Disclaimer: La Corda d'Oro rightfully belongs to Koei and Yuki Kure. This story is merely for entertainment purposes. The characters featured in this story don't belong to me, except for Hanako Kirishima. This is an Azuma x Kahoko story, featuring some Len x Kahoko and Keiichi x Kahoko – at last! And now that the four boys have finally had their moments, Azuma can step in and claim Kahoko for himself! YAY! …Well… as soon as he stops being so stubborn that is… and Kahoko for that matter… *pause* Damn it…
Kahoko was currently at the Music Department. It was lunch time and she decided to spend most of her time in one of the practice rooms. It wasn't her original plan, but it was quiet and secluded here, unlike out there where students had nothing else better to do but gossip about things which weren't even true. All she wanted the day to pass by quickly without incident, and yet every worst possible thing that could happen did and there was no way to escape it.
The morning dragged by at an impossibly slow pace. While it was only a couple of hours, it felt like days to her. She kept nodding off every five minutes due to lack of sleep but managed to get by without her teacher noticing. It was a relief she didn't get asked any questions too, for she had no idea what the lessons were about. Getting notes from Mio and Nao might be an idea. When it was lunch time, Kahoko was eating with her two friends in the classroom, which was fine at first, until the 'twenty questions' game began. At first it was just a couple of girls from class - who she rarely even spoke to - that wanted to ask about this morning with Kazuki. It was to be expected, as she was well aware of the crowd that gathered. She explained the situation and shrugged it off since it was honestly nothing. But when she heard about the rumours going around, that's when everything came crashing down around her. It was bad enough when the girls in her class seemed unconvinced with her story, but when other gen-ed girls from other classes came, wanting to know the same thing, Kahoko felt she was going to lose her mind.
Mio and Nao tried being supportive, but like everyone else, their curiosity got the better of them and even they wanted to know the 'real story' behind the incident this morning. Seriously, how many times did she have to say it?! It was an accident! She got clumsy and stupidly tripped over. Kazuki just happened to be there and managed to get in the way. They fell together, and that was it! There were no hidden motives or intentions behind it… besides retrieving that photo she dropped. But there was no way she was going to mention that!
It got to the point where she couldn't take it anymore and had to leave, otherwise she was going to scream and tear her hair out. That's why she was here – to be on her own. But overall, as much as she didn't like the attention she was getting, she was glad she went through the effort to get that photo. With her bad luck, of course it turned out to be one of Azuma's pictures. There wasn't going to be an easy way to explain it if Kazuki saw it. But then… she wondered if that would have been easier to face than these stupid rumours going around.
Kahoko let out a long frustrated sigh and stared at the photo envelope she had in her hands. She was currently sitting at the piano with its cover still resting over the keys. She was using it like a desk so she can look at the photos… Or at least, that was the plan. She had been debating with herself if whether or not she should look at them, while at the same time fighting the urge to rest her head on the piano and close her eyes. Every now and then she would feel herself drifting but managed to fight it off – for now.
In the end, Kahoko convinced herself to get the photos out since her day had already gone downhill. Looking at a few photos would be the least of her problems. She took them out the envelope and took a deep breath before focusing on each picture. Azuma's photos were first, and since they were modelling corporate wear; Azuma was wearing a series of different suits. They weren't as fancy as the formal attire he wore previously – just your standard business suits - but he had no trouble standing out in them. No surprise there. Kahoko wondered if it was even possible for him to look bad, as looking good seemed to come naturally to him. Was it one of those things where if he wanted to look bad, he'd have to put in the extra effort? Kind of like someone trying to look their best when it was close to impossible? Kahoko frowned at the thought, knowing she could spend hours on her look and never get anywhere. It was so unfair…
While browsing through his photos, Kahoko noticed his look was a little different from the first shoot. Since he was modelling formal attire at the time, he seemed to portray himself like a personal escort or a Princely figure – someone appealing to the eye who wanted to stand out and make an impression. He certainly achieved that without too much effort on his part. This time however, it looked like he was taking a step back from the spotlight – even though that was impossible for someone like him.
During the shoot, there were a few shots where Kahoko and Azuma got instructed to pose with props in hand. It was something Hanako gave them to add a bit of character to their pictures. One of the items Azuma got given was a folder. In the shots where he was posing with that particular object, he would look very absorbed and focused on it. One example was where he had the folder open and was casually browsing through the plastic sleeves. Shots of this were taken from different angles with him looking down or off to the side but never directly at the camera. The same thing applied with another object he used - a cell. He would have his phone to his ear and look to be talking without even noticing he was being photographed.
It was strange, but his shots gave the impression that they were taken by a stalker or something. The only thing that indicated they weren't was that he continued to smile in all his shots. They weren't the kind of smiles that begged for attention, but rather looked as though he was in a good mood. They were subtle but still made him look very divine. Kahoko wondered if this was the way his fan girls saw him at school. When they would sneak glances at him or watch from a distance – would this be the way he'd look? She tried picturing it but all it did was irritate her… And it irritated her 'a lot'.
When Kahoko got her personal photos, she quickly turned her head away before she got a good look at them. She was half tempted to rip them to shreds but in the end resisted such urges. She would remember Nami and the effort she would have taken to make these photos work. Kahoko was anything but cooperative during the shoot so it wasn't difficult to imagine the trouble she would have caused. Kahoko was beginning to feel a little guilty about that now. The least she could do was look at the end result. Nami had given praise to these photos this morning so that must mean something... hopefully.
Kahoko shook her head but quickly went through her photos before she changed her mind. And strangely enough, they weren't as bad as she thought, but how could that be? From what she could remember, she did put some effort into the first couple of shots. But from that point on, her thoughts began to wander and it left her unable to focus. That was before Azuma intervened of course. Kahoko tried looking for them. She had to see the shots where she was totally out of it and close to breaking down. She went through the entire stack but didn't see any of them. She did this again and again, just in case she kept skipping over them, but they were nowhere in sight. Kahoko wasn't losing her mind was she? She may have been in her own little world but she was convinced she had more than this.
Was that why there were only a few photos of her? Because the others may have been... removed? Come to think of it, Kahoko had a feeling some of her photos were missing from the first shoot too. She didn't say anything at the time, since it was the first one, but now... Well, not much she could do about it now. She would have to ask Nami about it later. Right now though, she still had more photos to go through…
Kahoko's heart began to race at the thought. She swallowed nervously and held the photos with shaky hands. Her shots with Azuma… She went through them carefully and tried not to get too emotional about them. It was just a photo shoot after all. They were models. Everything that happened was just for show. There was nothing more than that. But even as she tried convincing herself of this, these photos were telling her otherwise. The first set had Azuma comforting her, and looking at them from Nami's perspective made her heart nearly jump to her throat. She didn't know what to make of herself. It was a bit weird seeing yourself in tears. She would have said it was pathetic, if not for Azuma stepping in and making it look as though it was on purpose. She was still annoyed that he took advantage of her though. She was in tears because of him. And instead of doing something about it, he used it as a means to do evil things to her instead! She forgot her problems sure, but that's only because she lost the ability to think!
Kahoko was currently looking over the shots where Azuma was standing behind her while she leaned against him like he was her… boyfriend… or something… Her face reddened as she remembered all the things he did to her. Those kisses, his touch, and those instructions he whispered so alluringly in her ear – not to mention that warning about not kissing him… And what does she do? She stared at the result which was her kissing Azuma on the cheek. God, how stupid was she?! What the hell was wrong with her?! She looked so into it too which made it all the more impossible to bear. No wonder Nami said she was nearly blushing when she looked at these. Kahoko face was so warm that she felt she was going to go up in flames. And that wasn't the worst part. It was difficult to admit but there was a little, tiny part of her that didn't regret it. From this, to what happened in the bathroom at the café, to her dreams… They were all indications of how much she wanted him. And she wanted him badly… didn't she…?
When that thought crossed her mind, Kahoko's eyes widened while her body locked into place. She couldn't breathe. Her heart was beating so hard against her chest that it felt like it would break through her rib cage. Her hands began to shake so fiercely that her photos slipped through her fingers. Some of them landed on the piano while others scattered across the ground. No… That couldn't be it… She refused to believe it. There was a logical explanation for all this. It had to be the modelling sessions. Anyone would feel drawn to Azuma if they saw the way he worked. He was a very beautiful man, so naturally you'd feel 'a slight' attraction if you saw how… incredibly hot he looked in his photos… It was like having a crush on a celebrity… Wait… a crush? No! It wasn't a crush either! It was just… envy and admiration on her part.
…Yeah, she was a bad liar, even to herself. But it was enough to bring her back to her senses and pick up the photos she dropped. She picked up what had landed on the piano before kneeling down and retrieving the rest from the ground. When she got back to her feet, Kahoko's vision suddenly went blurry. Everything began to spin and distort around her. She had to close her eyes and lean against the piano for support. She stayed like that for a few short minutes and reopened her eyes when she thought it was safe. Wow, her drowsiness was really taking its toll on her. She was beginning to wonder if she really could get through the rest of the day. The idea of leaving early was tempting, but she didn't think it was worth it, especially when she had only a few hours to go. She will get through the afternoon like she did this morning and go to bed first thing when she got home. That was the plan, and she was going to try and stick to it.
After putting her photos away, Kahoko decided to get her violin out, as she brought it with her after leaving the classroom. She positioned the violin over her shoulder and held the bow over the strings. She was ready to play, and yet, she had no idea WHAT to play. Well, she was certainly off to a good start. Kahoko sighed and tried thinking of something that would cheer her up. Something which would relax her, sooth her and put her mind back at ease. She thought about it, and her mind began to wander to a particular night a few months ago, where a 'certain long haired male' played a 'particular song' for her which… made Kahoko want to slap herself for even thinking about it! Was it too much to ask for just five minutes of peace?! Kahoko groaned with irritation. How could she play that song anyway? She didn't have the score sheets for it – not that she wished she did. And she was fairly certain it could only be played on a flute – not that she was going to try and find out.
Kahoko felt the urge to scream. She took a series of deep breaths and after a moment decided to play 'Ave Maria'. This song was special to her and she always enjoyed hearing it. She hoped it would be enough to clear her mind give her a few short minutes of comfort. That's all she wanted… But apparently even that was asking too much. She kept making a lot of mistakes, even when she knew she could play better. She practiced this song for hours every single day before the final selection. And yet, her performance right now made it seem as though she was a complete amateur. Well… that wasn't far from the truth. But she would like to think she was a tiny bit better than that now.
She tried again, but this time she was getting a lot of screeching sounds. 'Ugh, come on Kahoko!' She mentally yelled at herself. 'You know this song! Play it properly!'
Kahoko felt someone pull her bow hand away from the violin. This caught her by surprise as she didn't hear anyone enter the room. She glanced over her shoulder to see who it was and tried not to look too surprised.
"T-Tsukimori-kun… H-Hello…" Kahoko hoped he hadn't been listening just now, although judging by the look on his face; she would have to assume he did.
"What are you doing?" Len asked. "You shouldn't be playing."
Kahoko stared at him blankly. Was she playing that badly that he could hear it from another room? "U-Um, I admit that was a little rough... I'm sorry if it disturbed you. I'll do better this time."
Len sighed. "That's not what I meant." He brought her hand a little closer to his face and used the other to inspect her injuries. His fingers traced delicately over her bandages while he kept a firm grip on her wrist. "What happened?"
Kahoko blinked, and blinked again. Did she hear him right? Was he worried about her? That seemed so... out of character for him. Not that she hadn't seen his acts of kindness before, but it seemed strange seeing him open about it… somewhat… Then again, he didn't exactly SAY he was concerned. He could be asking for the sake of so he could lecture her about it later. Or then again… Ugh, trying to figure him out in her current mental state wasn't a good idea. Lack of sleep had something to do with it, but to her credit it wasn't just her malfunctioning brain which was causing her grief. It was his actions which were adding to the difficulty of thought.
The hand that Len had wrapped around her wrist was cool against her skin; it made her body tense up in response. And the way his fingers brushed and slid delicately along hers caused electrical currents shoot up her arm. Kahoko knew he wasn't causing these strange yet somewhat pleasurable sensations on purpose but it was still distracting, regardless of the intention behind it. Kahoko quickly pulled her hand free and murmured, "I-It was a minor accident, nothing more..." While his touch made her feel a little uncomfortable, she didn't want him finding out the bandages were for show. It was difficult enough lying to Ryotaro about them that she didn't need more names added to the list.
Len's eyes narrowed. "Regardless of how severe, you're still hurt and you are in no condition to play." He said this as gently as he could, but there was still a hint of irritation in his tone.
"I'll keep that in mind..." Kahoko replied but chose to ignore him. She positioned the violin over her shoulder and readied herself to play again. She raised her bow and couldn't help but notice the dirty look he was giving her. Okay... Why was Len still here? What did it matter to him if she played or not? He warned her, so if she somehow brought more damage upon herself, what did it matter to him? Kahoko turned her back and lowered the bow towards the strings. She felt very self conscious, knowing Len was right behind her, but figured he would see himself out when he's ready.
Before she could play however, Kahoko jumped when she felt Len's hands grip the tops of her arms. "T-Tsukimori-kun?! What are you doing?! Let me go!" Kahoko demanded but Len completely ignored her. He led her towards the piano and forced her to sit down. Only he didn't position her in front of the large instrument, he had her sitting beside it. And if that wasn't enough to confuse her, Len took her completely off guard when he pulled her violin and bow out of her hands. Kahoko gapped at this and watched as he carefully returned them to her case. Okay, she was annoyed now. It was one thing to tell her to stop, but Len was completely out of line if he thought he could force her. Kahoko was about to give him a piece of her mind… Only she lost her train of thought when she noticed him open his own violin case. What was he doing now? Was he claiming her practice room as his own? What about the others? She was fairly certain there were other rooms available.
"What were you going to play?" Len asked. He was currently fiddling with the screw on his bow while using the left side of his jaw to keep his violin over his shoulder. It looked awkward but Len managed this without any difficulty – probably because he did it a lot.
Kahoko still had yet to answer, but she was at a loss for words. He must have been serious about her stopping, if he was willing to go to such extremes. But offering to play for her was simply unbelievable. It was so thoughtful of him, especially since he would never do anything like this… There had to be a catch. He wouldn't just do this out of the kindness of his heart would he?
"…Hino-san?" Len had been ready to perform for a while now, only he couldn't exactly play when he didn't know what her request was.
"U-Um..." Kahoko quickly replied with the first song that came to mind. "Serenade."
Wait… what? Is that song STILL stuck in her head?!
"Which one?" Len asked, not finding her request unreasonable. "There are several pieces called 'Serenade'."
Kahoko bit her lip hesitantly. She contemplated if whether or not she should change her mind, but nothing was calling out to her more than this piece. She kept thinking about it so she might as well get it out of her system. And besides, there was no harm in her request. Azuma wasn't here and Len was none the wiser. Asking him to play it wouldn't make any difference one way or another. What was the worst he could say anyway – no? But putting that aside for the moment, if Len could play this song… that would mean she would be able to as well… Why that sparked her interest, she had no idea but decided to roll with it. "Notturno d'Amore 'Serenade'..."
Len gave a little nod. "Drigo's piece..."
Kahoko nodded in confirmation, although what she really wanted was to jump up and down with joy. He knew the song! He knew the song!!! It was very difficult to contain her excitement – for some reason, but she managed to keep herself under control. She knew if she got carried away, Len might think twice about performing for her and she didn't want that. So baring that in mind, Kahoko sat still and patiently waited for him to perform.
Len closed his eyes and began to mentally prepare himself for his performance. This was no different from all the other times he had practiced, although he couldn't deny having Kahoko listen to him was… a little distracting. Performing in front of individuals or large audiences never got to him. It was something he grew accustomed to. But with Kahoko it was… different. Why was that? Come to think of it, why was he even doing this? What she did to herself was none of his business. She hurt her fingers yes, but it wasn't like his incident all those years ago where he nearly lost the ability to use his. Perhaps it was her desire to play, no matter the situation, that he felt compelled to help her in some way. He understood those feelings… Or maybe, it was something more… But he quickly dismissed those thoughts before he lost his focus.
When he began to play, Kahoko closed her eyes and listened in silent awe of Len's beautiful performance. Every time she heard him play she was always amazed by his abilities, his skills and his technique. Today was no different. The melody resonated throughout the room and touched her to a… certain extent, but not like Ave Maria did that time when she first heard it. It was strange. While his performance would be considered perfect, it had a different effect on her compared to Azuma's. But how could that be? Was it because she saw this as Azuma's song? Skill and technique seemed to have nothing to do with it. Both of them were talented in their own way. But how could both performances have such a different impact?
Kahoko opened her eyes as soon as the song came to an end. It may not have been what she expected, but if she didn't compare it to Azuma's version, the song was still beautiful and pleasant to listen to. She smiled and clapped her hands to show her gratitude. "That was wonderful Tsukimori-kun! Thank you!"
"I was surprised that you could play this song." Kahoko blurted without thinking.
Len raised an eyebrow. "You didn't think I could?"
"Oh! No not like that! I mean"–she mentally kicked herself for not keeping quiet–"well… I heard it on a different instrument before, and figured this piece could only be played for that instrument alone... somewhat…" Kahoko rubbed the back of her head and laughed nervously. She noticed Len looked puzzled by her explanation and wondered if it had something to do with her being vague on details. She hoped not, because there was no way she was going to admit she heard this on the flute originally.
"What are you talking about? This piece is Drigo's most famous composition. It's been arranged so practically every instrument can play it." Len advised with a sigh.
"O-Oh…" Now Kahoko could see why he was looking at her so strangely. He was probably thinking what an idiot she was for not knowing something so basic.
Noticing the clueless look in her expression, Len decided to explain with a little more detail. "Notturno d'Amore 'Serenade' was composed for the 'Harlequinade' production. Drigo originally arranged that piece to be played on the mandolin. Due to its major success it went on to be arranged for other instruments and was later given lyrics."
"Is that right?" Kahoko didn't know that. "And um, what's 'Harlequinade'?"
"One of the ballet productions Drigo both conducted and composed music for." Len answered. "Its proper title is 'Les Millions d'Arlequin', or 'The Millions of Harlequin'. 'Harlequinade' is another name for it, a shorter version I suppose."
"Wow, you know a lot, Tsukimori-kun." Kahoko was once again in awe of him.
"It's common knowledge. All music students would know at least that much about Riccardo Drigo. I'd suggest you do some research next time."
"Haha, fair enough." It wasn't a bad idea. Playing music was one thing, but it was always good to learn about the composer as well.
After a few moments of silence, Kahoko felt this sudden compulsion to ask Len for a favour. Normally she wouldn't bother, but since he was being so generous, she might as well take advantage of it while she could. "Um, Tsukimori-kun…" Not that it made the asking process any easier. "You… wouldn't happen to have the score sheets for this song, do you?" Again she had no idea why she was doing this, but it felt right so she didn't try stopping herself.
"I do..." Len replied slowly, having a feeling he knew where this was leading. And sure enough, Kahoko intertwined her fingers and stared up at him pleadingly. With a look like that, it was pretty obvious what she wanted.
"…You can borrow it." Len sighed, not minding either way as it wasn't a song he generally played. "So, is there another piece you would like to hear?"
From there, Kahoko allowed Len to play whatever he liked. She heard what she wanted to hear so she wasn't going to inconvenience him with anymore requests – not that she could think of any. She listened to a few of his performances, although they began to sound the same after a while. Not that she was getting bored; she was just so tired that her brain felt disconnected from her body. The minutes rolled by and Kahoko's eyelids were becoming very heavy. She tried shaking her head and rubbing her eyes to prevent herself from dosing off, but all it did was increase the urge to sleep.
Kahoko did her best to stay awake for all of his performances, but the last song she heard him play was Ave Maria. She remembered closing her eyes to better listen to the song – as it was one of her favourites. But about half way through, the sweet melody became a lullaby to her ears. It comforted and soothed her so much that she couldn't fight the urge to sleep anymore. After everything that had happened today, this was probably the only thing that made coming worthwhile. Any opportunity to listen to Len play was a treat, and since he went out of his way to play for her, she will do something to repay him later.
Len was unaware of Kahoko's condition. He assumed her quietness was due to her listening intently and not wanting to distract him. He didn't think anything of it at the time, but when no response came after Schubert's piece, he finally looked at her to see what was wrong. When he did, he immediately went wide eyed. Kahoko had her head bowed so he couldn't see her face clearly, but she was leaning so far off the side of the chair that within seconds, she was going to fall off. Len quickly put his violin down and reached out to Kahoko, just as the chair flipped onto its side beneath her. He caught her, with one arm hooked around her back while her head rested against his shoulder. He held her close to better support her body and gently eased her onto the floor where he sat her in a side-on position.
Len looked her over to first check if she was alright, then to find out the reason behind her strange behaviour. When he noticed she was only asleep, Len let out a little sigh - both in relief and frustration. He was glad nothing was wrong, but he wondered why she came to school if she wasn't in the best condition for it.
"Hino-san?" Len gave her a little shake but nothing happened. He tried again and again but she was completely out of it. It was like she had been knocked out cold with sleeping pills or something. Great… The only reason he came in here was to help her with her violin playing. He was passing by earlier and happened to notice her through the window on the door. Normally he would walked away at that point, but it was her bandaged fingers, along with her awful playing which stopped him, and even compelled him to help her.
But how much was he willing to help?
It was one thing to play for her, but it wasn't his responsibility to take care of her too. Lunch was going to end soon. He needed to get his things and head back to class. If Kahoko was going to sleep during school hours then fine, it had nothing to do with him. He'll just leave her here and she can get up whenever she's ready. She wasn't sick after all. There was no need to feel guilty. But even so… why was he hesitating…?
Meanwhile, Nami was in the process of hunting down Kahoko. She went to Kahoko's classroom earlier and got told by her two friends that she was at the Music Department. Assuming Kahoko was in the practice rooms, Nami made her way there and figured if she wasn't here, she must be on the roof top. Nami was just about to glance into the first room until she spotted Len walking out of another, which was further down the corridor. He had his back to her, which was strange in itself as he was exiting the room backwards - and with some difficulty. Nami was puzzled by this. She was about to walk over and see what he was doing; until she noticed he was carrying someone in his arms. She couldn't see who it was but judging by the long exposed legs dangling over his arm, and long blue socks, it wasn't hard to guess.
Not wanting to disturb the moment, Nami quickly entered the practice room she was next to - which thankfully was empty - and peeked through the long window to watch this little spectacle. Len exited the room and juggled with his heavy burden to close the door after him. He had a bit of trouble but managed it eventually. He then turned away from the door –frowning all the while– and readjusted his hold on the person in his arms. That's when Nami confirmed it was Kahoko. He was carrying her bridal style, with her head resting against his shoulder while her hands were clenched into little fists by his chest. Her eyes were closed, which gave the impression she was either asleep or something had happened. Did Len do something to her? Nami scoffed at the thought, but it didn't prevent her from thinking about the possibilities. Imagining the two of them, on their own, together, in a practice room, with no one around, and the end result was Kahoko unconscious while Len was carrying her away somewhere...
Nami smiled and shook her head, knowing such things were VERY unlikely. But she'd love to see the look on Azuma's face if he witnessed all this. Oh! With that thought in mind, Nami quickly raised her camera to the window and got ready to take a few shots. To her annoyance, Len had already passed by – meaning one golden opportunity for photos was missed. Nami quietly opened the door and peeked around the corner to see where he was. Thankfully he wasn't too far ahead so she decided to sneak after him. All of this was for Kahoko's benefit. To make sure he didn't do anything while she was unaware. It wasn't to add to Nami's Violin Romance story. Certainly not. And it had nothing to do with making Azuma jealous. Most definitely not. Nami was being as friend, and like 'most' friends, they look out for each other.
Nami continued to follow Len and watched as he approached the nurse's office. She frowned at this, hoping there really wasn't anything wrong with her. She hid behind a corner and watched as Len struggled to open the door. He managed without dropping Kahoko thankfully and entered without a moment's delay. Nami waited till he was inside before tiptoeing towards the door. She kept close to the wall and stopped when she was standing right next to the open doorway. She listened in for any conversations while adjusting the lens on her camera. She heard a couple of voices, possibly Len speaking to the School Nurse, and heard him mention Kahoko had fainted. Nami was curious about this, but she was relieved to know it wasn't anything serious.
Before she knew it, the School Nurse suddenly walked out of the room. Nami stiffened but remained completely still. She waited for the nurse to notice her, but thankfully enough, the elderly woman turned and walked in the opposite direction from where she was standing. Nami let out a little sigh. After taking a moment to steady her heart beat, she peeked inside the room and noticed Len placing Kahoko on one of the free beds. Nami smiled, thinking how nice it was for Len to do this - even if he was reluctant in doing so. She raised her camera and peered through the lens to get a good shot of this moment.
Len sat Kahoko on the bed and pulled one of his arms out from under her knees. He then guided the rest of her body back and gently slid her head off his shoulder so it rested against the pillow. Everything was fine. She looked fine. She was in bed, so now he could go. Only problem was that he didn't take notice of her hands. He was about to back away but wasn't aware Kahoko was clutching his jacket. The attempt to pull away made her inadvertently pull him back – kind of like how a child would react if a toy were being jerked out of their hands – which caused Len to lean over her suddenly. He froze when he noticed their faces were only an inch or two apart and felt his heart leap as a result.
Nami zoomed in on this and took multiple shots. She took notice of the way his eyes widened while a faint pink colour crept into his cheeks. Within seconds he abruptly backed away, not caring if he woke Kahoko or not and stormed towards the door. Nami took that as her queue to run back to her trusty corner and squatted low to the ground. She watched as Len marched by with his head bowed while a hand covered half of his face. It was a shame she couldn't see his expression, but it wasn't hard to guess either. Ah, the wonders of Violin Romance...
When the final bell of the day sounded, Nami made her way back to the Music Department. She came to a stop at classroom 3-B and leaned against the wall. She patiently waited while students filed out the room one by one. Azuma and Kazuki were the last ones to leave.
When Azuma saw Nami waiting presumably for him, a surge of displeasure whipped through his system. He felt his eyes narrow as a result but quickly followed through the motion so they closed completely. He forced a sweet smile in her direction. "Good afternoon, Amou-san."
Nami felt a cold chill run down her spine. It reminded her of that feeling she got after taking photos this morning. She returned the smile, only hers showed more strain in doing so. "Good afternoon, Yunoki-senpai."
"Ah, Amou-chan!" Kazuki smiled brightly when he noticed her. "How's it going?"
"Hey Hihara-senpai, I'm fine thanks." Nami's smile shifted to a more genuine one. "Heading home?"
Kazuki shook his head and raised his trumpet case. "I've got Oke Club now."
"Ah cool, say hello to Fuyuumi-chan for me okay?"
"Sure, no problem!" Kazuki gave her a thumbs up.
Azuma turned to Kazuki with a puzzled expression. "You're seeing Fuyuumi-san at practice?"
Kazuki nodded. "Didn't you know? Fuyuumi-chan joined the club during summer break."
"…Is that right?" Azuma had no idea. Then again, the last time he visited the Orchestra Club was when he did that favour for Kahoko, which was some time ago now. He never expected Shouko to join though. Not that it was a bad thing. He could see it being a good experience for her since it should further develop her confidence. If not, hanging around Kazuki certainly would.
"How is she progressing? I haven't been down there lately. Been busy with… certain things." Nami smiled and eyed Azuma innocently. Azuma pretended not to notice, although it was obvious she was referring to the modelling sessions. Thankfully Kazuki knew nothing about them.
"Yeah she's getting there. She was very shy at first. Still is a bit, but she's more comfortable with everything now… Oh!" It was then that Kazuki spotted the young clarinet player down the corridor. "HEY! Fuyuumi-chan! OI!" His sudden outburst made Azuma and Nami jump with surprise. He even startled Shouko and she was all the way down the other end of the building.
"Hey! Fuyuumi-chan! Are you heading to practice?! If so, let me walk with you!" Kazuki called out with his cheerfully loud voice bouncing off the walls. He was directing a lot of attention on her, which made Shouko want to hide and disappear. She blushed and bowed her head low in embarrassment but stayed where she was, even though she looked half tempted to run.
When it looked as though she would wait, Kazuki glanced over his shoulder at Azuma and Nami. "I'll see you guys later okay?" He flashed a bright smile and waved before jogging to catch up with her.
Nami waved back and couldn't help but laugh when he was out of hearing range. "Poor Fuyuumi-chan… That would have been so difficult for her."
Azuma didn't comment, for he had other things occupying his mind – mainly her surprise visit. "So, Amou-san, what brings you to the Music Department?" Like it wasn't obvious…
Nami turned to look at him. "To see you of course, Yunoki-senpai." She gave him a sweet smile. "I've got business with you."
"…Really now?" Perfect, just what he needed to round the day off. And here he thought it couldn't get any worse with what happened this morning, not to mention lunch. Ugh, just thinking about it was irritating him all over again.
"First thing," Nami said as she pulled out an envelope from her bag. "I wanted to give you these." She handed Azuma an envelope which contained his copies of the second photo shoot. "Of course, look at them in your own time. No pressure." She remembered being shot down the last time she asked him to look at them, so she wasn't going to bother trying again. Not that she was giving up or anything. She was just going to try other methods to get what she wanted…
"Thank you, I appreciate it." Azuma recalled what happened last time as well. How could he forget her deliberate attempts to make him reveal some big secret that he had special feelings for Kahoko, when in fact he didn't? It was one thing to make him look at her photos, but the way she suddenly brought up Ryotaro and his little meeting with Kahoko made his blood boil. Still does in fact. But he couldn't hate her for it. Who knows how things would have went if she didn't tell him about it? He doubted Kahoko would have told him so in ways; she should have his gratitude... Pfft, like that would ever happen.
"Now we have to get Hino-san. This is about the, you know…" Nami tapped her camera.
Azuma opened his bag and placed the envelope inside. "Forgive me for asking but, wouldn't it have been quicker to get Hino-san before me, as she would have been closer to your classroom?"
Nami suppressed a grin. "It was easier for me to get you first, that way, we can see Hino-san together."
Azuma slowly closed his bag as he let those words sink in. Why was he getting a bad feeling about this? Regardless of his curiosity, he nodded in understanding. "Very well… We better not keep her waiting then."
Nami lead the way while Azuma walked beside her. Some students still had yet to leave campus, Nami noticed, and since she was so observant of others, she couldn't help but notice the way they stared as she walked by with Azuma. It was quite amusing to watch, knowing it wasn't what they were thinking. "Too bad your bodyguards aren't around, Yunoki-senpai. Students might get the wrong idea about us." Nami winked. "If this keeps up, we might end up in the school newspaper."
Azuma knew she was joking, but it took everything he had not to look repulsed by the idea. "It… wouldn't be the truth though." He replied slowly, doing his best to sound light hearted about it.
Nami laughed. "Then I guess it should be about you and Hino-san right?"
That didn't take long.
Azuma forced himself to smile, hoping it didn't look strained. "Again, there wouldn't be any truth in that."
"Hmm…" Nami pondered, or at least pretended to. "And from whose side, exactly?"
Oh she was very good at pressing his buttons. It was one reason why he never liked being around her. Azuma gradually slowed his pace and subtly glanced around the corridor. It was empty. That was good. He then came to a complete stop and turned to face Nami. While he did this, he folded an arm behind his back and flashed a serene, gentle smile in her direction. "We are friends, Amou-san, so of course we care for one another to a certain degree. But please don't misinterpret those feelings. I wouldn't want complications arising because of a simple misunderstanding." The hand behind his back suddenly clenched into a rock hard fist.
Nami wasn't convinced by his explanation. "…Alright, tell me why you're putting Hino-san through this modelling thing then, if you wouldn't want 'misunderstandings' to occur?"
Azuma's smile didn't falter, but the hand behind his back tightened considerably. "It was a request from Kirishima-san – a job. And we accepted it, like yourself and several others."
"And the two of you pretending to be a couple?"
"I believe I've already answered that question." He was referring to the time he confronted Nami about this, after Kahoko carelessly ran into his change room and told him she was prying.
Nami raised an eyebrow. "So, you're still sticking with the 'it's for Kirishima-san's benefit' excuse?"
"It's not an excuse, Amou-san." His smile widened. "Besides, from the moment these modelling sessions started, I've never once seen you against anything we've done. In fact, you're always so supportive and encouraging that it's difficult 'not' to do our best to impress…" He was willing to continue, but the dumbfounded look on Nami's face summed up the end of her little 'interview'… or was it an interrogation?
Nami couldn't deny he had her there. If she suspected he was using Kahoko, why wasn't she doing anything to stop it? She tried thinking of some way to explain herself, but nothing came to mind. Even if she did, she had a feeling Azuma would turn it all back on her anyway since - as he said - she technically wanted this. Damn it! Once again, there was nothing she could do or say to prove him wrong. And if that wasn't enough to annoy her, she realised she had gained nothing from their conversation just now. Every time she thought she was making progress, she found herself right back where she started. It wasn't like opportunities like this came up all the time either! He was difficult to catch alone and when he finally was, it was even harder to catch him not doing anything… Damn it all! He was so frustrating!
Azuma tilted his head to the side in apparent curiosity. "Is something wrong, Amou-san?" He did his best not to sound smug.
Nami blinked and realised her irritation must have been showing on her face. She quickly shook her head and flashed a bright smile. "Ah, no! Not at all! I was just thinking we better hurry. Don't want to keep Hino-san waiting!" She started walking again, but made sure to keep a step ahead of Azuma so he couldn't see how annoyed she was.
Azuma was more than willing to let her lead, for he needed a moment to recompose himself. He brought his arm forward – the one he had behind his back – and gradually eased his fingers out from his palm. It was a slow process, surprisingly, and his fingers were shaking as a result of the long, drawn out tension he applied on them. It couldn't be helped though. The way Nami questioned his feelings, along with Kahoko's, put him so on edge that the only way he could respond was with anger… That wasn't like him, not at all. He stared over his hand and thought about what she said that nearly set him off...
'From whose side, huh?' Azuma pondered over her meaning. Was she trying to see if their feelings for one another were one-sided or mutual? He contemplated that for a moment. If she thought it was one-sided, whose side was she referring to – his? Azuma nearly laughed. There was no way. She wouldn't have tried so hard to get answers if he was that easy to read. Kahoko on the other hand… Azuma's eyes widened slightly. Nami wasn't referring to Kahoko's feelings, was she? Is that way she was trying to get him to confess his, to see if they felt the same way? He deliberated on it, but it was difficult to wrap his mind around the concept of them being together – since he knew it wouldn't work. There was… something between them, but it wasn't what Nami was thinking, god no. Kahoko was stupid but she wasn't THAT stupid… And yet, the idea didn't displease him…
His mind wondered over the possibility again, but this time, he tried being a little more open-minded about it. That is, until another thing Nami said halted any chance of him considering the idea…
"…Alright, tell me why you're putting Hino-san through this modelling thing then, if you wouldn't want 'misunderstandings' to occur?"
That was difficult to answer. Even if he were to be completely honest, he had two different responses for it. One was ridiculous and somewhat depressing. The other would be one of the worst things he could possibly say. And sadly enough, that will probably be the response he'll give when the time comes. It will be for Kahoko's sake, and his. He dreaded the outcome and hoped it wouldn't come to that. But how could he think that way now, especially when he put all this in motion? He was purposely making it harder to bear. It was too late to stop, but his selfishness wouldn't allow that to be an option anyway.
It was then that his heart began to throb in pain. Azuma nearly staggered when he felt this. He caught himself and brought a hand to his chest. He clenched at his shirt, which didn't give him any measure of comfort and wondered how it even happened. He was completely healthy. He didn't have any heart problems. Did it have something to do with what he was thinking? Were his thoughts getting to him that much that it was affecting him emotionally as well? That was hard to believe, but then, what else could it be? 'Heh, I always accuse you of being an idiot, Kahoko…' Azuma smiled and shook his head. 'And yet, I wonder who the real idiot between us, really is?'
When Nami came to a stop in front of the nurse's office; Azuma stared over the closed door with a vacant expression. Kahoko was… here? He didn't want to believe it but why else would Nami lead him here? Did something happen? Was she alright? He wanted to ask, but he didn't trust his voice right now – not when he was growing overly anxious to see Kahoko. It was taking everything he had not to shove Nami out of the way just so he could rush inside.
He needed to see reason though. It must not be that serious if she was still here. If it was anything bad, she would have been sent home or to the hospital. Thinking like that helped relax him to a certain degree, but he would feel a lot better if he could see Kahoko for himself – whenever Nami was ready to open the door that is!
The idea Nami had in mind was to have Azuma see Kahoko lying asleep on the bed and claim something was seriously wrong with her. She would convince him to help take her home, and from there, she hoped to catch some good footage of him being the 'perfect gentleman'. Or more specifically, see how much he truly DID care about Kahoko. She didn't buy his lies. So the only way she could imagine getting him to confess, would be to catch him in a situation that he didn't expect. A situation where he couldn't pretend he didn't care or have the opportunity to twist the truth. Not when the evidence was clear. She needed Kahoko to confess too but that shouldn't be much of a challenge. Either way, she hoped this moment would give her something, ANYTHING, which could be used towards her story.
Nami took a deep breath and braced herself. She had her camera ready, plus Azuma couldn't do anything while she was blocking his path, so she could take her time entering. This will work. This WILL work. She slowly opened the door and took a step inside. Her sky blue eyes scanned the room, at first on the lookout for the nurse. She wasn't in, which was good. Nami should be able to take photos without any interference. She was all smiles until she glanced at the bed, and when she did, her eyes went wide while her mouth hung open in shock.
Kahoko was there, which she expected. She was lying on the bed and was sleeping soundly, again as expected, but what she didn't expect was to see Keiichi here. And he wasn't just here in the same room. He was lying on the SAME bed as Kahoko! This was certainly 'a bit' of a surprise… Just a bit… No, who was she kidding – this was unbelievable! They were both lying on their sides and were facing one another. But they weren't close in a way that would suggest anything was going on – much to Nami's disappointment. The only physical contact between them was that Kahoko was holding Keiichi's hand… sort of. Technically it looked as though she was holding his wrist but whatever, who cares about details? Kahoko and Keiichi were sleeping together!
"Amou-san, can I come in?" Azuma asked, having waited for some time to enter.
Nami stiffened when she heard his voice. Oh dear, what to do? She didn't expect this. But then… what better way to get a guy to reveal his true feelings than to get him extremely jealous? "Err, hang on a sec." Nami raised her camera and focused in on the unsuspecting couple. When she thought she had the camera on a good angle she took a picture and got ready to take another. She wanted to add this to her collection before Azuma did something to ruin it.
Azuma may not be able to see into the room but the sound of Nami's camera going off; along with the flashes, were a good indication of what she was doing. This concerned him, especially since this was hardly the place to take photos of someone. Not only that but knowing Kahoko was being subjected to this worried him all the more. Azuma glared at the back of Nami's head and brought his hand to the door. Since she was so preoccupied with photo taking, Azuma was able to swing the door open all the way and edge his way through without her notice. When he got the chance to see what she was photographing, a mix of different emotions hit him out of nowhere.
His initial reaction was shock from seeing Kahoko and Keiichi on the bed together. Then it was curiosity as he wondered how this situation came about. But that was only for a split second. His eyes homed in on Kahoko's hand then, noticing the way it was wrapped around Keiichi's. This sent a wave of jealousy through him. That jealousy then turned to anger and began to amplify when he came to the conclusion of who was responsible for all this. He slowly turned his head towards Nami with his eyes narrowing in fury.
She had set him up. She knew they were like this. She WANTED him to see this! And if that wasn't enough, she was taking pictures to REMEMBER this moment?! Kahoko obviously wasn't in on it. But Nami was taking advantage of her, along with him, and that got to Azuma more than words could describe. He was going to snap. He was already wound up tight with everything else that had happened today, but a little voice inside his head tried to make him see reason: He couldn't overreact – especially not in front of Nami. He needed to think about his image. What happened to the years of discipline he forced upon himself to keep his emotions bottled up, to keep his poker face intact and to NEVER step out of line?
He knew all this. He knew there were diplomatic ways to handle the situation. But this… this… this was just too much…
Nami was just about to take another photo until she suddenly felt Azuma grab her left wrist. She flinched at the unexpected contact and nearly dropped her camera. Thankfully the camera's strap was wrapped around her right arm so she was able to catch it without it falling. She was relieved at first, but it wasn't long before anger soon followed. If anything had happened to her little partner… all hell would have broken loose. She turned her head towards Azuma, ready to give him a piece of her mind but lost all train of thought when their gazes locked.
"…Don't…" Azuma warned with a dark edge to his tone. He only used one word but the effect was enough to leave Nami dumbstruck. A dark, fiery aura emanated from his body while his glare was cold and frightening. It was much like a cobra's in the way that it would paralyse their prey under their daunting gaze. Even his voice had changed. It was deep and surprisingly intimidating. He was like a completely different person… Was this really Azuma Yunoki? The Prince of Seisou, the kind, caring, friendly, dependable honour student? Nami always knew there was more to him, but even SHE wasn't prepared for this! She couldn't tell if it was shock or fear that left her completely helpless, but something about this sparked something from within. Something which made her heart beats steadily increase and leave her momentarily breathless…
Azuma caught himself before long, having realised what he was doing. Regardless if whether or not she set him up made no difference, he should have known better than to lose himself like that. He blinked and all evidence of his anger vanished without a trace, almost like a slip of a coin.
"Please…" He pleaded softly, continuing on. "Don't take photos of Hino-san and Shimizu-kun like this." His voice was back to its sweet, friendly tone. "It wouldn't be fair, especially when they're sleeping right?" He smiled and released his hold on her wrist. He gave her hand a little pat, as though apologising through that little gesture, but Nami didn't respond. She was still staring at him in sheer horror.
Azuma couldn't deny this worried him a little, but he tried not to let it show. If he made an attempt to apologise or explain himself, it would only increase her suspicions on him. All he said was 'don't', and that lasted for less than two seconds before he followed it up with a 'please' and went from there. What was she going to do with that? Nothing. Who would believe her if she decided to make a big deal of it? No one. Would she mention it to Kahoko? Possibly. All he could hope for was if Nami did decide to probe her for answers, Kahoko would hold her tongue and continue to play ignorant. There was nothing to fear. There was no cause for alarm. It was just another test that's all.
He turned away from Nami then, knowing there wasn't much else he could do and decided to approach the bed where Kahoko and Keiichi were sleeping. He watched the two of them for a while, and despite everything that just happened, he could feel his anger resurfacing again. Of course he kept a firm lid on it this time, but seeing Kahoko with another guy like this irritated him to no end. Especially knowing it was Keiichi – the one that PURPOSELY sucked Kahoko's finger that time. Was that not enough for him? Did he have to claim some other part of her body too?! Oh god, don't even go there…
"Hino-san… Shimizu-kun," Azuma called out with strained gentleness. Neither of them stirred. "Hino-san." He gave her a little shake with one hand. "Shimizu-kun." He shook him as well, but subconsciously gripped his shoulder harder than required, causing the young blonde to whimper in his sleep.
Kahoko was the first to come out of it. Her eyes slowly fluttered open but were still blurry from sleep. She closed them and reopened them a few times until she regained focus, and when she did, Keiichi's angelic face was the first thing she saw. She blinked and wondered at first if she was seeing things. She squeezed her eyes shut and reopened them several times, hoping she was, but his sleeping form stubbornly remained. Okay, fair enough, Keiichi sleeping again. Nothing unusual. But what about her? Was she asleep just now? Come to think of it, why was he in her practice room? And why was the floor so... soft and fluffy?
Kahoko shifted slightly, but in doing so she felt someone's hand resting against her shoulder. That must be Len. He should know why Keiichi was here. Her gaze trailed up his arm, recognising the jacket from the Music Department. She opened her mouth to speak but stiffened when her eyes focused on long silky purple locks. There was only one person who had hair like that, and it certainly didn't belong to Len.
The moment she heard Azuma's soft, heavenly voice, she felt her pulse rate quicken as a result. Her eyes slowly trailed up his shoulder, across to his throat, chin then lips. And while her gaze lingered over them, her heart fluttered.
"Are you alright?"
Kahoko watched him mouth those words and forgot for a moment how to breathe.
Azuma paused and raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Are you... awake?"
Kahoko blinked and snapped out of her trance. "Y-Yunoki-senpai!" Her cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment. She hoped he didn't notice what she was doing just now. "W-What are you doing here?"
Azuma's eyebrow twitched. What was HE doing here? Shouldn't that be HIS question to HER?! Well, so much for worrying about her condition. He carefully removed his hands from both Kahoko's and Keiichi's shoulders and took a step back before his anger got the best of him. He brought a hand to his hair and brushed some of his long locks behind his ear. He took a deep breath and forced himself to smile. "I'm sorry, was I interrupting something?"
Kahoko had no idea what he was taking about until she finally took notice of her surroundings. When she realised she was in the nurse's office, she wondered how she even got here. The last thing she remembered was listening to Len play his violin, but they were in the practice rooms. Kahoko looked around for him but Len was nowhere in sight. Azuma was here, along with Nami – who was standing by the doorway with her eyes lingering over Azuma… for some reason – and Keiichi was sleeping on a bed which... was the same one she was on… Eh? If they were on the same bed… and were both asleep… That would mean… they had been… sleeping… together. Kahoko went wide eyed in terror. But if that wasn't enough to freak her out, she noticed she had been holding his hand too! No wonder Azuma was getting the wrong idea!
Kahoko gasped and quickly backed away from Keiichi. But in her haste to put distance between them, she carelessly forgot she was on a bed. She slipped off the edge and fell backwards onto the floor. She let out a loud squeal and winced as her back made contact with the hard floor. Her arms were sprawled out above her head while her legs hung from the bed. She wasn't in pain but she was too shocked to move.
"Hino-san!" Nami ignored Azuma for the moment and quickly walked around the bed so she could help her up. Azuma remained where he was since Nami was already helping her. Not only that, but Kahoko's actions caught him completely off guard. If he had known she would do something so reckless, he would have stood by her side of the bed and not Keiichi's. It was strange, but while he was annoyed and upset with her, he could feel the corner of his lips curve up slightly. There was no denying that little spectacle was quite amusing.
"You okay?" Nami asked as she helped Kahoko to her feet.
"I… think so." Kahoko replied slowly. She couldn't believe that just happened, and once again in Azuma's presence. Since when was she ever this much of a klutz? She had her moments but come on. She might as well be his personal jester at the rate she was going. Azuma may think he was hiding his amusement well enough, but Kahoko could see it. She watched the way he brought the back of his hand to his mouth and coughed, hoping it didn't sound like he was stifling a laugh – but she knew better. Kahoko was glad that at least Nami didn't find this funny, or if she did, was doing a better job of containing it. Then again, Kahoko had a feeling Azuma wasn't trying very hard to hide it from her. This bothered her more than it should, especially since she should be more concerned with how she got here!
"Oh… Kaho-senpai…" A little voice murmured.
Everyone turned their attention to the bed where Keiichi slowly sat up. He looked as though he could sleep a little longer, but that was normal for someone like him. Keiichi stared over Kahoko's face and looked it over quickly, as though searching for something. Kahoko raised an eyebrow at this. When he seemed satisfied with what he saw, a sweet; heart warming smile graced his lips. "I'm… glad you're… alright…"
Kahoko blinked. "Eh? Was something wrong with me?"
Keiichi tilted his head to the side. "Isn't that… why you're here…?"
One would assume so. Only she didn't get a choice in the matter – she just woke up here. "It's nothing serious." She reassured. "I was just a little sleep deprived, that's all." Kahoko was tempted to eye Azuma accusingly –since he was the one responsible for her lack of sleep– but managed to keep her eyes on Keiichi. "Um, Shimizu-kun, can you please tell me why you're here and um… why you were… sleeping on my bed?" Kahoko felt the colour rising in her cheeks as she asked this. Hopefully Keiichi's explanation will clear any doubts Azuma may have about her. She didn't want him thinking she gave the young blonde an invitation or anything.
Her response wasn't what Keiichi expected. He was actually referring to something else when he asked why she was here, something he observed while she was sleeping. Oh well, he could always ask about it later, but for now decided to answer her questions. "… I'm here… because of… Tsukimori-senpai…" Keiichi replied with his slow, sleepy tone. "And… I slept with you… because you grabbed me…"
Everyone was caught aback by his words. Kahoko's eyes went wide and her jaw nearly hit the floor. So much for relying on Keiichi to clear things up!
Nami knew how Kahoko got here so that wasn't much of a surprise. Hearing Keiichi's reasons for being here however was better than expected! "Oooo, so you grabbed him Hino-san?" Nami teased. "Do you like taking advantage of little boys?"
"WHAT?! No! I didn't do anything I swear!" Kahoko took offence to that. Keiichi was only a year younger, despite having such a cute, angelic, boyish face. But that wasn't the point – she wasn't interested in him like that! She reached out for Keiichi and took him by the shoulders. "Shimizu-kun, that didn't really happen, did it?! Please tell me you're joking!" She shook him in desperation, hoping it would convince him to take it all back.
Keiichi stared up at her unfazed. "No… you did grab me… and I couldn't get free… which is why… I slept with you…"
Kahoko was shocked once again. His words knocked the wind right out of her. Her hands shook and her knees buckled. He replied so easily that she had no choice but to believe him. But she couldn't accept it though. There was no way. It had to be a lie…
Azuma did his best to remain calm through all this, but it was very hard to resist the urge to break Keiichi's neck. He didn't think it could get any worse than that time he sucked on Kahoko's finger – yet look at him now! He was lying on the same bed as her, claiming she grabbed him so he had no choice but to stay, then to say they 'slept' together so lightly made Azuma want to burn him alive. It took ages for him to get over what happened before. Not that he ever would, but he felt better knowing he finally trumped the cello player in the end. Or so he thought.
"Shimizu-kun," Azuma said his name through clenched teeth. "You mentioned Tsukimori-kun earlier… Could you please explain what he has to do with this and why you came here?"
Keiichi slowly nodded and began his story. "Well… I was heading to the… practice rooms…"
Keiichi was writing his name down on the sign-in sheet. It was to book one of the practice rooms after school. When he was done, his eyes caught the name of someone familiar in the box above his. It was Kahoko's. Having noticed she was booked in a room for lunch, Keiichi thought he'd pay her a little visit. He headed towards her room and walked in a slow but steady pace, but before he could reach it, he watched the door open as Len –who he didn't expect to see– stepped out. He had tucked under his arm a couple of score sheets and two violin cases in hand. One belonged to him, but the other was a dark maroon colour which Keiichi recognised as Kahoko's. This was strange to him. Even Len didn't look like his usual self. He seemed, tense and troubled about something, something which Keiichi was a little curious about, but not enough to ask about it.
Len jumped when he heard his name. He didn't recognise the voice until he turned to look at him. And when he did, his shoulders lowered slightly in relief. "Shimizu-kun… What is it?"
"Is Kaho-senpai… still in there?" Keiichi pointed at the room.
"No, she's not."
That reply confused him. "Did she… leave her violin?"
"Not exactly…" Len was in no mood to explain.
"So… you're… stealing it?" Keiichi guessed.
Len raised an eyebrow at his ridiculous assumption. "No, I was going to"–he paused–"give it back to her…"
"Oh… did… something happen…?"
Len turned his head away uncomfortably. He was remembering what happened after he brought Kahoko the nurse's office. The grabbing incident still embarrassed him, even now after walking back to retrieve her things. He was going to leave them in the room for her, but was beginning to get second thoughts. It wasn't that Kahoko did anything wrong, or at least, nothing he could blame her for. He was worried about how her actions affected him emotionally. And it wasn't in the negative aspect either which bothered him…
"Tsukimori-senpai…?" Keiichi tilted his head to the side.
Len snapped out of his thoughts and looked at the first year apologetically. "Sorry." He then had an idea. "Shimizu-kun, did you want to see her?"
Keiichi's original intention was to hear Kahoko play. But seeing her was just as good, so he gave a little nod.
"Alright, can you please give this to her? She's in the nurse's office."
"…Huh?" Keiichi's sleepy eyes widened slightly. "Is she… alright?"
Len quickly gave the blonde her violin case. "She'll live." He then held out a couple of score sheets. "Please give these to her too."
"Oh… Okay…" Keiichi was still a little confused but took the score sheets as requested. It was lucky he didn't have his cello with him; otherwise carrying all this around would have been difficult. He was about to ask Len something else but the second year walked by and disappeared before Keiichi could even turn around – not that this was done all that quickly.
Keiichi stared down the empty corridor for a moment before glancing at the score sheets he was given. "Ah… nice song…" He commented to himself before slowing heading for the nurse's office.
When he walked in, the nurse wasn't around but he found Kahoko easily enough. She was in the bed closest to the door, not to mention she was alone. Keiichi walked further into the room and placed the violin case by the foot of the bed. He then looked over the score sheets Len had given him and wondered where to put them. There wasn't a table or counter near the bed where Kahoko would see them. He didn't want to leave them on the floor in case someone stepped on them… So where else did that leave him?
While Keiichi weighed his options, he caught some movement from the corner of his eye. He looked in that direction and noticed Kahoko had rolled over in her sleep, which was nothing unusual… unless you count the expression on her face. There was a deep frown etched into her features like she was in pain or upset about something. Was this because of, whatever she was here for? He wished Len had filled him in on that 'minor' detail. She'll live didn't exactly give him much to work on.
Kahoko let out a little moan which drew Keiichi's attention again. She stirred a bit and began to whisper something in her sleep. This piqued his interest. Keiichi took a few steps closer and leaned over the bed so he could listen. It was faint but she was definitely saying something… Only trouble was trying to hear something coherent. A lot of times she mouthed out words in pure silence, or said parts of words which didn't make sense. But Keiichi stayed where he was, having found Kahoko quite fascinating to both watch and listen to while she slept. He wondered then if he did anything like that – talked in his sleep. It was a possibility, but he figured he didn't since no one ever mentioned it to him.
Before he got too carried away with his thoughts, he heard Kahoko whisper something again. This time however, it was something he understood. Recognition flickered across his eyes as he allowed the word to sink in, or more specifically – the name, which made Keiichi completely still. It wasn't what he expected. Did it hold any special meaning? There was a chance it didn't, as a lot of people said gibberish in their sleep. Keiichi searched Kahoko's face, hoping it would give him the answer he sought. And surprisingly enough, it did.
A lone tear began to cascade down the corner of her eye. It slid down the side of her face, leaving behind a clear wet trail. "Kaho-senpai…" Keiichi whispered with concern. He brought his hand to her cheek and gently brushed the tear away with his fingers. He then rubbed away at the excess it left behind, but did this carefully as to not wake her. His fingers were warm, and the warmth seemed to bring her a measure of comfort. Keiichi noticed her reaction to his touch and brought his palm against her cheek, just to see what would happen. The tension in Kahoko's face eased and eventually vanished. She looked more relaxed now and somehow, peaceful. He smiled fondly at this, glad he was able to help.
Keiichi heard her murmur something again, that name, and watched her hand slowly rise from the bed. It curled around his wrist and kept his hand in place, like she wanted it to stay where it was. He didn't know how to react at first. It would have been flattering, if not for the name he heard… But still, it was, nice. The moment was still his – not 'theirs'. Keiichi brought his other hand to the bed, the one that held the score sheets and laid them out over the vacant space beside her. He then leaned on that arm so he could move in and get closer to Kahoko. Their faces were only inches apart. He stared over her face and marvelled over the softness of her cheek. This felt right to him, and yet, he couldn't move any further. The name she called out earlier nagged at the back of his mind. He wanted to ignore it, but found he couldn't. Keiichi closed his eyes thoughtfully and stayed that way till the bell sounded.
He surprised himself with his actions. They were unfamiliar, but he wasn't afraid of them. Being near her, certainly taught him a lot of things. Keiichi smiled and got off the bed so he was now standing upright. It was time to go, but there was one small problem. He eyed the slender hand which was wrapped securely around his wrist like a cuff. He tried pulling away but Kahoko wouldn't let go. He tried prying her fingers off but that failed too. Keiichi stared blankly at her and realised, unless he woke her up, he was stuck here. But he didn't want to do that. He didn't know what was wrong. She was in the nurse's office for a reason so he wanted her to rest. So what other option did that leave him…?
END OF FLASHBACK
"And so… since I… got sleepy… I ended up… sleeping beside her…" Keiichi concluded, finally finishing his story. He mentioned everything except the name Kahoko called out and how intimately close he got. He didn't think it was worth mentioning, at least, not yet anyway.
Azuma blinked and stared at him dumbfounded. How someone could speak so slowly was beyond him. It was such a short story yet he felt he had been standing there for a good hour listening when it should have been no more than five minutes. Keiichi really needed a fast forward button. Then again, if Azuma got to choose any button, it would be the power one. That way, he could turn him off permanently and not have to deal with such dramas again. He knew it wasn't technically Keiichi's fault, but Azuma still held a grudge against him.
From Keiichi's story, Kahoko understood now that Len must have been the one who brought her here. She didn't know for sure but she didn't know who else it could have been. He was the last person with her after all. But it was strange. Why didn't he just leave her in the practice room like he did last time when he got sick?
Nami took a mental note of everything Keiichi said. It linked with what she saw earlier when Len carried Kahoko here, but there were still a lot of facts that remained unknown. Sadly, the only way to clear them would be to ask Len direct. But she knew that was a lost cause. Any attempt at interviewing him during the concours always ended in failure. If she couldn't get answers for the most basic questions, how could she get him to open up about something this personal?
Oh well. Perhaps she could ask Kahoko about this later. But for now, there were still some things she wanted to ask Keiichi.
"Shimizu-kun, the score sheets Tsukimori-kun gave you…" Nami started. "What song is it?"
Kahoko went wide eyed at Nami's question. She stared at Keiichi in flat panic, knowing she couldn't let him answer and had to stop him somehow. She couldn't exactly tell him to keep it secret without looking suspicious! She wished there was some way to signal him to be quiet and whisper to Nami that she will tell her later, without Azuma noticing. But of course that would be too simple. He would easily catch on and realise this had something to do with him, which she wanted to avoid that at all costs. Oh god, what to do? She scrambled through her mind for an idea, any idea!
Keiichi didn't notice Kahoko's panicked expression and went on to answer. "It was Dri-"
"AH!!!" Kahoko squealed suddenly, causing everyone to jump. She then rambled quickly. "I just realised something! I slept through half my classes! You did too, Shimizu-kun! You need to go and find out what you've missed! Be sure to do it okay?! I don't want to be held responsible for holding you back! I need to go to class too! But oh! It might be worth going now so we can catch our teachers! You should do that Shimizu-kun, and right now! Thank you SO much for bringing my violin"–she purposely avoided mentioning the score sheets–"it was very thoughtful of you! And I'm so sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!" Kahoko bowed her head several times to show her gratitude.
Keiichi stared at her blankly, not expecting to be thanked with such enthusiasm. "Oh… You're welcome…" He nodded and realised what she said was true. "You're right… I do need to… go to class…" It was his turn to bow then, this time in farewell. He had completely forgotten about Nami's question – just what Kahoko wanted. "Kaho-senpai, please take care… Amou-senpai, good bye… Yunoki-senpai…" He raised his head and stared at the long haired male with a sleepy yet unreadable expression. He opened his mouth, as though he was about to say something but thought better on it. "Good bye." He then turned and headed out the door before another word could be said.
Azuma watched him go and was more than happy to be rid of him, although he couldn't deny he was a little curious about what he intended to say…
"Hey wait!" Nami called after him. "You forgot to answer my question!" Before Nami could race after him, she heard her cell phone suddenly ring. Nami groaned and reached into her pink shoulder bag to retrieve it. She muttered with annoyance before answering the call. "Hello? …Ah, Kirishima-san, hi! …Uh huh… Yes… Oh, I have them with me… Hn… Oh?" Nami decided to walk out the room then. She wanted the privacy so she could better listen to Hanako without any distractions.
Kahoko sighed with relief at Hanako's perfect timing. She had no idea how she was going to stop Nami from asking about the score sheets. It was a miracle that she even managed to divert Keiichi's attention. Oh well, no one found out. That was the main thing. But hearing from Hanako must mean the next photo shoot was coming up soon. Oh joy…
"You might want to pick up those up." Azuma suggested, referring to the score sheets. "Otherwise your little diversion would have been for nothing."
Kahoko jumped in realisation. "Oh, right!" She quickly picked up the crumpled score sheets from the bed and hugged them close. She then wondered how they got in such poor condition and remembered it was Keiichi. He had slept on them when he supposedly couldn't get free of her grip. That seemed bizarre to her. As if she could overpower a teenage boy.
Azuma cleared his throat then. "...Well?"
Kahoko snapped out of her thoughts and quickly looked at him. "Yes? What?"
Azuma slowly exhaled. "What was the song?"
"…Oh." It just occurred to her then that while Azuma may have picked up on her little division, he must have thought it was for Nami – not for him. Oh dear… "U-Um, it's nothing really… just wanted to try something new…"
"Uh huh, something new, and that would be?" He continued to probe.
Kahoko bit her lower lip nervously. "It's…" –lie, make something up, say a song from the top of your head– "… a secret." You idiot…
Azuma's eyebrow twitched. "…I see." 'And why is it a secret,' he felt like asking, but in the end couldn't be bothered. His patience had already reached its peak today. He was in no mood for games. If she didn't want to tell him then fine, but he couldn't understand why. It's not like he would tell anyone if that's what concerned her. "Oh well…" He said after a while. "I suppose it has nothing to do with me anyway…"
'Oh if only you knew…' Kahoko thought to herself. It was difficult to imagine how he would react, if she had the courage to tell him. She could picture a lot of laughter, followed up by endless teasing, which in itself told her not to even bother. But what she would have liked; is for him to be open-minded about it and offer to help in some way. It was nice imagining the possibility of him teaching her the song. He may not necessarily play the same instrument, but he would be able to pick up flaws in her performances and tell her where she needed improvement. He wasn't one to hold back on negative feedback after all. And when she got better… Would he, possibly consider… playing it with her?
Kahoko's heart skipped a beat as realisation dawned on her. Was that why she was so interested in this song? So she could have the opportunity to play a duet with him…? It seemed that way. But if that was the case, she wouldn't need him teaching her the song right? Or was that something else? A duet was all well and good but that would only last a few minutes. Being taught to play a song however could take hours. Is that what she wanted? The opportunity to get just that little bit closer to him? Oh god; was that what she really wanted or was this just the song screwing with her mind, or possibly an after effect on all those dreams she had last night?
Kahoko turned to look at Azuma while she thought it through. But her thoughts didn't get far as she got distracted by the way he looked – not by his face, but rather what he was doing. He had his eyelids squeezed shut and was currently pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. He had his head bowed slightly and looked very irritated all of a sudden. It seemed as though he was trying to calm himself down. Over what she had no idea, but didn't have the nerve to ask. She wanted to, but she had a feeling it would only make things worse. And as if he could read her mind, Azuma's eyes suddenly flashed open with a glare which was directed straight at her. Okay… that wasn't good.
"Mind if I ask you something?" Azuma asked as he lowered his hand from his face.
Even though he was giving her the choice, Kahoko seriously doubted she had one. "What is it?" She asked hesitantly.
"Do you enjoy toying with people?" Azuma asked casually, almost like he was asking about the weather.
"Eh?" Kahoko stared at him quizzically. "Toying?"
"Yes, you know, leading people on – or more specifically, males."
Kahoko raised an eyebrow. "I don't understand what you mean."
He rolled his eyes. "Naivety can only get you so far." He then narrowed his eyes on her accusingly. "Don't pretend like you aren't aware of what you're doing."
Kahoko blinked in bewilderment. "What are you talking about?"
Azuma glared angrily. "I'm not going to spell it out for someone who will simply dismiss it like they have no idea."
Could he be any more confusing?! Kahoko could feel her frustration growing but tried to keep a lid on it. For him, she did her best to analyse his words. Who was she leading on supposedly? He mentioned males but was it someone specific? Kahoko raked her brain for answers. The only person she could think of was Keiichi, but he had already explained what happened. Wasn't that enough? Didn't Azuma believe him? Or did he think she was awake the whole time and purposely grabbed Keiichi so he would stay with her? Kahoko went wide eyed when she grasped what she assumed was his meaning.
"I'm not leading anyone on! I didn't even know where I was, let alone that Shimizu-kun was with me!"
Azuma laughed mockingly. "You think this is just about him? Please… It's not hard to see who else you're affecting, and it sickens me to watch."
Kahoko's anger flared. "How dare you accuse me of toying with people when it's not even true, especially when you have no right to talk!"
Azuma was completely unaffected by her words and her tone. He brought his index finger over his lips, gesturing for her to keep her voice down. He then smiled with amusement, as though finding this exchange quite funny when all it did was annoy Kahoko more. "Oh no, what I do is completely different. I don't string people along and leave some false impression that there may be something more…"
Kahoko gapped at his words and without thinking yelled, "You liar! You do it to me all the time!" The moment she said it, Kahoko instantly regretted it. She didn't want to admit she acknowledged Azuma's advances, and at times – more like all the time – thought there might be more. She did her best to dismiss them, but how could she deny herself the pleasure of thinking for at least a second that she might have a chance, even when she got shot down and disappointed every single time? Hang on, what the hell was she hoping for here?
Contrary to what she expected, she heard Azuma suddenly burst into laughter, something which was totally unexpected and uncalled for. Did he find her comment funny, even when it was technically true?! Kahoko ground her teeth together and wished she had the guts to slap him. He deserved it very much at times like these.
"Again…" Azuma said, after taking a moment to calm down. "What I do to you… is different."
"Oh of course," Kahoko replied sarcastically. "Because it's you right? You're an exception to everyone else."
Azuma stared at her thoughtfully. "So are you…"
Kahoko was taken aback by that response. "That… doesn't make sense." Or at least, she didn't think so. What was he referring to exactly? Were they still talking about the same thing here? She was having a go at him for always teasing her, but his response… What did he mean she was an exception? Did he mean she was the only one he teased? Well, she already knew that, which was why she called him a liar for saying otherwise. But how was she different? …And how was it that even though she didn't understand him, he still managed to make her heart race? Whatever he was talking about, he meant it – supposedly – only she had no idea what it was! Great, now she didn't know what to think anymore. Did this whole conversation just make no sense in the end?!
Nami walked back into the room then. "Hey guys, sorry about that."
"No problem…" Azuma smiled, reverting back to his Princely self with ease. "What did Kirishima-san want?"
Nami beamed with delight. "She wants us to go to her store for a quick meeting. It's in reference to what I wanted to tell you both actually. But since she's going to make the announcement herself, I guess I'll keep my mouth shut till then…" She smirked. "I look forward to seeing your reactions…"
Kahoko didn't like the sound of that, and neither did Azuma.
"Very well. I'll let my driver know then." Azuma got out his phone and started dialling his chauffer's number as he walked to the door. Kahoko watched him go and wondered about their little argument. Whatever it was about, it kind of ended on a strange note and didn't seem to fix anything. It may have allowed Azuma to let off some steam but she didn't think that was the main purpose…
While Kahoko thought about it, she noticed Nami was still in the room but appeared to be eyeing the open doorway thoughtfully. Her eyes lingered there with an expression Kahoko hadn't seen on her before. She looked absorbed and intrigued about something, but it wasn't long before Nami caught her stare.
"Are you ready to go?" She asked with a smile.
"Um, yes, I just need to get my things." Kahoko replied.
Kahoko went to retrieve her violin case.
"Hino-san…" Nami said after a moment of silence.
Nami looked back towards the door. "Yunoki-senpai… is quite interesting isn't he?"
Kahoko nearly fell over when she heard that. "Err, I guess. He wouldn't be so popular if he wasn't." Her voice faltered as she said this though.
"Hmm…" Was all Nami said before leaving the room. Kahoko watched her go with a vacant expression. She had no idea why but something about Nami's behaviour bothered her. The way she stared so intently at the door made her wonder if she was actually staring after Azuma. But why? Come to think of it, her question about him being interesting was very strange too. She wasn't looking for confirmation, she was looking for agreement. Why…? Kahoko picked up her violin case and hugged it tightly. This had to be a misunderstanding. She didn't know what was going on so she shouldn't jump to conclusions. Nami once said he wasn't her type so she had nothing to worry about. But… why won't this aching pain in her chest go away…? Kahoko closed her eyes and sighed in resignation.
She couldn't blame this on her dreams anymore…
Author's Note: Hello! How has everyone been? I hope this chapter made up for my long absence. It's literally twice the size as all the others. Nearly killed me too – more so than the others lol. Now, let me take the opportunity to explain some things. This story isn't dead. So long as there are people out there willing to read it, I will continue to update it.
I can't update as quickly as I used to. In the beginning, since the story had only just started, I could sort of be a bit random and write whatever I wanted. Because of that, along with the chapters being less than half the size of what they are now, I could update rather quickly. Now, because the chapters continue to grow and I actually have a plot line I need to follow, it takes me longer to update. I also play with a wide variety of ideas, sometimes I stick to them while other times they get scrapped. I have eight versions of this chapter which should indicate how much I keep changing my mind lol. But putting all that boring stuff aside, I'll talk about the chapter now :P
I apologise once again for the lack of Azuma x Kahoko moments, but please bear with me. The next chapter WILL be focused on them. The third modelling session will finally happen and even after that, they should still have some intimate moments together. I can't guarantee how many chapters they will have but I'm aware of the lack of Azuma x Kahoko in the last few chapters, and WILL do something about it. It's hard on me too don't forget :P I'm pro Azuma x Kahoko and I'm surprising myself with all the scenes I'm setting up where Kahoko is with someone else lol. But it's all relevant. And it will eventually lead to Azuma and Kahoko getting together.
The scene with Len and Kahoko should speak for itself. It was mainly focused on the song Azuma played for her at summer camp. I threw in a bit of history, along with the promise of some future development with Azuma and Kahoko. Keiichi's scene I admit was mostly for entertainment purposes but holds promise for something I'll touch on later. Nami had a big role in this chapter lol. I find her quite fun and love the way she and Azuma play off each other. How things will develop with her is still a mystery, but at least it's forcing Kahoko to accept her feelings. She's not there yet but she's getting close.
Now I hope none of you will think it was OOC for Azuma to get angry with Nami and actually show it. I admit I had some doubts about making it happen but it works in many ways for me. We all know Azuma is perfect and can mask his feelings very easily. But think about it, how would you feel if you saw the person you loved in bed with someone else? Not only that but have this other person show you, without telling you anything, and watch as they take pictures? I'd tell you right now I'd be pretty p****d off. He had every right to be angry, and yet he still handled the situation reasonably well. More of this will be touched upon in either the next chapter or the one after. But if you still feel it was OOC then fine, you have your opinion. I'll use the excuse that it's for story purposes then :P Some things need to give in order for other things to happen.
And wow, I think I need to shut up before my A/N becomes its own chapter lol. Once again I am terribly sorry for the long wait. I'll get the next chapter out as soon as possible. Thank you once again for your continued support. I still can't believe how well received my story has been. I expected to stop ages ago, so yeah, thank you for still giving me the inspiration to keep going. I look forward to seeing you in the next chapter! :D