Yunoki Azuma had developed the decidedly odd habit of kidnapping Hino Kahoko without warning whenever the urge struck him

Yunoki Azuma had developed the decidedly odd habit of kidnapping Hino Kahoko without warning whenever the urge struck him. It was beginning to happen with alarming frequency, causing Kahoko to no longer feel surprised whenever the elegant black limo rolled up beside her on her way home.

On one particular afternoon, a few days after the final round in the concourse, she felt the soft purr of a finely tuned motor, and knew it was that time again. She turned to look at the violet-haired young man whose head she could see through the car window as it rolled down. She was vaguely annoyed, but all in all at least he didn't have his henchmen shoving her into the car like they had upon one occasion.

"Would you like a ride, Hino?" Yunoki asked pleasantly, as if he had never called her annoying, stupid, or various other not entirely endearing terms. His smile was angelic, but Kahoko knew that a viper lurked somewhere behind his façade.

"I have homework," she sighed, fully knowing that arguing with him would be useless. She was no longer afraid of him, in fact, she'd grown so used to his erratic behavior that she was even beginning to like him to some extent. She had realized a while back that he wasn't really all bad. Still, the last thing she wanted was to be alone with him. He'd be jabbing her non-stop about any little imperfection he could find.

"I won't take up much of your time," he promised. "I've already called your house and let them know you'll be late. Get in, will you? We're wasting non-renewable resources." There was that grin again.

With another sigh, Kahoko walked towards the open car door gingerly climbed into the seat next to him. She hoped this afternoon wouldn't be quite as long as the others had felt.

A few hours later, Kahoko found herself in a park, strolling beside Yunoki, which she found very, very strange. Usually when he pulled one of these stunts, he had an ulterior motive; having her pose as his girlfriend, having her attend a wedding as his date, having her help him babysit his charming (not really) little cousins during some sort of family event…but not this time. This time, all they had done was walk and converse. Admittedly, he was a very pleasant person to be around whenever he wasn't being a jerk to her, and oddly enough, he hadn't picked on her all afternoon.

Yes, this was very strange indeed.

He asked her about her friends, about her likes, dislikes, her family, pets, school, music (but not the violin. She'd thankfully managed to dodge a bullet there). When he was through asking her about herself, he asked her opinion on books, movies, people, places she'd like to visit…Hell, if she hadn't known any better, she would've thought this was a-

"Hino? Hino? Everything all right?" Yunoki asked in a concerned voice. She had been so busy thinking, she hadn't realized they'd stopped in front of an ice cream cart. Her face reddened at her embarrassment at being caught day dreaming.

"I'm fine," she replied, "I just…zoned out for a moment…thinking."

Yunoki smiled, his stance relaxed. "Girls who think too much annoy me," he remarked casually.

And there it is, she thought with a sigh. Kahoko was horrible at retorts, so she usually had to settle for puffing out her cheeks and glaring at him, which only caused his smile to widen. This time was no different, except for one thing, which threw her off for a moment.

"Would you like an ice cream?" he offered, causing her to abruptly stop glaring at him and just stare. This was not like him. He wasn't behaving like himself at all today.

"Is something wrong, Yunoki-sempai?" she asked, looking at him with mixed concern and suspicion. He merely smiled, ordered two cones, one chocolate and one vanilla, and handed the vendor the appropriate amount due. Taking the cones, he gave the vanilla one to Kahoko, and they resumed their walk around the park. They were silent for a few minutes, neither touching their ice cream.

"Grandmother was…displeased with my decision to stay here and pursue a music career," he said suddenly. Kahoko looked at him out of the corner of her eye. This was the first time she had ever heard him mention his grandmother to her.

"I'm…sorry?" she offered, not entirely sure as to what to say. Yunoki shook his head, smiling slightly.

"Eat your ice cream," he told her, and huffing slightly, she brought it to her lips as he continued to speak.

"She's not disowning me, but I'm no longer her favorite. She's turned her attentions to Minabi now, and while I'm a bit worried, I'm sure that Minabi will be able to overcome her like I did." He turned to Kahoko, his eyes dark. "You helped me break away, Hino, though I doubt you'll realize your part in this." Kahoko froze mid-lick, caught in his gaze. Um…what?

"The best part," he continued, "The very best part of all this, is that I'm no longer bound to an arranged marriage." The look he was giving her was making her rather nervous, and she didn't know what to do with herself. One thought popped into her head at the moment, though, and it felt like the most logical thought. Breathe!

Yunoki tossed his unfinished cone in a waste basket. "I'm allowed to remain with my friends, I can play my instrument to my heart's content, I no longer have anyone dictating my life..." any clouds he had before seemed to fall away from his face, and Kahoko couldn't help but marvel at how child-like he appeared at that moment. How hard had Yunoki's life truly been before?

"And now, I get a shot at the girl I'm in love with."

Kahoko swallowed a small bite of ice cream, feeling icy tendrils spreading down her throat, unaware of the small amount of sweet milk that decorated her upper lip at the moment. Should she…?

"Who is the girl you like, Yunoki?" she asked, trying as hard as possible not to seem too interested in the answer. But he merely shook his head at her and turned forward to look at the limo parked in front of the park gate.

"It looks like we're out of time today, Hino. Perhaps another time, all right?" Kahoko went to say good-bye, but her breath suddenly caught in her throat. His face was close, uncomfortably close, to her own and she recognized Black Yunoki's smirk on his lips. In an agonizingly slow manner, he leaned down and gently licked off the ice cream that had accidentally been left on her lip with the tip of his tongue.

It was a testament to her shock that she didn't even have the urge to haul off and punch him. He then brought his mouth closer to her ear and whispered something that made her eyes widen just a little more and a shiver run up and down her spine. Then he backed away as if nothing had happened, waved good-bye and walked back to his limo. As she watched the limo drive away, the words he'd said to her played over and over again in her mind, though she hardly dared believe them. He had to be kidding, right? Toying with her like he always did…right?

"I stayed for you, Kahoko."