DISCLAIMER: If I owned Bakuten Shoot Beyblade, the first thing I would do is to show a lot of signs of Kai and Hiromi falling for each other. Scratch that, make them a canon pair. But since I'm making a fanfic out of it, it's obvious that I don't.

First and foremost: This is a Kai x Hiromi fic. If you are Kai or/and Hiromi haters, hate them as a pair, and/or against even just the mere thought of Kai falling in love, you still have the chance to go back and not read this fic. Otherwise, proceed.

MY FIRST SEQUEL! This fic must be one of the trickiest, if not the most, of all the fics I've written. Originally it was meant as a long oneshot in sole romance form but since I decided to be merciless to Kai, it was extended to a few chapters. If you haven't read the prequel, Of All The Presents, then this is obviously a SPOILER, believe me, and this would be more appreciated if the prequel were read first (don't worry, it's only a one-shot work). Anyway. Personally I don't believe in romance overnight but the pairing is Kai x Hiromi, I just couldn't resist.

Rei: I wouldn't really call it overnight, TC. It could have started even before this began without any of us being conscious enough about it.

Hmm… Maybe so. Thank you, Rei. What would I do without you?

Rei: Simple. You won't have this fic to begin with. I'm the only one who can convince Kai to cooperate anyway.

(Isn't it more like forcing to?) It's also a challenge to make sure Kai remains in character here since he isn't shown in the series showing an open romantic side (if a romantic side officially exists in him). If he seems OOC, I'm so sorry for that (and I should say now it was really hard to write about him here) but hey, when it comes to such feelings, we tend to act not our usual selves, ne? Besides, his character in 2002 is different from that in the first season. I mean, the guy actually smiles sometimes.

Behold, my brain's product of overexposure to jazz during dinner. And last but not the least, this is dedicated to all KxH fans out there. Hope you like it. Hope you enjoy! :)


Chapter 1

"I see." Hiromi bowed before the bearded man. "Thank you very much, sir."

"You're very welcome. Oh, and miss?" he added just before she headed toward the door of the restaurant. When Hiromi stopped to look at him, he threw her a friendly wink. "Try your best to make it. Trust me, you wouldn't want to miss it for the world."

The chocolate-haired girl returned the gesture with a smile. "I will." Finally leaving the huge door behind her, she paused for a while and brought out a piece of hard paper from her pocket. A few more seconds of contemplating and she was already starting to walk back home.

"Well? How did it go?" Kyouju tried to catch up with her.

"I got to talk to the manager."

"The manager? But I thought you said it's the owner who is the friend of your mom's. Never mind that, I'm getting confused again because you were talking fast earlier… Let's see if I got this straight: That ticket is for dinner, right?"

"A free dinner at the Aquose Cavern this Saturday night to be more precise." Hiromi cast one last glance at the disappearing form of the huge restaurant behind her. "My mom and I dined there just last Sunday when we received this thing at the end of the meal. She'll be busy this Saturday so she passed it to me instead. I didn't know the full details of this dinner…"

"So you stopped by today to ask the owner who happened to be a friend of your mom's," Kyouju concluded for her.

"I'll paraphrase that. The owner is friends with everyone here. Too bad she was out so I got the manager instead."

"And what did he say?"

"I don't know why but I found out that all the customers who ate there last Sunday received the same thing. And he told me to try to make it because I wouldn't want to miss it for the world. The dinner is free, Kyouju. You don't see large restaurants offer that every day. It would be such a waste if I don't go there." Now for the real problem. "If I were to invite someone to accompany me, that's minimum of one, maximum of three."

"That's not a problem, Hiromi-san." Kyouju offered a smile. "Any of us will gladly take you to that dinner."

Hiromi let out a sigh. "That's what I'm worried about." She hated leaving out any members of the BBA Team. They were good friends with her, and the thought of asking only three out of five made her feel strange as though she were betraying the other two. And it was already Tuesday afternoon today…

On the other hand, she could just choose not to go… I can't do that. The food is unbelievably great so I can't imagine throwing the ticket away. Maybe I can find someone to pass this on. But if she would do that, then she would be playing the role of an ungrateful daughter. I really want to go but…

The small boy seemed to read her thoughts. "You know, Takao would never say no to you about this one. For him, this would be the perfect opportunity."

"Takao?" Of course, she thought, realizing what Kyouju meant. Where there was food, especially if it was for free, the energetic Japanese champion was never far. "You're right. There's no way Takao will refuse me." Finding the idea not so bad, she thought of her other kind male friends and finally found herself relaxing instead. They would understand no matter whom she picked. "Hey, Kyouju, would you like to come too?"

"I can't." Kyouju looked apologetic. "My mom will be having a reunion with her old friends at our ramen shop this Saturday night too. But my father sprained his ankle really bad this morning so, as you can guess, I have to fill out for him and help my mom twice as much until Saturday."

"Oh… I'm sorry for your father." Hiromi sighed again. "You know what? I really wish I could take you all to that dinner. I bet we would have fun eating at the Aquose Cavern together."

"Well, it can't be helped." Kyouju shrugged. "But it's only Tuesday today and the dinner is on Saturday."


Thank goodness there were still a few days for her to make up her mind.

"I've got news for you, Hiromi-san, but you won't like it." Kyouju stood next to Hiromi's desk the following morning. Only a few of their classmates were inside the classroom since class wouldn't start for the next twenty minutes. "It looks like Takao won't be able to make it to dinner after all."

Hiromi jerked her head. "What? How come? I just talked to him on the phone last night and he agreed." She could still recall bits of her conversation with the navy-haired boy, although it had been punctuated with a few sneezes… Okay, a lot of sneezes, she amended. He sounded quite awful last night… Don't tell me—

"I went to the dojo early this morning to give Rei the upgrade I was planning for Driger because, as you know, I'll be busy with the ramen shop. But when I got there, I found out that Takao's running a fever. Obviously he won't be coming to class today…"

"And to dinner too." Hiromi slightly frowned, already seeing the frame of logic. "And even if he manages to get the fever down, I don't think his grandfather will allow him to leave until he fully recovers or else the fever might relapse."

"I'm afraid so. Takao hates every second of it. He keeps on ranting, or rather trying to, on how he couldn't blade because of it. The only thing he's grateful for about the whole situation is that he won't be able to go to school."

"Typical." Hiromi rolled her reddish-brown eyes yet despite herself felt sorry for her sick friend. If Takao weren't sick… A vision of Takao endlessly pigging out on the free food right in front of Hiromi inside the restaurant full of gaping strangers flashed in her mind, and she found herself wrinkling her nose. Oh yes, she could just imagine him yelling at the waiter to bring out plate after plate after plate…

She shook her head at the image, at the same time marveling at herself on how she could see the bright side of her problems. Then a better solution presented itself before her. "Hey, why don't we visit Takao after school? I want to talk to Rei too; he can replace Takao and then Max and Kai can go with us too."

"I'm sure Rei would love to accompany you but unfortunately he's going back to China tomorrow."

"Tomorrow already?" Hiromi nearly stood up. Was it her or was she suddenly being deserted by everyone? "But I thought he'll be seeing his old friends next Monday. I mean, they'll be together for a month or two, right?"

"Well, that's what I thought too. Rei himself doesn't want to leave yet until Takao gets well because he feels like he's abandoning Takao at his time of need after lodging there for a long time for free. But Mao, one of his closest friends, had been so persistent about him meeting her immediately that Rei couldn't do anything about it."

"Oh," she said slowly. "I see." Rei has always been nice to me, such a gentleman. But if he's not available either… She could see only two other people left. But Kai isn't even in town. And that left only one more person.

"Thanks for letting me know, Kyouju. I'll just ask Max after school."

That afternoon Hiromi almost felt like not going at all. Trying to distract herself, her foot kicked the shore of the beach every now and then but so far her effort was a failure. Why was everybody busy when it was her turn to get a favor from him?

"I'm sorry, Hiromi-chan. I really want to go with you but my parents and I will be out for the entire weekend. I haven't seen Mama in months so we're going to have a family bonding for that. I wish I could go but this trip has been planned weeks ago."

Even though Max had been sincerely apologetic an hour ago, it didn't change the fact that Hiromi felt down. But who was she to blame the guys? It wasn't like she had control over them. Their lives didn't revolve around hers and she knew that.

I just wish someone would accompany me on Saturday. A wistful look accompanied the thought as she recalled how she had a good time with her mom last week. They had dined at the Aquose Cavern only once, and it was one of the rare times Hiromi had spent on eating inside a good restaurant. Her mother had always told her how more practical it was to eat home-cooked meals and packed lunches than similar meals with much heavier and sometimes unreasonable prices. Of course, compared to the other restaurants, the Aquose Cavern offered more affordable and delicious food, but Hiromi had realized how much she had fallen in love with its cozy ambiance at first sight.

But now it looked like it was over for her. She could just imagine the pairs or groups of happy people who would dine there… And she would just be sitting there all alone, eating her dinner silently, hearing the murmurs of strangers having a great time together while she…

Hiromi sighed to herself. She would rather not go to that dinner than spend the whole night torturing herself like that just for not having a partner with her.

Unless… Kai would go with me…

Yeah, right. Such a far-fetched idea that was. Kai was her last remaining option but he wasn't even here. In fact, Hiromi hadn't seen him in weeks after his reunion with Yuuya because they had returned to their school. It has been two months or so since the last time I saw him… What are the chances that he's back? And even if Kai were back, a really big if, why would he agree to something like escorting her to some dinner on Saturday night? It wasn't even his thing.

Something at the back of her mind pulled back the strings of that last thought. What made her think that it wasn't even his thing? How could she even know that?

It's just it seems to be something he would least likely do… But then again, how many times had I misjudged him?

Oh, plenty of times. The first time she met Kai, well, she had thought of him as a rude jerk. After all, he had completely ignored her after being introduced by Takao while he, on the other hand, had never bothered to even give his own name. Hiromi even had her own suspicions about him, all along never being able to understand how someone as silent and aloof as Hiwatari Kai could be friends with a boisterous and open guy like Kinomiya Takao. It didn't make any sense. Kai had never seemed to pay the slightest attention to her or even look in her direction. Like she wasn't even around.

At least, that was her first impression. And now Hiromi knew how always unreliable first impressions were.

She had been happy to know that the guys had decided to follow her MG core training schedule but had been greatly surprised learning that Kai, of all people, had given her work a chance. What had been even more surprising was that he had been the first to do so. And during their moments of being trapped inside that island and she had decided to go to the lighthouse… Who would have known that he would volunteer to go with her and Kyouju? That had been one of the last things she had expected. And she had thought a more likely guy like Rei or Max would offer company. Had she judged Kai so wrongly?

The answer is a one hundred percent yes, Hiromi. A hard yes to the core, her mind answered for her. For crying out loud, he saved you twice already. And if that's not enough proof, then I don't know what is. Hiromi stared at the enormous body of water before slowly closing her eyes as memories flashed right before her mind's eye. Her hand leaning against the wall of rocks as she walked the narrow path… a sound of a sudden explosion… huge boulders falling from above… and Kai shielding her body with his own just to protect her… and his slightly soft gaze at her… his gloved hand reaching out to assist her reach the top of the barrier of stone… Even when she finally opened her eyes, all she could see was how Kai had grabbed her wrist just in time before she could fall down to the deep sea, her possible deathbed.

Would a big-time jerk risk his life trying to save a girl like that if he really didn't care? Hiromi hated basing her opinions about people on their exterior masks, especially when she herself had claimed to Takao once how good of a judge of character she was. It made her feel somehow superficial, not exactly a pleasant sensation. I already had done a good job on Takao and his zeal for beyblading and look how wrong I'd been. But I was even more wrong when I couldn't see how he and Kai could be friends.

Whether or not she could accept it to herself, she had always found Kai intriguing from the start. Despite herself thinking before what a rude person he was, at the same time he had that mysterious air on that wasn't just because of his undeniable good looks.

But most of all, even up to now she found it intriguing how Kai could seldom talk to her yet could protect her at the most unexpected times. Was that the thing that had drawn Hiromi into wanting him to be her friend? Was that why she had willingly discarded her previous judgments about him once she found out he wasn't such a bad guy after all? Who was Kai? As his friend, she shouldn't be asking herself that for she supposedly should know him by now.

But during Kai's birthday about two months ago, Hiromi had realized that she really didn't know Kai completely. If she hadn't seen how deeply affected he had been by Yuuya's condition, she wouldn't have been moved on seeing a more expressive caring side of him. Enough to earn a platonic hug from her.

But it didn't exactly help that an unexplainable thing had also occurred back then. That in full honesty that she had intended to give Kai only a friendly hug, the fact that something not platonic like noting the feeling of his firm chest and broad shoulders had happened enough to weird her out. That the memory of her deed had kept distracting her after Kai's departure. As strange as it sounded, that little help she had done for him gave her satisfaction and made her, well, feel closer to him than before. Even if he didn't feel the same way.

Now why did she feel a little stab of hurt upon realizing that?

No, I'm not the least bit hurt! Why should I be? I'm happy for him and that's final! Helping him was the least I could do for him after saving me more than once. Forcing the nagging thought all the way to the back of her mind, she tried to exert the stress of her current problem.

A sudden breeze blew away the ticket from her fingers, and she tried to catch it before it could drift somewhere else. Her eyes trained on the flying hard paper, she didn't realize her foot had stepped on a nearby rock by accident, and it was too late to stop herself from tripping.

But before her body could make contact with the sand, Hiromi felt something grab her wrist and pull her back just hard enough for her to regain her balance at the very last minute. It was then that she realized the thing that had grabbed her was in fact a human hand—a warm and strong one—belonging to a guy wearing a loosely arranged red tie over the loose collar of his long white shirt. From the navy-green jacket that he was carrying over his shoulder with his other hand and the Walkman hanging on his belt, he seemed to be a student from a prep school. "Um, thank you…" she said softly.

"You look so surprised."

At the sound of that familiar voice, Hiromi did a double take at the stranger who had saved her from humiliation, eyes widening. "K—Kai? You're…"

"Wearing my school uniform? It's a school day." Kai's smirk showed mild amusement at Hiromi's stunned expression. Nonetheless he didn't laugh at her for that obvious lack of recognition he received from her.

"I—didn't—I really didn't recognize you! You look… different." For some reason, astonishingly attractive first entered her mind but she managed to stop herself. It was certainly new to her how appealing she found him without the usual blue shark fin marks on his face, plus the stud on his left ear, which added to his charm… Okaaay… Stop it. I should be immune to his good looks by now, right? "What's up? Your school's outside the town, isn't it? How come you're here?"

"No classes for us until next week. A side of the school building is under repair after it burned last night. Plus this morning the ceiling and roof of some of our classrooms collapsed."

"Oh no! You weren't hurt?" Now when did her mouth act like it had a life of its own instead of her mind being in charge? "I mean, no one got hurt, right?" At Kai's nod, she smiled. "So you'll be staying here again in the meantime?" Wait. Why was he still holding her wrist?

"I don't know. I might crash at Kinomiya's place should I stay here." Kai must have noticed Hiromi's gaze on his hand still on her wrist for he suddenly dropped it like a hot mug of chocolate and dug his hand into the pocket of his pants.

As her hand fell on her side, she stared at it, wondering why the feeling of Kai's warm skin still lingered. Kai—oh, I forgot! "I'll be back in a sec!" Turning around, she ran to retrieve the ticket, which fortunately had landed on dry sand. Just the distraction I need, she thought gratefully, heading back to her former spot.

Kai settled down on the sand while Hiromi seated herself just a few inches away, hugging her knees. Come on, Hiromi, Kai's finally here. Just say it! It shouldn't be that hard! She turned to Kai but cast her gaze down the moment they made eye contact, her heart pumping harder than usual against her ribcage. Why was she suddenly feeling nervous? The fact that this was her first time to ask Kai a favor, scratch that, anything, didn't exactly ease her discomfort any better.

Then out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of green. She looked at it, realizing it was Kai's school jacket—and he was handing it to her, although his focus was on the water.

"Your legs."

"Huh?" What did he mean by that? A slight frown, and then Hiromi scanned her surroundings. Then she felt a mount of irritation when she caught sight of a guy not so far away staring at the exposed limbs below her white skirt and quickly snatched the green garment to conceal them. Turning to the stranger, she fixed him a what-are-you-staring-at glare and was about to give the equivalent vocal message when he got it, backed out and then walked away. Finally she turned to the teen next to her. "Um, thanks, Kai."


Hiromi gazed at him closely, watching and wondering how the feather-light breeze could toy Kai's soft smoke-colored bangs with ease to the point of dishevelment. Wow, he's being nice to me. Maybe I can have a good chance of him saying yes.

But what if he says no? Or even worse… what if he laughs at me? Hesitation froze her mouth at first but then she set herself to be determined. Come on, Hiromi! You won't know until you try! "Kai, can I ask you a favor?" She pulled out the ticket and handed it to him before she could lose her nerve.

Kai inspected the ticket first, then looked up at her. Still silent.

It was now or never. Hiromi took a deep breath, letting the words flow out in a rush. "It's for a free dinner at the Aquose Cavern this coming Saturday night. I got it last week and I was hoping I could invite you to go with me."

His face gave away nothing but his eyes shifted in surprise. Apparently it was sudden news for him, not to mention he himself as an unlikely candidate.

"It's supposed to be a group dinner but the other guys couldn't make it," she added quickly. "Takao's sick, Rei's leaving tomorrow, and Max and Kyouju will be busy this Saturday too. But if you don't want to go, it's okay, really. I understand." Then she mentally kicked herself for even saying the last two statements; now she might lose her chance to get her escort. Okay, here it comes. He's going to refuse. I just know it.

A minute of silence. "I'll be there."

Auburn eyes blinked, and Hiromi's head shot up. "Wha…?" Did she just hear him right?

"I said, I'll be there."

It was all Hiromi could do not to hug him out of too much happiness, so she restrained herself, forcing her arms to wrap themselves around her legs. It was really hard to maintain the restraint. "Thank you very much, Kai!" She didn't know what his reasons were for agreeing but who cared? And so what if the other guys couldn't make it? At least Kai was available and that was just enough for her. A dinner with one of her male friends.

Now if only she could answer herself what she was still doing here with Kai now that her business with him for today was done already.

The sun was starting to set but Kai wasn't paying attention, wondering what the heck made him agree to that dinner in the first place. It certainly wasn't his style; it had never been and even up to now, it still remained like that. His Saturdays were usually nothing but continuous beyblade training, occasionally interrupted by beybattle challenges out of nowhere by champion wannabes, or simply just being alone whenever he wasn't with the BBA Team or Yuuya. So again the question, why? Out of boredom? No way. Not in the mood to meet his other dorm mates' faces? Maybe. Out of pity? More probably.

But was that it?

An image of Hiromi's face flashed before him and then it all became clear to him. Her earlier expression before he gave his answer was one about to be crushed with disappointment, like she was expecting him to say no. It was weird but although he knew he had every right to turn her down, he didn't want to see her like that.

Whether he would like to believe it or not, Hiromi was a friend of his. Close or not, a friend nonetheless. And Kai didn't have much of those; even though he had found the value of friendship among other things, it would certainly take a lot to earn his respect, let alone his trust. And Hiromi had earned the first; she was just earning the second one now. After all, even though much of her devotion was for the benefit of the entire team, her help could touch Kai's personal life like the way she had brought him out of his wrong decision to quit beyblading for good just because he had lost Suzaku to ZO. It had been a great loss for him but Hiromi's words made him realize how much he had let only a single loss cage him from reclaiming justice in the form of Takao. For Kai was a phoenix of his own fire, and as that phoenix he should rise again from the ashes of defeat. His friend had indirectly reminded him of that.

It was also Hiromi who had been the path for salvaging his friendship with Yuuya. If it hadn't been for her successful attempt during Kai's birthday, he would still be stabbing himself over and over to death by that inescapable dagger called guilt and a sharper sword named fear. The life inside him would had been gone at school, at Takao's dojo, at the river, anywhere he went. But Hiromi had noticed that beforehand, and since no one else could shake some sense into him, she had pulled Yuuya out of his own version of abyss so that Yuuya in turn could pull Kai out of his and forge a new friendship with him.

He had told himself that one day he was going to repay her for it. Whether he liked it or not, he owed her that much. And agreeing to this dinner that she seemed eager to go to might be the best and earliest way to return the favor. Kai wasn't exactly used to the idea of him owing a person something, so the quicker the repayment, the better. He would just go with her to that restaurant, eat, go back to wherever he was going to stay at and in time forget that he had done something he had never imagined doing even once. Besides, if he waited for her to come up with another favor, this time it might be something he couldn't handle.

But attached to the act of returning that favor was another reason. A reason Kai refused to acknowledge at first for its absurdity until he saw its potential as a means of solving his odd problem. After the start of a refreshed friendship with Yuuya, everything had gone well for Kai at school. He had been back on the normal track of his life again. And this time with Yuuya for a friend, nothing had gone out of place.

At least at first.

Then the strange thing had begun to happen. For the next weeks, every time he saw Yuuya, talked to him, had any form of interaction with him, it had been always Hiromi he saw in his mind. Although he hadn't completely understood why, he hadn't been really bothered at first because he had assumed being constantly reminded of the brunette was due to her association with the deed she had done for him concerning Yuuya. After all, without Hiromi, he would still be drowning in guilt today.

But for the last two weeks, even without seeing or interacting with Yuuya, he had found his thoughts still dwelling on Hiromi, which still up to now he didn't know why. He didn't find it comfortable that he was thinking about someone so often, which was ridiculous especially if that someone was a person he usually didn't see and never spent that much mental energy on before. Regarding Yuuya, at least Kai knew exactly what made him do so. But with this case about Hiromi… he didn't. He had managed to erase her from his mind from time to time but his success had only been momentarily.

But now he had found a good solution for that, and the more thought he gave it, the more sense it made. Agreeing to this dinner that would return the favor would get his self rid of whatever weird attachments he felt he had with Hiromi. When the job was accomplished, they would be even, and Kai was in the hopes of getting her out of his head because he believed it was the attachment that brought the thoughts along with it in the first place. What was happening to him was just a bad case of being in great debt to someone.

Silence reigned over them for minutes. Not that Kai minded it at the very least. His main reason for coming to the beach was to be alone for a while—have some time to himself, as Rei would put it—before meeting up with his teammates again. Definitely he didn't expect to find Hiromi, let alone get invited to dinner with her. But now that the invitation was done, Kai was left dwelling on his own thoughts while she was lost in her own world. And judging by the way she gazed at the warm colors the sun was reflecting on the vast water, that world seemed to be a happy one. She didn't even seem to notice anything else, not even her dark-brown hair being tousled by the light wind, making it fuller than before. It seemed longer now than the last time he saw her, and in a way it even suit her better.

He did not just notice that. He did not.

Then a nagging thought entered his head. Mentally frowning at himself, Kai pulled out the Walkman hanging on his belt by its clip, plugged the earphones and pressed the PLAY button. Hard rock music pulsated through his ears for a few minutes but soon barely registered into his mind. Turning up the volume, he tried concentrating on the lyrics but ended up almost growling out loud. Great. Even his Walkman was failing to distract him.

"Is something wrong?"

He decreased the volume to a more comfortable range and turned to see Hiromi's face showing a trace of slight concern. Good question. Not only was he failing to ignore the thought of why he had held her wrist longer than he should, his actions were starting to be easily read. It would be better for him not to answer Hiromi's question, and he made a point of it by staring at the small waves before him.

"Oh." Hiromi fell silent for a while. Then she opened her mouth to say something but then shut it and stared at the sand instead.

Although his face gave away nothing, Kai mentally frowned. Obviously something was going on in Hiromi's mind. And he was actually starting to become bothered as well?

Damn it.

"Hey," Hiromi spoke finally, brightening up a little. "Could I listen to that stuff?"

"You might not like it." Kai accompanied his reply with a smirk.

"Oh, come on," she persisted. "How will I know if I don't try?"

For a while he considered. "All right. But don't come crying to me if your ears get shattered."

The breeze came just in time as Hiromi leaned toward him to reach for the nearest earphone. And somehow Kai managed to ignore that sudden awareness of soft tips of rich brown locks unknowingly caressing his left cheek while watching Hiromi plug the piece to her ear to listen to the music they were sharing. After about six seconds or so, she began to wince, and then visibly cringed before willingly removing the earphone.

"I hate it."

"Told you so." Kai smirked again.

"Maybe I can find something tolerable if you give me the control. No. I bet I can find something tolerable."

"You're only going to lose." Still he pressed STOP to give her the Walkman and found himself hearing pop, then jazz, then hard rock, then very old traditional music—Kai nearly cringed—as Hiromi continued switching stations, still undecided. Finally she stopped, listened carefully for about one minute and then shot him a triumphant look.

"Told you so." She even copied his smirk as she handed him the rest of the set.

But as he took it from her, their fingers grazed each other by accident, sending Kai an unexpected jolt of electricity that passed through him. Slightly stiffening, he looked up just in time to catch the dark flecks in her eyes.

Dark flecks in her eyes?

What the hell?

Hiromi's eyes widened slightly. Suddenly pulling her hand away, she took the jacket off her legs and stood up quickly. "I just remembered I have to be home early today," she said hastily, returning the outer clothing to its owner. "Thanks again for this, Kai. I'll just meet you outside the restaurant, okay? The details are written in the ticket. If you have any conflict or something, Takao and Kyouju have my number." Then she picked up her school bag and ran off without another word.

The lone figure watched the girl leave before turning to his fingertips that made contact with her. Hiwatari Kai, what's your problem today? First those distracting nonstop thoughts about her, then noting even the slightest detail about her, and now— He stared at his hand. And now this. Where all these bizarre stuff were coming from, he wasn't sure, but he knew one thing.

They had to go.

In her rush to leave the beach, Hiromi didn't take notice where she was going. It wasn't until she slowed down past a beyblade shop when she realized how far she was already. Finally her feet stopped, drained of energy from too much fast movement, and she took her time to catch her breath. What was she even running from, anyway?

Going to the shop, she leaned against the wall to rest and idly watched a few beybladers come out of the door as they talked. Hiromi's eye was caught by the shoulder-length blue hair of one person but immediately shifted the gaze somewhere else, just in case that person found out that she was wondering about the latter's gender. Must be a guy. But the guy didn't notice her for he was busy staring at the small package in his hands.

"What is it, Suzuka? Don't tell me you don't like your new attack ring. That was the best of what they have." His companion, a big guy, studied him.

"Nothing. Just thinking."

"Yeah? What about?"

"I was just remembering… We used to step on those beyblades we forced the others to give up. Of course they had to since they lost and it was fun and all but still. Sounds stupid to bring it up, I know."

"Ah. Going back to the old days. But that was, what, more than a year ago? We used to be Shell Killers back then. And Hiruta hadn't betrayed us yet."

"Oh, him." Their other companion, a small guy wearing a hat, rolled his eyes. "I couldn't believe his nerve to turn his back on us but good thing he's gone already. It's not like he's the most vital part of our group."

Suzuka nodded. "He's not but Kai-sama—no, Kai—is. Or should I say, was. I mean, let's face it. We can take on any beyblader we want but the Shell Killers aren't really Shell Killers without him. It's just not the same."

Hiromi was startled, mentally frowning. Did he just say Kai?

"And not as enjoyable as it used to be," the large guy agreed. "I haven't challenged anyone in months, can you believe that? I guess I got used to it. I don't even feel like bullying anyone for his beyblade. If he hadn't left us…"

Bullying anyone for his beyblade? Anymore?

"Maybe we just became too dependent on him that we just couldn't function well enough to continue. No surprise why we dissolved. Do you think he will still come back to us?"

"Fat chance." The midget snorted. "I doubt he still remembers us now. You know what? Why don't we just go and finish that beybattle we started this morning? I still want to see how Suzuka loses."

The blue-haired guy smirked. "Dream on. You'll eat your words, Tukuba." Then he walked away, followed by his two companions.

Hiromi stared after them, recalling the recent exchange of words. For a long time, she thought about it, then began walking home. Must be some other Kai.

The full moon was shining at its brightest against the deep blue sky studded with gems of twinkling light. A few light fleeting clouds drifted by as Kai stepped into the lot before the Aquose Cavern.

"But at least you'd be doing something worthwhile tonight other than beyblading. Just relax and have fun, Kai-san. Don't forget to seat her at the very least, okay?"

Aside from the rest of the BBA Team, Yuuya was the only person who knew about the dinner thing. Not that Kai had been good at hiding it from him. Either that or his friend had this sixth sense about him that could catch him off guard.

"What? No flowers? You can't be serious!"

Kai nearly hissed at Yuuya's raised voice, and Yuuya hushed, apparently remembering his friend's intolerance for unwanted attention. "For someone who's a complete beyblade nut, you sure seem like you have an experience about this."

"Not really. Before I started studying here, my parents used to go out on occasions like this. I guess I'm just a good observer. But really, Kai-san. You can't go to a date without flowers."

"It's just dinner. Hiromi had no one else to take her there."

"Of course." Yuuya had that innocent smile on but to Kai it had been as though he were suggesting something else. "As you say, Kai-san."

Kai had glared at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing." At Kai's hard stare, he had put up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. It just happens that I think she's pretty cool and nice based on the way she helped us before. You normally don't see that kind of person every day. Maybe if I get to know her better, I think I'll like her."

Kai had crossed his arms, ignoring the unexpected twinge of discomfort he had felt. "Why?"

Yuuya had looked surprised. "Why not? I don't think someone like her is hard to like as a friend. So," he had begun again casually. "You sure you won't change your mind about the flowers?"

"Yuuya, get to the point."

His friend had sighed. "What I'm trying to say is that it's just my observation but it's not impossible that you might…" He had seemed to be choosing his words carefully while trying to get away from Kai's glare. "…like… her… in a different… way."

"Different." Kai had felt weird, knowing fully well what the other boy had exactly meant. "What are you getting at?"

"I only said it was just a possibility. You've been acting weirdly ever since you came back last Wednesday. Of course, it doesn't hurt if it exists. I mean, you're a guy after all. It's normal." He had smiled.

Irritation had mounted inside Kai at Yuuya's smile. "If you came here just to bother me, then get the hell out of my room."

"All right, sorry." Yuuya had winced at the sharpness of Kai's tone. "I didn't mean to get you upset."

"I am not upset."

"Then why are you snapping at me?" Yuuya had stared at him.

"I am not snapping at you and I'm not upset. But I don't condone you adding nonplatonic substance to my relationship with Hiromi."

"Sorry. I guess you're right."

"Tch. I have to go now."

That must be one of the most pointless conversations Kai ever had in his entire life. There's no need to bring even a single flower. This is Hiromi I'm talking about.

Damn it, why did he feel so defensive about something that he shouldn't be defensive about in the first place?

This is it. The sooner the dinner ends, the better. All he had to do was ignore total strangers, something he was an expert at, and focus on the meal and Hiromi. With that in mind, Kai straightened his unbuttoned suit and headed over to the entrance.

And then he saw her near the door, waiting. A young lady with her chocolate hair swept back and held by a silver comb, a slender figure encased in a long deep garnet dress that accentuated the curves he usually didn't see in her usual casual pink and white outfit. Irritation pulsed through Kai when he felt momentary slight heat on his cheeks, and he quickly turned away before Hiromi could spot him in his current state. Of course she looks different tonight. What were you expecting her to do?

"Hey, Kai."

Realizing that his partner had already spotted him, Kai tried to ignore that little blood seizure he just recently had and ambled to her side.

"Shall we?" she asked, both of them turning to the giant door.

It's just dinner. It's just Hiromi. You're just repaying her, a friend, now get over it. Kai would make sure to maintain it that way, determined not to let that little episode he had earlier repeat tonight.

"Let's go."

Oh, but how can we be so sure Kai will be able to maintain it that way? Sometimes it's so irresistible seeing him victimized in my terms.

Please review. Flames of any degree will be used to further fuel the sparks between Kai and Hiromi. Thanks! See you next time! [grins]