Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Itakoro:Volume5 Epilogue
Epilogue: The Secret the Two of Us Made That Summer
"So-so-so-so-sorry about that, Miss Tayū. I made you my stand-in, and I ran away at the end."
Having heard the message from Mr. Polar Star's friend, Beni sent a message to her friend, Ayaka Tayū, for them to meet at the park next to the shop, and was scratching her head.
"Goodness. After you ran out of the shop with that savage looking boy, I was the one who attracted the most attention after that. That's really embarrassing when I think about it."
Tayū puffed her cheeks as she said this, her eyes looking up as she seemed fidgety,
"But well, leaving aside that, I was dragged out without knowing what's going on, and even exposed myself as the cover. Sp-speaking of which, Beni, I didn't know anything about what that boy said, like making a blog, using a blog name like Saffron. It was only until I was asked to be your cover that I knew about all that...erm, do you find someone like me to be annoying, Beni?"
The usual feisty sun Tayū was actually showing such a feeble look, and now that she had expressed her fear of being deemed annoying, Beni was shocked and anxious.
"Tha-th-th-th-that's not the case at all. An ugly and ordinary girl like me can't be compared to you, Miss Tayū. I posted on the blog, pretending to be a rich princess using the name Saffron, and even asked you to be my stand-in. I-I think that I'm the one being looked down."
"Beni, you say that you're pretending to be a princess, but aren't you a princess yourself? You were already of a higher social status than me since the affiliated kindergarten, your dad's a Gagaku musician, a former noble himself, right? You live in that kind of a spacious mansion too. As for me, I'm a commoner who transferred in during middle school, There's no way I can be compared with you! It's like the Meiji Era in that people do always talk about social statuses, right?"
Beni in turn was getting confused,
"Bu-but my father died a long time ago, and my status as a noble has already became nothing. I treasured the bag father left behind because I needed to scrimp, and though my house's large, there's a lot of broken places after many years of not maintaining them. Ah, it'll leak sometimes too—you don't have to worry about family backgrounds, Miss Tayū...aren't you able to get along with those princesses?"
After hearing that, Tayū bashfully replied,
"But that's because of you, Tayū. I'm just the daughter of an employee at a SMC, and I had to go study at a school full of princesses. I wondered whether I would be the only one different from the rest, whether I would be able to make a single friend. I was really uneasy on my first day to school. After that, I found that you were reading the same book as me, Beni, so I let it slip."
—That book! I'm reading it too!
Tayū widened her eyes on the first day she entered the middle school, and excitedly approached Beni, who was in a corner of the classroom, reading the book.
Then, she took out a book with the same cover, looking delighted as she grinned,
—Thank goodness I have someone with the same interests! I'm Ayaku Tayū! Just call me Tayū! What's yours?
At first, Tayū looked as if she was completely fearless, not apprehensive of anything. Was she truly not feeling nervous however?
She stared right at Beni in the eyes while the latter was shocked, ostensibly unable to breathe, and said sternly,
"To me, that was like a fated meeting!"
Her nose was buzzing, and started to sizzle.
She never thought that she would ever have a fated moment.
Only her deceased father had ever viewed her as a unique child.
However, Mr. Polar Star's friend did say this.
That she was rather cute.
And that if Mr. Polar Star was on Earth, he definitely would say the same thing, for he truly loved Beni.
There was someone other than her father who would truly love her, and there was someone who would find Beni, who tried to hide her presence amidst the lively, pretty girls.
And so, she believed Tayū's words.
"That was like a fated meeting!"
Surely, there would be fated meetings in friendship too.
Tayū held Beni's hands tightly, staring at her. Beni could feel a tense atmosphere.
Her father and Mr. Polar Star had both said that the tip of her nose would redden when she was cute but even so, Beni said,
"So-sorry to make you be my stand in! Le-let's go eat at Mr. McDonalds."
A few hours after he bid farewell to Saffloer.
Saffloer sent an image to Koremitsu’s cellphone.
There was a photo of both Saffloer and Saffron holding burgers over their heads, smiling heartily as they took a photo together.
"It really is a great thing to be able to have friends."
Koremitsu and Hikaru closed in on the cellphone screen. Both their voices were full of life.
However, there was still an unresolved doubt in Koremitsu's heart.
Upon thinking about that, he scowled.
(What do I do...about Shikibu...? Invite her to the pool again...? But she told me 'never mind already', and won't be willing to go with me again...it's so noisy down there too...I don't think it'll be suitable for some serious topics.)
Hikaru watched Koremitsu frown and wince in anguish, and chimed in,
"Koremitsu, you are thinking about Miss Shikibu, right?"
"Ack, you know how to read hearts?"
"I do not have to. You have clearly expressed your thoughts on your face."
So my expression can be read so easily. Koremitsu muttered.
"Would it not be a good idea to discuss this with me instead of bottling it up and frowning? I do know and understand about girls better than you after all."
Hikaru stared at Koremitsu with an earnest, gentle expression.
"I wish to repay you as much as I can while I am still on this world." Koremitsu recalled the words Hikaru said.
"Just as you fulfilled for me one promise after another, I want to repay you with what I can do, within my capabilities."
"I-I'll leave it to you..."
Koremitsu said in a teeny-weeny voice, his cheeks searing, his sweat dripping, as he ostensibly struggled.
Hikaru raised his lips and cheeks, heartily responding,
"Sure. Leave it to me."
(Why's Akagi asking me out now...?)
It was 9pm, and they were to meet at the back gate of the school—
At first, Honoka assumed it to be a prank when she received the message.
That someone posed himself as Koremitsu and invited him out.
However, she really could not think of another who would do such a thing. After she replied back, she was certain that it was Koremitsu.
(I got jealous and started that commotion. I thought I wouldn't receive any of Akagi's messages again.)
Honoka's feelings for Koremitsu were one-sided, but back then, she grumbled that she never had an advantage compared to the other girls, 'ahh, it's alright!' and ran off. What sort of expression should she show in the new semester? Perhaps she should transfer schools after all. She brooded over this issue for quite some time.
As the Purple Princess, she would respond to the issues of girls who had failed in their love affairs with answers like,
"I can understand what you are thinking, but you have to calm down and think. You are just throwing out your thoughts, and not refreshing yourself in the slightest. You will simply be drowned in your own thoughts."
"Before you go crazy, calm your inner heart. Think about whether it's good or bad for your love. If not, you might start some crazy mess."
"You definitely~ mustn't say those words! You won't dare see his face again! That'll definitely be a failed love!"
And so, she became pessimistic..
Let's continue to compose a sweet story within the world of fiction. When writing the sequel to her cellphone novel, Takuma, who was supposed to be the lovey-dovey partner of the heroine Natsuno, suddenly confessed to the prettiest girl in school, and had lost interest in Natsuno.
"You don't care about me anymore!?"
"It's impossible for us to be together."
And broke up with Takuma.
"My heart aches after reading this. I still like seeing Takuma and Natsuno being in love with each other."
"Takuma actually likes a girl other than Natsuno!? I don't want this!"
"Even if it's for the sake of the plot, please don't change the character's personality like that! Takuma definitely won't say something like that!"
This depressing ending caused the readers to send scathing remarks.
And the source of her regrets and outrage, Koremitsu, sent her a message. It was to be expected that she thought it was a prank.
She stared at the message for about half an hour.
(What do I do? I think I better go. But these words alone are too short! I don't know what Akagi's thinking at all—!!!)
Did Koremitsu not think of Honoka's outburst as a big deal, or was he itching to shoot back some verbal barbs at her?
(Ahh—uuuu, if I'm to see Akagi today, I'll probably be nagging at him! Won't he hate me even more then?)
But even so, Honoka was not looking forward to apologizing on her own will, and then repeating the same embarrassing happenings over and over again.
(Yeah. I should have taken a step back now since the time Akagi dragged me out and told me off. I have to become the cool Miss Shikibu that's the ally of all girls. I can't continue to be flustered in front of a guy and be an annoying woman who shouts whatever she has on her mind...)
That was the case.
And so, she ended up worried all day long, rumbling about on the chair, spinning about, even though she definitely was not to become like that...
(And...and I came after all.)
And so, at 9 pm sharp, Honoka was at a corner of the school wall, observing the back gate of the school, where they were supposed to meet.
She was dressed in school uniform.
It was summer, and the weather was still very hot. The sweat felt a little unbearable sticking on her skin.
(What now? Akagi's not around? Is this some kind of prank after all...?)
Suddenly, someone tapped her on the shoulder from behind.
She instinctively raised her leg, and spun her body around.
She struck her leg out, but was grabbed by the shoe.
"That was close."
Sighing in front of her with a tense look was Koremitsu.
And Honoka's cheeks were quickly burning.
Her voice was rising.
"Let go of your hand!"
Koremitsu's face too went red as he let go of the hand grabbing her leg.
Honoka raised her eyebrows, and looked aside,
"Well, Shikibu, thanks for coming."
Koremitsu spoke stiffly.
Honoka in turn continued to look aside,
"...I didn't come because I want to. It's just that I'm a little curious, so I just came by to have a look...what do you want to do at such a late time?"
"About the pool, let's go there again, Shikibu. Ju-just the two of us! I want to go with you.."
Koremitsu tried his best to say these words.
Stunned, Honoka stared at Koremitsu.
The feisty red-haired classmate of hers was trying his best to look serious as he conveyed his voice, staring at her sternly. Suddenly, her heart was racing.
And at the same time, she felt incredulous.
"We're going to the pool now? Isn't it already closed? I didn't bring a swimsuit when I came up..."
But because Koremitsu grabbed Honoka by the hand immediately, she was at a loss of words.
(My hand! Akagi's grabbing my hand—)
She had never held hands with a boy ever since she entered high school, save the folk dance lessons they had to take.
And also, the hand grabbing her, not letting go, was uneven and rigid. It was Koremitsu's.
Koremitsu probably felt embarrassed by this too as he turned his face aside.
"You don't need a swimsuit now."
"No need? W-wait—Akagi!"
Koremitsu held Honoka by her hand as he walked to the back gate.
The back gate was locked, but Koremitsu immediately took the key out from his gym pants, and opened it.
"Eh? But how?"
Honoka widened her eyes.
With Honoka's hand still in his, Koremitsu marched into the school.
"Why do you have the key with you?"
"...I borrowed it."
"Eh? From who?"
"From someone who always claimed that he could be forgiven for anything no matter what he does."
In fact, the one who handed the spare back gate key to Koremitsu was Tsuyako.
That was something Hikaru used when he was alive, and Tsuyako handed it to Koremitsu.
"I suppose you heard about the key from Hikaru?"
"And you wish to borrow the key from me for Miss Shikibu's sake?"
After hearing such a steadfast response, Tsuyako let out a sweet sigh.
"Miss Shikibu really does have it good there, does she not?"
She muttered, and handed the key to Koremitsu. But before that,
"Let me cast a spell."
She kissed the key with her soft red lips—
Hikaru never made any mention of how many events had passed before it landed in his possession.
However he forced a refreshing smile,
"I can be forgiven by anyone no matter what I do."
He merely answered.
"What do you mean by that? I don't get what you're saying at all! Speaking of which, i-isn't this an illegal entry of the school? If we're caught, there's going to be another commotion. We'll probably be suspended or something."
"We'll talk about that later."
"That's too reckless! Also, is the pool you're talking about not the one we went that time, but the school pool?"
"Why the school poooooollllllll—!?"
Honoka was in an utter state of confusion as she let Koremitsu hold her hand and guide her into the school.
(I don't know what's going on at all!)
The hand that was being held was scorching, her face was scorching, and even her head was. It felt as if she had a sunstroke.
In the garden filled with lush greenery the branches and leaves swaying with the breeze, the clear moonlight was the only thing lighting their path, and she was ostensibly stuck in the middle of a forest, letting a red-haired sharp-eyed man drag her hand forward.
And so, they finally arrived at the poolside, surrounded by the fence.
"Okay, let's leap over."
Koremitsu let go of Honoka's hand as he stepped on the fence, and easily climbed it like a monkey. He stood at the topmost part, looked down at Honoka, and reached his hand out to her.
Koremitsu's face and body seemed more fearsome, more masculine under the clear moonlight. Glittering were his messy red hair and the sweat on his temples.
"Uuu, this is ridiculous."
Having given up on this, Honoka started climbing the fence one step at a time.
She never saw Koremitsu smile once, but upon seeing the corner of his lips, even if it was just for a short instant, she felt moved, and her cheeks slightly reddened.
Both of them landed beside the pool. The pool surface in the night looked like the looming darkness, ripples forming one layer after another under the gentle summer breeze.
Unlike the day, it gave a radiant, mysterious vibe.
Koremitsu caught his breath as he marveled at the moonlight reflection, and shyly said,
"..With this now, it's just the two of us."
—I really wanted to go to the pool alone with you, Akagi.
(Did I really say that?)
Was that why he brought her to this place?
Doubts rose into Honoka's heart.
Koremitsu, who was always a step slow understanding a girl, knowing how to make her happy, and never considered about such things, clearly put in much effort coming up with this plan.
Let's go to the pool then! This promise will be fulfilled.
He was that clumsy, yet so hardworking.
Her heart raced, and she was sweating.
(What do I do? It feels like I still like Akagi after all!)
She had already thought of giving up on him before this, and yet after all these events, she found herself liking him more.
(I guess I'll get more jealous in the future. Akagi's really a hopeless cause for being unaware of such things.)
If she wanted to run away, this was the only chance.
I never thought you're this kind of barbarian who never thinks this through, she did not say. What was I doing up till yesterday? If I'm to force myself to say something, I'll probably get laughed at.
"It's just the two of us after all."
However, Honoka said with a refreshed feeling.
"Thanks, Akagi! I'm really delighted to be able to go to the pool with you alone during the summer vacation!"
She was really delighted, for it was a plan Koremitsu came up with for Honoka's sake.
She was really happy that he was able to remember her words.
At this point, she probably was unable to express her joy into words, but it was fine. It was impossible for her not to fall in love with Koremitsu.
Koremitsu looked dumbfounded as he widened his eyes at her, and then, his eyes wavered about.
"Well, yeah, that's because I had a promise with you."
That dimwitted aspect of his too throbbed Honoka's heart.
"Ahh, if only I brought my swimsuit."
"Wait? You still want to swim?"
"Eh, but if we're coming to the pool, we're definitely here to swim, right? If you had said so before this, I would have brought my swimsuit along too."
"Is it that one with little fabric?"
As Koremitsu frowned,
"Eh...you do remember about it after all?"
She said, somewhat pleased as her eyes swimmed.
"R-rather than that...I'll say it's etched in my mind...how can I forget about such a thing?"
Honoka's face was flushed red with a poof.
(Wh-what? Akagi was looking unconcerned before that, but he did look at my swimsuit seriously? And he even remembered it? I'm really happy, but it's very embarrassing! But, I'm still happy; no no no, it's very embarrassing! But, but!)
Her body was heating up rapidly, and she was completely confused.
"I guess I want a swim after all."
She jumped into the pool.
Koremitsu called out in surprise.
Honoka's entire body was covered in pool water, and the cold water covered her head. She wanted to cool her body and mind, but ended up feeling hotter.
Ahh, whatever, anything goes.
She splashed water about audaciously, and floated to the surface.
"Come down too, Akagi! It's a rare chance to swim in the pool at night! You'll regret it if you don't do it!"
"I say, you!"
"Okay now, hurry up!"
While Koremitsu was knelt at the poolside, she grabbed his arm and pulled him in.
And so, Koremitsu fell into the pool.
"You're kidding! It's hot here!"
Her hands were splashing water at Koremitsu, and Koremitsu repaid her in kind.
With a beaming face, she sank into the water, trying to escape. Koremitsu gave pursuit.
And so, they spent time swimming, pursuing, frolicking, and staring off. After that, they shyly averted their eyes, and poked their heads out from the water at the same time.
"Haa! Fresh air's still the best!"
Both of them lifted their heads as they inhaled the fresh hair. With the moonlight shining upon them, the tiny spots of stars above theme were glitter.
"Poof, Akagi! Your hair's fallen on your forehead now. It looks like a kappa now!"
"What about yourself? You look like some devil's apron yourself."
"I never heard of such a monster before!"
"But the pool at night feels a little eerie. It feels like there's a ghost around."
"Yeah, maybe he's probably beside us right now, peeping on us."
"Wait, what are you saying? It feels scary!"
"Are you scared of ghosts?"
"That's not it! Bu-but it's the summer now. If we talk about ghost stories, there might really be something popping out, uu."
Honoka shivered slightly, looking around from time to time.
"When that happens, I'll protect you."
Koremitsu said without hesitation.
Honoka's ears immediately sizzled, and she lowered her head, muttering,
"!! It's because you...it's because you always..."
(Why is it that he's always able to say such words so easily?)
Upon thinking about it, she first started to be concerned about Koremitsu because of those words.
"Really...someone like you..."
Should not be saying this sort of thing to anyone. She could have said this and kicked him aside, but was surprisingly not fuming in the slightest.
After muttering, she placed her wet head on Koremitsu's chest with a ploop.
Ahh, I still find myself falling for Akagi so easily.
"You better protect me, okay?"
At lunch time, on the last day of July, the Akagis were having flowing sōmen,
There was a bamboo table placed in the garden, and the long and thin noodles were slowly flowing through. Shioriko watched on, cheering,
"Wow, this is the first time I'm seeing this!"
She picked up the noodle with her pink child chopsticks, cheering excitedly as she slurped the noodle.
Watching on silently were Koremitsu's grandfather Masakaze and his aunt Koharu. They however were not furious.
"It's good to eat such things once in a while."
The duo who would bicker all day long actually had a common view, a rarity at that.
The cat called Lapis in turn nibbled luxuriously at the milk and cat food mixed into it under the greenery.
The cellphone in Koremitsu's jeans pocket vibrated, and he opened it to find it that message was from Beni. It seemed she was to take a challenge at KFC.
Ever since that time, he had been exchanging messages with Saffloer, Beni Hitachi. No matter how minor the matter might be, they were unexpectedly able to get along well, for they had setbacks due to their appearances.
"So this is a penpal?"
And so, Hikaru, floating in the air, beamed heartily.
"Your social circle of women is growing by the day."
"Ack, don't say it as if I'm a harem prince or something!"
"Eh, big brother Koremitsu, you're a harem prince? Who sent this message? Your girlfriend?"
Upon hearing Koremitsu's words, Shioriko frowned and approached to ask him, tiptoeing as she tried to read the contents.
"I said I'm not!"
"Koremitsu, I know that you are starting to show sexual interest in the other gender, but you better not do anything that will make the girl feel bad. If you do plan to date, you have to treasure her greatly."
Masakaze glanced aside at Koharu, and spoke solemnly,
"Women are great misfortune, Koremitsu. Never ever get involved with them."
After repeating his usual mantra, he noticed Shioriko, and pretended to cough, quipping,
"...Never get involved with any woman...at least 10 years old."
However, Shioriko looked troubled,
"But grandfather Masakaze, Shiiko here will be 10 in 3 months time. You won't be playing 5-in-a-row with Shiiko then?"
"Uu." She asked dejectedly, and Masakaze corrected himself, "Then, any woman at least 11 years old..."
Surely he would change that to '12 years old' when Shioriko reaches 11 years old.
In the afternoon, he went to the large bookshop in town to look at the reference books,
It was the girl at Bonne Chance who was often reading a pocket novel.
She was usually dressed in a refreshing white blouse and a skirt that reached below her knees, but this time, she was dressed in a shirt with a ribbon tied at the collar and a mini-skirt that reached above her knees. It seemed that was the school uniform of a nearby girls school.
Though they did meet at the same shop several times, they never talked to each other once, and she suddenly came to talk to him.
"You haven't been to the shop, recently, have you?"
"Ah...after all the commotions I caused in the shop, I couldn't bring myself to go there, I guess?"
In truth, it was that he did not need to visit, for he had already found Saffron.
Aoi was still working inside, and he wanted to visit her sometime later. At that time, it seemed Aoi was working enthusiastically on the other side of the phone.
When Koremitsu sprinted out after Beni, Aoi, who was not used to watching from the sidelines, was wondering about their relationship, "I am really happy to receive your call, Mr. Akagi." and said delightedly,
"Next time, please let me be the one to call back."
He heard Aoi's words and stared at Hikaru's expression, finding the latter to be chuckling. His heart however was a little tense.
"Well, sure. If you got something you're troubled by at work, you can call me anytime you want."
He recalled what had transpired before, and the girl in front of him spoke with intent,
"That's too bad. There seems to be something lacking in the shop when you're not around."
"See you later then, Mr. Akagi."
She narrowed her refreshingly pretty, narrow eyes, beamed and left.
"How does she know my name?"
Perhaps she overheard it when he was talking with Aoi and Michiru.
Hikaru peeked on Koremitsu's expression as he giggled,
"You actually got wooed back."
"Huh? That's impossible, right?"
"Well, who knows? You have been quite the hot commodity nowadays. Did Miss Shikibu not enter your embrace at the pool and fawned, saying something like 'you better protect me, okay'?"
"I-I didn't hug her!"
Koremitsu refuted loudly, attracting the surrounding stares.
His face was starting to heat up, and he left the bookshop without buying anything.
He continued to move forward quickly, and whispered, correcting himself,
"We-well...just a little..."
"Eh, is that so? At that time, I felt that it would be uninteresting if I were to peep in on you two back then. I merely used the moonlight to glance at you two a few times. Besides, when you grasped Miss Shikibu's hand at that time, I thought you were about to go on a date."
"But well, as my disciple, it is to be expected that two people are to embrace each other tightly."
"Who's your disciple!?"
"Well, you do have a charm that makes the surrounding girls notice you. Regarding Miss Mint for example, you did not have the chance to talk with her at that time, did you not?"
Koremitsu noticed a hidden meaning to that smile,
"I say, are you hiding something again? Who's that Mint girl? Tell me all about it."
Koremitsu poked his chin out as he glared sharply, and Hikaru moved gently away from him, snickering with his sweet voice as he floated,
"Well, is that not a good thing after all? Is it not part of an allure for a girl to have her own mystery?"
"Don't play the fool with me, you bastard!"
He continued to yap away with Hikaru as he continued forth on the road as the sweltering rays of sunlight shone upon him.
This was the first summer he had with his friend.
And perhaps, this might be the last summer with him.
Also, Hikaru had a lot of secrets in his heart, sometimes lowering his head gloomily, blankly.
What was it about when he said that he felt a heartache whenever he looked at himself in the mirror? What happened before...? He did mention cheerfully how dejected he was when he could not see himself in the mirror.
This person was really a vortex of enigma, a hypocrite.
And even so, no matter how wide the world became, no matter how things developed, he was always beaming.
If only this summer can continue like this. Koremitsu remembered the words from back then.
This friend will vanish one day.
But still, Hikaru remained on this Earth, standing beside Koremitsu.
Shungo Tōjō heard a shout from behind as he walked out of the shop, and turned his face back.
He had insisted that she would not call him that, and till this point, she abide to this promise.
One could tell from the displeased vow how important of a rule she had broken just moments before, and he stood there, staring at her. What he saw however was a pitiful person staggering in the back alleys, peeking at him, looking in anguish.
Her lips were slightly swollen, and there were still trails of blood on the edges of her lips.
Her short hair was messy, and the tank top and shorts were stained in mud. Even though she had multiple injuries to her knees, she continued to walk.
Hiina ran to Tōjō's, pulled out the memory card from her cellphone, placed it in his hand, and groaned in anguish.
"The Mikados' power balance has been toppled...! Mr. Kazuaki just did something unbelievable—!"
Aoi was walking down the school corridor with a paper bag of sweet dried cherries, tomatoes and baked muffins made from rich milk, which Asai liked.
It was her rest day, and she came to school as there was something on at the art club.
Asai should be at school as well, for she had student council matters. Thus, Aoi was going to bring the freshly baked muffins to her.
(Asa is probably working so hard that she has yet to eat lunch.)
Koremitsu did say before that Asai had been really busy recently, so she wanted to help Asai in some way.
She stood in front of the student council office, and was about to knock on the door, only to hear voices from within,
"...I met a suspicious person at Miss Aoi's workplace. She had a poker face, pretending not to know me at all."
Her hand stopped just when she was about to knock on the door.
(This voice. Is this Miss Tsuyako...?)
With regards to Tsuyako, who had a scandal with Hikaru before, Aoi still held her with contempt. Tsuyako's shameless, unabashed actions was something Aoi really hated.
Also, she had her sights on Koremitsu too, making the latter call her 'senpai' with such affection...
"She probably is observing that Miss Aoi who continues to rely on you. Miss Aoi, and even said that if something happens to Miss Aoi, she will inform you."
(...What is Miss Tsuyako saying?)
Her chest was feeling a little frantic.
Asai ordered someone to watch over Aoi...?
Did Asai not go over to Aoi's workplace to watch her every action coolly?
She did not charge out to check on Aoi like usual when Aoi failed.
She did feel ashamed that Asai witnessed her embarrassing side, but she thought, Asa did not help because she thinks that I can handle things by myself.
(But when Asa is not in the shop, she sent someone to watch over me..?)
This certainly was something Asai would do, but Aoi really hated the overprotectiveness, and adamantly decided to work while ignoring the protests of her family.
At this moment, Asai's voice rang from within the room.
"It will be too late if something happens to Aoi. I just do not wish for her to get hurt."
Asai's voice was solemn.
Recently, she had been saying this line often with some vexation, sometimes even declaring sharply in an unreasonable manner—
"You do not wish for her to be hurt? That is just sugarcoating things."
"Miss Tsuyako, it seems that you know something."
Recently—right, after Hikaru died.
"I know about it. You and I are the same type of person."
Aoi's heart let out a loud shriek.
She did not wish to continue eavesdropping,
But she could not move, for she was really too concerned by Tsuyako's words,
"Miss Asai, you are always pretending to protect Miss Aoi. In fact–"
The voice pierced through Aoi's ears and heart.
"You are looking down on Miss Aoi, am I correct?"
The paper bag in Aoi's hand fell.
The delicately packed muffins rolled by her feet.
(Asa has been looking down on me...?)
"Hono...Mr. Akagi is a gentle person."
"Wh-what? Why are you saying such things out of a sudden?"
Michiru suddenly said solemnly as they were picking accessories in a corner of the bustling streets.
Was the fact that she went to the school pool with Koremitsu revealed?
"Hono, you do like Mr. Akagi after all, right?"
Michiru again said seriously.
"Th-th-th-th-that's not the case. Akagi and I are just normal classmates! What do you mean by that anyway?"
She had been uttering all sorts of things, denying her association with him, saying that he was a delinquent, and had changed attitudes at this point, but it was tough for her to say that she liked him.
Michiru stared at Honoka intently, and the latter was flushed red.
"Of course. I do have strict conditions. I-I do think that guy's a kind guy, not too bad himself."
Michiru slowly looked away from Honoka, her face slowly becoming red.
Just when Honoka was worried, Michiru made up her mind, and said,
"Th-then, it's alright if I fall in love with Mr. Akagi, right?"
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