I suppose this is my attempt to redeem to Kaorin. Why, I have absolutely no clue. I just sorta feel like it.

Yeah.


"Roll call!" came Kimura's surprisingly calm voice on a Monday morning. Those in his homeroom were also surprisingly calm. Some were mundane fools that believed Kimura wasn't that bad. Others were wise and battle-hardened, this being either their second or third year in his class.

But for those like Kaori – known to her friends and classmates simply as Kaorin – it was an absolute and terrifying nightmare which had no escape until next year. She gazed out the window from her seat, somewhat resembling Sakaki's classic pose in class in which she stared at the window, her mind off in the distance.

Sakaki…ah, how she missed her. Kaori sighed. The impact of not seeing her idol for the majority of the day was wearing off, but still ringing fresh – like a paper cut. It's wrapped in a Band-Aid but still hurts like hell.

Why did she have to end up in this homeroom? Of all the teachers, Kimura had to pick her! Kaori clenched a fist and began to grit her teeth. The perverted Classical Lit. teacher was bad enough during class, but now he was her main teacher. And that really, really, really sucked.

"Oh, and ah…" Kimura began, his voice in his usual air-filled tone. "We're having a new student join our class this year."

Everyone tensed. Chances were that this new student was a girl, with the physical measurements of Sakaki/Kagura/Yomi.

"His name is –" there came a quick sigh from the class as he said those words, although Kimura was on the verge of sobbing, " – Hiroshi Rokuro."

A boy, seated by the door, sat up and walked to the front of the room. His hair was long and raven black, tied in a clean ponytail extending to the top of his shoulder blades. Eyes of piercing navy were filled with a friendly, chipper tone. "Hello. My name is Hiroshi Rokuro." He bowed. "I'm sixteen years old and come from Kyoto. It's a pleasure to meet you all."

Kaori, not really paying attention, continued staring out the window.

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Three weeks passed by. Kimura's random outbreaks into sobs were becoming something of the norm to the newbies of the homeroom. Kaori was becoming detached to the social world and delved more into her studies. Not having Sakaki in the room was somewhat of a good thing. Her fantasies were occurring less and less.

"Hey."

Kaori jumped at the voice. She looked up slowly, her brain half-frozen, and met the gaze of the boy with long hair. Uh...

"Oh, err, hi," Kaori replied, unsure of why he was talking to her.

He grinned. "We'll, what ideas do we have?"

"…Huh?"

"We're you…even paying attention?" A moment of silence confirmed his suspicion. He smiled. "That's okay, I zone out a lot too. Well, Kimura assigned the two of us as partners for the project." The boy pointed to a sheet of paper resting, untouched, on Kaori's desk. "We're supposed to be doing a project on that book we're reading, Oliver Twist. By the way, what do you think of it?"

Immediate reaction. "It's horrid," Kaori snapped. "That man drones on and on forever about whatever he thinks should be in the book. Victorian England sounds pretty boring, if you ask me."

While listening, the boy wrote his name on a piece of notebook paper, then slid it over to Kaori to do the same. Rokuro Hiroshi read the name. Oh yeah…

"I have internet pals in America," Hiroshi continued. "They had to read this book two years ago in their Honors class. They said that the majority of the class thought it was 'God-awful' and that all of the man's books should be made into the world's biggest bonfire." Hiroshi laughed. "You've gotta get the writing style, that's what my mom keep saying to me. But the storytelling is pretty bad."

"Yeah, I know, it's like…you know, not Oliver against the world, but the entire world against Oliver. It's not fair, and it gets old pretty quick."

"Kinda like all mecha anime made from seven years ago and up." Hiroshi picked up the instruction paper and scanned it quickly. "Okay, so – we need to come up with a way to connect all the characters. Should be…creative. Oh great, sounds like fun."

An instant idea popped into Kaori's head. "How about one of those character webs? We have Oliver in the middle and all the people connected to him being…well, connected to him by a line. Then, characters connected to Oliver have characters connected to them."

Silence passed by as other groups chatted and planned (somewhat) diligently in the background.

"Yeah, that sounds good to me."

"Do you even know what I said?"

"Of course. We make a character web with Oliver as the base and have characters connect to him by lines and –"

"Okay, you got it." Kaori, for the first time in her senior year, smiled.

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Two days later found Kaori once again sitting at her desk, staring out the window. Kimura's voice droned on in the foreground as he attempted to explain the relationship between a few of the characters.

Recently, Kaori had gone back to thinking about Sakaki. But now, it wasn't about how much she missed her, or how much she wanted to be her friend – it was more along the lines of comparing. And for some reason, she was comparing Sakaki to Hiroshi.

Both were tall. Both had long raven hair and navy eyes. But compared to Sakaki, Hiroshi's always twinkled with warmth.

Twinkled, Kaori thought again, taking careful note of the word she had said.

Both, she had discovered, were great at sports. They swam at speeds unknown to teenaged kind, hit with force as if from the god's themselves, and ran as if powered by light.

When it came to academics, Hiroshi was nothing short of a subtle genius. Although nothing like the prodigy Chiyo, he was quite sharp and intelligent, but rarely volunteered an answer. Sakaki, Kaori remembered, was above average, with a B to A- range. She never volunteered an answer, nor was she ever forced to give an answer. She was quiet.

He was friendly.

She seemed distant.

He was open.

She was insecure.

He was outspoken.

She never spoke.

The two were like salt and pepper – tasty when put together, but each better on its own. Or something like that.

"And as seen here, the girls are very inclined to Oliver, he must be in heaven…" Kimura made his trademark creepy sigh after his obviously made-up line. The bell rang, startling the man as the students dashed out the door.

Kaori was one of them. No matter how much she day dreamed, her mind was set on how much time was left. An internal clock in her brain, squished beside her thoughts. Her hands would automatically pick up the kaban bag hanging on the hook attached to the desk and shovel her things in. Once the first decibel of the chime hit her ears, she was off like a rocket.

It was time for gym class, and now was their swimming unit. She joined the usual stream of students that went to the locker rooms. Today, however, Hiroshi was crammed at her left elbow.

"Oi, hey there Kaorin," he said, attempting to shift to the left. This resulted in him bumping into Chihiro, who ignored the accident. "Any goals for swimming today?"

There was a pause. "Well, if Miss Kurosawa has us do the usual twenty-five meter laps, I'm gonna try and go faster. I'm in this rut."

"Rut?" Hiroshi asked as the group shifted down a flight of stairs. "What do you mean? Um – if you don't mind me asking."

Kaori sighed. "Oh, not really. I used to be in Miss Yukari's homeroom – well, for the past two years, I was. And there was somebody in that class I really admired." She was damned if she would tell Hiroshi it was Sakaki. "And, well, I'm not in their class anymore, so I don't get to see them at all."

"Sounds harsh."

"Kinda, but now it's not so bad."

"How so –"

Their conversation was cut short as they split into the locker rooms.

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Today was a day of serious co-ed gym class. Although the genders usually were in the same pool, they were split up – girls on one side, boys on the other. But today, as proclaimed by the "guest star" Yukari, was a race day. On the line was a night's worth of drinks and steak. Kurosawa was not at all shaken by this, as she confided in the students – "Yukari owes me that much worth of meals anyway".

And as extra precaution, the two were made to sign an agreement, stating that they would treat the victor to the promised goods. (The process was overseen by Chiyo and observed by the entire class, in case Kurosawa needed witnesses.)

"I still don't see why we had to do that," Yukari grumbled from her stance atop the pool deck. Kurosawa sighed.

"You never uphold your agreements and you know it."

"Oh, don't be so uptight, Nyamo."

"Nyamo?" Hiroshi asked.

Yomi turned out to be the closest to him. "It's Yukari's nickname for Miss Kurosawa – her first name's Minamo."

"Nyamo…" he repeated slowly.

And so the teams were set up. The teachers set up, their fingers tightly gripping the sanded edge. Chiyo-chan raised her arm.

"And…go!"

The two shot off, but Nyamo having the obvious advantage. She was swimming like a bullet, the water splitting cleanly as she dug into it. Yukari was sloshing behind, cursing Nyamo.

Time passed. Swimmers blasted off and returned. Splashing and breathing and cries and excitement. Soon, Kaori stood on that platform, waiting for Ohyama to return. The typically bespectacled boy was squinting slightly, but swimming at a creditable speed. Once his hand touched the tiles on the wall, Kaori dived into the chlorinated water and freestyled down the lane.

She thought hard about her breathing, timing it as efficiently as she could and concentrating on moving both her arms and legs. She almost collided head-first into the tiled wall, but managed to avoid it by doing a spaz maneuver, dipping under the water, and getting a strong kick against the wall. Kaori glided about twelve feet before slowing down and began her strokes.

Approaching the end of the lane, Kaori looked up. Her heart stopped. In front of her was Hiroshi…but on the opponent's side? Sakaki.

She choked but kept on going, the chlorine burning her eyes and throat. Her fingers barely grazed the tiled wall as Hiroshi performed a magnificent dive and slipped cleanly into the water.

The brief slow-motion of him being above her made Kaori's breath stop. His lithe build was accented by pre-muscles – biceps, triceps, abs – and the building of his chest. His black hair was flowing in the rush of air, drooping off the sides of his neck. His gaze was focused on the goal ahead of him.

Kaori floated, her hands and fingers surging. She unconsciously climbed out of the poor and grabbed her towel, wrapping herself in the yellow and green striped design. Sakaki gained on Hiroshi, but he had the obvious lead. His whole body went into the graceful moments of the breast stroke.

Hiroshi kicked off on the tile wall, and now performed a back stroke. Water glistened on every part of his skin. Kaori felt a blush on her cheeks, then a burning face. It was like reading one of Yû Watase's mangas – the ones filled with unbelievably cute boys. That was what Hiroshi was right now.

And then, an indication of the apocalypse came:

"Go Hiroshi!" Kaori shouted, shooting up her right arm. "You can do it!"

There was a brief wave of silence as she said those words. Everyone knew of Kaorin's admiration for Sakaki…why was she cheering for Hiroshi and not Sakaki?

Hiroshi tapped on the wall. Yomi launched off the platform, narrowly avoiding kicking Hiroshi in the face. He hoisted himself up from the pool and lingered on the deck for a moment before standing up. Classmates congratulated him as he made his way to the fence to get his towel.

"Nice job," Kaori told him as they watched Yomi's lead diminish against Kagura.

"Nice job yourself," Hiroshi replied, wringing out his hair. "Saw that quick maneuver you had to do at the end there." He laughed. "You just avoided getting you head smashed."

Kaori found it easy and yet hard to laugh with him. Easy: It was Hiroshi, friendly man. Hard: It sounded as if he were making fun of her. Just a little bit.

"Would you…like to eat lunch with me today?" Hiroshi asked, tieing the towel around his waist.

There was a brief pause, accented by the cheering of the teams. "I would love to."


Kiela: :withers to the ground: How did I make this? HOW is it possible that I wrote a romance story? It boggles my mind. I don't write love, love is fickle and annoying.

(0) As said in the introduction, these are my thoughts on Kaorin. I had this idea bubbling for a little while. It is true – you do your best thinking in the shower. XD

(1) I look back on it and realize she fell for him very quickly…Gomen, I don't write love stories.

(2) Oliver Twist is really that bad. Really. Unless you can stand Charles Dickens's writing style, don't read it.

(3) You know every girl has read Yû Watase's manga. Admit it. ;;

(4) The ending isn't really final. As you can see, it could either end here or continue on. I really have absolutely no frickin' clue what's gonna happen. XD