Darkness covered the gloomy corridor except for a dim light illuminated by the small candelabra held firmly by a dark figure while looking up a large portrait hanging on the wall. Dark eyes hovered over the exquisite features of the woman elegantly sitting on a throne-like chair with an air of a queen. Her amber eyes stared back defiantly, her long wavy auburn hair fell lavishly on her left shoulder and a diamond tiara adorned her head.
“Beautiful, wasn’t she?” an amused voice came from behind.
The white mask on his face glittered in the darkness as he turned to face the newcomer.
“Good evening, your majesty,” the masked man greeted.
“So formal, Persona,” the king drawled. “I see you’re entranced with the old paintings of the Hirazaki queens. I couldn’t blame you. The former kings of the Hirazakis were known for their taste in beautiful women. And Queen Hirazaki Yuka had been one of the most beautiful of them all. Added the fact that this painting was made by a famous alice painter, her incomparable beauty was captured for all eternity.” Fake sympathy glittered on his green eyes. “Too bad she died a few months after her marriage to the king.”
“Really?” the man called Persona remarked quietly while turning his head back to look at the portrait.
King Hirazaki Takashi puffed into his cigar and blew the smoke towards Persona. Persona maintained his stiff position, not making a single complaint, which only amused the king. Looking back towards the portrait, he began to explain. “She was the only non-alice among the Hirazaki queens, but that didn’t stop King Yamato from marrying her. He was stupid for falling in love with a useless bitch.” He dropped the cigar and crushed it with his foot. “Do you know that this portrait was painted the day she and the king died? The king died fighting against the Hyuugas while she died because of cowardice.” His mouth curled in disgust. “That damned bitch should have borne an heir first before she died! And she might be carrying one but she chose to jump from the cliff after the news of her husband’s death. She was the reason why the next Hirazaki rulers became so weak against the Hyuugas. ”
Persona remained silent and continued to listen to the king’s tirade. He had heard this dozens of times already but the king just loved to repeat it over and over again.
“You know the weakness of the Alice kingdoms, Persona?” the king said bitterly. “It’s the hierarchy of birth among the royal blood. Though siblings borne to the royal family may possess the same alice, the elemental alice destined for the royal birth, their level of power is different. Only the first born, regardless if male or female, retains the highest level of power. And among the kingdoms, only the Hyuugas managed to retain the first born line!”
“The Hyuugas…” Takashi laughed hysterically. “How ironic! The first born line of the fire alice should have ceased centuries ago along with the destruction of the Fujiwara clan. But those damned Hyuugas! They were just commoners with insignificant alice. Traitorous bastards! They hid the Fujiwara heir and gave him the Hyuuga name. Do you know that Hyuuga Satori had served the Hirazaki king? That ungrateful bastard grew up on Hirazaki lands, had fed on Hirazaki food. But he caused the destruction of the Hirazaki kingdom! Worse, Yamato died without an heir, thus ending the first born line of the Hirazakis. Damn those Hyuugas!”
Persona nodded. “It’s the reason why the other kingdoms are also afraid to go against the Hyuugas, right?”
“Those ninnies are allied with the bastard,” Takashi growled. “That’s why we can’t trust any of them. We can always go against the Hyuugas. But it’s bound to fail since the level of power among the rulers are different.” He opened his palm and a ball of water formed in the middle of it. “As of now, my power is only about half the power the current Hyuuga king retains. And his son probably has the same level of power or even greater. That’s the huge difference.”
The king’s eyes glittered evilly as he faced Persona and placed his hand on his cheek. “But you Persona will give us hope to redeem the prestige of the Hirazaki kingdom. It’s a pity you failed to kill the prince. His death is a major priority but that can wait.” His voice changed; a hint of excitement evident in his tone. “We need the nullification alice. We need to know if we can find a trace of its existence. And we need more people to replenish our resources for experiments.”
“I know well my responsibilities, your majesty,” Persona said. “Don’t worry, we will find him. And if the nullification alice had ceased to exist, then we will develop one.”
King Hirazaki Takashi laughed as he clamped Persona’s shoulder. “Good, good. Your father died in the hands of the Hyuugas, my boy. So the destruction of that kingdom also lies in your hands. You better remember that.” He turned his attention back to the portrait and scoffed. “Don’t waste your time looking at that bitch. Her beauty was only good for the wall. If only she was an alice, some things might have changed.” He then left leaving the Persona alone in the dark corridor.
A slow smirk crossed Persona’s lips as he continued to stare at the portrait. ‘They’re all idiots,’ he thought. His gaze lingered at the queen’s hand which seemed to be hiding something but failed to do so beneath the artist’s sharp eyes. A bluish stone on her lap glistened from underneath the fan she held. One may have thought that it was a jewel attached to the fan, and many eyes had dismissed it in a glance. But instinct told him differently. And his instinct was rarely wrong.
It was an alice stone.
Lady Hikari cursed loudly at the insistent knocking on the door. She knew it wasn’t Mikan. The stupid girl wouldn’t knock knowing that no one would open it and would just settle herself in the stables for the night. Besides, that would serve her right for coming home late at night.
“Let that idiot knock until morning,” she thought, trying to go back to sleep.
Suddenly, a loud explosion was heard. She jumped from the bed and rushed downstairs, only to see the door completely destroyed, and there in the middle stood Hotaru Imai with a large bazooka in her hands.
“What the hell did you do?!” she screamed at the young girl. “You destroyed our house!”
“I only destroyed your door. And that’s because you wouldn’t open,” Hotaru shrugged as she answered back in her cold voice.
Footsteps hurried down and revealed the two evil stepsisters. “Oh my God! What happened?!” Karin shrieked.
“You imbecile! What are we going to do with our door destroyed? What if some thieves would come and steal our belongings?” Sumire cried.
“I’ll have it fixed in an instant,” Hotaru replied nonchanlantly. She took something from her pocket and pressed it. Then she turned her attention to the three ladies in front of her. “Now tell me, where’s Mikan?”
“What do I know of that stupid girl?” Lady Hikari questioned back angrily.
Hotaru’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the three women who had caused such suffering to her friend. “She said she’ll visit me today since I’ll be going back to the academy tomorrow morning but she never arrived. What happened to her?”
“We don’t know and we don’t care. Maybe she eloped or something,” Sumire answered in a haughty voice.
“She’s too far an idiot to elope with a guy,” Hotaru said. Then it dawned on her. They know nothing about Mikan’s whereabouts and they won’t care to look for her. “You just don’t care what happens to her, do you?”
Karin crossed her hands to her chest. “She’s just a lowly maid. She’s not someone to focus our attention to. Anyway, we could just replace her anytime.”
Suddenly, a robot carrying a huge tree trunk appeared. The three women stared in awe as the robot began cutting the trunk and build a door that was far sturdier than the first. In a few minutes, the door was completed and the robot vacuumed the dust caused by the explosion and handed Hotaru a set of keys before disappearing.
Hotaru then tossed the keys to Lady Hikari. “Now, I don’t owe you anything.” She opened the door and slammed in shut. Her face still has that blank expression while she walked back to her own home, but inside, she was getting worried.
‘Mikan, you baka! Where the hell are you?!’
It was late at night and everyone seemed to have settled down. It was an advantage for them that the thugs trusted Tsubasa without a hint of doubt, because Tsubasa had made it known that the two prisoners were his property and that only he had the right to do whatever he wanted with them. Of course, his companions mistook what he meant, believing that Andou Tsubasa, a.k.a. Himitsu Kail was actually a hard lived criminal, rather than a skillful and trusted soldier and spy of the Hyuugas.
Natsume laid his tired body on the floor to take a rest when he heard a slight movement.
“Natsume…? Are you awake?”
“Obviously, I’m not baka,” he grunted. He felt her coming closer to him.
“Uhm…I… I just want to say thanks,” Mikan whispered.
“Tch. That’s the second time, Polka,” Natsume replied. “All you ever do was yell at whenever we meet, now all you do is say thanks.”
“You were a jerk at those times. So you deserved to be yelled at.”
Natsume rolled his eyes and tried to settle himself comfortably on the floor. Mikan began to feel irritated at the silent treatment.
“I just want to say thanks so accept it!” she pouted.
Natsume secretly smiled. “You’re welcome, Polka.”
Mikan sighed. He was just so hard to understand. “Natsu…” but she stopped. “I’m sorry I’ve been calling you Natsume all this time when it’s not even your name. But if you just tell me…”
“Why would you even bother knowing my name? I’m not that important.” Natsume turned to face her.
“Of course you are. You’re my friend!”
“So now, I’m a friend huh?”
Mikan settled beside him and hugged her knees. “Well, you’re not exactly bad. If you just stop being a jerk sometimes, you’re quite nice.”
“I still don’t trust you enough to give you my name,” Natsume said as he stared at the ceiling.
Mikan gave him a confused look. “What would I do with your name?”
“You might do some voodoo spells against me.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Hmmph. And just because I want to say thanks,” Mikan snapped.
Natsume turned around and faced her. “If you really want to thank me… why don’t you give me a kiss?”
It took Mikan a moment before her face turned beet red. She turned away instead, not before she saw the smirk on his face. “You’re a real pervert,” she muttered as she scooted away from him and forced herself to sleep.
The door creaked and Natsume immediately sat up.
“So, you’re still awake.”
He leaned back against the wall and stared at the dark figure. “Andou.”
“Is she asleep?” Tsubasa asked as he glanced where Mikan was sleeping.
“I think so.”
He glared at him. “I told you to stop me calling that. Just call me whatever that little girl was calling me.”
“Okay,” Tsubasa sighed as he sat across the prince.
“Natsume, you will have to escape tomorrow with Mikan. The plan will take action in the morning. The soldiers will come here trying to look for a different criminal. They will have to force their way to look around the place, thus making my companions panic considering that there are kidnapped persons inside.” He looked at him seriously. “I will have to blow the whole place.”
That caught Natsume’s attention. “What?”
“I had too. It’s the only way for you two to escape without causing suspicions on my part. I have planned everything. The moment you hear the first explosion, destroy this wall using your alice, then you and Mikan will have to escape through the river,” Tsubasa explained. “A fake news will spread that two bodies were discovered inside. That would be enough to let them believe that you two died in the explosion.”
He bored his serious eyes into Natsume’s. “After this, you have to return to the palace. Your safety is much important than this mission.”
Natsume raised his brows. “I thought this mission mattered more.”
“Are you stupid?” Tsubasa hissed. “I wouldn’t put your life in danger just to fulfill my mission. If they had insisted on killing you, I would have killed them first and blown my cover if necessary.”
“I have my own mission,” Natsume insisted, looking away.
“Don’t play games with me Natsume-sama. The king won’t give you missions.”
He raised his brows at that. “Who said he ordered me? I’m on my own.”
“I bet you made some stupid excuse so that you won’t be discovered.”
Natsume kept his silence. Tsubasa gripped his blue hair in frustration. “Tell me what this mission is and I might help you.”
“I need to go to the Hirazaki Kingdom.”
Tsubasa’s brows furrowed. Why would he go to the Hirazaki Kingdom? “Whatever it is, let me do it. I can’t risk your life to the Hirazakis. Not when I know that Persona is in there.”
Natsume stiffened a little at the name, but immediately recovered his composure. “So he’s with the Hirazakis?”
Tsubasa nodded. “Persona tried to kill you before he left. Don’t give him the chance to fully accomplish it.”
“He won’t be able to defeat me easily. I’m more powerful than he is.”
“Yes, you might be. But his alice is death. He can kill you if you let your guard down.”
“I won’t allow him.”
Tsubasa gritted his teeth at the prince’s stubbornness. “Stop being stubborn! You know how hard it was to keep you safe. You’re the only one left among first born line in the five kingdoms and you know that’s the only thing that prevents the war. Your death will surely start a war and next generations of the Hyuugas will surely suffer.”
“I know that more than you do,” Natsume sighed. “Why do you think they had isolated me for years just for training?”
“Then let me do it!”
“For once in my life I want to do something on my own. Without anyone looking behind my back, without anyone trying to sacrifice his life for me, without anyone trying to make me feel like some damned invalid!” Natsume yelled, his fiery temper finally erupted.
“Damnit,” Tsubasa cursed silently. He touched a shadow from the moon’s light and closed his eyes. Then he sighed in relief, none of the people outside moved from their sleep.
“Please keep your voice down,” he said, trying to calm them both.
Crimson eyes glared back defiantly at him. “I’m going to the Hirazaki Kingdom after I escape tomorrow. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
Tsubasa sighed in resignation. “At least tell me what you need to find out in there. Maybe I could help.”
Natsume looked at him, trying to consider if it would be best if he knew. Despite the fact that he hated the guy, Andou Tsubasa had a lot of information that may be useful to him. “I need to find out something about the Nullification Alice,” he finally replied.
Tsubasa’s eyes widened. “W-what do you know about it?”
“Aside from it’s real?” Natsume asked sarcastically. He had already confirmed based on Tsubasa’s reaction that he also knew something about it. He too had thought it as some stupid legend, that was why he often wondered at the fuss it had created. His discovery of the letter was the only evidence that the nullification alice did existed. But the mention of Persona’s name brought back memories that he didn’t like to remember at all.
Persona was brought up and loved by his father like a son and Natsume was raised to acknowledge Persona as his older brother. But he never liked him even when he was small. He was always covered with mystery… darkness that enveloped his whole being… and possessed an unknown but dark alice. Many became wary because of his alice but King Ryuuzaki had been blinded by his guilt. And Persona continued the pretense of being a responsible son to Ryuuzaki but never bothered to hide his cruelty to Natsume. At first, Persona’s crimes were just petty, death of some animal pets, as if he was testing the extent of his alice. Then, an unknown disease had infected a child that had started with black spots, then slowly consumed his entire body until he died. Same incidents followed, but had focused on adults instead of children. Natsume was the one who had discovered it. That time, more than three years ago, he had returned from training and was looking for his sister’s cat and accidentally entered Persona’s room. He saw Persona was punching the wall in frustration.
“How the hell did it happen?” Persona yelled looking at his hand. “I used my alice on him. How come nothing happened? He should have died that instant. Damnit! He saw what I did! He saw what I did! Who the hell was he?”
A soft meow by his side caught his attention. He walked towards the snow colored cat that was tied on his table.
“I know my alice was working,” he whispered crazily. “I know it was.” He reached for the cat and caught it by his throat. “Die little furball,” he smirked as the spot where his hand was holding blackened and began to spread to the cat’s body. The cat cried in pain and within a few seconds, there laid a blackened corpse on the table.
Persona laughed maniacally. “It’s still working. My alice is still working.” He then paused and began to give it some thought. “Does that mean he nullified it?”
All Natsume remembered during that time was that he told what he saw to his father but his father refused to believe him. It took another death and Persona’s attempt to kill him before his father was convinced on his adopted son’s evilness. He had hated his father for not believing him, refusing to return home for three years and just continued his training.
But now that he had thought about it, he finally realized what Persona’s words had meant before. Persona already met the person who possessed the Nullification Alice! But it had been more than three years since Persona was exiled and nothing had happened yet except for some suspicious people lurking around the Hyuuga Kingdom. It only meant that they were still looking for him.
Natsume looked at Tsubasa. “I just made a discovery that could point out to the roots of the existence of the nullification alice. But the person who might have the answer is in the Hirazaki land.”
Tsubasa shook his head. “It’s not that easy to enter the Hirazaki Kingdom especially without proper identification. They are too paranoid of strangers especially from the Hyuuga Kingdom.” He scratched his head, quite uneasy with going along with the prince’s plan. “You have to enter legally if you want to avoid suspicions. It’s easy for me since I have several dummy identification that are recognized by the Hyuuga Kingdoms as legal citizens.”
Natsume began to consider what he said. “So what do you suggest?”
“I can help you with the dummy identification,” Tsubasa said. “But it won’t secure your entry to the Hirazaki kingdom.” A slow smile suddenly crossed his lips. “But I have a pretty good idea.”
Natsume’s crimson eyes narrowed at Tsubasa’s grin. He had the feeling that he won’t like what Tsubasa would suggest.
“Because of the previous war, many families had suffered and died so the Hirazaki population had severely diminished. They are encouraging migration from other kingdoms. But they’re suspicious when it comes to unattached men who would try to live in the kingdom,” Tsubasa explained.
“Cut the crap Andou. What the hell do you mean?”
Tsubasa’s grin grew wider. “It means that if you want to enter the Hirazaki grounds without causing suspicion, you have to bring a wife.” His eyes turned towards the young girl heavily asleep by the corner. “And you already have one girl who seemed available to take the role. So what do you say, Natsume-sama? Are you ready to get married?”
And a Early Happy New Year
A smirk crossed the prince’s face at what he heard. “Nice try Andou. I didn’t know you plan to become a comedian.”
Trying his hardest to suppress the grin that threatened to appear, Tsubasa lifted his brows. “Who says I’m joking?”
Natsume glanced at the girl huddled by the corner and scowled. “You expect me to get married to…to that thing?”
Tsubasa finally smiled at the prince’s disgruntled tone. “It’s not as if you’re going to use your real name. You both are going to use fake identifications which means the marriage will be void from the very beginning. But it will not be easily discovered unless the king would order to stop the existence of the dummy identifications,” Tsubasa explained. “It’s the only way for you to enter the Hirazaki grounds without causing any suspicions.”
Leaning back on the wall, Natsume thought for a moment as he kept stealing glances at the sleeping girl. He hated to admit it, but Andou’s idea was quite appealing. The only problem is how to convince that idiot of a girl to be part of the plan. “I got your point. Now, what?”
“I will prepare the things that you need in the morning before I leave,” Tsubasa told him. “Also you need to meet someone in order to change the official citizen records. And I need to give you my password.”
Tsubasa grinned and leaned towards Natsume’s ear and whispered. The prince’s brow just wrinkled in disgust at the whispered password.
“Damn!” Tsubasa cursed as he searched for his pockets. “I ran out of cigarettes.”
His companion, a bearded man with heavy structure, raised his brows. “Well sorry mate, but you don’t like my cigarettes. Go, buy your own.”
“Damn shit!” Tsubasa continued to grumble. “I’ll be off for a moment, Hino. Hey, don’t touch my toys,” he warned as he reached for the doorknob.
“You still haven’t had your fill with the bitch?” Hino complained. “When are we going to have our turn?”
“I only had one night with her,” the shadow manipulator said, his eyes narrowing into a menacing glare. “I don’t like sharing my toys, so back off.”
“Yeah, yeah. It’s not like I could do anything while I’m on guard here,” Hino grumbled. Their other companions had left to meet with someone. Well, he really didn’t have any idea who it was. Their leader Sato, was the only one who was in direct contact with the boss. They only follow what Sato told them to do. All he knew was that they were tasked to steal some important information from the Hyuugas. They were not completely successful on their mission but they managed to get almost half of the information, all thanks to Kail. He could still hear Sato’s disgruntled mutterings of ‘Damn Hyuuga’s tight security!’ when they were immediately spotted right after they had entered the Citizen Registration building. But rather than panic, Kail used his alice to detect the whereabouts of the guards and stopped them in order to buy more time to complete their mission. But then the Hyuugas had the strongest and the most well trained security force in all of Alicea. Though they were not able to complete the mission, the boss seemed pleased that they managed to even get a bit of information from a well secured facility. That was unheard of in all the years of spying made on the Hyuuga Kingdom. Kail seemed young but he was well knowledgeable with the ins and outs of the Hyuuga Kingdom. But then he had been a hotlist criminal for years and considering that he had never been caught just proved how slippery of a criminal he can be. Though he may be the youngest in their group, Sato trusted him completely since then. But he also felt that Sato feared the young criminal. He himself had seen Kail kill. They had encountered a group of bandits before and Kail was the one who killed almost the entire group. That was why when Kail expressed interest on the young girl they had captured, Sato just gave in to his whim. It was better to keep their young comrade happy; it would ensure his loyalty to them.
Tsubasa glanced at his watch. It was past 8 am in the morning. In a few minutes, he knew that the plan would take its place. By the time he reached their hideout, the Hyuuga soldiers would already be there inquiring on a criminal who had escaped the night before. He turned the corner towards their hideout and paused when he saw the soldiers talking to Hino.
‘Just as planned…’ he smirked and made sure Hino saw him before he hid himself against a pile of empty barrels. It would make Hino think that he was surprised himself at the sudden appearance of soldiers. He took his dark glasses from the front pocket of his jacket and wore a bandanna on his head. He took a plaster and covered the star mark under his left eye. Hino believed him to be a hotlist criminal, so every Hyuuga soldier would be well aware of how he looked.
‘Perfect,’ he hid a grin as he walked towards his ‘companion.’
“What’s going on here?”
Hino let out a sigh of relief when he saw Kail walking towards them. He thought Kail would run away and leave him after he saw the soldiers barricading their hideout. But he also knew that it wasn’t on Kail’s personality to run away from a fight especially leaving a comrade behind. That was why Sato liked him very much. He was indeed a sneaky one, putting a disguise immediately after he saw the danger.
“Ka…” he called, then paused. Sweat formed on his forehead as he had almost blurted out his comrade’s name to the soldiers. “-kun.” He saw Kail’s eye twitched behind the glasses. He hoped Kail wasn’t too disgusted with the name. The last thing he wanted was to be on his bad side. He cleared out his throat and began to explain. “They said that they were looking for a criminal who managed to escape during a raid yesterday. I already told them that we haven’t seen the man on the picture.”
Tsubasa glanced at the photo held by one of the soldiers. He almost choked and had to hold his laughter when he saw Amane Rui’s photo. He was sure it was him, despite the fake beard and the bushy eyebrows. How he hated the gay guy who had given him the star under his eye – the “Mark of Obedience” as he called it. He lifted his eyes to the soldier holding the photo. The protective headgear covered the person’s face, but the roguish grin that was threatening to escape the man’s lips was enough to give his identity away.
‘Tono, you idiot,’ Tsubasa wanted to growl at him. Even though he hated Amane Rui, Tono should have just used a picture of a real criminal. Tonouchi Akira was his senior, and though they were friends, Tsubasa would oftentimes get irritated with him. He was a bit laidback, and was a playboy even during their academy days, that he even tried to flirt with Tsubasa’s longtime crush Harada Misaki.
Tsubasa just turned a blank look at his friend, sticking to their plan. “Just as my uncle told you, we haven’t seen this man.”
Tono secretly smiled and turned a suspicious glance at the older man. “Your uncle?”
Tsubasa gritted his teeth. “Yes, my uncle.”
Going back to business, Tono let out a more serious tone. “The criminal who escaped was extremely dangerous and based on our estimations; he must have passed this way. We were authorized by the Hyuuga Head Security to check on the individual houses to ensure the safety of the citizens. It’s possible that he must have hidden inside your home without you knowing it.”
Tsubasa shook his head. “That’s impossible. I clean the house every morning so I should have found if someone was lurking inside the house.”
Tono bit back another laughter at the lie. ‘Tsubasa-kun cleaning? That would be a sight to see.’ “I’m sorry but we are just following orders.”
Hino gave a worried glance at Kail but the younger man’s face remained calm, except for the slight tightening of his jaw. Kail then bowed. “Then please do so, sir.”
At their leader’s nod, five soldiers went inside, while three including the leader remained outside. Hino began to panic. They’re going to find the hostages! He reached for Kail’s shirt and began to tug it, but Kail just gave him a blank stare. He knew they were in a mess but couldn’t help but trust his comrade. He was with Himitsu Kail. And one thing their group was confident with one of the Hyuuga’s most wanted criminal, it was that he would never allow himself to be caught.
Then he saw a slow grin emerged from Kail’s lips. “You guys really look cool together.” And before any of the soldiers could react, he grabbed the leader’s head and slammed his knee against his stomach. “Sorry Tono. That might hurt a bit,” he whispered, which Hino failed to notice, then tossed his friend’s body on the ground, knowing well that he was only pretending to be unconscious. He quickly stepped on the shadows of the remaining soldiers, halting their movement and made a zipper sign against his lips, rendering the soldiers mute. But one of the soldiers from the inside poked his head and saw him.
“Shit!” Kail cursed and glared at Hino. “Run you idiot!” he shouted as he knocked the two remaining soldiers unconscious, while dodging the soldier’s bullets.
A yell was heard from inside the house. Tsubasa dashed as fast as he could but not before glancing back at Tono. Though he seemed to be unconscious, he saw Tono’s hand giving him a thumbs up. He grinned inwardly and took a small rectangular object from his pocket as he jumped over the fence, his thumb preparing to press the red button. Only one thing worried him, and he hoped that the prince remembered everything that he told him. Otherwise, he would really turn into a hotlist criminal for killing the prince of the Hyuuga Kingdom.
Hino panted as he looked back towards their hideout. They had already prepared an escape route just in case and he knew that Kail would come any moment if he managed to escape. Suddenly, a loud explosion disrupted the silence of the morning. A second explosion followed shortly. ‘Kami! What did Kail do?’ he thought in shock. A low rumble was heard next, and the third explosion followed blowing the house into pieces. He lifted his hands from his face and saw the black smoke coming from their previous hideout.
A slight movement came from the bushes, and he wasn’t surprised when he saw his young comrade emerging from it.
“Kail!” Hino ran towards him. He glanced at the direction of the explosion which was now covered with black smoke. “H-how? W-why…?”
“I always put bombs on our hideouts,” Kail shrugged. “Just to make sure that if something like this happens, we could easily escape without any trace. Now, let’s go.”
“You think we killed them?”
“There’s a chance. But those are Hyuuga soldiers. That means all of them have alices. I don’t know if any of them has an alice that could help them out of the explosion. But I’m sure the hostages are dead,” he said with a blank expression, as if the death of two innocent people meant nothing to him. “Come on. We need to find Sato and the others. They need to know what happened.”
Hino was left staring at his back in awe. ‘No wonder he’s one of the most wanted criminals. He’s cautious, but deadly.’
“Hotaru-chan, you’re back!”
Imai Hotaru had always been known for her cold personality, but there was a slight difference in her expression as she entered the school gates. She ignored whoever tried to greet her and went directly to her laboratory. Her friends were left looking at each other in surprise. There was really something different with Hotaru. She looked… worried?
As soon as she entered her laboratory, she went directly to her control room. She had to know what happened to Mikan. If her hunch was right, Mikan was wearing the friendship bracelet that she had just given her. It was the only thing that she could use to know where she was. She had meant to use it to know what was going on inside the Sakura house.
She began to type some series of commands on her computer and all of a sudden, a video prompted on the screen.
Hotaru leaned forward trying to make out what was shown. It seemed like an old storage room. She turned up the volume and tried to make out the voices.
‘… any moment now, there will be an explosion so prepare yourself, Polkadots. I could already hear them coming.’
‘Polkadots? Explosion?’ Hotaru thought in confusion.
‘Mou stop calling me polkadots, you hentai! Hey, what’s that?’
‘None of your business.’
The video began to move which means Mikan was moving. The screen then showed a raven haired guy approximately a foot away from her.
“Natsume-kun, I’m scared… what if…?”
“Stop whining, ugly. Nothing will happen to us.”
There was another movement and it seemed that the guy grabbed Mikan’s arm.
“I told you to stop worrying. Andou won’t let us down.”
Hotaru narrowed her lavender orbs as the screen showed the face of the guy with Mikan. Raven hair, crimson eyes… ‘It couldn’t be… and his name is Natsume? Hyuuga Natsume?!’ Hotaru thought in surprise. ‘What is the prince doing with Mikan? Wasn’t he supposed to be in the palace? Or with Nogi? Wait… Andou?’
Just then a loud explosion was heard. Hotaru felt her heart stopped. ‘Mikan!’ She heard Mikan’s scream all over the room as the video became bumpy. She couldn’t make out what was happening anymore.
‘Grab my hand, you idiot!’
The screen was getting blurry as smoke began to fill the area. Another explosion was heard then the screen went black.
Hotaru didn’t realize how tense she was until she saw that she had already crumpled the designs that she was planning for her new project. Fear began to gnaw in her. ‘What happened to Mikan? To the prince? What the hell was going on?!’
Mikan was coughing severely as Natsume swam, pulling her towards the riverbank. After they had settled safely on grass, the boy turned a frustrated glare at her.
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me that you don’t know how to swim?!” he shouted. “Damn it! You could have drowned back there if I didn’t see you!”
Mikan continued to cough as she recovered her breathe. “Y-you m-moron! You d-didn’t ask! And you just pushed to the river that I didn’t have time to tell you!”
“You’re an idiot!” Natsume growled back. He paced back and forth, thrusting his hand against his unruly hair, trying to calm his nerves. ‘Damn! And I have to bring this girl with me to Hirazaki Kingdom?’ he thought in frustration. But he had to admit that it was partially his fault. He immediately assumed that she knew how to swim so he left her on her own. He remembered panicking when he realized that the girl hadn’t emerged from the water after they had jumped into river before the house exploded into pieces. He had to dive back into the water and had to look for her. He had almost lost the package that Andou left him while trying to save her.
He sighed and looked back at the girl. It was only then he realized that she was shivering due to her wet clothes. Not only that, her torn and wet dress clung to her body like a second skin that he couldn’t help notice that despite her childish attitude, she was every inch an adolescent. Mikan must have noticed his stare that her arms immediately crossed over breasts.
“What the hell are you looking at, pervert?!” she accused.
“Tch,” he managed to reply. “There’s nothing much to look anyway.” His reply only earned a glare from the young girl. “Anyway, you need to get out from those clothes, otherwise you’ll get sick.”
Mikan’s eyes widened, misunderstanding his words. “You’re really a sick bastard. I’m not going to get naked in front of you!”
“Don’t assume things, little girl,” he replied cocking his brow at her. “I’m going to buy some clothes. I remember this place so I think there’s a clothes store nearby.”
Mikan flushed at her obvious mistake. “Uhm… I’m coming with you,” she offered as she watched him stood up and prepared to leave.
“Don’t. Besides, you look like shit,” he told her bluntly before turning around to leave.
It didn’t take long before she saw Natsume coming back with a paper bag. He was wearing some clean clothes that though didn’t look expensive, fitted him well. He looked clean and even more handsome than the first few times they had met. He tossed the package at her without a word.
Mikan opened the paper bag and pulled out a white spaghetti-strapped dress and a pair of white sandals. The dress was simple but pretty nonetheless. Holding it against her chest, she felt stupid for saying what she said earlier. “I… uhm… I don’t know what to say… thank you, Natsume-kun.”
The boy just nodded and leaned against a tree. He took the package that he was carrying even before the explosion and opened it. He took some papers and began reading it when he noticed her stare. He looked up and noticed the dress and sandals she was holding. “There’s still something inside,” he said.
“Huh?” He bought her another? Curious, Mikan pulled out the remaining item inside the bag and her eyes widened at what she saw.
A pair of pink polkadotted panties and brassiere.
Her cheeks flushed crimson and gave her companion a scandalized look.
Smirking inwardly, Natsume only raised his brows. “What?” he asked in a cold voice. “If you don’t want to wear them, then you could continue wearing your wet and probably stinky underclothes. Geez, I had to tell the store clerks that those are for my wife.” He then turned his attention back to his papers.
Well, the pervert had a point. Still blushing, Mikan murmured her thanks and left to hide behind the trees to change. After she had finished, she stepped out of her hiding place. She shyly walked towards Natsume who seemed busy reading the papers. Hearing her approaching footsteps, Natsume looked up and was greeted by a lovely sight.
Trying hard to keep a straight face, he let his appreciative glance roam her lovely figure starting from her dainty feet wearing the sandals he bought, the white dress that clung to her curves perfectly, and her long honey colored hair tumbling in waves on her shoulders. It was the first time he had seen her without those ridiculous pigtails, and it looked much better on her.
“Good,” he commented in an expressionless voice. “You finally look like a girl.”
Mikan’s ears perked up. She was thankful for the clothes but she couldn’t help feel irritated at him. “So what do I look like before?” she asked in an annoyed voice.
“Like a ten year old boy with pigtails.” Before Mikan could reply back, he cut her off. “It fitted perfectly. The dress, I mean.”
“Y-yeah,” Mikan stuttered, quite surprised at the compliment. “T-thanks. I wonder how you got my size accurately.”
Natsume shrugged. “Easy. You’re small, meaning everything about you is small. If you know what I mean.”
Mikan blushed furiously as she unconsciously wrapped her arms over her breasts. ‘That pervert!’ “Anyway, thanks for your help. I don’t what would have happened if you weren’t there.” She looked quite uncomfortable at the stare the boy continued to give her. “I guess I have to leave now. My stepmother is going to be really furious at me for not coming home yesterday.”
“She’s not going to be worried?” Natsume asked.
Mikan let out a sarcastic laugh. “I think she would be angrier that I was not able to prepare last night’s dinner and today’s breakfast.”
“Is that so?” Natsume murmured. He stood up and walked towards Mikan, his gaze continued to linger on her face. “Your family doesn’t seem to appreciate you. Well, I have a proposition. No, consider at as your payment for that dress and for saving your life.”
“A proposition?” Mikan asked, her heart skipped a beat. She didn’t like the way he was looking at her. Call it instinct, but there seemed to be a definite catch on this proposal.
“I want you to accompany me to the Hirazaki Kingdom.”
“Eh?” Mikan was surprised. “Why would I do that? Can’t you do it on your own?”
“It would be easier to enter if I’m with someone else,” Natsume replied.
Mikan shook her head. “Look, I know you’re a soldier like Tsubasa-niichan but I don’t want to be involved in your work. It’s dangerous.”
“It won’t be. We’re going to enter legally.”
Mikan shook her head again. “No. You may be doing this for the kingdom but I can’t risk my life. Look, I know I owe you a lot but I’m going to pay you once I have money. I’m really sorry but…”
“I’ll pay you.”
“What? 10,000 rabbits?” Mikan countered. “It’s not worth my life, you know.”
“One million rabbits.”
Mikan’s eyes widened at the amount. “O-one m-million? Y-you got to be kidding! You’re not that rich!”
Natsume shrugged. “It’s the Hyuuga’s money anyway. Besides, the way you spoke about your family, it seemed that nothing really awaits you if you go back to them. Just help me on this and you’ll come back here a wealthy woman. You can start a new life after that.”
Mikan began to think. “All I have to do is accompany you?” she asked.
The raven-haired boy nodded.
She smiled. “It’s a deal.”
“Why do you have to wear glasses?”
Natsume clenched his teeth in irritation. He was beginning to regret his decision to bring the girl with him in his mission. For the past hour, she did nothing but asked questions, and asked questions, and asked more questions; that he wanted to rip his hair out, or rather her hair out, in frustration. He had only given her a preview on what they were about to do, given her the fake identification that Andou had provided them, and she began to ask endless questions that he wanted to put some plaster to keep her mouth shut. He ignored her question again as he fixed the glasses the Andou gave him. He had to wear them in disguise. They were entering a government building and it was possible that there may be some people who would recognize him. Unlike the ordinary citizens of the Hyuuga Kingdom, some officials of the Citizen Registration Office had been in the palace and had been introduced to the royal family.
“Shut up, will you?” he hissed as he pulled her arm towards the entrance of the building.
The Citizen Registration building had been installed with some of the best security facilities in the whole of Alicea. For one thing, the building held valuable information regarding the citizens of the Hyuuga Kingdom including the alice of each individual citizen. Important secrets such as the number of soldiers, the categorization of the citizens per alice type and strength, the people under the technological advancement team, and such other information that if leaked to other kingdoms could be disastrous to the security of the kingdom.
It was a short process but they had to undergo security scanning in order to detect if any kind of weapon was brought inside the building. Natsume then pulled her towards a receptionist and pulled something from his bag.
“I need to talk to Sono Kaname…,” he said holding out a card, then looked at the name on the lady’s chest plate. “… Olana-san.”
The receptionist nodded. “Your name please?”
“You both are expected,” she smiled. “Please enter your password on the computer in front of you.”
A tic formed on Natsume's forehead as he typed the password that Andou gave him - IL0V3MiSAKI!. Andou was more of an idiot than he originally thought. He knew who that Misaki he was referring to. Harada Misaki, his younger sister's bodyguard with the doppelganger alice, the notorious amazon who had busted countless of men who tried to court her. Natsume smirked, hoping that Andou Tsubasa was one of those busted men.
A soon as the password was accepted, the receptionist nodded her head. “Please follow me.” She then asked her companion to take over while she led them inside. They walked past some offices until they reached a wall with a painting of woman. Olana tiptoed so that she was on an eye to eye level with painting. A flash of light scanned through her eyes and a sound was heard.
‘Employee ID BS9004578. Your identification is accepted.’
The wall was pushed back and slid to reveal an opening. They followed the receptionist inside and walked along a long aisle.
Mikan’s eyes were wide with wonder at what she saw. The building was really technologically advanced compared to the other buildings she had entered before. But she was quite confused when she saw stuffed toys displayed in every corner of the aisle. It just didn’t fit the image. She stopped in front of a cute lion stuffed toy and tried to touch it when the receptionist’s voice stopped her.
“Katamura-san, please don’t touch anything.”
Slightly embarrassed at the reprimand, Mikan just smiled sheepishly and asked her, “Ano… is the manager really fond of stuff toys?”
Olana just smiled. “Yes, I think he is.”
They stopped in front of an office, then the receptionist knocked. “Kaname-sama, your visitors are here.” After receiving an affirmative reply, she opened the door and led Natsume and Mikan inside.
In front of them was a pale-looking young man, about Andou Tsubasa’s age. The man named Kaname stood up and welcomed them.
“I’ll take it from here, Olana-san,” he told the receptionist who nodded and walked out. “Takanari Natsu and Katamura Sakura, I presume?” he turned to Natsume and Mikan.
They both nodded and were asked to take seat. But Natsume was bothered why he seemed prepared for them. “How did you know we’re coming?” he asked.
“Tsubasa and I have a secret way of communicating and he had already informed me that you both will be coming. And I guess it was about the dummy identifications that he had given you, right?” Kaname asked.
Natsume didn’t fail to notice the small birdie stuffed toy on Kaname’s desk. ‘Stuffed toys, huh?’ he thought as he handed Kaname the papers that Tsubasa gave him. Kaname looked at the papers and nodded.
“As you might not be aware, the Hyuuga Kingdom is the most technologically advanced among the other kingdoms. The other kingdoms may have their fair share of technology type alices, but only the Hyuugas have the best and the most well trained which resulted to advances such as security for our kingdom. Now, identifications are very important since this is the only way to validate that a person is really a citizen of a kingdom. The others may have their own way of verifying, but for the Hyuugan citizens, the verification is handled by the Citizen Committee. Right now, if you present those identifications to the Hirazaki Kingdom, you’ll be discovered as a fraud since your pictures won’t match our databases,” Kaname explained. “Therefore I need to make some changes on the database as to your descriptions and photos.”
“Only the king or his ministers should have the authority to do that,” Natsume pointed out.
“Yes,” Kaname agreed. “But I have special authority granted by the king. And this authority is only limited to the dummy identifications.” He then stood and asked them to follow him.
Mikan was overwhelmed by everything that was happening. She couldn’t help but admire the way Natsume handled himself. She didn’t know that the administration of the Hyuuga Kingdom was much complicated than she thought. She was beginning to realize why alice-wielders were very much valued and that they had more responsibilities compared to ordinary people. They held power to control and protect the whole kingdom. That thought made her look at Natsume. 'Is he an alice too?' she thought. But since their first meeting, she had yet to see him use an alice. The man continued to talk with Natsume, explaining some things she couldn’t understand when she noticed a cute bear typing on a keyboard.
Her eyes widened in wonder and she rushed towards it. “KAWAI!” she gushed.
Too late. Mikan found herself flat on the floor as the cute bear landed a heavy punch on her face and delivered a round house kick on her stomach.
“Bear-chan, stop it,” Kaname ordered and rushed towards Mikan. “Are you okay, Mikan-chan?”
Mikan was teary-eyed as she looked at Kaname. “H-how d-did you know my real name?” she stuttered.
Kaname smiled. “Tsubasa told me that he had got himself a cute imouto named Mikan Sakura.” He lent his hand and helped Mikan up. “Please don’t touch any of those stuffed toys. They all have souls and I’ve made them as part of the defense of this building.”
"Tch. What an idiot," Natsume smirked which only earned a glare from the flushed Mikan.
A few hours later, Kaname managed to complete everything for them. As he handed the papers to Natsume, his gentle face turned serious. “May I talk to you before you leave, Takanari-san?”
Natsume nodded and followed him. Kaname stood in front of the portrait of the current Hyuuga king and sighed as he said without facing him.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, your highness.”
Natsume leaned back against the wall and looked at his back. “I presume Andou told you?”
Kaname smiled as he turned. “Even if Tsubasa didn’t tell me, I would have recognized you. I’ve seen you before in the palace. Besides, your crimson eyes would have been a hint. There aren’t many people with crimson eyes, and one distinguishing mark of a Hyuuga are those eyes.” He then took something from his pocket and handed him a box. “You better use contact lens to change the color of your eyes.”
Moving forward, Natsume reached for the box and opened it.
“Truth is, I thought of reporting this to the king,” Kaname began. “I wouldn’t have approved of such a risky plan especially when it involved the heir of the Hyuuga Kingdom. But Tsubasa was able to persuade me.”
Closing the lid, Natsume just gave him a cold stare. “Neither of you would be able to stop me if I really want to go.”
“I know,” Kaname sighed. “That’s why it’s better that we help you out on this to at least lessen the danger. I also hope that you have considered that bringing that girl would put her life on risk at well. The Hirazakis aren’t a gentle bunch.”
A smirk crossed Natsume’s lips. “I’m already well aware of that.”
Natsume was trying his best to suppress the stupid grin on his face. Damn but everything was going well according to his plan. He hated Andou’s guts but he was sure thankful for his help. He glanced at the folder he was holding, knowing that it was his ticket to go across the Hirazaki Kingdom. Only one more thing to do…
“Mou Natsume-kun, I’m so tired. Where exactly are we going? Aren’t we supposed to take the train towards the Hirazaki Kingdom?”
His earlier grin turned into a scowl. That stupid polkadotted panties girl. If only he didn’t need her to enter the Hirazaki grounds…
“We’re near there,” he answered coldly. He continued to lead the way until they reached an open gate leading to a small but breathtakingly beautiful house. Its lawn was covered with different kinds of flowers.
“We’re here,” Natsume announced.
“Yay!” Mikan cheered, then reached for her sandals. “My feet are killing me already. What are we going to do here anyway? Another secret meeting with a government official? With Tsubasa-niichan? Or maybe with your boss? Nee Natsume-kun, your work is really exciting,” she bubbled enthusiastically. She looked up at the huge letters on the arch of the gate.
“Wedding Bells?” Mikan read, then laughed at the name. “What’s this? A wedding chapel or what? What are we doing here, Natsume?”
“We're getting married,” Natsume simply replied, pulling her inside the gates.
Mikan laughed cheerfully. “Oh right. We’re getting mar…” Her eyes suddenly widened in horror as the statement fully registered into her mind.
And a Early Happy New Year
"Thanks Mrs. Nasigawa!" A slender, hazel-eyed brunette called as she fingered the money the elderly lady had given her for her hard work, "If I work part time at that cafe down the block then..."
She reached her home, slipping in the doorway.
"I'm home!" The brunette called, her voice ringing throughout the house.
An elderly woman at about her thirty's popped around the kitchen door. She smiled, "How's work, Mikan?"
Mikan, the brunette, smiled back at her mother, "Fine. I earned one thousand yen! Almost, but not yet enough for the music camp..."
Yuka Sakura, Mikan's mother, fingered her chin, as if deep in thought, "Hm... Well, I guess I could pitch in... Let's say, 5,000 yen?"
Mikan beamed, "Really?! WOW! Thanks so much!" She yelled ecstatically, throwing herself into her mother's arms.
Yuka giggled. Sometimes her daughter was a bit too bubbly. That music camp was hard to get into. She had passed the test, now all she needed was the cash.
"It's not enough, I still need 3,000 yen more... Ah! With that job at that cafe, I can earn a lot! How much have I got already? Okay... there's the babysitting I did for Mrs. Nagisawa, the chores I did for Mrs. Hoshina, the part-time job at Cafe de la Tres, pet sitting for Mr. Hinamori... I guess that's it... Then there's mom's 5,000 yen, and also the money I saved up from my birthday..."
Yes, the camp was incredibly expensive. 20,000 yen. Right now, she only had 17,000 yen.
But with 3,000 yen from working part-time at Cafe Sweets, a small cafe selling delicate pastries and sweets, she could do it. Besides, the uniform was super cute.
"I better go apply for the job!" Mikan yelled, running out the door, "Bye!"
Yuka smiled. Mikan certainly could make it into the world with a successful life, but what she was really worried about was who she was going to spend it with.
"Do you have any experience?" A tall, blonde woman asked Mikan. They sat in a small office, Mikan on the guest chair and the woman behind the desk.
Mikan nodded her head childishly, "Yes, yes! I've worked in another cafe."
The woman smiled, "That's fine. You're hired for part-time only though."
Mikan beamed, "Thanks so much manager-san!"
The manager handed her a folded uniform, "You can change over there." she said, pointing over to the dressing rooms, "And by the way, my name isn't manager-san, its..." But Mikan was gone.
Mikan walked over to the room, opening the door. It was a quaint room, open windows, with benches and employee lockers.
Mikan dressed into the uniform. It was adorable, or so she thought. She wore a white dress, with frills on it, a pink apron with embroidered cherry blossoms on it, on her head was a frilled headband. On her legs were pink and white striped socks, her shoes were white and buckled with pink polkadots.
Mikan gushed at the new uniform with delight, "CUTE!"
Heading out of the room, she gave herself one last check in the mirror. Looking good.
Taking a small pad of paper and a pen, Mikan headed over to the counter. A bunch of good-looking boys entered the cafe. They were the first customers of the day.
She approached them with a smile on her face. There were 4 boys, one had dirty blond hair, the other had blond hair and cerulean eyes, a boy with sandy blond hair and glasses, and the last one had raven black hair and crimson eyes.
The three boys besides the crimson-eyed one were laughing. Mikan smiled at them, "H-hello! Welcome to Cafe Sweets! What would you like to order?"
The three looked at her, eyeing her up and down. They smirked, especially the raven haired one.
The sandy haired one had a weird smile on his face, "Hey sweet thang! I wanna hot waitress parfait!"
Mikan clenched her teeth. She had no idea how rude boys could be, "S-sorry, we don't have that here."
The one with glasses tried to calm his friend down, "Y-you shouldn't do that to the poor girl...Koko..."
The said boy, Koko, grinned, "Nah! She doesn't mind. Don't you, sweet thang?"
Mikan could have just punched that guy in the face, "Just tell me what you want to order. And it actually has to be on the menu."
Koko sighed, "You're no fun for someone so hot..."
Mikan had the last straw, "Look?! Are you gonna order or not?!"
The boys besides the glasses one smirked. The raven haired one finally spoke, his crimson eyes gleaming, "Looks like sweet thang here's got a backbone." His voice was deep and husky.
Mikan frowned, "Just order!"
The boy smirked, "Fine, fine. Get me coffee."
Mikan wrote it down, and pointed her pen at the rest, "You?"
Koko grinned, "I wanna... cake! Cheesecake!"
Mikan nodded and jotted it down, "Last two. Waddaya want?" She pointed her ballpoint pen at the other two.
The blond one looked at the other one with glasses, "Yuu, any suggestions?"
"U-um... T-the chocolate cookies sound g-good..." Yuu said nervously, stuttering.
"Kay, we'll get that and... strawberry parfait." The blonde one said, nodding at Mikan.
Mikan wrote it down and turned around to go back to the kitchen.
"Wait a minute." She turned around to see the raven haired boy again right behind her, "I want some of that strawberry parfait too."
Mikan nodded, "Fine." She jotted it down on the pad.
"Does it taste any good?" He asked, looking at her inquisitively.
Mikan nodded. She had been in the cafe a few times and tasted the parfait. One word. Delicious.
And a Early Happy New Year
"Hm.. Yeah!" she said grinning. The boy smirked.
"You've tasted it?" He asked, creeping closer to her, though she didn't notice it.
"Yeah!" Mikan replied, grinning as she reminisced of her first time in the cafe. It was the first dish she had ever tasted. From the cafe, that is.
"Then you don't mind me tasting a bit of what you tasted, do you?" He said swiftly, and before she knew it...
He suddenly pulled on her collar, and their lips locked.
Mikan's eyes grew wide with shock. The boy pulled away, "Tastes good. Really good."
He smirked. Mikan gasped. H-he was her first kiss!
Oh, he was so gonna get it...
Mikan frowned. She was in her room, counting the money she had. "18,000, 19,000, and finally... 20,000 yen."
She was happy and all, that she was able to get enough money for the camp, but she still remembered what happened in the cafe. The "kiss to taste" incident. She grimaced. After what happened, Tokiya-san came over and asked what the problem was. Mikan related everything to her and Tokiya-san bowed her head at the boys. Before that, she had whispered to Mikan, "Those boys are our best customers! They come everyday. We don't want to lose such good customers! They may be rude, but they pay well." Mikan understood, but she was still angry. She bowed her head at the boys too and the boy who kissed her was smirking greatly.
Mikan headed down to the dining area for dinner. Her mom was there, making noodles for dinner. As she helped set the table, Yuka questioned her.
"So? How was your job?" she looked at Mikan with a curious smile on her face.
"Hm... Just serving stuff..." Mikan said, absentmindedly picking at her noodle. She looked up at her mom, "But I was able to earn the twenty thousand I need!" Mikan beamed and Yuka smiled as well.
"That's great. When the camp again?" Yuka wiped her mouth with a tissue and looked at the camp brochure.
"It's tomorrow at 8:00 in the morning." Mikan said, sipping from her glass of water.
Yuka looked surprised, "Tomorrow?! If you weren't able to earn enough today, you wouldn't have had enough time to earn more! And you better start packing. And I still haven't filled out your admission form!"
Mikan giggled, "No worries mom. I packed already and filled out the form. All you have to do is submit it."
Yuka sighed in relief, "That good to hear... " She stared at Mikan, "Sleep early tonight. You'll have to be early tomorrow."
"Okay, okay." Mikan said, standing up from the table and heading to her room, "Night."
"Good night." Yuka answered back, smiling at Mikan.
RING! RING! RING!
"Ugh..." a sleepy Mikan groaned as she pressed the snooze button on her alarm clock. She tried to fall back to sleep.
"Mikan! Wake up!" she heard her mother call. She groaned, getting up again. And then, it all came back to her. The camp.
Running here and there, Mikan hurried to get ready. Brushing her long, chestnut brown locks at the same time brushing her teeth, she thought about what she would wear. Shrugging off her worries for the meantime, she grabbed the first thing in her closet. A plain red shirt with black suspenders and black and white striped arm warmers. Then, she grabbed a pain of white jean shorts, and leg warmers. It was the time of the year when it was breezy.
She ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Her mother was making toast and she grabbed a piece, smearing it with strawberry jam and butter.
"The bus is going to arrive soon." Yuka said, looking at Mikan, amused. Mikan's mouth was full of toast and jam, as she was eating it in a rush.
"Huh?" she said, grabbing another piece of toast, "What bus?"
And a Early Happy New Year
Yuka looked at her in exasperation, "You mean you don't know? And I thought you were the one obsessed with it all."
Mikan pouted, crossing her arms over her chest, "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. Now what bus?"
"The bus. The one taking you to the camp?"
"Oh? I thought you were the one bringing me there." She tilted her head to one side.
"No, the bus is going to be here in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1."
A large bright yellow bus stopped at the sidewalk of their house. Mikan grabbed her duffel bag and her handbag. She stopped to wave goodbye to Yuka, then rushed out of the door. Meanwhile, Yuka sat on her chair, shaking her head, "Oh, I hope that child doesn't get into trouble."
It was too bad that Yuka's hopes were not going to come true. Because Mikan Sakura wil not only get into a heap trouble, but also adventure, action, suspense, and most of all, love.
Mikan climbed into the bright yellow bus. The bus was large enough to hold many people, and it was covered in messy graffiti.
Inside, many people of her own age were complied in groups. She gulped. It was just like the first day of high school all over again. The popular girls were seated near the back of the bus, gossiping, putting on makeup and eyeing boys they fancied. Beside them, though not paying them attention most of the time, were the popular boys. They were all good-looking, though the group surrounded one boy. He looked familiar, but Mikan hardly noticed him at all, nor gave him a second glance.
The moment she stepped in, all eyes turned to her. They stared at her as she made her way to an empty seat. The familiar looking boy was especially gazing at her with interest. She tried not to look at him, and settled down on an empty seat. No one inhabited the seat beside her, so she placed her bag down. She heard foot steps nearing her, but didn't mind it, gazing out into the window. She was in her own world, that was, until a familiar husky voice whispered in her ear.
"We meet again, huh, sweet thang?"
Mikan bolted upright. Looking up, she saw a very familiar face that was too close for comfort.
And a Early Happy New Year
"You!" she yelled out, grasping the attention of many people. Boys eyeing her with a certain "look" she didn't get, and girls glaring at her with full force. She gulped, but turned back to the boy, clearly not intimidated by the unwanted attention she was being given.
"You!" she repeated, "The kiss monster!" The boy looked at her in a way she did not understand. He blew in her ear again.
"Now, now, sweet thang. Kiss monster, am I? Let's see how much of a kiss monster I really am." Mikan gasped, pushing him away before he could try anything.
"You really are a kiss monster! Get away from me!" She flailed her arms around, and the rest of the people sweat dropped. The boy wouldn't stop smirking.
"And one more thing, sweet thang, the name's not "kiss monster." It's Natsume. Natsume Hyuuga." And with that, he gave one last blow to her ear, and turned away.
Mikan was frozen, and if you looked close enough, you could see her soul pouring out of her mouth.
Hyuuga went back to his posse, it turned out that he was that familiar looking boy surrounded by popular guys. He turned back to look at her, he smirked, which she had expected, but he did one other thing that made her stomach churn. He winked at her. And that was the moment that Mikan Sakura considered suicide.
"Wasn't that girl the hot chick you ate up in the cafe, huh, Natsume?" Kokoro Yome, one of Natsume's best friends, also known as Koko, said.
Natsume glared at him, "Yeah, so what if she is. Back off, this one's mine." Koko sweat dropped, backing away slowly.
"Chill man, I'll stay away. So, she's this week's prey then?" Koko said, looking at Natsume inquisitively.
Ruka Nogi, the blond foreign looking one sighed. He was the best friend of Natsume, "I kinda feel sorry for the girl. I mean, you're going to break her heart in one second flat, like those other girls you've dated, aren't you, Natsume?"
Natsume stiffened under his gaze, but still retained his cool composure, "She's different, this one." He shifted his position, his palm on his chin, while a smirk grazed his features "I like challenges, she'll be mine.. permanently. I'll make sure of it."
And a Early Happy New Year
The clouds were the usual - white and fluffy. Nothing strange. The sky was the usual - clear and baby blue. The same. She was feeling the usual - excitement, anxiety, nervousness, happiness, fear, and most of all, anger. The usual? No. The same? No. Strange? Yes. Everything except the "anxiety," "nervousness," "fear," and the last but definitely not the least, "anger." The anger was especially directed at one anger-inflicting Hyuuga Natsume. Oh joy. This was one example of an extra-ordinary day in the life of Mikan Sakura.
Stepping out into the breezy, sun-ray filled air, Mikan shielded her eyes. The camp was... certainly not what she had expected.
Everything was mostly grass and trees, she had known about that. But she certainly had not known about the tall, enormous, beautiful buildings in the premises. There were 3, huge, white buildings in the large grassy field. They looked modern, and Mikan couldn't help but feel that she was going to enjoy her stay here, wether Hyuuga was here or not. She'd have fun without his presence. Too bad she couldn't avoid the unavoidable. There, also in the middle of the field, right beside the 3 buildings, was a large stage.
She felt an arm wrap itself around her waist, and the now familiar husky voice in her ear, "Hey, sweet thang." She felt herself erupt into a million shades of red. Pushing him away, yet again, she sped as fast as she could toward the main building.
Natsume chuckled mischievously, "I guess it's time to pay a visit to dear old pops."
Oh great. She was lost. Mikan wandered and wandered along the vast halls. She was far too shy to ask directions to the administration office, even though there were numerous bustles of people hurrying everywhere. She didn't notice though, the stares and whispers about her. She was the center of gossip.
Stupid map. It never taught her anything about where things were supposed to be. The text wasn't even typed right. It all looked upside down, and she couldn't make out a single word. Stuffing the paper into her bag, she decided to find things her own way. Okay, first, she looked around. Maybe there was a sign or something...
"OOF!" Mikan said, as she bumped onto the cold marble paved floor. A hand was reached out in front of her. She stared at the hand for a while. It was pale, smooth-looking, and she wanted to grab a hold of it. But she wasn't paying attention to the person the hand was connected to.
"Oi. If you're not going to accept my help, free of charge, I'm leaving." A cold voice of a girl rang out into the hall. Mikan grabbed the hand immediately, heaving herself up. She stared into amethyst orbs, mesmerized. She quickly let go of the hand, smiling sheepishly.
"T-Thanks. I-I'm Mikan Sakura." she stuttered, holding out her hand.
"Tch. Hotaru Imai." The cold voice sounded again, and she really looked at the owner of the voice. It was a raven haired girl, about her height, with those amazing amethyst eyes. The girl walked past Mikan, and she tried to keep up with her.
"U-Um! Do you mind helping me?" Mikan asked, gathering up her courage, "I'm lost. Do you know where the administration office is?"
Hotaru looked at her, turning back again, not speaking. Mikan tried her hardest in keeping up, Hotaru's stride was quick. She kept up as best as she could, and then...
"OOF!" The second time in one day. She had bumped into Hotaru's back. They had stopped in front of a sturdy looking mahogany door, a gold plate labeled "Administration Office Headquarters"
Mikan turned to Hotaru, "Thank you!" She smiled. Hotaru seemed emotionless, but you see in her eyes that was slightly taken aback by that hundred-watt mile.
"Hn. Be thankful this is the second time this goes without charge." And then she was gone. Mikan put her hand on the shiny doorknob. She was on her own now.
Mikan breathed in, and then exhaled. Okay, she could do this. Right, she could. It was a good thing that Hyuuga wasn't there. She smiled briefly. The day she'd like him was when pigs fly. Wait, Hyuuga couldn't fly right? Good.
She opened the door with hesitation, feeling more nervous as time sped by.
The room was small and plain white; windows were open, letting the breeze in. A long counter occupied half of the room, with people behind it. Waiting chairs stood on one side of the wall, and she made her way up to one of the receptionists.
Mikan smiled sheepishly, “I’m Mikan Sakura...”
The receptionist was a thin graying woman in her forties. Her eyes were sharp, yet warm, “Yes, Miss Sakura. At your every class, please ask your teacher to sign this form,” She handed Mikan a slip of paper. Mikan nodded, smiling tentatively, “Here is your class schedule, and the key to your roo...” The phone by her desk rang, and she picked it up.
“Yes? Oh, hello sir.” The receptionist stiffened and sat up straight, as if the person on the other line could see her, “Room number 324? All right, she’s here right now. Yes, I’ll inform her. Goodbye, sir.”
And a Early Happy New Year
The receptionist set down the phone on the receiver, and sighed, “That boy, asking his father...” She seemed to finally notice Mikan’s presence in the room, “Ah, now, here is the key to your room. Yours is in building 2, number 324, in the 3rd floor.”
Mikan nodded, accepting the key, “Thank you.” The receptionist smiled.
“No problem, I hope you enjoy your stay at the camp.” Mikan headed out of the room, shutting the door behind her.
After finally seeing her mistake of reading the map upside down, Mikan found building two, which was one of the three white buildings in the grassy field. It was as modern as it looked from its outer appearance, marble floors, and students bustling here and there, just as the first building. She took the elevator to the third floor.
Pressing the “up” button, she tapped her foot impatiently. Finally, the smooth cold metal doors slid open and she stepped inside, not at all noticing the person inside with her.
“Hey, sweet thang.” She froze, looking up. Natsume Hyuuga. Could life get any worse? Yeah, I think it just did.
Mikan froze in horror. Natsume was nearing her, backing her up the elevator wall. She felt his minty cool breath on her pale skin, “Well, what have we got here?”
Just then, the doors slid open, and taking this chance, Mikan bolted out of the elevator. Natsume cursed.
“So close.” He murmured under his breath, “No matter, I’ll corner her later. I’ve got all the time in the world.” And with that, a smirk displayed on his handsome face, he strode off the same direction Mikan ran off to.
Meanwhile, poor Mikan was hurrying through the bustling crowd, looking behind her to see if Hyuuga was following. He was out of sight. She sighed in relief, and slowed down a bit.
Passing numerous doors, she finally spotted one labeled, “324.” She opened the door, and she couldn’t believe her eyes. It was one of the most extravagant places she had ever been in. Had she got the right room? She checked her paper again; it was indeed, room number 324.
The room was extremely large, rich furnished carpets on the smooth floor, beautiful paintings lined the walls, and a giant crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling.
She knew she would have to share the room with a roommate, but she didn’t think of that now. She ran from room to room. She found a room perfect for her. It was a pale orange, a queen sized bed stood in the corner, a beautifully carved mahogany desk. She squealed with delight and jumped onto to bed. It was extremely soft, and she bounced up and down.
Her joy was disrupted when she hear the door open and close again. She stood up, a grin on her face. It was probably her roommate, so she headed out into the hall and into the living room to greet him or her.
“Hi! I’m Mikan Sakura! It’s nice to-“ She stopped in mid-sentence. For sitting comfortably on the velvet sofa, was Natsume Hyuuga.
‘Don’t tell me he’s my roommate?!’ Mikan thought in horror.
“Mikan Sakura, huh, I’d still prefer to call you sweet thang.” He smirked, and Mikan felt as if she could chop his head off. Before she knew it, she was backed up to the wall. Natsume’s lips were nibbling her ear. She could have died.
“I still haven’t forgiven you for escaping me. Now that’s not nice.” She gulped back a moan from escaping her throat.
What in the world had she gotten herself into?!
And a Early Happy New Year