You know what? I hate html.I wish I was doing almost anything else.Like getting laid. I could be having sex right now, but noooo.I watched Utena lose her virginity again this weekend.That scene is so hot.The fine line between obsession and madness is... what was I saying?GIRL ON GIRL ACTION!!!I want that outfit. I like red and black. What a surprise.This layout took forever to get just right. But that was because I took so many breaks.I never ate glue in kindergarten. Hard to tell, huh?Gio keeps talking about food. What a bitch.LEGS.See, I'm being productive. Now if only I could do this at work, where productive is just a dream...GODDAMMIT STOP TALKING ABOUT FOODYou know, those are the only important things in life. Food, sex, and sleep.Everything else is just window dressing.I have to clean my house still. That sucks.I hate cleaning. I should buy maids.I want to go to a museum, but I don't want to get out of my jammies.I suck at being energetic.Funny, you don't look Druish.


If I Could - Chapter Six


Waking up was a languorous process, not to be interrupted by anything. Kohana soon remembered where she was, whose bed she was in, and it disrupted that process. Kiryuu was gone. She hadn't overslept, had she?

Listening for any sound, she heard soft murmurs coming from the sitting room. Kiryuu's purring voice sounded strangely less seductive than usual. She couldn't quite make out the words, though, so she crept from the bed as silently as she could. As she drew nearer the door to the sitting room, she began to make out pieces of the conversation.

"...I said, everything is well in hand." A pause. "Last night was quite trying for her. If nothing else, she deserves a period of rest." Another silence. He was talking about her. Who was he talking to? "Are you certain of that?"

A phone conversation, then. With Arisugawa, or Saionji?

"I think not." Another pause, longer this time. "No. I won't be a part of it."

Won't be a part of what? Come on, Kiryuu, let down your guard for once!

"I know, but the others won't approve either. We should take this slowly. We have the time, and it will take time to turn out a perfect replacement."

So they were molding her, shaping her into—what? What did the perfect Seitokaicho need to be? Manipulative, but she was already that. A swordsman—she would work on that as hard as she'd ever worked on anything. Intelligent, but that came naturally. What more was needed?

"She's here now. You didn't think I would leave her alone, did you?" So he'd planned on taking her home with him all along, either that or staying at her place. From his point of view, it made sense. Naturally, that would have fostered trust—if she'd been anyone else. He'd probably known that, however... so there was another reason. Sex, yes, but that didn't require her to stay all night.

Could he have hoped that she would confide in him a little more, as she had? If so, she’d been played as well as she’d played him. That was not pleasing in the least. Scowling at her mistake, Kohana silently added that to Kiryuu’s list of transgressions and vowed to be more careful in the future. He was dangerous.

Kiryuu's voice suddenly changed, became edged with anger. "I know that. Don't push me, or I might just forget it."

All right, that was interesting. But it was time to back away, before Kiryuu hung up the phone. She inched back to the bed and crawled in. What was it that Kiryuu was so angry about? Listening to the soft murmur that she couldn't make anything out of, she decided that she'd have to keep an eye out for anyone who might know. She really needed to talk to Naoko and see if her guess was right and Saionji might be a friend of his.

In a few moments, she was almost asleep again. The warm, fuzzy space between sleep and wakefulness soothed her troubled mind, and she was considering skipping the morning when she felt a weight on the bed beside her. Kiryuu, of course.

He sat for a few moments, not moving. What was he doing?

She felt him lift a lock of her hair, and then his finger stroked along her cheekbone. His nail bit slightly in, scraping in a way that would have given her the shivers if she hadn't been pretending to be asleep.

She concentrated on breathing slowly and evenly.

"Kohana. It's morning."

Shifting, she frowned a little. She didn't really want to get up anymore.

"Not a morning person? I’d prefer to sleep in too, but we have things to do today."

A little growl escaped her, and she snuggled further into the warm covers.

Laughing quietly, she heard a rustle of material, and then felt him draw the sheet down over her shoulder. She made a half-hearted attempt to pull it back, but then his weight was stretched out alongside her and he was kissing her shoulder lightly. As he mouthed his way down to the side of her neck, she stretched out languidly, thinking that this wasn't such a bad way to be woken. The blankets were pulled open for a moment, sending a wash of cool air in that made her shiver, but soon his warm body was beside her. He continued his attention to her neck, adding the delicate scrape of his fingernails along her side.

Sighing happily, she pressed herself up against him, enjoying the warmth and the attention. He was hardening already. Good. They really shouldn't be delaying like this when they had to go to school... but it wasn't like they would get in trouble for it. Without opening her eyes, she ran her hand slowly along his side, down the curve of his lean buttock, and squeezed it gently, pulling him as close as possible.

"We wake up aggressive, do we?" he chuckled into her neck. The very tip of his tongue traced the line of her jaw up to her chin, and then flicked her bottom lip. In response, she hooked her leg around his, pressing herself hard against his cock.

This had an unexpected effect. Kiryuu lazily seized her arms and rolled her onto her back, capturing her lips with his and kissing her more thoroughly than she'd ever been kissed in her life. Her eyes flew open in delighted shock. She couldn't help but return that kiss, nipping his mouth sharply and sucking on his tongue. Their ardor only exploded from there. Hands eagerly fondling each other, mouths locked together, they were completely bent on exploiting the little time they had before they had to go to school.

Kiryuu's hand squeezed in between their bodies, easily finding her clit and stroking it, if not coarsely, then less tenderly than usual. The lack of softness was exactly what she wanted this morning. Kohana moaned into his mouth as her body began to thrum with the beginnings of a climax. It only spurred him on; his fingers worked faster, harder, and just as she reached her peak, he slid one inside her.

Time stretched out and then snapped as her body trembled and she groaned. He was still as she rode the waves of it, completely still except for his breathing. Once she'd come back to herself, he started to work his finger inside her, slowly at first, but picking up speed. It felt as if she was burning alive in some rapturous fire, sensations licking up her spine like flames on a trail of gasoline. In moments she was finding it hard to breathe, so consumed was she by the exquisite feelings he could so easily evoke, and her mind and body screamed for more. Pulling herself up along him, she forced his hand away from her and plunged down on his cock before he could stop her.

This was definitely the way to wake up.

His arms wrapped around her and he bit lightly down on her bottom lip, preventing her from breaking the kiss as he rolled over onto his back. Once there, one hand entangled itself in her hair, holding her to him while he began to ravish her mouth again, and the other flew to her hip to guide her rhythm. It took very little to push her over the edge again, and as she came, she clamped her internal muscles down on him, forcing him to feel every pulse and contraction. He bit at her lips almost savagely, thrusting up into her and prolonging her orgasm. When she began to move again, he moved with her, helping her add force to her thrusts. His fingers dug into her hip almost cruelly hard; it was only more fuel for the conflagration.

His thrusts began to take on a desperate quality. Straining to reach another orgasm before he did, Kohana slid an arm between them, rubbing her clit in time with their movement. The raging flames built higher, soaring upward, and as he stiffened and bit down on her lip in orgasm, she stroked herself furiously. Kiryuu's hand clamped down on her breast, pinching the nipple.

That was enough. Her body convulsed, little firebursts racing through her, and she cried out in delirium. Shuddering, she collapsed.

As her head gradually cleared, she heard him ask, "Are you awake yet?" His voice was thick with passion.

"Not any more," she muttered, dragging the blankets up around them.

Laughing, he pushed her up into a sitting position. "We need to shower. It's time to get up."

She wrinkled her nose in distaste, but cracked an eye open. "I'm up. Sort of." He was wearing a broad grin. Slowly she pulled herself off of him, the bottom of her stomach dropping out at the feeling of him sliding out of her, and unsteadily stood at the edge of the bed. He, too, got up, walking toward the bathroom.

At the door, he paused. "Would you like to shower alone, or do you want me to join you?"

Stumbling, she walked over to the bathroom. "Join me if you like," she muttered, and stifled a yawn.

"Definitely not a morning person," he said mockingly.

Her only response was a growl. Mornings made her sick. Glancing in the mirror didn't make things any better; her lips had that swollen 'I just got the fuck of my life and this is proof' look to them and her curly hair was a wild tangle.

Kiryuu was right behind her, looking sleepy and smug. She took some comfort from the fact that his hair was mussed and his lips were swollen too.

He was very good while in the shower, not teasing her any more than she could handle, and 'helping' her wash spots she'd 'missed'. Naturally, she was busy doing the same. By the time they got out, she was almost fully awake, and almost ready to take him back to bed. After she'd dried and dressed, she felt human again. A frustrated, lust-filled human, but human nonetheless. They went downstairs so that he could get something to eat while she had her morning coffee.

"You should keep some clothes over here. I have the feeling this is going to happen again," he said as they walked out to the motorcycle.

"Am I moving in with you now?" she asked tartly.

"What makes you think that?" He smiled at her and pulled on his helmet. "Put your gloves on."

Grumbling, she obeyed. Her lips felt tender. And they were already late for school. Couldn't they just have skipped?

Once at school, Kiryuu escorted her to her first class, where he spoke to the teacher about her 'Seitokai duties'. Watanabe understood, of course, and he would be glad to give assignments to her through Sakura. Kohana gazed uninterestedly around the room, giving Sakura a little smile, and then agreed to see Watanabe if she was having any problems, especially with all of her new duties to consider.

The students in the room stared at her, full of awe and envy.

It went exactly the same as she visited the rest of her teachers. Kiryuu spoke with them for a while, arranging it so that she didn't actually have to show up for classes while the other students gaped at her new uniform. Kiryuu seemed to have her schedule memorized; he didn't once ask which teacher she had for any of her classes. This irked her just a little. Of course, he'd been studying her for a while to see if she'd be a good assistant to him, but did he really have to memorize all of her teachers?

After they were finished, standing outside the last classroom, he turned to her and asked, "Fencing or kendo?" His voice echoed slightly in the empty hall.

"What was the style you used?" she asked. This was something she'd been wondering about.

One of the scarlet brows rose, as if he was surprised. "Kendo."

Giving him a derisive little smile, she said, "Not everyone cares enough to find out, Kiryuu."

"I thought you were calling me Touga." He chuckled.

"Maybe." She considered the options. She hadn't been to see Naoko yet, and Kiryuu had said that Saionji was going to teach her one of the styles. "Who teaches fencing?"

The corner of his mouth quirked up. "Juri." That must have seemed like a sort of insult. How upsetting. Kiryuu waited for her to reply, and then continued, "You haven't paid much attention to the school's sword clubs, have you?"

"I never had reason to, before." Kohana would have scowled at her bad luck, but she carefully kept her face in the neutral smirk she was wearing. She’d have to take a gamble—that Saionji would be whatever passed for one of Kiryuu’s friends. She began to walk in the direction of the kendo hall, letting Kiryuu catch up to her.

"The fencing hall is that way," he said, pointing.

She smiled sweetly at him. "I'm not taking fencing."

Laughing, he said, "Morning truly doesn’t agree with you."

The kendo hall wasn't too far away. When they got there, Saionji was practicing, thin beams of sunlight falling in stripes over him, his bare feet soundless on the polished wooden floor and his practice sword moving easily through various strikes. Kiryuu watched him for a few moments, silent. As for Kohana, she was watching him too, admiring the curve of his throat, the green curls pulled back into a ponytail high on his head, and his bright purple eyes. Every strike was precise, no wasted movement. This style had its grace, she supposed, but that wasn't why she wanted to take it. Saionji was Kiryuu's possible confidant. And he was a fine specimen of seventeen-year-old male. Perhaps he'd be interested in a little more than teaching her the sword.

As he finished, he turned to Kiryuu. "Seitokaicho."


"I see you've brought your plaything. Is she here to watch us duel?" He didn't even look at her. Oh, she was going to love having him beg for her.

Before Kiryuu could answer, she said, "Saionji-sempai, I’ve come to ask if you’ll teach me kendo."

Saionji slowly looked at her, his eyes skimming her body, and then looked away, waiting for an answer from Kiryuu.

If possible, he was more infuriating than Kiryuu could be.

"She is here to learn," Kiryuu said, his voice more amused than it had a right to be.

"Why should I care? Take her to Juri." Saionji turned away, and began to practice again.

"Charming fellow," Kohana muttered.

Kiryuu just laughed. "I'll talk to him." He glanced back at Saionji. "Fukukaicho."

"Yes?" Saionji sounded almost bored, but his voice was tinged with annoyance. He continued to practice.

"It's your duty to teach her."

"Go to Juri. She can learn to fence. It only becomes my duty if there is no one else." His arms came down in a particularly vicious strike, and then he paused. Glancing back at Kiryuu, he said, "Take your toy someplace else. I want no part of this."

Kiryuu sighed, glancing at Kohana. "You refuse your duty?"

"If it comes to that, I do. Teach her yourself. You seem to have no problems teaching her other things." Underneath the bored, condescending tone, Kohana caught a hint of something else. Saionji seemed almost as if he was accusing Kiryuu of something. He walked over to one of the bins and dropped his practice sword. Without turning around to face them, he said, "I have no use for a student whose mind and body are rotting around her."

That was more than enough of that. Whatever qualms he had about teaching her, he didn’t have to be insulting. Kohana scowled and said, "You obviously have no use for common courtesy either. If your manners are any indication of your teaching, perhaps I’d be better off learning the sword on my own."

"Someone like you doesn’t deserve courtesy. If you’re done here, you might as well leave. I don’t care whether you ever learn to swordfight or not—it’s not my problem." Saionji threw a disdainful glance over his shoulder at them, obviously expecting them to leave.

As Kohana started forward, she felt Kiryuu lay a restraining hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps it would be best if Juri taught you. I regret that I can’t spare the time to do it myself, but—"

"I’m equally sorry, Kiryuu-sempai. I might have accepted you as a teacher, but since you don’t have the time, I’m afraid I’ll have to suffer Saionji-sempai’s teaching instead." Kohana smiled at Kiryuu, and then shrugged off his hand and walked over to where Saionji was standing. "It’s your problem now."

Saionji glanced at her, sullen anger in his eyes, and said, "Juri or even Miki can teach you. You may leave."

"Neither of them can teach me if I won’t learn from them. I want to learn kendo—I don’t want to learn to dance and call it sword fighting." Kohana smirked derisively. Miki hadn’t made that bad a showing at the duel—graceful and precise, something she admired—but she knew well that everyone who loved something, no matter how open-minded they tried to be, felt an evil little sense of glee when the object of their love was compared favorably to a rival. And she didn’t happen to think that Saionji was particularly open-minded.

True, his eyes softened a bit and the anger died back, but he snapped, "It’s rather hypocritical of you to reprimand others for having bad manners, isn’t it? You shouldn’t speak that way of your senior members’ sword style."

"Everyone makes mistakes," Kohana answered smoothly, not a hint of embarrassment in her voice. "I must say, though, I was impressed by the strength in Kiryuu-sempai’s style. The winner of the duel was clear from the beginning. I decided then that I’d like to learn kendo—fencing is pretty, but too delicate. It doesn’t have the power that kendo has."

"Kendo is a very ancient and noble school of sword fighting. It takes talent and dedication far beyond that which most people are willing to give. To learn it, you must be willing to give up many hours of your time to training." Saionji’s eyes weren’t really looking at her anymore—he was looking with fondness on his training. Obviously he had dedicated himself to kendo above all else. Suddenly, he seemed to realize whom he was speaking to, and immediately withdrew. "I doubt you have the self-control for it, and you certainly don’t have the physical strength. Whatever muscle you might have is of no use when sword fighting." He sneered, looking her over once again, and it was clear what he was referring to.

All Kohana could do was stare at him for a moment, utterly stunned. No one spoke to her that way! Behind her, she heard Touga say, "Saionji, if you—"

The sharp crack of her open palm hitting Saionji’s cheek cut him off. He stepped backward his arm half-raised as if to hit her back, but Kohana saw a flash of something she couldn’t interpret in his eyes before he dropped his arm. It was nowhere near enough to save him from the tongue-lashing he was about to get. "What would you know about it?" Kohana said icily. "You don’t know anything about me besides what you’ve been told. If you want the truth, I don’t especially like you either, but I came here because I wanted to learn the sword style that I admired from someone who was good at it. If you don’t appreciate that compliment, you can ignore it and politely tell me that you’re not taking on any more students, but don’t insult me to my face and expect me to pretend that I don’t hear it."

"What I don’t appreciate is being forced to agree to something I don’t want to do," Saionji growled in reply, rubbing his injured cheek. "If you want an apology for the insult, look somewhere else. I don’t see how taking you on as a student will benefit either of us."

"This is your own fault, Saionji," Touga said quietly. "Your stubbornness has gotten the better of you once again. I would advise that you take her on, if only because accepting a female student will increase the respect of the other students, not to mention the level of dedication if you should allow her to join the kendo club. You can no longer refuse—accept with some dignity." He stepped forward, a cold warning in his eyes.

Saionji rounded angrily on Touga, glaring at him with poisonous anger, but he finally nodded. "All right. If she can meet my standards, she can stay. But I will expect her to show that she does have self-control when it comes to practicing on her own and showing up for lessons."

Touga did not reply. Instead, he gestured to Kohana. Saionji glanced down at her then, obviously not intending to repeat himself, and waited for her answer.

"Any insult you may have given me is now forgotten," Kohana said frostily. "I’ll leave you to judge for yourself whether I have the dedication and talent needed to succeed."

Eyeing her warily, Saionji grudgingly nodded his head. "Fine." He picked a practice sword from one of the bins and handed it to her. Glancing sharply at Kiryuu, he said, "You can leave now, Touga. You have what you want."

"Kyouichi—" A strange expression crossed Touga's face, as if there were many things he could have said. Without saying any of them, he turned and walked out of the hall.

"First, we will work on stance." Saionji walked over to her, adjusting the way she was standing, roughly kicking her feet further apart and positioning her hands on the grip of the practice sword.

Lessons with Saionji were not by any means easy. He demanded nothing less than perfection, and he swiftly grew angry at any sign of weakness on her part. Kohana did her best, absolutely determined to become a capable duelist in the shortest amount of time possible, but the only regular exercise she'd gotten before was sex, and he rubbed her face in every flaw.

They did break for lunch, and she was glad of the rest. She was worn out already from all of the exercises he had put her through, and her uniform was sticking to her sweaty body. Saionji's snarling at her every time she made a mistake hadn't improved her mood, and though she decided that she disliked him, she became even more set on making him her pet. It would only be fitting that the arrogant smirk her wore when he watched her change to the utter adoration she knew she could evoke in the right position.

At lunch, she joined Sakura and Ichida, sweaty and messy, perturbed. Her lips were still the slightest bit swollen, and they were tender. It was as if Kiryuu had marked her. The thought put a scowl on her face as she sat down, keeping her eye out for Naoko. It wasn't any of Kiryuu's business to mark her as his; could what Ohtori had said be true?

"Someone looks unhappy," Sakura said, a slight jolt in her train of thought. "Was he a waste of time?"

"Who?" she asked absently.

"Whoever it was. Was it the Seitokaicho?" Sakura asked, flipping her pale blonde curls over her shoulder.

"Saionji." At Sakura's look of shock, Kohana realized that they weren't exactly talking about the same thing. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention. I've been with Saionji all morning, learning kendo."

"Huh? You've been learning how to swordfight instead of—never mind. It's a requirement, isn't it?" Sakura's eyes traveled over her, dismayed at her state. Kohana decided that she should probably clean herself up a bit.

"You could say that." Thinking quickly, Kohana added, "It's kind of a mark of dignity, like we have respect for old traditions. It's not officially a requirement." Tugging open the throat of her uniform, she sighed and fanned her throat with her hand. "And it's made me all sweaty. I need a bath."

"You should go easier on yourself. After all, it's not like you have to be an expert," Ichida put in. How little he knew.

Kohana smiled, stretching out on the grass. "I want to learn. I never thought I'd enjoy being on the Student Council, but it's like it was meant for me." She caught sight of Naoko, walking nearby. "Naoko! Over here!" she called.

The girl glanced around, her face reflecting happiness at being called over once she saw that it was Kohana who’d called her. She trotted over, her honey colored hair tossing in its two pigtails. She really did remind one of a cute little puppy, always happy and eager to please. "Hi, Kohana! That uniform really looks good on you."

"Thank you." Kohana inclined her head graciously, gesturing to a spot near her. "Are you busy?"

"No, not at all." Of course not. They never were when she wanted them. "You've got to tell me if this rumor I heard is true..."

"What rumor is that?" Amused, Kohana wondered exactly how many rumors she and Kiryuu had started.

"I heard that Touga-sama's been ignoring everyone else for you. Some of the girls who have his cell phone number say it's been turned off ever since he met you, and everyone's been wondering whether you two are going out." She made a face. "He won't give anyone a straight answer about it."

Kohana laughed, waving her hand in dismissal. "We've been busy with Seitokai business, mostly. I promise you, we're not going out. I haven't even seen him since he spoke to my teachers for me this morning."

"Isn't he meeting you for lunch again?" Naoko didn't bother to hide her envious look.

"You saw that, huh? Well, we were just discussing the advantages of being a Council member. That was actually when he convinced me to join." Strangely enough, it was the truth. Naoko wouldn’t think of it that way, of course, but it was still the truth. In any case, she wasn't necessarily trying to escape the rumor mill—they could think what they liked about whatever ‘relationship’ was going on.

"Ah, I see." Naoko raised an eyebrow, playfully suspicious, but didn’t comment further.

Choosing her words for impact, she said, "Naoko, how could we be going out? I know that he likes to flirt and that he's the Seitokaicho. Other than that, I don't know anything, not where he lives, whether he has any interests besides flirting, who his friends are—"

"You don't even know that?" Naoko's tone was sharp with amazement. "He's been best friends with Saionji-sama since they were young. Haven't you ever seen the crowd in front of the kendo hall?"


"They fight duels every so often. Touga looks wonderful with his hair tied back and his keikogi open down the front..." The girl trailed off into a dreamy little sigh.

"He knows kendo?" Kohana asked blankly. Sakura glanced at her, eyes full of amusement. She would have to explain later that she didn't want people thinking she was very close to Kiryuu. It would add to the confusion for people to hear all of these contradicting rumors.

"Oh, you're impossible, Kohana. You've got to come and see them sometime. They're awesome!" She clapped her hands together, eyes alight with memory.

Kohana shrugged. "Maybe I'll see them sometime. Saionji's teaching me."

Glancing at her with surprise, Naoko said, "Really? I didn't think you'd go in for something so hard, Kohana. Last I heard you were concentrating on painting." She shook her head. "You're so lucky, to get to be Touga-sama's assistant. If you work at it, you'll be the new Seitokaicho. Keep me in mind when you are." She giggled, a girlishly cute sound. It grated on Kohana's nerves now that she had no further use for the girl.

"I will." She stretched out and leaned back on the cool grass, savoring the tickle against her skin. Naoko began to converse animatedly with Sakura and Ichida, happy to be included in their little group for a while. Kohana's eyes drifted closed. It felt so good to be in the warm sunlight and the cool breeze after such a long practice session. Sakura made some remark about Kohana being tired after practice to explain away the languor she showed. That was fine with her. The leaves rustling in the breeze and the babble of conversations around them were so soothing...

The next thing she remembered was a light touch on her arm. "I hate to wake her but..."

Oh, she remembered that raw silk voice. Yes indeed. She opened her eyes, instantly awake and very interested.

He was seated on the grass beside her. "Hoshigawa Kohana-san. I felt that I had to see the student that the Seitokai members speak so highly of." His presence was completely different than it had been the night before. Now he was almost unassuming, though no one who looked like that could ever be completely unobtrusive. It put her guard up; Ohtori too was more than he showed, as she had suspected. "I'm Ohtori Akio."

"It's good to finally meet you, Rijichou," she said, taking her cue from him. "I'm glad that the Student Council has seen fit to include me, and I promise to try to keep the high standards they've set."

"So serious," he laughed. "You don't look like a serious person." There was no hint of the sensual man she'd seen last night. A dangerous person, then. Someone who could change their demeanor so easily was always dangerous.

"Some things are worth being serious about." She smiled at him, glad that it came naturally.

"She's just tired, Rijichou. Saionji's been teaching her kendo, and he's been awfully hard on her. You should have seen the mess she was when she came out for lunch. It was like someone had made her run laps around the school all morning," Sakura laughed. "When she's not so tired, she'll be her usual self."

Apparently he'd already put Sakura, Naoko, and Ichida well at ease. That distantly disturbed her, but she shrugged it off. They could take care of themselves.

White teeth glinted against milk chocolate skin as he smiled at Sakura. "I'll have to speak to him about that. We don't want the Seitokaicho's assistant too worn out to do her duty."

Kohana sat up, irritated at the suggestion and masking it behind her usual poise. "No, please don't. I'm fine. Once I get used to the pace, I'm sure I'll be able to handle it better."

Ohtori smiled at her, and she caught a glimpse of the seductiveness he'd shown last night. Only a glimpse, though. "I'm glad to hear it. I was hoping you would have the time to discuss some business with me, but if you're so busy, I'll wait. It's not urgent."

"I would be glad to speak to you now, though I don't want to be late for practice." If she left it up to him, would he settle for a quick encounter? She thought not.

Laughing, Ohtori shook his head. "Another time would be best. I'm afraid I have plans for a rather lengthy discussion with you." He stood gracefully and nodded to them. "I'll let you get back to your lunch, Hoshigawa-san."

Rather lengthy indeed... Hopefully a few days long. "I hope to see you soon, Rijichou."

"Please, call me Akio. There's no need for formality when we'll be working so closely."

"All right, Akio-san." The man was a master of innocent sounding innuendo. Forget that, he was just a master of innuendo. The most innocent words could be turned into an erotic suggestion in his voice. As he walked off, Kohana watched him, wondering if he'd let his disguise slip on purpose or whether it had been an accident he'd taken advantage of.

"Wow..." Naoko breathed as soon as he was out of sight around the corner of a building.

Sakura was no less impressed, but she hid it better. "What a nice guy he is. He talked to us for a while before you woke up, Kohana. What do you think he wants to talk to you about?"

"I have no idea," Kohana said. Suddenly, she laughed. "If I'd known that being on the Student Council meant you were surrounded by gorgeous guys all the time, I would've been begging to join."

"You're so lucky," Naoko said.

Ichida just grunted, obviously jealous that his girlfriend was so impressed by another guy.

The conversation soon turned back to other things, of which Kohana was glad. She'd been paying too little attention to the gossip lately; it was good to keep her finger on the pulse of daily school life, especially now that she was in the Council. You never knew what might come in handy. The other members of her court, sensing that she was now in a better mood, began to approach in hesitant trickles.

"Oh, you shouldn’t have! I didn’t think you even knew about that!" A pause. "Chocolate is my one vice. I don’t even know how I stay thin, because I eat it all the time. Did your mom make this?" Another pause. "It’s so good… it’s a birthday cake, isn’t it?" Another pause. "I knew it! I knew I forgot something! Well… here, let me write it down, and I’ll remember next year. For now, I’m buying lunch—" Another pause. "Oh, go on. Get whatever you like. I can’t believe it—I hate it when I miss birthdays, and I have such a horrible time remembering…"

"Really? She said that? Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry. Well, maybe once or twice, but I wouldn’t say that, not to my best friend, right Sakura?" Turn to glance at Sakura, laughing.

"Oh, no. Are you sure it was her? That’s really low." Glance irritably at another fan. "You just be quiet. You don’t know anything about it. How could you know what it feels like to have the person you love stolen right out from under your nose?" Turn back to her admirer. "I’ll see what I can do. Hey, it’s all right. Don’t cry—here. Napkins are too rough for that." Wipe tears from her admirer’s face with her handkerchief. "It’ll be all right. I know. I’ll try and find out what happened, but for now, why don’t you go and wash your face? I’ll be right here when you get back."

"I know. I hate seeing things like that happen—Usagi’s such a nice girl, and Youji was kind of a jerk. I’ll see if I can talk some sense into Natsuki, but I almost hope that Usagi doesn’t get back together with him. He really didn’t appreciate her."

"That was a really despicable thing to do. I would have been glad you’d gotten together with someone if you hadn’t stolen him away, but poor Usagi’s in such a state…" Pause, listening. "I do know how it is. But as much as you like him, think about it—he cheated on her so easily for you, so what’s he going to do when someone else decides they want him?"

"Oh, please—the Seitokaicho was just asking me whether I wanted to be on the Council. I wouldn’t even call it a date." Pause, laughing. "No way! If he wants to talk to me, he’ll come to see me. I don’t even have his phone number or anything. Honestly, you people get so excited over the smallest things…" A pause. "No, I don’t think so. You know me—I don’t want a boyfriend. I’d rather be picky and single than dating and unhappy. I doubt I’ll ever fall in love with anyone."

It was reassuring to know that even though she’d just had her world turned upside down, there were some things that would always be the same.