Chapter One: First Impressions

Okay, it's five minutes after I should have left for school, and I'm officially having a panic attack.

For crying out loud, why does this always happen to me? Am I a magnet for bad luck or what? I knew I shouldn't have bothered waking up this morning.

Kneeling down, I carry on mentally grumbling to myself as I pull item of clothing after item of clothing out of my dresser, throwing them around the room in annoyance. There's every kind of skirt you could imagine, pink, leather, black, grey, pinstripe, blue, you name it. Well, maybe not. I don't have a suede one. I would have if I'd have had the cash to buy the one I saw on Saturday when I was out shopping. It better still be there next time I go, or I might have to throw a hissy-fit.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Which is 'skirts'. More specifically, plaid skirts. Extra specifically, the plaid skirt that makes up my Mishima Industrial High uniform. I just can't goddamned find it.

"Damn it!" I growl in frustration, slamming my fist onto the floor and then sitting on the bed. I scowl, folding my arms and cursing whoever the stupid skirt-mover is to all hell. I saw it just yesterday, for God's sake, it was right on the...

I blink, then ever-so-slowly turn my gaze left a little. The (rather crumpled) plaid skirt stares up at me from its current location - sliding off the edge of my bed. My bed. All this time I've been throwing clothes around and it's been sitting innocently on my duvet. Rolling my eyes at my own stupidity, I snatch the skirt up and pull it on hurriedly, then rush out of my room, shoes clattering on the wooden floor. If I'm lucky, I'll only be ten minutes late.

By the time I get to school, the yard is deserted. Guess everyone's already gone inside. Even the stragglers and the smokers are nowhere to be seen. Great. I quicken my pace, throwing my bag back over my shoulder, hurrying up the path, and barging through the double doors. One of these days I'm gonna do that and there'll be someone on the other side, I swear, and they'll end up flattened against the wall like in cartoons. But today, the corridors are empty. I can hear the chatter of the other students from inside the classrooms, though, which means I'm not too late. So, adjusting the strap of my backpack, I sprint down the corridor, rounding the corner and dart up the stairs, my pigtails bouncing as I run. I can feel one of them coming loose, but I really don't have the time to worry about that right now.

Sighing as I reach the top of the stairs, I slow down a little, squeezing my eyes shut for a few seconds. I can feel a migraine coming on. I knew I shouldn't have had that orange juice this morning, it always sets them off. Trying to ignore it, and the fact that I have one of those annoying so-called 'punk-pop' songs that Miharu insists on playing on her mp3 playe every single day in my head, I set off running again. And promptly trip over my own feet. How elegant, Xiao, really. A surprised scream escapes my lips as I realise that the floor is rushing up to meet me, and I put my arms out just at the last minute to break my fall. My chin hits the ground, though, and I narrowly avoid biting my tongue.

"Owww..." I groan, getting up onto my knees and holding my jaw with a grimace. "Well, today's just going damned perfect."

When I open my eyes again, I can see a pair of feet in front of me and someone's offering their hand to help me up. Sighing wearily, and pointedly refusing look at the owner, I take it, allowing myself to be pulled onto my feet.

"Are you alright?"

I look up then, embarrassed.

"Yeah, I'm fine. You'd think that someone who'd mastered Hakke Ken would be a little more graceful, wouldn't you?"

I study the stranger's face as he smiles slightly at my attempted humour. He has deep brown eyes and hair that's stuck up in messy spikes, making him look like he's just rolled out of bed. I haven't seen him around before, but since he's wearing the Mishima High uniform, I'm assuming he's a student here. Or maybe plaid turns him on, which is a concept I don't want to contemplate so soon after breakfast. He looks familiar in an odd way, and I have to force myself to ignore how damned attractive he is. He doesn't want some girl melting into a puddle at his feet so early in the morning. Even if he has got the most perfect mouth I've ever seen...

Snapping myself out of it, I force a smile, even though my face hurts.

"Thanks for your help." I tell him. "Are you new here? I haven't seen you around before."

He shrugs. "Yeah, I just started today."

"Oh. Though so. In that case, it's nice to meet you. I'm Ling Xiaoyu."

"Jin Kazama."

I blink. Kazama? Where have I heard that name before? Grandfather mentioned it once, I'm sure he did. I decide to ask him later.

"Um, do you know where you need to be right now?" I ask helpfully.

"Yeah." He doesn't seem very interested, fixing his gaze on the wall behind me as though it's the most interesting thing in the world. Hmph, nothing like being polite, is there?

"Where's your form room?"


"Do you know how to get there?"


Hmm. One word answer territory. That's never a good sign. Most people would make their excuses and leave, wondering whether they'd done something wrong, but not me. Maybe I'm just too stubborn for my own good. I smile brightly at him, ignoring the fact that he's looking around awkwardly.

"Well then, I guess you're sorted, huh? Hey, listen, since you're new here, you probably don't know anyone, am I right?"

He nods.

"Okay, well in that case, come and see me at break, alright? I'm usually standing near the college hall."

He looks dubious, but I keep my gaze on him expectantly until he finally sighs in defeat.

"I might." Then he turns around and heads in the opposite direction. I smile to myself. I know there's probably no way he's gonna show up at break, but at least I gave him the opportunity. And proved that even with an aching face, I can still talk someone's ear off.


"And so then she told me that I should brush up on my algebra skills and that four out of twenty possible marks really wasn't good enough, but I can't help it if I'm no good at that stuff! When am I ever gonna need algebra anyway? It's not like I'm ever gonna go shopping and stand there going 'oh, if one skirt is equal to y, and two shirts are equal to x, then this vest is n!'"

I close my bag, brushing my hair out of my face, and mentally sigh with relief that the maths lesson is over. It's break now, and Miharu's recounting the tale of how her algebra teacher wasn't too pleased with her. I'm only half listening, as I'm looking for Jin. You never know, he could show up yet.

"Then in Geography, I forgot my homework and so I got shouted at again!" Miharu carried on. "Jeez, I can't help it if I forget something. I told mum to remind me last night! So not my fault." I've switched off altogether now, because I can see him approaching.

"I can't believe it." I say, smiling in amusement as he reaches me, an uncomfortable expression on his face.

"You said I should come." is his greeting. Amazing social skills, this boy.

"I'm glad you decided to." I tell him. Miharu is staring at him, eyes wide, and I grin slyly at her and whisper; "What?"

"So..." he trails off, and I turn back to him.

"How about I show you around?" I suggest. "I'll provide a running commentary and everything."

He inclines his head slightly, and I take that as a yes.

"You don't say much, do you?" I tease, and I see the ghost of a smile grace his features.

"Hold on while I get my bag and then we can go."

I kneel down to retrieve it and hear a low whistle behind me.

"Not a bad view. Not a bad view at all." I spring back up, hitting Hwoarang on the back of the head.

"Ow. Hey, what was that for?" he complains, rubbing the place where I hit him. I narrow my eyes in mock annoyance and turn away.

"What do you think, moron?"

"You know you love me," he smirks, and is about to say something else when his eyes fall on Jin, who's been silent the entire time.

"He your friend?"

"Hwoarang, Miharu, this is Jin. Jin, this is Hwoarang and Miharu." I say hurriedly. Hwoarang nods a greeting, while Miharu blushes and stutters a 'hello'. This doesn't go unnoticed by Hwoarang, who grins and slings an arm around Jin's shoulders, whispering conspiratorially;

"Looks like you've got an admirer, Jin."

Miharu turns red and opens her mouth to object, but Hwoarang raises a hand and carries on.

"Now, you're welcome to Miharu, but not to Xiaoyu, so, hands off."

"Shut it, Red." I snap, picking up my bag. "You coming, Jin?"

Then we both walk away, leaving behind a perturbed Hwoarang and an annoyed Miharu, who promptly smacks the former for humiliating her.