Disclaimer: I don't own Mai-HiME or its characters.

The Way We Are

Chapter I: The Breach

I'll never trust another human.

I had said that once upon a time, believing fully that the only thing I needed in my life was the skin on my back, my motorcycle, and a heavenly white substance that most people tended to refer to as mayonnaise.

I was alone in those first years after I got out of the hospital, and to be perfectly honest, I think I was happier that way. The only person I had to look after or worry about was myself. Some might say that I wasn't even capable of that considering that I was constantly covered in cuts and bruises, had the occasional broken bone, and didn't particularly eat all that healthy. Even so, I had my freedom and I had my mission: to find the ones responsible for my mother's death and repay that unkindly act.

My mother was the one who had first hinted at me that I was different…that I was a Hime…one of few in this world cursed to that damn star. I didn't know what she meant when she originally told me to keep quiet about the red star that shown in the sky beside the moon, but in time I would learn of it's true existence and why not every person could see it. Even so, I obeyed her order, keeping the secret between the two of us.

After mom died, I swore to avenge her. I kept telling myself that someday, somehow, I would surely find the ones responsible for her death. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the hospital for a year following the accident. It was during that time that my father remarried and abandoned me to run away with his new wife, a woman whom he had apparently been seeing while still with my mother. I continue to receive a hefty sum of money from him each month, but nothing in this world can take back that betrayal…at least not in my mind.

Once I was finally released from the hospital, I was enrolled in Fuuka Academy. Apparently my father had wanted me placed in the best private school in the area, and by one way or another, I landed here. Of course, I would later learn that my placement in Fuuka wasn't a coincidence, but at the time I could have cared less where I went.

Needless to say, school was the last thing on my mind, so each day spent there was torture. All I wanted to do was work towards my goal of revenge; my mind was set on it all the time, but it's kind of hard to be taken seriously when you're still in middle school. On top of that, I was behind in my schooling due to my time spent in the hospital, which only added to the frustration of my academic life that would end up being rather tremulous.

To further make my life a living hell, people were always trying to talk to me. Getting to know some of my classmates on a personal level was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't have time for it, was that too hard to understand? And yet they still tried…and I was always more than willing to give them a cold glare in return. People learned to leave me alone…until that day…

That day. That dreadful day. That dreadfully…wonderful day. The day I met her.

It still sticks out in my mind as clear as the nose on my face, and I think it always will. It's not every day that you have a life-altering encounter with an individual.

Individual. Like she could really be called that, just like she was anyone else…

I always enjoyed walking in the flower garden near the school, probably because no one was ever there. It was peaceful and hidden, and exactly what I needed after a long day spent in boring classes about cellular biology or mathematical equations that I could never understand. In fact, I think I had just failed yet another algebra test when I had gone there that afternoon. I was frustrated, but there was no way that I, Kuga Natsuki, was going to ask for anyone's help in the subject or any subject for that matter…I'd rather shoot myself.

I found myself sitting on the edge of the fountain that was in the middle of the garden, brooding most likely, but stuck in a daze. I'm not sure how long I was just sitting there, but the soft prickly feel of an insect crawling on my thigh snapped me out of it.

I hated being touched, by anything for that matter, so I swiftly swatted at the thing. After if flew off for a moment and promptly returned to land on my other leg, I opted to get up. That would teach the damn thing not to use me as its personal lounge chair.

Even now I don't know what it was that initially drew me to that flower. It was one of many. It looked just like the others, but something about it stuck out to me. It somehow didn't blend with the others, and that simple fact made me hate it. I didn't want to look at it anymore. Thinking back, maybe it reminded me of myself, or something foolish like that, but for whatever reason, I reached out and gripped that frail piece of nature in my hand. I would make it disappear. I had that power. At least I though I did until that soothing Kyoto-ben voice reached my ears.

"You shouldn't do that."

It stopped me dead in my tracks. I don't think there's too much in this world that can, but that heavily accented voice is surely one of them.

Releasing the flower, I turned to face my instructor. Who was this person to tell me what I could and couldn't do?

"Beautiful flowers are to be loved," the girl continued before I could even open my mouth to voice my protest.

So she was in high school? Her uniform was proof of that. Her long chestnut colored hair blew in the wind just as easily as the flower petals that were being carried away by it, but more than anything, her eyes stood out the most.

Those rusty-brown orbs were captivating. They sucked you in, made you freeze right where you were. You couldn't speak, you couldn't breathe. You had to plead with them to release you, or at least that's the effect they had on me, and arguably still do. Not that I'd ever tell her that. She'd enjoy that a little too much.

"Since it's doing its best to bloom during its short life, ne?"

Luckily that captivity ended on its own accord before I totally lost myself. The girl closed her eyes and smiled as she delivered that last line, tilting her head to the side ever so slightly.

That sweet, innocent smile…I wonder how many times you've used that amazing quality of yours to your advantage? It sure did work on me. It made me feel so tranquil, and yet so absolutely afraid at the same time.

I didn't know it then, and probably for a while after, but you've always had a different smile for me.

As I listened to those words, let them bounce around in my head for a moment, my face did what it always did, what it had been trained to do since the day I entered that hospital with all the beeping equipment and wires…it contorted into a sickened glare.

But nothing happened. She was still there. She was still smiling. My tactic had never failed me before, what was going wrong now?

"What's it to you?" I managed to grunt back at her.

Don't look at me like that...

She silently studied me for a moment before responding. "You must be pretty upset to take out your anger on a defenseless flower…What would happen if it grew and fought back?"

I'd kill it.

"Like that'd really happen. And I'm not upset about anything."

Why am I even having this conversation?

"Ara, your eyes are telling me different," the girl stated with a small chuckle.

So now you're making fun of me…

"Whatever," I responded in an attempt to make this end.

I began to walk off, but she wasn't about to let me go that easily.

"Shizuru," she said, making sure to speak slightly louder so I would hear.

I stopped again, but this time I was wise enough not to turn around…not to get trapped by her gaze.

"Fujino Shizuru."

Why is she telling me her name? Does she expect me to do the—

"Kuga Natsuki."

My tongue betrayed me. I grimaced at the fact that I just gave this Shizuru an ample opportunity to continue this choppy little conversation. And then the unexpected happened.

"I know."

She knew? She knew me? And here I was thinking that I was doing such a good job of keeping myself under the radar…Psh, so what? She knew my name, not me. No one knew me. The real me. Did I even know myself…?

"Oh?" I questioned, daring to turn around to face her head on.

"Who wouldn't know Miss Kuga? So cold they all say…unapproachable even."

Is that what this is about?

"So what? Did you get dared or something stupid like that to talk to me?" I snapped back, clearly annoyed by this point.

"No, but I was intrigued, and you certainly haven't let me down," she replied, that smile never changing.

My whole face practically twitched at her words.

What the hell is she up to? This is stupid.

Before I spoke, I a put on a sarcastic, sadistic even, smile to match my tone, "Well, I'm happy for you."

I had already begun to walk off when I heard her call out to me, my name seeming to roll off of her tongue so easily, seamlessly.

"See you around, Natsuki."

"Whatever…" I thought.

And yet for the first time since I started attending Fuuka Academy, I didn't reprimand someone for using my first name.