Burning Bridges

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"Sensei," Sumiko said with a serious expression on her face as soon as she saw Koudou the next morning, when he came to her room with breakfast. Koudou froze as he entered the room and stared at her, shocked.

"Why... Why is Kazama-san lying next to you on your futon?" he asked with trepidation, looking every bit the part of a father who had just found his daughter in a compromising position, as he struggled to keep ahold of himself and not drop the trays of food. "He didn't..."

"No! As if I would be sitting here so calmly if he had..." Sumiko said, sweat-dropping as she blushed, embarrassed that he would even think that. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Sensei. He just stayed to keep an eye on me."

"Keep an eye on you? For what purpose?" Koudou asked, furrowing his brow with worry. "You didn't try to escape, did you? Because in your condition—"

"Shut up..." Kazama grumbled drowsily as he sat up and started rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "It's too early for this much noise."

Sumiko sweat-dropped. He obviously wasn't a morning person...

"What are you doing in her bed?" Koudou asked sternly.

"Protecting her," Kazama replied succinctly. Koudou stared at him incredulously with a look of blatant disbelief on his face.

"Can't you do that from somewhere else?" he asked, chagrined. Didn't he realize how inappropriate that was?

"No," Kazama replied bluntly, regretting nothing.

"Hey, whoa..." Shiranui said, pausing in the open doorway when he saw where Kazama had spent the night. "Looks like someone had a good night," he commented, smirking.

"Yes, it certainly was," Kazama replied with a smirk of his own.

"Don't say such misleading things!" Sumiko snapped, blushing furiously.

"Ah! You're blushing, so something must've happened," Shiranui leered playfully at her.

"It did not!"

"I held her all night long," Kazama said, looking rather pleased with himself.

"You're doing this on purpose!"

"Kazama, you should not tease her so," Amagiri said calmly as he arrived on the scene. "I believe that may be a little too far for a joke."

"She's just being shy," Kazama replied. "She's an Edo woman. That's how they show their shyness, with denial."

"You're the one who's in denial..." Sumiko mumbled, sweat-dropping.

"I suppose this calls for a celebration. I shall cook some red beans with rice to mark the occasion," Amagiri said as he turned to leave.

"Eh?" Sumiko said, taken aback. He seriously believed that stuff Kazama just made up?

"Sumiko... couldn't you have waited a little longer? I'm not ready to give you away yet..." Koudou said, leaning against the wall in his own little corner of woe.

"I—I said nothing happened!" Sumiko shouted in exasperation. "Listen to me!!"


"Sensei... I didn't want to say anything in front of the others, but we need to talk," Sumiko said seriously as she followed Koudou into the room he had set up to use as a lab. Kazama and Amagiri were seeing off Shiranui, who had been called away for business with Choshu. "It's about Kaoru."

"Kaoru?" Koudou asked as they entered the lab, and he turned around to face her, surprised. "You know about Kaoru?"

"He paid me a visit last night," Sumiko replied grimly. "Do you know him, Sensei? Because he claims to know you."

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