Disclaimer: I don't own Mai Hime.
Beta'd by: Kyzano aka "Dragon"
Wow! Thanks for all the positive feedback! I'm glad you all enjoyed the first chapter and I can only hope you'll like the rest of this story just as much. =)
I forgot to mention this back in the last chapter but this is a simple romance story with Natsuki and Shizuru in it. Don't expect heavy drama or intense action because this fanfic won't have it. Natsuki doesn't have to deal with an angst-driven vengeance against a large political organization, so expect her to be a bit more friendly than she otherwise would be. (I stress 'a bit' because, let's face it, it is Natsuki we're talking about.) But don't expect this to be surrounded by humor either- notice that I didn't put humor in the genre label. =P With this story, I'm practicing keeping personalities "in character" given the setting/circumstances, so hopefully it's paying off. ^^; With that said, I hope you enjoy chapter two!
(... Fanfiction dot net, why can't I post "?" and "!" right next to each other in the same sentence anymore? /annoyed)
The black-haired teenager stared outside the window from her seat, glaring at nothing in particular as she continued to formulate a plan to capture the mangaka. If the Student Council isn't going to try harder to find his guy, then I'll just have to take measures into my own hands. Her emerald eyes started to lose their sharp edge as she continued to think, the teacher's droning from the front of the class slowly being tuned out.
After class I'll talk to Harada and Senou to figure out if they can get the scoop on the situation. If nothing else, those two will be able to give me any leads I might need.
Her green eyes shifted lazily from the scene outside to her current teacher, "Yes, Sakomizu-sensei?" She asked, not removing her chin from her upturned palm.
Blue eyes narrowed from behind his glasses. "Mind telling me the answer to this problem, Kuga-san?" It wasn't a question. There wasn't much the afro-haired man hated more than students that didn't pay attention.
The track team's star runner briefly looked over the math problem presented on the board, Factoring, huh? She studied the problem a bit more carefully to finally come up with an answer, "You can take 3x out of the equation, leaving you with the answer of '3x goes into both x plus 4 and x minus 5'." A small smirk formed when the math teacher blanked in awe.
Sakomizu blinked, analyzing the problem before looking down at the answer in the book. "That's… that's correct," He replied, sounding astonished. He ignored the soft chuckles that erupted from around the class as he cleared his throat. The teacher looked back up to his student, "Thank you, Kuga-san," The stout man said before asking the rest of the class if they all understood how Kuga got her answer.
Natsuki's smile fell and her stare moved back to the outside world. She continued her train of thought from earlier, The most obvious route of information to take would be to start from the people who sold the books. From there you can work up the chain before finally finding the guy.
The black-haired girl's gaze narrowed toward the grassy ground, Now, the only problem would be the price Harada will undoubtedly pull from nowhere. I'm already almost in the red this month; I paid my rent a couple days ago and then I had to pay for my Ducati's repairs. I suppose I can always ask Mai to cook up some meals until next month, but I'll still have to haggle Harada's price down.
Natsuki closed her eyes, her brows creasing in her frustration. I'd do all of this myself and have it taken care of today if I wasn't already on the principle's 'severe watch' list. Well, that and I don't think my ears could take another lecture from Suzushiro. Natsuki mentally groaned at the memory.
Speaking of Suzushiro, I still can't believe that they haven't caught who started that manga. It's almost as if someone on the inside is preventing the person from being caught—
An image of a certain brunette passed through Kuga's mind and she lifted her head off her palm. Well, she was interested in the story. Natsuki's eyebrows furrowed a little further, And she was definitely enjoying it. She shook her head lightly, conscious of the people around her, No, I shouldn't jump to conclusions. Thinking like that will make me narrow-minded when the person could be anyone associated with this school.
First things first, Natsuki lifted her gaze up to the clock at the front of the classroom, Get to Harada and Senou right after class ends, before they head out for lunch. She noticed it was about two minutes to the end of class and smirked. She glanced at the teacher who was too busy explaining one last problem to notice Natsuki quietly packing her books into her bag.
Once the bell rung, the teacher turned around just in time to see a blur run past him. He turned his head, seeing Natsuki bolt through the door and frowned, "Kuga-san!" Sakomizu yelled, certain they she didn't copy down the homework. He sighed, shaking his head in exasperation, "Why do I even bother? She only comes to class two-thirds of the time anyway." And yet she still happens to get 'A's on all of her tests, The stout man thought, still stumped every single time his mind brought it up.
Farther down the hall, the star runner had slowed down to a brisk walk, quickly making her way toward the first year's hall. She stared straight ahead, even as students started filing out of their respective classrooms, watching her and whispering. Every once in a while she turned to glare at someone who stared for too long, pleased when they withered under her gaze and pointedly looked away.
Finally, she found the room she was looking for and simply went in, glancing around until she saw the pair she was looking for. "Harada. Senou," She addressed before walking over to the duo still sitting at their desks.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the 'Ice Princess' herself," Chie grinned, showing her teeth, her phone flipped open as she recorded Natsuki's entrance.
Green eyes shifted to glare down at the camera lens on Harada's phone. If looks could kill, that phone would have broke three times by now. Natsuki's gaze then moved back to meet brown and she crossed her arms under her chest, "I really hope you aren't planning on selling footage of me, Harada. I don't think that would be a wise decision on your part."
Chie's grin lost its charm, turning sheepish. She proceeded to delete the footage and flip closed her cell phone, placing it back into her school uniform's pocket, "I suppose you're right about that."
The charcoal-haired first year's grin came back in full-force, moving the conversation along, "So what'd you come here for? I suppose you'll be wanting information on something—" She flipped out her phone once again faster than Natsuki could blink, holding it towards Kuga's face, "Unless you finally agreed to that interview I asked for."
"I haven't." Natsuki peered at the phone, feeling her ire start to rise.
Chie shrugged, placing the phone into her pocket for a second time, "Fair enough." She put on her best business smile, noticing Natsuki subconsciously relax from her stiffened posture now that the phone was gone.
The runner shifted her stance from one foot to the other, idly playing with a lock of raven-colored hair. "I need information from you and soon," she stated, getting right to the point.
Harada's brown eyes glinted a little as she looked at Kuga from behind her glasses, "Well, our business is a popular one, as you might have guessed, Kuga-san," she started. "However, with a little… leverage we can be persuaded into addressing your needs before anyone else."
"You want money," Natsuki said bluntly, knowing Chie's game.
The bifocal-wearing girl beamed, "Glad we're on the same page."
"How much?" Kuga asked, getting ready to barter.
"Six-thousand yen," Chie replied simply, secretly enjoying the look on Kuga's face as the price reached the runner's ears.
Kuga felt her breath catch in her throat. Six-thousand yen! "Hell no!" She exclaimed. "Two-thousand, five hundred!"
Chie clicked her tongue, knowing that Natsuki would probably think she was insane. Well, I do have to split this evenly with Aoi. Chie turned her gaze to the girl in question, watching as the brunette kept her giggles to a minimum. She looked into her partner's eyes, watching the mirth shine brightly in those blue orbs, At least someone's having a kick out of Kuga's glares. Harada turned her gaze back to fierce greens, trying not to shiver under their hard stare. Gah, that glare could scare an army of thousands. "Five-thousand."
Chie fought to keep the smile off her face, knowing they were near the end of their cost-war, "Three-thousand, five-hundred and that's as low as I'm going." She waited on baited breath as Natsuki considered this.
Finally the track team's star nodded her head, "Fine. Three-thousand, five-hundred yen it is."
"Great!" Harada beamed, "Now that the price is out of the way, how can we be of service?"
Kuga dropped the lock of hair she was playing with and crossed her arms over her stomach, "I need you to tell me of the name of the mangaka that wrote 'The Princess and the Queen'." Her brows pinched slightly in confusion when the information broker winced, hissing her breath as if in pain. "What's wrong?" Natsuki asked.
"Let's just say you aren't the first person to ask us for that information," The spectacled girl replied, smiling apologetically.
"And you certainly won't be the last," Aoi added, sitting back in the seat next to Chie's. Her azure eyes met Natsuki's emerald, "We haven't been able to find out who the mangaka is! A whole month and a half and we still haven't gotten any closer to who he or she is!"
"Seriously?" Kuga stared at the brunette, incredulous. This person is able to evade the same people who tracked down the 'Fuuka Campus Panty Snatcher of '08'?
Senou nodded her head solemnly, "We've been working on getting the very information you asked for ever since the Executive Director demand— er, asked us to look into it."
So the Student Council is trying to get to the bottoms of this. Natsuki nodded, "Fine then. Can you at least get me the names of the people selling the manga, both the company and the student distributers, along with background information?" I'll just have to work my way up the system until I get to the writer.
Chie beamed, "That we can do! We should have your information by tomorrow." Her smiled eased into a laid-back grin as she flipped over her phone and started typing Kuga's request into her planner. "Stop by our table at lunch tomorrow."
"Is that all you wanted?" Aoi made sure to ask.
"That's it, for now," Kuga affirmed. She turned around and walked towards the classroom's door, flicking her hair over her shoulder, "Be sure to be open for more jobs, just in case. I'll have your payment by next week, Monday."
With that, Natsuki left the first year's hallway, making her way toward the school's cafeteria to meet up with her friends.
"Oi, Kuga!" Chie waved Natsuki over to their table, trying to be heard over the usual lunchtime clamor of Fuuka Academy. It was Thursday and, as promised, Harada and Senou had obtained the information Natsuki requested. The charcoal-haired girl watched the school's star runner make her way over, ignoring the unwanted attention from the rest of the student body. When Kuga finally sat down across from the duo, Aoi produced a manila envelope and slid it over to their client's side.
Upon retrieving it, Natsuki immediately unhooked the red string and pulled the envelope's contents out just far enough to see if it was what she wanted. She smiled at the results, satisfied; true, there weren't a lot of papers inside, but there was a list and complete background information on each of the items she requested. Kuga turned back to the pair, "Once again, you two pull off quality work." She acclaimed, appreciative.
"Aww~ Kuga, you'll make me blush," Chie jested with a grin.
Kuga rolled her eyes light-heartedly, a bit more at ease now that she had the information needed to start her investigation, "But I still don't know how you guys work so fast; you got me what I asked for overnight."
"With a lot of patience and perseverance," Senou replied, her blue eyes shining proudly.
"And an angry tabby cat," Chie grumbled beside her with a hint of malice.
When Kuga raised an eyebrow, Aoi just smiled sheepishly, "Long story."
"Ah." The second-year student stood up, holding her envelope in her left hand, "I'll have your pay on Monday." She turned and was about to leave but paused, glancing over her shoulder, "Thanks you two."
They both grinned and Chie waved her off, "Anytime, Kuga!"
A small smile formed on her face as Kuga made her way back toward her usual table. She was in high spirits, her grip on the envelope tightening just a little as Mai, Nao and Mikoto came into view. Now I just have to wait until after club practices to start my investigation.
"Yes?" Shizuru looked up from her boxed-lunch to see Reito standing right in front of her desk. The Student Council's members were recently having their lunches in the Council room so they could hold meetings while eating. Currently, however, the rest of the group was waiting for Haruka and Yukino to arrive back from the cafeteria so they could start.
"The Director gave me a letter to pass on next time I saw you." Kanzaki dug into his blazer's pocket and pulled out a small, white envelope. He held it out to the brunette, "She told me that she wanted this taken care of today, right after school."
"The Director?" Fujino grasped the envelope and opened it, I wonder what the principle could want. Have more of the school's sponsors arrived that she wants me to attend to? But if that were the case, surely she'd give me more notice than this. So why…?
Dark red eyes scanned the contents of the letter, brows furrowing slightly as her gaze moved steadily leftward. By the time she reached the end of the message, she was sporting a bemused frown, "Ara…"
Ha... I can hear your cries of fury now: "Where's the Shiznat interaction!" It's coming next chapter, I promise. I just needed to get this chapter out there first. This story is very "Shiznat driven" so you'll get your fill in the chapters to come. ^^ Also, you've probably noticed that that we skipped a full day in the chapter's split; I said this fanfiction would be fast-paced, didn't I? =P
If you like what you've read, or see something I can improve on, please leave a review with any questions or comments you might have. =)