Disclaimer: La Corda d'Oro rightfully belongs to Koei and Yuki Kure, I'm merely borrowing the characters to express my love for Azuma and Kahoko as a pairing. Hanako Kirishima however is my own character. :D
Early one morning, Kahoko was on her way to school. She was up bright and early which was a change for her - even her mother was surprised. She wasn't certain how she did it, as Kahoko did nothing out of the ordinary but when she woke up, she felt bright and energetic and had no need to sleep in. Once she was outside, a clear blue sky greeted her while the sound of birds chirping filled the air. Kahoko smiled to herself, she had a feeling today was going to be a good day.
With more time to spare, Kahoko decided to take a different route to school by passing through the shopping arcade. There weren't many stores open at this time of day, besides supermarkets and convenient stores. While passing through, Kahoko would glance at the window displays of any store that caught her eye. There were many things which she would have liked to buy, if she had the money to burn. She would have liked to wear more dresses like the ones she and Shouko wore at the concours; they were so beautiful and elegant, Shouko looked especially good in what she wore. Kahoko got her dresses from Lili which she was thankful for, but they were designs Lili made up himself. She never got the opportunity to choose an outfit for herself which was disappointing but she didn't discourage, there would always be other opportunities.
What she didn't expect was that opportunity was going to come sooner than expected.
Ahead, Kahoko noticed a lady in approximately her mid-thirties carrying a vast amount of boxes out from a van. They looked very large and too much for the woman to handle on her own but this didn't seem to discourage her.
While Kahoko watched this lady work, she noticed a tower of boxes setup by the store were leaning too far forward. The one on the top was only moments away from falling to the ground and bringing every other box with it. Without a second to spare, Kahoko quickly ran towards the boxes in order to prevent their fall. She reached out managed to save most of them but the one from the top had landed upside down on the pavement with its contents scattered everywhere.
"Ah no, I wasn't fast enough," Kahoko puffed from the sudden sprint and noticed the lady approach her.
"Oh dear, I didn't notice they were about to fall. I should have been more careful." The lady sighed with exhaustion as she went to clean up what had fallen on the ground. Now seeing her close up, Kahoko couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was, she definitely looked very good for her age, so refined and elegant. She had short maroon coloured hair and had long bangs at the front of her face which she tucked behind her ears. She had a slender figure which was shaped beautifully with the purple dress she wore and had a white scarf wrapped around her neck to complete the outfit. It was a simple yet elegant look, but Kahoko could tell this outfit could be dressed up or down to suit any occasion.
"Allow me to help," Kahoko offered as she kneeled down to assist the lady in her clean up. From what she picked up, Kahoko noticed they were different types of fabric. There were a variety of silks, both plain and embroidered and found other materials like cotton and lace. There were others but she wasn't sure what they were, only that they felt nice to touch.
"These are very pretty," Kahoko commented as she placed what she had back in the box.
"Yes, they are," the lady replied as she put the rest of the materials inside, "I use this fabric to make evening gowns."
"Eh? You're a dress maker?"
She gave a little laugh before answering, "I can make a variety of clothes for any occasion. Whether it's comfortable, day to day outfits, evening wear or cosplay, I can make it. I specialise more so in outfits for women but I do have a range of male designs. I make whatever inspires me but I can take requests as well. I have assistants that help me too; however they won't be starting for another couple of hours. I thought I would make a head start with setting up but it's turning out to be more difficult than I thought."
"You're opening a new shop right? I'll definitely come back once you're ready for trade," Kahoko smiled.
"You are more than welcome anytime," the lady replied, "I do make quite a few outfits for girls your age, so I hope my designs appeal to you."
"I'm sure they will!" Kahoko answered excitedly, imagining the outfits she hoped to find when she came back. As she had been talking to this lady for a while now, Kahoko realised she hadn't introduced herself yet, "Oh, forgive my rudeness, my name is Kahoko Hino. I'm a second year student at Seisou Academy. It's a pleasure to meet you." Kahoko bowed her head in greeting.
"My name is Hanako Kirishima, a pleasure to meet you too, Hino-san." Hanako bowed her head in turn then said, "Thank you once again for your help, it was much appreciated."
"Oh no, I can't leave you to take care of this all by yourself. If you would like to sort things out inside, I can carry these boxes in for you," Kahoko offered.
"Oh I couldn't ask that of you, besides, don't you have school?" Hanako asked.
"I do but not for a while yet, I was going to arrive a little early anyway."
Hanako was uncertain at first but staring at Kahoko's cheerful face, seeing in her the genuine willingness to help; she couldn't help but take her up on her offer, "You are most kind, thank you Hino-san. I promise to make this up to you."
"Just leave it to me!" Kahoko reassured as she put her school bag and violin case down by the store's entrance and got started with moving the boxes inside. Hanako watched her retreating back for a moment and couldn't help but smile at her thoughtfulness. Not many people would help a stranger like this, especially when they didn't expect anything in return, but Hanako wasn't going to take advantage of her kindness, she was certain she could find something to give Kahoko in thanks. But for now, she had work to do so she followed Hanako inside and began going through the boxes she brought in.
Meanwhile, Azuma was passing by his black chauffer driven car. He was staring out the window in a daze, not all that enthused to go to school but as usual, he will put on his Prince Charming mask and act as though he didn't have a care in the world. Since the concours ended and they arrived back from their summer camp, things had been quite dull for him, especially since he hadn't seen Kahoko much lately. The rare opportunities where they did cross paths, she would always be accompanied by someone, whether it be her two friends from the gen-ed department or someone like Ryotaro or Kazuki. The thought made his eyebrow twitch with annoyance, then he caught himself, realising how emotional he was getting over something so petty and smiled, 'Heh, I really do lose my rhythm when she is concerned.' Azuma thought to himself.
Looking ahead to see how much further they were from school, Azuma found them passing through the shopping arcade and was surprised to see Kahoko up ahead. She looked to be carrying boxes into a store which he wasn't familiar with, not that it really mattered what she was doing, she was alone, that's what mattered. A smile graced his lips as he instructed his driver to stop ahead of the van. The chauffer did as ordered and got out of the car to open Azuma's door. When Azuma got out, he brushed some of his long purple hair behind his ear and went to approach her.
By this time, most of the boxes had been carried inside the store, only one remained and it was still sitting at the back of the van. Kahoko reached out for it and dragged it to the edge of the van's boot but noticed it was much heavier than the other boxes. She slipped her hands underneath the box to test its weight and figured she wouldn't be able to hold it for long. If she picked it up and quickly raced inside the store, she may be able to put it on the ground just in time before her weak hands dropped the heavy load. Readying herself, Kahoko took a deep breath and lifted the box, already feeling the strain in her arms. As she backed away from the van she felt her back suddenly knock into someone which startled her at first, as she guessed it to be Hanako.
"Ah!" Kahoko turned her head, "I'm so sorry Kirishi-" before she could finish, she found her eyes locked with not Hanako's but someone else who she knew all too well.
Azuma stared into Kahoko's eyes for a moment, noticing the evident shock in her gaze which made him smile with satisfaction. He leaned down to her ear, purposely grazing his cheek against the side of her head and whispered, "Good morning, Hino-san." He greeted with his cheerful, light hearted tone which he used at school. While it seemed innocent, there was a hint of that darkness in him which made the greeting sound more mocking than anything else. His voice seemed to echo in Kahoko's ears as though they were in a big empty room with nothing and no one else around for miles. The feel of his hot breath against her ear and the warmth he was bringing to her back sent cold, tingly sensations up and down her spine, causing the nerves to kick in as a result. She felt her grip slipping on the heavy box in her hands while her arms begged her to drop this heavy burden.
"Oh no!" Kahoko exclaimed as she felt the box about to slip from her grasp. That was until she felt Azuma's arms reach out to catch the bottom of the box, helping her support its weight. Kahoko was relieved and was about to thank him when she noticed that she was locked between Azuma and this box with his arms blocking any means of escape. Azuma let out a little sigh, "Really now, Hino, what were you going to do if you broke anything in here? I'm sure the shop keeper wouldn't have been too impressed, how careless of you." He was now using the deep yet sensual tone of his 'dark-self' which always put Kahoko on edge.
"I-I'm sorry," Kahoko murmured, trying her best to keep calm and focus on nothing but the box; just the box, not Azuma's arms resting close to either side of her waist, not the feel of his body against her back, not feel of his breath tickling her ear and not the sound of his alluring voice which made her legs weak every time she heard it... She was in trouble.
"Hm? Something wrong, Kahoko?" Azuma enquired, knowing full too well how nervous he was making her and now using her first name to send her over the edge. Kahoko's heart was beating so hard and fast that she hoped Azuma couldn't hear it. Her cheeks were burning bright red while she felt she was going to pass out.
"Y-Yunoki-senpai, c-can you please let go? I-I can handle it now..." Kahoko said breathlessly, trying her best to remain calm.
Azuma pretended to think on this, as though debating what course of action to take before answering, "Hmm, I offer my hand to a girl in trouble and this is the thanks I get? No thank you? Not even a greeting? Just simply 'let go'? I have to say I feel somewhat insulted."
Kahoko was startled and turned her head to look at him, "T-That's not what I meant! I am grateful for the assistance but please..." Kahoko noticed then that Azuma's face was dangerously close to her own, leaving her distracted and unable to finish her sentence. She stared into the golden orbs of his eyes, seeing her reflection clearly as though looking into a mirror. His eyes were narrowed, showing a hint of annoyance but it did nothing to shield away the beauty and wonder of his face - it was the definition of perfection, no flaws were evident. His eyes seemed to draw you in while his skin and hair begged to be touched while his lips, his lips...
Unlike Kahoko, Azuma was very perceptive, especially when it came to her. He could see how she was staring, thinking at first to say, 'Why are you staring like some sort of freak?' But that was only because he wasn't used to this sort of behaviour from her. Many girls stared at him at Seisou so you would think he'd be used to it but because it was Kahoko, it was strangely making him feel a little, self conscious. Still, it would take more than stares to make him lose his composure, thus giving him the idea to help Kahoko lose hers further. The thought brought a wicked yet seductive smile to his face. 'Consider this punishment...' He thought before saying out loud, "Would you like to try them?"
"E-Eh!?" Kahoko snapped out of her trance, not certain if she heard him correctly.
"My lips, would you like to try them? I can guarantee you won't be disappointed..." Azuma pressed against her more while giving her a willing, suggestive look.
"T-That's-I'm not-As in-I-I'm-I," Kahoko was stuttering all over the place while her face turned to a brighter shade of red than her hair. She had no idea what happened just now but she certainly didn't want to kiss him... Or did she? She recalled the night she went to Azuma's house, posing as his lover and remembered the kiss he planted on her head. It was so soft yet so gentle, but why was she thinking such things now?!
Azuma couldn't hold it in anymore, Kahoko's flustered face, along with her panicking eyes and stuttering voice made him break down into hysterics. He did his best to laugh as quietly as possible but Kahoko made it near impossible. He could never get sick of this. Teasing her had become one of his favourite hobbies and the result never disappointed him.
"Y-You're horrible Yunoki-senpai," Kahoko sighed, feeling like such a fool.
Azuma calmed down after a moment, although amusement was still evident in his gaze, "And you're as cute as ever, Kahoko."
Hanako was watching the two of them from the store window, taking in the scene before her like it was from a movie. She couldn't hear what they were saying, although it looked to her as though the young man was very close to Kahoko, like he was her boyfriend or something. Hanako smiled to herself, they looked so cute together that it was hard to turn away and get back to work. Together they seemed to glow and it drew the attention of by-passers as well. For experimental purposes, Hanako brought her hands up to make the shape of a rectangle with her thumbs and index fingers connecting. She framed the two students between her fingers like a picture frame and looked through the hole to see how it looked. Her breath stilled while her eyes widened with discovery as though she had found a treasure chest. She had just found two candidates to help promote the opening of her new store.
"Y-Yunoki-senpai..." Kahoko strained herself to say, finding herself once again in Azuma's car against her will, "I could have walked."
Azuma just smiled sweetly, "It was no trouble taking you with me. Besides, we spent quite a bit of time at Kirishima-san's store that I feel you would have been late if you walked."
Kahoko glanced at him from the corner of her eye. He was sitting crossed legged with hands folded on his lap. He was staring out his window with a bright, cheerful expression plastered on his face. It didn't look like the type of expression he wore at school; it looked more genuine and real now that Kahoko knew both sides of his personality. She guessed it may have something to do with Hanako's offer before they left her store.
"...M-Model?!" Kahoko exclaimed in shock, "You want us to model for you?"
Hanako nodded, "Its been an idea of mine to seek the help of locals to promote my store. I want regular, down to earth people to model my clothes to show no matter who you are, or how old you are, you don't need to be a super model to wear my outfits. I'm going to be seeking out others but for your general age group, I would love it if you two could assist me as I do require both female and male models. Besides, Hino-san, I think you and your boyfriend would look simply stunning in my designs."
"B-Boyfriend?!" Kahoko exclaimed as her cheeks turned pink with embarrassment. She waved her hands about and said, "W-We aren't like that Kirishima-san! We're just friends, right, Yunoki-senpai?" Turning to Azuma for reassurance, she noticed him looking down at her with that dreamy, charming look of his which would make any girl swoon. She stared up at him in confusion at first, wondering why he was looking at her like that until she felt his arm snake around her waist unexpectedly. Initially it made her jump with surprise but what embarrassed her further was when he laid his head over her own as though this was a natural thing for them.
"Please don't mind her, Kirishima-san; we only recently got together so she still gets a bit embarrassed when the topic of our relationship comes up." Azuma said, his words not wavering in the slightest, even though it was a total lie. Kahoko was close to having a nervous breakdown but stood as stiff as a board. She couldn't comprehend why Azuma would lie about something like this again. Before it was with Ayano and he wanted Kahoko to pretend to be his lover so she would stop pursuing him, but what was it about this time?
Hanako sighed with relief at Azuma's words, believing them in full confidence and completely forgetting what Kahoko said earlier, "Oh I'm so glad. For a moment there I couldn't believe I was wrong, you two look so close that it just seemed surprising that you weren't together." Hanako turned her attention to Kahoko, "You shouldn't be embarrassed Hino-san, you should be proud to have such a kind and handsome boyfriend." Handsome was the only part Hanako got right, but Kahoko couldn't believe the older lady believed him so easily, not that Kahoko was doing much to prove Azuma wrong but this just didn't seem right. They had only just met Hanako; it was only fair that she knew the truth. Kahoko opened her mouth, ready to confess but Azuma cut in before her and asked Hanako, "So, about the details of this modelling session you require..."
END OF FLASHBACK
Kahoko couldn't believe Azuma accepted her offer, and what was worse was that he accepted for the both of them. She had no idea how to model; she didn't even think she was model material. Kahoko wondered if she should visit Hanako again after school to decline her offer, hopefully it wouldn't cause too much trouble but she didn't want to end up being a disappointment. While Hanako was asking a huge favour of them, they still needed to do a reasonable job to help promote her store and make it appeal to the community. This seemed like too much for her to take and she couldn't help but sigh at how hopeless it all seemed.
"You aren't giving up already are you?" Azuma asked with slight annoyance, sensing the worry in Kahoko's body language, which wasn't really necessary in his opinion, but he sugar-coated his response, not wanting the driver to sense anything out of the ordinary.
"I-I don't know, this is just, unexpected I suppose. It's still taking a while to register..." It wasn't far from the truth but Kahoko didn't want to express her true concerns. Azuma watched her for a while, sensing more behind her words than what she intended but he kept silent about it, for now. After a couple of minutes, Kahoko noticed from the window that they were nearing the school, but it only occurred to her then that Azuma usually had a group of girls greet him every morning by the school entrance, how were they going to feel when they saw her riding in the same car? Kahoko paled at the thought. She was about to ask Azuma if she could walk the rest of the way but the car slowed to a stop before she could.
The driver opened the door to Kahoko's side and waited patiently for her to get out.
"This is what you want, right?" Azuma asked, having already planned in advance to drop her off near the school.
Kahoko smiled at his thoughtfulness, "Thank you, Yunoki-senpai, and thank you very much for the ride to sch-" She was unable to finish when she felt Azuma's finger press gently against her lips to silence her. Kahoko's heart skipped a beat at this little form of contact. Her golden gaze met his own as she waited for him speak, assuming he had something to say as he silenced her in mid-sentence but he didn't. His attention seemed focused on her lips and he made no move to remove his finger. He caressed her bottom lip ever so softly, causing her lip to tingle with unexpected pleasure. Kahoko's cheeks flushed pink as she searched Azuma's gaze quizzically, not certain what he was doing but not having the nerve to pull away from him either. She watched as he leaned in close, his nose almost touching hers as he allowed his finger to drop and whispered, "Do not disappoint me, Kahoko." His voice was dark and sensual again, making her heart flutter at the mere sound of it. She wasn't sure what he was referring to exactly, at first she thought it had something to do with the modelling but he continued watching her as though he expected something. What it was she couldn't tell, nor did she have the nerve to find out.
"U-Um, I'll, s-see you later. T-Thank you again!" Kahoko quickly got out of the car with her bag and violin case in hand as she quickly ran from the car, not looking back as she felt her face burning red again while her heart was racing. How did Azuma have such an effect on her? She had never felt so many emotions sweep through her in such a little amount of time. School hadn't even started and she was already exhausted. She bit her lower lip a little, still feeling Azuma's lingering touch as if his finger were still there. His touch was soft and warm and the way he stared at her was different from what she was used to. His eyes were so full of emotion but his face was expressionless, making it hard to read what was going through his mind. She guessed he just wanted to get a rise out of her, like usual, but part of her wished that there was more meaning behind it than just pure entertainment.
'W-Wait, more meaning!?' Kahoko was shocked at her inner thoughts, 'Kahoko, pull yourself together, this is Yunoki-senpai! He was acting the way he usually does, with no meaning behind it what so ever!' Kahoko shook her head and took a deep breath of fresh air to clear her thoughts. She was at school now so she didn't need her mind running circles over something that didn't probably mean anything. At the entrance of Seisou Academy, Kahoko watched the various students arriving on the premises. She could see Azuma's loyal fan-girls waiting in anticipation for Azuma's arrival. Kahoko always found this a little bizarre and admired Azuma for being able to put up with it every single day.
"Kaho-chan!" Kazuki called out to with his arm waving above his head, "Good morning!"
Kahoko smiled brightly as she watched him run over to her, "Good morning Hihara-senpai, how are you this morning?"
"Very good, but even better now that I got to see you, Kaho-chan!" Kazuki smiled while Kahoko blushed a little at his words. At that moment she noticed Azuma's car park outside the school entrance. The door was opened for him and he stepped out with his usual elegance and grace which made his fan-girls swoon. Immediately after the car drives off, he looks over the series of girls and gave them a charming smile, "Good morning everyone." The moment he said that, his fan-girls swooped to him like a series of baby chicks. They greeted him and welcomed him to school with overwhelming affection which he accepted as usual.
"Heh, Yunoki is as popular as ever," Kazuki chuckled, "I don't know how he manages."
"Wouldn't every guy like that sort of attention?" Kahoko asked.
"You kidding? That would drive me insane if it was me! What I would prefer..." Kazuki trailed off then, not certain if he should finish his sentence.
"What you would prefer?" Kahoko questioned as Kazuki turned his golden gaze to hers.
He stared at her thoughtfully while Kahoko waited patiently for him to continue. His cheeks turned a slight shade of red as he built up the courage to go on," I would prefer, only one girl to greet me like that every morning." With that said, he hoped she would ask who so then he would confess it being her. He waited with anticipation while Kahoko nodded in agreement.
"Yes, that would make it more special wouldn't it? I wish you luck with that, Hihara-senpai!"
Kazuki felt shot down, even though he knew it was unintentional, "Don't you want to know who Kaho-chan?"
"Eh? Who?" Kahoko asked with a puzzled expression.
A short distance away, Azuma was watching them like a hawk, completely ignoring the girls who had him surrounded. He kindly excused himself from their presence, which they had no problem with as upsetting Yunoki-sama would be a fate worse than death. He approached Kazuki from behind and patted him on the shoulder before the green haired boy could say anything further, "Good morning Hihara."
"Ah! Yunoki, you scared me ha-ha. Good morning!" Hihara was a little startled, not from the fact that Azuma snuck up to him from behind but the fact that he was so close to telling Kahoko how he felt. Azuma sensed this, which is why he walked over in the first place. He looked to Kahoko and noticed her smiling at Kazuki until her gaze locked on his, that was when her smile wavered and her cheeks turned a tinge of pink. Azuma couldn't help but smile wickedly at first but quickly turned the smile into a kind, innocent one and said, "Good morning, Hino-san, how are you?"
"G-Good morning, Yunoki-senpai. I am fine, thank you," Kahoko replied softly with her eyes averted from his.
"That's good. I hope you aren't causing any problems for her Hihara," Azuma stated, although what he really meant was that he didn't want Kazuki saying anything unnecessary.
"O-Of course not! I would never!" Hihara pouted like a child.
"Well then, class is going to start soon so we better head off," Azuma said, as he turned his attention back to Kahoko, "Take care getting to class."
Kazuki waved, "Yeah, and we'll see you later, Kaho-chan!"
Kahoko waved to them as both Kazuki and Azuma started heading to the music department. Kahoko was relieved that she was in the gen-ed department, not that she disliked music, but she had less chances of running into certain people - particularly Azuma. Not that she disliked him, but with the events that took place this morning, she wasn't sure if could survive an entire day of it, yet there she was staring after him like one of his fan-girls... There was something seriously wrong with her. Yet at that moment, she noticed Azuma stop to look back at her, as though sensing her stares. Kahoko blinked with confusion at first, wondering if something was wrong, but then she watched as he raised his finger to his lips, the one he had used to caressed her bottom lip with earlier and suddenly kissed it. From anyone else's point of view, it would only look like he was gesturing for someone to be quiet or something, but to Kahoko, it meant something totally different. Her eyes widened with realisation as she felt her heart skip a beat while butterflies danced in her stomach. Azuma merely chuckled at her reaction and went to catch up with Kazuki with the look of satisfaction on his face.
Author's Note: Yay, the first chapter to my first La Corda d'Oro story is up. I can't believe I forgot to edit this on the website before uploading :P I was getting so excited that I was forgetting the details lol. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this, thank you for reading and please review – I'd like to know your thoughts on this so far to see if it's written alright and if I captured the character's personality's okay. I think I did, but yeah, let me know otherwise as I only recently got into the series. Watched the anime and up to volume 8 of the manga hehe. Thank you once again for reading, see you on the next chapter hopefully.