Notes: If you haven't seen the Kaze No Stigma Anime or read the manga, this probably won't make a lot of sense. Also, the story is a bit crude and over-emotional, but hey, it's my story. :)

The Return of Bernhardt Rhodes

The small chamber was lit by torches, which gave it a sinister look. The magician felt that it was the perfect backdrop for the little performance he was about to orchestrate. All he needed were the final touches and he could begin.

"Are they alive?"

He studied his two creations with a critical eye before answering his assistant.

"Of course. They are as alive as you or I. If they weren't, my little plan would not work. You have made the other arrangements as I ordered?"

"Yes, master. All is ready for tonight. The men are ready to do their jobs tonight as instructed."

"Excellent. The plan is now ready to be set in motion."

"And what is the plan, master?"

With an elaborate flourish, he bowed to her as an actor on a stage accepting his fans' adoring accolades. "Allow me to explain the program".

Lapis listened raptly as her master told her of his scheme.

"What do you mean she's gone?" Anger clouded his head for a moment as he sat in front of Jugo. His temper had been shorter lately. Probably from hanging around Ayano so much. He had to smile at that thought. He would have to work on that. Then again, if a short temper was the price he had to pay...

Jugo Kannagi's next words brought him back to the present.

"There was an explosion at the compound last night. After investigating, we believe it was just a diversion. We did not realize that Ayano was missing until the morning when she did not attend breakfast."

"Are you sure that she didn't just wander off somewhere? You know how Ayano is when she gets something in her head. Maybe Yukari or Nanase has heard from her?"

"No, we've already check with them and they haven't heard from her since the day before yesterday."

Jugo stood up with an effort. "Come, Kazuma, look at her room and see what you think."

After entering the room, Kazuma realized something. He had never been in Ayano's room before. It was a pretty room-if you liked pink. Pink walls, pink bedspread. Even the pillow was pink. He also noted that on her dresser next to the bed (which, thankfully, was not pink) was a picture of him and Ayano. It was one of Yukari's pictures from the amusement park last year while she and Nanase had been secretly stalking them. They were on a park bench, both of them looking in opposite directions. Looking at the picture closely, he could see that her hand was on top of his. At the time, he pretended not to notice, just to see what she would do next. Of course that was just before he noticed the pervert with the camera and all hell broke loose, but it was a nice moment while it lasted.

Walking around the room, he noted that her clothes were laid out neatly on her chair. That meant that wherever she went, it was in her pajamas. Ayano would never go out dressed like that. She had some kind of phobia about showing any of her body in public. She was borderline crazy about it. Thought her pajamas covered her from head to toe, it was still too intimate for her in public. She was definitely taken. But how?

He looked next at her bed. It was ruffled, with the covers thrown back. So, she had been asleep. Probably until the explosions. How did they (there had to be more than one) kidnap a fire magic user who could call up blistering flames in a split second? They knocked her out. Again, how?

Out of the corner of his eye, he spied something. A piece of folded paper sticking out of her pillow. He flipped the pillow aside and picked up the paper when something fell out. A tiny dart. There was some liquid on the tip, which was mostly dried. When he put his tongue to it to taste it, he recognized what it was. A sleeping elixir. So, they didn't want Ayano dead, they really did want to kidnap her. Why? He unfolded the note and read.

'It's been so long since we've had a nice human sacrifice for a demon, hasn't it, Kazuma?'

That's all it said. No ransom demands or threats. No signature either, but there didn't need to be one.

His hands began to shake from the rage he no longer wanted to suppress. That bastard took Ayano. He was going to sacrifice her just like he did Tsui-Ling. It was going to happen all over again. That bastard magician was going to rip his heart out again. Objects in the room began to move around as dark winds began to surround Kazuma. He didn't even notice as he felt his anger grow larger inside him.

"Bernhardt! I will kill you!" he screamed at the ceiling. "If you hurt her I will rip your heart out with my teeth and tear that little slut you created into pieces. Bernhardt!"

Kirika Tachibana, lead detective for Tokyo's Special Investigations Unit, watched Kazuma from just outside the door. She immediately drove over to the compound with lights flashing after Jugo called her. She was very aware of what Kazuma was likely to do when he found out Ayano was missing. Jugo really should have called her before he called Kazuma. Thankfully, she may have arrived just in time.

"Kazuma Yagami!" She had to yell it three times before it registered in his brain. He turned to face her, the winds around him not stopping, but they were no longer picking up speed either. She had to stop him before he stormed out of there or all was lost. The city couldn't handle a repeat of the last time the Contractor raged out of control. She wasn't sure that he would ever recover if it happened again.

The insanity dancing around the edges of his eyes unnerved her a bit, but she pressed on anyway. She walked into the room and took his hand, leading him to sit beside her on the bed.

"Kazuma, listen to me." She spoke softly, as if to a child, or to someone she was trying to talk out of jumping off a building. If she failed here, more than one person was going to die.

"Ayano will be okay. They didn't kill her, right? And no ransom. That means that Bernhardt is probably trying to get this exact reaction from you. He's playing you, Kazuma."

She realized her mistake immediately. As soon as she said that man's name, Kazuma had stiffened. The maddening lights in his eyes dances faster. It was time to play dirty.

"Kazuma. Would Ayano want you to lose control? Remember how she risked her life last year to bring you back to sanity after you almost killed her?"

She watched those insane lights fade from his eyes just before he buried his face in her shoulder. The winds were gone and the room was quiet again. His muffled sobs shocked Kirika. In the years she's known him, he had never shown such a strong emotion, other than anger. It was a good thing that she didn't need to say anything right then because she wouldn't have been able to speak. She always knew he cared for Ayano, but until now she hadn't realized just how much. Maybe old Jugo's matchmaking had worked out after all. She grinned at that and squeezed Kazuma, hoping he could let out some of those raw emotions so they didn't take over his mind.

"I can't lose her, Kirika. This can't happen again. I cannot let it happen again."

She grasped his shoulders firmly and pushed him off her shoulder so he could see her eyes as she spoke. "That magician thinks he can manipulate this whole situation, but the Kazuma Yagami I know would never let him do that. Never. He would think calmly and rationally and then do something that jackass wasn't expecting."

Her voice softened, as she added, "And the Kazuma I know would realize that all his friends will be helping him."

He smiled sheepishly, a little ashamed at his loss of control. Now his eyes showed determination instead of madness.

"Yes, we will find Ayano and bring her back home."

Kazuma walked the streets, trying to think things through. He preferred to fly, but people tended to stare at him when he did and it just irritated him. He figured that walking around would clear his head. He was close, he knew. His tracking skills were leading him towards the red-light district. An area of seedy hotels and abandoned buildings that was usually populated by low-lifes. A perfect area for Bernhardt and his little puppet to carry out whatever evil they were up to without attracting any attention.

Despite assuring Kirika that they would all work together on this, Kazuma didn't keep her in the loop on what he was doing or where he was. He didn't want anyone else involved. If he didn't show up alone, Bernhardt might just kill Ayano and flee. If the bastard wanted a dramatic showdown, then Kazuma would oblige him.

Looking around, he could see the hotel courtyard where Misao Ogami had tried to have him assasinated after having blamed him for the death of her beloved brother. It was a well-planned attack, but the men she hired used guns and not magic. Not enough guns. Eventually, Misao would come to her senses and repent of all the harm she caused, but still, the whole episode was something he would just as soon forget about.

There it was. Next to that courtyard. A slightly run-down abandoned church. The faded sign said "Blessed Lady". This is where Ayano was being held. His first instinct was to barge in and take Bernhardt out immediately, but he remembered what Kirika said about the magician playing him. Bernhardt wanted him to be too angry to think and just crash in there. It would be playing right into his hands. He walked past the church and around the block. He had to think of another way.

She didn't know where she was, but Ayano did understand that she was being held captive in order to lure Kazuma to his death. And she couldn't do anything about it. She remembered trying to get to sleep in her room and then there was a sharp little pain in her neck. Everything went black. Some time later, she found herself laying down somewhere, unable to move or even open her eyes. But she could hear what was going on around her. She could hear Bernhardt and Lapis talk and make their plans. Bernhardt must have cast some kind of spell that kept her in suspended animation. It was so frustrating not being able to do anything!

The parts of their plan that she heard sounded to her as if it might work, but they learned the wrong lessons from the Pandemonium incident last year. Then, Kazuma lost himself in his anger and let it rule his actions. He made many mistakes and hurt a lot of people. But that wasn't the real Kazuma. Not the Kazuma she knew. The man she knew was calm and rational and always had a plan, even if he didn't always tell her what the plan was. The jerk!

She did not doubt for a moment that Kazuma would come for her. They were partners-and maybe more than partners. If their situation was reversed, she would have come for him.

Since she could do nothing else, she prayed. She prayed that Kazuma would come with a plan that wouldn't involve him getting hurt or killed. She prepared herself for that moment when she was able to move again and could help him.

With a gust of wind, the huge church doors blew open so hard that they came off of their hinges. The few pews left in the building blew forward like dominoes, one after the other towards the front. Lapis, in the middle of the room, was knocked over, but quickly stood back up, pointing her massive sword at the door, ready for another attack.

Bernhardt laughed at the uproar. "So predictable, Yagami. You disappoint me. You-" That last word died on his lips as he realized that Kazuma had not entered the building with the blast.

A crash from above alerted the magician just in time to avoid getting crushed by the ceiling debris he was sure was going to fall on his head. Caught by surprise, he didn't have time to throw up a shield. He needn't have worried. He had been standing over Ayano, and there was no way that Kazuma would allow any of the falling wreckage to hurt her. The thought hadn't ocurred to the mage, however, and he was moving purely on reflex. A barrier of wind whipped around the prone Ayano and deflected all the debris away from her. Not one beautiful red hair was disturbed. Exactly as he planned.

The tableau froze for a moment while the combatants measured each other up. The magic practioner stood behind his almost human creation and her massive crystal sword. The wind magic user, meanwhile, stood behind the still form of the fire magic user. Kazuma gently shook Ayano before moving slowly away from her towards the corner of the church. "Wakey, wakey, Ayano. Time to get up, sleepy head."

Bernhardt's concentration had faltered during the dramatic entrance, breaking the sleep spell that held Ayano, and she quickly sat up. A normal sleep would have left her groggy and sluggish, but since this was magic induced, she was already mostly alert. Shaking her head, she began clearing out the remaining cobwebs in her brain.

She realized too late that sitting up had been a mistake, as she discovered that under the sheet she was completely naked! She scrambled to wrap the sheet around her, hiding her chest, face reddening in shame. She would normally accuse Kazuma of causing her state of undress, but since she had been aware during the spell she knew exactly whose fault this was.

While Ayano finished gathering herself, Kazuma hurled wind-knives at Lapis and Bernhardt, one after another. Each wind-knife was destroyed by the sword before it got close to either her or her master.

That was fine with Kazuma. This was just a distraction to give Ayano time to fully recover. He had other plans for the real attack and he needed Ayano for that. Preferably a very angry Ayano.

"I see that you are awake now" 'bout time", he said between air blasts.

"I was 'awake' the whole time, you idiot! I just couldn't move." She couldn't decide whether she wanted to run into his arms in gratitude for coming for her or slapping him upside the head for falling into the obvious trap of this demented duo.

She could see he looked gaunt and a little tired. Could he have been worrying about her? She would find out about that later. They had work to do first.

"You realize that you are naked, right?" The smirk in his voice really made her want to slap him.

"Of course I do, you jerk." She could feel her face flush even more as her anger went up another notch.

"You also realize who took off your clothes, don't you? He probably took more than one peek while he was at it too." He chuckled. She and Kazuma were going to be fighting for their lives here and he was laughing! What is the matter-

Then the meaning of his words hit her. "You PERVERT!" she spat at Bernhardt. "ENRAIHA!" The magical sword of flame that represented her power was instantly in her hand. Her anger spilled out and wreathed her body in flame as she stood pointing her sword at the magician. It wasn't the same as clothes, but it did hide her more private parts from scrutiny. Not that she was thinking about that at the moment...

"Now you'll die, you pervert! Kannagi Flame!" A huge gout of flame shot from Enraiha towards Bernhardt. A flame which was blocked by the crystal sword. The flames kept coming though and Lapis had to expend all her energy just to block them. Just as Kazuma hoped. Kazuma had been throwing air blasts at the magician to keep him busy and unable to assist or counter-attack. The wind blades harmlessly bounced off the magical shield around him.

From his position near the corner of the room, it was obvious that Kazuma had a clear shot at Lapis while she fended off Ayano's attack. He stared daggers at the little sword-wielder as he prepared his attack. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Bernhardt was now preparing a new shield. One to protect Lapis from his next attack. Busy fending off Ayano, there was no way she could block him.

Kazuma strode determinedly towards the girl with the big sword. He needed to be close when he let loose so there would be less time to react and was within ten feet when he let it go. As expected, a shimmering blue tinted shield appeared between the Contractor and Lapis.

Bernhardt realized his mistake too late to do anything about it. The damned wind user's attack was never meant for Lapis. He couldn't turn his shield in time. Bands of wind tore through his torso while another sliced the head from his shoulders. A satisfied snarl came from Kazuma as he watched the lifeless body and head fall to the floor.

"Master!" With great effort, the girl swatted the last of the flames Ayano had thrown at her and plunged her sword toward Kazuma's gut. He couldn't avoid it in time, but at least the strike was off-center. He felt the blade slide into him and through his back. A center strike with a blade that wide would have killed him instantly. He now got the privilege of dying slowly. The end would remain the same though. There was a certain irony in dying at the hands of a being that contained the remaining essence of his dead love. Or perhaps it was simply a circle that was now complete. Who knew? He likely wouldn't have much time to ponder it before he died. Ayano was probably going to be really pissed at him about it too.

Cold purple eyes stared into cold blue ones. Lapis attempted to pull the blade back out to block what she must know would be a counter attack from Ayano when Ayano got over the shock of seeing Kazuma struck, but Kazuma grabbed the blade and held if fast. She couldn't move it. He could see in her eyes right then that she knew she was going to die and there was nothing she could do about it. Her chilly smile told him that if she was going, then she was going to take him with her.

She began to twist the blade and he heard somebody scream. It took Kazuma a moment to realize that it was him. The scream cut off abruptly as his breath left him.


"You BITCH!", Ayano screamed. Seeing that crystal weapon going through her Kazuma-it felt as if the weapon was piercing her own heart. A piece of her died in that moment, but she didn't have time to grieve now. She stopped thinking. She became rage incarnate. The Crimson Flame was the embodiment of that rage and it engulfed her and Lapis instantly. Its glare so intense that the rest of the room seemed to disappear. All there was in the world was that all-encompassing flame as a fiery angel of vengeance now stood in the center of the room.

A sickly smile appeared on the swordswoman who was now wreathed in flames as she gave a final twist of her blade and calmly commanded "Die with me, lover." Kazuma kept her gaze as he responded, his voice hoarse, "You-are not-my lover. The woman I love-will kill you." Her hands fell off the handle of the blade as she began to fall.

Kazuma and Lapis hit the floor at the same time, like puppets tied with the same string. Except one puppet had six feet of crystal through his gut while the other was a charred and smoking husk.

As quickly as it appeared, the flames were gone. Naked again and not giving it a thought, Ayano knelt by Kazuma, tears streaming down her face. He lay on his side, the swordblade running through him was a sharp contrast to his dark clothes. His eyes were closed and a small trickle of blood fell from the corner of his mouth to the floor. To her surprise, he was still breathing, though barely.

She needed help. She had to get Kazuma some medical attention quickly. She rummaged through his jacket and took his phone out. All she had when she had been abducted was her pajamas. Her phone was still at home. She could see those pajamas on the floor underneath the altar. As she opened the phone, she scrambled over and gathered the PJs. She dressed herself as she went to the door and hurriedly peeked out to see where she was. She knew she was in a church, but there were churches all over the city. She had to know which one before she called for help.

Ayano was quite proud of herself for keeping her composure after all that. Kazuma would be proud. He had been training her to keep her emotions in check during an emergency so she could think things through and act rationally. She had begun to shake a little, but she managed to dial the phone anyway. Her fingers moved on autopilot and she had no idea who she was calling, she just knew the phone was ringing on the other end.

Finally, someone answered. It was her father. Thank goodness! He would help Kazuma. He had to.

"Kazuma? Are you alright? Did you find Ayano? Kazuma, are you there?"

What was he talking about? Oh, she was using Kazuma's phone and her father had recognized the number. She had forgotten.

She tried to calmly explain what had happened and that they needed help, but a glance at the unmoving Kazuma laying on the floor in a puddle of his own blood finally undid her. He was dying. How could this happen? He might be already dead. Did he stop breathing? The next thing she knew she was kneeling on the floor again next to Kazuma, her hand gently stroking his hair and screaming at him not to die.

"Don't leave me. Please, Kazuma. Don't leave me! Do you hear me, you jerk!" All the energy left her body suddenly and she collapsed, her fingers still entwined in his hair.

"Ayano! AYANO! Calm down and tell me where you are!"

She heard her father's voice, but it sounded tiny and far away. Her head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, but she managed to lifted it and saw the phone a on the ground at her feet. She must have dropped it. She picked it up without taking her hand from Kazuma's head, sure that if she let him go that he would leave her. His breaths were still shallow, but he was still alive. She had to be strong for him as he always was for her.

"Father. We're at the church near where Misao tried to kill-Kazuma." She dropped the phone from lifeless fingers and layed back down next to Kazuma, waiting for help. Or oblivion. She didn't really care which.

"Well, our little play is complete. Did you enjoy the show, Lapis?"

"Yes, my master, but I don't understand. The plan failed. Why are you smiling?"

"Any time you can learn more about an enemy, you gain an advantage. Today we learned what strategy our dear Yagami and his little girlfriend would use to defeat us. The next time we fight, they will be unable to use it again. They will have to think of something else."

"Come, Lapis, we have other performances to plan for. We will meet those two again some other time."

He got up and began to walk down the dark corridor, his pretty little assistant matching his steps despite her smaller size.

"Now that I have told you all this, little one, what do you think of our little drama now?"

She looked up at him and thought for a moment. "I didn't care for the ending, my master."

Bernhardt's laugh echoed down the hallway.

"Ren! Do you have Detective Tachibana on the other line? Good, give it to me."

"Yes, Kazuma found her. I just got a call from her, but listen, Kazuma is badly hurt and Ayano sounds like she is in shock. They are at the Blessed Lady Church. Please use your authority to get them medical assistance immediately. Yes, I'll wait."

"They are on the way? Good. It would be good if you could go there too, Kirika. Ayano didn't sound well and I think she needs someone to talk to."

"Please call me when you find out what happened. Thank you."

Jugo hung up the phone and turned to an ashen faced and clearly frightened Ren. He hadn't wanted Ren to hear anything until the whole situation was known, but there was no help for it. He needed Ren to contact Kirika while he tried to get Ayano to talk.

"What can I do? I'll do anything for Ayano and my brother. Please let me help."

"Ren, I need you to find Ayano's friends. Yukari and Nanase. I need you to find them and tell them to go to the hospital. Then I need you to come back here and assist me as I make some arrangements. Do you understand? This is very important."

"Yes, I understand, Jugo. I will go now." He turned and ran from the room, dialing his phone as he went.

At the hospital...

Yukari was really worried. Glancing at Nanase, she could tell that she was just as worried. Sitting on either side of Ayano, each of them holding one of her hands, they tried to comfort their red-haired friend, but they couldn't seem to get through. All she would do is stare straight ahead. No tears, no emotion. She hadn't spoken since they arrived. Yukari and Nanase had sat with her, telling her over and over that everything would be fine and that they were there for her. No response. At least they managed to get her out of those pajamas and into her normal clothes.

The only response they got from her came when a nurse stopped by and decided that Ayano needed to be treated for shock and she would be moved to a room to recover and be examined. Ayano's expression never changed as her eyes continued staring straight ahead, but as she lifted one of her hands an intense fireball appeared in it. "No". The nurse scurred away in fear. Flame gone, Ayano let her hand drop and Yukari grabbed it again. She was very surprised that the hand that was just on fire was now cold. That was half an hour ago.

Kazuma had been sent to surgery almost an hour ago and no one had come out to give them any information on his condition. Getting news on his condition was probably the only thing that Ayano would respond to, but every time they asked at the desk, they were rebuffed. They were informed that it was hospital policy to only speak to relatives of the patient.

The girls had run out of ideas to help their friend when Jugo entered the waiting room. He took one look at his daughter and nodded his head once as he strode toward her, stopping right in front of her unblinking eyes. He clapped his hands loudly and shouted "Ayano!"

She blinked once, very slowly, but as she began to blink faster her tears began to fall and she jumped up into her father's arms.

"Father! He's dying! And I never got tell him. I'll never get to tell him! Help him, please!"

Jugo held his daughter tenderly as she cried into his shoulder. He looked over her head to smile at her friends. He mouthed "thank you" at them and they smiled back, their tears flowing as freely as Ayano's now. The two girls stood up and excused themselves to go freshen up and give father and daughter a little privacy.

In the bathroom...

The girls blew their noses and washed their faces and checked themselves in the mirror. Now they felt relieved and refreshed. They had agreed that they would stay with their friend for as long as she needed them, so they needed to be at their best.

"Yukari, why do you think it took Jugo so long to get here?"

"I don't know, but I can guess. He probably called in some favors and got the best doctors in Japan to attend Kazuma. You know how you always tease me about my vast array of contacts? Well, Jugo Kannagi puts my network to shame."

They both laughed. It was the first time all night that they did, and it felt really good. They left the restroom smiling, anxious to get back to their friend to cheer her up.

"He knows, Ayano."

"But, father, it's not the same as my telling him. I want to tell him. I need to tell him."

"I understand, but it will have to wait until after Kazuma is out of surgery. He doesn't listen very well when he's awake and I doubt he does better when he is asleep."

For the first time in forever, Ayano laughed a little. Her friends entered the room and, thrilled to see Ayano finally starting to act like herself, ran to hug her, drowning her in bodies. "Hey!" In response they just squeezed her harder. Finally, they let her go and took their positions on either side of her again and held her hands. This time, Ayano gripped their hands too.

Yukari watched out of the corner of her eye as Jugo walked up to a nurse and a man in doctor's scrubs who had just walked in. Jugo shook hands with the doctor before that man turned and walked into surgery. She couldn't hear what they said, but she did see the doctor's nametag. It said Dr. Ikari. Just as she told Nanase, Jugo had pulled some major strings to get that man to come in. He was one of the best and most exclusive surgeons in the country, if not the world.

She couldn't wait to tell Ayano. She would feel so much better.

The next afternoon in Kazuma's room...

"Why are you mad at me, again?" Kazuma was still a little groggy from surgery last night and sleeping through the morning, but even when he was wide awake Ayano managed to get his head spinning. When he woke up (and no one was more surprised at that than he was), he found Ayano sitting in a chair beside his bed, staring at him as she held onto his hand. She hadn't let it go since. She also insisted on holding his water up to his lips when he was thirsty or insisting that he eat something. Hospital food. Yuck. The food tray had been pushed into a corner of the room.

"I'm mad at you for walking into that obvious trap, you moron." She still hadn't told him her feelings for him. Nor had he told her about his feelings. Jugo had assured her that he loved her, but that wasn't the same. A girl had to hear these things from the man she cared about. Now that the doctors told them that it would take time, but he would recover, she thought it over and decided that he needed to tell her first. Wasn't that the way it was supposed to be? Stubborn man! She'd hoped for a declaration of undying love, but this was Kazuma we were talking about here. She'd take what she could get. There was no reason she couldn't nudge him in the correct direction, though, was there?

For now, it was time to talk business. She still had a bad feeling about all of this, but she couldn't put her finger on why.

"So, Bernhardt and that little witch of his are finally gone, huh? We finally beat them for good."

"No, I don't think so. That was too easy. Rhodes would have put up much more of a fight. I think all we beat were a couple of dopplegangers."

"Dopplegangers? What's that?"

"Well, it's a duplicate of someone. A magician can make one that looks and acts like himself. The problem is that the magician has to use part of his soul to create one. Then there's the fact that the duplicate is never 'exactly' like the original. There's always some flaw in it. Did you notice that he didn't give one of his overly dramatic speeches while we were fighting? That is so unlike the scumbag. And when Lapis was skewering me, she showed a lot more emotion, cold as it was, while she was doing it. Very unlike her. No, I don't think we've seen the last of Rhodes, Lapis or Almagest."

Ayano had gotten very quiet during his explanation and he looked over at her.

"Ayano, what is it?" Her face had turned pink and she couldn't look at him. Something was bothering her.

"I-I was just thinking about what you said to Lapis, there at the end and I.."

He thought about it a moment and said, "You mean that the woman I love was about to kill her?" Ayano nodded, but said nothing.

He reached over and lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes. "Well, that's exactly what happened, isn't it? The woman I love really did kill Lapis."

Ayano's eyes glistened with unshed tears as she smiled at him. She'd been in tears for like forever lately. She hoped it would stop soon or Kazuma would think she was turning sappy. Well, she would worry about that later. She would probably be yelling at him before the day was out anyway. Just not right now.

His blue eyes were serious as he gazed into hers. "But what I need to know, Ayano, is whether the woman that loves me is the one who killed Lapis?"

Her countenance brightened and she gave him a wicked smile. "Oh yes. The woman that loves you burned that little monster to a crisp. I saw it with my own eyes."

"I also noticed" said Kazuma, "that she did it without any clothes on. Pretty sexy, huh?"

She tried to glare at him, but she just couldn't manage to put too much feeling into it. "Kazuma, you pervert!"

The End.