"So. Why'd you bring him along?"

Amano Toko looked up from where she sat, in the middle of rebraiding one part of her braids. She had sent Konoha home already, telling him that they had the information they needed and he was free to go on and do what he needed to. This, of course, left her in the room alone with Maki, who was putting some finishing touches on her sketch she had been working on earlier.

And this left Maki with an opportunity to completely fluster her old friend with personal questions.

"Mn? Konoha-kun? He needed to know these things just as much as I did," Toko said, focusing her attention back onto braiding her extremely long, dark hair. Maki chuckled.

"Toko-chan, how long have we known each other?" She finally said, hints of laughter still in her voice. Toko stopped mid-braid, averting her eyes to the ceiling and trying to think of the answer to that question. It wasn't quite as easy to remember how many years had passed since she and Maki first met. It wasn't exactly literature.

"A long time. What does that have to do with anything?"

"I'm just saying, I can read you almost as well as you read those books of yours. You had more of a reason than that." Maki's pencil stopped sketching over the surface of her paper, her lips smiling, and her eyes teasing. She looked over her again, disappointed that she had redressed so quickly. But alas, she'd had her fun. Toko modeled for her, as she'd wanted.

Toko's cheeks darkened again, and she quickly hid her face by focusing on her hair once more. She didn't say anything. As much of a confirmation as any, in the mind of her friend.

"The way I see things, there are two possible reasons for you to invite your little protege along when you knew what I wanted you to do. One is that you wanted him to see you like this."

Toko choked at that point, placing a hand over her mouth as her eyes widened. Maki smirked, but otherwise ignored the reaction.

"Well, it didn't take a genius to see that it certainly got his attention. The second possibility is that you wanted him there to protect yourself."

"P-Protect ... myself? What do you mean by that? We're good friends. I can trust you." Toko seemed confident, but Maki only put her pad and pencil aside, standing and flicking her long hair over her shoulder. Graceful as ever, she stepped toward Toko, kneeling down before her and gently brushing some of her hair out of her face. Toko froze.

"M-Maki-chan ...?"

Maki leaned in, her lips just inches away from Toko's.

"Protect yourself ... from what iI/i want," she whispered, enjoying seeing her friend's reaction. She then smiled innocently as she could manage and pulled away, flicking Toko in the head a little before turning back to return to her seat.

"But of course, it was always the first option. It doesn't take years of knowing you to see that you're clearly infatuated with that boy." Toko unfroze, letting out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. She quickly rebraided her hair, doing a messy job of it, then stood, collected her things, and bowed politely.

"Thank you very much for your information!" She said hurriedly, her voice raising a few octaves as she did so, and rushed out the door. Maki didn't even have a chance to say 'you're welcome.'

She sat back down, and picked her pad and pencil up again. She began to darken the lines of her masterpiece again.

"I hope that boy realizes how lucky he is."