Chapter Nine- The Plan and the Beach

"Wait... What?!" Erina gasped aloud, her eyes widened. She had often teased Alice about it...but she didn't know that it was actually true.

Alice blushed and covered her hand on Erina's mouth, muffling her gasp. "E-Erina, you're too loud!"

Erina stopped and glared at Alice. Telling her from the glint of her eyes to take her hand off her lips.

"Oh, sorry," Alice let out a weak laugh. She placed her hand away and sat upright, her face features showed her nervousness. Obviously the only one she could tell this to was Erina. Erina was the only one she trusted, because she was her cousin but also because she knew that Erina would never tell anyone her most intimate secret. You could say that Erina was rather trustworthy even if she had a very cold demeanor.

"You really meant what you said?" questioned Erina. She wanted to make sure her cousin was absolutely sure about her feelings. Although Erina had absolutely no idea what it means to feel romantically towards someone, she just hope that Alice didn't make a mistake in her feelings. But after reading all those shoujo mangas it had helped Erina know some knowledge about that fickle feeling.

Alice nodded. Not a hint of hesitation was spotted. She really did...have feelings for Ryou. The first moment she was embarrassed and then the next moment Alice began to roll around Erina's bed with comical tears flowing down her cheeks. "I don't know what to do Erina! I-If I really do have feelings for him...what am I going to do?" cried Alice as she hugged the nearest pillow.

"Um..." Erina mumbled. She pondered for a moment and blinked in realization. What was Alice supposed to do? It's not like she was some sort of romantic genius. She was only like that in the cooking category. When it comes to love, well, she was totally clueless. "Well...actually I think you just have to act normal..?" she spoke uncertainly.

"Act normal?" repeated Alice, looking up at Erina.

"Y-Yeah, you know so he doesn't find out your feelings."

Erina must be out of her mind. She was giving advice about a topic she didn't even have a clue about. She sighed and gave Alice a serious look. "Look Alice, you shouldn't be talking about these kinds of topic with me. Since you know I'm clueless when it comes to..."

"Romance," Alice finished for her," I know, but I trust you in keeping my secret Erina."

"Maybe you're trusting the wrong person," Erina muttered under her breath. She got up from the bed and stood up. "It's getting late, you should probably go to sleep now Alice."

Alice nodded and walked to the door. She gave Erina a small smile. "Good night Erina." She closed the door and her footsteps faded away.

Erina closed the lights and went to her bed. Her mind swirled everywhere. A lot of things had happened today. She closed her eyes and let out a sigh. She wanted to know who that man was in the picture with her mother. Erina remembered his face even though she had only looked at it once.

His messy black hair that looked soft and silky. His eyes emerald eyes that seemed to hold a warmth deep within. Erina couldn't help but feel that she'd met this man somewhere, but she didn't know where. It was that strange warmth he held deep within his eyes that made Erina feel somewhat nostalgic.

'No time to think about such nonsense,' thought Erina. She tossed and turned. Everything that had happened today had gone by so fast. She sighed and found a comfortable position. For now she should worry more about Alice than her own problems.

A smirk formed on Erina's lips before she fell asleep. She had a feeling that she was going to be very amused tomorrow.

-Next Day-

Erina sat quietly and ate, glancing at Alice every few minutes. She couldn't help but sigh mentally as she had already noticed the nervous actions of her cousin.

Alice fidgeted every few seconds, her anxiety and nervous growing. After all she was sitting next to her said crush, Kurokiba Ryou. She slowly ate but could help but feel her mind spinning round and round. Alice glanced at Ryou, taking in his face features. She had always known that Ryou was handsome, but now it seemed as if he is dazzling.

"Is something wrong milady Alice?" asked Ryou.

"Oh, it's nothing!" Alice replied a bit too loudly. She immediately gazed away, a rosy hue formed on her white cheeks.

Zenji had noticed the strange behavior and fixed his glasses. "Is that so Nakiri-san? I've noticed your strange behavior for a while now."

Alice pouted and puffed her cheeks. Obviously he was the most observant, but he didn't have to point that out! She gave Zenji a sharp look. "I am fine!"

"Marui-san," called Erina. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him. Swallowing her chewed food she continued, "I advise you to not to say anything that is not in your place, especially when your statements are quite…inconvenient in the matter." Although she held respect in her tone, everyone had noticed the sharpness in her tone.

"O-of course, I'm sorry," Zenji replied, his voice ending with a small squeak. The aura around the Nakiri heiress was something that must not be provoked.

Souma laughed and patted Erina on the shoulder. "Don't be so hard on him Nakiri. Marui just likes to point out the obvious." He felt sorry for Zenji and had noticed his desperate glances after getting a cold remark from Erina.

Erina frowned and her aura was slowly being provoked by Yukihira Souma. She gave him a piercing look and shoved his hand away from her shoulder. Not only did she feel irritated from his presence, but she also didn't want to deal with him right now. Instead of saying anything else she continued her meal, ignoring the grin from the red-headed boy. 'I don't understand why I must have to put up with idiots like him,' Erina mentally said to herself with a small sigh.

"Do not touch Erina-sama, Yukihira-kun!" yelled Hisako. She began to tell Souma how precious Erina was and to not be touched by the likes of him.

'That little…ice queen!' thought Ikumi angrily as she grinded the food in her mouth. She was envious, will more like jealous, that Erina had received an "intimate" touch from Souma. Just thinking about it made her furious and she quickly consumed her food in anger.

"I-is something wrong Nikumi-chan?" asked Megumi nervously, noticing the meat girl's change of behavior. "You seem to be angry for some reason…"

"I'm not angry! I'm just…you know..." Ikumi protested angrily. She lightly pouted and blushed. Jealousy still whirled in her mind and she could feel her blood boiling, but eventually calmed herself down.

Then came Fumio, smiling broadly as she approached to all of the adolescents. "Kids! We're going to go to the beach in two days! You ready!"

Everyone looked at each other and cheered. "The beach!"

Alice beamed and hugged Erina. "The beach Erina! Aren't you excited?"

"Well… I guess it's better than nothing."

"Mou! Stop being so uptight and actually enjoy something for once."

Erina cracked a small smile and chuckled. 'I guess you're right.'

Just like that breakfast ended with loud cheering.

XXX

"You want to what!?" cried Alice. She grabbed Erina's shoulders and began to shake her violently. "I-I can't possibly do that!" Her eyes turned cartoonish and childish.

Erina gritted her teeth and slapped Alice's hands away from her shoulders. "Like I said. It's best if you have some assistance with your secret crush on Kurokiba-kun. I don't think hiding this feeling is a strong point for you, especially what happened during breakfast."

"What do you mean? Did I mess up?"

"Yes. Very. Even someone as inexperienced as me can tell that you're very obvious in your feelings."

Alice puffed her cheeks and placed her hands on her hips. "But you said that you did admire someone!"

"E-ehh, since when!" retorted Erina. She stared daggers at Alice as she crossed her arms.

"One year ago, remember when we went to the pool?" This time Alice smirked. "I still have the recording by the way."

"You kept it?! Why didn't you delete it?" Erina frantically asked. Then she grabbed Alice's shoulders and started to lightly shake her.

Alice laughed and clicked her tongue in amusement. "Didn't I tell you I would use it against you?"

This made Erina grimace and she gave up. There's no stopping Alice once she knows something. She groaned softly and then inhaled. "I'm going to ask Tadokoro-san if she can help you."

XXX

Megumi stared at Alice with an astonished look before saying anything. "I-is this true Nakiri-san?" she asked looking at Erina.

Erina sat down and crossed her arms. "Seems so. And I was wondering if you can help Alice, because I am oblivious to things like…romance."

"Of course I will help. You two are my friends and we help each other," beamed Megumi. She stood up. "Can I tell Yuuki-chan and Ryouko-chan about this? I'm sure they know more than me and will certainly help."

Alice vigorously nodded and gave Megumi a quick hug. "Thank you Megumi-san!"

"Um, should I also tell this to Nikumi-chan?"

"No, no! It is completely fine! She doesn't need to know anything about this!"

Megumi smiled nervously from Alice's quick reply and nodded. She left, leaving Alice and Erina.

Erina raised an eyebrow from Alice's strange reply. But instead of asking anything else, she just took out her cell phone and began to look at her contacts. Her index finger stopped as she noticed a text message.

To: Erina-sama

From: Hisako

Erina-sama, may I please speak to you for a moment? Please meet me outside the villa.

Erina stood up and patted Alice on the head, something that she rarely does. "I need to do something right now. Why don't you go and think about what you're going to do once you tell Kurokiba-kun."

The remark made Alice blush, but she ignored it. Instead she smiled at Erina. "Going to talk to Yukihira-kun again?"

"W-what?"

"Oh don't be shy now Erina, I've seen you two together. The two of you are so cute together," mentioned Alice. She clasped her hands together, her face sparkling. "It's just like those romance stories. That would be so wonderful!"

Erina felt her heart flutter and shook her head. Ignoring Alice's babble, Erina left.

XXX

"Hisako, you wanted to talk to me?" asked Erina. She stopped once the said girl was in front of her view. Her arms crossed as her amethyst eyes looked at her.

"Yes, Erina-sama," replied Hisako, her voice sounded serious. She turned to look at Erina and bit her lip. "I wanted you to clarify some things."

Erina tilted her head in confusion, but ushered the girl to continue on. It wasn't rare for Hisako to be serious, but seeing as there really hasn't been any work lately Erina was confused about her aide's attitude.

"Erina-sama, when are you coming back to the Nakiri household?" asked Hisako.

"Go back?" Erina unintelligibly said, "Well… Once grandfather tells to me come back." Her eyebrows creased. There was without a doubt that she will have to go back to the Nakiri household, but that is when Senzaemon contacts her to come back. "Why do you ask?"

Hisako exhaled. "There is no particular reason. But Erina-sama, I have another question."

The summer breeze softly blew, but it somehow gave a small chill.

"Do you…like it here? I mean the Polar Stars."

The question took Erina aback and she placed a finger on her chin, thinking about it for a moment. But she thought to herself, did she really like the Polar Stars. They've spent time together for quite some time, and Erina had experienced many new things because of them.

"I…" began Erina, "I'm not quite sure Hisako." She glanced up at the sky and then back at Hisako. "But."

"But…?"

The corners of Erina's lips curved up a bit and she let out a chuckle. "I have gotten used to the people and the environment. I have also experienced new things as I spent time with them. Like making new friends….just like how you became a close person to me." Her mind drifted back to the memories from a few weeks ago.

"Is that so…" Hisako quietly responded. Her hands curled up on her sides, making a fist. She smiled weakly towards Erina. "You've gotten soft Erina-sama."

"I-I have? I never thought about that."

"You have, very much," nodded Hisako. "But, I never remembered when I became your friend Erina-sama."

"You don't remember? Well, it was when we first met when we were children," smiled Erina.

XXX

"Grandfather, where are we going?" asked a young Erina. Her expression was blank and she gripped onto a cherry blossom branch. Her other hand was taken by her grandfather as he led her to the hallways and into a room.

"I want you to meet someone. She's going to spend a lot of time with you, so I want you to get along with each other," Senzaemon replied. He smiled at Erina. "I think you might like her."

Erina looked at her grandfather's soft expression and looked away. She didn't know if she should reply, but instead she kept quiet. Her grip around the cherry blossom tightened. 'I don't think I can ever like anyone else.'

XXX

"My name is Arato Hisako, pleased to meet you Nakiri Erina-sama," smiled a girl with short pink hair. The girl, Hisako, looked at Erina with a nervous smile. Her hands were placed on her sides. "I hope we get along."

"Pleased to meet you as well Arato Hisako," acknowledged Erina with a nod. She looked at the cherry blossoms and then at her grandfather. "Is that all grandfather?" Her blank expression never faltering.

Senzaemon blinked and laughed. "How about the two of you get along? Talk for a bit, I need to go back to my study." With that, he left the room and left the two girls alone.

Erina sat on the couch and then looked at Hisako. "What are you waiting for Arato-san? Come and sit."

"O-of course Erina-sama," Hisako said nervously. She sat on the couch across from Erina. 'She doesn't really smile much…' Her eyes wandered around and then noticed the cherry blossom that Erina was holding onto and beamed. "Do you like cherry blossoms Erina-sama?"

This made Erina look up at the girl and then back at the cherry blossom. Her expression softened and she nodded. "They are pretty and I like it when they fall down."

Hisako smiled, only to notice that there was nothing else to talk about.

"Would you like to see the cherry blossoms with me?" asked Erina.

"I-I would love to Erina-sama."

XXX

"Ah…I remember," said Hisako nonchalantly. "But you never showed much emotions when I first met you."

Erina tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "Well, that as because…I was trying to compose myself… But you became my first friend. During that time I didn't have any friends since I never met anyone near my age and adults usually come around me due to my status." She breathed in. "But you were different. You wanted to be near such a person like me. I—"

"You've mistaken my motives Erina-sama," interrupted Hisako. She exhaled and crossed her arms. "I was only close to you because I was assigned as your aide, nothing more." Her eyes narrowed and she looked away. "I never would have thought that someone like you, Erina-sama, would have actually thought in things like friendship."

"I never knew that I would think about things like these. I always thought they were nonsense."

"You've changed ever since you had gone to the Polar Stars."

"I guess you could say that."

Hisako let out a small smile. "Well that's all I have to clarify. Thank you for taking your time Erina-sama."

Erina watched Hisako walk back to the villa. But she couldn't help but wonder about Hisako's weird attitude. 'I know there's nothing to be concerned about, but I'm worried…' She pondered a bit and then walked to the garden of the villa.

XXX

'I wonder what Nakiri is doing right now,' thought Souma. He was sitting on his bed, looking out of the window with a bored face. Right now there was absolutely nothing to do. There would have been if everyone wasn't so busy.

Souma stared in boredom. He hasn't seen Erina and wondered where she was. He had asked Megumi where she was, but she shrugged and said that Erina had left to do something. 'I can't sit here forever and not do anything for the whole day…' he thought, 'Maybe I could read a manga volume, or something…'

But he decided not to and looked at the clouds passing by. His golden eyes wandered around until he spotted a figure at the garden. Souma opened the window and noticed honey-blonde hair and immediately knew who that person was. He grinned to himself and opened the window. "Hey, Nakiri! What are you doing outside?"

Below, Erina looked up and flinched once she sees the red-headed boy. She frowned. "None of your business Yukihira-kun! I can do whatever I please." After that, she strode off elsewhere.

Souma placed his elbow on the edge of the window, placing his hand on his cheek. 'Obviously she would say that.' He smiled to himself. 'Might as well call pops.'

He stepped out of his bed and went to take his bag. He searched inside to take out a cell phone. Souma clicked a contact number and sat on the edge of his bed, patiently waiting for his dad to pick up.

"Hello?"

"Hey dad, it's me Souma."

"Oh, Souma. What do you want? Miss me already?"

"Pfft, just bored. I needed to do something."

"You're still the same. How's vacation for you?"

Souma grinned to himself and the conversation between the two continued.

XXX

Alice furrowed her eyebrows as she stared at the girls in front of her. She pouted and placed her hands on her cheeks. Her red eyes read the paper that Yuuki was holding, she read it over and over again. "Do you think it's really going to work?" she questioned.

Yuuki grinned and placed the paper down. "If you do it right then it might work," she spoke, "All you have to do is follow these steps."

"Umm, but you know how Ryou is. What if he doesn't understand what I'm trying to do?"

Ryouko pondered for a moment. Remembering Ryou's stoic face and emotionless reactions made her frown a bit. "This is going to be harder than we've thought Yuuki," she told wearily. Ryouko tucked a piece of hair strand behind her ear. "I don't think Kurokiba-kun is going to understand the signs."

Yuuki scrunched her nose and then sighed. She looked at list and then crumbled it. "Then let's take it slow," she said, "Any suggestions?"

"Maybe you should just start by talking to him Alice-san," smiled Megumi, "Then you can get to the topic."

"That's a good idea Megumi-chan," agreed Ryouko, "Then you can ask him out Alice-san."

Alice pursed her lips and then nodded. "I guess I can do that…"

"Alright, it's been decided. You start tomorrow afternoon, also make sure you spend time with him when we go to the beach!" said Yuuki excitedly. She went to her bag and took out two walky-talkies and gave one to Alice. "We'll use these to communicate."

"Okay."

"But we're also going to need another hand with this plan."

"And who would that be?"

XXX

Erina walked around the garden as she pondered about the conversation she had with Hisako. She wondered what she meant. Although Erina was known to a genius at cooking, she only had the faintest clue about friendship. She remembered the time when she was looking at the cherry blossoms with Hisako and had known that she was too afraid to befriend with someone like her.

Erina sighed and sat on the grass, staring at the dandelions. She smiled softly as she watched the dandelions softy sway from left to right.

'I wonder how Alice is doing…'

Suddenly she heard footsteps and looked up then grimaced.

"Hey there Nakiri," grinned Souma, "What are you doing?"

"Nothing much. But what are you doing here?"

"Hehe, just came to get some fresh air. And besides everyone else was busy, and seeing that you looked bored I wanted to give you some company."

Erina glanced at him and allowed him to sit next to her. She inhaled softly, taking in the summer air. There was a comfortable silence in the air.

Souma laid down on the grass, his hands on the back of his head as he looked up at the sky. He was known to be a talker, and usually carried out the conversation. But he decided to keep quiet, liking the atmosphere between the two of them.

XXX

Ikumi raised an eyebrow as she looked at Yuuki smiling at her.

"Nikumi-chan, would you like to join our plan?" she asked sweetly.

Ikumi took a step back, fearing what may lie ahead if she agreed. She saw Alice staring at her like a hawk. "And what if I agree?" she asked slowly and cautiously.

"Oh Nikumi," Alice called sweetly, "We can help you in exchange if you help me with one little problem."

"And what would that be?"

"Well…"

-Few Minutes Later-

Ikumi stared wide-eyed at Alice. She couldn't believe what she just heard. Nakiri Alice is actually in love with someone, and with a person she'd known for years. She cracked a sly smile. "So you're trying to ask me for help?"

"Well technically yes, with their help as well," answered Alice. She huffed and crossed her arms, mentally grumbling about why she just had to follow Yuuki. "But you need to keep this a secret, especially from the boys. I don't need them babbling about things."

"Heh, I'm not sure I can do that."

Alice raised an eyebrow and slightly frowned. "Are you sure you don't want to agree with these simple terms?" She smirked and mouthed, 'I know your secret.'

Ikumi gulped and looked away. She noticed Megumi giving her the puppy eyes, thus making her give up and agreeing to help. 'This is only to keep my secret hidden!' she yelled in her head.

-Next Day-

Plan One- Talk to Ryou (In progress)

Alice sat still nervously, fiddling with the walkie-talkie. She was nervous, for the first time in her life she was actually nervous in talking with Ryou. Alice pursed her lips and waited quietly until Yuuki tells her she can start.

-Bzzt, bzzt-

Alice heard Yuuki's voice over the walkie-talkie.

"You can start now Alice-chan, we're going to be watching from outside."

"Alright," replied Alice. She gulped once she hid the walkie-talkie in her pockets. She slowly walked to Ryou's room and felt her heart accelerating. Alice cleared her throat and mumbled to herself, "Act natural." She formed a small, but nervous, smile and quickly slammed the door open like she always does whenever she enter his room.

"Ryou! I need to talk to you about something!" she said loudly, the smile still plastered on her lips. Her movements stopped once she sees Ryou and slowly felt time running slow. Her red eyes widened in surprise and her face turned red, very red.

Her eyes stared at Ryou as she watched him doing push-ups, his muscles and abs were showing since he didn't wear a shirt. Sweat formed on his body as he continued his daily exercise.

Soon he stopped and he stood up, getting a towel and wiping his face. Ryou turned to look at Alice, his face expressed confusion as he noticed her red face. "Is there something you need, Milady Alice?"

"W-well," spluttered Alice, "I-I was…y-you know what…!" She slowly stepped out of the room. "I-it's nothing!" And she ran away, leaving a trail of dust.

Ryou, of course, remained unfazed. But he was confused with Alice's attitude today, but decided that it was something not needed to pry into.

Plan One- FAILED

XXX

Ikumi laughed at Alice, who sat on the couch and hung her head in shame. She clutched her stomach and soon stopped her laughter. "You ran away?"

Alice exhaled and placed her hands on her cheeks. "Yea, only because I couldn't help but stare at his well-built body." She panicked and her face turned pink. "But I was never fazed by his abs before. I always burst into his room when he's half-naked and doing exercises… Something is wrong with me."

"There is nothing wrong with you Alice-san, it's just that…you're in love with him," reassured Ryouko, placing a comforting hand on Alice's shoulder.

Yuuki rubbed her forehead and grinned. She wasn't going to give up just yet. "Alice-chan, you're going to do this again."

"Ehhh? Again?!"

XXX

Plan Two- The continuation of plan one (in progress)

"Ryou…~" Alice called softly as she saw him coming down the stairs. All of the girls had hidden themselves in order to leave the two alone. Alice placed on her best natural face. "How…have you been?"

Ryou noticed Alice and gave her a small nod. "I'm doing fine Milady Alice," he replied. "Is there anything you need?"

"Actually there is…" she began, "I was wondering if you would like to go…"

"What are you doing here!?" –Bzzt-

Alice heard it and she knew that it was loud enough for Ryou to heard from the look of his face.

Alice's face paled as she placed her hands behind her back. 'Why at a time like this…!' She laughed weakly and smiled. "You know what, I changed my mind. See you later Ryou~" She turned around and quickly walked away, once again mentally hitting herself.

XXX

"Sorry," mumbled Ikumi.

Erina stood with the rest of them, arms crossed and looked slightly crossed. "Exactly what is going on here?" All she wanted to do was get something, only to receive a yell from Ikumi. Erina frowned as she remembered what had happened a few minutes ago.

"We were trying to help Alice-san with her problem," spoke Megumi. She had been quiet during the whole ordeal, thinking it was best to let Yuuki and Ryouko to lead on the operation.

"I see…"

Erina rubbed her forehead and questioned, "And how is it going so far?"

All the girls narrowed their eyes and looked away, a gloomy atmosphere being created. Erina blinked and stared at them for a moment, knowing fully well how bad the plan was going.

"Guessing from your expression, the plan didn't work out?"

They nodded and Alice wailed softly.

"We're not going to give up yet!" declared Yuuki.

-Few Hours Later- (After 42 attempts)

Erina played with her cell phone and saw the girls coming back with disappointed faces. She slightly smirked and closed her cellphone. "How did it go this time?"

"Forty-two attempts and I still can't do it Erina!" cried Alice. She threw herself onto Erina and comically cried and tears began to fly from her face. "I tried, really tried. But that idiot Ryou doesn't even take a hint!"

Erina awkwardly shifted, trying to pry off Alice's arms off of her. "So what happened?"

Alice sniffled and pouted. "Well I managed to tell Ryou that I wanted to go on a date with him…"

XXX

"Ryou, I have to tell you something really important!" Alice announced loudly. She grabbed his hands and held onto it tightly. Her red eyes making contact with his. Alice heard her heart beat thumping loudly that she could hear it.

"What is it Milady Alice?" Ryou asked.

"Let's go somewhere together, just the two of us!"

After saying that, Alice's face burned and she quickly let his hands go. She felt her hands getting sweaty and her heart racing every minute. "S-So? What do you say?"

"Milady Alice, I would go with you," replied Ryou, "But we always go together so what difference does it makes?"

Alice stared at Ryou as if he grew ten heads. She puffed her cheeks and looked away. "Hmph! I changed my mind, I don't feel like going anywhere."

"Okay then."

"Auugh! You idiot, Ryou!"

XXX

"I don't think we can actually expect much from Kurokiba-kun," said Megumi, "I mean…he doesn't seem like the type that would be romantic."

"Like all boys," Ikumi rolled her eyes while thinking about a certain boy.

"Ahm, girls," called Fumio.

Everyone turned to look at her and saw her smirking with a glint in her eyes.

"O-oh, Fumio-san. How long were you standing there?" asked Megumi.

"For a while now."

"So did you hear everything?" Ikumi asked.

"Just about everything."

Erina cleared her throat and glanced at Fumio. "Is there anything you need Daimido-san?"

"Actually yes. I just wanted to remind you girls that tomorrow we're going to the beach, and all of you have to get ready," explained Fumio.

"Alright we got it."

Once Fumio had left, the girls sighed in relief. They agreed that they will talk more about this tomorrow when they were at the beach.

XXX

Alice laid on her bed with a solemn face. She never had thought that something like this would actually upset her.

She played with her short hair and a sigh escaped from her lips. For once, Alice wished that Ryou's mind wasn't involved with cooking 24/7.

"He's definitely an idiot…" she murmured.

-The beach-

Today was the day. Everyone stared at the open sea, the sandy ground and the seagulls flying by. The waves slowly came in and out and the other people in the beach were doing their own things. Fumio had parked the car and the boys had to find a spot, while the girls went to change.

"Today sure is hot…" mumbled Souma as he set the umbrella. He felt sweat drops rolling down to his chin and the heat was emitting more than usual.

Shun sat down once the towels were placed on the sand. He wiped some sweat off his face and replied, "Most likely the reason why many people had come to the beach."

"Men, good job in finding the right spot!" chirped Yuuki as she gave them a thumbs-up. "All of us are done changing."

"Good, because I'm starting to sweat," said Zenji.

Ikumi awkwardly looked at her bathing suit and then glanced nervously at Souma. "D-do you think this looks good on me?" she asked sheepishly. Ikumi blushed and glanced away, waiting for the red-head to reply.

"Yes it does. Looks like something you wear every day," responded Souma.

Ikumi wasn't expecting for that reply. She looked at her outfit and then looked at Souma.

"That's true, considering how Nikumi-san wears those…" Ryouko's voice trailed off as she remembers Ikumi's everyday attire.

Ikumi sat on the towel in defeat, muttering to herself.

"Where's Alice-san and Nakiri-san?" asked Megumi. "I don't see them…"

Hisako narrowed her eyes and sighs. "You see…"

"Erina! Come on already! Stop resisting!" yelled Alice. She was already wearing her bathing suit and her body has yet to be wholly seen since she seemed to be pulling something. "You have to face everyone sooner or later!"

She finally pulled Erina out and sighed exasperatedly. Alice fixed her hair and eyed her cousin. "You're a total handful Erina," she uttered.

"S-shut up Alice," Erina murmured. She felt embarrassed even though she was wearing a thin sweater to cover herself. She wasn't used to going to places filled with so many people, especially when she was wearing a bathing suit that shows most of her skin. From her time in the beach, it was usually a private beach owned by the Nakiri or a private pool. 'I've never been in a public beach before…' thought Erina as she stared at the ground sheepishly, finding it interesting all of a sudden. 'I've never been in a place filled with so many people. It makes me a bit anxious.'

"You're finally out Nakiri," grinned Yuuki. She observed Erina and then approached her, placing a finger on her chin. "Take off the sweater, you're going to be sweating."

"I-I'm fine," answered Erina. She fixed her sweater and stayed behind Alice, somewhat embarrassed from the looks of the others.

"Just don't get a heatstroke Erina-sama," Hisako told and she furrowed her eyebrows in worry.

"Are you okay Nakiri-san?" Megumi questioned.

Alice giggled and wrapped her shoulder around Erina. "Don't worry about her, she's just shy since she's never been in a public beach before."

Ikumi stifled a laugh and covered her lips with her hand. This was great news! The fact that Nakiri Erina, one of the most prestigious chefs in Tootsuki, was actually shy about going to a public beach. Just how childish can this girl be?

Megumi giggled softly and smiled, reassuring Erina that everything will be okay. With her words, Erina was able to feel somewhat less self-conscious about her presence, but objected in trying to take off her sweater despite the fact that she was sweating a bit.

XXX

"Aren't you going to join them?" Souma asked. He was sitting down near the umbrella so he wouldn't get sunburnt. His yellow eyes glanced at Erina, who was sitting next to him but from a bit of a distance.

Erina, however, merely shook her head. Her knees were brought to her chest as she stared at the open sea. From their spot, they could see just about everything. It was a hot day and a nice wave of sea water could cool you down. But Erina didn't want to go, for no particular reason. She watched Alice and Ryou and a small smile formed on her lips.

'Guess we didn't really need to formulate a plan for today,' she thought to herself. Her amethyst eyes watched as Alice splashed water on Ryou, who stared at her nonchalantly and followed her like he always had. 'If only I can let loose too...' A soft sigh escaped from her lips. 'But that's not like me at all.'

Everyone else went to do their own thing, like playing in the water, playing volleyball. Souma sighed, wondering how in the world did he get stuck watching the stuff. "So what do you want to do?" He asked Erina.

"...Sand," she finally muttered after a few minutes.

"Huh?"

Erina blushed and looked down at the ground sheepishly. "I...want to build...something with the sand," she murmured bashfully. Her head quickly turned away and she waited for a reply.

Souma simply laughed, earning a glare from Erina whose face burned in embarrassment.

"W-what is so funny!?" she snapped.

"Nothing really."

Souma went through the bags and took out a few small plastic shovels and small buckets and handed on to Erina. She took it and the two of them began to gathered sand into the buckets.

-Few Minutes Later-

Erina was annoyed. She continued to shove sand into her bucket and then quickly turned it around and placed it on the ground. Once she took the bucket off, the cylinder-shaped sand immediately broke apart. "Ugh, why can't this work!?" she growled, once again taking another handful of sand into the bucket.

Souma was watching Erina and laughed at her impatient actions. He placed his tools down and grinned. "You're not really good at this are you Nakiri?" he teased.

"S-shut up! I never done anything like this for a long time!" barked Erina. She did the same previous actions once more, only to fail once again.

"Here. Let me show you how to do it," said Souma.

After teaching Erina, she was able to get a hand of it in mere minutes.

Erina placed the bucket down on the ground once again and did what Souma taught her. She patted the bucket a few times and slowly brought it up. Erina watched intently at the newly shaped sand and noticed that it had any signs of being demolished. She looked at Souma and beamed.

"I did it!" she chirped excitedly as she gave Souma a wide smile.

Souma was somewhat dumbfounded by her giddy attitude in just making one sand structure. He quietly laughed and continued. At the corner of his eye he could see Erina's face sparkling as she had just built another sand structure. A thought popped up in his head and he couldn't help but chuckle to himself.

XXX

"Megumi, come on!" Yuuki beckoned the braided-haired girl to come faster. However Megumi ran rather slowly but nonetheless smiled. They were currently standing close to the waters, feeling the waves crashed into their feet and washing away quickly.

Ryouko was floating on the water and smiled as she felt how cool the water was. She relaxed and then dipped slowly swam, her back still on the water. "Where is Nakiri-san?" She asked.

"She's watching our things," replied Yuuki. She cupped her chin and then said, "Even though Yukihira-kun is there to watch over our stuff."

"I'm sure Nakiri-san can't help it. This must be the first time she'd been in a place filled with so many strangers," smiled Megumi. Her smile didn't fade but deep down there was an uncomfortable feeling. She then noticed Ikumi and Hisako together. Rather than getting along, the two of them were glaring at each other and arguing.

Her smile grew wider and felt that everyone was going to be closer because of today.

XXX

The Aldini brothers had coincidentally joined the "Sand Castle Project". Takumi first objected in doing such a thing, while Isami began to work next to Erina and encouraged his brother to come along and join. Souma gave Takumi a cheeky grin and told him to join. With Takumi's continous denials, Erina looked up at him and politely offered that he can join.

Due to her polite offer, Takumi kneeled down next to her and began to help. All four of them formed a circle and in it was their progressing castle.

"I'm not sure we've spoken to each other before Nakiri-san," said Takumi as he created the windows of the castle. From the polite offer from Erina, Takumi was quite surprised from her respectful personality especially from all of them things he'd heard about her.

"No we haven't. But I heard lots about the two of you," Erina told, "As a matter of fact, I feel that the two of you have quite the potential." She didn't notice the flabbergasted looks from the Aldini brothers. "But the two of you have a lot to learn. You still have yet reached towards the depths of the culinary world."

Isami agreed with a meek voice. "O-of course."

Never in a million years would Takumi ever hear Erina say something like that. He thanked Erina and smiled to himself, feeling somewhat proud.

Souma stood up and looked at them. "Want to get some frozen treats?"

Everyone nodded. They were all sweating under the hot sun and felt their mouth dry. Takumi and Isami followed Souma to get some ice cream and snow cones and went to ask the others what flavor they wanted. They left Erina who sat under the umbrella.

Erina softly sighed as she wiped the sweat off her forehead. She eyed the progressing sand castle and smiled to herself triumphantly. She waited patiently for the others to come back with some ice-cold refreshing snow cones.

As some people passed, Erina sworn she heard a whistle as they walked by her. She shook it off and placed her knees to her chest, hugging it close to her. 'When is he coming back?' she wondered, slightly feeling worse as minutes past.

XXX

Souma walked along with Takumi and Isami but he pondered and wondered how Erina was doing. Maybe he shouldn't have left her there and told Takumi and Isami to stay there while she goes with him. He scratched his head and pursed his lips, feeling an uncomfortable feeling. Something was going to happen, and it didn't seem good.

"Yukihira, it seems that you and Nakiri-san are fairly close," pointed out Takumi and turned to look at him.

"Yea," Souma said quietly. His attention was obviously drifted off someplace else even as he continued to walk.

Takumi and Isami stopped as they watched Souma walk. "You're going to bump into something if you don't watch where you're going," warned Takumi.

But Souma didn't seem to have listened, which ticked Takumi off.

"Oi! Yukihira! Pay attention when someone's talking to you!" he shouted, running to Souma. But stopped once the red-head had stopped in front of a stand.

Souma looked at the shop owner and then at Takumi. The ominous feeling did not disappear however. He patted Takumi on the shoulder and started to quickly walk. "Sorry Takumi, but I have to do something! Take the snow cones for me!"

"Wha...!"

Takumi watched as Souma ran off quickly and frowned. Isami chuckled softly as he decided to take the order.

"Something is wrong with him today."

"Nii-san, don't you understand?"

"About what?"

"Nothing...nothing at all."

"Then why did you ask me!?"

Isami simply smiled as he held some of the snow cones. 'It is still too early to say anything.'

XXX

"Nakiri!" Souma called. He ran and ran, slightly pushing others away so he can get through. No thoughts crossed his mind as he continued. His legs were just moving on their own.

He caught sight of her and then sighed in relief when he noticed she was still sitting down, staring at him with a startled look. Souma sat next to her and took a couple of breaths.

"I thought..." He began with a couple of breaths. "I thought something happened to you..."

Erina still stared at him and then narrowed her eyes. "Did you hit your head? What would happen to me?"

"I don't know. But I had this weird feeling that something bad might happen, and I ran to check up on you."

"But what if it wasn't me? But instead it was someone else?"

"No, couldn't be. I had this hunch that it would be you."

The statement made Erina frown and she turned away, staring at the sand. "Do you hate me now to the point of me getting into a bad situation?" she said it quietly because it was only meant for her to hear it.

But Souma heard it.

"That's not true, Nakiri," Souma said calmly, though his voice was a little bit louder than usual. "I consider you as one of my closest friends."

"Even though I don't consider you as my friend?"

"You don't admit it but you consider me as your friend."

Erina gave him a playful smile and then looked down at the sand again. "Why aren't you going back to Aldini-san?" She hugged her knees, mentally hoping that he was going to stay.

"Nope. I'll keep you company," answered Souma, "Are you going to complain about that?"

Erina once again had turned to look at him and slowly shook her head, giving him a smile. "I actually enjoy your company sometimes. It gives me a soothing and warm feeling that I've never felt before."

Suddenly Erina gently brushed Souma's bangs away from his eyes, causing the boy to stiffen a bit. She lean a bit closer to him and her smile softened, staring into his eyes. "Your eyes remind me so much of him," she said softly, but enough for Souma to catch it.

"Hey Yukihira! So this is where you ran of too!" barked Takumi. He and Isami were approaching the two of them. Isami was able to notice the interactions of Erina and Souma, however Takumi was too dense to realize what was going on.

Erina immediately withdrew her hand and stood up, took a snow cone off of Takumi's hand. She thanked him and Erina quickly strolled off before any one of them could notice the redness on her cheeks.

Takumi and Isami sat next to Souma. Takumi raised an eyebrow. "Is something wrong with your face Yukihira? It's awfully red."

Souma stared into space for a few seconds and blinked. He touched his cheeks and tried to shake it off. "It's just the heat," he answered but with a hint of confusion.

Takumi handed him a snow cone and told him to eat one before his face melts off. Although Souma took it with a small grin, his mind soon wandered off and his eyes searched for Erina. And when it did, he couldn't help but remember the action she had done.

It was a soft touch, filled with gentleness and warmth which completely contradicted her personality. But he couldn't shake this weird feeling anymore, because it wasn't going to be gone anytime soon.

He felt the blood rush to his face again and ate his snow cone. 'Definitely just the heat.'


Hello everyone! It's been such a long time since I've updated; three months! That...is a very long time since I've updated. I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. There had been too much school work and since I'm study for tests that's going to occur in June, I might not have leisure to waltz up to my computer and start typing random plots. Sorry if this chapter isn't that good (not enough Erina and Souma moments).

So far that story line has still yet to be finish. -sobs-

Alright, so it seems Alice is determined to get Ryou to notice her but to no avail has that occurred yet (poor Alice). Hisako seems to be acting quite weird and so has Erina. Erina is acting very strange, especially after touch Souma like that. Does she like his hair that much? -laughs-

The story will not discontinue, if that's what some of you were thinking since I haven't updated. No I will not stop writing even though my grammar needs a lot of work. And I also get pressured since there's lots of good stories, but I read them and I always scream mentally of why I can't write this good! Anyways, I can't lower my self-confidence right?

Sorry if the characters were OOC.

featherelly- Thank you for reading my story and I'm glad you like SoumaXErina since I ship them too as you can see in my story. I, as well, love to take romance slow because it makes me feel more excited to see them doing all those romantic things.

Enferlain- Spill the beans? Are you sure you want to know now? I'm not sure if I can drop the bag of beans yet.

Ryner510- Thank you! I hope I won't screw up in the progression between the small romance since sometimes I get crazy and want to rush things.

Heina- Thank you for reading! To be honest I am a sucker for cute and romantic things. I get so flustered when I see something cute and fluffy that it makes me feel weak. Yay, another ErinaXSouma shipper I salute you!

Kurama no Jubi- Thanks for reading, I'll try to make this story better.

DoodlePopapo- I will update even if my internet is cut off (just kidding how can I update without internet?). Do not worry as the story progresses I have one specific pair that I would really want to end up together, and you know who they are.

98kazer- I'm sorry to burst your bubble...but it is neither monthly nor weekly. It may take a long time for me to update another chapter. Please do not die slowly from the inside, thank you.

Deathgun07- Thank you for reading. I will try to update more.

Guest- Thank you for giving me such a nice and warm review. I will continue writing and update more!

Danielle Dea- Thank you for calling me awesome even though I don't consider myself as awesome. Thank you for loving my story.

Tenno Sakuzyo- Sorry for making you wait so long Tenno. I appreciate you for reading my story. Also, the one in the photo is not Souma's father I'm sorry for not clarifying it sooner.

Alzeno- Thank you! And..uh..I can't say anything yet!

fiv- I will. Also thank you for reading and supporting my story.

mickeyt0613- I will try my best to bring more!

Guest- Thank you very much! I also like Alice and Ryou together, I shipped them since the beginning.

eLf- Thank you for reading and waiting for this long treacherous wait. And I can't say anything about the mysterious man.

Xigtus - Haha, I really was going to do that but then I decided that I should bring in another man and Erina's mother since I thought many others would think it was cliche to bring up Souma's father.

TheGuyThatDoesThingsYouKnow- From reading your review I agree with you since as I was writing I was cringing due to Souma's attitude. I wish Souma had some thought about romance, just a tiny bit so it can give me some idea of how he acts like towards a girl he likes.

DarkManta- I was nearly going to write the photo about Erina and Souma's father but decided to add something else.

|Hypocrisy|- Thank you for reading and your support from the very beginning helped me continue to write. I hope I can write more moments for Souma and Erina but it's going to be tough due to the romantic feelings that Megumi and Nikumi have for Souma. I also wonder how the author is going do this as well, and wonder who he's going to pair Souma up with.

Thank you everyone for reading! Your support had helped me and I appreciate everything you've all done!