It was a cool, clear night, right on the cusp of summer and fall. Perfect weather.
He asked her if she was cold anyway.
"No, but thank you."
Yahiko smiled a little to himself at how formal she still sounded sometimes, even after all these years.
"You've been working really hard at the dojo lately, haven't you?" she asked. "With Kaoru-san stepping down as the primary master…"
He made a low grunt of half-hearted agreement and scratched the back of his neck. "Are you worried Yuta will get the position and not you?"
"You've got to be kidding me!" he exclaimed. "My name is first on that wall, I've been Kaoru's student longer, and I'm better than him! By far!" Yahiko cried, bristling.
With flushed cheeks, she bowed frantically. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" In that moment, she failed to pay attention to the ground. Her foot struck the edge of a rock, and, losing her balance, she went vaulting forward.
Instinctively, he thrust his arm out to catch her. "What I meant is, I'll be the one to carry on the Kamiya Kasshin Ryu, no problem. You don't have to worry about me."
Tsubame wasn't sure why, but, although she should have been able to regain her balance moments ago, she still held onto his arm with both hands.
It'd almost seemed as though he'd been avoiding her glance all night, but finally their eyes locked. "I always yelled at her for being annoying when she said it, but I guess Kaoru was right, huh."
"What was she right about?" He felt like smiling to himself again, because by now she'd completely forgotten that her hands were still resting on his arm.
"There really is no other girl for me but you." The moment the words left his mouth, he couldn't believe the one who'd said them had really been him. But he ploughed on courageously. "And there never will be."
Her face had turned a rather unhealthy-looking shade of crimson. Her hands finally lifted from his arms, the touch broken, and flew up to her face. She lowered her head, her short hair sliding across her face. It was though she was using it as a veil to hide behind.
His own face was starting to feel a little hot, and he was almost glad she was no longer looking at him, so that she wouldn't see his blush. But each second she hid like that felt like agonizing hours. He realized he'd been holding his breath and let it out.
He couldn't hold it in anymore. "Well?" it burst out of him at last. "Aren't you going to say anything?" He felt like such a fool. That wasn't how she felt about him at all. Look at me, at least, he wanted to say. Look at me.
She did, hands dropping limply to her sides. From the look in her eyes, it seemed as though she was going to start crying at any moment. But instead she sniffled bravely and smiled as she reached out and touched his arm lightly. "I'm glad."