Category: Sakura no Kuni ~Kirschblüte~

Sakura no Kuni ~Kirschblüte~

Chapter 7

TL: sync
PR: Emy

Although Fumiya had had a maths test, he had not done badly.

The writer of the questions, a teacher called Yokoyama, had prepared a safety measure in advance. Fumiya was thankful when he heard that if he could show some special skill on the back of the question paper, he would have points added on to his score. And so, he drew a woman in the ukiyo-e style.

The teacher gave him great praise for his picture, and raised his mark tremendously.

However, Yamaki, Fumiya’s maths teacher, was not happy.

Ever since being chased in the shopping district, Fumiya had avoided Yamaki. If he noticed him somewhere down the corridor, he would turn back. If he had to pass by him, he would use a friend as a shield. Even in class, he would lower his head so he didn’t have to meet his eyes.

At least, until that day. Yamaki was walking up and down the rows while the students were working on practice questions, helping students if they seemed to be struggling, just like the other teachers. At one point, knowing that no one would be watching, he tightly gripped Fumiya’s left hand.

The touch of his hand was so fleeting that Fumiya wasn’t sure if it really happened, but the disgust he felt had him shivering so violently that some of the students asked if they could take him to the nurse’s office.

Such an outright refusal might have made Yamaki feel humiliated. He even went so far as to go against what Yokoyama – who was senior to him – had said and disregarded the addition of the points to Fumiya’s mark, eventually summoning Fumiya under the pretense of supplementary lessons.

“Could Kobori Fumiya please come to the guidance room straight after the afternoon lessons,” he spoke, while flapping Fumiya’s answer sheet.

“Mr. Yokoyama may have praised this picture. However, I do not understand the merit of it. Maths and sexual depiction of women have no relation whatsoever. I don’t intend to let you have a passing grade when you haven’t even memorized the formula you are required to learn.”

Fumiya knew he couldn’t refuse.

After class, Fumiya began to head off to the guidance room. But before he could get far, Sakamoto stopped him with a worried face and asked if he should go with him.

However, the request was for Fumiya’s presence. Preparing himself for the confrontation with Yamaki, Fumiya refused the offer.

“I’ll be fine.”

Sakamoto spoke again at a near whisper.

“Yamaki-sensei has done a lot of bad things inside the school, and who you are doesn’t matter. As far as I know, he’s never kissed any of the students— The only thing he’s done is sniff behind their ears.”

Fumiya stared at Sakamoto.

“I was naive back then,” Sakamoto continued to say, talking as if what happened was nothing—but he was shaking.

“…People said it was no big deal, but I felt like some part of me had been broken. Well, not that I had physically broken, of course.”

“…”

Fumiya felt grateful that Sakamoto trusted him enough to tell him about what happened, but his heart hurt for him.

The stalwarts of the school were all men, so it was that much easier for them to understand each other. They went as far as to say that having a relationship with a younger boy was a show of dominance, but only if their feelings were reciprocated by the boy. And yet, for some reason, they would ignore the boy’s feelings, and force their one-sided lust onto him.

Although all he did to Sakamoto was inhale his scent, there was no doubt that it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

“I’m sorry.”

Sakamoto gently undid the top hook of Fumiya’s collar that he always made sure was tightly fastened, before pushing back the hair sticking to his cheeks behind his ears – if rejection was what stirred up a dominant personality’s lust, showing some openings from the start might help prevent anything further from happening.

“At the very least, it doesn’t seem like Yamaki-sensei’s ever…done anything to a student more than once…”

Although Fumiya nodded, he still felt a bit skeptical.

Lately, Fumiya had felt persistence in Yamaki’s gaze. His useless running around had done nothing more than fuel Yamaki’s fantasy.

In truth, he could probably handle just getting sniffed, but… No, in fact, that act alone made him feel true disgust.

“I’m… I’m heading off now,” Fumiya said.

“S-Sakamoto-kun, I’m sorry to ask this, but, c-could you tell A-Akamatsu-senpai that I… won’t be able to buy h-his… notebooks today?”

“Of course. If it’s just notebooks, I can go get them if he needs me to.”

“T-Thank you.”

The two split up at the exit: Fumiya to the guidance room, Sakamoto to the stairway for the third year literature classroom.

Souichirou had just finished packing up and was just heading out the classroom.

When Sakamoto ran up to Souichirou, he explained that Fumiya had been worried about not being able to buy the notebooks for him since he had been called away by Yamaki.

“Notebooks?”

Souichirou couldn’t recall ever asking Fumiya to do such a thing. He looked down at Sakamoto with suspicion.

“If it’s Hachimonji you want them from, I can go instead, if you’d like? I know the feeling: the imported notebooks there are of such good quality, that once you use them, you can’t go anywhere else.”

“No, it’s fine. I don’t need them today. Sorry, but can I ask a question? Why did Yamaki-sensei want to see him?”

Sakamoto told him what had happened – about how Yamaki couldn’t accept Fumiya’s score being raised because of the picture he drew on the back of his question paper, then called Fumiya to the guidance room so he could get him to learn the formulas.

“…Yamaki’s bad news.”

Souichirou drew his eyebrows together.

“He’s going to be teaching him something other than those formulas.”

The fact that Fumiya sent Sakamoto to Souichirou was only further proof that he knew he was in danger. Was the reason he didn’t send a message outright asking for help because of his modest nature? Or was it because he wanted to test Souichirou?

Souichirou began to angrily stride away.

“A-Akamatsu-senpai!”

Sakamoto frantically followed Souichirou.

“When I asked if Kobori-kun wanted me to come along, he told me that it was fine, that it was him that was being called, not me. He was really adamant about it…”

“He was just trying to be brave, wasn’t he?”

“Um, I… don’t think that Yamaki-sensei will do more than smell the back of his ears. This may be a bit presumptuous of me, but I think it would be best if you didn’t blow this out of proportion.”

Souichirou glanced back at his clever junior, before shaking his head.

“If it were you, then that might be the case, but in Fumiya’s case, it could end up differently. In your case, your naivete made him want to treasure you, but for some reason, with Fumiya, he feels the need to dominate him.”

Sakamoto noticed Souichirou calling him Fumiya.

“He’s like a turtle letting someone poke at his shell, isn’t he?”

“Exactly – that’s his downfall. He’s so good at tanka and the shamisen, though.”

“I really hope Yamaki-sensei doesn’t get any weird thoughts.”

The two of them began to hurry, running down the stairs.

Souichirou’s pace was so fast that before long, Sakamoto was being left behind. Believing he could leave it to Souichirou, Sakamoto slowed down.

Before knocking on the guidance room door, Fumiya fastened the collar that Sakamoto had loosened. He understood the logic behind Sakamoto’s plan to make it seem as if he were just giving in, but he was frightened he would come across as being provocative.

He wasn’t convinced that Yamaki would let him leave with nothing more than a sniff behind the ears. He was pretty sure that his untactful rejection of Yamaki’s advances had only made the situation worse, and he knew he would suffer the consequences. But what else could he have done?

The minute he knocked, he heard a voice telling him to come in.

Fumiya opened the door.

On one side of the room was a blackboard and a teacher’s desk, and facing it were three desks and chairs lined up for the students.

Standing in front of the teacher’s desk was Yamaki, who told Fumiya to sit at the middle desk.

Fumiya sat down, an answer sheet had been placed on his desk. There were also three sheets of formulas written in big letters, which Yamaki tapped with his fingers as he explained them at an extremely fast pace.

“This question requires this formula, the next question requires this formula, and the next one requires this one. It isn’t difficult. Anyone can solve these questions if they know these three formulas.”

“…”

“So, try and answer the questions.”

“Ah… okay.”

As Fumiya was writing, Yamaki circled his desk. Being watched so intently made Fumiya so nervous he couldn’t even substitute the numbers into the formula.

Yamaki spoke in a mocking tone above Fumiya’s head as he toiled over the question.

“Ugh… Hey, aren’t you taking far too much time?”

Fumiya tried his hardest to keep calm.

“…What a failure of a science student.”

Fumiya’s hand that gripped the pencil began shivering violently at the insult – his body temperature was decreasing rapidly from the humiliation and fear.

Before long, an arm stretched across his shoulder, and a sinewy hand at its end gripped his tightly.

“S-Stop…”

“All you do is this.”

Yamaki forcefully moved Fumiya’s hand and wrote down the formula.

“See? You just insert the numbers into the equation like so. Now solve the rest of the questions.”

“P-Please let go.”

Yamaki let go of his hand, but only to proceed to wrap his arms around him, covering him from behind. He placed his nose near Fumiya’s ear, covered by hair, and took a deep breath in.

“…You smell nice,” he whispered breathily into his ear, causing Fumiya’s body to burst into goosebumps as he gasped in disgust.

“Is it not painful having your collar up this tight?”

He released a hook.

He then went on to push aside Fumiya’s hair, and began sucking on his earlobe.

Fumiya pulled his head away, and complained with a shaking voice.

“P-Please… stop…”

“You’ve been avoiding me, haven’t you? …Did you think I would do something to you? Now that I’ve got you, just like you expected I would, I wonder what I should do?”

“N-Nothing…”

He didn’t want him to do anything to him.

Fumiya tried to stand up, but he was pulled back down by strong arms. They were heavy on his thin body, wrapping around him tightly. He could only curse his powerlessness.

“Oh, are you going to cry?”

The minute he pointed it out, tears slid down his cheeks. Without being able to put up even the slightest of fight, Fumiya could feel his mind being stained with the colors of defeat.

What should I… have done…?

How could this man force his feelings onto another, even though he knew he was hated, and enjoy chasing after those who ran away? How was he able to force his filthy lust onto others?

“Your cheeks have gone red. Ahh… it’s like you’re wearing makeup. The courtesan who came to see you a little while ago looked awfully young, but she was your mother, wasn’t she? She looked a lot like that woman you drew. Do you like beautiful women? Do you want to make love to them? Or perhaps, you want to be made love to?”

Fumiya shook his head side to side as he told him that he didn’t know.

“I-I’ve never…been made love to by, my mother.”

“Are you scared of women?”

Fumiya hesitated to nod.

It wasn’t just women he was scared of. Men were scary, too. Without asking what Fumiya wanted, they all forced what they wanted on to him.

“Men are far better, aren’t they?”

Fumiya shook his head again – he hated them.

The first thing he remembered was being choked by the smell of a warm body. No matter how many times he pleaded for them to stop, they never did. The painful acts seemed to go on forever.

When everything came to light, the man tried to talk his way out of it by saying that Fumiya was the one that had initially seduced him – the son of a Yanagibashi geisha would obviously be skilled in the art of seduction.

“N-No.”

Despite being rejected, Yamaki simply laughed.

“When you say you dislike them both, don’t you mean you like them? Considering who gave birth to you, there’s no way you aren’t filled with lust.”

“N-No…”

What a horrible way to put it.

“Look here,” he whispered as he grabbed his jaw.

“I’m going to kiss those lips of yours.”

“N… No, s-stop.”

Fumiya pulled his lips between his teeth.

“Come on, now.”

He was able to shake his head, but it took a lot of effort to do it. Along with the tears trailing down his cheeks, Fumiya could taste blood beginning to build inside of his mouth.

“Stop biting yourself.”

Bang!

The door flew open.

Souichirou was the one who had burst in.

There was no time for Yamaki to distance himself from Fumiya, but since the one who came in wasn’t another teacher, he seemed to feel safe stroking his hand down Fumiya’s chest.

“You’re supposed to knock before you enter a room, Akamatsu-kun.”

Radiating an adult’s calmness, Yamaki nonchalantly pulled away from Fumiya.

“What were you doing?”

Souichirou’s blue-gray eyes were shining like the eyes of an animal watching its prey. As if trying to avoid them, Yamaki quickly shifted his gaze.

“It has nothing to do with you.”

“That kid is mine,” Souichirou snarled. “Could you not touch him without getting permission first?”

“Well then, may I?”

Souichirou strode forward at Yamaki’s response, and placed an open palm over his face, glasses and all. Pushing down hard with his fingers, Souichirou spoke with a trembling voice.

“Shut up.”

The frame of Yamaki’s glasses shattered, leaving the lens to fall to the floor.

With Souichirou pressing hard on his forehead and cheekbones, and his mouth and nose half-covered, Yamaki could only groan out of pain and lack of air.

snk4

About a minute passed – though to Yamaki, it most likely felt far longer. When Souichirou removed his hand, he collapsed onto the floor.

Without taking notice of Yamaki’s state, Souichirou turned back to Fumiya, who had remained in the seat as if tied there.

Blood was pouring forth from Fumiya’s mouth.

The minute he saw that, the last of what remained of Souichirou’s calmness completely dissipated. He turned bloodshot eyes to Fumiya, and scolded him with a stern voice.

“Didn’t you already know what would happen the minute this guy got you alone somewhere? The minute you walked in here, you were giving him permission to do whatever he wanted to your body!”

“T-That’s not what I—“

Fumiya was shaking his tear-stained face from side to side.

“You should’ve come to see me first. Why didn’t you find me and ask me to come with you? Do you not trust me?”

“…I-I didn’t… want to cause you… trouble.”

“It doesn’t matter what trouble you would end up causing me – your safety is the priority. At least give up after coming to me. You give in far too quickly.”

Souichirou scooped Fumiya up until he was standing, and then continued to look down at his face.

Suddenly, his eyes softened.

“…You never did give up, did you?”

He wiped Fumiya’s blood-covered lips.

“You didn’t let him kiss you, right?”

A small nod.

Souichirou pulled Fumiya tight into his arms.

“Tell me what he did to you so I can give him a fitting punishment,” Souichirou asked of him while pulling Fumiya into his chest.

“H-He… He grabbed, my hand… I-I asked him to… l-let go, but… h-he, wouldn’t.”

“And then?”

“He unhooked my collar, and…and s-sniffed me.”

Fumiya began shivering at the disgust he felt from the memory.

“Was it bad?”

“I-It gave me goosebumps…”

“What else?”

“M-My… earlobe…”

“What did he do to it?”

“H-He sucked… on it. And then, he w-wrapped… his arms around me…”

“Got it,” Souichirou said.

“Seems like I need to cut off this bastard’s nose and ears.”

Yamaki, who had been laying on the floor like a broken doll, suddenly twitched.

“Was there anything else he did to you?”

“H-He… said that s-since I look like… my m-mother, t-that I must be… a lewd person, t-that… I must like b-both men… and women.”

“What a sleazebag.”

While holding Fumiya, Souichirou moved towards Yamaki, before lightly kicking him on the side with the tip of his shoe.

As if he still had no strength in his legs, Yamaki dragged his body along the floor, trying to get away from Souichirou.

“What do you want to do to him?” Souichirou asked Fumiya, still wrapped up in his arms.

“…H-He… did things to, other kids as well. So, I w-want him, to feel the same pain…”

“Why don’t we collect all his victims’ signatures and give it to the chairman? Or maybe even sell it to a newspaper?”

“P-Please don’t!” Yamaki screamed.

“If you do that, I won’t get any retirement money or even references for another job. I-I’ll stop. So please, don’t do it. I’ll leave the school, so please.”

“But then you won’t get your punishment,” Souichirou laughed scornfully.

“If you go to a different school, you’ll just start secretly touching the students again, won’t you? Being a teacher is the perfect job for you, isn’t it?”

“…I-I won’t do anything like that anymore!”

Yamaki shook his head with a desperate expression.

“When I leave, I’ll… I’ll get married. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’m done with boys. My mother in the country always wanted me to have kids.”

“I don’t really care about your future. Hurry up and resign. If you don’t do it yourself, I’ll make sure you do. I don’t mind making such a big fuss that you won’t be able to walk around without having to look over your shoulder.”

Scared out of his wits, the minute Souichirou waved his hand for him to go, Yamaki scrambled out of the guidance room.

Fumiya was just in shock the whole time.

“Kobori, we’re heading back,” Souichirou tried to urge, but his words never reached Fumiya’s ears.

Even now, Fumiya’s whole body was still trembling, and his eyes were wide open, lacking life. His teeth were chattering. He was clearly somewhere else.

“Fumiya!”

Upon hearing his name, Fumiya looked straight up at Souichirou – it was the first time Souichirou had ever called him by his first name.

The shock only added to the previous shock, it took a while until his eyes could finally focus again.

“…A-Akamatsu-san.”

“My name is Souichirou. Ernst is fine, too,” Souichirou told him. But Fumiya didn’t seem to understand he was being told to call him by his name.

“Call me Ernst.”

“E… Erns…t,” Fumiya tested out the unfamiliar name.

“There you go. In Austria, I’m known as Ernst Souichirou Akamatsu von Bessen. It’s just for formal situations, though. Ernst is a name that has been used in the Bessen family for a long time, and apparently, my grandfather’s father – my great-grandfather – was also called Ernst. But the only person who calls me that in Japan is my dad.”

“E… Ern…st-san.”

Blood stuck to Fumiya’s lips as he repeated the name over and over.

Souichirou’s heart swelled with some sort of emotion for Fumiya at the sight. It was something close to love and pity.

He bent over a touch, and kissed Fumiya—it was only for a short moment.

Fumiya looked up at Souichirou in disbelief, bleary eyes beginning to fill with tears.

“Was it bad?”

When Fumiya heard the small crack in Souichirou’s voice, he shook his head. And then, he snuggled into him and gripped his sleeve tight.


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you!  

Chapter 6

TL: sync
PR: Emy

A woman with a paper umbrella hid underneath the school gate from the gentle rain of the rainy season that continued to fall. Judging from not just her kimono’s color and design, but also the way in which she wore her kimono, she was not a mere commoner.

“Wow, she’s beautiful.”

“Her neck’s long and her eyes are so intense… She’s really hot.”

Even though all the students had crowded round the window to look down at her, the woman didn’t seem the least bit bothered. Rather, she simply smiled sweetly up at them with her red lips, and inclined her umbrella a touch as she looked up at them.

“I wonder if she’s here to collect payment from someone?”

“Like from Mori-sensei in Classic Lit?”

“I’ve heard that Kubo-san in third year frequently visits brothels, too.”

One of the staff ran out to ask what she had come for.

As the woman was led elsewhere, she appeared below the students again. Beside her was a Riotsu second year, Kobori Fumiya.

Side-by-side, their similarities were clear as day.

“Is that Kobori’s big sister?”

“They look so alike.”

Peering over the heads of his classmates, Souichirou looked down once again on the beautiful pair.

He said that he was adopted, didn’t he?

The two looked far too similar to not be related by blood. If that was the case, was that his real sister, then? Or maybe his mother?

The joy at having a family member come visit was nowhere on Fumiya’s face.

If he doesn’t want to go, surely he doesn’t have to…?

Without noticing Souichirou’s gaze, Fumiya left the gate as if chasing after the woman, and disappeared into the haze of rain.

Wishing to see Fumiya once more, Souichirou stood there for a while, opening and squinting his eyes, glaring at the direction of the entrance.

That very same day, Souichirou was again called out by his father.

There, at the ryokan written in the message left at the school’s office and inside the tatami room his earl father was in, he found a geisha and Fumiya were sitting there also.

What’s this all about?

Souichirou was surprised, but, keeping his initial reaction hidden, turned to face his father.

“It’s been a while, Father.”

“Oh, Ernst. You’re here.”

The only one who called Souichirou “Ernst” in Japan was his father.

It had been about half a year since they’d last seen each other. The white hairs on the man’s head had increased over the years, but the nonchalant way in which he carried himself seemed as young as always. No sign of deterioration was visible on his body, large for a Japanese man, and he had dressed up smartly in his business suit.

“Where have you been recently? My brother and sister have been telling me in their letters that you haven’t been back for a while…”

“You haven’t been to see them for a while either, right?”

“Well, that’s true.”

“I was in Hokkaido. I bought a coal mine, so I had to think about what to do with it… I’ve had to draw up a plan for a railroad, too. The quality of the coal isn’t bad, but the ten shaku of snow is making it difficult.”

Shaku – an old unit of measurement in Japan that is equivalent to 30.3cm / 11.9 inches.

“I see. That is troublesome, indeed.”

“Ernst, this is Kotone from Yanagibashi.”

The woman flashed a dazzling smile as she bowed.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, young master.”

“And over here is her son, Fumiya-kun. …Though, from what I’ve heard, you two are already acquainted?”

“Yes. We’ve been sharing a room since spring.”

Souichirou looked at Fumiya.

“I thought you were just skipping class, but you were actually here, Kobori.”

“Y-Yes.”

Fumiya ducked his head, clearly not wishing to be there.

“Ernst, don’t glare at him like that. Fumiya-kun is a very quiet boy – you should be acting more like his senior.”

“Kobori is too quiet.”

Without missing a beat, the woman began to laugh – it rang clear like a bell – before she shuffled over to Souichirou’s side.

“Please don’t be too hard on him, young master.”

Holding back her sleeve, the woman extended a pale arm and began to pour out some sake.

“When this child was born, I had only just turned fourteen. Of course, it would be difficult for me to raise him at that age, so I allowed the Kobori family to adopt him. They are a rather dull family, and before I realized it, this is what he had become.”

“They are a family of doctors, correct?”

“The husband is an arrogant doctor and the wife a pompous woman. Wanting my child to continue their line of doctors, they forced him to study extremely hard. Even though he was trying his hardest and staying so focused that his words wouldn’t come out right. They were so focused on trying to find a prospective husband for their daughter that they essentially discarded this child—“

“M-Mother,” Fumiya interrupted.

“Oh, are you angry? I’m only telling the truth. Weren’t you the one who said that you didn’t need to succeed their family?”

“…”

“Perhaps giving you to that family was a big mistake. Although they act all high and mighty, they fail to pay attention to the most important things. That insane lodger even managed to target you while you were still only in middle scho—“

“Mother!”

The severity of her son’s tone silenced her.

I wonder what Fumiya was so afraid for us to hear?

Not even giving Souichirou the chance to think of what it could be, Fumiya spoke to his mother as if trying to make something clear to her.

“T-The Kobori family were kind enough to r-raise me, and even now, they’re paying for my education, so I’m incredibly grate…ful to them. Please be g-grateful to them, too, Mother. If you aren’t, you’ll be p-punished.”

“It is as Fumiya-kun says. You should be grateful, Kotone.”

At the earl’s rebuke, the geisha shrugged her shoulders. After giving a short bow to Souichirou, Kotone moved towards the earl, and gracefully poured the sake.

“Well… there are plenty of other ways to get money for your school fees, of course… If I wished for it, would you pay for Fumiya’s education?”

“If you are the one asking, then… I may do,” the earl replied, smiling, not at Fumiya’s mother, but at Fumiya himself. Souichirou noticed Fumiya automatically attempting to return the smile.

…It’s probably because I look a bit like my father.

However, Fumiya’s smile soon vanished without it spreading any wider, and instead, his youthful mother’s elegant smile was the one that bloomed.

“Although, even if I didn’t wish it, Earl, you would have to pay for Fumiya’s fees anyway. After all, there is a chance he is your son.”

Souichirou instinctively looked at Fumiya, who was violently shaking his head.

“M-Mother, please d-don’t… say such rude things…“

As expected though, Souichirou’s father didn’t even lift an eyebrow at Kotone’s implication.

“Was that ever a possibility?”

“Of course. Think back carefully.”

As asked, the earl spent a moment thinking, and then nodded.

“True, Fumiya-kun could be my child.”

“Right? Now that I mention it, Fumiya looks more like you than your son does, doesn’t he? His hair is black, and his eyes aren’t blue.”

“You’re right, he does look a bit like me. However, this child is almost the spitting image of you. I wonder if you somehow conceived him without even a partner?”

“If that is the case, I’m just like the Virgin Mary from the West, aren’t I?”

“Did you give birth in a stable?”

“The midwife did have a long face like a horse.”

“In that case, you were probably in a stable.”

Souichirou’s father laughed together with Fumiya’s mother.

Souichirou shook his head in exasperation as he poured Fumiya some sake. It must be painful sitting there without even having something to drink.

However, Souichirou’s father hadn’t forgotten the children were there.

“A loving father doesn’t pass up the chance for more children. Right, Ernst?”

“Exactly how many siblings are you expecting me to have?”

“If you think about it, everyone in the world is your sibling. Although, that isn’t what you were asking, is it?”

Sake and food were brought out one after the other, until a group of geisha appeared. After the geisha gave their performance, Fumiya’s mother brought out a beautiful shamisen.

“…Mother is called K-Kotone, but her s-specialty, is the… shamisen.”*

*A koto (Kotone) is a Japanese stringed instrument, but Kotone plays the shamisen, not the koto.

“Is it the same shamisen as the one in our room?”

“Yes.”

The food and performances had warmed up the banquet sufficiently.

Eventually, Souichirou’s playful father led Souichirou into the ring of dancing and playing.

But what is Fumiya doing? Is he slowly drinking his sake? Is he playing his shamisen? Is he talking with his mother?

Souichirou had a dream. It might have been what people call a wet dream. After all, he was watching his father and Fumiya’s mother, Kotone, having sex from above.

Was the reason Souichirou was watching someone other than his mother being his father’s partner in bed with such interest because he had reached p***rty? Or was it just because he knew it was a dream?

Kotone noticed Souichirou watching them, and gave a smile across his father’s shoulder. Her red lips looked as if they were inviting him to join them.

Paired up with the slight touch of pink on her cheeks, Souichirou found himself getting aroused.

However, Kotone was Fumiya’s mother.

The minute he remembered that, his sexual desire was gone in a flash.

They look so similar… In fact, they look identical.

As they were mother and son, it was natural they would look similar, but there was no part of Fumiya that would make one ponder if he’d inherited it from his father. With only age and sex being the difference, their two faces looked exactly the same.

And yet, how could the air around them be so different? Was it because of how Fumiya was raised? Was it just his natural personality?

The seductiveness and pomposity present in Kotone was nowhere in Fumiya. To others who saw him, Fumiya was not a significant person in their mind: he simply existed, though in all his beautiful elegance.

Surely the only people who were sexually attracted to him by his appearance alone were ones that held sadistic tendencies? Ones who were cruel to beautiful things just to see how they would fall.

Now that I think about it, Fumiya doesn’t laugh much.

Souichirou was sure he’d seen Fumiya laugh more than once, but if he was asked when that was, he wouldn’t be able to say without thinking first. He didn’t even know what Fumiya found funny, or what sort of jokes he would react to.

To his mother, a geisha, a smile was one of her weapons – by wrapping them round her finger with a mysterious smile, she could manipulate the men drooling at her as she wished.

Souichirou knew his father was no exception, but there was no doubt that in the case of the refined earl, he was happy to be controlled.

As he was thinking about that, the expression on Kotone’s face disappeared—no, this wasn’t Kotone. Those eyes filled with sorrow could only be Fumiya’s.

As Fumiya looked over his father’s strong shoulder at him, the impression Souichirou received compared to when it had been Kotone there was completely different.

In contrast to the greed and pleasure that had dwelled in Kotone’s eyes, Fumiya’s were searching for help under the man holding him down.

Before he knew it, the man who Souichirou thought was his father changed into the captain of the judo team, a third year in Rikou*. He was an important part of the stalwarts, who had been the ones telling everyone to leave the quiet Fumiya alone, and who held great authority, yet he seemed to be the one most attracted to Fumiya.

*kou (甲) = English elective.

Souichirou had never particularly disliked the judo captain – he had self-control and exhibited good leadership. …However, this was different.

Even if he said that he would protect Fumiya, in his dreams and delusions, the captain would most likely continue to pin down Fumiya, and there was no doubt that he would time and again thrust into him, fulfilling his long-cherished desire.

What is this warmth I’m feeling in my chest? Before he could arrive at an answer, he was seeing red.

Stop being so stupid. This is a dream… right? he tried to tell himself, but the heat of his rage refused to leave him.

“A… Akamatsu-senpai… h-help…”

The moment he heard that voice, he realized he couldn’t just stand by and watch. Whether it was a dream or not, if Fumiya needed help, he couldn’t just leave him.

Souichirou grabbed the sweat-covered figure and tore him off.

“Fumiya!”

However, it wasn’t Fumiya that was lying there.

Kotone, breasts that seemed far too large for her thin body drooping to the side, spoke to him with a lazy look in her eyes.

“How about you join me, young master?”

“N… No, it’s fine.”

Shaking his head, Souichirou stepped away.

“Is Fumiya more your type?”

“No, he isn’t. That’s not what I…”

Although he denied it, the body lying spread out on the floor changed into that of a slender boy. On the delicately white skin, the only bright red was the nipples protruding from his chest.

When he noticed the lust emanating from Souichirou’s gaze, Fumiya hugged his arms around his chest.

“D-Don’t… touch me…!”

At that moment, Souichirou could feel himself wanting to tug Fumiya’s arms open.

He wanted to yank them open, and then lay those nipples bare once more. If he placed the boy’s nipples in his mouth, would they taste sweet? Would they feel like a woman’s? If he bit them, what would Fumiya do? Cry, perhaps?

As if hearing Souichirou’s dirty thoughts, Fumiya’s face screwed up, and suddenly, those black eyes were filled with tears.

Instead of feeling pity, his urges only increased in intensity, which caused Souichirou to come to his senses.

What is with me?

He clenched his sweaty hands into tight fists.

His eyes burst open.

It seemed he had fallen asleep sitting at the small dining table. Beside the zabuton, a sake cup had rolled over. A bit of sake had spilled and soaked into the tatami.

The banquet had already finished, and his father and Fumiya’s mother were no longer there.

Fumiya was lying down in the corner of the room. He seemed to have drunk himself to sleep, using a zabuton folded in half as a cushion. In place of a cover, his mother’s haori was draped over him.

Souichirou slowly opened his fists. He wiped his sweaty palms on his legs, the moisture sucked up by his hakama.

Letting out a deep sigh, he stood and headed towards the window.

He opened the shoji.

“…It’s already dawn.”

On the other side of the window pane, the sky was beginning to turn white.

He opened everything that had glass fitted into it, and let his body bathe in the cold air after the rain. A refreshing breeze enveloped his body, all flushed from the drinks.

Souichirou had thought the wind blowing in would have woken Fumiya up, but when he turned around, the boy’s eyes were still tightly shut. He showed no signs of opening them.

As usual, his blazer’s buttoned up all the way to his neck… Is it not painful sleeping like that? he wondered in amusement, but made no movement to loosen his collar.

Souichirou sat where he was by the window, and tried to think of the meaning of his dream. Was it just his mind’s way of telling him that he could love those of his own gender?

Within that school uniform, pale skin was hiding. Vividly red nipples were on that chest. The minute he witnessed that, just what had he been feeling?

It suddenly occurred to him.

Could Kobori… No, could Fumiya have been raped by a man before…?

There was that incident where Fumiya had run all the way from town after meeting Yamaki, his maths teacher. Although he had insisted it was nothing, there had been tears in his eyes – Fumiya had been so scared he was about to cry.

That very idea made Souichirou’s skin crawl, but there was almost no doubt in his mind that Fumiya must have at least had something close to rape done to him before.

Now that he thought about it, Fumiya always tried his hardest to show no skin, always kept his beautiful face bowed low; he was always jumpy and afraid. He would walk quickly without looking anyone in the eye, leaving no time for anyone to call out to him. Every day, he lived in constant vigilance.

To him, being in a state of defenselessness as he slept only gave him more reason to keep his collar tight. That school uniform might have been the only armor Fumiya had to protect his delicate body.


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you! 

Chapter 5

TL: Kyoko Sagaki
PR: sync/Emy

On Sunday morning, Fumiya went out together with Sakamoto and his roommate, Andou.

Just outside of the shopping district, there was a Catholic church. There, Sakamoto’s crush normally played the organ during Sunday school which were held in the mornings. If they waited, eventually they would be able to see her walk home.

Sakamoto had finally found the courage to slip a letter into her sleeve.

Fumiya had given in to his begging, and wrote a romantic love letter for him. Its main line was a simple, “I want you to be my liebe,” but after adding in the greetings for the start of the season, and saying how long he had been in love with her for, and how much that love had grown, the letter extended over two whole pages.

Sakamoto’s face grew stiff as he waited impatiently for the moment she came out. Andou watched him with burning curiosity, as he teasingly said, “I don’t believe in love at first sight. You don’t know her name, which family she belongs to, or even her personality, so how can you be in love with her?”

“I don’t know myself. Before I knew it, she’s all I’ve been thinking about.”

“She might not be the mädchen you think she is. She could be really mean.”

“No way. She has really honest eyes.”

“Honest eyes? Ha! Like you would know.”

Zoning out from their quarrel, Fumiya was the first to see the girl come out of the church.

“Sa… Sakamoto-kun, sh-she’s coming this way. It… it looks like, her friend is with her today.”

“So, which mädchen are you aiming for?” Andou asked, scrutinizing the two.

“The girl I like is the one in the red kimono and navy hakama. The girl with the orange ribbon.”

“Don’t you think the girl wearing the flower kimono is more schön?”

“No way.”

“I don’t know, Red Kimono’s nose is too stubby. Flower Pattern’s is more nicely-shaped.”

“I’m telling you, no way.”

“Then I’ll take Flower Pattern. Forget about giving her a letter, I’m just going to talk to her. I’ll invite them to a dango shop.”

Aggressively and impatiently, Andou started walking over to them in large strides. Sakamoto hurried in a half jog to catch up with him—but, suddenly remembering Fumiya, he turned around.

“What about you, Kobori-kun?”

Fumiya smiled and shook his head.

“I… I, have an errand to run for Akamatsu-senpai… so Sakamoto-kun, be, be sure to ask her name. If… if I can, I’ll come next time.”

“Okay, got it.”

Sakamoto caught up as his friend’s conversation with the two girls was going well. After watching them for a short while, Fumiya turned around and began to head towards the shopping district.

Souichirou’s errand was to pick up some shoes that had been sent out for repair.

But before that, I might as well take a look in the bookstore.

The shopping district only had one bookstore.

Gyoukou, the literature magazine that he was looking for, was lined up at the shopfront. Printed on the front cover was the name of the author featured in that issue. As he reached for it, someone stepped onto the spot next to him.

“Hello, there, Kobori Fumiya-kun.”

It was Mr. Yamaki.

“G… Good afternoon,” Fumiya greeted him with a short bow of his head.

Yamaki was a math teacher in his thirties, with cold eyes behind the lenses of his glasses. Whenever a student was unable to solve a problem on the blackboard, he would make them stand as he scolded them, a sadistic smirk present on his pallid face the whole time he did so. He was the one teacher Fumiya didn’t like.

“I see that your friend… What’s his name? Oh, Sakamoto. I see that he and someone else managed to invite some cute mädchens to the dango shop. Were you not invited?”

“I-I didn’t… want to go.”

“It is a good thing indeed that you don’t feel the need to waste your time with schoolgirls.”

Mr. Yamaki picked up a copy of Gyoukou and flipped through it disinterestedly.

“You seem to like this kind of thing. You’ve had a lot of works published in our literature magazine… The classics professor Kishida has nothing but good things to say about you. But you know, you’re a science student, so shouldn’t you be memorizing formulas instead of thinking about tanka?”

“I’m… memorizing, formulas, too…”

“My house is close by. If you stop by, I’ll review the formulas we’ve learned this semester with you. Your grades during freshman year were just barely good enough. I’m worried about the upcoming exam.”

It was an unwelcome invitation.

As Yamaki gave him a once-over from head to toe, Fumiya had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Feeling suspicious, Fumiya took a hasty step back.

“I… couldn’t possibly intrude…”

snk3

He tried to put some distance between him and Yamaki, but Yamaki immediately moved in closer.

“I live alone, so you won’t be disturbing anyone.”

“Ah, umm, but, I-I have things to do… today. My, my roommate, Akamatsu-senpai, asked me to run an errand for him… if, if I’m late he’ll worry… so, excuse me.”

After he finished speaking as fast as possible, Fumiya gave a quick bow, before turning on his heel.

Yamaki immediately grabbed Fumiya’s arms.

“You’re getting pushed around by that earl’s mixed-race son, aren’t you? If you don’t like it, I’ll talk to him for you.”

“I-It’s… fine.”

Fumiya tried to leave, but Yamaki didn’t let go.

“You should get along with me, for the sake of your grades, too… I don’t care if you don’t feel the same way at first.”

Fumiya turned to look back at Yamaki, but the way he licked his lips gave Fumiya shivers.

I have to get away… he thought to himself, feeling a sense of urgency. But as if working against him, his body was frozen to the spot.

“Right?”

The smell of fish on his breath hit Fumiya’s neck.

Suddenly, Souichirou’s scowl came to mind—the face he had when he was scolding Fumiya, telling him if there was something he wanted to say, to look him in the eyes and say it.

…A-Akamatsu-san!

Fumiya lifted his head and looked straight at Yamaki. The man’s vulgar face was nothing in comparison to the beauty of Souichirou’s. I definitely don’t want to go with him, Fumiya thought.

“I’m… I’m in a hurry, so…”

His voice was shaking, but he’d said what he wanted to say, and managed to shake off Yamaki’s arm.

He rushed out.

“Wait!”

Yamaki came chasing, but by the third store, Fumiya had upped his pace, and the second he was out of the shopping district, he began to run.

Fumiya was wearing shoes, but Yamaki was wearing geta – they were loud.

As if he could still hear them, he couldn’t bring himself to turn around and make sure the man was gone. He didn’t let up his speed until he reached the dorm entrance.

Souichirou was practicing with a wooden sword in the back garden.

When he noticed Fumiya, he stopped.

“What’s wrong, Kobori?”

The instant he heard his name, tears suddenly began to fall down Fumiya’s cheeks. Fumiya started to run towards him with such ferocity, he would have ended up jumping into his arms if he continued, but he stopped himself short – he couldn’t act like a girl here.

“What’s wrong, Kobori?” Souichirou repeated.

“M, Mr. Ya… Yamaki is…”

“Yamaki? Oh, the math teacher, right? What about him?”

Souichirou looked behind Fumiya, but Yamaki wasn’t there.

Yamaki wasn’t so young that he’d be able chase Fumiya at full speed through the shopping district, and his pride wouldn’t have allowed it.

Finally, Fumiya turned around, and saw for himself that Yamaki hadn’t continued to chase him.

He sighed with relief, and mumbled, “…It… it’s nothing. It wasn’t… a… anything at all.”

“It obviously wasn’t nothing.”

Souichirou pulled the towel wrapped around his waist and wiped off Fumiya’s tears.

“Weren’t you with Sakamoto and Andou?”

“We… split up. B… but, I’m okay.”

Even as his face was being wiped, Fumiya continued to repeat that he was okay.

Since Souichirou belonged to the literary department, he’d never had any classes with Yamaki, but it wasn’t as if he’d never heard any of the nasty rumors associated with him – namely, his fondness for cute, young boys.

He could guess what had happened.

Fumiya had clearly been scared, but Souichirou couldn’t thoroughly question him when he was so intent on saying nothing had happened, so he suggested that they both go back to their room.

“A cake from Australia arrived today. If you make the tea, I’ll share it with you.”

“I… I’m much obliged.”

As Souichirou pushed Fumiya from behind, he looked back at the entrance one more time – Yamaki definitely wasn’t there.

As they neared the shoe lockers, Fumiya let out a little, “Ah.”

“What is it?”

“I… I’m so sorry. I, I forgot about the… the errand. I needed… to go get your shoes…”

“You can leave it until tomorrow,” Souichirou told him. “So long as you don’t forget to get it tomorrow afternoon, don’t worry about it for today. In exchange, play your shamisen for me after we finish eating.”

“Ah… yes, cer—certainly…”

The two of them passed the day off in May in their room.

They ate the delicious cake filled with fruit that had been soaked in alcohol. Afterward, Souichirou stretched out on his bed, and listened to Fumiya playing his shamisen on the bed next to him.

He was playing Souichirou’s favorite, “The Crane’s Voice.” It was a song about love at first sight. Two people spent all night taking shelter from the rain at an inn, and became lifelong friends.

…In the end, they grew old together, huh?

Fumiya’s voice was quiet, but Souichirou noticed that he wasn’t hesitating, and he no longer sounded filled with fear. Had the sweetness of the cake cured him? Or was it something else…?

Souichirou silently ridiculed his conceit. If Fumiya really did feel something for him, surely he wouldn’t hesitate to rush into his arms?

“W… what next?”

“Play it again.”

“O, okay, one… more time.”

As Fumiya sang and Souichirou listened, he savored every happy word of the “crane” and the “thousand ages.”

He obviously didn’t think he’d be able to grow old together with him, so he wished that time could stop then and there – that this calm afternoon would last forever.

The song ended again.

“What… sh, shall I, play next?”

“Play it again for me. Play ‘The Crane’s Voice’ again.”


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you! 

Chapter 4

TL: Kyoko Sagaki
PR: sync/Emy

Not long after the lights went out, Souichirou spoke to Fumiya from within the darkness.

“…Are you asleep yet?”

He knew Fumiya wasn’t asleep.

About a month had passed since they had become roommates, and Souichirou had come to learn that Fumiya had trouble sleeping. Because of his sleeping issues, he would often wake up in the middle of the night.

As Fumiya tossed and turned over and over, Souichirou wondered what was eating at him so much.

“N-No, not yet… not at all. Are… Are you thirsty? Shall I… get you some water?”

“No, that’s okay.”

“…Then, what should I… do?” Fumiya asked, as if at a loss. “I-I can’t play, the sha… shamisen at this hour… so…”

“In that case, we’ll just have to settle down.”

“…All… All right.”

Souichirou wasn’t sleeping all that well either.

Since he was young, looking back on the day’s events before he went to bed had been a part of his daily routine. But now that he was in his last year of school, he also had to think about the family and future that had been on the back burner up until now.

Long nights passed with the two of them lost in their thoughts; they still weren’t close enough to confide in one another.

When he heard his roommate’s breathing deepen, Souichirou assumed that he had finally fallen asleep.

Hmph… How dare a retainer fall asleep before his master? he thought to himself, a chuckle slipping past his lips.

Regardless of how it looked to other people, Souichirou giving orders and Fumiya obeying them were working well.

There was no way he couldn’t be satisfied with how enthusiastically Fumiya obeyed his unreasonable demands. Souichirou didn’t care at all if he gained the animosity of the stalwarts who had become attached to Fumiya, or if the juniors who had viewed him with such admiring eyes were disillusioned by his actions.

And anyway, I’m an exiled prince, and I’ve finally met the retainer who chased me here.

He had a feeling that by Fumiya fulfilling his demands, it affirmed his entire existence; that side of Fumiya pleased him. So, even if he had fallen asleep before him, he wouldn’t criticize him.

“I’m pretty tired now myself.”

The bed creaked as Souichirou turned over to lie more comfortably on his side. Before long, he was asleep, breathing rhythmically through his well-shaped nose.

Fumiya was not asleep yet.

Granted, it wasn’t as if he had forbidden himself as the retainer to fall asleep before his master, but it wasn’t a good thing that Souichirou was so worried about him that he couldn’t sleep.

He opened his eyes to the darkness, careful to keep his breathing quiet and deep.

Fumiya knew that Souichirou was giving him orders for his sake. He could even say he was thankful that Souichirou was playing the role of the selfish prince.

Finally… It seems like he’s fallen asleep.

The minute he thought that Souichirou had fallen asleep, Fumiya quickly got up.

Careful not to make any noise, he left the room. Stepping softly on the creaky floorboards of the hallway, he crept towards the shared washbasin which had five faucets.

Taking a sip of water, he realized he was much thirstier than he’d thought. He filled an aluminum cup and drank it down in one gulp.

As the water cooled the inside of his body, the headache that had resulted from him thinking too hard began to settle down.

…There are still two years until I graduate. There’s no need… for me to get so worried about the future yet, he reminded himself.

Suddenly, the hallway window shook with a clatter as it was hit by the wind. When he looked through the glass, he could see the trees trying to fight away the wind with their branches in the darkness.

Fumiya concealed the sound of his footsteps as he went down the stairs, and narrowly managed to get through the passage to the roof.

The rough wind was damp: it looked like a spring storm was on the way. It would anticipate the fall of all the cherry blossoms, and then come through to toughen up the new leaves. It was something to be welcomed.

It would water the fields and revive the rivers that had started to dry up.

Since it was nighttime and everyone was asleep, Fumiya wouldn’t mind if the violent rain arrived. It didn’t matter whose roof or whose land it was, the rain would fall indiscriminately. He hoped it would weaken the disease lurking in the dry land.

Fumiya kept those happy thoughts as he watched the old leaves dance in the wind.

Soon after, rain started to fall. Stirred up by the strong wind, the water was blown over onto the passage. Because of where he stood, Fumiya’s legs were drenched.

According to the calendar, it was already April, but the rain still wasn’t at all warm. His soaked toes were already turning red.

As he stood there, as if rooted the ground, he felt a wool cardigan being gently wrapped around his shoulders.

“Ah!”

Fumiya turned around and realized that it was Souichirou.

“Kobori, we’re going back to our room.”

Was he woken up by the rain, and realized Fumiya wasn’t there?

“Don’t wander around in the middle of the night in such light clothing.”

“…I-I knew there was, a spring storm coming, so I thought I would wel… welcome…”

“Of course. This rain is a blessing.”

When the storm ended, the time for farmers to begin planting rice would arrive. With that, vibrant greens would decorate the country landscapes.

With Souichirou forcing him to head back, Fumiya reluctantly returned to their room.

He went to his bed straight away, but the cold still lingering in his body stopped him from sleeping – it seemed the chill had gotten to him even more than he thought.

As Fumiya kept tossing and turning, Souichirou lifted up his bedspread.

“Guess there’s no helping it, huh? Come on, get in.”

He didn’t even think of turning him down. It was the prince’s exalted order, so he obeyed.

They tucked themselves into Souichirou’s warm bed, lying in the same direction like two spoons. Fumiya’s cold feet inserted themselves between Souichirou’s, allowing the older’s heat to warm him up.

“This is just for today.”

“O-Okay.”

He wondered how long it had been since someone had warmed him up like this.

Up until he entered elementary school, he had slept in the same futon as his adoptive mother, but eventually, his adoptive father had forbidden him from doing so, saying that he was old enough to sleep by himself. Fumiya still had not forgotten the sadness and bitterness he had felt at being reprimanded for sneaking into his older stepsister’s futon.

That sense of security that the feeling of another’s skin gave him only lasted until his body became warm.

When his frozen mind started working again, he began to feel uneasy about the arms wrapped around him – the strength, heat and smell were all different from a woman’s.

He’d always hated being touched by men—no, in fact, it was more than hate: it was a disgust so intense it gave him goosebumps.

Everything’s… Everything’s okay. This is Akamatsu-senpai. He wouldn’t do that kind of thing to me, Fumiya told himself, but after accidentally conjuring up the memory of that horrible event, he found it impossible to drive it back out. He couldn’t stop his body from tensing up.

His mind was beginning to lose focus and it had become difficult to breathe.

“…I-I’m, okay now. I-I’ve warmed up.”

Hurriedly, Fumiya crawled out of Souichirou’s arms.

Thankfully, he’d started to fall asleep, so he thought nothing of Fumiya’s ungrateful impatience.

“…This bed is too small for two people, huh?” he muttered with a yawn.

“I… guess so.”

Fumiya returned to his own cold bed.

Although he had calmed down, as the warmth he’d gained began to leave his body, the feeling of misery intensified. Because of his cowardice and excessive self-consciousness, he’d missed out on what could have potentially been an extremely pleasant situation.

Be that as it may, it wasn’t normal for two young men to share a bed. He couldn’t know what the stalwarts would think of it, but there was little doubt in his mind that they wouldn’t simply think of it as two men becoming friends.

But it wasn’t as if Souichirou had touched Fumiya in a sexual manner. All he had been trying to do was warm Fumiya up.

Thinking Souichirou had long been asleep, Fumiya muttered to himself, not intending for the older to hear.

“I-I’m, an… adopted child. I w-was adopted by a family, that has generations of doctors… I-I didn’t know I wasn’t related by blood to my, adoptive parents until… I was s-six.”

“…You’ve been through some stuff, too, huh?”

Not expecting an answer, Fumiya’s heart jumped.

“I’m not very good… at studying… but, I have to… have to become a d-doctor.”

“Do you want to be one?”

Fumiya shook his head – he didn’t.

“But, I… I want to be a part of the family…”

“I see.”

His response was simply to show that he had heard him; he wasn’t pressing him to say more.

And with that, the conversation ended.

Maybe Souichirou had finally fallen asleep.

The storm still hasn’t stopped.

He could hear the window clattering, along with the distress of the roof passage as rain violently pounded on it. The trees in the courtyard were probably being battered by the vicious wind.

When Fumiya told himself to go to sleep and pulled the covers up over his shoulders, Souichirou said in an extremely tired, muffled voice,

“…A doctor isn’t a bad profession. But to me, your tanka was a pleasant surprise.”

Those words went straight to Fumiya’s heart.

“N… Next time I write a poem, I, I’ll show it to… you first.”

“Please do.”

When he turned to look at the bed beside him, he could vaguely see Souichirou in the darkness.

Lying sprawled on his side, he reached his arm out towards Fumiya.

In response, Fumiya reached his hand out as well.

Souichirou’s large palm gripped Fumiya’s hand.

Do princes and retainers shake hands, I wonder…?

Fumiya was glad the room was dark: his face and ears were abnormally hot, and he knew he was completely red.


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you! 

Chapter 3

TL: sync
PR: Emy

While walking down the passageway, Sakamoto noticed his friend circling around the bushes in the courtyard, pushing his way through the grass, sticking his head deeper inside them and tilting it around, before moving on to another area. He called out to him, wondering what he was doing.

Fumiya responded without raising his head.

“I-I’m just… s-searching for something.”

“For what?”

“A-Akamatsu-senpai’s… fountain pen. It f-fell from the… w-window.”

“I’ll help you look for it.”

Sakamoto went straight down to the courtyard.

“What does it look like?”

“I-It’s mostly… black, but… it has some g-gold on it, too. And on the lid… there’s a m-mother-of-pearl design…”

“Whoa, that sounds expensive!”

The two of them knelt down and began pushing through the thickets.

Shiga, a kendo club member who had been with Sakamoto, was still in the passageway, watching the two small boys.

It fell from the third floor? Okay, if the desk was right in front of the window, it might be believable, but people don’t generally put fountain pens on window frames.

Thinking it suspicious, he looked up at the third floor.

He noticed Souichirou standing by one of the windows. Dressed in his usual hakama, he was standing tall and proud, watching his underclassmen searching for his fountain pen.

…What’s with that?

If he had the time to watch them, he could at least try and search for it, too.

Many of the younger students looked up to Souichirou – he was accomplished in both the literary and military arts, he had a sense of justice and he was fair – but seeing him now, Shiga couldn’t help but begin thinking he would need to reconsider his opinion.

It almost seemed like he was taking advantage of the fact he had an underclassman as a roommate.

Souichirou would make Fumiya do ridiculous things, like make him do the laundry instead of the servants which were hired by the staff or make him draw water from the well out the back after the sun had already set or deliberately make him go buy something that could only be bought from a faraway shop so that he would have less time to eat dinner…

Every time, Fumiya would just nod and do what he was asked without complaint; Shiga couldn’t help but think that Souichirou’s conduct was uncalled for.

I didn’t think he was that sort of person…

Shiga was glaring up at Souichirou before he even realized it.

Though I suppose for the son of an earl, treating people like slaves is a normal thing to do.

When he realized his underclassman was looking at him with such a scornful gaze, Souichirou returned an even fiercer glare back—but when Shiga flinched at that, Souichirou sneered at him instead.

In that sneer, there was self-deprecation, but in Shiga’s anger, he could only see it as being filled with arrogance.

“Stop it, stop it! Stop searching for Akamatsu-senpai’s fountain pen!”

Growing angrier at that, Shiga crossed over to where the two were still searching.

“Huh? Why?”

Sakamoto lifted his head up in confusion, but Fumiya continued to shove his head straight into the shrubbery without a single worry. With an outstretched arm, he pushed the branches aside.

“I-I found it!”

Leaves and twigs were sticking out of his scraggly hair and small cuts and grazes adorned his face, and yet, despite all that, his shout was one of pure happiness.

“I’m glad you found it!”

Sakamoto clapped his hands together in joy.

“T-Thank you… for s-searching for it… with me, Sakamoto-kun. I-I’m going to go give it to him!”

“I’m sure he’ll be happy you found it.”

After Fumiya had left, Shiga let out a sigh.

“He obviously dropped it on purpose. Why on earth was Kobori searching so hard for it?”

“Because Akamatsu-senpai told him to, probably.”

“He should get angry when people tell him to do such ridiculous things, whether it’s an upperclassman or the son of a noble. If he doesn’t, he’ll always be treated like a servant.”

As he watched Shiga clench his fists in anger derived from his sense of justice, Sakamoto laughed, asking why he was the one getting so angry.

“Kobori-kun isn’t the kind to get angry at anyone, and besides, he wanted to find it for him.”

Even though Sakamoto said as much, Shiga still couldn’t accept it.

“I was wrong about Akamatsu-senpai!” he spat out in disgust.

“I personally haven’t been treated badly by him… And thinking about it, Akamatsu-senpai isn’t really unkind to anyone except Kobori-kun. Did he do something to you?”

“He didn’t, but… But, why? Why is Akamatsu-senpai always like that to Kobori? It must be because he’s irritated by Kobori’s obedience.”

“It doesn’t look like he’s taking his anger out on him to me.”

“Then, why?”

With a slight smile, Sakamoto tilted his head to the side.

“I wonder.”

The next time Fumiya and Sakamoto met again that day was at dinner.

The grazes on Fumiya’s face that he had got while searching for the fountain pen were glistening like they had had oil rubbed on them.

“I see you went to the first aid room, then,” Sakamoto said. But Fumiya responded with a shake of his head.

“A-Akamatsu-senpai said that… this m-medicine worked wonders… on c-cuts and grazes. H-He… went and g-got it from Kanazawa-san who c-came from Toyama… for me. And then, h-he even put it on for me…”

“That was nice of him.”

Sakamoto couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t particularly worried about Fumiya and Akamatsu, but he was happy that Fumiya could confirm for himself that his upperclassman really did care for and respect him.


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you! 

Chapter 2.2

TL: sync
PR: Emy

Sakamoto had told him that if he didn’t want to go back to his home in Tokyo, he could spend the time at his instead, but he’d refused, saying he’d much rather study considering he’d just barely passed the maths exam.

In reality though, Fumiya just wanted to be alone.

Since Akamatsu-san’s probably gone home as well, I’ll just relax for now. I wonder what I can see from the third-floor window. Maybe I’ll play the shamisen for a bit, too.

On either side of the hilly road between the shopping district in front of the station and the side gate of the dorms, cherry blossoms were planted at regular intervals. That year’s cherry blossoms were still buds, but at the peak of the cherry blossom season, the sky would be colored a light pink; it made sense for the dorm to be called the Sakura Hill Dormitory.

It was when Fumiya was about to pass under the gate that he noticed it: the flowers of the cherry blossom just behind the gatepost were trying to bloom. No, two or three of them had already bloomed.

Fumiya loved flowers. Especially the cherry blossoms which added so much color to the spring.

Without thinking about it, Fumiya’s mouth turned up into a smile and he ran all the way up to the third floor of the dorm. Sure that his roommate wouldn’t be in their room, he vigorously threw the door open and bounded into his room.

“Ah.”

The minute Fumiya saw a boy sprawled out on the bed, he froze in place. Holding his breath, he quietly watched him. Even after a few seconds passed, his upperclassman thankfully remained asleep.

Fumiya breathed out in relief.

It was all well and good that he was asleep, but before he knew it, Fumiya could no longer move, eyes attached to his sleeping face.

…His hair is light brown. Ah, but there’s a bit of gold mixed in. It looks as smooth as silk…

The hair on top of the boy’s gently curving forehead was shining.

I think his eyes were a strange color, too…

Were they blue? Or gray?

As interested as Fumiya was in the odd appearance of this boy born from a European mother and a Japanese father, he knew that he shouldn’t stare. Besides, he was afraid that Akamatsu Souichirou’s existence was so bright that it would blind him. However, now that he was asleep…

The kimono that he seemed to like to wear always made his tall figure look majestic, but now that it was crumpled from how he was laying, Fumiya noticed that he had a surprisingly slim body. Since the position of his hips was high, the length of his hakama was amazingly long.

It wasn’t only the color of his hair and eyes that made him look different to a pure Japanese, the way his skin looked was a bit different, too. He didn’t have tanned skin, rather, it looked as white as fresh milk.

From his high forehead to the straight bridge of his nose… His features were all clearly defined. The eyelids closed firmly shut looked as if they were sunk in, and the eyelashes that bent backwards to meet his slightly elevated cheekbones were surprisingly long. As his lips, which were unexpectedly plump, moved as he mumbled in his sleep, Fumiya felt a surge of affection.

Fumiya couldn’t help but find himself wanting to try trailing his finger from the sharp tip of Souichirou’s nose, down and up along the bridge of his nose, up to his eyebrows. At that, the tips of his fingers twitched.

Moved by his curiosity, Fumiya was already sitting near the sleeping body before he even had the time to think.

As if Souichirou was aware of Fumiya’s wish to see that rare eye color properly just once, his eyes opened.

Forgetting to jump back, Fumiya just stared into those eyes.

Souichirou’s eyes were a beautiful hue—gray tinged with blue. They had a transparency to them that almost made them look like two glass balls, glittering with moisture.

When Fumiya saw an expression filled with curiosity that made him realize he was most likely making the same face, he nearly laughed at himself. Something began to distort his sight, and the strange way in which he widened his eyes was oddly amusing.

Noticing a hand suddenly reaching towards him, Fumiya pulled back.

“D-Don’t touch me…!”

Having come back to his senses, Fumiya immediately stood up.

“Even though you were sitting right beside me and looking at me while I was asleep, you think you have the right to tell me not to touch you?”

“…”

Akamatsu Souichirou got out of his bed and approached Fumiya as he backed away.

When Fumiya’s back hit the window and he could no longer go any further, they faced each other with only a person’s distance between them.

Unable to withstand the piercing gaze, Fumiya averted his eyes down to the floor.

snk2

“It’s not like I’m going to bite you or anything. Do you just not like me? I know there are a lot of people who are disgusted by how I look, but I’ve never seen someone so obviously trying to avoid looking at me… It kinda hurts.”

Fumiya frantically looked up.

N-No! That wasn’t my intention at all!

Somehow, he’d managed to look back up again, but it was like his lips were stiff and he could barely get his words out.

“I-I…”

“You… what?”

“…”

Being looked at with such intensity instilled such fear in Fumiya that he became as still as a rock. But even as his eyes began to fill with tears, the color of Souichirou’s eyes still looked beautiful.

“You want to say something to me, right?”

“…”

Sighing at Fumiya’s bleary eyes, Souichirou changed his tone.

“Sharing with an upperclassman must be frightening for you, huh? Not to mention you’re having to stay with someone like me…”

Fumiya frantically shook his head from side to side, and desperately wrung out words from his throat.

“W-When I s-saw you, th-the first… thing I thought was… that y-you were pretty. I-I mean to say, the color of your hair and… your f-features are.”

“You think I’m pretty?”

Souichirou’s mouth suddenly opened in surprise, but it quickly changed to a smile filled with cynicism.

Noticing his change in expression, Fumiya only became even more flustered. Maybe it was rude of me to use the word ‘pretty’ to describe a boy.

“P-Please forgive… me.”

Again unable to withstand the intensity of Souichirou’s gaze, Fumiya turned his head down and mumbled an explanation to his choice of words—as he didn’t exactly have one, he had to think fast.

“I-I thought that… y-you sort of looked… like the prince out of a p-picture book I read once… U-Um, I… I had it… when I was younger. It was a f-foreign book. Y-You look… a lot like the p-prince in one of the illustrations…”

“A prince, huh?” the son of the earl spat out.

“Anyway, the way you speak really gets on my nerves. Can you not just speak normally?”

“…”

Fumiya bit down hard on his lip.

“Well, whatever. But you know, if you’re going to talk to me while in front of me, you should at least look at me while you’re speaking. Do you not think so?”

“Ah… Y-Yes, sorry.”

The speed at which Fumiya raised his head made him feel slightly dizzy.

“Continue.”

Even while having no idea what he was saying, words flew out of his mouth.

“T-To help save the p… princess, the prince found the… courage he needed to f-fight… He rode a white horse, and ran through the forest…”

After rescuing the captured princess, the prince and princess fell in love at that moment, and after getting her parents’ blessings, the two of them married and they lived happily ever after.

“If that’s the case, become my retainer.”

It was an unexpected order.

Souichirou grinned at Fumiya’s widening eyes.

“There’s nothing wrong with me being a selfish prince, is there?”

“S-Such a prince… w-wouldn’t be… a prince. A p-prince is full of pride and is a bit r-reckle—“

“Will you become my retainer?”

Fumiya began imagining himself on a horse galloping after the prince on his own white one in the dark forest—not that he had any experience of horse-riding.

“W-Would you… be o-okay with… me?”

Souichirou wasn’t exactly happy about having his pleasant afternoon nap being disturbed by a cowardly boy he could barely understand.

However, he found the way that Fumiya was clumsily trying his hardest to speak, even while constantly stuttering, charming; he understood that the boy didn’t have the personality to be able to compliment another easily.

“Whether you are or not doesn’t matter…”

Suddenly, Souichirou burst into laughter.

“A retainer is supposed to do everything in his power to protect the prince, even if it means sacrificing his own life, but you don’t look strong in the least. You’d suit the role of the princess more than the retainer.”

“…B-But the princess is a… g-girl,”

Fumiya said, lips trembling as they twisted into a frown of self-deprecation.

“Do you not want to be the princess?”

“D-Despite how I may look, I-I’m a b-boy.”

When Souichirou narrowed his eyes quizzically, Fumiya deeply lowered his head as if trying to avoid his gaze.

Don’t tell me his looks are a sore spot for him? He’s got beautiful enough features that I’m pretty sure he could wrap so many people around his little finger if he really wanted to…

He couldn’t help but think about the way Fumiya always had his head turned down like he were a servant, or the way he always stammered so much that it was irritating.

Noticing a single light pink petal on the top of Fumiya’s head, Souichirou gently lifted it up between his fingers.

“…Kirschblüte.”

It was the German word for cherry blossoms.

“You had one on your head.”

Souichirou showed the petal nestled in the palm of his hand.

“…B-But… most of them s-still… aren’t in bloom…?”

“Then maybe this is snow.”

Souichirou closed his hand tight into a fist, and as if to emphasize that it was shut, he then wrapped his other hand around it.

When he opened it again, the petal was no longer in his palm—it was a simple magic trick, but having no knowledge of such tricks, Fumiya’s eyes blinked in amazement.

“I-It… disappeared.”

“It melted,” Souichirou lied.

Still bewildered by what he had just seen, a faint, fleeting smile showed itself on Fumiya’s face.

When he saw the smile on that pale face, Souichirou’s chest throbbed. It was close to a feeling of love, but it was slightly different to that felt for younger siblings.

Without any words being said to cause it, he suddenly felt irritation. Without warning, he turned away from Fumiya and returned back to his bed. Placing his elbows on the pillow, he closed his eyes.

“I’m going to rest for a bit more. I have difficulty falling asleep, so until I do, don’t move a single muscle. Just stand right there the exact same way you’re standing.”

“O-Okay.”

After Fumiya’s reply, the room fell into a somewhat unnatural silence, but if he focused his ears, Souichirou could hear Fumiya trying his hardest to make his breathing as shallow as possible.

As he counted those breaths, he could feel himself relaxing.

So I’m a selfish prince, huh?

His face broke into a smile.

Not that I’ve ever had a chance to be selfish.

Without ever becoming aware of the smile on his face, Souichirou was pulled into the world of dreams.


Hello!! Thanks for reading!! Help or support by buying me coffee, greatly appreciated thank you! 

Chapter 2.1

TL: sync
PR: Emy

Shoutou Academy High School was a private school located in the northeast of Shizuoka Prefecture. From the back of the school building, Mt. Fuji covered in perpetual snow could be seen, along with high-quality hot springs dotted about here and there. It also wasn’t far from Suruga Bay, home to a large fishing harbor. For the inspiring young students at the school, it was the perfect environment for them to face their challenges head-on.

On the day of the last class of the year, the room assignments were put up on the bulletin board just outside of the dormitories after dinner.

Kobori Fumiya could do nothing but gape as he looked up at the piece of paper which listed the names of those living in each room.

Wh-Why…?

It was the norm for first and second-year students to stay in rooms of four, while the third years in rooms of two.

However, the room that Fumiya had been assigned to was a two-person room. Judging from the number, the room was on the third floor, occupied mainly by the third years. The person he’d be sharing it with was a Bunotsu* third year, Akamatsu Souichirou.

Similarly to section 1, Bunotsu is a set of students taking certain subjects (bun = bunkei (social studies / humanities) & otsu = dokugo sentaku (German elective)).

Perhaps there was a problem with numbers that the dorm had no choice but to pair him up with an upperclassman? But if that had been the case, they would take into account those coming from the same hometown or those who were often together for extracurricular activities.

And yet, Fumiya had no connection to this upperclassman.

Though he did have an inkling about why he was chosen.

That person isn’t a pure-blood Japanese, and I’m the illegitimate child of a geisha, so… that must be why.

Humans different from the norm should be grouped together.

Its high-level classes and expensive tuition fees were what Shoutou Academy was known for. It wasn’t odd to find the majority of the students to be those from esteemed or wealthy families. Even if being surrounded by the same rank of people in their day-to-day lives made those students forget their lineage, the faculty wouldn’t completely ignore it.

As Fumiya was adopted by the family of a doctor, the school shouldn’t have known about his birth mother, but it was a bad habit of the boy’s to constantly look down on himself—it acted as a form of self-defense to help lighten the shock he might receive by being in a horrible situation.

And so, he gloomily prepared himself.

If I’m not with Sakamoto-kun, then it doesn’t matter whether I’m with four people or two. I just don’t want to be with an upperclassman.

Sakamoto Mitsuo was one of Fumiya’s current roommates. It was mainly thanks to him that Fumiya ever really hung out with the other two in his room.

Sakamoto was a friendly boy and the youngest son of a merchant family. He was also extraordinarily good at connecting people. He always worried about Fumiya, whose head was always lowered, and in one way or another, always found ways to back him up.

Considering they would be in different rooms the next year, surely that would no longer happen?

The third year Fumiya would be sharing with was someone he… sort of knew, yet sort of didn’t… Since his appearance made him stand out, it wasn’t like he didn’t know who he was; he had just never spoken with him before.

Sakamoto, who was a member of the Kendo Club along with Fumiya and Souichirou, often spoke of his admiration of him. But between Fumiya and the son of an earl, who was demonically strong when it came to kendo, and who had a large build and a foreign appearance, there were no common subjects between them.

All Fumiya could look forward to was uncomfortable days with nothing more than greetings exchanged between them.

Even so, Fumiya would happily take awkward silences over Souichirou becoming romantically interested in him. Thankfully, he hadn’t heard of Akamatsu Souichirou’s family being known for homosexual relationships.

“Kobori-kun, what room are you going to be in?”

Fumiya, still standing rigid in shock, was snapped out of his daze by Sakamoto.

“I-It seems like…I’m going to be staying on the third floor.”

“Whoa, you’re going to be staying with an upperclassman? What rubbish luck… Oh, hey, you’re sharing a room with Akamatsu-senpai! I’m so jealous.”

“Do you want to swap?”

“Well… I don’t know, really. I do look up to Akamatsu-senpai, but I’d be a bit worried about being together with him day and night.”

“…You would be worried, huh?”

Noticing Fumiya’s anxious expression, Sakamoto quickly tried to comfort him.

“But, it’ll be fine. Akamatsu-senpai isn’t the kind of person to say ridiculous things. He has a sense of justice, and he’s fair to everyone, no matter who they are. What’s better is that you can even ask him for help with German! If you happen to manage to get his help, please tell me. And then, let me join you…”

Noticing said upperclassman right beside him, Sakamoto quickly swallowed his words.

Sakamoto, with his small build, went up on his tiptoes slightly before speaking to the tall Souichirou.

“Hello, Akamatsu-senpai.”

“Hey, Sakamoto.”

“As you can see, my friend Kobori-kun will be sharing a room with you next year. Kobori is always very quiet, so I doubt he will cause you any trouble, but I would appreciate it if you could provide him with guidance.” 

Souichirou nodded in understanding, before flicking his eyes to Fumiya.

“Do you have any complaints about sharing with me?”

“N-No.”

Fumiya awkwardly looked away.

“I-It’s… It’s a p-pleasure to meet you.”

When Souichirou walked past him the other day, Fumiya had noticed three moles lined up on the back of his hand. He also recalled seeing long nails.

It’s the person who told me his opinion on my tanka. I think he said something like… he thought that there was some kind of bond between cherry blossoms and the snow…

At that time, he’d been so embarrassed he couldn’t even raise his head. He hadn’t realized until it was time to submit it that he wasn’t allowed to use a pen name.

Fumiya already had the embarrassment of composing tanka or drawing pictures despite being in the science class. Although many people praised him for his achievement, he couldn’t help but think they were calling him strange behind his back.

“…T-The buds of the cherry blossoms at the… school gate have gotten bigger…” he muttered quietly.

“What?”

“T-The snow… this year…”

Souichirou glanced down at him.

“Considering how warm it is, I highly doubt it’s going to snow anymore.”

“…But when the petals scatter, they look like s-snow.”

“That’s true.”

Fumiya looked up at Souichirou’s short reply, but he was already walking away—it seemed as if something had displeased him.

It’s odd how the c-cherry blossom petals aren’t c-cold…

He could only swallow those words left unspoken in his mouth.

Almost as if consoling him, Sakamoto gently rubbed Fumiya’s back.

“It seems like he’s in a bit of a bad mood tonight, but Akamatsu-senpai is a really wonderful person. He knows a lot about music and literature and…he’s great to talk to when it comes to people like Goethe* and their works. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Although, if you find that it’s getting too uncomfortable, just come over to my room.”

*German poet, novelist and dramatist who lived in Weimar (1749-1832).

“Who are you sharing with?”

“Andou, Ichihara and Matsushita. You know who Andou is, right? He’s in Riotsu, too.”

“Yeah. He’s in the b-boat club…”

Fumiya’s lips turned up into a small, fleeting smile at his friend’s kindness.

The following morning, a trailer arrived between the east and west dorms and left before coming back again several times. There were many people who moved into their new dorms and unpacked in the morning, then returned home in the afternoon.

In regard to Fumiya and Sakamoto, they first started with unpacking Sakamoto’s things before moving on to Fumiya’s.

Bedsheets were valuable when it came to moving around within the same building: if you laid it out and wrapped what you needed to transport in it, it became far easier to transport it all at once. Using many towels joined together to make a long rope made it easier to carry large things like futons over their shoulders.

Fumiya didn’t have much to unpack. Inside a small wicker trunk, he had some of his clothes and his shamisen. He also had some books, like his textbooks and dictionaries, but they were all still easily transported in one trip using the bedsheets.

His roommate wasn’t in his room. Relieved, Sakamoto looked around the two-person room with curious eyes.

The four-person rooms assigned to the first and second years were around the size of a ten-mat Japanese room with six tatami mats spread out near the entrance. When night fell, the students would line up their futons on the tatami and sleep.

However, in the two-person bedroom, which was the size of a six-mat Japanese room, there were no tatami mats. Instead, there were two beds with wooden frames.

“…It’s a western-style room.”

For those who were raised in a Japanese-style house, a western room was a completely new sight, and they couldn’t help but stare in amazement.

“Kobori-kun, are you going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine… I think.”

At the vague response, Sakamoto made his best attempt at cheering his friend up.

“You generally only wear western clothes anyway, so it should be easy to get used to this, right, Kobori-kun? And besides, you won’t have to worry about airing out the futons anymore.”

As Sakamoto stated, Fumiya only wore western clothes except for his sleepwear. …But that was because all he really wore was his school uniform.

He always had the hooks at his neck attached, and it made him look incredibly formal. Above this, geta with supports made out of magnolia wood were considered uncouth, but as he didn’t like geta, he was always wearing high-laced shoes tied up perfectly. Inside the dorm, he only wore zouri*.

*Japanese sandals
Though geta and zori are worn in the same way, zori have flat bottoms with no teeth.

Even when Fumiya had finished placing his things where he wanted them to go and making his bed, his roommate was still nowhere to be seen.

Sakamoto had wanted to talk to the third year, but he’d already decided to take the afternoon train back to Yamanashi to see his parents.

After seeing Sakamoto off at the station in the early afternoon, Fumiya returned back to the dorm.

Chapter 1

Summary:

Ever since he was a child, Fumiya was often subjected to sexual harrassment by his classmates, casting a shadow of his past. Not only he developed a severe case of stuttering but he also suffer from fear of men. Because he inherited his mother’s geisha looks, the teachers at his school would pay more attention to him, causing him to lead a miserable and lonely school life.

In the new semester, Fumiya was assigned to share a dorm room with Ernst Souichirou, an overbearing half-Japanese upperclassman. Souichirou is the son of an Earl and as a half-blooded Japanese, he naturally possessed a handsome face with a pair of dark gray eyes. Although this upperclassman tried to persuade him that he was different from those classmates, Fumiya still felt uneasy. However, seeing the frightened Fumiya suddenly made Souichirou to suggest him to be his own retainer…

TL: sync
PR: Emy

With the chilly winter air creeping along his skin, Akamatsu Souichirou stood by the window. The heavy snow that had been falling since the day before still showed no signs of stopping that morning.

As the result of the dedication and persistence he’d put into his kendo training, the boy’s arms were well-defined. So, although the joints of the window were stiff, he was able to pull it open.

When the piercing cold wind burst in and enveloped him, the edges of his lips turned up in a satisfied smile. Behind him, his three roommates moaned in discomfort while pulling the covers over their heads.

Sniggering at their reactions, Souichirou gazed at the snowy landscape spread out before him.

Surrounding the bronze statue of the board chairman which stood between the east and west dormitories was a garden. The clay figure was concealed by the snow, leaving only an outline, as were the satsuki azaleas, whose vivid flowers bloomed in spring and summer, and the garden rock, expertly placed to complement the plants. Absolutely everything was underneath the snow.

The powder snow had even made its way inside the needle-like leaves of the towering cedrus deodara, dying it a dull gray.

A long time ago, Souichirou had been part of that scenery.

He was the heir of the earl, Lord Akamatsu, but his mother was the daughter of Hessen, the Marquis of Austria. She was raised in a magnificent castle surrounded by a forest until she was nine years of age, just before the start of World War I.

As one would expect, her perfectly-shaped face didn’t look Japanese. Her long hair was gold-brown in color, and her eyes were gray tinged with blue.

Her captivating, serene figure almost seemed unworthy of the yukata she loved to wear as her sleepwear, but the youthful body that could be seen from the nape was enough.

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When Souichirou threw the window open, it would make sense for him to feel cold, considering how thin the fabric of his yukata was, but there wasn’t a single goosebump on his fair skin.

He reached out to the snow still dancing in the air and held out his palm.

“…Snow is such an ephemeral being.”

At that moment, he suddenly saw a person down below.

Souichirou had always thought that he was alone in his curiosity of walking through the snow at dawn, but surprisingly, it seemed as if there was one other.

The boy was standing quietly in the passageway, looking up at the empty sky. He remembered seeing an underclassman that looked like that boy.

His name was Kobori Fumiya.

A handsome young boy, it was rumored in Riotsu*, a part of the school in which homosexuality was not shunned, that Fumiya had managed to enroll in the school within one year.

*Back in the olden days, around the Taishou era, senior high schools were split into ‘classes’ based on electives. Riotsu is the Science-German class (Ri = Rikei (science) and Otsu = dokugo sentaku (German elective)).

Souichirou didn’t really know him personally, but he’d turned around when they passed by each other once and saw him.

He had seemed shy, the kind to never raise his head and to always keep his eyes on the ground.

As if realizing he was being watched, Fumiya suddenly looked up. Seemingly curious about Souichirou’s foreign appearance, his glistening eyes stared at him.

When Souichirou frowned at his rudeness, he jumped slightly, as if taken aback, and hurriedly walked away.

Certainly, Fumiya had pretty features, and his beauty was not to be ignored, but through that conduct alone, Souichirou couldn’t help but see him as low-class, similar to a servant.

Even after that, he was sure they would have several other chances to meet one another.

However, ever since then, Souichirou had never caught sight of Fumiya again, let alone be able to talk with him.

Fumiya was now standing in front of the garden in the middle of the snow, a padded garment placed over his sleepwear.

Although they were the kind of clothes someone would wear when going to the toilet in the middle of the night, his thin neck, the slender wrists poking out from underneath his sleeves, and his bare feet, nestling in his geta, looked far too cold.

Unaware of Souichirou’s presence above him, Fumiya continued to gaze at the fluttering snow.

Suddenly, he reached his hand forward.

Flakes of snow landed on his upturned hand. Fumiya closed it, before slowly opening it again. His body heat would just melt them though, wouldn’t it?

Souichirou couldn’t tell what the boy was thinking as he looked down at his palm, now most likely empty. Something about the way his slender neck tilted to the side and his plump red lips mumbled words made him look so innocent.

The paleness of the boy’s skin only emphasized the scarlet of his lips, pulling Souichirou’s eyes to them.

…It almost looks as if he’s wearing lipstick.

Suddenly, Souichirou thought of the maiko his father, the Count, had summoned to the tatami room while discussing his trip to Kyoto with him.

Of course, Fumiya wasn’t a girl. Although his face was so white it looked as if it had been powdered, it didn’t hold the plumpness of a female’s.

Never tiring of watching him, Souichirou continued to watch Fumiya. For some reason, he couldn’t seem to avert his gaze.

I wonder if this inability to look away is related to love? Souichirou had never done bad deeds like hanging around the red-light district flirting with girls, but he wasn’t a straight-laced person either.

He quickly shook his head. I’m just curious, that’s all. It was only because high-schoolers, including himself, were sentimentalists in one way or another.

The beautiful underclassman standing around in the snowy morning.

Standing silently in the passageway, Kobori Fumiya’s figure was imprinted on the back of Akamatsu Souichirou’s eyelids, and for a while, his image refused to disappear.

The snow soon thawed with the arrival of March, at the time when the school’s art and literature newspaper, “Keitou”, was displayed on the bulletin board.

Works derived from the students’ pathos of having lost their way and foolishly pessimistic points of views were all lined up in a row.

For some reason, Souichirou’s eyes stopped on a published three-line tanka.

If I hadn’t grabbed hold of the dancing snow, that everlasting pink could have remained,
That memory of naive frolicking in the first snow appears as an ephemeral dream, just like flowers in full bloom,
While snow falls on my clothes as I walk along the cherry tree row.

Through using part of another waka to model the tanka off of, the writer had done a fine job of describing the snowy winter scene as it blended into the cherry blossom-filled spring, along with effectively conveying the delicate emotions felt watching it happen.

Tanka – an unrhymed Japanese verse form of five lines containing five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables respectively
Waka – Japanese poetry

The writer was a Riotsu first year, Kobori Fumiya.

Souichirou couldn’t help but grin at how that early morning reverie had been portrayed through a tanka.

Without delay, he made his way to the dormitory’s cafeteria. When he found Fumiya, he quickly made his way over.

“Kobori-kun, I saw your entry in Keitou. That wasn’t a bad tanka.”

While Souichirou spoke, the shy underclassman drew back. Was he surprised at the suddenness of it? Without even looking at his face, Fumiya cast his eyes down and thanked him in a voice so quiet it was almost a whisper.

“I saw snow scattered about on top of cherry blossoms in full bloom once when I was younger. It was in Europe, though… Ever since then, I’ve felt like there’s some kind of bond between snow and cherry blossoms,” Souichirou said, but Fumiya didn’t utter a single word in response.

After seeing how cleverly the boy could weave his words, Souichirou had thought that maybe bringing up the cherry blossoms would elicit a reaction from him, but…

He couldn’t help but feel let down that his expectations had been betrayed.

With his head hung down low, Fumiya waited for his upperclassman to walk away.

“Sorry for interrupting what you were doing.”

As expected, he shook his head without saying a thing, his black hair, as smooth as silk, swaying from the movement.

“You may leave now.”

Once permission was given, Fumiya left at the speed of light. Without raising his head even once.

Souichirou, dejected after his meeting with Fumiya, didn’t know what to do with himself. I’ve just made everything so awkward…

He shrugged his shoulders.

It’s not like this is the first time I’ve been disliked by someone.

Souichirou rarely paid attention to it while on the school premises, but the people who looked at him with suspicion in their eyes because of his mother’s German blood were not few in numbers. After the first Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, militarism became common and the contempt held toward foreigners had only increased since then.

As the first child, Souichirou’s father and grandfather and their side of the family supported him. However, his stepmother and her side of the family were arrogant, believing the second child, his younger brother who was born to his stepmother, should be the one to succeed the family.

Even though Souichirou was a charming young boy, his stepmother ignored him and didn’t show the slightest hint of loving him.

Souichirou was never raised in Lord Akamatsu’s residence; rather, he was raised in Musashino, where his grandparents lived. However, anyone could tell from a glance that he wasn’t of pure Japanese blood; as much as his grandparents might have loved him, it would make sense if it worried them.

Even after becoming an earl following the Meiji Restoration, and even after he no longer had his topknot, Souichirou’s grandfather, born into a prestigious family in the Kinki region, had never lost his samurai spirit. He drove the arts of fencing and horse riding into his grandson, regardless of how people viewed him. His grandmother, born into nobility, taught him the basics of waka.

Yet, despite being taught in both the literary and military arts, prejudice and discrimination cast a dark shadow over his future.

Souichirou was alone. Even if he garnered attention because of his beautiful features and his noble heart and became respected for it—no, because he was respected for it, Souichirou would have no choice but to remain as a boy left in solitude.

 

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