since young.”
“Are you serious!?”
“When I'm walking on the roads, passers-by will often come over to me and say, 'little lady, let's go and play with gramps here, okay', or something like that. Some will take photos of me and upload them onto the internet, my gym uniform gets stolen at school, my recorder becomes wet for some reason, and there are a lot of lewd toys stuffed in my shoe lock for some reason. Ahh, seriously, thinking about them makes me have goosebumps now! I won't forgive them all, especially the pervert who stole my gym clothes! I had to eat curry for dinner for an entire week just to save enough money to buy a new set of gym clothes!”
Shioriko again stomped angrily as she continued to talk.
“That's why I never put my gym clothes at the gym locker after that. I brought everything home, and even have a buzzer and pepper spray with me at all times. Even though they are at a discounted price at a second-hand shop, these things are still very expensive. I had to eat Soy Pulp for an entire week for dinner just to pay for them!”
“I-Is that so... I never thought you had such a tough life.”
Koremitsu was sweating beads as he heard this.
“The country should allocate some budgets for the Special Police to guard cute children like Shiiko.”
Hikaru advocated with a serious look.
Shioriko angrily turned around,
“Because of which, I know very well how to deal with perverts like you who like little girls.”
“Who's interested in little girls here!? Don't lump me together with Hikaru.”
Koremitsu rebuked, but Shioriko turned her head around and said,
“Let me say this first. Hikaru may really be a perverted lolicon, but don't you say anything bad about him in front of me. I'll get angry.”
Koremitsu's eyes widened.
Shioriko's pink lips pouted tightly, and showed an ambiguous expression, either because she was angry, or because she was flustered. And then, she immediately turned her head forward to prevent Koremitsu from seeing it, and took large strides forward.
(Did this brat just defend Hikaru!? That perverted loli... well, I didn't say it out exactly, but am I getting told off?)
Hikaru stood beside them, watching,
“Shiiko still remembers me after all.”
He muttered to himself. And with an utterly blissful expression, he turned to Koremitsu.
“You see? You see? Koremitsu, you just heard what she said, right? Shiiko really is a kind child!”
He said enthusiastically.
(You're being noisy, you loli prince.)
Koremitsu showed his annoyance as he scratched his ear.
During that time, Shiiko left the bustling street and entered an alley with few people walking through.
The grassy green pochette hanging on her waist swung about as she walked.
“Hey, where're you going?”
Koremitsu asked, and Shioriko stopped in her tracks, giving a sharp look as she looked around.
“Just wait here. If you see me in danger, come help me.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
Shioriko gave the confused Koremitsu a look, her pink lips raised slightly. Her expression was filled with boldness one could not imagine from a nine-year-old.
“I'm hunting sparrows.”
Hunting sparrows, as in watching birds or something similar?
Would there be sparrows flying in this dark alley?
Before Koremitsu could ask Shioriko about the details, she ran off with her twintails swinging sideways.
“Koremitsu, chase after her! You must not let her hunt sparrows! Ahhh! She is doing it again!!! I deliberately forbade her from hunting sparrows already!!!”
It was rare of Hikaru to be distressed.
“She's just playing with sparrows. It's fine for an elementary school kid, no?”
“No, the sparrow here refers to...”
Kyaa!Suddenly, there was a voice coming from the front.
It was Shioriko's voice!
“Ahh~” Hikaru lamented as he lowered his head dejectedly.
Koremitsu hurried towards Shioriko, and found her squatting in a small alley filled with trash, with a middle-aged man dressed in a suit, looking flabbergasted.
“I'm sorry, uncle. I need to do something.”
“No, it's fine. Can you stand up, young lady?”
“Ah, it hurts!”
“You fractured a bone? I'll call an ambulance!”
“No, it's not that serious. Can you please rub it however?”
“Please... I'll feel a little better.”
Shioriko said hoarsely and anxiously, but the man's voice got shrill.
“I-Is that so...then?”
(Wait wait wait wait wait! What are you doing now!?)
Koremitsu frowned, and screamed,
The moment the middle-aged man put his hand on Shioriko's ankle, his shoulders jerked as he shuddered
Upon seeing Koremitsu, he turned pale.
“Big brother! This uncle just did something shameless to me!”
Shioriko, who claimed to have an injured ankle, dashed towards Koremitsu and leapt in him.
“Th-That's not it. I didn't do anything—that kid asked me to help her rub.”
“That uncle even wanted to touch that part.”
The man was so flustered it was pitiful. Hikaru, standing beside Koremitsu, could only put his hand on his forehead reluctantly, and just when Koremitsu was about to say something, Shioriko called out, wanting to stop him.
“You mustn't, big brother! Even if this uncle does something lewd to me, you can't beat him to near death like the last time or you'll be sent to the boys home again! You've been through it five times already, and got scouted by some organizations. You mustn't beat this uncle's bones and break his head apart~”
(Who was sent to the boys home five times!?)
Even when Koremitsu was called a delinquent or a homosexual at school, the rumors were never as exaggerated as they were at this point.
That middle-aged man was shrieking in fear, kneeling on the floor.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry.”
“Please, big brother. Forgive this uncle. If he's willing to pay for treatment, you won't have to ruin your reputation. You won't have to do something vengeful like pulling out his fingernails, marking his stomach, or dumping him into a drum and throwing him into the sea.”
Upon hearing these words, the middle-aged man immediately took out his wallet, drew a few notes, and handed them to Shioriko.
“Th-This is for you. Forgive me.”
(So this is how it is.)
Koremitsu finally understood what was going on.
She pretended to be injured, lure a perverted middle-aged man in to touch her, and then extort for medical fees once the savage looking big brother Koremitsu appeared—for an elementary school student, she really was such a liar.
“Thank you, uncle.”
Shioriko showed an angelic smile and wanted to receive the notes. Koremitsu however grabbed her hand.
“What are you doing?”
Shioriko widened her eyes.
“Hey, this brat's completely unhurt. Keep the money and hurry off now.”
“Wa-wait, big bro—what are you saying?”
“Eeekkk!!! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!”
The middle-aged man staggered to his feet, and scurried off in an instant.
“Ahhhh! You let my sparrow escape, you stupid dog~~~~~~~~~~~~!”
She was screaming with a sobbing look on her face.
She waved Koremitsu's hand aside, lifted her head at Koremitsu as much as she could, and stood on her toes, yelling,
“Why must you do such a thing!? I barely managed to catch that sparrow!”
“For goodness sake! What kind of sparrow hunting is that!? You're basically talking about the uncles here! What you're doing is coercion! It's illegal! You'll be arrested by the police!”
“Koremitsu, continue lecturing her. Teach her that a lady is supposed to be protected by a Knight! Tell her that she just needs to maintain a noble smile and bring happiness to everyone around her. She mustn't let the plump middle-aged men see her thighs so easily!”
“There's no way the police will arrest me.”
Shioriko retorted angrily, her cheeks puffing.
“If he admits that he wanted to pay for knocking into an elementary kid, it means that he'll be admitting that he's a perverted lolicon!”
“That's just an adult's way of apologizing! What if someone really attacks you!?”
“That's why I called you here, you stupid dog!”
“Shut up! I don't want to become an accomplice!”
“A mere dog wants to defy her master! Wait till I show the photo of you being a perverted lolicon!”
“Ah—damn it! You're despicable! Hand me the phone! I'm going to delete the photo!”
“Sorry, but I kept an extra copy at home.”
“Ugh—you're full of devious thoughts, you damned brat.”
“If you understand, obey me. You're just a stupid dog who can only help me hunt sparrows.”
“What did you say!!?”
“W-Wait a moment, you two are getting too agitated.”
Hikaru tried to pacify both sides.
However, Koremitsu and Shioriko would not budge as they glared at each other.
At this moment, Hikaru exclaimed,
“Ah! There's a grass snake on Shiiko's shoulder”
“Huh? Where's the snake!?”
Koremitsu's rage had yet to dissipate as he shouted.
Shioriko suddenly backed away.
She looked on her body and legs with a pale expression, and was yet unable to calm herself down as she continued to turn around, pat her hands, chest, shoulders and arms.
Koremitsu stared at her blankly for a while, and then muttered,
“There's a snake.”
Shioriko hurriedly retreated.
“On your right foot.”
Shioriko stamped her right foot hard with a sobbing expression.
“So you're scared of snakes?”
Upon hearing this, Shioriko's face reddened as she stared at Koremitsu.
“Th-That's not true.”
She retorted stiffly.
“When Shiiko was about five years old, she was sleeping at the veranda, and found a snake on her face when she woke up. Ever since then, she has been weak against long slithery things. When I treated her to broiled eel back then, it was the first time that she could not finish the food, and the way she was practically in tears really looked cute.”
“I see. So you can't take eels too.”
Shioriko glared at Koremitsu with much more ferocity, and said falteringly,
“Y-You heard that from Hikaru right? It-It's nothing. I can't eat something so pricey like eel, so it was a great help. I-I'm not too scared of s-snakes now.”
She was practically acting tough.
Hikaru continued to observe Shiiko with a grin on his face.
Thanks to him, Koremitsu was able to calm down.
And Koremitsu stared at the stiff Shioriko, telling her off with a calm tone.
“I say, I know about your family background somewhat from what Hikaru has told me, and it's not like I don't understand what you're thinking by using your body to earn money. Lying is a no-go however. How about delivering newspapers?”
Shioriko's body shuddered, and she lowered her head, saying,
“The law states that anyone younger than a 7th grader can't be hired.”
“And also... delivering newspapers alone is not going to be enough. I want more money.”
“I am opposed to that too! A pretty girl like Shiiko will be easily abducted if she has to deliver newspapers before dawn breaks. Ah, a fast food restaurant worker will not do either. The uniform may fit her, but there will be weird customers. If she works at a bookshop, it will be very physically demanding.”
(~~~This damned overprotective prince!!)
Koremitsu inadvertently frowned as he thought.
Upon seeing this, Shioriko pouted her lips in protest.
“What about the acting industry? Your acting skills are decent, so you should be able to be a child actor, right?”
Koremitsu personally felt it was a good idea.
Hikaru had already certified that this girl was one of those few rare beautiful girls, and she does have courage, so she should be able to deal with the entertainment world.
However, Shioriko showed a condescending look, seemingly not considering this proposal at all.
“A stupid dog is a stupid dog after all, huh? Are you only able to think at such a level? The earnings most child actors get are basically all drained by the managing companies. In fact, the money they get is merely a scrap of what I can do when I go sparrow hunting.”
She kicked the ground, and then said,
“My mom was scouted by a large agency when she was 13, and was supposed to become an idol star, but bore the child of some nameless guy, and died when she had me at 15 years old. Our family finances got worse after that, and as for me, I won't join the entertainment industry no matter how anyone tries to sweet talk me!”
Her eyes were glancing aside as she said this, her jaw lifted as her long twintails swung. She was full of vigor, and one could ostensibly see a tall grey mountain growing behind her.
Koremitsu, having heard of her harsh childhood, was rendered speechless; this nine-year-old girl then gave a wry smile, like a middle-aged man who had experienced the harsh realities of the world.
“Anyway, if I need to fully make use of my cuteness to lure these perverts and earn more money to survive, I'll have to catch those sparrows. You have to play your part as a good dog and obey your master's orders. If you become too much of a busybody, I'm going to send you to the boys home.”
“That's it for today. Or else I'll be late for the evening discount services.”
She trotted off brazenly with her backpack and her green pochette.
“Hey, Hikaru, this brat has no intention of changing her habits. I'd say, she's very stubborn even though she's in elementary school, no?”
“There's definitely a way! I can tell you all of Shiiko's weaknesses if you want.”
“Does she have any weaknesses other than snakes?”
“Shiiko's ears are very sensitive, and she finds it itchy when I just blow on it. Also, her drawing is atrocious; when she had to draw a sakura tree for her art assignment, it ended up looking like a pink black hole. When she is hungry, she will become limp, like her bones have melted away. Once, when I threw the carrot skin in the fridge away, she would act like a cat with its fur standing up, looking really angry saying that it was to be cooked, and never talked to me for 3 days. She likes Baumkuchen, and though she looks cute when peeling the cake layer by layer, it really is cloddish of her, very unlady-like, so I really hope she improves on this. Also, the reason why she has long hair is because she wants to cut it if there is a need for money, but she does not know that nobody in Japan buys real hair anymore. Being a huge fan of the character Jo in “Little Women”, she probably will be distraught if she knew about this, so I never told her about this.”
Koremitsu turned away from his friend.
(It's no use at all.)
The alley is gradually filled with the sunset light, shining through the gap between the buildings.
This 'one regret' Hikaru had was not something to be dealt with easily.
Koremitsu recalled the sight of Shioriko patting her shoulders with a sobbing look, glaring at him while pretending to be tough. Upon this, he muttered to himself,
“Well, I can only guide her through patience. You're right, she may be a little... cute, I guess.”
The next day, during break time.
Koremitsu was walking on the school corridor, reading a book 'How to raise a cat for first-timers'.
(—Unlike dogs, cats do not have the notion of servitude, and do not have the sense of duty to obey their masters' orders. For cats, the most important to them is—)
Hikaru moved beside him hesitantly saying,
“I am delighted that you are seriously concerned about Shiiko, but why are you reading this 'How to raise a at for first-timers' so enthusiastically?”
“Don't we have one at home?”
He frowned as he stared at a page intently, muttering back quietly.
“So you bought it for Lapis?”
“Yeah, but after I think about it, Lapis is smart and doesn't cause a fuss. Since I went to the bookstore to buy it, I thought I should make use of it. That brat is like a cat too.”
“Shiiko certainly resembles a cat, but...”
Hikaru stuttered as he muttered softly, prattling on, it certainly is a refreshing idea to to educate a girl just like training a cat...well, I did train Shiiko into an extremely alluring lady, not to act like a cat...
“I see. When cats do something bad, I have to immediately scold them loudly. Even if I scold them afterwards, it'll be completely useless. In contrast, if I yell at it and others see me do so, it'll revert back to being quiet and graceful—”
As Koremitsu was muttering to himself.
A shy voice called out at him unexpectedly that interrupted his reverie.
He stopped and lifted his head.
In front of him was Aoi Saotome, her face reddened as she smiled at him.
Her long flowing black hair was elegantly draped on her petite body, her black eyes were gentle and clear, and her tender white skin was crystal clear, giving a dazzling glow from within.
Koremitsu's expression naturally softened.
Perhaps it was because he realized that Hikaru, standing beside beside him, was giving Aoi such an expression too.
Aoi was Hikaru's childhood friend, and also his fiancee. When Hikaru was alive, Aoi always stated that she hated Hikaru, for she was incensed by his womanizing antics; however, once Hikaru did manage to pass on his feelings to her, she started to show such a gentle feminine appearance.
She, a princess-like pretty girl, would show a mature smile whenever they met recently, and she looked more alluring as a result.
Upon seeing Aoi, Koremitsu felt relaxed.
“It's rare to see you on the First Years' corridor.”
“Erm... I need to do some club work.”
She fidgeted as she lowered her head.
Koremitsu said, his face placid. Aoi then shyly lifted her face.
“Erm... Mr Akagi. Have you started raising a cat?”
She asked as she looked at the book in Koremitsu's hand.
“Ah, well... sort of.”
Back then, Koremitsu tried to open her heart and get on her good side by saying that he liked cats, and saved four kittens from drowning in a river. That was a lie however.
“Ah—well, cats are really troublesome, and I don't know what this cat is thinking. I've been trying to do this and that, but it just ran off looking very aloof. The moment I think it's a little obedient, it immediately raises its tail and hisses at me.”
Koremitsu was thinking about Shioriko, and not Lapis.
Aoi did not mention to Koremitsu that he once told her he was raising kittens.
“*Titter*, this is what makes them so cute. When you wonder where they disappear to, they suddenly appear right beside you, curled up.”
She tilted her head, showing a ladylike smile.
“I do know a shop that specializes in selling kitten toys and daily necessities. There are also many things like mouse plushies, felt balls and other things.”
“Heh~ such shops exist as well?”
“If you do not mind, do you want to check them out after school?”
Aoi stared at Koremitsu, seemingly interested in his reaction.
“Do you mind bringing me there?”
Once she saw that Koremitsu seemed extremely interested, Aoi immediately answered ‘Yes’.
Hikaru, standing beside Koremitsu was beaming brightly. He definitely must have been happy Aoi has become a lot more cheerful than before.
(This guy only has such an expression whenever he meets Aoi.)
Perhaps the gentle and sweet expression he showed was the reason why Koremitsu could forgive Hikaru's nonchalance of a young lord, seemingly not knowing the perils of the world.
Hikaru's pure feelings had slowly entranced Koremitsu's heart, causing the latter to show a more blissful expression that usual.
“Today after school then. Ah, you have club activities, right?”
“No, it is fine. The art club is on break today.”
Aoi hurriedly answered, and then blushed as she said,
“Erm... I have something to talk to you about... Mr Akagi.”
“What is it?”
“It is a little inconvenient to say so now... I will talk about it after school.”
After leaving this cryptic line, she immediately went away.
“What does she want to talk to me about?”
Hikaru too looked nonplussed.
At the same time—
Oumi Hiina was around a corner of the corridor, saying this as she held the cellphone in her hand.
“What exactly are they talking about here~? Mr Akagi's expression is so gentle. What is it all about then?~ Her Highness Aoi is saying those ambiguous words, being all shy here, you know~”
“Eh, you're kidding—didn't Her Highness Aoi dump Akagi before?”
Honoka Shikibu, standing at the same corner, gasped with a pale expression.
Earlier, in a moment of impulse, Honoka had expressed her feelings to Koremitsu, but for the past few days, she was being so overly conscious of it that she never spoke a single word to him.
She even hugged her pillow on her bed, muttering ‘What do I do?’, ‘Argh, I shouldn't have said it’, ‘Akagi's definitely depressed that Kanai just went to Australia. He definitely still misses her!’ while rolling on the bed.
However, he was being so amicable with Aoi a little while back.
“Isn't that an invitation to a date? Wow~ will there be a birth of a couple with such a vast difference in standings?”
Hiina's words caused Honoka's heart to skip a beat.
Birth of a couple!?
(But Akagi just broke up with Kanai... will he date someone else so quickly? Uu...but Akagi always liked Her Highness Aoi, and even pursued her so earnestly. Because he couldn't get her, he changed sights and focused on Kanai...)
That was not all.
Recently, there were rumors of Koremitsu with the upperclassman Tōjō staring at each other passionately on the corridor.
Michiru shouted ‘Mr Akagi has become gay with Upperclassman Tōjō on the corridor!’, she felt her legs quivering to the point of collapse.
Did he approach the upperclassman because he was overly shocked by the loss of Kanai?
Tōjō was a noble amongst the high school students, and there was a scandal of him being with Yū Kanai. He was intelligent, influential, and handsome; perhaps because they loved the same girl, they comforted each other over their loss, and developed that sort of relationship?
On the cellphone site managed by Honoka, there were numerous of such BL stories too!
—Did I just lose to a guy!!??
Honoka was dumbfounded, as if she took a hammer on the head.
No! That's impossible! There must be a misunderstanding here! With such a thought, Honoka waited for Koremitsu at the shoe locker, intending to ask him directly. But when she met him, her heart started to race again, and she had difficulty breathing.
(Never mind then!)
She then ran away.
Once she got home, she updated her blog, screaming “I was being too unnatural back then~~!”, spinning around the swivel chair she sat on.
But even so, she believed that Koremitsu would never end up dating with another man—
(And he got so close with Her Highness Aoi!!!)
Heian Academy includes all levels of educational institute, from kindergarten to college, and those who were in the school since kindergarten were called nobles. Aoi's family was highly prestigious amongst them. Her beauty and grace befitted her identity, and she could be said to be the flower on the peak.
There was no way Honoka, who only entered during Middle School, could compare with her.
(Her Highness Aoi's so happy that she's blushing when she's with Akagi. She definitely doesn't have any ill feelings towards him at all. If Her Highness Aoi falls for Akagi, there's no hope for me at all~. In that case, I would rather accept Akagi being together with Upperclassman Tōjō.)
She did not hear the words that were said innocently as she leaned at the wall around the corner, pondering.
Truthfully, she still had yet to fully comprehend her feelings for Koremitsu.
She felt it should be more or less love. But a contradictory mindset like ‘how can I possibly like such a person?’ lingered somewhere in her mind Recently, she would become so shy her face was practically on fire, her heart crammed with bittersweet feelings at times, sometimes frustrated to the point of wanting to punch a sandbag.
But when she saw Akagi converse with Aoi so cheerily, she felt her chest aching.
(That Akagi is an idiot! He's a delinquent scarier than a vengeful spirit, and he's now giving a girl such a gentle look!? That's a crime!!!)
(I can't seem to feel happy. No, that's probably just me...)
Koremitsu cringed his shoulders awkwardly as he stood in the pet shop Aoi often visited.
The shop had a fantasy vibe to it, with pink and aquamarine wallpapers in it, and the pet cases resembling that of candy houses were laid in a line. There were pet utensils with cute pictures, animal-shaped carpets, and all sorts of other things.
Aoi, who had the image of a reclusive princess, walked on as her long black hair swayed slightly, and the pleated skirt of her uniform swayed elegantly, her eyes sparkling as she walked on.
“Wah~ This kitty potty is so cute! Come and look, Mr Akagi! Once you use this cooling seat, it will feel a lot more comfy in the summer. Ah, my Shell Blue likes this extendable tunnel too. It likes to sneak in and out of it, but since it is a little pudgy, it sometimes gets stuck inside, but it still seems like it enjoys it. When it gets stuck in the tunnel, it will lie on the carpet and wait for me to pull it out; once I tell it to wait, it will hiss at me to protest.”
Aoi picked up one item after another, her face beaming as she spoke to Koremitsu.
If Koremitsu was simply a carefree high school boy, the sight of him together with Aoi would probably make them a couple who loves cat. His red hair, raised eyebrows, stiff expression, sharp glare, and grunts however made him practically a delinquent. The shop attendants and customers were giving them mystified looks, apparently unable to comprehend how the two of them were able to get together.
Back when they went to the theme park, Koremitsu was trying his best not to particularly mind them, for he was working his hardest in delivering the presents in Hikaru’s stead; Actually, he already knew Aoi and him were incompatible.
Are you an idiot!? You’ll definitely get dumped! It was no wonder Honoka had said that.
(Well, never mind. Aoi looks like she’s enjoying herself, and since Hikaru is happy too, I guess it doesn’t matter.)
Aoi was beaming, and Hikaru had a sweet smile on his face.
Hikaru’s expression towards Aoi was sweet and tender.
His lips were brimming with love.
His bliss seemingly transformed into particles of light, floating, dazzling around him. Even Koremitsu felt happiness upon seeing this.
(I really hope you can continue to maintain such an expression, Hikaru.)
(I hope you and Aoi can continue to smile like this.)
Feeling pleased, Koremitsu picked a toy mouse and the extendable tunnel Aoi had recommended for Lapis. They then entered a café.
Aoi poured a large amount of milk into her red tea, and glanced at the sugar pot by the side.
Koremitsu then took the sugar pot and placed it in front of her.
“You wanted some sugar, right?”
Aoi widened her eyes in surprise.
She smiled as she picked up the golden spoon, and added two spoonfuls of sugar.
Hikaru was seated beside Aoi, his hands supporting his cheeks as he stared at Aoi, his face beaming as sweet as sugar.
“I always find that it is very immature to add sugar in coffee or red tea, but I do like to drink sweet stuff.”
She whispered as she tried her best to blow and cool the red tea. She then took a sip.
She narrowed her eyes happily.
Hikaru too narrowed his eyes in a similar manner.
It felt as if Aoi, Hikaru and Koremitsu were seated at the same table, enjoying tea amicably.
(If Hikaru is still alive, maybe such a day could have occurred...)
To drink with his friend and his friend’s love—the three of them.
If that were to happen, Koremitsu would definitely be intolerant about this loving couple, grumbling ‘stop flirting in front of me now!’ while feeling that warmth, that happiness.
But Hikaru’s physical body was no longer present.
Only Koremitsu could see Hikaru, the latter giving a blissful look at Aoi.
Once Koremitsu noticed a tinge of sadness in Hikaru’s eyes however, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his chest.
The happy feeling he experienced just a little while back vanished, and what replaced it was a pain throughout his body. Wanting to shake off the pain, he asked,
“Oh yeah, what is it you want to talk to me about?”
Aoi’s shoulders suddenly jumped once she heard that, and she lowered her head as she started to look a little fidgety.
Hikaru seemed a little worried.
“Well... Big Brother Shungo.”
Ah, that’s right. Koremitsu remembered that Hikaru did once mention before that Shungo Tōjō was Aoi’s cousin, and Aoi always called him ‘big brother Shungo’.
After much hesitation, Aoi took a few gasps, seemingly panting, and then tentatively lifted her head to mutter,
“Did Big Brother... say something to you?”
“Oh, Tōjō did call for me when I was on the corridor. Well, what he said was weird.”
Because of that, he was deemed as gay by everyone else.
Upon recalling this, Koremitsu frowned and squirmed. The cup beside Aoi’s hand suddenly rattled.
“I-It’s all just Big Brother’s misunderstanding!”
Aoi frantically argued.
(Misunderstanding? What misunderstanding? Is it the rumor that Tōjō confessed to me? That’s a misunderstanding.)
“Big Brother may seem rational and stoic, but he is actually quite clumsy. He is thinking too much this time... I already told him ‘that is definitely not the case’.”
“Definitely not the case?”
(About me being gay?)
“It-It’s nothing! Anyway, please do not believe what Big Brother said!”
Aoi started to panic, her face blushing all over, her lips squirming.
On the other hand, Koremitsu had yet to understand what Aoi was saying.
(Is she worried about her cousin because there’s a rumor between him and me?)
Koremitsu wondered silently.
Hikaru too stared at Aoi in surprise. He fixated his stare upon Aoi’s eyes, seemingly wanting to affirm her thoughts.
Aoi’s hands were on her face as she lowered her head.
“A-And so... it is not really a discussion, but an explanation... there is something important I want to talk with you.”
Her voice was teeny-weeny.
“I want to talk about Hikaru... something Asa said that made me concerned.”
Hikaru’s expression changed again.
His expression seemed a little stiffer than before.
“What did Saiga say?”
Koremitsu’s tone too became serious.
Aoi’s head remained lowered as she spoke with doubt,
“Love... was what killed Hikaru—”
Koremitsu felt something strangling him.
Aoi lifted her head tentatively, and beside her, Hikaru was looking into space with a gloomy expression.
It seemed she wanted to rid herself of the melancholy in her heart as she said,
“Hikaru definitely died of an accident...but from what Asa said, there may be another reason. When the phone message was passed around, stating that Hikaru was murdered, I just felt it was some prank, but after hearing what Asa had said, I am starting to wonder whether it was an accident...because Asa understands things more than I do...”
Hikaru frowned, his expression gloomier by the second. Upon seeing this reaction Koremitsu inadvertently felt his chest ache and his ears rumble.
Did Hikaru really die from an accident?
Koremitsu too had always wondered about this. Whenever this topic was raised, Hikaru would often change the topic, show the same gloomy expression, and remain silent.
It is still not time for me to tell you some things—Hikaru had once told him that; he too had yet to sort himself out, and if he said so, he would definitely feel troubled.
That was why Koremitsu chose not to take the initiative and ask him about this.
He wanted to wait until the day Hikaru wanted to say so.
But Aoi did not know Hikaru was listening in on them.
Would he allow Aoi to continue on with her words in front of Hikaru?
Certainly, Hikaru must have felt arduous hearing his fiancée talk about his death, no?
And so, while seemingly wanting to stop Aoi from continuing, Koremitsu exclaimed,
“I have a question regarding the kitten potty!”
Aoi stopped talking.
She widened her eyes, looking dumbfounded; Hikaru too was the same. Koremitsu was ostensibly panting as he continued,
“A-About...the kitty potty sand... how often do I change it?”
“E-Erm...it is not actually changing the sand, but rather, replenishing it if you find that it is too little...”
Aoi answered blankly,
“I see? So there’s no need to change it all and swap for a new one?”
Koremitsu again raised his voice.
But then, he suddenly noticed the surrounding customers looking at them.
“I was too loud... sorry.”
Koremitsu retreated back.
“Well... there’s no need to worry that much about Hikaru. Hikaru definitely doesn’t hope for you to be so frustrated and anguished even after his death. Why don’t you paint a very handsome portrait of Hikaru? He’ll definitely be delighted with that.”
Aoi showed a sobbing expression as she clasped her hands, seemingly unable to accept this resolution completely.
“I guess so.”
But she forced a smile.
“...thank you, Koremitsu.”
Hikaru too was looking at Koremitsu gratefully.
“Ah, but though you do not have to clean up the cat’s faeces, if the potty itself is not kept clean, the kitten will pester you to hurry with the cleaning.”
Aoi tried her best to sound optimistic as she reminded him.
Suddenly, the phone in Koremitsu’s pocket rang.
He pulled it out, and immediately frowned.
It was from Shioriko. While Koremitsu wanted to pick up the call a little later, he was a little cornered.
He stood up and ran to the toilet, pressing the dial button on the way there.
The sobbing voice immediately reached his ears.
“Dog! Come over now! Come save me!”
After apologizing to Aoi, Koremitsu dashed out of the café and towards the location Shioriko described while sobbing.
She abruptly hung up midway through the call, and there seemed to be something urgent.
“Koremitsu, hurry!” Hikaru too looked anxious as he prodded Koremitsu on.
(Damn it! She’s definitely doing sparrow hunting again! I should have been stricter with her yesterday!)
Koremitsu’s mind was filled with terrifying images, to a point where his stomach was churning in pain.
He kept praying that she would be alright as she arrived at the dark warehouse, and found a middle-aged man dressed in a suit pressing upon Shioriko.
Hikaru’s face immediately paled.
“Hey! You lolicon!”
Koremitsu grabbed the man by the collar, dragged him away from Shioriko, kneed him in the abdomen, and sent another punch.
“Wahh! Wait, I'm...”
“Shut up! Scram!”.
The man ran off with a nosebleed.
“Hey! You alright!”
Koremitsu carried Shioriko as he asked anxiously, only to receive a slap on his face.
Shioriko curled her lips as she glared at him in his arms.
She was the one supposedly attacked, yet she seemed so lively.
She was completely unscathed however, her bag was still on her back, the grass green pochette was dangling nicely, and she only had two buttons on her blouse undone.
(Eh? Wasn't she crying when she called?)
Just when Koremitsu was feeling skeptical...
“You stupid dog!”
The first thing she did was to lambast him.
And then, she yelled at him from up close.
“You released the sparrow I wanted to get medical fees from! You have to demand for medical fees and get what I want before acting cool and calling someone else to scram! And you don't have the collar on! You're completely useless!”
“D-Didn't you ask me to save you...”
Shioriko pushed Koremitsu aside with her little hands, and stood up, snorting,
“I called you out thinking that a stupid dog can be used as an expendable tool even if it can't catch a single sparrow, but you ruined my plans twice.”
I got fooled—
Koremitsu finally understood the situation, and was seething in anger as a result.
“It-It is fine, Koremitsu. It's good that Shiiko is okay.”
Upon realizing that Koremitsu was utterly furious, Hikaru hurriedly said so to pacify him.
However, Koremitsu's rage was beyond the roof.
He clenched his fist and got up.
This growl was so loud it shook the tall walls of the warehouse, causing Shioriko to retreat back in shock.
Koremitsu brought his face to the terrified Shioriko, his eyebrows raised, his temples bulging, his eyes red as he yelled,
“It's because you asked for help while crying that I'm so worried! Don't toy with other people's hearts like that! Kids should go back home and do their homework once they're done with school! You damned brat!”
Upon hearing that, Shioriko's eyes too showed rage.
Her wide eyes showed a sharp glare, and just as Koremitsu was startled, she suddenly reached her slender arms and grabbed his face.
Though she was a kid, it would hurt a lot to be scratched on the face, and his face was left sizzling as a result.
One could describe the feeling as eating red hot chili peppers.
“I'm not a kid!!!”
Shioriko yelled agitatedly.
Koremitsu knelt down with his hands covering his face, his sweating eyes looking through the gaps between his fingers. he found Shioriko gritting her teeth, glaring, showing a depressed look for some reason.
“Don't lecture me, you stupid dog!”
She screamed, kicked Koremitsu in the belly, and ran off with the red bag and green pochette in tow.
“Ugh~ if I'm a stupid dog, you're a crazy cat!”
Koremitsu finally released his hands from his face, ostensibly having bitten on the red chili, and Hikaru then gave a skeptical look as he looked away, muttering,
“Eh... Koremitsu, your face looks a little manlier than usual.”
The next morning.
Koremitsu was a lot more furious than usual as he trudged the dirt path leading to school.
There were bruises on the areas Shioriko scratched, and several lines were on his face, making it really intriguing.
It was no wonder then that such a face would garner so much attention.
The other students proceeding to school were startled upon seeing Koremitsu, peeked at him curiously, and then exchanged some words with each other.
“Argh, it's that damn brat's fault that I'm getting much more attention.”
Koremitsu grumbled softly, and Hikaru, following beside him, said,
“They will recover soon. I think it is a trendy thing to have scratch marks on the face.”
“Trendy!? Yeah right! I'm not a zebra! If you find it trendy, have scratches all over your body!”
Hikaru was clearly intimidated.
“Can't you change your clothes at will!? Change into a tightsuit with stripes all over it, or you might as well turn yourself naked and paint yourself pink and green!”
Despite Koremitsu being the only one able to see it, such outlandish dress-ups was still beyond Hikaru's acceptance. Thus, he stammered, unable to reply.
“Humph, so you're giving an embarrassed look now, huh? Control yourself with whatever you say.”
“No, your face is not to a point of being embarrassing. Ah...”
Hikaru suddenly stopped.
Koremitsu assumed that Hikaru was trying to avoid the subject of the stripes, but found the latter staring at the grass by the riverbank.
“...African Lilies. They were not here the last time... who grew them here...?”
Koremitsu looked over at where Hikaru was staring at, and found a stretch of thin, long green leaves glittering under the sunlight, their stems straightened, and their tips budding with purple-blue flowers. The flowers were small, but they were closely packed, like a bouquet or an umbrella.
Hikaru stared at the flowers with melancholy, and with an earnest expression, he floated to the flowers and patted them gently with tender loving care.
“When I was young... I always thought this flower was the reincarnation of the Wisteria flowers. After the Wisteria flowers landed, new Wisterias will grow again... the floral language of this flower is 'news of love'... or... lover...”
Hikaru stood in the cool morning sun, muttering with a depressed look and hollow eyes; he was practically an elegant prince in a portrait. Koremitsu, with stripes all over his face,
Could only answer this.
He said unhappily to Hikaru, and just when he was about to drag the latter away from the flowers, he found Honoka coming from the back.
Koremitsu immediately covered his striped face with his bag, for it would be too embarrassing to let Honoka see it. He walked sideways like a crab, intending to hide from Honoka.
But she still discovered him.
Koremitsu greeted with a deep voice as he guarded his face with his bag.
“Why're you covering your face with the bag?”
Honoka only gave a quick glance, so she had yet to discover the scratches on Koremitsu's face.
Koremitsu answered gawkily as he walked on,
“The sun's too bright.”
Honoka lifted her head to look at the sun and frowned skeptically. She then lowered her head and said,
“I'd say, did you go out on a date with Her Highness Aoi yesterday?”
“I saw you with her.”
Honoka's tone was so terse his heart jumped.
“No-Not at all. It wasn't a date. It's my first time raising a cat, so I asked her for some suggestions.”
Koremitsu's voice was shrill as he sweated profusely.
(Why am I so anxious in explaining this to her!? Damn it, Hikaru! Stop looking at the flowers so reluctantly!)
He glared at Hikaru, and hastened his pace.
Hikaru could not move more than 3m away from Koremitsu, and could only float beside him as he reluctantly looked back at the African Lilies over and over again.
(Ugh~got to reach the classroom fast!)
Koremitsu's hand was gradually fatigued due to the bag he raised. Suddenly, Honoka looked up at him, and smiled.
Koremitsu spotted Honoka's smiling face from the edge of his bag, and was inadvertently dumbfounded.
Honoka's tone became cheery.
“There's nothing to hide, right? You must be getting on well with Her Highness Aoi, right? There is no way she will go out with a guy she has no feeling for, let alone walk in the pet shop. You took a long detour, but your feelings have finally reached her. Since you said you never needed another woman, you didn't put my efforts as your Heliotrope to waste. Ah, I still have to update my blog. I'll be going then.”
“Wait, Miss Shikibu! Koremitsu was being nice to Miss Aoi because I requested him...!”
Hikaru probably felt that he should bear some responsibility, and wanted to call Honoka.
However, Koremitsu grabbed Honoka by the arm instantaneously.
Honoka turned back in surprise.
Hikaru too widened his eyes.
Koremitsu glared at the startled Honoka, and adamantly clarified,
“There's nothing between Aoi and me!”
Honoka shivered again.
(Why am I so furious about this!)
Honoka stared at Koremitsu skeptically, and then asked with intrigue,
“Erm... what happened to your face?”
“Ignore my face! Don't mention it! Pretend that nothing happened!”
“How am I going to pretend that I never saw those scratch marks!”
“Don't mention that!!!”
Koremitsu inadvertently roared, and all Hikaru could do was to put her hand on her face with a sorry expression.
“An-Anyway, don't say such things while looking like you're about to cry!”
Honoka's face immediately flushed, and she hurriedly waved off Koremitsu's hand.
“I-I-I-I-I-I-I'm not crying at all!! Why am I crying for someone like you so early in the morning!?”
“Not my fault that you look that way! Your eyes are already all soaked, and your mouth's raised!”
“Why're you uttering your own illusions there! That's irritating! A-A-A-A-A-And, don't touch a girl by the arm so casually!”
She grabbed the arm Koremistu held, glared at him with a feeble yet forced expression, and immediately turned to run off.
“Sigh, what a throbbing development this is.”
“How unfortunate. If your face has none of those scratches, you will definitely be more handsome. Girls do pay particular mind to them, so you might want to challenge again once the stripes disappear, for Miss Shikibu's sake. It will be too unromantic for them if a male confesses to them with scratch marks on his face.”
“Hey, you just mentioned 'scratch marks' three times! And I wasn't confessing!”
“Eh? You were not?”
Hikaru blinked a few times in surprise, and Koremitsu suddenly felt his face sizzle as he hurriedly turned around and walked away.
“Idiot, how can that be possible?”
“Did you not grab Miss Shikibu by the arm because you did not want her to misunderstand the situation between you and Miss Aoi?”
“And you have already viewed Miss Shikibu as a girl, no?”
(That's because she really looked like she's about to cry, and I got really depressed..)
“I'm just scared of seeing girls cry.”
Once Koremitsu casted out these words, Hikaru again blinked in surprise.
Koremitsu's face felt hotter.
(My mom cried and said 'sorry' to me over and over again...)
“When I see that expression, my chest just feels unbearable... I feel like shouting 'idiot, stop crying!'...that was simply the reason why I stopped Shikibu, not because I like her.”
His heart ached simply by saying these words, and a melancholic mist engulfed him.
Koremitsu was most afraid to see girls cry or at least close to crying, and could not leave them alone.
Hikaru then pondered like a philosopher, and said,
“It does not matter how many reasons you give, for I feel the most important reason behind your actions is that they are driven by your own heart... that really surprised me though. Sometimes, I really wonder whether you are being wise or dull.”
“I said that's not it already!”
He found more students as he walked on the dirt path. He kept quiet and arrived in front of the shoe locker.
Honoka, who had just ran off, was standing beside the shoe locker, her back facing the door.
Upon seeing this, Hikaru said,
“You see? Miss Shikibu is waiting for you. She must have been wanting to apologize to you 'sorry for saying those harsh things to you', or something like that.”
“Really...?” Koremitsu felt a little skeptical.
However, Honoka seemed to be acting a little strange.
It was a rare sight as more and more people gathered on the corridor, everyone seemingly looking at something.
On a closer look, he found a report stuck on the wall.
And once he looked at the details, he was taken aback.
“The Delinquent King is a Lolicon!”
This title was printed in large font on the report.
He read the article with trepidation, sweating more profusely by the moment as his body heated up.
On it was the title 'A certain High School freshman A, hailed as the Delinquent King, has an affair with a grade-school girl in the warehouse?' What!? There was also an attached photo of what looked like Koremitsu, whose eyes were blacked out, hugging (or what looked like it) a girl carrying a school bag.
Someone must have taken a photo of him picking Shioriko up the previous day.
“After that, A angered the cute kitty and got scratched on the face. Will A and the cute kitty get on good terms again? This reporter shall continue to keep track.”
And such a thing was written!
(Anyone can tell that it's me in the photo!! And they call me a lolicon—!!!!)
“Koremitsu, calm down, calm down, calm down, calm...”
Hikaru repeated the same line nervously.
Koremitsu pushed Hikaru and the human wall aside.
“It's the lolicon!”
“A loli-loving delinquent!”
Mutterings could be heard everywhere; the students moved aside without waiting for Koremitsu to take action, giving him vague expressions in response.
(Wait, what am I scared about?)
Koremitsu started to approach Honoka.
But she lifted her head furiously.
“I can think of oedipus, homo love, large breasts or maid fetishes as personal freedom... but I definitely won't forgive pedophila! You're the worst!” Her slender leg sliced through the air, and landed right in Koremitsu's solar plexus.
Koremitsu knelt on the floor as he bent forward.
“Lolicons are disgusting!”
Such hushed denunciations were then heard.
Afterwards, Koremitsu encountered something unpleasant.
Koremitsu went to Hiina Oumi of the news club, who wrote the report, to protest but she did not seem to be concerned as she answered,
“I did receive information that Mr Akagi was to date Her Highness Aoi after school, so I followed. Though the date's atmosphere was so nice, you actually ran out of the café suddenly, Mr Akagi. What exactly happened? Ah, right, what exactly is the charm of lolis? From what age did you start to have such a preference?”
She even took the initiative to ask further questions.
And on the corridor, he met his hated enemy—the student council president Asai Saiga—and she too gave a look of disgust, saying,
“I never expected that you would be a lolicon. I suppose I should call for the elementary school students not to approach you within 5 meters.”
Even Aoi was critical of him.
“You said that a relative was looking for you when you went off yesterday, and yet you went to see the girl on the photo? I did not know you would say such lies! I really hate those who lie.”
Tōjō however gave him some advice,
“I heard that you like young girls. While I am relieved somewhat, be careful not to do anything illegal.”
And the braided class rep placed her hands behind her back, teary-eyed as she backed away, saying,
“I-I-I-I-I always believed in you, Mr Akagi! I really didn't think you're a lolicon! Or that you like a loli! Or that you'll pant hard when you see a loli.”
Honoka, seated beside him, was staring at the cellphone like it was a close friend, typing away,
“Uu... so Her Highness Aoi, Kanai and Upperclassman Tōjō are all smokescreens to hide his anomaly.”
She grumbled regretfully.
Occasionally, she would turn towards Koremitsu, her eyebrows slightly frowned, looking somewhat angry, confounded and about to break into tears. However, she would immediately raise her eyebrows and continue staring at the phone, saying,
“There's no hope for someone who's into pedophilia.”
This prickly situation continued on until the end of school.
“Today... I finally experienced social death.”
Koremitsu's already slouched body was slouched further more as he trudged his way out of school. With a quiet tone, Hikaru said,
“I have been wondering, does the term loliquent sound like a delinquent with a loli fetish, or a delinquent that looks like a loli.”
“You bastard!! You were thinking about such stupid things when I was being criticized and laughed at!!!?”
“But the term loliquent really sounds weird.”
Koremitsu really had the urge to stuff this ghost bastard, who was saying such utter nonsense with a serious look on his face, into a vase and throw it far away.
At that moment, the cellphone in his pocket vibrated.
Hikaru stood beside him, glancing at the screen display, and immediately frowned.
“Is the 'Damned brat' here Shiiko?”
He spat, and brought the phone to his ears, saying,
“I won't believe your fake crying again.”
“A mere dog dares to be this arrogant!? I still haven't forgiven you for treating me as a kid!”
Shioriko answered arrogantly with that cute voice of hers.
(You damn brat. You're small and flat-chested. Anyone will say that you're still a brat in elementary school!)
Just when Koremitsu was about to answer so, she snorted,
“I want you to know that I'm no ordinary kid. I'm going to give you a chance to get rid of your tag as a stupid dog! Come with me! This sparrow is on a different level from the rest! It's a monster!”
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