1: "Go to Sleep, You Little Ditz"

When I first saw Mako Mankanshoku, she followed what would become her usual habit and flew at me out of nowhere. Well, not at me; she jumped on her little brother to scold him for stealing. She said something or other to me and then ran to board the shuttle. I can only say I felt baffled.

My bewilderment continued as the cheery Miss Mankanshoku beckoned me to sit beside her in class and then talked about being "besties" when our first class let out. Being a juvenile delinquent who worked independently and usually got my ass kicked, I had no idea what it was like to have an actual best friend. First it sounded corny, but when I looked at Mako's sparkling, caramel-brown eyes and expressive, smiling face, I had second thoughts.

I retreated to the remains of my father's old house. There, I would meet Senketsu. However, the fact that Mako and I stayed together most of the day before that must have tipped someone off. The boxing club champion and other buffoons under that damn Satsuki's control decided to bait me out by threatening to kill Mako.

For the first time I can remember, I felt intensely determined to rescue another human being by risking my own ass. Usually I fought for myself, and I didn't care who else got hurt or even died. Some say that friends are a disadvantage in battle, but if Mako hadn't been there that day, I might not have had the nerve to throw aside my cloak and fight half-naked with the power of Senketsu coursing through my veins. Soon the boxer dude was as good as dead, and though half of me burned with the desire to slice up Satsuki, the other half saw that a retreat was in order; so I accompanied the ditzy damsel in distress home that day.

When Mako arranged for me to stay at her place, I felt truly grateful. I didn't have the time to say so, really, because I had to fend off her pervert dad. When we ate supper, I felt somewhat disgusted at the poor state of Mako's food and family, but I also felt disgusted at myself for not realizing that I had lived in comparative luxury my entire life. I was able to eat when Mako impulsively and with a lively exclamation stuffed three croquets into my mouth with her chopsticks.

"This family is nuts," I said that night to Senketsu, not knowing he was deeply asleep for lack of my blood.

I crawled into the spare futon beside Mako, who I thought was asleep already. I felt insanely awkward. In most of the boarding school dorms, students had "beds" almost like army bunks, and if I had to sleep on a futon during trips, I dragged mine away from the main group. At my dad's mansion, we of course had separate rooms, so all that to say, I had no idea what it was like to sleep so close to other people… I was so close to Mako I could have touched her by barely moving my limbs.

Just then, I felt movement, and in a moment I realized Mako was holding my hand gently. We both slept with at least one arm free of the futon covers. My first instinct was pull away, but then I heard Mako breathing a happy sigh as she drifted back to sleep.

"Fine then," I muttered, red with embarrassment. "She's had a hard day. Maybe she needs me. Don't you worry, Mako," I whispered over her sleeping face; "I'll protect you at school from now on, and kick anybody's ass who tries to kidnap you."

After trying to protect Mako from the tennis club, getting completely beaten, and having to deal with the exasperating Sensei Aikurou, I finally returned to save Mako with a battle-ready Senkestu. It enraged me to see the poor girl tied up and surrounded by bullies, with several bruises on her face. That was the first time I remember thinking Mako had quite a cute face; what disrespect and what waste to fill such a face with bruises!

When Mako encouraged me to play the "Tennis Match" against its barbaric lady leader, I felt completely at a loss, and even a little angry that Mako was pushing me to act. However, when I looked at her face, it was as if I could no longer see the bruises. I only saw her brightly glinting brown eyes, shy smile, and her look of unbreakable faith in me. I took on the tennis captain.

During this fight, I discovered several things. For one, having Mako screaming to cheer me on lifted my untouchable heart so much that I almost forgot the embarrassment of fighting in Senkestu. When I won the match with my scissor blade, Satsuki "descended from on high" and I discovered two facts. One: that long-haired bitch was ridiculously powerful instead of being all talk as I had expected. Two: I could never have admitted it aloud in a hundred years, but there was something strangely attractive about her. I suppose this is what they call Charisma. I ended up retreating again, but I had saved Mako.

Mrs. Mankanshoku thanked me for saving her daughter and gave me a pair of Mako's old pajamas. Mako insisted that I enjoyed fighting nearly-naked in my transformed Kamui, and it was no good trying to correct her. Maybe she wasn't completely wrong. If Mako was there admiring my body, maybe I didn't mind Senketsu. That bizarre train of thought was abruptly broken, however, when Mako started delightedly poking at me in her old pajamas. She looked immensely entertained, but I asked her to please stop. Senketsu and I had a feeling something bad was going to happen the next day.

Before I drifted off to sleep, I heard Mako whisper to me,

"Those pajamas really are adorable on you, Ryuuko-chan!"

"You're only saying that because they were yours," I said back.

"They were?" exclaimed Mako, sitting bolt upright and looking as if she had just realized the origin of the patterned pajamas.

I sat up too and gave Mako a brief hug, saying, "Oh, go to sleep, you little ditz."

Senketsu and I ended up correct about the foreboding feeling. That day, Satsuki came out to fight wearing her Kamui, laughingly named "Junkestu." Even as I fought for my life, embarrassed and ridiculed by that damn Satsuki, my hatred for her mingled with nonsensical thoughts of admiration. I wondered if I was the type of person who only felt physically attracted to other females. Still, I covered those odd feelings with exclamations of hatred.

I would have been toast that day if not for Mako. She must truly have courage to dive in when two young women were fighting in Kamuis! Most of her speech was incomprehensible, and there was something mentioned about my chest. Finally I realized Mako believed I was losing to Satsuki because I hadn't proved that my body was superiorly attractive. Illogical as the girl was, she made me see the truth: I would have to fuse my naked body with Senketsu before I could come close to matching Satsuki's power. So damn it, I got naked and I continued fighting that bitch.

(On a side note, Mako insisted that I was the better looking woman, but I found myself impressed with my body as well as Satsuki's. My more Asian build was slightly more petite than Satsuki's, who definitely looked part-but-not-full Japanese. Satsuki seemed to me more like the woman of the two of us, but we were equally physically fit and toned, and proportionally speaking, my chest was certainly not inferior to that of Satsuki. I later told Senketsu those thoughts, and he laughed, asking if I were "into" girls. I growled "Of course not," but I was wondering the same thing.)

Much to my outrage, even when one with Senketsu, Satsuki soon had me kneeling on the ground with her sword Bakuzan pointed at my throat. She spared my life with condescension that disgusted me, and then she told me she would only face me again if I could beat every club captain with a Goku Uniform. Only then could I uncover the truth about why my father was murdered. And so, full of rage, I agreed to the deal.

I left the school for the day, with Mako following me like a little yappy dog. I didn't understand most of what she would say or (god forbid) sing. I did hear her last proposal, though, and it figuratively hit me like a bulldozer.

"We don't have a bath, and shower water costs real money!" she began. "Hey Ryuuko-chan, let's save water together! Let's shower at the same time! It wouldn't be weird at all, because when rich families have baths, I hear they sometimes bathe together! Sisters wash each other's backs and form mighty bonds of sister-love!"

After recovering from that word-bomb, I asked, "Is that what we are, Mako? Sisters? Is that what you want?"

"What I want?" repeated Mako, looking surprisingly pensive. "Hmm… well, I just want to be next to you. I want to be next to you all the time! My heart beats so fast next to you! And I don't think that's quite normal for being just friends, so how about we be sisters?!"

So Mako had no idea what to do with her feelings or how to interpret them, either. I was stuck in the same boat, not knowing how I felt, and not wanting to drag Mako into the exploration of my complicated feelings about girls. I sighed and gave Mako's shoulder an affection shove.

"We're not sisters," I said; "let's just be you and me. Mako is Mako, and Ryuuko is Ryuuko. That's how we'll leave it for now. And one more thing," I added with mock-anger, "I'm not gonna shower with you if you don't stop poking and tickling me every time you think I look cute!"

"Ryuuko-chan, no fair!" shouted Mako.

We walked home together with enough laughter for ten people.