A/N: Expect errors…Read and Review!
Disclaimer: I do not own Mai-Hime
Chapter I: Sea Green
--Five years later –
"Oi, Natsuki! Are you even listening to me?" asked my best friend Nao as she held a girlish red dress through a hanger.
I didn't answer her and instead, resumed ogling at the numerous lingerie that were displayed. I was scrutinizing a black lacy one when I heard her snort. I ignored her still and moved to the other line of my obsession.
"Tch! Tch! Lingerie, lingerie. If I didn't know any better, I think you have feelings for me."
"What? !" that was when I finally turned to look at her, removing my eyes from where they once were. I didn't need anyone to tell me that I was blushing. "What made you come up with such disgusting absurdity? Don't be so full of yourself, stupid! I ain't that way. And what does lingerie have anything to do with that?"
Nao cackled loudly that made the sales ladies land their gazes on our direction. The other customers inside the clothing store did the same.
"Idiot, I was kidding! I just wanted to get your attention. And as I was expecting, it worked!" she continued to laugh.
"Shut up! Will yah?" I landed my attention back to the undergarments although the flame was still on my cheeks.
"Now, I'm wondering why you're so much in panic when I say something like that…" she stepped closer to me, wearing a mischievous smirk on her face. I subtly flinched when she got nearer and our faces were only an inch apart, as if going for a kiss. "Perhaps…you really do have feelings for me, eh?"
"W-what are you talkin' about?" I nervously asked as I stuttered. I felt my face redden ten times more while I unconsciously moved my steps backward slowly to widen our gap. But Nao was too persistent for she still came closer. And when I thought she was about to kiss me, she suddenly guffawed.
"Natsuki, haha! You're so easy. I can't believe you want to be kissed so badly that you were about to close your eyes! Haha!"
I snarled to hide my embarrassment. "I didn't close my eyes! Don't make up stories. Besides, who wants to pucker up with you? ! I'd better kiss a dog than do it with you, dimwit!"
"We both know you really mean it about kissing a dog…haha… But I guess you're a little too defensive when you denied liking to be kissed by me." she declared proudly.
"Of course not!" I countered. "Maybe you should tell that to yourself instead. I saw you blushing as if you definitely desired kissing me!"
That was when Nao started to become beet red as well, though on my part, it was subsiding. "I wasn't, you liar!"
"Yes, you were."
"No, I was not!"
"Don't deny it, you silly!"
"Shut up, bitch!"
"Ahemm" Someone not me nor Nao disrupted the banter. Both of us noticed it was the manager. With that, we were reminded that we're in a semi-public place that didn't tolerate such noise.
Looking around, I could see prying eyes on us. I glanced back at the hyena. "This is all your fault."
"It could have not happened if you were just listening to me earlier."
I glared at her.
"Anyway…" She lifted the dress that she had been holding for me to see up close. "…as I was saying when you were drooling over your to-die-for…" her lips curled into a sly grin.
I, picking up on what that meant, quickly moved away from her and strode towards the store's exit. "I shouldn't have brought her with me in the first place." I muttered under my breath.
"Natsuki! Wait!" I heard the red-head call out as she went after me. The dress on her hand was gone when she trailed behind me. "How'd you know I was about to borrow some money from you?" she asked while we walked along the street.
I rolled my eyes and replied, "Instinct, Nao. And don't even bother forcing me into lending you one for I assure you, I've learned my lessons. You haven't paid your debts to me and yet you're here expecting me to do that? Geez, you're really something."
"It's not like I'm not going to pay you. I only…uh….left my wallet…yeah. That's it. I'll return the money later, you know. I just fell in love with the dress."
I looked at her with annoyance while I continued to walk. I answered sarcastically, "Oh yeah! You absolutely tell no lies and I believe every word you sa—Ugghh!"
Someone bumped into my left shoulder. I almost fell backwards at the impact.
"Oh! I'm sorry miss. Are you ok?" that someone asked apologetically.
I stared up at the figure to give a scolding when I found out how he looked like. He had a dark hair and yellow eyes that seem to tell me that he was sincere. The stranger was tall as well.
"I'm fine. But next time, watch where you're heading." I replied nonchalantly.
The man gave me a polite smile. "'Sure thing, Miss." I went on my way after that with Nao following behind.
"That man is attractive!" she said after a while. "He seems really rich too. Tch! I should have asked for his number. Who knows how much money I'll get from him."
"Whatever, Nao! You don't seem to quit playing around." I said without thinking.
"You're just jealous you haven't dated anyone in your entire life." She paused. "Oh wait! No, you actually did. I forgot because you're too prude now. Tate was a nice guy though."
"I'm not a prude. And Tate…" I remembered the man whom I thought was in love with me. Honestly, I've forgotten about him and my feelings for him although "…I never blamed him being like that."
The walk went to a halt when a thought suddenly came to me.
"Problem?" my bestfriend asked, a little confused.
I didn't talk immediately. I spun around to look at the opposite direction from where we've been.
She blinked, then her brows creased.
"I forgot my lingerie."
Nao's ever infuriating cackle was the only thing I heard after that.
The sun was just four hours away before it would completely come to sleep. I could hear the silent noise of the forest around as I slowly took my steps towards where multiple graves resided.
In my hands were incenses and two bouquets of white flowers which I had bought after hanging out with my best friend. Speaking of Nao, she wasn't able to come with me because of some urgent call from her mother. She told me that she was asked to help her buy some groceries so, I was left alone to go.
Well, it's not like I couldn't go on my own in the cemetery. In fact, most of the time, I visited my brother and mother's graves with just me. It was just that, I expected her company for it was already planned that we'd go together.
Meanwhile, as I finally reached my family's graves, something caught me by surprise. I looked at both. There were two lighted incenses, as well as two fresh bunches of floras.
'Did someone arrive before me?'
Well, that must not be something to feel strange about since it's possible that some of my relatives also came to visit- only earlier though. Maybe it was just my father. But something told me that it's neither him nor any of my other relatives.
'Maybe it's her…But no, that's impossible. That woman had never showed up since after brother's funeral. And as far as I know, she isn't in a bit concerned about his memory.'
I knelt in front of my brother's grave as I laid what I brought on the ground. I turned my head from left to right, somehow expecting the said person to be near.
'Nah, she'd never come here.'
I proceeded to light the incenses afterwards, not troubling myself anymore of her. My mind shifted to a prayer for the dead as I clasped my hands together.
Minutes later, I was at my mom's grave. I was six when she died but my memories of her hadn't faded through the course of time. I could even remember how she had been a good mom. Her kindness and sense of understanding made me miss her so much.
'I miss brother too.' I thought. 'If only both themwere still here, what a happy family we could have been. Surely father would like that as well.'
I was a tad surprised when I realized what those thoughts caused on me. Trying to discard my frustration, I abruptly wiped the wetness in my eyes.
For a moment longer, I just knelt there, forcing myself to forget depression. After feeling a little lighter, I stood up and said my goodbyes to two of my family members. Somehow, I thought both of them weren't feeling lonely. For wherever they were, they had each other.
I had gone driving around for a while before I decided to come home. It was six, and I wasn't expecting my father to be around yet. Usually, he returned home at around eight pm from work in a large advertising company. He had been doing his job as a sales executive since I was little.
Looking at our house, it's quite decent. I must say it's nothing that fanciful but just slightly above average. It's a testament to my father's hard-work. It's the fruit of his dedication into building a nice life for us, his family.
I hopped off my bike after carefully parking it at the house's garage. I removed the helmet as I went to unlock the door. I found it already open before I could bring out the keys. Initially, I felt nervous that someone might had trespassed and took some of our belongings. I eventually thought it was perhaps my father.
'But if it's him, where is his car?'
I started to panic. It's highly possible that the intruder was still there so I put up the courage to enter very quietly. It became confusing when I saw that the lights were on. I grasped at the baseball bat that was leaning at the entrance's wall.
'Stupid thief! Why would he open the lights if he'sstealing at night?' I contemplated. 'No matter what, I'm gonna kick your ass, you son-of-a-bitch!'
My eyes held something that made me more baffled. There on the shoe rack were a pair of stylish slippers and shoes. The former was obviously for a grown up while the latter was for a small one. I was about to berate the intruder's stupidity of leaving such things when I heard a chortling sound.
'And why the hell is the t.v. open? Now, this is really weird.He still has the guts towatch? I can't believe this!'
Carefully, I walked towards the living room's entrance, the baseball bat being held tightly. I poked my head to peek inside the area only to find a small person in front of the T.V. There were toys scattered around. I also noticed an oddly familiar one.
A dog stuff toy same as mine.
My glance quickly diverted to the little person whose face I couldn't see clearly because she was slightly on her back. But I could tell she's nothing more than five years old. I couldn't understand why but a sudden feeling of closeness enveloped me.
The small figure turned in an angle where I could see a bit of her face. She had light brown hair that was tied up into two tails. Her round, chubby face was porcelain in color yet her small lips were shining pink. They were currently curled up because of something she saw on the TV. Her small nose was pretty and cute. But what made me more curious were her eyes.
They sparkled like emeralds.
They were bright and clear.
They were like mine.
It was then I understood why I found her familiar. She was completely like me when I was younger, minus the chestnut hair of course. And from somewhere, I thought she could be a cross between my brother, Shinji and his widow, Shizuru.
'This kid's obviously not a burglar.' I sighed.'But who owns the other footwear?'
I heard a voice call out from the kitchen causing me to jerk. And then again.
The voice was oddly calm in spite of the owner speaking loudly. I felt it coming closer so I quickly yet stealthily went to hide at the back of the living room's opened door. But unfortunately- the small girl whom I could safely name as Miyuki- caught me in the act.
'Why am I hiding in the first place anyway? This is my own house!' I thought as I stood near the room's door.
The kid only stared at me. Seemingly, she was scrutinizing my appearance. Her pea green orbs were with innocent wonder. From being seated on the floor, she cutely stood up. Her eyes strangely didn't leave me before she looked down to pick up that familiar dog stuff toy.
I observed her while she hugged the toy closer to her heart. After doing so, she made small steps towards me which caught me a little off-guard. I was curious about what she's going to do, so I continued to examine her as well. I had to look down the moment she halted in front of me.
'She's so small.' I unconsciously whispered.
Her head tilted a bit from left to right—as if she's taking more details of my face. After her curious visage left, it was immediately replaced by a very adorable grin that really reminded me of myself when I was younger.
I was a bit startled when she bowed her head politely to me. I wondered if I had seen kids her age do that.
"Ara, nice to meet you." she said with a tiny voice.
"You don't look like a bad person so…" She took my left hand then cheerfully asked, "... do you want to play?"
Because the child was just too irresistible with her odd way of speaking—which made me think of someone I hated for a second—I gave her a nod and a smile. I completely forgot about the whole potential robbery aspect to be honest.
"Ok! let's play then." She beamed while pulling me to where her toys were. "Ara, you see… I got lots of new toys. Grandpa bought them a while ago. Look! Look!" she chimed, letting go of my hand as she took some of her playthings and presented them to me.
'Grandpa?'My curiosity was forgotten quickly when she asked for me to sit with her on the floor.
I was about to touch one of her toys when I heard someone calling the child's name once more. That was when I remembered the thief issue. Standing up fast, I turned my head to the caller's direction but my eyes landed back on the child instead because she suddenly called out.
"Mama!" the small girl declared. She abruptly put down what she was holding then straightened up to hurry towards that someone she called 'Mama'.
I followed her movement to the room's entrance. There, I saw the person I never expected to see. I was utterly in shock that I only stood there like a statue.
The new figure wasn't looking at me during that moment. Maybe she hadn't noticed me yet. She was staring down at the small girl who was embracing her.
A genuine smile was on the woman's lips.
"Mama, I got a new playmate!" I heard the kid beam. "…And she really looks like me! She's not a bad person, Mama! I like her!" Her childish tone was with excitement and giddiness.
"Miyuki's right about that." the lady uttered as she shifted her attention to me. Having looked up, she gave me a smile that was all too familiar.
"Ara, it's been a while, Natsuki."
To Be Continued…