She wasn't used to warm winters. No, that wasn't quite accurate. It was much, much more than simply "not being used" to it. She had never even experienced a warm winter before. The concept was unheard of. In her mind, there was no such thing as a warm winter. Winter was supposed to be cold, while summer was warm, and spring and autumn fluctuated and tended to be in-between. She knew there was so much more to this situation that she could — that she should — be appreciating, but she couldn't bring herself to do it.
The knowledge that there existed a magical place where decorations for the holidays were put up while it was warm enough to wear short sleeves and miniskirts, should the desire emerge? The fact that she was, right now, at this very moment, setting about exploring such a place? In a way, it was downright mind blowing.
Yukiko Amagi's element was fire. In a manner of speaking, being in a warmer climate during a period of time that was normally cold should have been, in a way, her being as in her element as she ever could have been.
Yet, if anything, she was as out of her element as she ever had been. And that was because...
"Here, senpai. I, uh... remembered your size and got you this. Figured you'd be getting kinda hot like that." Kanji Katsumi had returned... and he was holding something — a bag of clothes, from the looks of it. Such words coming from another boy might have made Yukiko uncomfortable. From this boy, however, Yukiko could only find herself laughing sweetly. He remembered her size for fairly innocuous reason — he had patched up her clothes and even made her new ones on more than one occasion by now, and he looked far more uncomfortable than his words could have possibly made her feel.
"Oh... Thank you, Kanji-kun." Yukiko offered him a gentle, appreciative smile and took the bag from him, which he seemed fairly grateful for.
Yes... It was Kanji that had done it. Kanji had just up and taken her out of Inaba, with no warning whatsoever. He'd recently gotten the motorcycle he had been wanting for so long, and apparently he'd decided to make Yukiko into his guinea pig... No, Kanji would never think like that, but it was still what had happened.
They stood there for a few moments, Yukiko looking through the bag — as expected of Kanji, he had picked something out she would have probably chosen herself — while Kanji was shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other.
It was this that finally pulled Yukiko away from the novelty of a warm winter and brought her back to the reality of her situation — and so she did what she should have done from the very start of this little adventure. She spoke up.
"Kanji-kun... Why did did you bring me here? Surely Rise-chan or Naoto-kun would have appreciated it far more, wouldn't they?" Much as she appreciated the thought that her underclassman had offered her, Yukiko couldn't help but ask this. If Kanji might have been having a much more enjoyable time with his fellow first years, it was her duty as his friend and senpai to make sure that could happen. Honstly, what was this boy thinking?
The boy looked at her silently for a few moments, as if unsure if he should speak his mind. She was briefly reminded of their childhood — she could almost see the small boy she had known in her youth, before they had grown apart. He had been somewhat shy then, hadn't he...?
"S'just... I've been worried about ya, senpai." At long last, the young man revealed the motives behind his odd actions. "You haven't been the same. First Yu-senpai goes home, then Chie-senpai has to leave to go to cop college or whatever... You've been lonely. Yosuke-sepais's too busy to see it and Teddie's, well... Teddie, but I couldn't leave you alone like that. How could I? Especially after... I mean, y'know what I mean, right? You guys didn't leave me alone."
Yukiko frowned hearing this. So... Obligation, then...?
"Kanji-kun, that was years ago. You don't need to-"
"Dammit Yukiko-senpai, it's not just that!" Yukiko stepped back, startled at the sudden ferocity of Kanji's words. Had she really been giving him this much cause for concern...? He hadn't seemed to notice himself yet, for he continued on, shaking his head and gritting his teeth — he was truly upset on her behalf. "Didn't you hear me? I'm worried about you. Ain't just about paying any dumb debts, I coulda done that kinda crap back home."
Despite how she had already been feeling the warmth and marveling at it before, the warmth these words spread through her veins was something else entirely. It was something she would not soon forget, either.
"Now come on." He held out his hand expectantly. "We're gonna go have the most damn fun we've ever had or we're gonna die trying."
Naturally, Yukiko found herself laughing at this remark. It was so silly, after all! The two ideas just didn't go together at all. Seeing this, Kanji seemed to finally regain his composure, for he laughed along with her for a few moments — a rare treat for her, who was so used to laughing alone.
Once their laughter died down, as Kanji reached for her hand, awkward and surprisingly gentle when he finally grasped it, Yukiko briefly closed her eyes. A smile was playing on her lips, and she recalled that chaotic moment this morning when Kanji had come for her.
Perhaps the "horse" part hadn't been quite right, but... Maybe... Just maybe...
"Hey, Yukiko-senpai. Get on board."
"Wh... K-Kanji-kun? Is that a motorcycle...?! Why...?"
"Tch, ain't it obvious? Somebody's gotta stop you from moping all the time. If none of the others got the balls to do it, then it might as well be me, right?"
"H-Hold on! I don't have a helmet! Kanji-kun, slow dooooown...!"
"Got your helmet right here, senpai! Now hold on tight!"
"I thought I waaaaas...!"
Later that day, after hours of... not all that much, as Yukiko found herself standing on a boardwalk, overlooking the sea as the sun went down, she found herself smiling. It was odd. It really had been a pleasant day, even though the two of them hadn't done anything particularly interesting throughout it all. She stood next to Kanji, wearing the clothes he had picked out for her — he had carried a bag with her old ones all day without a single word of complaint. For a former "thug," he happened to be quite the gentleman when he wanted to be.
He was looking back at her, she noticed. Her smile widened slightly, while he looked away, coughing into his hand and muttering some excuse or another, visibly embarrassed. Her smile widened that much more.
She was very glad it had been him that had done this for her.
Who knew a prince really would come along and whisk her away on his "horse" someday after all?