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Total posts: [877]  1  2  3  4  5
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General All-Purpose Crossover Fiction Thread:

Newton's Third Law, a Harry Potter/Naruto crossover. Harry is raised by Kakashi. Focuses on early childhood. [1] Pretty fun. tongue

edited 23rd Mar '12 2:25:58 AM by TenTailsBeast

She's Back
Disturbing Routines begins again!

Standard issue disclaimer: Sunrise created and owns Mai-Hime. I am not them. This is a parody, protected speech.

Disturbing Routines
Chapter Five: Takumi

July, 2004

It was odd, she sometimes thought, that, in a country as obsessed with safety as Japan, the railing had yet to be repaired. The breaking point, where the car had struck it and torn through like a knife through hot butter, was still empty. If they wanted to, someone could easily walk up to the edge and dive over.

She had walked up to the edge of the cliff, but not for that reason. Not today, at least. She'd thought about it, though. Many, many times. Perhaps when she was done. Perhaps she could rest then.

But right now, all that she could do was toss the bouquet of flowers down to the icy cold waters, and whisper the name for God on the lips of all children. And if her eyes glistened, it was only because of the wind that came up just then. Only for that.

Natsuki would never cry again.


"Eloped?" Mai asked, startled.

"That's what people are saying, " Chie said with a shrug as the trio rested beside the foutain. "Nobody's seen hide nor hair of either of them since they festival. Heck, I've heard that his parents even showed up and tried to get the administration to look for them." A frown crossed her face. "It's sort of weird that her parents didn't, actually ..."

"Parent, " Mai corrected absently. "Her mother died a few years ago. It came up because, well, it came up."

"It'd be kind of romantic, I guess, " Aoi said, slowly. "But ... I don't know, something doesn't seem right about it. She'd have told someone, wouldn't she? It wouldn't just be gossip and rumors, then."

"Gotta say that I'm with Aoi-chan on this one, " Mai admitted.

"Ah, how romance has fallen, when proof is demanded, " Chie proclaimed in somber tones. "I shake my head in dismay." And she did.

Then her glasses gleamed oddly. "But! If proof is demanded, then, though proof be lacking in that case, there be others! Wherefore behold!" Chie held up her camera phone and displayed an image so that Mai and Aoi could both see it.

Mai blinked, being unused to seeing herself from the rear, and then gasped as she realized who was walking beside her.

"Is a certain someone dating a certain Student Council Vice President? Has, at long last, romance found Tokiha Mai?" Chie asked. "Inquiring minds want to know!"

"Dish! Dish!" Aoi enthused.

"You guyyys!" Mai cried, holding a hand to her face to cover the blush. "It's not like that! Reito-san —"

"She's calling him by his first name!"

"Oh, they so are doing it!"

"Stop it! He's just, you know, a nice guy! Some things happened, and he was just being friendly. We aren't dating or anything like that!"

Chie was almost glaring at Mai now. "Oh, that won't do at all, Mai-chan. You cannot just let a nice guy like that get away. If you're going to cause a scandal by stealing him away from the Student Council President —"

"They're not dating either!" Mai interjected. He'd told her as much when she asked, and considering what she'd seen of the way Fujino acted around Natsuki, she just hadn't been all that surprised.

It wasn't all that surprising, either, that Chie paid her no mind. "— you have to take the initiative. Confess! I command thee, confess by the end of the summer!"

"Operation: Get Mai To Get Busy So I Can Get Busy With Takumi-Kun begins!" Aoi proclaimed.

"Wait, what?" Mai said.

"I didn't say anything, " Aoi lied.

After a brief, scorching glare in Aoi's direction, Mai returned her look to Chie. "That's not going to work. I've got a job this summer that's going to take me away from the campus. I probably won't see him at all for the whole vaction."

"Oh, man, another job?" Chie groaned. "You are an insanely hard worker, Mai-chan!"

Mai shrugged helplessly. Since she had decided that she was never, ever touching another dollar that her bastard father had anything to do with, she had to make money somehow.

"So what are you going to be doing?" Aoi asked, after bidding her dreams of getting busy with Takumi a fond au revoir.

"Lifeguard at Sakaimachi Beach, " Mai explained. "I've done that sort of thing before, so —"

"Sakaimachi?" interrupted a voice that still haunted Mai's nightmares from time to time.

Can I state for the record that it is criminal that a classic Visual Novel like Yu-No: The Girl Who Chants Love At The Edge of the World doesn't have its own page, and is only represented here by references to the awful OAV it inspired?
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
[lol]

Tho I ship Aoi/Chie. But that's me.
She's Back
... dude, I put them in a relationship. Fortunately, Chie doesn't mind Aoi's wandering eye -- and other mobile parts -- except to tease her about it from time to time.

Or does she?

edited 23rd Mar '12 4:30:46 PM by Darkenning

If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
 130 Napoleon De Cheese, Fri, 23rd Mar '12 6:35:15 PM from Valencia, Venezuela
I'm Melting...
Funny enough, I tend to think Chie's sluttier than Aoi. Maybe because of their roles in Mai-Otome, where Chie's a playboy... err, playgirl... while Aoi's a devoted maid.

Any chance of ever seeing an alternate Routines set in the Otome-verse?

edited 23rd Mar '12 6:35:52 PM by NapoleonDeCheese

There's a difference between your inner child and your inner manchild.
She's Back
[up] I still haven't actually watched Otome yet, so anything in that line is going to have to wait a very long time.

Slowly, Mai turned to see the scowling face of Suzushiro Haruka glaring at her from a short distance away. She couldn't really remember ever seeing the senior girl when she was not scowling. Suzushiro probably only stopped scowling when she was sleeping. Or possibly not even then. The image of her asleep and scowling at imaginary malefactors even in her dreams was a strangely persuasive one.

Standing just behind her was Haruka's constant companion, the girl whom Mai had come to know as Kikukawa Yukino, one of her classmates. If Suzushiro's perpetual expression was a fixed scowl, hers was a look of constant apprehension and worry. She didn't really talk too much, except when she was making an effort to translate for Suzushiro.

Mai had gotten quite familiar with the pair in the months since her surprising arrival at Mahora. Just as with Tate, it seemed she couldn't go anywhere or do anything without running into the two of them, always with those same expressions on their faces. Some of her nightmares started out as quite pleasant dreams, where she was fucked vigorously by an enthusiastic Takumi only to roll over and see Suzushiro glaring down with that same expression as she loomed over the two of them. It was awful.

"I have asked you a question, Tokiha Mai, and would appreciate it if you did me the courtesy of answering it, instead of glazing at my face."

"Gazing, " Yukino quietly interjected.

"Well, actually, you didn't ask a question, you repeated a word, " Mai pointed out, she thought quite reasonably.

Suzushiro considered this response for a few moments. Mai thought that was a bit hypocritical of her, after that demand for an immediate reply. But at last, she spoke up. "I suppose that I did not, actually, ask a question. Therefore. Did you, Tokiha Mai-san, just say that you were going to be spending the summer at Sakaimachi?"

"Yes, yes I did, " Mai admitted. "Do you know the town? I've never been there before."

"I was born there, " Haruka said shortly.

"Oh, " said Mai.

"And raised there."

"Oh."

"Sakaimachi is my home town."

"Oh, " repeated Mai once more, wishing that the Earth would swallow her up. "But, of course, since it's the summer vacation, you'll be spending it somewhere else, surely. somewhere like Hawaii. Or Florida. Alaska, maybe?"

"No, " Haruka ground out. "I will be spending my summer vacation at my parents' primary residence, which is still at Sakaimachi."

"Oh, you still live in the house where you grew up, " Mai said, wondering whether it would be possible to drown herself in the fountain. The water level seemed pretty low, but if she angled her head just right, surely then —

"Do not be absurd, Tokiha Mai, " Suzushiro unwittingly halted Mai's most recent train of thought. "In any event, since Sakaimachi is not within my jurisdiction as the Executive Director of the Student Council Executive, I will not be able to persecute any offenses against common decency which you will doubtless commit."

"Prosecute."

"Actually, I think she got that one right, " Mai told Yukino wearily.

As though no one was talking about her, Haruka continued. "However, you may rest assured that I will be informing the local authorities that another delinquent of your stature will be in town for the season. Good day to you." And with that, she spun on her heel and began marching away, halting only when she realized that she was unaccountably walking alone

Suzushiro looked back to see that Yukino was still standing in front of her classmates. "Yukino? Is something the matter?" Her tone was no less blunt than it had been when she was adressing Mai, but she managed to sound genuinely concerned nonetheless.

"No, Haruka-san. I, I just need to check something about our summer homework with, with Aoi-san, " Yukino stammered out.

"Oh. Well, summer homework is important, so take as much time as you need, " she said, and then turned and headed off.

Yukino waited until Haruka was out of earshot before turning to Mai. "I'm very sorry, Mai-san, " she said. "Haruka-san wouldn't normally be as petty as that, but she's a bit stressed out over some other business. I'm sure that she'd want me to apologize on her behalf."

It was the longest sentence she'd ever heard out of Suzushiro's tiny red-haired companion, and Mai blinked for a while on hearing it. "Ah, no, no, that's all right. I'm sure that she has a lot of stuff going on. So, then, she's not really going to report me to —"

"Oh, no, " Yukino interjected. "She's definitely going to do that. If she says she's going to do something, she'll do it unless physically prevented from doing so. But she does know that she probably shouldn't do it." Yukino followed up the statement with a sad nod.

"Great, " said Mai. Fire. Dying by fire would solve everything. No, with her luck, it probably wouldn't kill her after all ...

"So, who's the other one?" Chie asked abruptly.

"Eh?" Yukino said, blinking cutely.

"The Exec said 'another delinquent'. Who's the other one?"

Yukino looked incredibly embarrassed. "Um, well. You see, the Student Council President is going to be vacationing in Sakaimachi as well, and Haruka-san has something of a complex about her. So, you see ..." And now Yukino gestured vaguely.

"Ahhh, " Chie said, nodding in complete comprehension. "Well, it's good of you to stay behind and tell us all this."

Yukino blinked again. "Eh? No, I really do need to check on something about our summer homework with Aoi-san. I think I maybe missed part of the assignment while I was thinking about something else in class."

"Really?" Aoi asked, surprised.

"Of course, " Yukino said, just as surprised. "Why would I ever lie to Haruka-san?"

If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
[lol]

I love Haruka. She's a RIOT.
She's Back
She's my favorite character in the whole series.

Chie was only half-listening to all of that, as she stood a while in thought. And then a truly wicked grin curved her face. "You know what would be really cool?"


"You know what would be really cool?", Mai decided a week or so later, was probably the most terrifying question there could be. At the base of all wars, tragedies, and bad movies, there was probably someone asking the question "you know what would be really cool?"

This time, someone asking the question had resulted in her being housed, for the duration of her stay in Sakaimachi, in one of the many many guest bedrooms of the Suzushiro mansion. She still found the line of events that led to this outcome from that question to be utterly bewildering.

Basically, Chie had prevailed on Yukino to persuade Haruka that it was in her interest to keep her friends close and her enemies closer. In the interest of keeping the third biggest delinquent in Mahora in a place where she could be watched, then, she had been pleased to offer her hospitality to Mai, and thus also to Mikoto, Chie, Aoi, Takumi and Akira (who'd been dragged along with Takumi).

Of course, she did have more than enough rooms for all those people. The mansion was really deserving of the title. Apparently, up until eight years ago, it had been the official residence of the mayor of Sakaimachi, who had been a familial connection of some sort to the Suzushiro family. (Chie, unsatisfied with this brief mention, had done some digging and found out that said mayor had been married to Haruka's maternal aunt, and been ousted from office eight years ago on charges of corruption.)

The problem was, of course, that even though this was actually a lot more comfortable than the beach house that Mai had been planning to rent for the duration (with the majority of her income from the lifeguard job paying for it) and the food was much better than the instant ramen she'd have been eating, she couldn't get comfortable here. Even without the sensation that she was always being watched — and Haruka or her family should really do something about all those cameras, they weren't even a little bit hidden! — it was way too luxurious. If she allowed herself to get comfortable, going back to her normal life was going to be hard.

And then there was the company, as well. Reito, as she was starting to get used to thinking of the Vice President, had been invited down to Sakaimachi even before all of this, as part of an effort to further ties between his family and the Suzushiros. ("Translation, they're trying to get the two of us interested in each other, " he'd confessed ruefully to Mai when they'd met the first day of the vacation. "It'd be funny if it wasn't so absurd. Haruka-san is already married to her work.") And he in turn had invited Yuuichi, and naturally Shiho had tagged along. So they were there too.

And then, somewhat unexpectedly, Midori had shown up with Yohko-sensei, who was apparently an old friend of hers, along with a younger girl whom she'd introduced as Asakura Kazumi, a student who was getting career counselling from her.

"Is that what they're calling it these days, " Mai had said when she'd heard about that.

"Huh?" Asakura had asked, still a little stunned by the trip down here. (Mai had later been shocked to learn that Midori hadn't been driving, and that Yohko-sensei drove like a maniac.)

"Oh, never mind Mai-chan, she's such a kidder, " Midori had interjected, smiling broadly and falsely. "Hey, Mai-chan, could I have a word in private. Great, over here ... what the hell, Mai?"

"What the hell back at you. What are you doing here?"

"Chaperoning. This many students gathered in one place requires a responsible shut up, I know what you're going to say even before you say it."

"I was going to say, that's why Yohko-sensei is here, but why are you —"

"Ha. Ha ha ha, " Midori had 'laughed'. "She is a lot wilder than I am or ever could be, I'll have you know. And anyway, that's not the point. Asakura thinks she's really interested in being a teacher, and I'm trying to help her to realize that no, that's not what she wants to do with her life."

"What kind of career counselling is this?" Mai had wanted to know.

"The kind where someone realizes that there are better things to do with one's life than reciting rote lessons to unwelcoming kids. Anyway, I don't appreciate the suggestion that anything unwholesome is happening here. She's got a girlfriend whom she's apparently completely faithful."

Mai had raised an eyebrow.

"It came in conversation! I did not make a pass at her and get shot down!"

"Riiight."

And so it came to pass that practically her entire circle of acquaintance had ended up here in Sakaimachi. At least Nao hadn't shown her ugly mug, she mused as she read the newspaper in bed one morning. That would just be the straw that broke the camel's back.

And then she turned the page and read about a rash of mugging incidents in town recently, crumpled up the newspaper and threw it in the trash before holding her head in her hands.
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
I LOVE the end bit. [lol][lol][lol]
She's Back

More of the heartwarming theatre of life that is Disturbing Routines.

It's not my problem, Mai reminded herself a few hours later as she sat in her lifeguard's chair, watching the people on the beach having fun. It is not my problem. So we have the same father — so what? Do I have some sort of obligation to look after all my siblings? No. No I don't. I look after Takumi because my mother told me to before she, my mother told me. Nobody has told me to look out for Nao.

And even if they had, what would that even mean in this context? she wondered as she called out to a couple of kids who were getting a little rowdy to settle down. I know who's doing these things, so I should go tell the police who they should arrest for them. Except that, of course, the police will never believe a word of it. (She flashed back to Natsuki miming calling the police. It was really annoying the way that the other girl had managed to get inside her head like this.)

So there's really nothing that I can do or should do, Mai told herself as her first shift ended, and she climbed down from the high chair so that her relief could head up. So I should just forget that I know anything that's going on, lower my head, do my job, and try to have a little fun. Like Mikoto is doing.

Specifically, at this precise moment, Mikoto was busily building a rather elaborate sand castle with Yukino, assisted (possibly instructed) by a quiet young girl with blue hair who was apparently associated with the people playing volleyball a ways down the beach. If nothing else good came out of all of this, then at least she could be happy that Mikoto had made some new friends. Her roommate, who looked even younger than she normally did, laughing and playing in the sand, really got along well with Yukino, who was actually looking happy for once.

And Mikoto being preoccupied gave her an opening!

It was pretty easy to find Takumi, who was sitting under an umbrella set up by Akira, who'd vanished for some reason. She wondered if maybe he'd seen her coming and fled to avoid being pollluted by Mai's presence. (Had she asked, Takumi would have told her that he'd gone to the washroom.) Regardless, it left him alone, which was perfect for her sinister plans.

"Oh, Takumi!" she said invitingly as she strolled up. "I found something that I think you`re going to want to see."

"What is it, neesan?" Takumi asked, startled.

"It's a surprise. C'mon, quick."

Hesitantly, Takumi got up to take his sister's hand and followed along behind her as she led him in the direction of Sakaimachi's most famous landmark — the remains of Triangle Mountain, a large pillar of rock at the southern edge of the beach. Or rather, it had been a large pillar of rock until it unaccountably collapsed eight years ago, following some confusing events nearby. All that remained was two much smaller pillars in front of the pile of rubble.

"It's sort of interesting, " Takumi admitted, as she guided him down into one particular secluded alcove near said pillars. "What do you think happened?"

"Don't know, don't care, " Mai replied cheerfully. "But you know what is cool about this place?"

"No, what?"

"Hardly anyone comes here anymore ... and it's far enough away from anything else that nobody can hear anything from the beach."

"Okay, and?" Takumi asked cluelessly.

She wrapped her hands around the back of his neck, forearms on his slender shoulders, and smiled widely. "Complete privacy, " she purred.

"Oh, " he said, and then she was kissing him frantically, her tongue wrapping around his as she gently pushed him to the ground and straddled him. "Oh, " he repeated, once she released his mouth and pulled back to start pulling off his clothes.

"Oh?" Mai asked, pausing. "What is this 'oh' sound you keep making?"

"Well, I mean ... this is a little risky, don't you think?" he said, nervously looking around.

"I told you, secluded, private, perfect."

"So how did you find out about it?"

"I was poking around here and found people having sex here, " she told him. "Didn't hear a thing until I was practically on top of them, and they didn't even notice me. Some older woman and her boy toy. She kept calling him Kou-chan, and —"

"Neechan, do you not see the problematic part of that statement?" Takumi interjected.

"What?"

Takumi closed his eyes. After about ten seconds, he opened them and spoke calmly and quietly. "If you were poking around while they were doing it, it's not impossible that someone else will be poking around while we're doing it."

"Come on, Takumi!" Mai whined. "It's been months! I want to do it, and you know that you want it as badly as I do."

"Well, yes, " he agreed, reluctantly. "But I'm worried, about that, and, well, we don't have any protection, do we? You're not on the pill, and I don't have any condoms, so what if something happens —"

"Then I'll get an abortion!" she snapped.

He stared at her, faintly aghast.

"What? It's my body, my choice, right?"

"I just, I just can't believe you're being so ... callous about it, " Takumi said faintly.

She stared at him, not even remotely understanding what he was talking about, but getting the fact that the moment, if it had ever even been there, was now gone.

So much for having some fun.
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
Messed up, yet amusing. evil grin
 137 Napoleon De Cheese, Tue, 27th Mar '12 5:06:55 AM from Valencia, Venezuela
I'm Melting...
Well, in this case, Mai had that coming.
There's a difference between your inner child and your inner manchild.
She's Back
De gustibus non est disputatandum.

Elsewhere, Midori wasn't having much fun either. Iced tea wasn't even remotely her beverage of choice, but given that she was trying to set a good example for this girl who was a year or so younger than her just seventeen years. So here she was, on the balcony of the mansion room she was sharing with Yohko, drinking iced tea and talking about her official work.

"Okay, let's get down to business, here, " she said, ending the stream of small talk that had been going on since then. "Why do you want to be a teacher, anyway?"

Asakura smiled innocently. "Because I think it would be a good way to repay the many people who've taught me over the years."

"Very smooth, " Midori congratulated her, voice thick with sarcasm. "Y'know what teachers really hate more than anything else?"

"The administration?"

"Close, but no cigar. They hate being told what people think they want to hear. That's the classic answer, Asakura. Nice planning, but it's not gonna cut it. I've done some research on you, you know."

Asakura's smile got wider and not nearly as innocent as she adjusted her straw and brought it to her lips. "I've done some on you, too, sensei, " she said before she sipped.

"That's pretty much what I expected, too, " Midori admitted. "You're the school paper's top newshound, have almost as many followers on your blog as that Chiu girl —"

"Please don't mention that to Chisame, she'll take it as a challenge."

"— you're a born reporter, Asakura. Why are you throwing that away for a career in education? If you've learned anything about me, you'll know that this is just something I'm doing to pay the bills until I can do the work I was born to do. So why do you want it so badly?"

Asakura opened her mouth to give a quick answer. Seeing that Midori had a really serious expression on her face, she closed it, then leaned back and looked out at where the sky met the sea. "It's funny that we've come to Sakaimachi, " she mused out loud. "This is really where it all started, in a way. Have you ever heard of Asakura Kaori?" she asked abruptly.

The name didn't ring any bells to Midori, who said as much.

"How soon we forget, " Asakura murmured again. "My aunt. Big time TV reporter, hard-hitting investigator. Got her start here in Sakaimachi, actually. She really got famous after this investigation of hers pretty much brought down the mayor and this foreign-owned company he was in bed with."

"I wouldn't go mentioning any of that to our host, " Midori advised.

The girl waved a hand. "Don't worry, I'm not eager to advertise the connection any more. I would've been, once. Damned if I didn't look up to that woman. I've only met her a couple of times, but I really thought she was everything I wanted to be." Her mouth twisted down. "And then it came out that she was a complete phoney."

"Phoney how?"

"You name it, she did it. Breaking and entering, stealing evidence, planting evidence, sabotage, bribery, sleeping with people to get them to do what she wanted — everything to make the story she was reporting. It all came out about a year ago, just as I was going ... on a trip, " she ended, somewhat lamely.

"I've heard a few things about that trip, " Midori noted, half-smiling. And now that she thought about it, she could vaguely remember something on the news about some woman reporter being exposed as an industrial spy and saboteur. Images of a green-haired woman splashed on the cover page of a newspaper danced through her head.

"Heh. Well, it got to me. There was my role-model, exposed as a huge hypocrite and fraud. And what with everything else, I didn't really have time to process any of it, to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine. But time passed, and it kept nagging at me ... and I realized that she was still my role-model.

"But that she was now the emblem of everything I didn't want to be."

"Tossing a job you love in the toilet because you were disappointed in someone is kind of an overreaction, Asakura, " Midori said critically.

Asakura shrugged. "Maybe. But the thing is, if I was being honest, I wasn't really in love with the job as much as I'd been for a while before that. I liked part of it, the 'finding things out' part, a lot more than I liked the 'and exposing them to the world' part." She shrugged again.

"If you like finding things out, then you should be a scholar of some sort, " the teacher said, suddenly seeing an opportunity to evangelize her own chosen profession. "An archaeologist, for example."

"That's not the sort of thing I'm interested in though. I like people, not arrowheads."

"Well, then, I suppose that there's not a lot of call for professional sociologists, but —"

"I really want to be a teacher, Midori-sensei. I lost a role-model, but I found another one."

Midori blinked. "Good grief. I hope you don't think Negi-sensei is a typical teacher."

"No."

"Well, good, because —"

"He's a great one, " she interrupted. "And that's what I want to be too."

Midori didn't like fighting losing battles, and she had the distinct feeling that this was one. But she wasn't about to give up just yet.

Before she could launch another salvo, though, she was interrupted by a delicate cough from behind her. "Excuse me, honored guests, " said one of the maids. "I've been sent to inform you that the master of the house has returned home unexpectedly."

"Oh, Suzushiro's father is here?" Midori asked, blinking. "Are we going to be expected to clear out, then?"

"Oh, no, " the girl assured her. "He would never insult his daughter's guests that way. However, you should be prepared for —"

"HARUKA!" boomed a deep male voice. "I'VE TOLD YOU A THOUSAND TIMES, ALL THOSE CAMERAS ARE AN INSULT TO OUR GUESTS! THEY SHOULD ONLY BE IN AREAS ACTUALLY REQUIRING SECURITY! THIS IS RIDICULOUSLY PARANOID!"

"IT IS NOT!" retorted a familiar female voice. "IT IS JUST EFFICIENTLY PARANOID, AND POSSIBLY NOT PARANOID ENOUGH!"

Brief pause.

"YES, THAT IS WHAT I SAID, SUFFICIENTLY!"

"— some minor disturbance, " the maid concluded.
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
[lol][lol]

I likey.
She's Back
The father-daughter shouting match, involuntarily witnessed by everyone in the mansion and probably a few of the neighbors as well, wound down eventually. Soon after that, the distinguished master of the house was brought around to be introduced to each of his house guests in turn. He was formal and polite to one and all, acting as though he had not just been through a verbal battle with a decibel rating to rival a Metallica concert.

That said, as he was introduced to Chie, Aoi and Mai, who'd just arrived in the mansion's entrance when the argument began, it was pretty clear that he was starting to wonder, "who are all these people and why are they living in my house?" But his engrained politeness and congeniality prevented him from asking the question aloud. They were here, and so it could not be helped that they were here.

Honestly, Mai thought that Haruka could stand to learn a few things from her father's example, even though she reflected that she clearly had. Though perhaps not the right things.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the brief encounter was Mr. Suzushiro's off-handed mention that the omnipresent surveillance cameras were going to be largely shut down. The news immediately prompted Chie to start smiling faintly, but it wasn't until the gentleman bid them good afternoon and departed, doubtless to pay his respects to someone else, that the gossip queen gave voice to her thoughts.

"I just had a really cool idea, " she said.

"Oh, god, not again, " Mai moaned.

Chie paid her no mind, turning her wicked grin full on Aoi. "You remember that hot tub we saw last night? The one you thought was so interesting? The one with the really obvious surveillance camera pointed right at it?"

"Yes, I remember, " Aoi agreed.

Chie waited a few moments.

"Ohhhhh, " said Aoi once she got it. "Can we really — wouldn't that be rude, I mean?"

"Totally rude, " Chie agreed, leaning close enough to her friend that their noses were practically touching.

Aoi started giggling. "Well, then. See you later, Mai-chan!" she said as she grabbed Chie's hand and dashed off.

"Right, " Mai said, a little dazed by what had just happened right in front of her. Dazed, and a bit annoyed. Was everyone getting action but her? At this rate, she might walk in on Haruka in flagrante delicto with Yukino, or —

She couldn't help herself. She laughed long and loud at that idea. That was never going to happen.

Once she was done laughing, Mai shook her head ruefully. Well, then, what should she do with herself for the evening? She wasn't even close to being tired enough to go to bed early.

She had nothing but time, really.

Ah, nuts, Mai thought at last. I'm going to go try and hunt down Nao, aren't I? I hate being so damned responsible. Shaking her head, she turned to walk out the front door.

"Where you headed, Tokiha-san?" a voice asked from behind her.

Mai looked back to see Asakura Kazumi regarding her with interest from half-way down the stairs leading up to the second floor. "Oh, just, you know, out, " she said. "I have a feeling there's going to be more shouting in the near future, and that's a little hard to take, you know."

"Oh, yes, " the other girl agreed fervently as she came down to Mai's level. "I actually had the same idea. Well, I'm also going to be meeting up with a friend of mine who's vacationing in the area. Care to join us?"

"I wouldn't want to intrude, " Mai demurred, fully expecting the invitation to be repeated with the assurance that there was no intrusion.

Asakura shrugged. "Oh, well. Have a nice night, then." And she walked past Mai out the door, whistling as she went.

Stunned again, Mai stayed where she was for a moment, before heading out after her, half-intending to say that she'd had a change of heart and offer to join her. By the time she caught up to the swiftly moving girl at the mansion's gates, though, she was already getting into a subcompact car with a frowning young woman in glasses, and driving off.

Mai frowned herself. She felt as though she'd seen that girl before, somewhere, but couldn't quite place her. For no reason that she could recall, cat ears came to mind.

"You keep some interesting company, " said a voice from behind her as she watched the car drive off.

Mai turned to see Natsuki leaning against her cycle, in the shadows of the gate. "Hail, hail, the gang's all here, " she muttered.

"What?"

"Never mind. Let me guess, did the Student Council President tell you I was here?"

"Yes, she mentioned it in passing. That's not important, though. I'm calling in the favor you owe me."

Mai blinked. "Oh. Wait, are you saying that you need my help?"

Natsuki nodded shortly.

Slowly, Mai smiled. "Could you, y'know, actually say it? I could really use the ego boost."

Natsuki stood up straight. "Shove your ego boost. Are you going to pay me back or what?"

"I'll help, " Mai said, sighing. At least she always knew where she stood with Natsuki. "Are you sure that you don't want to stop in and say hi to your —"

"She's. Just. Useful."

Next time: Haruka/Yukino, Midori/Yohko, and Reito/Mikoto scenes. Not necessarily the sorts of scenes you'll expect.

If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
Still looking good. cool
She's Back
Reito leaned forward on the railing of his room's balcony, enjoying this momentary freedom from responsibility immensely. In his brief conversation with Suzushiro-san, he'd picked up on several signals that suggested that the master of the house agreed with him that a relationship between Reito and his daughter would be a disaster. Of course, they were probably coming at the issue from two completely opposite perspectives, but it was a relief to know that he had an ally in the enemy camp. He could relax and enjoy himself, now.

Perhaps he should seek out Tokiha-san. He'd found himself genuinely enjoying her company when they strolled through the festival together, and had gone well beyond the bounds of duty to try and ease her unspoken pain. She was a delightful young woman.

And stacked, too. (He was a well brought up young man, but still a guy underneath it all, after all.)

Before he could get up to go look for her, though, he heard the pad of footsteps behind him. and turned to see a tiny dark-haired head poking its way through the door to his balcony.

"Hello, " he said, as though he wasn't being intruded upon. "It's Miinagi-san, isn't it?"

"Mikoto, " she said quietly, avoiding looking directly at him. "Mai isn't here."

"No, she's not. I was just about to go looking for her, actually."

"I thought she might be, " Mikoto continued as though he hadn't said anything. "She talks about you a lot."

"And when she's with me, she talks about you a lot, " he told her. It was the truth. A bit of a disturbing truth, actually.

Now Mikoto reacted, lifting her head to look right at him. "Really?"

"Really."

She sagged again. "But she's not here now." Before he could answer that observation, the small girl was fishing in the neck of the shirt she wore over her swimsuit, to pull out a tiny charm that she wore around her neck. "Do you know what this is?" she asked quietly.

He looked at it for a moment, and then spoke the absolute, unvarnished truth. "No. I'm sorry, but I don't know what that is."

"My aniue gave it to me, " she told him then. "You, you look like him, a lot. I think so, anyway, " she added, clearly uncertain.

"Well, I'm very sorry. I'm sure that anyone would be glad to have a little sister like you, but —"

"Ah, Miinagi-san, " came a voice from the next balcony over. "It's a bit of a surprise to see you here." Shizuru had just come out onto that balcony, opening up a parasol as she did so.

"Madame President, " Reito said politely. "Why so surprised?"

"Mister Vice President, " she answered in the same manner. "It's just that I chanced to see Tokiha-san heading away from the manor, in company with my Natsuki, and I expected that you'd be hot on their trail by now."

"Eh?" Mikoto said, coming fully alert. "Mai and Natsuki are off having fun together? Without me?" Before anyone could respond to that, she leapt off the balcony and dropped down to the grass below, dashing off the moment she hit the ground.

"How remarkably athletic, " Shizuru observed a moment later.

"Do I detect a certain amount of jealousy?" Reito asked, faintly amused.

"Why, good grief, whatever are you implying, Mister Vice President?" Shizuru asked, with unfeigned shock. "I am certain that I have nothing to be jealous about. And I am certain that it should remain that way. It looks to be a pleasant evening, wouldn't you agree?"


"Yes, shut most of them down, " Haruka said to the maid she'd appointed as the head of video surveillance. "Except for the one observing the room where we display the Van Gogh, and possibly the good grief what are those two doing in the hot tub!"

"Well, I think the technical term is —"

"I don't care what the technical term is, shut it down shut it down shut it down! Agh, my tender maiden eyes!" she groaned as the feed cut out. "I can't believe those two desperates! To do such things when they're under the same roof as a teacher and —"

"C'mon, Midori-chaaan, " the vaguely slurred voice came from the speaker, courtesy of one of the cameras that also had audio pick up. "You heard the big man, they're gonna shut down allll the surveilllance. Let's have some fun! I've never done it on a pool table, have you?"

"Yohko-chan, you're drunk! You don't know what you're doing! You're going to claim it was all a bad idea tomorrow! And yes, actually, I have, but, but, oh, please, stop kissing me, or, or, oh, fuck it."

"Shut that one off too!" Haruka snapped, hand over her eyes. "I should apologize to the delicates, they're clearly the victims of terrible role models. I'm glad that I have such a good —"

"Damn pushy wench! Worse than her mother ever was!" came a voice from another audio pick up. "Always with the bossy attitude, and the superiorority, and, and —"

"I really think Haruka-san is just trying to be a good daughter to you, " a quiet voice replied.

"Um, do you want me to turn that one off, too?" the maid asked uneasily.

Haruka was no longer there to answer the question.


Yukino had been in more uncomfortable situations than this, but that was a poor pathetic comfort as she watched a respected business leader get more and more drunk as he sat alone in his office, chugging down cup after cup of fine sake, and complained about her best friend and partner.

"And the surveillance? How d'you justify something like that? what sort of mind comes up with that? I didn't raise no totalitarian kids!"

Since Haruka's upbringing had largely been in the hands of nannies after she turned nine, Yukino could only agree with the sentiment, if not the self-pity behind it. "I think she was really just very nervous about all these people in the house, sir, " she told him, trying to sound as diffident as possible. It wasn't easy, since she actually had a very strong opinion on the subject. "And she wanted to make sure that nothing bad happened while she was in charge. That's what she always does, sir. She wants to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to anyone. She wants to protect the world and everyone in it."

Yukino abruptly fell silent as she realized that she was getting a bit too emotional, and could tell that she'd gone too far from the way that Mr. Suzushiro was also silent.

"You're a good girl, Yukino-chan, " he told her at length.

"Not really, " she said, faintly.

"No, no, you are. A very good girl. And you've gotten very, very pretty, too. Just like yer mother, really."

Yukino froze as he got up from behind the desk and shambled in her general direction. It was the worst thing she could have done, and she knew it. Running would have been the much wiser course of action —

But then he was pressing up against her, his lips on hers, and it was too late, too late to run, and —

The doors to the office slammed open, and Haruka stood there with an expression that she'd never seen there, not even when the voting results on the student council election had come in. "Yukino, " she said, in a voice only a few decibels louder than Yukino's own normal speaking voice. "Please go to your room. Immediately."

Since he'd let go of her as soon as the door open, Yukino's first impulse was to do just that. But first, first she had to say something, "Haruka-san, I —"

"Immediately."

Yukino left. It wasn't until the door to her room was firmly closed, and locked, that she started crying.

She hates me now. I know she hates me now. I love her more than anything, and she hates me now.


"That, that wazzn what it looked like, " her father said as she came into the office and closed the doors behind her.

"I see, " she said.

And a second later he was bent backwards across his desk, her hand closed around his throat to cut off the airway.

"If you ever, ever so much as lay a finger on her again, " Haruka told her father, voice even and level, "I will kill you. Nod if you understand me."

He nodded, to the best of his ability.

"That's good, " she said. "She looks just like her mother, you said. She doesn't look a thing like her mother's husband, does she. Why do you think that is, you lecherous son of a bitch?"

As the realization rose in his eyes, she let him breathe again, and stepped back to let him collapse on the floor.

"I am what I am, " Haruka said at last. "I am what I am, despite you."

If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
"Yes, shut most of them down, " Haruka said to the maid she'd appointed as the head of video surveillance. "Except for the one observing the room where we display the Van Gogh, and possibly the good grief what are those two doing in the hot tub!"

"Well, I think the technical term is "

"I don't care what the technical term is, shut it down shut it down shut it down! Agh, my tender maiden eyes!" she groaned as the feed cut out. "I can't believe those two desperates! To do such things when they're under the same roof as a teacher and "

[lol][lol][lol]

Also, the final bit? Way to go HARUKA! cool
She's Back
[up] She is the most bad-ass character in the whole series, after all.

Just a note in advance — I'm taking the next two weeks off to get some work done on another project.

At the southern edge of Sakaimachi beach, past the remains of Triangle Mountain, there was a long paved path leading up a hill to a small cluster of buildings behind an abandoned security post. The buildings themselves looked abandoned, too, and the wall and chain link fence that was supposedly guarding them had seen better days.

"Geo Technics, " Mai murmured, reading off the faded sign on the wall. "That's the name of that company that was doing the digging here, eight years ago, isn't it? It was a front for the people Mashiro-san works for?"

"I don't know how exactly they're related to the First District, " Natsuki admitted. "But they were in bed together, somehow. This is my last real lead on them."

"It is?" Mai asked, suddenly suspicious. "How did you find out about this?"

"I just did, okay?" Natsuki answered — for a certain definition of answering, at least.

Mai understandably found this explanation somewhat wanting. "Uh-huh. And have you considered the possiblility that you're waltzing into a trap?"

"Goodness, no, " Natsuki said, with feigned amazement. "I would certainly never imagine that people could be so treacherous. Yes, I realize that it's probably a trap. Do you think you're here to keep me company and provide moral support?" She fell silent, looking away. Eventually, she added, "Trap or no trap, it's my last lead. Otherwise, I'd have never come here."

"Okay, " Mai replied. "So how do we go in? I assume that the front door is a bad idea."

"Extraordinarily bad, " Natsuki agreed. "But I know about a back entrance that should —"

A throat cleared behind the two of them, and they whirled, Natsuki's guns coming out and Mai's hands and feet abruptly encircled by her magatama.

Mikoto, her sword out and held tip to the ground, was standing there glaring at the two of them. "Not cool, Mai, " she growled.

"Mikoto?" Mai gasped, somewhat redundantly. "How did you find us?"

"Someone wears perfume on her underwear, " Mikoto explained, not looking at Natsuki as she said it. "I could smell it a mile away."

Natsuki felt the color rising in her cheeks. As always, she responded to her embarassment with anger. "What exactly do you think you're doing here?"

"Not letting you two go off and have fun without me, " Mikoto said promptly, then looked at the distant front doors. "So you're breaking into this place? Looks fairly straightforward."

Mai promptly grabbed ahold of Mikoto, wrapping her up in a tight embrace. "Oh no you don't!"

"Eh?" Mikoto asked, a bit startled.

"There's probably some sort of sensors up there, aren't there?" Mai asked Natsuki. "I just had a flash of her wandering right into them."

"Uh, yes, " Natsuki said, also startled by Mai's perspicacity. "A flash?"

"You know, like deja vu only in advance?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Natsuki is just jealous that Mai is hugging me and not her, " Mikoto said smugly.

"What?" asked Mai.

"What?" asked Natsuki.

"What?" asked Mikoto, assuming that this was some sort of party game that they hadn't told her about yet. Which was annoying, but she'd gotten used to that sort of annoyance. Nobody ever told her anything.

"Okay, " Natsuki said, after taking a rather long moment to collect her thoughts. "Secret entrance. This way." She pointed off to the side. "We're going to have to crawl part of the way. Some of us should have no problem with that."

"Is she talking about me?" Mikoto asked softly.

"I think so, yes."


A few moments later, they were inside one of the buildings, moving stealhily — well, as stealthily as Mai, the least stealthy member of the trio, could manage. She winced at every noise that she made; Mikoto and Natsuki were both affecting not to notice them.

"All right, " Natsuki murmured. "This is where they were doing research on the weird mineral they dug up at the beach. We need to go —"

"Wait, " Mai interjected. "How do you know that? Hey, you never did say how you knew anything about this place."

Natsuki drew in a long breath. It might have been Mai's imagination, but she thought she heard a bit of a shudder in that inhalation. "This is where I used to live, " she said at last.

"You — what?"

"I used to live here. Up until nine years ago, this was my home."

"... why were you living in a research facility?"

"Because this was where my mother was working."

"That, no, that doesn't even come close to answering the question, " Mai objected.

Now Natsuki turned to glare at her. "I don't have an answer to the question you're actually asking. I don't know why my mother had to live here. I don't know why she chose this for us, or even if she did. I was nine years old. I didn't ask questions like that."

Now Mai blinked as she did some spontaneous math. "Wait, you're eighteen years old? I thought you were only in second year."

"I was held back, " Natsuki said tersely, looking away again.

"I guess all those absences add up, " Mai said, just a bit smugly.

Natsuki's eyes went distant as she remembered waking up, hair cut down to nothing, and being told what day it was. What month. What year.

"Yes, " she said at last. "They do."
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
Oooh. Interesting. cool
 146 Napoleon De Cheese, Fri, 30th Mar '12 6:35:45 PM from Valencia, Venezuela
I'm Melting...
[up][up] A new project? Can't wait to see what is it.
There's a difference between your inner child and your inner manchild.
She's Back
[up] Actually, not a new project. I'll be writing the second chapter of my fantasy story for Fiction Press.

First few lines are context for the first new bit.

Natsuki's eyes went distant as she remembered waking up, hair cut down to nothing, and being told what day it was. What month. What year.

"Yes, " she said at last. "They do."

She was silent for another long moment, and then focused again. "All right. You two cover this floor, I'm going to head upstairs. If you find any working computers, any documents or any data discs, grab them. I'll be back in about ten minutes."

Unfortunately, every computer that Mai found was totalled. Ditto for every filing cabinet, and most of the desks. Even those which hadn't been torched or smashed had been quite thoroughly emptied. If the First District had done this, then they were pretty thorough. Eventually, she headed back to the hallway where she'd split from the others, annoyed at her empty-handed status.

The annoyance eased a bit when she saw that Mikoto was there already with a moderately befuddled look on her face. "No luck, huh?"

"What does luck have to do with it?" Mikoto asked.

"... never mind. You didn't find anything?"

"No, I found things. I found lots of broken machines, and some things that someone set on fire, and lots of ashes. But I didn't find anything that one asked us to look for." She held up a small square. "I found this, though, behind one of the unburnt desk drawers. Is it one of those data disc things she was talking about?"

"Let me see, " Mai said, taking it from her. "No, this is a photo—" She broke off as she stared at a photograph of Natsuki wearing glasses, standing beside a tiny girl with the same colored hair done up in pigtails and holding a stuffed dog.

"Wait, no, " she said aloud. "If this was from nine years ago, then that would have to be — ohhhh. Well, if nothing else, we found a memento for her." She turned the photo over, hoping to find some more information, a date or something.

There was romanji on the back. Mai frowned and sounded the letters out. "Prototype, " she said. Wait, prototype? Why would someone write that on the back of a photo of a woman and her kid?

Suddenly, this didn't seem like such a good memento after all.

"It's been about ten minutes, right?" she asked, mostly to cover her own confusion.

"Eight minutes, thirty nine seconds, mark, " Mikoto answered promptly.

Mai stared. "How —"

"Timing is important."

"... of course it is, " Mai muttered, feeling a headache coming on, as she looked around. "Okay, let's wait a little bit for her."

At the twelve minute mark, as reported by Mikoto, Mai decided to give into her concern, and led her friend up the stairs which Natsuki had ascended earlier. The door with the brass name plate that read "S. Kuga" leapt out at them, and Mai opened it warily. But the room beyond had been every bit as ransacked as all of the others, and Natsuki was nowhere to be found within it.

They moved on to check the rest of the rooms on this floor, and five doors down from the office with Natsuki's family name on the door, they found her. The room was smaller than the office had been, without any windows. Practically a walk-in storage closet, though there weren't any shelves on the walls.

What there was, instead, was a futon on the floor, untouched by any of the fires or destruction that had swept through the complex. And Natsuki was there, lying on the futon, facing away from the door and towards the opposite wall.

Faintly unnerved by this — it reminded her a bit of the final moments of a rather frightening movie she'd seen once — Mai waited a bit before raising her voice. "Um, Natsuki-san?"

"Just Natsuki will do, " the other girl said faintly, not getting up or moving in any way.

"We, um." Mai hesitated, looked down at the photo ... then tucked it into her jacket pocket. "We didn't find anything."

"Okay, " Natsuki replied, still not moving from where she lay.

"Um." Now Mai had no idea what she was supposed to say. "Was this your bedroom, back then?" she finally asked, feeling that this had to be the stupidest thing she'd ever said.

"Yes, this was where we slept." Still no movement.

"Oh. Wait, we? Your, your mother slept here too? In the same bed as you? When you were nine?"

"So?" Natsuki asked, turning a bit.

"Yeah, so?" Mikoto asked, having watched this byplay silently. "Jii slept with aniue all the time. I wanted to be in the same bed as them, but it was too crowded."

"... didn't your brother run away from home?" Mai asked faintly.

"Yes. Why?" Mikoto asked.

Abruptly, Natsuki sat up, then stood, all without meeting Mai's eyes once. "There's nothing here that's going to help me. Let's get the hell out of here."

"Great idea, " Mai agreed, doing her best to hide the sudden surge of guilt over hiding the photograph. Would it help, though? She didn't think so. But it was so strange, really.
If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
Hmm. Might be interesting...
She's Back
Okay, gave it some thought, and since I'm probably not going to be able to fit the ret of the Takumi-centric scene I had in mind into this chapter, I'm renaming it Chapter Five: Natsuki.

It took them an hour or so to walk from the abandoned building to the gates of the mansion, and they made it most of the way in uncomfortable silence. Well, Mai was uncomfortable. Mikoto just seemed bored, and Natsuki was her usual sullen self.

"So what happened, anyway?" she finally asked when they were almost there.

"What do you mean, what happened?" Natsuki asked back.

"Well, you said that you lived there when you were nine, so that means you stopped living there. What happened? Where —"

"I don't know what happened."

"Oh, come on! You don't know why you were there and you don't know why you left? Do you know anything?" Mai yelled.

"That shouting in the streets in a residential neighborhood is a bit of a bad idea." Before Mai could adequately retort to that, Natsuki continued. "I meant, I don't know why we stopped living there.

"One day, everything was fine, the next ... I woke up from a nap in my mother's arms, being carried out of the building. I don't remember smelling any smoke, so it wasn't on fire, then. That must have happened later. She got me and Duran into a car — it was the first time I'd ever been in one, that I remember, and it was almost too exciting to be scary ..." She trailed off.

When she picked up again, her voice had gone from being vague and distant, to become more immediate. And angry. "She wouldn't tell me what was happening. She didn't say much of anything as she drove us out of there, probably breaking all kinds of speed limits as we headed down the coast. I really only remember one thing that she said. A word that I'd hear again much later." Her eyes met Mai's own. "Hi ME."

"She knew about —"

"I don't know what she knew. Just that right after she said something, there was this incredibly bright light shining in through the car's windshield. The car went out of control, and shot off the road and into the water. I heard her screaming. Or maybe it was me. It was probably me."

"Then what?" Mai asked, hanging on Natsuki's every word.

The faint lip twitch on Natsuki's face could charitably have been called a smile. "I died, of course."

"Oh very funny!"

"Heh. Well, very nearly, anyway. I was in a coma for almost a year. Mom and Duran drowned, I think."

Mai flinched. "Wow, that makes my comment about missing classes incredibly insensitive."

"No, " Natsuki disagreed.

"Well, thank you —"

"Not incredibly. I find it quite credible that you'd be that insensitive."

It took a lot, but Mai eventually decided that she deserved that, and just nodded appreciation of the touch. "So, you think the First Division did it? Made you go off the road like that, I mean?"

"Who else?" Natsuki answered with a shrug. "That's why I do what I do. It's the only way I can make sense of it all."

"Good attitude, " Mikoto said, surprising them both.

"Thanks, " Natsuki said, feeling a little disturbed at the praise.

"Are we done, then? I'm kind of hungry."

"You're always kind of hungry."

"Mai cooks well."

"I'm not, okay, I'll see what I can do —" She broke off, shaking her head. "Almost forgot. What about your father, Natsuki? Where was he in all of this?"

Natsuki's face, more open than it had ever been before, closed off in seconds. "Not in the picture, now or then."

"Oh. I get how that can be. You're probably lucky, " Mai mused.

Natsuki snorted.

"Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't believe it, but — anyway, do you want to come in? The Student Council President's here, and you could say hello to her and —"

"Okay, " Natsuki interrupted. "This is getting annoying. How many times, how many ways do I have to say it? Shizuru has been very useful from time to time. She's gotten me information that I wouldn't otherwise be able to access. She helped me find out about you, for starters, and she's never asked questions about why I wanted that information. But that is it. That is as far as our relationship goes, and that is as far as it is ever going to go. We aren't friends, we aren't close, and we're never going to be." She breathed heavily for a moment, somewhat oblivious to the look of shock on Mai's face as she continued. "Do I make myself clear? Am I going to have to repeat this again? Fine. One more time. She's. Just. Useful.

"And I'm pleased to be able to be useful to Natsuki, " said a deathly soft voice from behind her.

Slowly Natsuki turned. The mild incongruity of Shizuru in a kimono with a parasol in the evening air almost overwhelmed her even more than her sudden appearance would have. "Uh, " she said elegantly.

"I'm sorry to hear, though, that you think that's all there is to our association. Because I truly believed that we were becoming closer, and I was enjoying that process quite a bit. I regret that it's one sided on my part. Ah well, " she concluded. "It can't be helped. Now if you'll excuse me, I will resume my evening constitutional. Good night, all."

And then she turned and walked away, while Natsuki and Mai just stood there staring.

"Can we go in, now?" Mikoto asked after a few moments. "I'm really hungry."

That broke the spell. Mai turned to look at Natsuki. "I take it back, " she said. "I take back what I said about you being lucky. Except you're not unlucky. You're an idiot."

And with that, she dashed after Shizuru before Natsuki could say anything in reply.


It took surprisingly long for her to catch up to the Student Council President, who seemed to be moving quite swiftly for an evening constitutional in fancy dress. Still, once she realized that she was being pursued — or perhaps, who was doing the pursuing — Shizuru slowed down and spoke with Mai. "Is something the matter, Tokiha-san?" she asked, all sang-froid.

"Yes, something's the matter!" Mai almost gasped. "That, back there! She didn't mean it!"

"I don't think that my Natsuki is in the habit of telling lies."

"Are you kidding me? How many absences has she taken for no good reason and come up with some lame excuse for? What are those if not lies! She's not an honest person! But that's good, in this case, because she was just trying to make other people think that she doesn't care about you!"

"Really?" Shizuru asked, smiling faintly.

"Yes! It's obvious to anyone who looks at her when she's looking at you that she cares about you a lot!"

"Not a very good plan, then."

"No, no, it isn't, and the way that it's backfiring like this is more proof! Please, just give her a chance to apologize, or something!"

Shizuru nodded once. "I will take the matter under advisement." And then she turned to leave.

"No!" Mai almost shrieked. "Don't, don't leave it like this. I have a really, really bad feeling that things are going to get worse if you do that! I'll do anything, anything, if you'll come back with me now and let her apologize right away!"

"You'll do anything, " Shizuru repeated without looking back at her.

"Yes."

"I see. Well, now that I have given the matter some thought, there is something you can do, Tokiha Mai-san, something that I hope you will do now and in the future as well."

"What?" Mai asked desperately.

And now Shizuru turned her strange reddish eyes full on Mai's face, and there was a faintly hellish cast to her expression. "Butt the fuck out."

Before Mai could even dream of reacting to that, Shizuru turned and walked in the same direction she'd been walking when Mai caught up to her, humming an old movie melody as she did.

If you won't I'll slit your throat/Won't you please be nice?
Oh... crap.

This is BAD. VERY bad.

You are evil, you know that? Can't wait to see where this goes. cool
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