'The Night Festival'
I don't own Gakuen Alice but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-Gakuen Alice related. All the name of places, historical events and other things mentioned which you don't seem to know IRL, are products of my imagination. Any similarities with the actual thing are purely coincidental.
"Fire is one of the greatest of all transformers, for it alters anything it touches, hence the fire obake (Japanese ghost) will not submit to anyone's control." Thus, quoted by someone from an old book passed down from one Hyuuga fire alice bearer to another which mysteriously appears once every mid-summer.
The book was entitled 'The Night Festival' which was created by the Hyuuga family's ancestors with their alices in the late 18th century. With relatives gone, Natsume was next in line to receive the mythical tradition. The book has the ability to materialize its story within its reader's dream, making that person join its little world for a certain period of time. To Natsume, it was his escape and rest from the harsh reality the academy had bestowed upon him. But to ordinary people, the book was utterly scary, weird and eerie.
Hence, his grandfather's instructions were simple; do not let other people read the book.
Unfortunately, the innocent new student, Mikan, oddly stumbled on the book and curiously flipped through its pages, which instantly earned her a pass to enter not only her own dream, but Natsume's dream as well.
This fic is inspired by the "Hundred Demons Parade" Japanese lore and that one episode from "Daa Daa Daa".
Now then, shall we start from the very beginning? I've tried to write this while considering my readers who haven't seen/read Gakuen Alice. That's why there is a short recap in regards to the existing story. By the way, I will be changing something in the first part. In the current setting where Mikan first met Natsume by the gate, Natsume isn't wearing the neko mask unlike what really happened in the anime. I'll be reserving the purpose of the mask for later.
Chapter One: "Appearance of a Book"
A light from an oil lamp made it possible for a little warmth to spread inside the dark dusty attic as a ten-year old girl bent her head down towards a piece of paper. Her auburn hair faintly wisped backwards as wind blew from the partially opened window in front of her desk. Outside, the whole campus was silent and peaceful. The night was deep and everyone was already sleeping.
Except for the little girl.
Mikan Sakura busily scribbled on the pink stationery as she wrote a letter to her grandfather.
We played dodge ball today. It was the first time I saw my classmates have fun. Though, it didn't go smoothly at first…
She remembered the hostile and indifferent treatment she first received when she suggested such a thing.
…anyway, it was fun.
For a moment she thought on whether she should tell her grandfather everything. But her situation isn't really the best.
"I don't think I should write too much detail." Mikan remarked. "I don't want to make Ojii-chan worry."
Indeed, her situation would make any grandfather worry. Especially since Alice Academy wasn't something to be called ordinary. What was told outside the campus was different to what it was inside.
"Hotaru…" Mikan murmured her best friend's name.
It was because of her best friend, Hotaru Imai, whom she followed in the city and ended up being transferred to Alice Academy. To everyone's eyes, Hotaru was too cold to be considered as her friend, but Mikan knew that deep inside Hotaru really cared for her. The girl seemed to rescue her when the situation gets tight.
She continued her letter.
I'm happy to see Hotaru again. She didn't change a bit. Do you know that she stood up for me yesterday? It was my fault for being stupid that I got bullied. It cost her a chance to go for the honor roll. Going home to your family for a week is one of the prizes when one becomes an honor student. So please say sorry to Hotaru's parents. She won't be going home because of me. Teary-eyed Mikan wrote. I'm so sorry.
Alice Academy was a very large campus. It was as if there was another separate world inside. Every need of the students was already provided. They even have their own town inside where they could shop and spend their time leisurely. The government had made this possible for them. Every student was under their protection. Every student that has 'alice', that is.
Mikan thought Hotaru was getting transferred to a school for geniuses, since her friend seemed to have a knack on inventing things. Though, no matter how weird Hotaru's inventions looked, they were indeed useful. Then everything became clear to her when she entered Alice Academy herself. The school was not for geniuses. The school was for students who have special abilities…certain powers which were above norm.
They called these 'abilities' as 'alices'. One alice differs from another. Hotaru's alice was invention that was why she could invent things easily. She had a classmate who has clairvoyance who could fly in the air. Her professor has pheromones which could make any person fall in love with him or do whatever he says. There were different types. Hers was nullification which enabled her to nullify another person's alice.
"Haaaaaaah…my alice is no good. It isn't useful at all." Mikan exclaimed to herself.
Except for… She thought.
--an image of a raven-haired boy flashed inside her mind—
…that guy. She remembered.
--another image became evident…it was the same boy standing on a nearby tree by the gate when she first arrived in Alice Academy—
He has such a powerful alice; a dangerous type as termed by the school.
--once again, the boy's imaged flashed before her, with his pale crimson eyes piercing right through; like a pair of knives— (A/N: remember that in this story, he wasn't wearing the neko mask at that time)
"Natsume…Hyuuga," She murmured. "…and his fire alice."
It was quite an orientation she received when she first set her foot at Alice Academy's gate. There was an explosion which broke the wall. Apparently, that particular student attempted to escape. It was nothing she had expected, but even so, she would like to see Hotaru no matter what that she didn't mind getting enrolled in Alice Academy.
But for some, especially for that boy, Alice Academy wasn't what it seemed to be. For him, it was like a prison. Though Mikan thought that he was exaggerating, after some time she had came to realize that it was easy to get lonely inside the school.
Because they were not allowed to go home until they graduate. Students could never see their parents nor talk to them over the phone. The only communication allowed to do was write letters.
"That was simply too much." Mikan pouted. "That Natsume Hyuuga." She shook her fist about. "…who would listen to him anyway! He is nothing but an arrogant bully! A molester! A pervert!"
--an image of the raven-haired boy pulling her hair and bullying her while pinning her down to the couch flashed—
It was followed by the recollection of him tugging her panties off when she refused to give him her name. (A/N: In the manga, Natsume took her panties off unlike in the anime wherein it was only Mikan's skirt that fell off.) As if it wasn't worst enough, he kept calling her 'polka-dots' after that because of the polka dots design of the panties he had successfully took off from her. On top of that, he acted like it was nothing at all.
"I----------yaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Mikan screamed with a flushed face. "I can't believe he did that! That jerk! I don't see why many girls like him. Who cares if he has a stupid fan club! Who cares if he has a special star rank!"
Indeed, the bully she had first encountered in Alice Academy was considered as a special-star rank student, a genius in the elementary department. Students were classified as special-star, three-star, two-star, one-star and no-star. It determined their accommodation and allowance. Hotaru was a three-star. Unfortunately, Mikan was labeled as a no-star, hence the reason why the attic became her room and her meal were mostly composed of rice, seaweed and pickled radish while others enjoy gourmet food.
The little girl cried exaggeratedly at the thought.
Ojii-chan… She was about to write this detail but halted herself. "No." She shook her head. "I mustn't make him worry. No matter what, I must endure." She firmly said with a much more determined face. "I'll show that jerk that I would keep on smiling." So instead, she wrote that she would do her best from now on.
After scribbling a few more things, she folded her letter and sealed it in the envelope with a contented smile on her face. "I'll give this tomorrow to Narumi-sensei." She remarked and crawled under her blanket to sleep with hope that the teacher will send her letter for her.
It was almost three hours past midnight by the time Natsume had returned from one of Persona's top-secret 'academy missions'. He was breathing hard as he leaned on one of the poles of his bed and didn't even bother to turn on the lights. Sweat trickled down his neck, indicating that he had been having difficulty in moving a part of his body. With much hatred, he peeled off the black neko mask he had been wearing and threw it on the bed.
"Damn it…" He cursed under his breath. "Why do I have to always do this…" He gritted his teeth. "Why me…" Though, he was asking, his words sounded more like sentences than questions.
Oh, but you already know the answer… Someone answered within him. It was Persona's, the teacher in charge of the Dangerous Type Alice Class, voice.
Natsume's grip tightened. The academy wanted to hide their existence. The existence of students which carried formidable alices. Still, the school had regarded them as top and important students. Everyone in campus would agree to this considering how powerful and excellent alice wielders they were. Little did they know that behind it all, the academy had used his kind to battle hidden politics and conflicts. They took care of underground problems for the academy. To fellow students, their kind was known as the Dangerous type Alice class, but in reality…
"We are mere puppets of this school." Natsume whispered as he let himself drop slowly on the floor. Dark Operativewhich was what they were called in the underground and does dirty work for the academy. He closed his eyes as a sea of flames swam inside his mind. It was the image that had been imprinted within his head ever since that night…that one night wherein he lost everything.
Atonement… Persona's voice taunted him once more. You are doing this to atone for your sins. Of course, if not for that…I am sure you don't want anything bad happening to your friends…
Natsume gritted his teeth as he slump his back towards the foot of his bed. He cringed as pain jabbed in his rib area.
I'm sick of this… He thought.
Just when he was about to be drowned in his own pitiful reasoning, a thud echoed throughout the room.
"Huh?" Natsume opened his eyes and peered towards the side table at the opposite end of his bed.
It was as if something just fell on the floor. He squinted and even though it was dark, he could trace an outline of the object that interrupted the silence of his room.
"That is…" His eyes widened.
There, lying on the carpeted floor was none other than a book, a very old one for that matter. For a moment, Natsume didn't move as if to check whether he wasn't hallucinating. But the book stayed on where it was. His face calmed down once more.
"So…it's that time of the year, eh?" His eyes wavered as he started to crawl towards the book with much difficulty. "You've appeared once again." He said as he eased himself into sitting position while clutching the book in his hands. Lingering fingers ran over its title as if reading each of the etched letters carefully, and despite the darkness around him, the tarnished gold label of the book slightly glinted.
'The Night Festival' The title read.
The raven-haired boy bent his head and let his hair cover his eyes. A lonely smirk slowly curved on his lips.
"It looks like it's my turn to have you." He remarked as if he was talking to a person instead of a lifeless object. "Damn." His grip tightened around the book. "You are a living proof that everyone's dead. No one else in the family to receive you but me."
After that, he was silent. It was as if he was in turmoil inside but nevertheless regained his composure.
"But with you…" His voice was almost a whisper. "…I might see them again." He stared at the antique-looking object. "Still…I'm not sure if I am brave enough to actually do it." He gritted his teeth.
You can just take a peek. Another voice within him said. This time it wasn't Persona's taunting tone.
There is no harm in that…in fact…the book won't bring any harm at all. He heard his own voice saying. It may actually give your aching body a rest.
"But I have no right to use it." He countered himself. "Someone like me…someone impure like me…"
You can just stay in the outer rims. You don't have to join the actual festival. The voice mysteriously said. Not every character can be found inside the town square.
It would have been something incomprehensible for someone outside the Hyuuga family, but to Natsume, he completely understood it and as if on cue, a piercing ache became evident in his sides as if a reminder.
"Okay…maybe…for this time again…just one last time." He concluded as he reached out to switch his lamp on. He took a deep breath and opened the book. He hesitated for a moment. "It has been years…" He muttered. "…the last time, Oyaji was the one who took me that I can't help feeling exposed all of a sudden." Then, his eyes caught a glimpse of the black neko mask he tossed on his bed earlier. A frown formed between his brows as he contemplated. "Oh the hell with it." He quickly grabbed the mask and placed it once more on his face. "Yosh…" And with that, he started to turn the page and started reading out loud.
"It was another mid-summer night and the village was as alive as ever." He carefully read from the book. "Paper lanterns adorn every corner and mysterious music field the air." And so, he started to feel it; a feeling of sudden drowsiness. "Strange faces…filled the…streets…wi—th….dif—fer…ent….t…..y.p….s…of……………"
Natsume wasn't able to continue as his eyes drooped down and his body swayed, and not a second sooner, he was pulled into a very deep slumber.
It was almost noon by the time Natsume woke up. The curtains remained drawn as he left it last night, making bright sunlight invade his room. His focus wandered around for a moment before finally bending his head towards the object on his lap. The book lay silently yet oddly; it seemed that he had just read a whole chapter even though he was only reading the first page before he fell asleep. Also, it was greatly noticeable that the pain in his ribs doesn't throb any more.
He ran a hand on his left side and smirked when it felt normal. "That's the night festival for you." He murmured as he closed the book and slowly stood up. He stretched his arms and legs. It was slightly uncomfortable sleeping on the floor but nevertheless it was far inviting than the pain he feels every now and then due to his deteriorating body.
He gazed outside his window. He could see fellow students strolling around. Some of them were heading towards the cafeteria, while some were heading back to the dorm. It was lunch break and Natsume had missed his morning classes.
"Like I care." He snobbishly said. He was known to cut classes anyway. Something like this wasn't new. A normal student would get detention or an equal amount of punishment. But not him. He was a special star rank after all. His genius ability to use his alice excelled his delinquency status. He was far too important to the academy. He cursed again at the thought.
Even so, he has to attend class. Ruka Nogi, his childhood friend, must have been worrying all this time. Though, he had told him not to expect him to be early that day, unlike other students in the academy, Ruka knew his secret; about the things he does in the underground for the school.
I am sure you don't want anything bad happening to your friends… Persona's voice invaded his thoughts once more.
His face became shadowed as reality struck him.
"No matter what I do…" He clenched his fists. "…there is no escaping this prison."
Lunch break was almost over as Mikan run towards the classroom. She had to wash more dishes today as part of her chores since she was a 'no-star'. Nevertheless, she had viewed things positively and promised to endure everything.
The pig-tailed girl dashed from one corner in the hallway to another. "It is not good to be late in Jinno-sensei's class." Teary-eyed Mikan remarked out loud. The said teacher was the one who had given her the 'no-star' rank in the first place. He doesn't have a good temper and for some reason he despised her nullification alice.
"Yosh!" She gleefully remarked as the classroom's door came to view. She made it in time. She swung it open and exclaimed on top of her lungs. "H-O-T-A-R-U-uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" She practically flew towards her bestfriend with her arms up wide.
--sfx: Baka! Baka! Baka! Baka! Baka! –
Mikan received five shots to the face from Hotaru's invention.
--Scene gets momentarily interrupted by Hotaru's POV—
Invention #005: The Baka Gun – when aimed at a moron/stupid person, it discharges powerful punches (like an air gun). Hotaru explains while wearing a toga hat and holding a stick. It has a more powerful sister, the Baka Cannon.
--End of Hotaru's POV—
"Ho…Hotaru…" Mikan's world was in complete pivot as her head joined the 360 axis, making her disoriented with tears flowing exaggeratedly down her cheeks.
"You never learn, do you?" Hotaru said impassively as she put her baka gun down and went back in reading her notes.
"You're so cold." Mikan remarked with same teary-eyed expression on her face.
"Wipe your nose." Hotaru replied reservedly without looking up from her notebook. "I won't forgive you if you spill some goo on my uniform."
Near them, a boy wearing glasses sweat-dropped as if thinking if these two were really bestfriends as they claimed they were. "How are you, Sakura-san?" Was the only thing he could say.
The auburn-haired girl immediately went back to her perky self. "I'm fine, Iinchou!" Mikan smiled cheerfully at the boy. He was Yuu Tobita, the class representative. He was most of the time called by everyone as 'Iinchou' and was one of the three students in the elementary department to have a three-star rank. A very responsible student, he has the alice of illusion, and yet unlike her other classmates which has been completely hostile to Mikan when she first arrived, Yuu had always been helpful to her and sided with her.
"There were so many dishes today." Yuu continued. "For a moment there I thought you won't be able to make it in time for Jinno-sensei's class."
The thought of being late to the lighting alice wielder's class brought shivers down Mikan's spine. It must have reflected on her face that Yuu chuckled nervously.
"Don't worry, Mikan. I'm sure he'll divert his attention from you one of these days." He said reassuringly.
But a high-pitched laugh interrupted them. "Ahahaha…" A short-haired girl walked in between Mikan and Yuu. "…the chances of that happening…" She darted a stare towards Mikan. "…is slim." Sumire Shoda stressed before laughing like a witch once more. "Ahahaha."
Mikan set her lips on a grim line and pointed towards Sumire. "It was your fault why I ended up getting a no-star in the first place."
"My fault?" Sumire remarked tauntingly. "Do you have any proof? Don't just point your fingers at other people like that."
"Why you…" The pig-tailed girl balled her fist.
"Sakura-san…Shoda-san…" Yuu looked from one girl to another, thinking of a way to stop them before it becomes more intense.
"Honestly," Sumire flaunted her hand. "…such a disgrace for someone who has a nullifying alice. You can't even stop those little attacks done to you (by whoever that person is) and you dare point your finger? It's your fault right from the start for not being able to use your alice to stop those pranks which got diverted to Jinno-sensei."
"Oi…oi Shoda-san." Yuu spoke softly. "Sakura-san just transferred. She still lacked training in using her alice."
"That's why she deserves to be a no-star." Sumire snobbishly said. "I don't know how she was able to beat Mr. Bear and even face Natsume's fire alice. But it must have been just rumors or a stroke of luck."
True, Mikan doesn't know how she was able to do it, but her alice seemed to have activated during that time she faced Natsume Hyuuga in the forest. He released a powerful fire attack but it was completely nullified when she grabbed him. But nevertheless, she has no idea how to call onto her alice at will.
Why can't I have a more useful alice like Hotaru's? Or something like Koko's which can read minds? She thought.
"It did get handy in dodge ball." Yuu pointed out, but Mikan's face became sad.
"Hmph!" Sumire refused to give in. She was about to say more when Hotaru suddenly spoke.
"You're getting annoying." The calm girl said with her head still buried on her notes.
"Imai…" Sumire looked at the girl.
A cold glance from Hotaru halted Sumire's words. "Didn't I tell you? That I am the only person allowed to make this girl cry?"
"Ho…Hotaru…" Mikan's lips quivered.
Beside her, Yuu sweat-dropped again. Is that comment supposed to show affection, Imai-san? He thought.
The two girls locked their gazes for a few more seconds before Sumire finally shrugged. "Fine." And she trotted along to her seat.
"Thank you, Hotaru!" Mikan said lovingly and was about to hug her bestfriend when Hotaru quickly fished out her baka gun. "Gack!" The pig-tailed girl stopped dead on her tracks.
"Just go to your seat." Hotaru commanded coldly. "Or else." She raised her baka gun.
Mikan and Yuu laughed nervously. "Hai…hai…"
As the auburn-haired girl slid on her seat behind Hotaru, the door at back of the classroom opened. Heads turned to see the new comer. Some even greeted him, but amongst all, Ruka Nogi's voice was the most noticeable.
"Natsume!" The blonde boy called out. While other students, Natsume's fan club to be specific, were overflowing with happiness at the sight of him, Ruka's eyes were filled with worry.
"Ah." Natsume replied to Ruka, and yet completely ignored the rest. He coldly went passed through them and flopped down next to his bestfriend.
"Are you alright?" Mikan heard the blonde boy asking Natsume.
"I'm fine. Don't think about it." The fire alice wielder remarked.
Mikan faced the board. Hmph…why wouldn't he be alright? She thought. As if he doesn't get special treatment anyway. He can cut class without even getting punished. Or so she thought.
"Everyone…Jinno-sensei's coming." One of their classmates announced as he came rushing towards his seat.
The others did the same. No one would dare fool around during the math sensei's class. Everyone settled down as the strict teacher entered the classroom. Mikan took a deep breath. She mustn't screw around and place herself in a graver situation.
The class seemed to be going fine, in Mikan's opinion. She managed to catch up with Jinno-sensei's lecture. Maybe this day was going to turn out alright after all. But her small cloud nine dissolved immediately the moment Jinno-sensei made an announcement.
"From now on, I will be holding a recitation in class everyday." The strict teacher remarked.
A series of 'Eeeeh's filled the classroom.
Jinno-sensei frowned. "No complaints." He said in a commanding voice. "In this way I would know if you kids are really listening to what I am teaching." He purposely darted a stare towards Mikan's direction.
--stares at Mikan—
The little girl sweat-dropped.
"Furthermore…" He adjusted his spectacles and continued. "…I'll be basing the attendance in my class on your seating arrangement. Hence, I won't be calling your name unless you are in your right seat."
--brief stare at Mikan—
Seating arrangement? Mikan tilted her head, puzzled as to why the teacher seemed to be directing his words towards her. I am seated properly, aren't I?
In front of her, Hotaru saw her expression. Her bestfriend sighed. "Baka."
"Your original seating arrangement." The teacher stressed.
--another stare at Mikan—
She blinked for a moment. "Eh? Eh?" She looked around innocently and noticed that most of her classmates were staring at her. "Eh? Eh?"
Jinno-sensei cleared his throat. "But of course, if anyone of you that don't want to go back to his/her rightful seat, I won't mind ignoring that student for the rest of the semester."
--stares pointedly at Mikan—
Then, it hit her.
"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!" And like a corkscrew being twisted slowly from a bottle, Mikan's head turned towards the back of the class with a desolated expression on her face.
Her eyes met Natsume's emotionless stare. Mikan's lips twitched. "A-no…Jinno-sensei can't be serious, can he?"
"He's serious." Hotaru replied reservedly.
It happened when she was first introduced to Class B. The substitute teacher told her to occupy the vacant seat at the back of the classroom. During that time, she wasn't aware who her seatmate was since the boy had a manga covering his face while he took a nap. It was only when she sat beside him and greeted him that she realized that her seatmate was none other than her most despised person in the academy, Natsume Hyuuga…the very same boy who took her panties off. She was frantic and started shouting at him, calling him a molester and a pervert. But the other acted coolly and pointed out that a molester would be someone who has a sleazy motive, which he wouldn't have with an ugly girl like her. It ticked her so much that she continued shouting at him, which ended up being a bad move since the boy turned out to be someone extremely popular, admired and feared at the same time. It only took a matter of seconds before the entire class started ganging up on her.
It wasn't very pretty.
"Sakura-san…" Yuu gave her sympathetic glance.
The teacher cleared his throat, giving more pressure to Mikan.
"Tch." The raven-haired boy haughtily looked away. "Like I care."
The class anxiously waited. They seemed to be delighted at the turn of events. Well, except for Natsume's fan club who had been giving Mikan death glares.
That's right. Her original seat was…
"…right beside Natsume." Mikan concluded. It felt like a huge boulder was dropped down on her.
"Hmph…" Jinno-sensei went back in writing lectures on the board. He seemed to be ignoring Mikan already. "Impertinence." He muttered.
The little girl's lips quivered. Why does it have to be me? Why did the substitute teacher pick that seat anyway? "Hotaru…" She pleaded, but her bestfriend only raised a wooden sign near her face.
'Count me out on this one.' It read. Then, she turned the sign to reveal another set of words. 'It's your fault getting involved with a dangerous type in the first place.'
So, with no other choice, Mikan dragged her feet towards the back of the room and gloomily sat down beside the fire alice boy. She sat still for a moment before clenching her fist. She slowly glanced at the person beside her.
"Do you have a problem, polka-dots?" He said in a rather threatening tone.
There goes the nickname he branded her.
"YOU'RE MY PROBLEM!" She exclaimed with a flushed face. "Off all the people in this school, why do I have to seat beside you anyway!"
"Because I said so." A cold voice sliced in the air which was followed by a…
-- Zaaaaaaaaap! –
Jinno-sensei threw a lightning volt towards Mikan which briefly electrocuted the poor girl.
"Baka." Natsume muttered.
But Mikan seemed to be more annoyed at Natsume's comment than to think of the injury she could have gotten from the teacher. She eased herself up and was about to retort something at the raven-haired boy when another lightning volt drowned her body with a more lingering electricity than the first one.
"You're disrupting my class!" Jinno-sensei's voice boomed. Mikan could only twitch after that.
This earned another comment from the raven-haired boy. "You're stupidity is endless." He remarked coolly and focused his attention back to the manga he was reading before the whole seat thing happened.
Everyone in their class also went back in listening at Jinno-sensei's lecture. They acted like it was just another normal thing to happen. All except Mikan whose body was still smoking…literally from Jinno-sensei's lightning alice, but she could only think of her words.
N-a-t-s-u-m-e! You're not even listening in class! How come I'm the only one getting zapped!
Ruka, who was sitting on Natsume's other side, sighed. It looked like Math class won't be the same from now on; especially with an energetic character like Mikan joining their row. Then again…
His eyes darted from the disheveled yet pouting girl to the nonchalant boy beside him. Maybe, this isn't so bad after all. He thought with a tinge of happiness. Natsume's and my world won't be as small and lonesome as before.
He was about to focus his attention back to Jinno-sensei when a strange feeling of being watched overcame him. He roamed his eyes in time to see Hotaru looking straight at him.
Huh? Ruka blinked. The girl was practically staring until she finally raised wooden sign for him to read.
'You'd better watch over Mikan." It said.
What? Ruka looked bewildered. Me?
Hotaru flipped the board.
'Or else…' It now read.
The blonde boy's brow twitched. Imai…you… He had a sinking feeling about this.
The girl flipped the sign once again. Her face was expressionless but a faint glint was evident in one of her midnight eyes which confirmed Ruka's suspicion much to his horror.
'I'll sell this.' A picture of him wearing a girl's skirt was pasted on the board. It was from that time he switched places with Mikan in order to help her escape the Academy. 'Switched places' meant that he gave Mikan his uniform and wore hers instead. The little girl's attempt failed, but at least she learned that the Academy was serious about its rule that a student was prohibited to see or contact anyone outside until graduation. He didn't know why he helped her in the first place. Maybe it was out of pity. But still…
Ruka was screaming inside. That girl is still blackmailing me!
Hotaru remained expressionless yet she flipped the board nonetheless.
'Insert evil laugh here.' It said.
Aaargh! I'll get you someday, Imai! Ruka thought exasperatedly.
Classes for the day ended and students were piling out of the classrooms. All were in a hurry to either grab a bite in the cafeteria, or go to a trip in Central Town or just simply go back to the dormitory to rest.
Everyone except Natsume and Ruka.
"Are you sure you should be walking around, Natsume?" Ruka's concerned voice beckoned the raven-haired boy. "Shouldn't you be resting?"
"I'm fine. I've already told you many times." Natsume muttered.
"Hmmm…" His childhood friend looked puzzled. "…normally, you would be staggering by now. I know for a fact that it would take you at least three days to recover from using your alice explosively, but you seemed okay."
"That's what I've been telling you. I'm fine, Ruka. Really I am." He said.
Then, Ruka's face brightened. "Hey! Maybe you're not losing your life years anymore! That's why you still look healthy."
"My alice type is unlimited use but it shortens my life span." Natsume remarked with a sigh. "I don't think something like that can be changed."
"Then, what happened? I thought last night's mission was supposed to be very difficult."
"Maybe it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would." Natsume lied through his teeth. Not difficult? In a scale of one to five with five being the hardest. Last night's mission was probably a five.
"Hmmm? That's good! The less you use your alice, the better." His friend was obviously relieved.
I wouldn't be feeling better if not for that book. Natsume thought as an image of the 'The Night Festival' flashed inside his mind.
"Anyway…" Ruka continued. "…Narumi-sensei wants to talk to me after class. Want to come?"
"Like I would go out my way to see that teacher." He answered with much distaste.
"I know you would say that." Ruka closed his bag. The white rabbit he always carried around (since his alice was animal pheromone, after all) climbed up his shoulders. "Would you want to meet me in the dorm afterward or in the usual?"
"The usual." Natsume nodded. 'The usual' meant his favorite Sakura tree in one of the campus' grove.
"Ok. Ja!" Ruka waved and strode out of the classroom.
Once alone, and satisfied that everyone would probably be spending time elsewhere, Natsume reached out inside his bag and pulled a familiar old object.
"You're still here, eh?" He said as he gripped the book hard. If he remembered it correctly, this heirloom only appears once a year…once in a midsummer night. It should disappear in the afternoon of the following day, but in the advent that it was read during the time of its appearance, the book would stay in the reader's possession for a week.
"Yare-yare…" Natsume looked at lazily. He contemplated for a moment. He shouldn't have brought the thing out in the open. It was supposed to be something known only in his family. His grandfather always said not to let other people read it. Then again, Natsume doesn't like the idea of something this important to their family being left behind in an unsecured place like his room. Unsecured in a sense that Persona could browse or search his room any time. At least, if the book was with him, he could easily jam it inside his bag together with his other books. It would look less suspicious than leaving it alone in a shelf or desk.
"It is safer to have it always with me." He nodded to himself.
He was silent once more. His pale crimson eyes studied the title. He gazed around him as if to check if he was truly alone. "If you're going to be with me for a week, then I might as well use you."
He reached out inside his bag for his black neko mask but it wasn't there. He frowned. "I must have forgotten it in my room."
Nevertheless, a light smile crept on his lips. "I quick look without my mask won't do any harm." He placed the book inside his manga just in case if someone was to see him. He turned to the page where he had left off that morning and began to read out loud once more.
"…and so, the night was disturbed by a loud screeching sound followed by a series of footsteps from afar." Slowly, Natsume became drowsy. "From the right, a rider came…and from the…left, a healer silently…approached…" His head began to sway as a wave of sleepiness overcame him. "…the new…vi..si…to-r…, stand-ing…un-der…the…" And he was once again pulled into a deep slumber.
Mikan came running back towards her classroom. It was almost night time and the elementary hall was deserted. Outside, lampposts was being lit one by one to illuminate the shadowed grounds. She dashed in the hallway nervously without even looking back.
"Aaaaahh…why do I have to forget about it. I must be really cursed." She pouted to herself. "It's all Jinno-sensei's fault. I was too agitated to think straight earlier." Apparently, she left her math notebook underneath the desk. She was so glad that math class was over that she just hastily stood up and practically threw herself on the seat behind Hotaru.
"I should have checked earlier if I have all my things with me." Mikan's footsteps echoed in the empty hallway. "Waaah! Stupid, stupid me!" It was getting dark which made her surroundings look eerie. I wonder if there are ghosts in this school. She shook her head to get rid of the thought. "I—yah! Mikan…don't think of such things! Just concentrate in getting your notebook then dashed out of here as fast as you can!" She tried convincing herself, unfortunately, her mind was quicker in playing tricks with her amongst anything else that she was panting by the time she reached the classroom. Most of it was due to scaring herself while sprinting in the hallway.
She flung the doors open and screamed when she saw something seating at the back row. She about to dash her way out when she caught a steadier glimpse of the occupant of the seat.
"Na…Natsume?" Mikan blinked and slowly walked towards him.
Indeed, it was the fire alice boy seating quietly.
"Why are you still here? Alone…and in the dark?" She asked but there was no reply. She blinked curiously and approached him.
The raven-haired boy's head was bent forward and his shoulder slouched. His feet were propped up as usual on the desk but no movement came from him.
"Natsume…?" Mikan called out once again. She made her way around to her side of the table and slid on the seat beside him. She peered curiously at the boy.
"Natsume? Are you alright?" For a moment, she hesitated, but nevertheless reached out and waved a lock of hair away from his face. Upon doing so, it revealed his closed eyes and slightly parted mouth. His breathing was steady and his face looked relaxed without an inch of the frown that he usually had.
"A-ra? " Mikan whispered. "He's sleeping."
For a moment, she just stared at the boy and thought that for once, he looked harmless. She wondered for how long he had been in there. Eventually, her eyes traveled down at the object he was holding.
"A book?" She leaned forward to get a closer view.
(Up NEXT Chapter Two: "A Dream?")
Why is it that all fics I've read so far in this subcat, describes Mikan's hair as brunette? She is more of an auburn-haired person. Therefore, in this fic, I shall be considering her hair as auburn.
This is my first Gakuen Alice fic, but it isn't my very first fiction. This anime/manga is the newest addition to my fandom. And as ritual, I shall be asking the same question I always have in all of my fics.
Shall I continue this story? Yes? No? R & R Onegai Shimasu!