Disclaimer: I do not own Yunoki Azuma, Hino Kahoko, or any character or part of La Corda D'oro.
It had always been such a delight to wake up beside her.
He didn't know why he took pleasure in such a simple thing, though. And he doubted he'd ever fully understand. He was Yunoki Azuma, the third son of the affluent Yunoki clan. The moment he had been born, he had been destined for greatness—well, next to his brothers, that is. But, still, as it is, he could surely find something grander than she to serve as a form of amusement: someone with more class, more stature—someone more befitting of a Yunoki. He did mean it when he told her that it would've been more convincing for others that he picked her if she had just a little bit more beauty or brains. 'I'm sorry to disappoint. I'm quite ordinary after all,'—that was what she said when he had mentioned that little matter.
'But being ordinary certainly had been convincing for me, Kaho-chan.'
Hino Kahoko—one minute she was pinned against the wall staring at him as though he had been the most despicable thing ever spawned, the next she was there lying beside him in his bed.
Ever since he had met her, everything he had been just came crumbling down—the discipline, the pretence—the sick obedience.
That most of all.
"You really do mess up my rhythm, Kahoko," he murmured. "That's why you're so annoying."
He kept on staring at the girl sleeping peacefully by his side, and amusedly noted now happy she looked when she slept. At that moment, the sun gently beat down on her face, lending an almost glorious glow about her. Strands of red hair lay scattered about the side of her face, as if begging to be touched and tucked behind her pretty, little ears. And her lips had been curled up into a smile, evidence of an otherwise happy dream.
His hands smoothed away the stray hairs from her face, and lingered by the arc of her cheek. He revelled at the feel of his fingertips on her smooth cheek. Truth be told, he had never felt anything that smooth or that enticing in his life.
Actually, he had never encountered anything as entertaining and enticing as Kahoko was.
And he'd be damned if he wasn't able to admit that to himself.
'You really are cute in this light, Kaho-chan.'
As if on cue, Kahoko started to stir from her slumber. A few moments later found the girl lifting her head and shielding her eyes from the bright sun. She slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes childishly while yawning. Seeing as it was morning, the gravity of her situation has not exactly dawned upon her.
Azuma, always the unpredictable one, suddenly pinned her against muddle of bed sheets, his body firm against hers, and whispered huskily into her ear, "Ohayou, Kahoko."
At this, every inch of skin on her body burned a bright red, enough to rival her hair colour. She tried to escape from his hold, but alas! He was a lot stronger than she gave him credit for. Whether it was to taunt her, or to keep her close, or both, only he knew, but he held her tightly against him. The more she struggled to get out, the more he tightened his hold on her.
At this sudden change of tone, she relaxed, and ceased her futile attempts at escaping from him. Her eyes lowered and shaded, "Ohayou, Yunoki-senp…"
She suddenly found herself staring up at him, his hand under her chin, gently but firmly holding it up.
A playful frown ruled his features. "What have we agreed about that? Ne, Kaho-chan? It's been almost two months, you know."
Kahoko burned a deeper shade of crimson as Azuma removed his hand from under her chin.
"So, let's start again. Ohayou, Kaho-chan," he said, his world-famous smile gracing his otherwise angelic face.
She burned even more. "O-ohayou, Azuma…"
That last part she couldn't help but affix.
"Well, it's a start," he said as he gracefully got up from his bed.
Kahoko stayed in the very same position, unsure of what to do. She just kept on staring at the light fixtures, mulling over that morning's events.
'It's been two months since this started, but I just can't get used to this.'
A nauseating sense of fear gripped her from all sides. 'I can't possibly do this!'
She sat up languidly and heaved out a sigh, an attempt to calm her nerves. This was, however, countered by a move from Azuma, nonetheless.
"Well, you'd better get out of bed, soon, Kaho-chan," he breathed against the back of her ear. "Breakfast will get cold, you know."
Flustered, her only reply was, "H-h-ha-hai!"
"You really are cute, Kahoko," he whispered.
She quickly stumbled out of bed and hurried into the bathroom, an amused Azuma staring at her trail.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
She locked herself inside the bathroom, at least to give her some time to let her head cool down.
"Calm down, Kahoko. Just take this time to calm down."
From the moment she had agreed to this ploy, she knew she was doomed. Agreeing to pose as Azuma's 'fiancée' was hard enough. She was sure that posing as his 'wife' would be thrice—no, ten times—as hard.
How was she supposed to act in front of everyone, especially his family? This whole thing is sure to be a recipe for failure!
Yet somehow, she couldn't bring herself to refuse his demands, er, requests. Deep inside, she felt sorry for him—sorry that everything about his family seemed to press down on him. She sympathised with him, because she knew how hard it was to suppress one's self, how hard and painful it was to keep certain things from people. She knew how hard it was for Azuma to go on living the way he does, and she knew that everyday, it only got worse.
In her heart, she believed that amidst this entire ruckus, Yunoki Azuma only wanted to be seen for what he is, not what his family is.
That was why she agreed to be his 'wife.' If it meant that she would be able to help one of her friends, even if it implied trouble for her, she didn't mind.
Even if it meant letting her heart run 10-mile marathons every time he got close, she didn't mind.
For a change, she'd like to see him smile genuinely.
"His smile," she murmured. "That'd be the greatest prize I'll get from all these."
And besides, she was beginning to like Azuma, quirks and all.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
She found the dining room set divinely, and Azuma sitting at the head, staring outside the window. His head was turned sideways, the contour of his elegant jaw sharply visible. His gold eyes were quite hazy and unfocused, yet showed a great deal of emotion. His lips curved a little at the corners, a smile hinting on his face. His long, purplish hair was casually slung over his back, a few stray strands playing at his sides, thereby softening his features.
He was angelic in the morning light.
It was only then, only at that moment, that it dawned upon Kahoko how beautiful he really was. Her eyes were set on him and, she felt her heart do a quick pirouette.
"Kaho-chan," he said, regarding Kahoko by the corner of his eye.
"H-hai," she fumbled out of her stupor. "Is something the matter, Yunoki-senpai?"
"Again with that 'Yunoki-senpai'," he said, motioning for her to sit beside him. "Anyway, breakfast's getting cold."
He donned one of his world-famous smiles.
She felt her face burn up and her poor heart fluster a little more.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
He had bought the house they were living in the moment she had agreed upon 'marrying' him. It was quite modest, so to speak, considering the kind of house he had been used to. It was actually a quaint, little chalet located near the beach, invitingly bright and enticingly warm. The chalet had been fully-furnished, and only needed little straightening. To put it simply, it had been perfect.
The most remarkable thing about the chalet was the living room and the handsome, redwood grand piano right in the middle of it.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Kahoko's eyes were glued to the scene outside the glass door. "The beach! I just love the beach! It's so beautiful."
It had been a very sunny day—perfect for spending time outside. She had already planned to spend the day with Mio and Nao, seeing as it would be the last time she'd be able to spend it as a single girl. However, Azuma had whisked her away, her reluctance all but apparent to the young man. After all, she didn't know where he was going to take her. The moment they arrived at that chalet, though, every suspicious thought fled from her mind. She couldn't help but feel happy. The place had been exceptionally bright.
"Oh, wow! It even has a veranda," she said skipping across the room.
He could only smile at how happy she was. He didn't know by what power, but everything about Kahoko seemed to tug at his heart—much more than he'd care to let on.
He sauntered towards Kahoko who was, at that moment, standing against the railing of the veranda. In an amusing sense of déjà vu, he firmly planted his hands onto the railings on either side of Kahoko and placed his chin on top of her shoulder.
"So, how do you like it, Kahoko?" he whispered hoarsely.
As if dictated by reflex, Kahoko turned a deep shade of crimson.
Azuma smirked to himself. "Well?"
She fixed her eyes on the beachscape, and silently collected her thoughts. She courageously turned to face him and smiled. "It's perfect."
This took Azuma off-guard, an almost bewildered look fleeting across his face. "Hmm?"
She smiled even more. "I think it's perfect, Yunoki-senpai."
He stared at the girl in front of her in fascination. He smiled to himself and took her hand in his. "Why don't we go see the rest of the house, ne?"
She was quite shocked at this gesture. Sure, she knew Azuma could be sweet when he wanted to, but never like this, not anymore towards her. She knew that somehow, she'd have to pay this sweetness back.
But, oh, her heart was dancing frantically against her chest. And it didn't help that Azuma's grip on her hand kept on getting tighter.
Soon, they were in the living room, and her wide eyes grew a size larger.
The living room was the biggest and the most beautiful area of the house. It was more like a separate house, really. The living room was an octagonal room located at the far end of the chalet. It was surrounded by glass doors, and directly looked out to the beach. From in that bright room, everything looked so much more vivid.
The most remarkable thing about the living room, though, was the redwood grand piano right in the middle.
Azuma walked towards the piano, lifted the cover, and played part of Pachelbel's Canon in D. Kahoko only stared at her 'husband-to-be' in awe. She was aware of how talented Azuma was, but she never really knew that this was one of his talents.
"It's still in tune," he said, replacing the cover. "Impressive."
"I never knew you could play the piano, Yunoki-senpai," she said gushing over him. "You're amazing!"
Azuma only smiled at her adorably. "Well, I wouldn't say I can play the piano. I just dabble in it, is all."
She shook her head gently and smiled. "Still, Yunoki-senpai. You can do so many things. You're so talented. Quite unlike me, I suppose."
The confession of hers came as a shock to him. Yes, it was true that Kahoko may be easily discouraged at times, but she always seemed so diligent and hard-working that she ends up doing well in whatever she decides to do.
Maybe he's not the only one who wants to prove something.
He gently reached out and caressed her cheek. He knew he was drowning himself even more, but what the heck?
As long as it's her, he didn't really mind anymore.
She could only gawk at him. How long was he going to surprise her?
"Kahoko, I'm only going to say this once, so you'd better keep this in your brain's registry, alright?" he whispered.
His voice had its usual edge of arrogance, but above it all, was something gentler, more affectionate. If she hadn't noticed that, she would've turned her back on him and walked away.
"Nobody else has the right to tell you that you're no good as a person, that you're not talented. It doesn't matter whether or not you're beautiful or rich, or anything frivolous like that.
"What matters is that you work hard for it. Hard work isn't innate in everyone, you know. Only some could really live up to up to that skill.
"You're one of them Kahoko."
She flushed at everything he said. Although her mind kept on screaming at her to be wary of him, her heart dictated her to put her trust in him, no matter what.
"Thank you, Yunoki-senpai," she said, a faint smile gracing her lips.
"Of course, it would be more believable for others if you had more beauty, or more brains," tauntingly.
She grew indignant at this, a pout etched on her face. "Honestly, Yunoki-senpai. Sometimes I don't know what you actually are."
He smirked at her reaction. "You really are cute, Kahoko."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
When he had gotten that reaction from her, he knew that they'd be spending the rest of their lives in that place.
The only thing he had to do was make sure that Kahoko would be up to spending her life with him.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
"Kaho-chan, are you ready yet?" Azuma asked through the bathroom door. He had an inkling that girls could take long to get ready, but three hours is ridiculous.
"In a minute!" came the hushed reply. "I'll be out in a minute."
Azuma sighed and, in an effort to find something to occupy his time, sat down on a couch and looked out the window. It had been almost two months since the two of them started this whole ploy, and from the very beginning, his family had been quite suspicious of their relationship. They had only known each other for a year, after all. Besides that, they weren't quite sure where Kahoko was from—what kind of a person she truly was, what kind of family she had, and things like that.
But one thing he was able to convince them of was how happy he really was when he was with her.
That part had been no ploy.
And so, after much persuasion, he was able to carry on with his plan. Sure, his grandmother had been very adamant about it, but in the end, his parents saw him through. True, he might have been disowned by his grandmother, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that he had been freed of his grandmother's harping.
And as long as his parents understood exactly how he felt, he didn't mind at all.
He stared at the endless tangerine sky and the clouds that floated amidst it.
"So this is how it feels to float," he murmured to himself.
The bathroom door slowly opened and brought him out of his trance. He turned his head towards the door, and before it stood Kahoko.
All he could do at that moment was to stare at her.
She stood by the door, slightly fidgeting. She was wearing a maroon empire-cut dress, which fell up to her knees. The dress' upper part had been like a big, silk ribbon, and its skirt part was made of several layers of chiffon and organza in different shades, giving it a monochromatic illusion. She carried a matching shawl on her right arm and a purse in her left hand. Her hair had been set into a bit of a messy bun, and thus completed her look.
She was perfectly beautiful, the way she looked at that moment.
"Ano, Yu—Azuma-san," came the quiet voice. "Don't you think this is a bit too much for dinner? I mean, it's just the two of us."
He stood up and ambled towards her. He wasn't sure what he was doing, but he found himself cupping her face in his hands and kissing her forehead. "You're beautiful, Kahoko. I'm afraid I may look quite drab, standing beside you."
At that moment, he was wearing a soft pink dress-shirt, a maroon, silk necktie, and a black suit—a far cry from his usual evening outfits. Still, he carried it with as much dignity and pomp as he would his other outfits.
Kahoko blushed madly, her heart running a mile a second. I an effort to calm her nerves, she slowly stepped away from him and heaved out a sigh.
"So," she said, clearing her throat and steadying her heart. "Where are you planning to take me?"
Again, he took her hands in his, and said, "Close your eyes, Kaho-chan."
She only blinked adorably at him. "Pardon?"
"Just close your eyes and I'll take you there."
She was quite wary of what he intended to do, but followed anyway. She slowly closed her eyes and put all her trust in Azuma.
"Now, don't open you eyes until I tell you to, got it?" he said, carefully leading her.
She only nodded, too confused (and excited) to speak. It didn't help that her heart just decided to quiver again.
For a good few minutes, she had nothing but Azuma's voice serving as her guide. They walked slowly, to make sure she didn't stumble or fall. She seriously wanted to peek, but she doubted it would do her any good. The path they had been treading for the past few minutes hadn't been particularly rocky or anything like that. Yet, he still showed great care in leading her to wherever it was they were headed. Every few seconds he would say, "Careful there," and transfer his hold from her hand to her waist. Throughout the way there, though, he held her hands gently, as if to assure her that everything would be alright, that he'd always be beside her no matter what.
And this only caused her poor heart to fluster even more.
"Okay, we're here, Kaho-chan," he whispered, slowly letting go of her hands.
His hands had been warm and gentle. She didn't know why, but her hands cried out from the loss of warmth.
"Open your eyes, Kaho-chan."
Her eyes fluttered open, and surprise wouldn't begin to cover what she felt at that moment.
They were in the living room, and right in the middle of it was the very same piano and in the far-off corner was a dinner table set for two. The room had been beautifully set with red and pink roses and candles, enhancing the orange view of the glass doors. The doorway they stood under had been decorated with beautiful garlands. Under the light of the setting sun, everything glowed with vivaciousness and splendour.
She didn't know why, but tears started to well up in her eyes. It was silly of her to do so, but she couldn't help it. She was inexplicably happy to know that he went through the trouble of arranging everything that lay before her.
Azuma quickly took notice of this, and gently rubbed the small of her back. "Are you okay, Kahoko?"
"Yes, I am," she said, wiping her tears with the back of her hands. "Thank you, Azuma-san."
He gently pushed her alongside him, and together, they went into the room.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
He watched her as she ate her dinner, his elbow propping up his chin. He knew it was rude to sit gawking at someone while they ate, but it was something he couldn't do anything about. She was clearly enjoying her meal, and watching her enjoy something was amusing him to no end. But it wasn't only that.
She was so heart-wrenchingly beautiful at that moment; he was starting to regret telling her about her 'lack of beauty and brains.' Everything about her seemed to sparkle with zeal and happiness.
Noticing that his eyes were on her, she silently put her knife and fork down and stared back at him. "Is something wrong, Azuma-san?"
This was the second time that day that she caught him off-guard. "Hmm? Oh, no, nothing's wrong, Kahoko. Is the food to your liking?"
She smiled brightly at him. "Mm-hmm. Did you cook all these yourself?"
"That's a secret," he smiled mischievously.
Night had fallen once they had finished eating dinner. The stars sparkled magnificently, and the full moon shone in full pride. He stood up and offered his hand to Kahoko. "Would you care to dance with me, my lovely Kahoko?"
"Of course." She smiled shyly, and put her hand in his.
The two of them danced in the room, Drigo's Serenade echoing softly in the air. Kahoko looked at him, her face lit up with happiness. "This is the same song from the summer camp, isn't it?"
He simply smiled at her and said, "I'm glad you remembered it, Kahoko."
The two of the danced in the candle-lit room, both of their hearts surprisingly content. They only watched each other as the two of them moved to the rhythm of the music.
Azuma gently leaned in on her, and whispered against her ear, "So, how do you like the night so far?"
His hand travelled to the small of her back and gently pulled her toward him. "Well?"
She blushed lightly in his arms. "It's been amazing, Azuma-san."
"I'm glad, Kahoko."
For the rest of the night, she had been calling her the way he had always wanted to. Albeit the affixed –san at the end of his name, he was happy that she was finally beginning to see him for him.
She was finally beginning to acknowledge Azuma.
And he was genuinely glad for that.
The music stopped, but he didn't let go of her. Instead, he led her to an ornate stool beside the grand piano.
"Why don't you sit down, Kahoko?" he said, pointing to the stool.
She didn't know what to expect from him at this point, but knowing Azuma, it must have been designed to sweep her off her feet.
He helped her sit up on the stool, and after that walked over to the piano. "This is something you won't see everyday, Kahoko, so I suggest you watch carefully."
He sat down in front of the piano, removed the cover, and started to play a very familiar tune.
Kahoko's eyes widened. "That's the same piece you performed during the first selection, ne? Edvard Grieg's Morning Mood from Peer Gynt."
He only nodded and smiled softly at her. She closed her eyes, and focused on the music ringing through the air. The piece was beautiful being played on the flute, but the piano gave it a different texture. It was enchanting on the flute, and on the piano, it sparkled, twinkled even, with the fervour of life.
Azuma watched her through the corner of his eye. She sat there, fully absorbed in his playing. Soon enough, he'd have to make the move. He was scared, really, to be doing this. She could very well reject him, and then what would he do?
He'd be devastated—more than he'd care to admit.
Thus, everything he'd been doing up until that moment had been to gather up more courage. And every moment he had been spending with her so far only unravelled more of him to her.
Maybe that's all he needed to do to get her to like him.
The moment he finished playing he stood up and walked towards Kahoko. She still sat on the stool, and was clapping happily, a beautiful smile curving along her lips.
"That was great Azuma-san," she said. "And you say you only 'dabble' in it."
He stopped before her, and smiled gently, "Well, I'm nowhere near as good as Tsuchiura-kun."
She gently shook her head. "Stop comparing yourself to others. Your music is wonderful, Azuma-san, and it's something I take delight in listening."
He looked at the woman sitting before him. She really was beautiful—so much so, that it astounded him. At that moment, he decided. It would be then, or never.
For the umpteenth time that day, he took her hands and held it gently between his. He stared directly into her eyes, and smiled.
"Kahoko," he began. "I know I've caused you a lot of trouble, and I know I've been using you as a past-time this past year. You've been so gracious and kind even when I start taunting you to your limits, that sometimes, I forget that you, too, have your own problems to deal with.
"It might've been difficult for you to truly get along with me, and truly know me, but please, allow me more time to show you who I really am, what I can do for you.
"When I see you waking up beside me every morning, I realise how lucky I am to have you, and how nice my life would be to have you waking up beside me for the rest of my life.
"The night before I left for England, I told you this, and I'll say it again. You're everything a person could ever ask for.
"You're everything I could ever ask for."
He pulled out something from his pocket. It was small, pink jewellery box. He gently placed it in her hands. "Open it," he said.
With trembling hands, she slowly opened the box, and in it sat a diamond studded band, with a pink, octagonal diamond set in the middle.
"The moment you agreed to this whole crazy ploy just so I could be free from my grandmother, I knew I shouldn't let you go," he said as he took the ring from the box and tenderly put it on her ring finger. "You always went out of your way to help me, Kahoko.
Once again, he looked her squarely in the eye. "Aishiteiru, Hino Kahoko."
"I don't want everything we've shared for the past two months to just evaporate. Please, why don't we make all this real?
"Would you care to keep me, for ever, my sweet Kahoko?"
He popped in the question with such sweetness and sincerity that the only thing Kahoko could do was to stare at him, dumbfounded. She hasn't fully realized it, but she had been crying the whole time he had been speaking. In the end, she could only muster a nod and a faint "Yes" as her response.
The happiness just seemed to well up inside him. He was hoping everything would go the way he wanted to, and it did. Now she was his to keep, and nothing would ever change that.
When she looked up at him, she realised something she had been failing to notice the whole night. A smile adorned his face, one that was free of pretences or lies. And maybe, this was the real YUnoki Azuma smiling back at her.
She's willing to bet everything she has that she's finally met the real Azuma.
He kissed her on her forehead, trailing down to her cheek, and then to her lips. It was the first time they had truly kissed each other, and now, both of them would make sure it wouldn't be the last.
This is my first La Corda D'oro: Primo Passo fic! XD
Thanks you very much for reading. The next step of the process would be to review. XD
Again, thank you.