The breeze was somewhat stiff that morning.
Large groups of leaves were blowing around the Komaba Campus, dancing between buildings, darting around the students hurrying between classes.
The stunning blue hair of one girl looked to have a life of its own, lifted away from her like a living nimbus. Her skirt flapped around her long shapely legs and her scarf hovered above the collar of her fashionable coat.
One of her assignment papers dropped out of its folder, seized by a small whirling dervish of wind. She ran after it, stopping when a young man snagged it out of the air.
"Well-l-l-l, Kaname... looks like you owe me..." The young man held out the paper. "So, how about we go out again? You know you want to..."
"How much is it?" The girl answered with a sour voice.
"W-W-What?" The boy's face went slack with confusion.
"You said I owe you. How much?" The blue-haired girl opened up her purse.
"Let's see... I'll settle for dinner... a movie... and a night at my place..." By the tone of his voice, there could be no doubt that the young man thought he was hot stuff.
"Great. Let me know how it goes. Now, how much to get you to leave me alone? Forever!" The girl stamped her foot. Her face would have frightened someone with a weaker constitution.
"Huh? What? You're kidding, right?" The college student struck a pose, letting the wind pick up his shoulder length hair.
"When they let you into Tokyo University, someone was kidding. I'm not. I just want you to leave me alone." The girl snatched the paper out of the guy's hand, the started back towards the nearest campus building.
The young man grabbed the girl's arm, making her jerk to a stop. "Come on Kaname, it's common sense. The prettiest girl should be going out with the best looking guy. So, what's there not to like about me?"
"Aside from being conceited, dense, insensitive, chauvinistic, lecherous, and a first class jerk... nothing. Hmmmpppfff!" The girl pulled away, pulled her coat tight against her, and started strolling faster to make up taime.
"Hey. I'm not through with you bitch!" The boy stood watching her walking away, shouting at the top of his lungs. "I'm not someone to be messed with. You should be grateful. If you----"
The young man never finished what he was doing to say. Somehow, he fell or was pulled into a large thick row of shrubs. A series of solid impacts could be heard. The young man's scream echoed about the quadrangle, lost on the wind.
Kaname turned around, startled by the final high pitched yelp. She saw a young man walking away from the area, his back turned to her. There was something about his walk that was familiar, but she couldn't place it.
Kaname sat in the far row of the classroom, tapping her pen against the desk top. The current block in Natural Sciences III was Biology. The day's topic was ecology of Pacific Islands, with a heavy emphasis on marine life.
She dropped her pen when her hand went slack. The projected picture of a wave breaking against a rocky outcrop brought back a poignant memory. She had been standing on just such a rock, a fishing pole in her hands, strong arms holding her back from falling.
It had been his arms. He had taken her to his secret fishing spot, not too many days after they had helped save that submarine from that horrible man and a bunch of traitors. He had tried to reach out to her, telling her that he felt like he could do anything around her. It had gotten her hopes up.
She had finally admitted to herself that she had a crush on him.
And a few weeks later, he had informed her that he had been reassigned. He was the only pilot who could operate the damn Arm Slave that she had helped him learn how to use. Her safety took a back seat to that metal monstrosity.
She didn't want to think back to those times. It didn't make any sense thinking about him. She hadn't returned any of his calls, or his clueless attempts at written correspondence. What would the point have been?
Just another carrot dangled before her, taken away just as she had it in her hands.
The story of her
The track at the athletic grounds was not too crowded. A number of sports clubs were going through drills or scrimmages on the adjacent fields, but there were few people running at the moment.
Kaname was working up a good sweat, intent on jogging until she had to stop. With each lap, her attention was drawn to a nearby series of work-out stations. That same young man was doing pull-ups. He had been doing them the last time she passed by too. Remarkable. Maybe not. He probably had taken a breather at some point.
She wished she could see his face, but he was turned away from her and at too far a distance. Just as well, since the last thing she really needed to think about now was guys. It seemed to be the solemn task of every guy on campus to ask her out. Those she turned down chased after her, begging. Those she went out with once, and ended up with no desire to see again, dogged her heels like it was their destiny.
Of course, the few that she had ended up liking could never deal with her attitude and opinions for too long.
Why did she even bother?
When she was finally finished, Kaname walked over to a large and stately oak and placed one leg on it, determined to do some stretching while she cooled down.
Kaname turned around and cringed. Now they were coming in groups! The Captain of the Rugby Club ran up, a number of his buddies in tow. He was one of the guys who had taken her out once before she realized that was more than enough. The rest had each asked her out at least once. Most had been annoying persistent.
"It's your lucky day, Kaname." The guy put his leg up and began stretching too. It was unlikely that he had his leg hooked over hers by coincidence.
"No." Kaname brought her leg down in a huff. What did she have to do just to have some peace?
"But I haven't asked you yet..." The Rugby Captain put on his most winning smile.
"I'll save you the trouble. Whatever it is, the answer is 'No.'" Kaname began to head back towards the girl's entrance to the indoor athletic facilities.
"You're a good enough athlete to play on the team. We'd sure love to have you in our scrums." The guys all laughed. "You'd also make a great cheerleader, and would do a wonderful job of filling out the mascot suit. That would bring in a whole bunch of new spectators and sponsors." A number of the guys slapped hands. "And, I hear you have great hands. Ever think of being a masseuse?"
Kaname's temper had
passed critical. "I still don't understand why guys who spend so
much time pushing against each other and grunting are surprised when
the ladies want nothing to do with them." Kaname tossed her
hair, having it blow back into her face. "No need to put on an
"We weren't talking about ladies. We were talking about you." None of the players took Kaname's remarks kindly. The whole gang of them slapped each other on the back, guffawing.
walked past the chin-up station.
The Rugby Squad began calling out rude comments, threatening to start some choice rumors. But, their game abruptly stopped. One second they were there... the next time she looked over at the tree, they were gone. Suddenly, there was a series of screams and a long loud cry for help.
What were they up to now?
The cafeteria was busy that night.
Kaname didn't usually eat there. It wasn't that the food was bad... she simply didn't like the noise and crowded conditions. But, tonight she needed to do some work on campus, and didn't feel like taking the time to deal with a restaurant.
It wouldn't be so bad if she had made more friends than she had; but, no one she cared about ever ate there.
Scanning the crowd, she didn't recognize anyone. There were a number of tables full of International students. A few clubs were dining together as a group. Teachers and graduate students were congregating in their own little enclaves.
She missed Kyouko most of all. Her and Ryo, Maya, and Ren. Kyouko had gone to Rikkyo University... Ryo to Hosei University... Maya to Waseda University...and Ren to Meiji University. They still got together every once in a while; but now that each of her high school friends had a steady boyfriend, it was harderd and harder to find the time.
The sound of dozens of conversations blurred together in a general noise. But, Kaname could make out the word of people close to her.
"I was really scared." A girl across the table from Kaname had a bandage wrapped around one hand. "I was so busy worrying about the test tomorrow, that I wasn't thinking. I saw that woman drop her bag, then ran across the street to give it to her. It..." The girl shuddered.
"What happened?" Another girl asked with a mouth full of food.
"There was a big truck coming. I heard the brakes. It couldn't stop in time." The injured girl's fork trembled in her hand.
"It didn't hit you did it?" A third girl stirred her soup, spilling some over the edge of the bowl. "Is that what happened to your hand?"
"No. Before I knew it, somebody picked me up in his arms and ran me out of the way. He was so strong and so fast." The girl sighed. "Really cute too."
"Who was he? Do we know him? Did you get his number?" A number of other girls at the table all chimed in, eager to hear the details.
"I don't know. I've seen him around campus before, but I think he's pretty new. He put me down, suggested I be more cautious, and walked away. He said 'Perhaps the school should teach a safety course for women.' It wasn't the first time he had to save someone." The girl rearranged her bandage.
"How did you hurt your hand, then?" A girl asked while flicking the mushrooms out of her salad.
"Oh..." The girl blushed. "I was too busy watching him walk away. I fell down a stairwell."
The girls all laughed at that.
Kaname stared down at her own food, thinking back to a time when she had been in a similar situation. The man had forgotten his briefcase. She ran out to catch him, stepping in front of a truck. It would have hit her.
She'd be dead now, if it wasn't for Sousuke.
"Damn you, Sousuke." She merely muttered the words, but the girls sitting across from her flinched. It was her face that did it.
As with any Sousuke memory, there was always a catch. Sitting on the ground, his hand had wandered where it shouldn't be. But, that wasn't why Kaname was angry. So many memories vied for her attention now, all of them having a clueless Mithril sergeant as the focal point.
That moron had overlooked her new swim suit, and managed to cover her with watermelon pulp. But, thinking she was in danger, he risked his life to rescue her. The jerk had misunderstood the flirting contest and captured women in cages. But, standing by the lake in the sunset, he had said that she was beautiful. The big idiot had shouted at her when she was worried about him. But, he had charged a larger man with a gun to save her, and apologized afterwards. So many memories. So many good times and bad problems. She should feel better now, without that kind of aggravation in her life.
"Bastard." She knew she wasn't being fair. She had come to believe that Sousuke would always be there for her, even though she knew he was simply on assignment. When the major attempts on the Whispered were thwarted, he was too value a commodity to waste on one teenage girl. She hadn't realized how much he meant to her until he was gone.
"I hope he's still alive." Her whispered words made Kaname feel very uneasy. She had her share of problems to fight her way through, but he routinely faced great dangers.
Would the law of averages finally catch up with him?
Looking around to make sure no one was watching, Kaname stood on the bottom shelf, trying to reach a book high above the floor.
She didn't fell like looking around for one of the rolling step stools. Slipping, she fell into the arms of someone.
"Be careful, Kaname. Is this the book you wanted?" The handsome young man handed her a large volume..
"Yes, thank you." She blushed, swallowing.
"Well, see you around." He turned and walked towards a sitting area.
Kaname sighed. She really liked that guy, but he had never called her after their first few dates. Watching him walk away, she saw him put his arm around another girl. "She's no prettier than I am," she muttered. What was she doing wrong? Was she cursed?
a forceful personality and bad temper doom her forever?
Closing her eyes, she rested her forehead against the chill metal of the shelf for a few moments. She took in the smell of new printings, mixed with the odor of older mustier books. The air from a nearby ceiling vent caressed the back of her neck. The sound of hushed whispering, squeaking library carts, and the busy cargo lift, were muffled by the rush of blood in her ears.
Picking up her other books, she lugged them over to an isolated table near the History section. Setting aside her regrets, she continued her work on her assignment. The hours passed, and she felt a cramp coming on. Just as she was about to stand up and take a break, she heard some chuckling.
"Hey guys, look who it is. Kaname Chidori, the Ice Princess." A group of guys had gotten off the elevator, book lists in their hands. "I hope we're not disturbing you, Your Highness." He bowed.
Kaname ignored the lout. He was another unsuccessful suitor. Gathering up her things, she decide it was time for a change of scenery.
"Oooooh. Look at her walk. Every inch a Queen." Another boy joined in, wanting to be part of the game.
"Your Maaaaaaa-jesty," Another clown added.
Biting her lip, Kaname cursed herself when she began to move faster. He shouldn't let things like that get to her. As she tuned the corner and walked towards another sitting area, she heard a series of loud noises.
What was going
Realizing she had forgotten her purse, she gathered up her nerve and headed back. When she got to her table, everyone was gone. Looking off down the aisle, she saw a pair of shoes disappear into the stacks. From that angle, the person would have to be sitting down and sliding backwards. Either that, or he was being pulled by someone else.
One of the ceiling lights was swing wildly too, casting eerie shadows across the far wall. Curious, she almost went over to see what was going on. Thinking that it might be some kind of prank she didn't want to get involved in, she retrieved her pocket book and continued on her way.
Rolling over in bed, Kaname checked her clock again.
Well, at least she had been out for an entire hour this time.
This was ridiculous! Ashe had overheard a few simple words, and now she couldn't get a peaceful night's sleep. She could kill that guy!
When she had finished at the library, she had made her way back to her apartment. Climbing the stairs, she heard someone down on the street calling out to one of his buddies, just as he was about to get into his car.
"Hey man, sorry I forgot that CD!"
"Don't worry. Bring it with you the next time. It's not a problem!"
Kaname didn't have to do a lot of thinking to remember where she had heard those words before. It didn't take a lot of research to discover who once had a habit of saying that.
She sat there thinking about him, giving little notice to the sound of a dog barking outside. One of her windows rattled in the wind, but that didn't register on her either. She simply pulled her blanket tightly around herself, and shifted onto her side.
"I could hate him! He's not even around and he's causing me trouble..." Kaname pulled the pillow over her head, wishing again that she had sleeping pills. "It is a problem!"
Every time she closed he eyes and fell asleep, she dreamed about some incident involving that scruffy-haired otaku. The fake date with Mizuki, and that kiss. The day everyone thought they were going to die, before all the clothes started dissolving. The day they ran through a forest, enemy soldiers on their trail. The time that damn girl had stepped out of his shower with the towel on.
"Damn." Kaname couldn't fall back to sleep this time. A new thought did her in. She wondered if Tessa ever convinced Sousuke to return her affections. She let out a long sigh.
If she could somehow
wish Sousuke into her life again, would she do it?
Her sleep might not be peaceful tonight, but her days generally were. No explosions. No conspiracies. No Bonta-Kun. No filet of carp... no flash bang earrings... no paint spewing security gates...
She sighed again. No one who worried about her when they thought she was covered with blood... no one who would watch over her when she was on a date with another guy... no one who would look at her in a kimono and sound like he had witnessed a miracle... no one who needed her to look after him... no one who would give his life looking after her...
Tokyo University was safer this way.
Just think what might have happened if Sousuke had been around when those guys had made her life a living Hell today! Kaname sat up in bed, the pillow knocking over her bedside lamp and sending the alarm clock to the floor.
"It couldn't have been..."
She shouldn't let her imagination
run wild. If Sousuke had somehow been on campus today, there would
have been at least one explosion. Or, she would have heard gunshots.
Something like that!
Unable to sleep, she took out her High School scrapbook and leafed through it. Once upon a time, she had taken out every picture with a certain soldier in it. Instead of throwing them away, she had simply tossed them in the back of the book.
She looked through those pictures, got a bottle of glue, and started filling in the empty spaces.
If only she could do that with her life...
"Great. Just great!"
That was the twentieth time that Kaname had said those words that morning.
She knew it would be a wonderful day when she woke up late. The alarm clock must have broken when she knocked it the floor the night before.
In a rush, she had gotten soap in her eyes. She slipped and fell getting out of the shower. Scurrying about gathering the things she needed for school, she had let her toast burn. Pulling too hard, she tore her stockings. Not realizing it was going to rain, she had run off without her umbrella.
Now, in a hurry to make it to class in time, she had
to run across this. A large crowd of people were gathering at
one end of the campus, making it difficult to move along the walkway.
What was going on?
The lights from police cars were reflecting of the windows of the nearest building. There was a small trail of smoke twisting and climbing skyward. Firemen and police officers were holding back the milling group of onlookers.
was the sound of gunfire.
"What's happening?" Kaname asked one girl, putting her hand up to shield her eyes when another brief sheet of windblown rain pelted her.
"Someone tried to attack the Advanced Research Lab." The girl kept jumping up, trying to get a view of the building in question.
"They should have built that at the Kashiwa campus, or maybe Hongo." Another girl made a face when the people around her kept stepping on her feet.
"I heard one of the officers say that it's probably terrorists. Why would they want to attack the University?" One boy was discussing the situation with his friends.
"I heard a lot of strange stories about that Lab and the people who work there," another boy put in.
"You hear strange stories about everything," a girl laughed. "You're the strangest story of them all!"
Kaname continue on her way to class. There was no time to stand and listen to gossip and supposition. It didn't make a lot of sense to hang around trying to watch that kind of thing, anyway. She knew that from experience. Hopefully those idiots would find out the same thing the hard way.
She stopped, when she neared on of the buildings. Her eye had caught sight of some kind of movement. It had been fleeting, located off in the shadows.
Could that have been one of the
She bit her lip. It would be better if she didn't pay any attention and went on about her business. But, what if she might see something that would prevent some catastrophe, or save lives? How could she sit in class comfortably, if she worried about the possibility of someone with a gun or a bomb raising havoc? If someone had gotten by the cordoned off area, the authorities should know about it.
Kaname stepped carefully, back against the chill brick wall, pushing dripping wet shrubbery and low hanging tree branches out of her way. Water trickled own her neck as a result, almost causing her to curse out loud. She put one hand over her mouth.
Peering around the corner, she could just barely make out a crouching shape ducked down behind an air-conditioning unit. It was holding something up to its head.
Swallowing, she moved closer, quietly. Hand up around her ear, she strained to hear what was being said.
"An attack was made as suspected.
Professional. Half a dozen men, well- armed. All of middle-eastern
appearance. This attempt was neutralized, with no difficulty. Four
men are dead. Two were seen being taken into official custody."
The voice was low. Kaname had trouble being certain exactly what was being said. She took a few more steps towards the poorly seen figure.
"The research staff is unharmed. Data systems
were not compromised, and the equipment remains intact. The
rudimentary security system functioned adequately, allowing me to
arrive in time. Recommend further augmentation as previously
Kaname couldn't help herself. She knew she had no business there. If the speaker was some kind of operative, she might actually be in danger. But, this was exciting. It felt like the old days, when Sousuke was around. She crept forward, one slow step at a time.
"I have taken a superficial wound to
the upper arm. Otherwise, I too am intact. My---" the voice
Before she knew it, Kaname was roughly grabbed and thrown against the side of the building. There was the cold muzzle of a pistol against her throat. How could anyone move that far that fast?
"Who are... uh... Chidori?" The voice was all too familiar.
It was Sousuke.