Chapter 1: Obliged Benevolence

Black rain clouds came sweeping in and piled high over Alice Academy. The late afternoon light grew dim as Ruka Nogi treaded his way to the animal barn. He clutched his umbrella firmly as the howl of the wind turned into an earsplitting shriek.

He was walking his way there for his weekly checkup on the animals. It always seems his duty to ensure that all of them are doing well, for he has something that enables him to understand the feelings of the animals better than anyone. A Beast Pheromone for an Alice, to be exact.

He quickened his pace when a thunderclap pierced the air. He knew too well that his friends in the shed dislike anything that surprises them.

It was then that Ruka sensed someone nearby.

He stopped as he saw a figure taking shelter under the roof of the garden tools shed. He was close enough to notice her long dark hair that reached her shoulders and her deep purple eyes staring at him. He knew perfectly well who this person is.

"Imai." He addressed her with his voice that suited his 14 years of age.

"You," was the only reply of the person he just referred to by her surname.

Once more, nothing but the sound of the rain pelting the ground can be heard. They both stood there, staring at each other.

Ruka wondered what she was doing there and thought he heard a shiver from her. He sighed as he realized that she was half-wet. He smiled to the thought that even smart-old Hotaru Imai can be as silly as not to prepare herself with an umbrella in this certain part of the season.

'Lucky she must be,' he began, 'that I was on my way to the barn.'

Hotaru was actually feeling less lucky at that time.

She just had an argument with her elder brother and forgot to bring her parasol when she walked out of his room. Her mind was cloudy due to the quarrel that she only remembered her umbrella when a bright flash of lightning pierced the sky, presaging rain.

She was afraid to throw her well hidden frustrations, hence the reason she needn't see anyone this time…and Ruka was of no exception.

Another deafening thunderclap roared that it brought Ruka back to his senses. He should attend to the animals now. But he can't leave his friend under these circumstances.

He shifted his shimmering azure eyes from the bleak road back to the Middle School Dormitory, then at Hotaru once again. His mind raced as his thoughts struggled.

The distance of the dormitory from their current location is farther than the barn, so he thought it wise to bring her to where he's headed.

But if he brings Hotaru to the barn, she'd surely see how he uses his Alice again. And that only meant one thing.

She'd have a handful of Rabbits in no time.

One of the reasons why he visits his animal friends by nightfall is that he doesn't want anyone to see how he uses his Alice…

…and I trust you know why.

It's bad enough to have four friends know how it functions, and Hotaru being one of them makes it worse.

Ruka trailed his memories of her blackmailing schemes.

They were horrible.

She was horrible.

He shrugged at the thought and even decided to continue walking when he noticed Hotaru hugged herself against the cold night wind.

Next thing he knew he was standing in front of her, his eyes now on the road to the barn.

He sighed as the bedlam in his mind somehow abated.

"Come on," he called, "I'll escort you back to the dormitory once I'm done with the animals."

Hotaru observed him and saw the agitation in his eyes. She perfectly understood.

"I can wait here until the rain stops." She stated, transferring her gaze at the ground.

It's typical of Hotaru to refuse help, so Ruka wasn't even surprised. In fact, he didn't even expect her to respond.

He was willing enough to leave her but he realized that she was only ill at ease and kept in mind that she's exactly like his best friend.

They both don't voice out their feelings.

And they're fortunate Ruka's not dense.

"Don't be silly," he shot back and looked away, "You might catch a cold if you stay here."

Hotaru studied the situation. She knew well that he was right.

She hates having colds as much as we do and having them by now isn't such a good idea. She was to participate in an upcoming contest and it won't do her fine if she dwindles once it arrives.

Hotaru looked at Ruka, her face still emotionless.

"Fine," she stepped forward and joined him under the umbrella which is adequate to shield both of them against the rain.

With that they strode off, not uttering a single word.

Ponpokopi no Bebenben!

Waaaaaaaaaaai! I just want to let you know that when that er...phrase pops out, it means it's the end of the chapter. And it means you get to read some notes I've listed concerning the chapter you have just read. Hee! This is the first chapter fic I've made, and its objective is...A-ra...I've forgotten.

Fufufufu! Well anyway, here are the notes:

(1) This fic is set in June, three years from the series. WHAAAAAAAT? So you ask why Ruka-pyon has a voice of a 14 year old? Hee! That's simple. The series have started having Mikan-chan as a 10 year old. That means January has passed already. Ne? (To those who don't know, FYI: Mikan's b-day is the 1st of January)

Though not counted as one of the four seasons, there is enough rain in June for it to be called tsuyu (the rainy season). And since Ruka-pyon's birthday is on the 16th of March, he's already reached his 14 years of age.

(2) What the heck is Hotaru-sama's elder brother still doing there? Er...I made it appear that Hotaru-sama's brother is in his first year high school (meaning he's 15 years old) in the series. So if Hotaru-sama is only 13 here (Her b-day is on the 25th of October), it will age her brother as 18 and this would make his last year in the academy.

(3) Yes, this fic would never mind the storyline of the manga. It is a fic, so I can do whatever I want to do with it, even though the real story ain't mine. Hey, as long as I acknowledge the real creators, I think it would be okay ne?

(4) Wai! No you're not imagining when you saw the description I've made to Hotaru-sama's hair. Fufufufu! You can imagine her in it too ne?

Uh...reason? Nothing really. I just figured that if some changes were done to Hotaru-sama, Ruka-pyon might fall in love with her. Hee!

Okay you RukaxMikan fans, please take those blazing eyes of yours away from me...ow ow ow!