Chapter 48:

Ch.17 Red Carnations (5/6)

Sleeping Princess

Once lunchtime came around and I made my way to the second year's hall. Even though I didn’t agree to have lunch with Mihara-san I was still going to make it happen even if she liked it or not. Something important needed to be addressed and that was her feelings towards Mari-san being reflected on Hana-chan. But not knowing where to start I did the next best thing. I made my way to the Fine Arts club room on the second year's floor of the school. If anyone knew where she was it would be them. When I finally reached the door, I gave it a knock or two.Bookmark here

“It’s open.”Bookmark here

A calming yet familiar voice called out to me. It was tenderly sweet and slightly lower-pitched.Bookmark here

“Please excuse me.”Bookmark here

Once I stepped inside there was a single student with her box lunch on her desk. With her snow-white legs crossed, she sat on top of the many desks in the room. Stationed on the teacher's desk was a small old television but it wasn't on. With her blue school jacket opened and hands on her knees, craned her neck to face me. That lushes unique burgundy hair waterfalled behind her back in a ponytail. But what captured me most was her succulent lotus pink. Her features were familiar, but I couldn’t help but put my finger on where I've seen her before.Bookmark here

“Ah, how can I help you?"Bookmark here

“Oh…yes, I was looking for Mihara Yuko-san.”Bookmark here

“Hm? Yuko-san?”Bookmark here

She flipped her burgundy hair as she gazed back down at her meal. It was a basic bento box with rice and a meat portion. To be didn't look all that tasty.Bookmark here

“She didn’t feel like chatting today with me so instead she decided to go eat somewhere to have lunch in peace.”Bookmark here

With a shrug, she gave me a haphazard laugh.Bookmark here

"Oh, is that so?"Bookmark here

“Yuko-san can be difficult at times…especially if she doesn’t get her way.”Bookmark here

Her shoulders slumped as she set down her meal on the table.Bookmark here

"Mihara-san is?”Bookmark here

That didn’t strike me as the kind of person Mihara-san was. I was slowly uncovering a new side to the ghost who haunts around me every now and then. She began chewing her meal despite how bland it looked. But the expression on her face told me she wasn't enjoying it.Bookmark here

“Ahh…may I ask who you are?”Bookmark here

The mystery girl gave me a chuckle as she spoke.Bookmark here

“My name is Saitou Saya. I’m the person who did your fortune at the Cultural Festival.”Bookmark here

My mouth widened in surprise. She was the girl who conned me out of a few yen to tell me that my life was going to be adventurous. I didn't recognize her because she wasn't all doll up in strange wear. Even if that was all a lie for fun…which I know it was, it still bothered me that she still won in the end and I was forced into that chair.Bookmark here

“Ah, well my name is…”Bookmark here

“Nakagawa…Madoka-san, right?”Bookmark here

She chuckled as she closed her eyes. With a finger in the air, as if a mysterious force gave her my name she spoke it with confidence...when in actuality, it was likely that she just remembered it from our meeting that day. Saitou-san now stood up and set her bland meal to the side. With a confident stride, she gandered over to me.Bookmark here

“Well since you're here...can I ask you something Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

On the defensive, I held my box lunch closer to me now. It wasn't as if I was afraid of her or anything though. She was a known con in my heart and I didn't want to be swayed by her grifting any longer.Bookmark here

"What is it, Saitou-san?"Bookmark here

With a cross of her arms, she tilted her head slightly.Bookmark here

"You're friends with Mihara-san, right?"Bookmark here

Curious by the sudden question, I lower my shoulders and give her a nod.Bookmark here

"Ah, yes I am."Bookmark here

She rested her head on her arm now. With her eyes closed, she spoke warily.Bookmark here

“Lately, Yuko-chan has been in a better mood than she usually is. She’s horridly scarce but for the last couple of months now…I felt a change in her attitude. Or...A change in the force, mind you!”Bookmark here

"A change in the force? Ah, her attitude?"Bookmark here

The con artist turned around and walked to the classroom's closet. Inside revealed a collection of photos. In each section of the closet, a name was labeled to likely signify a club member's artwork. There were a total of five different names.Bookmark here

“I like to show you something, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Confused yet slightly interested... I followed her over. Her long hair fluttered as she messed with the papers inside. As I approached my nose caught a unique scent. She smelled like a mixture of amber wood and honey. It was faint but sweet all the same. Now that I thought about it…I’ve always been the type to like sweet smells like this.Bookmark here

“Here we go…”Bookmark here

She then brought out a bunch of pictures and set them on the desk nearby. They all came from the section that was designated to the ghost, Mihara Yuko-san. As I looked at the majority of them, they all fit a similar theme...Bookmark here

“Are these carnations?”Bookmark here

She showered me with a bunch of sketches. Pictures of the same flower in all kinds of locations. Some pictures were carnations scattered across an open field. Others of carnations alone in a desolate desert. But no matter where they were they all seemed to be images of deep red carnations. There we so many of them that It was almost to an unhealthy proportion. There had to be hundreds of sketches of that same flower.Bookmark here

“These are Mihara-san’s drawings, Saitou-san?”Bookmark here

“Yep. She’s been in a flower mood for around two months or so.”Bookmark here

I nodded, still unsure why she showed me these.Bookmark here

“Do you know what red carnations mean in the world of flowers, Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

Now I turned to her whose been eyeing my reactions this entire time. Her expression was calm...even a tad imposing if I had to admit.Bookmark here

“Is this the question you wanted to ask me?”Bookmark here

“Well...Yes and no I guess...”Bookmark here

This person was extremely vague and sometimes uncannily mysterious in the ways she operates. It made me wonder if I was falling into one of her cons. So, I touched my pocket to make sure my wallet was still in there. After confirming that the grifter wasn't trying to haggle me out of a few yen...I confessed to her.Bookmark here

“I don’t know much about those kinds of things. The language of flowers and...all that.”Bookmark here

Shamefully, I admit. Was it that obvious that I’ve never had a boyfriend before now? Or…maybe even a girlfriend now that I took who I am into account?Bookmark here

Saitou-san giggled wholeheartedly which made me tense up.Bookmark here

"How're kind of innocent, aren't you Nakagawa-san?"Bookmark here

That was a bit rude I thought. So, I crossed my arms and puffed out my chest.Bookmark here

"Just tell me what it means!"Bookmark here

I shouted still embarrassed by my lack of romantics.Bookmark here

“They signify love…"Bookmark here

"Love?"Bookmark here

With a slight nod, she spoke softly, touching away at Mihara-san's photos. Her eyes danced about the pages as if her soul was entering all the worlds portrayed by these red carnations.Bookmark here

"But not just any kind of love, Nakagawa-san. It's a deep, lustful, burning passion of love. The kind...that could be painful if given to the wrong person.”Bookmark here

“I see..."Bookmark here

I thought about the image on my phone. They were carnations. But the ones she gave me were cream pink and cute. Nothing like the overbearing blood-colored of the ones displayed in these pictures.Bookmark here

"So, why are you showing this to me?"Bookmark here

" moment."Bookmark here

Saitou-san searched through all of them now with prejudice. For a moment I sat in silence as the rustle of pages was the only noise in the room. The small television was off creating a lonely atmosphere.Bookmark here

"Here, this is the one!"Bookmark here

She cried as she the showed sketch to me. It was of a blood-red carnation that sat alone in the middle of the frame.Bookmark here

It mirrored the one on the desktop of my phone. It stood alone in the same position...but instead of the calming pink cream petals like mine...these had the intense red ones.Bookmark here

"Does this look familiar to you, Nakagawa-san?"Bookmark here

"Huh?"Bookmark here

Still drawing the connection in my head, Saitou-san spoke up and broke my thoughts.Bookmark here

"I said, does this image look familiar to you? It does...doesn't it?"Bookmark here

"How...did you know?"Bookmark here

She giggled and winked at me.Bookmark here

"Because I'm psychic!"Bookmark here

The con lied, causing me to straighten my back.Bookmark here

"I'm kidding, Nakagawa-san. No...Mihara-san wanted to give this photo to a friend of hers, she said."Bookmark here

"A friend?"Bookmark here

"But I...was against it and told her not to."Bookmark here

Confused, I looked away from the picture and geared my full attention to her.Bookmark here

"Why?"Bookmark here

She sighed and curled her hands on her chest.Bookmark here

"Because of the color of the carnations. It...would be a little inappropriate if she did something like that. I...told her that it would be a good idea to change the color to something more suitable for friends...maybe pink? And believe me…Yuko-san had a fit about it.”Bookmark here

Air escaped her nose.Bookmark here

"That girl didn't talk with me for days. Every club afternoon she'd just sit in that corner over there and sketch more red carnations...she really wanted to give her friend red carnations."Bookmark here

Why was she telling me this? What did all of this even mean?Bookmark here

"Nakagawa-san...Mihara-san doesn't have many friends outside of the Fine Arts club."Bookmark here

She explained with candor. It was a tad off-putting how naturally she made that public.Bookmark here

"During the Cultural Festival...she was so happy to speak with you though. So, I just assumed you were one of her only friends...or in this case the friend she wanted to send that picture to, maybe?"Bookmark here

Like a lion, she entrapped me in this odd scenario. Saitou-san with ease guided me over and now that I'm just where this con artist wanted me...she finally struck and it hit me like a hammer to the head.Bookmark here

“…I see.”Bookmark here

“I just concluded that the girl might have…you know…fallen in love with someone. And she wanted to send them red carnations.”Bookmark here

She chuckled.Bookmark here

“So, do you know if she has anyone she likes, Nakagawa-san? You are her friend and all...”Bookmark here

She asked a rhetorical question. She already knew the answer to it but she's spoon-feeding me this with ease. To put it bluntly, she wanted to know if I'm the one who received her sketch. The sketch of the pink carnations that originally supposed to be red. In other words, her question was pointed and directed without being direct.Bookmark here

She's asking if Mihara-san...Bookmark here

“...Has Mihara-san ever talked about liking anyone, Saitou-san?”Bookmark here

“Yuko-san talking about love? Nah, she’s too skittish to even have a normal conversation without freaking out at the best of times.”Bookmark here

Now cleaning up the pictures she continued her monologue.Bookmark here

“I’ve known Yuko-san since she joined this club at the beginning of the year. She’s hard-working but extraordinarily timid. She’s fragile despite her height. What is on the outside doesn't mirror her insides”Bookmark here

After closing the closet door and locking it up with a key, she neatly placed it in her pocket and gave me a warming smile.Bookmark here

“So…if she has fallen in love with someone…I just hope they don’t break her heart…you know? She's...fragile, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Could it be the case that Mihara-san…is in love…with me?Bookmark here

But why me if that's true?Bookmark here

When would that have happened between us?Bookmark here

When in the past could something like that have happened that she fell in love with me? But if that was the case that she indeed did…It would make all the moments between us before we officially became acquaintances…all the running, crying, hurting just to speak to me…as if our very meeting caused her pain...Bookmark here

“So, if you’re going to have lunch with Yuko-san, please cheer her up for me.”Bookmark here

She giggled cunningly.Bookmark here

“It might even be one of your rough adventures where the heart won’t know which path to take.”Bookmark here

She chimed, emphasizing the word, "heart" as she did it. My chest jolted as if someone sent a rogue whirlwind of thunder through it.Bookmark here

Out of all the times these psychics had to fake readings…that wasn’t good for my heart.Bookmark here

“…I don’t believe in that stuff…”Bookmark here

I firmly stated like a proper woman however my body was exploding with twisted emotions now. All to the point that I could pass out with fatigue.Bookmark here

“Oh, you don’t have to believe in it…for it to come true, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Was this true? Could her fortune had been correct all this time...or maybe it was something more logical? Saitou-san already came to this conclusion and pulled me in during the festival to tease me a little...didn't she?Bookmark here

Whatever the case was, I made my way back to the halls without saying another word. If this was true...if Mihara-san had secret feelings for me...Bookmark here

That would change everything.Bookmark here

Now I needed to know what happened between her and Mari-san.Bookmark here

It wasn't just a story about missing flowers anymore.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.