Quick note: Honorifics, such as "-senpai", "-san" and "-chan" have been used so as to translate properly the authentic relationship between characters from the actual series to this humble story I present to you.
Ayano clutched her stomach as she doubled over, tiny droplets shimmering in the corners of her eyes as the last giggles of her laughing fit began to subdue. Having this sleepover party had been one of the best ideas her friends could have come up with, she had to give them as much.
Lately life had been so hectic, what with the whole Bernhardt incident shaking up the whole town and all. She felt like she'd been running on empty for a while now so recharging like this once in a while was definitely a great way to tackle the pent up stress.
She was always so grateful for having such great friends. Nanase and Yukari were the people she could always rely on to help her overcome difficulties even without explicitly having to say so. And she certainly had to give them props for the ingeniousness of their relief plan—a sleepover party with her two best friends and her closest people from school was definitely the best way to distance herself a bit from the hectic everyday life as the next head of the Kannagi.
After all, even a magic user like herself needed to dwell a bit in a world without magic lest she should burn herself out.
Everything had been going so well that she never really noticed how things had taken a bad spin before it hit her in the face.
Of course, at a party with only girls, it was inevitable that the topic of boys would be raised at some point. And, surely enough, in the later hours of the evening, Yaya and Akira, two girls from her class, started giggling among themselves about something. Before Ayano could even realize how it had come to it, conversations about boyfriends and love interests and progress had been sparked.
Not that those were any concern of hers, of course. The next head of the Kannagi had no boyfriend for her 16 years of age and no one had yet been deemed worthy enough to catch her eye either. Therefore, no progress could be discussed either. So she didn't really take part in discussing as much as just listened in on the information her friends had to share about a world she knew nothing of.
"Wow, Yaya is really forward! I bet you've done more than just kiss with your boyfriend, right?" Akira nudged the girl in the ribs teasingly. The action made the addressed female snicker ambiguously.
"Hohoo, I wonder," she said in a sing-song voice, making the others shake their fists at her.
"Yaya, you cheat! You've caught such a fine guy as Kyo-senpai. I envy you so much!" Yukari complained dramatically, making the other girls laugh at her.
"Though on the topic of having caught fine men, I think Ayano is the one who scored highest out of all of us," Nanase commented, making all eyes fix upon the pink-haired girl in question.
Said girl promptly turned red in the face in response.
"W-w-what are you talking about? Why are you suddenly bringing me into this conversation? I don't even have anyone I like right now!" she complained loudly, shaking her hands in front of herself frantically.
The four girls gave her dubious looks.
"Hmm, really now? I could pretty much swear there was something going on between you and Kazuma-san the last time we were at your family's mansion," Yukari stated, making the Kannagi heiress blush an even deeper shade of red.
"What are you talking about? There's nothing like that between that guy and me!" she objected vehemently, almost stumbling over her own words in the process.
"With the way she denies it, it makes me even more inclined to believe there's something in there…" Yaya agreed, nodding her head sagely. Ayano seethed to her side, her brow twitching with annoyance.
"You guys are enjoying teasing me like this, aren't you? Not even listening when I tell you that there's nothing happening and you're trying to find something where it doesn't exist…" she growled out, making Nanase pat her shoulder to dismiss her mounting rage.
"There, there, sorry, Ayano. Guess we went too far with the joke. Just don't incinerate anything in here, okay? Yukari's parents won't be overjoyed if they come back to find their home as just burning cinders."
"Well, sorry…" Ayano muttered while her friends laughed merrily at her expense.
And when she thought that the crisis had been averted, the conversation continued in much the same direction.
Not that it mattered to her. She'd never had those kinds of experiences and she was proud in claiming so!
"So has anyone had any experience in kissing?" At the looks she received with her question, Yukari shrugged her shoulders. "What, I'm just curious what it's like! Aren't you?"
"Yup, I have!" Yaya exalted in a merry tone once the topic had been accepted with mutual agreement of curiosity.
"Well, you're kind of a given," Nanase relented with a coy smile. "I most certainly don't have any such experience though."
"Me neither," Yukari concurred.
"None here," Akira added.
When she found herself in the focus of all four pairs of eyes again, Ayano hurried to respond as well.
"Of course I don't! Weren't you listening to me earlier?"
"You really don't, eh?" Nanase muttered with feigned drama. "It's a shame, isn't it? Kazuma-san looks like a rather forward and assertive person when it comes to these things but I guess he has to keep pace with someone as childish as Ayano so it's difficult, right?"
"What was that!" Ayano's temper flared immediately, slapping her hands on the table the girls were gathered around. Her outburst earned her the giggles of all her friends. "Jeez, Nanase…"
"So, Yaya, tell us! When, where and how! You have to confess to everything now!" Akira urged the other girl on. The latter made a show of pretending to be coy before being "cajoled" into sharing what she could.
But Ayano stopped listening for a while. She was too busy seething at first and then reasoning with herself so as to rein in her temper. What were they insinuating anyway? There's no way she would've had her first kiss yet! After all, her mouth had never been touched by another's lips in her whole—
When the memory crossed her mind, her eyes widened slightly. Ah, yes, indeed. There was that with the wind clan incident. When she'd almost died after being contaminated with that rotten magic. That's when he'd used the most precious of medicines in the world to save her life, administering to her through himself as she was in no condition to drink it on her own—
Her eyes had fluttered open to see him standing there, right in her face, warm air fanning against her cheek and something soft on top of her open mouth.
At the realization, Ayano's whole face turned bright red, right up to the tips of her ears.
Her first kiss had been sacrificed to that guy in that kind of ridiculous situation…!
Of course, she was no fool. She knew well that her life was worth a lot more than that kind of flimsy thing. But those things had mattered more within the situation while her life had still been at risk.
Now, on the other hand, when there was the distance of time involved in the equation…
"Oh my God, that reaction! So you did kiss him!" Yukari all but shrieked when she took note of her friend's countenance. She was absolutely overjoyed at the hilarity of Ayano's expression and doubly so at how easy it was to read.
"No way! For real?" Nanase joined along quick, her voice shrill with incredulity.
"What, what, Ayano-chan has actually kissed someone and she lied to us just now?" Yaya was quick to jump the bandwagon of Ayano-teasing. "That means she gets to be grilled and chilled for details right now!"
The bright red colour of the Kannagi heiress's face changed several shades as she listened to her friends' comments and squeals.
That was when she knew she had to come up with the most clever way to worm her way out of there before she could embarrass herself any further.
Ayano fixed her bag in a more comfortable position on her shoulder and heaved a great sigh. The air outside sure felt great against her hot skin.
Seriously, after the whole commotion inside and the intensity of the heat in her cheeks, she had been worried flames might envelop her from the embarrassment of the whole thing.
It was a bit hard to believe that they had even let her go so easily like that without extracting every single bit of information about her obvious reaction to their topic of choice. She knew that her excuse of being tired and overworked hadn't really been very convincing. It only made her even more worried what it would be like when she met the girls again.
This was really the worst though… And to think that she realized the weight of the situation after this much time…
She sighed deeply once again, shoulders sagging in defeat.
"Why if it isn't Ayano, sighing like an old man in the middle of the street," a very familiar male voice commented from behind her, jolting her back to present time and place at once.
And it took her quite a bit to convince herself that it was just the surprise of the sudden arrival that made her heart flutter like that in her chest. Not that it was the voice itself or the implications of its bearer being nearby or anything.
"What are you doing out so late, anyway? It's way past bed time for little girls," Kazuma added and then promptly ducked to the side to evade a punch aimed meticulously at his face. "Now now, no need to resort to violence. Let's resolve this peacefully, okay?"
"Stop flapping your mouth like that as if you're all that great, you bastard!" she grinded out, giving him the evil eye.
"Oh, someone's really fired up tonight. Did you have a nice evening or something?" Kazuma said merrily, making sure to evade the swipe of a flaming Enraiha that would've burned his head off if he hadn't moved.
"Grr, it's all your fault!" Ayano screamed at him, swinging the sword harder and harder and getting more and more frustrated when she couldn't even graze him with it.
Just looking at him pissed her off so much right now! How dare he look so smug at her, as if it was totally okay that he had plundered her of a precious first experience! Not to mention that she didn't even remember it! What was she supposed to say when asked how her first kiss had been? 'Sorry, I wasn't really conscious so I don't remember'? What a joke!
"It's all your fault!" she screamed again and swung hard with her sword.
She didn't consider the momentum well enough though and lost balance of her footing. In her enraged and disoriented state, there was no way her legs would manage to shift fast enough to save her from falling flat on her face in his feet. The Enraiha was dismissed at once as she prepared to steady herself. All of said things happened in but an instant of time.
Right before she could truly fall though, he took hold of her elbow, giving her just about enough time to right herself on her own. The action, however, also brought him closer to her than he'd been.
And then suddenly her eye level was at his neck as he was stepping back from her.
"Hey, hey, don't get that carried away, okay? Venting is alright, but don't overdo it," he chastised half-heartedly. What was she thinking anyway, swinging the Enraiha around like that? Didn't the Kannagis teach her anything about publicly displaying magic like that? Honestly…
She would've shot back something at him, she really would have. But the trouble was that instead of busying itself with the retort, her mind and gaze focused on something else instead.
And namely, the way the words left his lips and the manner in which they moved as he spoke. Even after he was done, she couldn't tear her eyes away.
"Ayano, are you alright?"
She snapped out of her daze and realized what she'd been doing only when she heard him speak out to her. At the note of concern in his voice and the fact she had been staring like an idiot at him, her face turned red anew.
When he cocked a curious eyebrow at her, she huffed and turned her back on him, bristling.
"I-I'm fine! I don't need your worrying or anything over me!" she stated loudly and began to walk off.
"Whoa, how cold. And you were so fired up until just now too. A woman is truly the most fickle creature in the world," he said with a chuckle while he languidly followed her trail.
"As if you're one to talk, Mr. I Do Everything My Way!" she shot back, increasing the speed and width of her strides.
When she didn't manage to widen the distance between them even a little bit, she started to wonder whether he wasn't relying on his wind to carry him because he didn't seem the least bit phased with her tempo.
"Touché," Kazuma agreed with a snicker, putting his hands in his jacket's pockets as he continued to shadow the Kannagi girl's steps. "I never really got to hear what I was charged with earlier though. I'm almost curious."
"Huh?" Ayano asked, suddenly halting in her haste. She turned her head to throw him an almost comically quizzical look.
"You said it was my fault. I'm almost curious about what exactly this time."
Rats. Of course, adding insult to injury, as always. She could definitely count on Kazuma to do so. She clenched her fists to her sides and gritted her teeth, willing the annoyance away. But she was already fighting a losing battle and she knew it.
"Oh, is that so. Well, tell me when you actually get curious. I might decide to enlighten you then."
He watched her back which was wired with tension as she took a sharp turn from her marching route into a lively street in the middle of town.
"Where are you going?" he shouted after her, mirth bubbling in his voice.
"Somewhere away from you!" she bellowed back without ever pausing to throw even a glance his way.
Ayano seethed and bit almost angrily at the plastic spoon in her mouth. A vein pulsed on her forehead, a certain indicator for normal people that a storm was brewing for them if they didn't take care what they did.
However, her demeanor didn't seem to make her companion waver for even a moment as he dug into his own plastic cup of pudding.
"Why are you still here?" she demanded ill-temperedly, making him look up from his food for the first time.
"Well, your dad pays me to be your bodyguard. It's already pretty late so I might as well do my job and get some extra cash tonight." He said it in a way that made her feel as if his eyes were about to sparkle in glee. She heaved a great sigh.
"Look, you know just as well as I do that I can take damn good care of myself. I'd be really grateful if you just went away now, instead of using my dad as your piggy bank over every little thing!"
"Wow, this is actually quite tasty! Who would've thought that you'd have such brilliant taste in food, Ayano," he commented merrily, completely disregarding her claim. This only made her eyebrow twitch even harder.
In her ire, she closed her fingers tightly around the plastic cup of the pudding, making it melt off at the edges before dropping it into the trash can next to the bench she was sitting on.
She was just so annoyed. She couldn't calm herself down at all. Whenever she tried to, she kept remembering why she was annoyed in the first place and got even more worked up. It was a vicious circle she couldn't seem to get out of.
And the fact that the person who had robbed her of her first kiss being so chummy and happy-go-lucky in front of her definitely did nothing to soothe her.
She wished she could sock him one good in the smug mug. That really ought to lessen some of her tension. But it wasn't like he'd just stay still so she could punch him and there's no way she was going to tell him why he should stand still either. And just why, why of all people did it have to be him that kissed her first? It's not like it really mattered all that much in the long run but, it felt like a scar that would never be undone even if she hid it, right?
Not to mention that she didn't even remember it, for goodness' sake...
Just as she was about to get depressed, a can swam into her line of vision. When she looked up, she saw that it was Kazuma offering her a can of juice from the nearby vending machine.
Her brows narrowed but she took the proffered object anyway.
"Thanks," she muttered barely audibly as she opened the can. She drank from it petulantly, gaze pinned ahead.
Kazuma nodded and opened his own while seating himself next to her on a bench. He took big, greedy gulps and exhaled with utmost content after tearing his lips away from the metal.
"What are you doing out at this time of the day anyway?" Ayano couldn't help asking, eyeing him warily over the juice can. "Doing something indecent in town till late again, I bet."
He laughed heartily at her claim, making her eyes narrow further as she glared at him.
"You already seem to have it figured out for yourself, so why bother asking?" She shut up because she knew he certainly had a point. Even though she'd be caught dead before she admitted it. "What about you? It's unusual to find you wandering around at this time of the day."
"I was with some friends, having fun, if you so have to know," she said testily, taking a very large and un-ladylike gulp from her drink to emphasize her point.
"Ah!" His face lit up with realization. "That's right, Ren mentioned something about you having a sleepover at a friend's place today." When he looked at her vexed profile, he laughed. "What, did you annoy them enough for them to throw you out or something?"
"Of course not!" She burst out quickly, jumping to her feet at once. "I am the one who was annoyed! So I went out on my own!"
"Ehh? That so?"
She had a tiny staring contest with him for a while until she realized how pointless it was. She heaved another sigh and sat down on the bench again, sipping on her slightly deformed can. The liquid inside of it had become warm like tea that was in the process of cooling off. Why was she getting so worked up over one moron?
Even if it was the moron who had taken something very precious to a young maiden.
She guessed that the most probable reason she was so annoyed was because of the fact he wouldn't really care that he'd stolen her first kiss. Why would he care? These kinds of things were probably nothing to him. He always made a show of demonstrating how much more mature he was than her in all sorts of ways. Surely, a mere touch of lips against lips meant nothing to an 'adult' like himself.
She gritted her teeth again, shaking her head. She really ought to stop chewing it over and over in her mind if she wanted to ever get it out of her mind.
"Hmm, so you fought with your friends," he surmised thoughtfully, finishing his canned drink. "I guess that explains why you're so edgy."
"I didn't fight with them," Ayano muttered in a tight-lipped fashion. Her statement made Kazuma give her a curious look.
"I didn't," she reiterated irately, throwing her empty can in the trash bin from her seat next to it.
"Why are you so worked up then?" he pushed on, refusing to back down halfway through.
"It's none of your business, so butt out already!" the fire magic user shot back at him scathingly. She'd had it already with him and this mini cross-interrogation of his.
"It's none of my business even though it's all my fault?" Kazuma repeated, making the vein on her forehead pulse harder.
"That's right!" she responded immediately without realizing she had fallen into his trap without noticing.
When she eventually did take note, she growled to herself and gritted her teeth angrily.
"If you're distracted enough to walk into that on your own, I think it's pretty serious."
"It doesn't matter. It can't be changed anymore so there's no point in talking about it—" Ayano began in a miffed tone.
"Try anyway." The finality with which he said it carried some kind of incomprehensible compelling force.
In an attempt to parry the gravity of his demand, Ayano deflected his question with another excuse.
"You wouldn't even get it anyway, so what's the point?"
"Well, I've got time and I bet you do too. It's a lovely evening so we might as well make some conversation while we're at it." He said it so naturally as if it was self-explanatory.
Finding herself with all her means of escape sealed, Ayano felt the blush rise to her cheeks again. She averted her eyes in discomfort and fidgeted in her seat as she wondered how to begin her story.
When she finished explaining, after lots of effort exerted and a lot of struggle with words tripping over each other on her tongue, she sat on the bench with her whole body filled with tension. She waited impatiently after she had finished speaking, expecting him to say something to break the silence that seized them. Just when it had begun to be excruciating—like the nerve-wracking unreadable look on his face—he finally spoke up.
Of course, he had to ask the one thing that could set her off in the most dangerous way in that very moment. Of course he would say the one thing he really shouldn't have.
She jumped to her feet, glaring bloody murder at him.
"That's it? 'That's it?' The nerve you have to say that!" she hollered, enraged. "Maybe it's not a big deal to Mr. High and Mighty, but for a young maiden, a first kiss is the kind of experience that is memorable for the rest of the maiden's life and it's something that should be remembered and cherished, not to mention shared with someone special! But instead, what can I say? I neither remember nor had a choice in the matter! Do you have any idea how humiliating that is?"
"Not at all," he agreed with that infuriating grin on his face. Looking at him, she barely stifled the desire to claw his eyes out.
Instead she settled on slapping her palms to her cheeks and wailing pitifully at her own misfortune.
"God, what horrible punishment. This must be karma for something bad that I've done in another life. It has to be. I've always done my best to be a good person. So how come I get punished with this kind of stuff happening to me…" she all but whined, grieving her fate.
Kazuma snorted, putting his chin on his palm propped up on his knee.
"Aren't you being a bit overdramatic?"
"A bastard like you would never understand. Someone who just steals another's innocence as if it's totally alright…" If he didn't know any better, he'd think that she was almost in tears. At least her tone made him believe so.
"Hey, hey, don't go saying confusing things. Someone might start spreading weird rumors about me if they heard you say that in that way." What was she doing, all but insinuating rapist tendencies to him just because of him taking something like a kiss.
Hell it hadn't even been a kiss. He was saving her life! And this is the thanks he gets now?
"I know that it couldn't be helped. And I am grateful for you using your precious medicine to save me." Not to mention that her father was 100 million yen grateful for it as well… "But it's still so irritating!" She stopped her tirade when her voice started to shake. "It's just… not what I imagined it would be like. My first kiss… was not even a real kiss…"
"It doesn't get any more real than a kiss of life, does it?" Kazuma jabbed humorously but when she didn't respond at all he figured it would be a while before she felt in the mood to accept jokes about it.
He exhaled slowly through his nose and turned his gaze away from her hunched back. Something about looking at her at that moment made a painful surge rise in his chest.
They stayed in silence for a while. The only sounds were those of the city around them, the wind ruffling the greenery around.
When nothing was spoken and this sudden heaviness hung in the air, it made him realize that it was really probably all that important to her, this matter. And in realizing that made him feel a bit guilty for teasing her about it so much.
And then the only question that remained was the most obvious one: what could he do from then on?
After such a long stretch of silence, the sound of his own clothes ruffling as he stood up sounded almost deafening in his ears.
He took a step towards her but from the way she didn't even make the slightest move, he knew that she probably hadn't even felt him get up.
"Then how about we redo it?"
By the time she realized he had moved from his seat, he was already maneuvering around her to stand in front of her.
The tiny sound of confusion was the only thing she managed to utter and by the time his words had finally begun to sink in, he had already captured her delicate chin in his calloused fingers' hold.
And before she could voice any of her nonplus, Kazuma had already closed the distance between them, sweeping her lips into a swift kiss.
The Contractor wasn't really sure which part of the situation was the most disturbing one.
It could be the fact that even though he had practically forced a kiss on her and fully expected to get an earful about it afterward, she hadn't even breathed a word about it when they parted (and long after it).
Another possibility was the fact that other than not verbally lashing out, she made no attempt to physically assault him for his boldness either—neither during the kiss nor after it. She hadn't even made any attempt to stop him, but neither had she made any to really encourage him either—she had neither pushed him away nor kissed him back.
It could also very well be the fact that her facial expression hadn't changed from a dazed one ever since he'd kissed her.
Yes, that was probably one of the most worrying things in this set up. It was one thing whether she was acting like herself but not acting at all made him worry whether she hadn't completely broken her sanity after that.
It was as if from the second she had seen him up so close, her whole body and soul had frozen into a mask of shock. And had paralyzed her ability to react at all, to anything he did or did not do.
What was probably even more awkward was the fact that he was taking her home until she was in front of the Kannagi gate, which wasn't too close. And with her acting so out of it and not saying a single word, it made him wonder whether he should speak at all or not.
Kazuma sighed, feeling his hands in his pockets heavier than ever. And to think he'd only tried to help her out of the hole she'd dug for herself to wallow in self-pity… Maybe he'd gone too far this time?
He stopped in his tracks when they were finally at the bridge that led to the Kannagi main house. Ayano followed suit, still staring in stupor at the ground.
The awkwardness hung heavy in the air between them still.
"Well, my work here is done," he said lightly, attempting to break the ice at once. "Good night then."
She looked up slowly, stopping only briefly to lock her gaze with his before averting her eyes again.
"Y-yeah. Good night." His eyes widened slightly as he looked at her. She turned around with a flourish of her long pink hair behind her. "Thanks for walking me home."
"Thanks for the kiss. I'll make sure to treasure it," he said, amusement seeping in his voice.
His comment made her promptly walk off without a single backward glance. All the while she kept angrily muttering something to herself as she hurried off to her family household.
Kazuma smiled to himself as he turned on his heel, starting off in direction of his hotel as well.
Even though he had done it just to make her get out of her self-imposed tragedy, Kazuma had to admit that he had most certainly received a rather treasuring-worthy memory himself.
Because he could almost swear that right before he had relinquished his hold of her and removed his lips from atop hers—just for a single evanescent moment of time—she had kissed him back.
Not to mention that for a girl as unsexy and clueless as Ayano, she sure made a delightful sight when she was acting so humbly with shyness coloring her cheeks pink.
A/N: The reason Ayano did not explode like she usually does is because what she really wanted was to have a memory of her first kiss to be able to treasure. You can even say she wanted him to kiss her. But because Ayano is Ayano, too childish to be able to admit her own feelings to herself and very deeply incapable of being honest with herself, instead of doing or saying anything, all she did was contain her usual dishonest outburst. Hope that is convincing enough to make you think she wasn't being out of character but simply shown in an unusual light and unusual situation.
Also, in the final lines of Ayano, what Kazuma was surprised about and his eyes widened at the realization was the very last line of the story. That's when he noticed it.
That said, the reason I wanted to write this story is because I wanted a plausible view of how the first intimate contact between these two would go. So I had a go at it. I think it came out rather well. ^^ I let the final judgment in your hands though.
Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Strengths, weaknesses, general comments and things you'd like to share are all greatly encouraged and appreciated.