Title: The Challenge (Part I)
Author: ficeler37
Note: Don't own Mai-Hime. I'll let Sunrise take the credit.
Rating: PG
Word count: 1082

Summary: Set after the Hime Festival. Shizuru is now attending Fuka University and Natsuki is still in Fuka High School. One day, Natsuki faces an unexpected challenge from the infamous xxx.

A/N: I swear this is a Shiznat fanfic. Please be patient with me. Comments are greatly appreciated. English was never my best subject, but hopefully my love for Shiznat did some miracles to my work.


The hime festival is finally over, and all our himes are slowly adjusting to their normal lives sans hime powers. Even Natsuki, who was completely consumed by hatred for the most part of her life, has begun to open up to her friends (hime-sentai!). Instead of skipping classes every other day back in her hime days, she finds herself enjoying the prospect of going to school with her friends Mai and Mikoto every morning. However, Natsuki's only regret is to not have discovered the joyous high school life while Shizuru was still the student council president. In fact, she hardly ever sees the Kyoto beauty anymore since she graduated. Even though Natsuki will never admit to anyone about this, truthfully, she misses the company of her best friend…

This morning, anyone who bumped into Natsuki while being on their way to Fuka High School could have sworn that the temperature had instantly dropped down to around 0 degree Celsius around the blue-haired princess. The normally reserved and courteous Natsuki had cranked up her ice-meter to the maximum level. Some said that they have witnessed an ice shield materializing around her lean yet muscular body. Others have claimed that they found frost bites on their bodies after getting too close to our heroine. What could have possibly triggered this extreme chemical reaction?

Let's go back to last night and investigate the cause.

(Ring ring ring ...)

It was 8 pm, and the phone in the Kuga residence had been ringing non-stop for the past 15 minutes. A peeved Natsuki was sitting cross-legged in front of her new flat screen TV (the power of inheritance), trying to defeat the final boss of a PS2 fighting game. God, can't they get a clue? If nobody is picking up, STOP calling! While Natsuki's attention was distracted for a split second, the demon boss had made a quick and harsh come-back, resulting in a humiliating GAME OVER in big bold red letters on the TV.

"ARGHHHH, ENOUGH!" Natsuki exclaimed while getting off the floor and running like a dinosaur on a rampage to pick up the phone.

"Hey!" Natsuki whispered dangerously over the phone, "I don't care who you are, moron. But you just wasted 2 hours of my time. Thanks to your sweet distraction, I have lost to the demon boss. Now, what do you want?"

"Urm….Ku…..Kuga-san?" A timid male voice was heard on the other side of the line.

"Yea, that's me, and who are you? If you try to sell me something, I will hunt you down and beat you to a pulp." Natsuki was less than pleased to hear an unfamiliar voice.

"I'm so sorry to bother you, Kuga-san. I got your number from your friend, Mai, earlier today. Urm….I was wondering….urm…..you….tomorrow…" Following many awkward pauses, the quivering voice started to fade away.

"First of all, I still have no clue who you are. Secondly, what did you do to Mai to force her to give you my number? Speak up, goddamit! You're wasting my time!" Natsuki was getting more annoyed by the second. Mai, I can't believe you did this to me. I'll make you pay next time I see you…

"Let me apologize again, Kuga-san. It's…Ta….Takeda, you know, the kendo club captain? As I was saying, urm….about tomorrow….do you have time after school by any chance?" This time, Takeda was finally able to get his words out without stuttering too much. At this point, the temperature of his face had risen to the level that it would be possible to fry an egg on his cheek.

"Honestly, I think you're just creepy. Go find yourself another girl to hit on, Takeda. I don't have time for you." Meanwhile, Natsuki's thoughts have drifted to a secret corner deep in her heart…The one person with whom I want to spend time the most is not in Fuka High School anymore. Why can't she be the one talking to me on the phone right now?

"Kuga, I think you have the wrong idea about me…Ohhh, but let me prove myself to you. Are you afraid of a challenge from me?" Miraculously, Takeda managed to speak without stuttering even after the rejection.

"Afraid? HA, do you know who you are talking to here? Bring it on!" The always hot tempered Natsuki exclaimed without a second thought.

"I know that it will not be fair for you to challenge you in kendo, and it will not be fair to me to challenge you in video games. So….I was thinking…maybe I will challenge you on something different…something that involves a stick and balls perhaps?" Takeda replied with uncertainty in his voice.

"Yea, yea, whatever. I really doubt that you can beat me in anything." Thinking back to all the awkward and loud greetings coming from this spiky haired senpai, Natsuki can hardly stop from laughing about the possibility of him defeating her. This creepy stalking has got to stop. Wait a minute, I have an idea… "I tell you what, if you win, I'll let you take me out on a date. But if I win, you have to stop bothering me and never talk to me. Deal?" Natsuki said with an evil smirk on her face.

"Great, ok then. I'll see you at the Fuka Pool Hall at 5 pm after school. Since I am the one challenging you, I'll pay for the table and cue sticks rental fee. Thank you for giving me a chance, Kuga. See you at school!" Takeda, surprised by the wonderful turn of events, hung up with a big smile on his face. Tomorrow is the beginning of a modern love story! Goodbye, 17 years of celibacy. Tomorrow I'll be a different man!

After the phone line has gone dead for 10 seconds, Natsuki was still squeezing the phone in her right hand. With her eyes wide open, Natsuki's mind is drawing a blank. Did he just say "pool"?

Remembering how a drunk Midori had swung around a cue stick next to a pool table situated in the recreational corner of Fuka Karaoke Heaven, Natsuki recalled that particular gathering as the only time that she had actually seen a pool table. That's the game where you hit balls into pockets with a stick, right? How do the rules go again? Did I just agree to do something really stupid? What would Shizuru do?

"Nooooooooo….." A haunted howl escaped the Kuga residence, and a few stray dogs howled in response under the moonlight.