Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice. Simple as that.
Dusk had fallen barely an hour ago. A blanket of silence draped itself over the formidable Northern Woods as its occupants slept peacefully whilst nocturnal critters scurried about for fallen fruit and nuts. The owls, however, refused to make an appearance and continued sleeping with their heads under their feathery wings. Food can wait; there were plenty to go around.
No one noticed anything strange in the Northern Woods that night, but the animals did. Animals steered clear of a tightly-packed group of trees, where they could sense a nearly-silent buzz of occasional activity. There were humans there, they knew, and these men were planning on something nasty.
Some distance away, the clock ticked happily away, cradled by the tower that supported it. It spelt three quarters to seven. In the woods, the men continued to wait.
When the clock's bell chimed eight, the leader of the group of men grinned.
The attack by members of the Anti-Alice Organization caught the Academy staff off-guard. The staff room was attacked first, crushed to dust and rubble by thick, deadly vines at least half a meter in diameter.
A moment later, adults rushed out of the high school building, where they were having a meeting. Students trailed behind them, curious and ignorant of the danger that was looming ahead. There was a gasp. A scream.
Then, the battle began.
Caught unaware, the Academy staff and students, only ten men strong, could not hold against the onslaught of the AAO. Some teachers detached themselves from the fray to warn the other students and keep them safe, running under cover as alices rained down around them.
Barely five minutes later, Persona returned with his masked students. The boost in the Academy's defense was significant, but not enough to stop the invaders. The AAO were slowly advancing towards the main school building.
At the edge of the battle, a teenage girl looked on with fear. The noises frightened her, and the sight of blood only managed to make her beating heart race faster.
"N-Natsume!" she squeaked, taking a step backward. "Natsume, w-what's happening?"
A lean boy donning a black cat mask winced when he heard his name. Dealing a last punch to his adversary, Natsume turned round and appeared behind the girl, hissing, "Baka youjo. Go back!"
"But what's happening?" Mikan cried. "Tell me!"
"Isn't it clear enough?" Natsume snapped, clearly not in the mood to deal with her idiocy. "Go away, baka! This place isn't safe."
As he finished his sentence, he slammed a fistful of fire into the chest of a man, drawing a cry of pain.
"I'll help you! Look, I'll just nullify the alices and--"
"You'll nullify ours, too! But with your weak control over your Alice, you'll fail anyway."
Mikan crossed her arms, her mouth set in a stubborn pout. "Will not! Here, I'll prove it--"
"Move!" Natsume growled, shoving her roughly to the side when he spotted an approaching enemy. Glaring at the man through slits in his cat mask, he stood his ground and tried to activate his Alice.
But nothing happened.
Wide-eyed, Natsume whirled round to look at the brunette, who was holding a hand to her head. A trickle of blood was visible, seeping out under her palm. Mikan groaned in pain, ignorant of the circle of white-blue light that was steadily growing bigger around her.
"Oi, polka! Stop your Alice!"
"What…?" Mikan mumbled. "Ouch, my head…."
Natsume took her by her shoulders and started to shake her. "Stop your Alice! It's affecting everyone and it definitely isn't helping!"
Startled, Mikan looked up only to see the silhouette of a man against the bright full moon, standing directly behind Natsume. Her words of warning never left her lips. Natsume crashed to the ground a few feet away from her, grunting in pain. The cat mask came away and clattered to a stop at Mikan's feet.
She stared at it for a while, her mind racing to get a hold on the situation. She could hear Natsume's grunts of pain as he struggled to stand.
Slowly, anger boiled up within her. The range of her alice grew.
"No one," she whispered, "no one…can ever hurt…my…friends!"
Natsume could only look on, riddled with pain, as Mikan's alice exploded.
He didn't know how long he stayed on the ground like that. The only thing he could register was the eerie silence in the wake of the alice explosion Mikan had caused. Nothing seems to be moving – or was it his ears that were playing tricks on his tired mind? He didn't know.
Groaning, Natsume struggled to reach for his classmate whom he knew was nearby. His groping hand found something warm, and he pulled himself towards it on his hands and knees as he was still too dazed to stand.
Mikan was there, shivering despite the warm summer night. Up close, Natsume could see her tears leaking out of her eyes. But he didn't know what to do – he had never been one who was good at consoling others, being a pessimist.
In the end, Natsume squeezed her arm a little, which turned out to be the appendage he had found. If Mikan noticed, she didn't show it.
"Hey, polka dots," he tried. Mikan continued shedding silent tears, her body trembling under his touch. He was about to give up when she opened her mouth to speak.
"…I didn't mean to do it."
Her voice was croaky and her words were whispered, but Natsume heard it. Squeezing her arm a little harder, he sat up beside her.
"Can you stand?" he asked, a little awkwardly.
A little whimper was Mikan's only answer. Sighing, Natsume offered a helping hand and was surprised when Mikan clung to him like a child. Her nails dug into his skin, but he said nothing about it.
"I only did it because I was scared," she confessed suddenly. "Scared, but for you. I wonder why."
After a while, Mikan stopped trembling and her breathing became slower, steadier. Her fingers loosened their hold on Natsume arm and fell peacefully on his thigh, igniting embarrassment in the teenager.
"Baka youjo," he muttered.
Dry leaves crackled somewhere behind him, causing him to whirl round. He ignored the disgusting sight of the bloodied battlefield and the twisted corpses in favour of the man who was coming towards him. He looked distinctly familiar, Natsume couldn't help thinking, but he couldn't recall where he had met him.
"Ah, the nullification girl," the man said, smiling malevolently. "No wonder our alices failed to work, eh, Hyuuga?"
Natsume glared at the adult he now recognized as Mouri Reo. "Keep away."
Reo merely smirked and let his gaze slip off the fire caster and onto the sleeping Mikan, whose head was resting on Natsume's shoulders. "Now, now, Natsume. No need to be so harsh."
A spark of fire burst into existence near Reo's left cheek, illuminating the small earring there. Natsume could see more men behind Reo, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. He glared at them with hate.
"That's disrespectful, Natsume," Reo said casually as he eyed the fireball. "Perhaps you need some, ah, lessons."
A person detached himself from the group and charged at Natsume, the blade of a knife glinting in the moonlight. Natsume narrowed his eyes and awaited his turn to strike. He parried the knife easily, but he wasn't prepared for the punch that made the wind whistle in his right ear.
The two males started exchanging quick blows and kicks, striking and blocking with apparent ease. Around them, Reo's men started to close in and Reo stepped closer to the sleeping Mikan. At the same time, he started fiddling with his earring.
Natsume noticed their plan a little too late – the men had encircled him, cutting him off from the brunette whom he had left unguarded. Reo had a triumphant smirk on his face as he stroked Mikan's cheek.
"You wouldn't want me to hurt her, right?"
Natsume staggered where he stood, clutching his head. "Damn you…" he muttered angrily.
"Be a good boy and…sleep."
Reo watched as Natsume's eyes widened at the impact of his voice pheromone alice, caught unaware. The boy then crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
"Well, our job is done," he said after observing Natsume to confirm the effectiveness of his alice. "Let's go." With that, he picked Mikan up from the ground and turned to leave.
"But Reo-sama…why bring a hostage along?" One of his henchmen asked. Reo turned round and smirked.
"Can't you guess? If you can't, you'll find out when we return to the headquarters. Come on. Seiji?"
"Yes," a man at the back of the group replied. Seconds later, the only thing that proved their little visit to the Academy was a litter of bodies and a forest splattered with blood.
"…Look, he's awake!"
Natsume opened his eyes slowly at the sound, wincing a little at the bright light. A whiff of an all too-familiar scent made him cringe. He'd know this smell anywhere - the smell of medicine.
"What happened?" he asked Ruka, who was standing beside his bed. Not really caring for an answer, he glanced around the room. Hotaru, Ruka, Iincho and Sumire were there, but that was all.
Natsume frowned and looked again. Someone was missing….
"Where's polka dots?" he asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. Dimly, he noticed his four classmates stiffen.
No answer. Natsume growled and conjured up a small fireball in his hand.
"Don't make me repeat my question." He sent a murderous glare at them for good measure.
Ruka cleared his throat, flinching when he found Natsume's cold stare on him. Even Hotaru looked a little apprehensive.
"Well…." Ruka halted, still uncertain. "Mikan is…Mikan isn't here, Natsume."
"We don't know where she is," Iincho piped in, quailing under Natsume's glare. Hotaru merely looked on.
Ruka flinched. "What?"
"But, Natsume-kun," Sumire pleaded. Natsume glared at her, snapped his fingers and watched as Sumire ran away, beating at her burning skirt. Ruka and Hotaru followed her at a much slower pace, leaving the door to click shut on its own.
Once they were gone, Natsume fell back onto his fluffy pillow, eyeing the cream-coloured ceiling. Memories of yesterday flooded his mind, almost against his will.
He gripped the bedsheets tightly, furiously fighting down the urge to scream and wreak havoc in the hospital. He had failed to see through Reo's plan in time. What an idiot he was.
Mikan…it was his fault that she was kidnapped. He wasn't capable of protecting her when she was helpless, his fault for not ensuring that she had gotten away safely.
All of it was his fault.
A single tear fell onto his pale hand, reflecting his face and ruby-red eyes. He never realized it, but over the course of a few years, he had grown really attached to the bubbly girl. She never failed to amuse him or cheer him up whenever he felt down. Of course, the methods he used to relieve himself of his bad mood were not really what one might call decent either…
If he had known that this would happen, would his attitude towards her been different? It might.
Then again, it might not.
Hallo! Please, whatever you do, don't blame me for starting yet another story…I couldn't help it…
Of course, please leave me a review if you can. It really makes me happy!