well... how long has it been??? hehehe!!! sorry guys for uploading jsut now... school work really gets in the way sometimes... and my writer's block... really sorry guys...

well, here's the next chapter... i hope it doesn't sound as sloppy as i thought it was... since i tried to write this after my writer's block, i hope i still did justice to the story... still, read and review, ok??? hope you enjoy the story!!!

Chapter 10:

He watched as she gracefully walked into the sliding doors of the restaurant located at the first floor of the hotel they were staying in. Seeing her walking towards him, he couldn't help but think how perfect she is and how much he wanted to meet her halfway and pull her into a tight hug and never let go.

"Kurei…" he heard her greet him softly as a soft smile graced the features of her face.

However, he didn't fail to notice that the smile she offered him was slightly forged, almost as if she was willing herself to smile, as if it was her duty to smile at him.

Is it because of me, Fuuko? Am I… hurting you… without even noticing it?

As the thought crossed his mind, he can't help the slight stab of pain rip through his chest just by the mere thought of causing her to feel this way.

"Are you alright?" he heard her soft whisper once again, this time accompanied by the soft touch of her hand on his elbow.

Immediately, he forced the thoughts and the stab of pain in chest away from his consciousness to focus on the beauty standing in all her splendor glory beside him.

"I'm alright." He said, taking her hand in his and holding it tightly, unconsciously telling her not to worry. "I was just thinking about some… business matters."

"You shouldn't worry too much, you know. It's not good for you." she said once again. "Besides, aren't we here to relax and have fun? Set aside those business matters and have fun once in awhile."

He just smiled at her and brushed away a few strands of hair for her forehead. It was then that he realized that she was holding a paper bag with a very familiar jacket inside. Hiding his anger and jealousy, he took a step away from her and looked at the paper bag in her hand.

"Mikagami's jacket, I presume?" he asked, hoping that he didn't sound too bitter and angry to her.

He saw the soft smile on her face falter slowly before she tore her eyes from his and found the red carpet beneath them more interesting than his question.

"I gave it back to him this morning." He heard her mutter almost inaudibly under her breath.

"Then why do you still have it?" he asked, fighting down the surge of jealousy creeping inside him.

"He… told me to keep it for a while."

What for?

He wanted to ask but fought down the urge to do so, thinking that by asking, he might just cause her spirit to dampen more than it already is.

"I see…" he said instead, pulling her closer into a warm embrace just so she wouldn't see the flicker of jealousy in his eyes rising up into an untamed flame.

Yet, he fought hard to fight down the feeling, thinking that a jealous boyfriend for only just a day is what she needed right now.

One day…

He repeated in his mind, reminding him how long she belonged to him already. A day, twenty-four hours, maybe even less, and he's not planning on stopping there. No. If he could, hell, he wanted her to belong to him forever. No. He would make sure that she will belong to him forever, no matter what it takes. Even if it means stooping so low that he would have to be her servant. Then, he would make sure that she'll see just how much he would be willing to give just to make her feel the same way.

Looking from a distance, he reluctantly diverted his gaze from the embracing couple a few yards away to the calm vast of blue laid out also a few yards from him.

It had always been like this. The same scenario kept on repeating over and over again before his very eyes. Only on those scenarios, she was the only person that remained constant while the guy holding her so close seems to have changed as time passes by.

Before, it was with Raiha. Now, she's in the arms of Kurei, mocking him and slapping onto his face yet another fact, another constant thing with these kinds of scenarios: that he would always be a few yards away… watching… just watching… and never having the chance to be in the scenario with her.

"Mikagami-sempai…" a soft voice lulled him out of his reverie as he turned around to meet the owner of the voice.

"Are you alright?" he heard her ask once more as he traced her feature which was etched with worry.

"I'm alright, Yanagi. I was just thinking about something." He replied as he gave her a gentle smile so as not to worry her some more.

Because of the unexplainable resemblance between the healer and his sister, seeing her like this was like seeing his sister worrying about his welfare.

"Are you not enjoying our vacation?" she asked once more.

"Why do you ask that?" his brows furrowed, thinking that she might have seen right through him.

"I just find it rather odd that you're so silent yesterday and this morning."

He chuckled at the statement she said, not because he was mocking her or something but because she seems to have forgotten one single fact.

"I'm always silent, Yanagi." He reminded her, giving her a polite smile when she saw her flush at his statement.

"Anou… I know that, Mikagami-sempai… Demo, you were never silent with her…" she whispered just loud enough for him to hear as she fumbles with her fingers.

This time, his brows furrowed even more.

"Her? Who's her?" he questioned, completely clueless of what the former healer was talking about.

"Fuuko." She said as if it was one of the common facts that revolve around the earth. "You were never silent when she's around so I thought that it's rather odd that now she's here, you're so quiet and all."

The furrow on his brows vanished as a look of melancholy took over his features. Immediately, he faced the other way to hide that look from the oblivious girl beside him.

"Mikagami?" he heard her concerned voice when he didn't say anything.

"It was never like that." He said, denying the fact that the purple haired enchantress indeed managed to pull out some emotions from him and get him to talk in just one day more than he had ever talk in a year before he met them.

"You know," her voice filled his ears once again but he refused to look at her, afraid that she might see, that she might know and she might pity him for being such an idiot and letting her be happy in another guy's arms. "we never ceased to wonder why you keep on hiding your feelings."

With utter shock and bewilderment, he turned his face to her, mouth slightly ajar and eyes slightly wide from what he just heard.

Am I that visible?

He can't help but wonder as he continued to gape at the innocent looking girl, who continued speaking beside him.

"We kept on wondering why you just let her be happy with another man while you could make her happy, yourself. We kept on asking ourselves why you torture yourself by watching her from a distance and never attempting to watch her from somewhere near, beside her, maybe. We can't help but wonder why you shut yourself from her when you're the best thing that could happen to her."

The words flowing from her lips seem to have him rooted on the ground as he listens to the revelation coming from her.

They have known all along. Hell, they might have known it much longer than he did, even during the UBS maybe, when he was so oblivious of his feelings to her. And here he is, listening to Yanagi telling him that they have known all along the feelings that he had no idea existed and he kept on denying to him self until just recently.

"How…?" he managed to say but failed to continue as he racked his brains for the right words to say.

"Somehow we knew. Maybe because you're so different when she's around or maybe it's because she could make you smile more than Recca could easily irritate you. I don't know. But somehow, we knew, Mikagami-sempai."

"Recca and Domon must think that I'm such an idiot. Hell, they're probably laughing behind my back now for being a genius and yet an idiot when it comes to these things." He said as he bowed his head while an image of a laughing Recca and Domon flashed in his mind.

"Recca and Domon would never do that, no matter how childish they are. In fact, both of them admire you for being so brave and for loving her so much that you would let her be happy in another's arms."

Then, he felt a gentle hand on his arms and he looked up to see the healer smiling affectionately beside him, resembling more and more his sister.

"She has to know. Somehow, she has to know. You have to tell her." she said before slowly withdrawing her hand and started walking away towards Recca standing a few feet from them.

"Domon called." Recca stated, giving him a knowing smile. "He said he'll be back next week and said that he'll make sure to wrestle some sense into you."

He smiled upon hearing his statement, a feeling so foreign invading him from the inside.

So… this is how it feels to have friends… real friends…

He thought before following them inside the restaurant where the rest are waiting for him for lunch.

She was once again surrounded by happy faces, heart-felt laughter and humor stories that her friends around the table kept on telling each other. Each one seems to have lots to tell and never running out of stories to share, be it embarrassing or funny. Everyone seems to be so blissful, a complete contrast to what she was actually feeling and trying to hide from them.

Amidst the laughter, funny stories and heart-felt smiles was her, hiding behind her mask once again and making everybody think that she was just as happy as they are, that, she has lots of funny stories to share like they do.

"Fuuko…" a soft whisper from her right side brought her out of her forged laughter.

Slowly, she turned towards the owner of the voice only to be met by a pair of baby blue eyes staring seriously at her own dark blue pools.

"Are you alright?" Tokiya asked her in a voice that could almost be considered as a whisper.

"Yeah… why do you ask?" she said in a soft voice, so soft that their conversation remained unnoticed by the other members around their table eating lunch with them. Even Kurei, who was sitting just to her left, seems to have focused his attention so much on what Recca was saying that he didn't even notice the hushed words exchanged between the two.

She waited for him to answer but he just remained there, sitting and staring at her, his eyes boring into hers. At the back of her head, she knew that he was reading her very soul, yet, no matter how much she tells her brain to look away, her eyes seems to have been glued on those baby blue pools staring straight back at her.

"Nothing." he just said, closing his eyes and returning to his food once again.

Just when she thought he already dismissed the topic, she heard his voice once again, stopping her from her laughter.

"Don't laugh if you don't feel like it. You may be able to deceive them but you laughter could never deceive me."

Shocked from what she heard, she stared at him, mouth slightly agape and mind turned blank. Somehow, for some reason, he always manages to see right through her. And somehow, she can't seem to deny that fact to him, knowing full well that it would be a futile attempt. He always knew. He never misses anything.

"I'm not deceiving them. I just don't want them to worry." She whispered back when he was able to recover from her shock.

"I'm worried. Does that count?" he said, turning to her once again so as to make it look like a casual conversation between the two of them.

"You never worry. It's never in your nature to worry."

"Surprisingly, when it comes to you, I do worry. I could see right through you, after all."

Unconsciously, his statement suddenly made her heart beat faster than usual and she can't seem to fight the faint blush creeping up to her cheeks as the words registered in her mind.

Could it be?

Could it be him after all this time… and I was just too dense to realize?

No… he doesn't feel that way… must be my imagination…

Pushing the thoughts out of her mind, she turned to him and gave him the assurance she knew he's asking for, even without voicing out his thoughts.

"I'll be fine. In time, I'll be able to… deal with the pain someday."

She was about to say the word forget but thought against it, remembering last night when he told her that all she has to do is to learn to deal with the pain of losing someone.

"Besides," she continued. "I already have someone. He'll help me through this, just like you. After all, you did promise to help me."

She saw him nod before going back to his food, although she can't help but wonder why his eyes seems to reflect a hint of pain from what she said. Before going back to her own food, she stared at him from the corner of her eyes, searching for that hint of pain just to make sure it was what she really saw. However, he just sat there beside her, wearing his stoic façade and making her think that it might had just been her imagination playing tricks on her once again.

thanks to those who still reviewed this story no matter how long it takes me to update: Snow Charms, windy-goddess, Jomai, kate (yes, i'm from teh philippines... how did you know??? Filipino intuition?? hehehe!!!), obsessed dreamer, Mia Fitzpatrick, Shenhui, anon... promise to make it up to you guys this time...