A/N: I'm ALIVE!! First of all I want to apologize for my long absence. I had lots of work and other personal issues so I couldn't work in any fic after New Year. And also I had a horrible writer's block since I haven't gotten a new muse to get inspiration.

Right now I'm working in a new story and of course in 'Natsuki Doggy' and 'Yours will lead mine'. I'm trying to write down the ideas 'cause I prefer to write them on paper first and then type them, this way I can do some changes and correct things I don't like. That's why it takes time to update them. But fear not, I promise I'll update them, okay? (Don't know when though.)

Now regarding this fic; it's a one-shot AU fic with Mai Otome characters. Inspiration struck me while I was in a concert and when I looked at the musicians the idea just came; and this is the result.

Many thanks to the great leebot-sensei for beta-ing this fic. You are the best!

That would be all; now, enjoy the fic and don't forget to leave a review.

Disclaimer: I don't own Mai Hime or Mai Otome. - sulks in a corner -

Our little Utopia.

It was a clear and wonderful night, and it was very noisy in a certain dome where a concert was being held. Certainly this wasn't the type of a concert Shizuru would normally attend, but her coworkers had invited, or more like dragged her here saying that they had backstage passes. So, here she was, standing at the edge of the scenery behind the curtains, watching the concert with no interest; that was, until she noticed the bassist that was playing on the stage. Shizuru could tell that she was a superb musician, and her looks were as appealing as her talent.

The bassist had dark cobalt hair tied up in a pony tail, pearl white skin, a slim figure, and the most mesmerizing emerald green eyes Shizuru had ever seen; she also seemed to be slightly taller than Shizuru by mere inches.

She couldn't stop watching her every move; she was perfect, however Shizuru noticed that something was odd, or more like out of place. She couldn't pinpoint what it was at that moment, so she set it aside; right now she only wanted to focus on that wonderful musician.

When the concert ended, Shizuru's coworkers left to look for their idol to try to get some autographs and maybe some pictures to show off the next day at work. She wasn't fond of the idea, so she excused herself and left the building. Once she was outside she noticed someone in the distance, it was her, the bassist; apparently she was finishing packing some equipment inside a van. Once she was done, the van left and the girl was left there with just her bass case. Shizuru decided to approach her; maybe this would be the only chance she'd have to talk to her. With that thought in mind she began to walk towards the young girl. When she was near enough she started to speak.

- "It was such a great concert. Your performance was extraordinary." – she said.

The cobalt haired girl, who was kneeling on the ground to put her bass in its place, turned around and looked upwards to see who had said that. Her eyes met red, a captivating color, red like rubies; the owner of such eyes was an extremely beautiful woman with chestnut hair, porcelain features, radiating elegance, and a goddess-like figure. The girl with green eyes closed her bass case and stood up, looking at the woman in front of her with a questioning look.

- "Are you talking to me?"

- "Do you see someone else here?" – said the brunette.

- "No…"

- "So why do you ask such a question if we are alone?"

- "Well…because it's strange…" – replied the cobalt-haired girl sincerely.

- "Strange? How so? Can't I congratulate you?"

- "Why would a fan do such a thing when Mashiro is inside?"

Shizuru lifted her eyebrows at the question. It was very amusing but at the same time kind of funny; apparently this girl thought that she was a simple fan too. She couldn't stop the giggle that came out from her lips. Of course this angered the raven haired girl.

- "What's so funny?"

- "I'm sorry but I couldn't help it. You just confused me with a fan of Mashiro."

- "Are you not?"

- "Not a tiny bit."

- "Then why did you come to see her?"

- "I didn't have a word in this, so here I am."

- "I see."

They stared at each other for a couple of seconds before the green-eyed girl asked out of the blue.

- "May I know your name?"

- "Ara…why are you so eager to meet me?"

- "I'd like to know the name of the person who complimented my work."

The brunette smiled sincerely at the statement. Stretching out her hand she said.

- "I'm Viola. Shizuru Viola."

- "My name is Kruger; Natsuki Kruger."

- "It's a pleasure to meet you Kruger-san."

- "I'm not so fond of formalities so please, just call me Natsuki."

- "Very well Natsuki; but, you'll also have to call me just Shizuru."

- "It's a deal."

Shaking hands they exchanged a small smile; this is how they met and things like friendship that would lead to something more deep between them began. Shizuru wanted to know more about Natsuki and vice versa; that was why Shizuru would go to the concert dome almost every night to look for Natsuki since it was the only time they had free in their busy schedules to see each other. The time for them was short because Natsuki would have to leave the city to continue with the idol's tour all across Japan once the performing dates ended for that city, so they would ride in Shizuru's car and go to some park or bar to talk for hours.

One starry night they were at the park drinking something warm when Shizuru suddenly asked Natsuki.

- "Say Natsuki…"

- "Mmh?"

- "What's your dream?"

- "Eh? My…dream?" – said Natsuki staring directly at Shizuru's eyes.

- "Yes, can you tell me?" – said Shizuru with a pleading look.

Natsuki kept silent for a while. Gazing up at the sky with a smile in her lips she replied.

- "It's a very small dream in fact."

- "What is it?"

- "I'd like to have my own band. But not to become famous and travel around the world, no. I just want to play what I like, what I feel, the melodies I compose. Simply play and let others feel happy and free for a moment."

- "If that's Natsuki's dream, then why are you playing with Mashiro's tour?"

- "The pay is good." – replied Natsuki in a disinterested way, as if trying to avoid the real answer.

- "But it is obvious that you are not comfortable in that kind of environment. So, why keep playing?"

- "I have my reasons…" – said the girl in a slightly angry tone.

- "Of course." – replied Shizuru understanding that she had pushed the question too far and that it was upsetting Natsuki.

However, in that moment Shizuru understood why when she saw Natsuki for the first time, she felt that something was out of place, and that something was Natsuki. Leaving the subject aside they continued talking until the time came for them to go to their respective homes.

The days passed quickly and the day when Natsuki was to leave had come; in fact it was earlier than the date Natsuki was told. That was why, when she was walking in the park with Shizuru, she informed her, the new information surprising the chestnut haired woman.

- "So you will be leaving in two days?"

- "Yeah, I'm afraid that they changed the dates for the next city and I have to arrive earlier, plus the concerts here ended yesterday so they want to move as soon as possible." – explained Natsuki in a bitter tone.

In that moment Natsuki's phone alarm beeped, taking it out the girl saw a message from her manager. Shizuru could tell that it wasn't good since Natsuki growled and frowned after reading it. Placing the phone back in her pocket Natsuki said.

- "I'm sorry Shizuru, but it seems we have to cut the walk off early today."

- "I understand."

- "Also, I don't think I will be able to see you tomorrow…" – informed Natsuki in a sad tone.

- "That means that today was my last night with Natsuki."

Those words made Natsuki's heart sink in her chest; as if all the strength and energy had been drained out. She didn't want to let Shizuru go; then she remembered something that the chestnut haired girl had given her. After some minutes in silence she said.

- "I'm sorry…"

This apology caught Shizuru off guard.

- "Why is Natsuki apologizing?"

- "Your conference…I won't…"

Shizuru smiled at the kind girl, taking her hand she said.

- "Natsuki doesn't need to apologize, it's not her fault."

Natsuki dug her free hand in the pocket of her jacket and took out a ticket, which in reality was a VIP pass. Handing it over to Shizuru she said.

- "Then, maybe I should return you this, 'cause I won't be able to…"

- "Keep it" – interrupted Shizuru.

- "But…"

- "Don't say anything Natsuki. This way you will remember me." – said Shizuru while placing her hand on Natsuki's cheek, cupping it in a loving way. – "Also, I should be apologizing too."

- "You? What for?"

- "Because I won't be able to see Natsuki off at the airport."

- "Shizuru…" – whispered Natsuki with a slight blush forming in her face.

Not being able to control herself, Natsuki leaned forward and hugged Shizuru, letting all her emotions flow out and envelop them. Shizuru was a bit startled by the sudden action but soon she did the same. She hugged Natsuki back and buried her face in the chest of the young girl. Much to her dismay, Natsuki released Shizuru and gave a step back to look at her face. She stared at Shizuru for some minutes, trying to carve that face into her memory and her heart forever; she would have continued like that if it were not for her phone beeping again. Broken out of her trance, she locked her gaze with Shizuru and said.

- "Good night, Shizuru."

She couldn't say any word of farewell, as she didn't want this to end. That was why she couldn't gain the courage to speak the words. She turned around to start walking away, but she was stopped when a hand grabbed her by the arm. Turning a bit to ask what the matter was, all she could see was a flash of chestnut hair and red leaning towards her, and then she felt something over her cheek. It was really soft and warm: Shizuru's lips. Before she could say anything, Shizuru moved to her ear and whispered.

- "See you, Natsuki."

After that Shizuru retreated quickly and began to run in the direction away from Natsuki. The cobalt-haired girl stood dumbfounded in that place for some minutes, not quite understanding what had happened. The only thing she could feel right now was the warm spot in her cheek, the place where Shizuru just kissed her.

- "Did she just…?" – thought Natsuki.

Before she could form any conclusion, her cell phone message alarm beeped one more time; the sound drew her out of her mind. If she didn't need her phone that much, she would have thrown it to the ground after reading the message. Sighing, she placed the object inside her pocket and with quick steps she left the place, but not before glancing in the direction where Shizuru had gone. If only she had had the time to stop her and ask her what that meant. However, it was too late to do that...

Even if the place was one of the biggest for this kind of events, it was still crowded. Not even a seat was left unoccupied, there were so many attendees at this conference. It had been very tiring; attending various conferences, attracting potential clients, showing them the benefits of their product, etc.; but finally it was their turn to give their conference, after that, at least the day would come to an end.

Shizuru was standing outside the back entrance to the conference room. She was relaxing, feeling the soft breeze touch her skin. Her mind, however, wasn't concentrating on the conference she would be giving in some minutes. Instead, she was thinking about a lovely girl that made her heart skip a beat. Shizuru thought of the events of the night when she'd last seen Natsuki. She'd felt something that made her feel complete, like she could overcome anything with it. She wondered what it could be, though sadly she wouldn't know for a long time, since Natsuki had probably already left with the pop idol Mashiro to continue their tour. As if on cue, a plane crossed the skies at that moment. Looking up, Shizuru thought.

- "Natsuki…"

- "Viola-san." – said a voice.

- "What is it Ashford-san?" – replied Shizuru, recognizing the voice of one of her co-workers.

- "In ten minutes the conference will begin. We have to go back inside."

- "Alright, let's go."

Shizuru entered the building along with Ashford-san, who said after a couple of seconds.

- "You were relaxing out there. Are you nervous?"

- "Not at all." – replied Shizuru with confidence.

- "That's Viola-san, always sure of herself."

Shizuru just smiled politely at the comment.

- "It's just a conference; it's part of the job." – thought Shizuru in a way that in her mind sounded more than boring.

After a couple of minutes, they met with their other co-workers who were waiting for them. They only had two minutes left before the conference began.

- "Ready, everyone?"

- "Sure!"

- "Let's give our best."

The team took their respective posts and appeared on stage after the hostess announced the beginning of the event.

Everything was going smoothly; everyone in the room was focusing on what the presenter was saying. Everyone but the chestnut haired woman, that was. Her attention had been drawn to a noise backstage. Shizuru was seated near the edge of the table, so she was near the entrance of the stage, which was why she could see all that what was happening. Turning her gaze a little she saw a member of the staff talking with a girl; it looked like he was about to throw her out when suddenly the girl took out a card from her pocket. Upon seeing the card the staff member gave the girl his apologies and, handing her a badge, she let the girl in. Shizuru's eyes opened widely in shock, the girl was panting slowly and met her gaze. She couldn't believe that those hypnotizing emerald eyes were looking directly at her right now. The girl gave her a smile and a tender look. Shizuru's mouth opened as if to say something when she heard her name being called from her co-worker. The conference was still going and it was her turn now. She recovered quickly from her shock and stood up from her seat to explain her part.

The emerald-eyed girl stood at that place backstage, watching the brunette's elegant figure and confident smile explain all the details effortlessly. However, soon her expression changed as a realization struck her, and now her once calm face showed a frown. She had to let Shizuru know about this, she couldn't believe what she had just discovered.

Minutes passed and finally the conference was over; it had been a huge success. The people left the auditorium delighted, just like Shizuru's co-workers. They were backstage, talking and congratulating each other.

- "Let's go to get a drink to celebrate this." – said Ashford-san.

Everyone agreed and began to walk towards the exit. Before Shizuru gave a step, she could feel the gaze of someone on her. There was no mistake; 'she' was still here.

- "Something wrong, Viola-san?"

- "Excuse me, but I won't be able to go." – said Shizuru.

- "Is that so?"

- "Give my apologies to the others."

- "Sure."

Not asking anything else, Ashford-san left with the rest of the team. Shizuru turned around to meet the astonishing girl standing behind of her.

- "Natsuki…" – whispered Shizuru.

Before she could speak another word, Natsuki took her by the hand and began to walk, dragging Shizuru along with her. Once they reached a more secluded place, Natsuki released Shizuru's hand and faced the brunette, staring at her with a frown on her face.

- "It's not fair you know?" – said Natsuki out of the blue.

- "Not fair…?" – asked Shizuru, surprised by the words of the cobalt-haired girl.

- "Yes, it's not fair, Shizuru."

- "Sorry, Natsuki but I don't think I'm following…"

- "You, it's all because of you that I'm here." – Natsuki began to explain – "I couldn't board that plane, and I couldn't continue with the tour, because of you, because of your words, because of what you said. I… don't know why… many people have told me the same thing but I only began to care once you said it. Only when you mentioned it…"

- "What did I say Natsuki?"

- "You asked me why I was with Mashiro's tour if I didn't like it…." – she paused for a moment – "After that day I thought about it even more. Hell! Even hours ago, I couldn't get the words, your voice out of my mind. They were buried in my head and in my heart; I thought I didn't care 'cause it was my decision but I was wrong…The truth is that I didn't have any reasons to be with the tour… I was simply afraid. I was weak; I didn't have the strength to chase my dream." – gazing at those crimson eyes she continued – "But, then you came to me. I don't know why but in all those moments when I was with you, I felt different, something I never felt before for anyone. You gave me something I didn't have. You gave me the strength I lacked."

- "Natsuki…"

- "I couldn't afford to lose it; that's why I came here, Shizuru. But… I wasn't prepared to see what I just saw minutes ago."

Shizuru felt her heart give a flip. Finally someone had seen through her mask, and she wasn't ready at all to confront it. However, there was no turning back now; she had to bear with it.

- "You told me all that stuff about chasing my real dream; when in reality you don't do it yourself. You seemed to be happy working in this company; I never asked you about it because I thought you really were. However, now that I saw it myself I can tell that you don't like it; you hate this. That's why it's not fair, Shizuru."

- "I agree with Natsuki, it is not fair of me to say those things when I don't do them myself. But just like Natsuki, I'm weak. I don't have the strength to do it."

Natsuki smiled an understanding smile. Taking the brunette's hands, she said.

- "I'm not asking you to do it immediately. Take your time just as I did if you want. I'll be your strength just like you are mine, Shizuru."

- "Natsuki…" – whispered Shizuru.

Natsuki hugged Shizuru in a loving way. It wasn't in the way a friend would hug another friend, and Shizuru understood this gesture. Finally, she comprehended the emotions she felt around and towards Natsuki, why she felt complete. It was because of Natsuki's love; Natsuki's love was her strength. Maybe Natsuki had found the answer before her, and that was why she was here. Now that they were together, she was sure she could do anything from now on.

Almost two years had passed since Shizuru quit from her job at the company. She didn't really have to think too much about it; a couple of days after her reunion with Natsuki at the conference she presented her written resignation to her boss. It was a real shock for all her co-workers and a big loss for the company, although she didn't care. Finally she had the strength to do what she had always dreamed of.

She was there, behind a counter of a tea and coffee shop located in a district that was far from the city center. The place was small, but very cozy. Also, it had a bonus: four days a week at night, a jazz group offered a performance, filling the place with live music. With this combination, the store soon became one of the most popular places to chat while having a good cup of tea or coffee and listening to great music.

It was almost eight and the show was going to start soon. From where Shizuru was standing, she could see Natsuki getting prepared for tonight's performance with her band. Shizuru smiled at the sight. Natsuki looked happy and excited; finally her dream had come true, just like Shizuru's. It took them a while, but now they were enjoying it. She had always dreamt of running her own business. Everyone, even Natsuki, had thought it would be a monstrous corporation, but when Shizuru told Natsuki about the tea shop, the cobalt-haired girl was very surprised; then her surprise turned in enthusiasm. Shizuru still remembered Natsuki's words.

- "That's really cool, Shizuru! I'm very proud of you, and kind of glad you don't feel you need something big to be happy. I'll help you… except… you'll have to teach me how to prepare tea…"

And teach her she did. After all, Natsuki would be helping her during day, because at night she had a show to give. After many months of training since the store opened, Natsuki now was able to prepare delicious blends – not as well as Shizuru, but they were still very tasty. In thanks for all her patience and teaching, Natsuki would compose a new piece every month. However, those pieces were made exclusively for Shizuru's ears. This arrangement was more than acceptable for the chestnut haired woman, who gladly enjoyed it.

The sound of a bass coming from the stage brought her back from her memories; the jazz night was about to start. Natsuki took the microphone and greeted the audience. She then returned the microphone to its place; giving a nod to the other members, they began to play. Shizuru's gaze was completely focused on Natsuki's figure; she loved to see how Natsuki moved along with the music's rhythm, as that way she could see how passionate the raven haired girl was while playing. Any good hunter would have noticed such things.

One such hunter, a young man in his mid thirties, was seated on a stool next to the counter, near where Shizuru was. He was also looking at Natsuki, but not simply ogling her like many people did; his gaze was more the 'business' type. Trying to know more about her he said out loud.

- "That girl is really good, isn't she?"

Shizuru heard him and immediately knew where this talk was leading; a smirk forming in her lips she replied.

- "Indeed."

- "She plays here frequently right?"

- "Yes, four times a week."

As if trying to make casual conversation the man asked.

- "Do you happen to know who her manager is? If she has one, that is."

- "That would be me, sir." – replied Shizuru with a polite smile.

After that answer the man had a long talk with Shizuru, trying to convince her to let him promote Natsuki in the music field; he assured her that she would have more and better possibilities to gain fame and fortune outside than in this desolate place.

Shizuru felt a very tiny bit sorry for the man, for he had not been the only one to come and see Natsuki and her band play. However, she, better than anyone, knew Natsuki's wishes, and that was why she would always reject their offer politely. Natsuki had asked her to do so, because if it were her, she would have kicked all those 'hunter's butts' so they would leave her alone. The man stood from the stool and handed Shizuru his card, in case they changed their minds, as he put it. She knew it was futile but she took it out of courtesy. The man bid her good night and left the shop.

The night passed quickly; the band was now playing their last song of the night. When they finished, everyone but Natsuki put their instruments in their respective places and left the shop, not before wishing the couple a good night. The rest of the clients that were there also left after finishing their drinks, which took just a couple of minutes. Once they were left alone, Natsuki walked to where Shizuru was standing and helped her to clean up and close the shop. They were standing next to each other when Natsuki suddenly said.

- "We had another one tonight uh?"

Shizuru understood what the raven haired girl was talking about.

- "Ara…so Natsuki saw him?"

- "Only because he was talking to you, and you know how jealous I get when someone talks to you." – said Natsuki, facing Shizuru and placing her hands on Shizuru's hips.

- "Of course, and I love seeing Natsuki that way." – replied the older woman wrapping her arms around Natsuki's neck.

Staring at each other's eyes, they leaned and captured their lips in a slow and loving kiss. They had been lovers since the day after Shizuru resigned from her job and everyday was bliss for them. When they parted from the kiss, Natsuki's gaze focused on the stage and saw that her bass was still out; this gave her the perfect chance to do what she had planned. Shizuru saw that Natsuki wasn't looking at her so she asked.

- "What is it, Natsuki?"

- "Oh... nothing… just forgot to put the bass away."

- "Natsuki really should take more care of her things."

- "Sorry…" – with a smile she then said – "Could you get the case and open it up for me, please?"

- "Sure."

Natsuki walked to retrieve the bass while Shizuru went for the case, which was resting on a couch near the stage. Shizuru opened the case and Natsuki could hear a gasp; this made her smile. Shizuru stared at the object that was inside; what could a diamond ring be doing there? Her head felt light when, on the other hand, her heart was beating like a drum inside her chest. She didn't react until she felt Natsuki's presence behind her, hugging her from behind, wrapping her arms around Shizuru's waist in a possessive way. Her mouth next to her ear, speaking in a husky and low voice full of love and determination, Natsuki said.

- "Shizuru, do you remember that day of your conference?" – she received a nod – "I told you that you are my strength; your love is my strength, but… you know…?" – she paused for a second – "I want to be invincible."

Shizuru felt her heart skip a beat. Natsuki felt that the body of her lover was stiff; releasing her she reached her hand out to take the ring, then turning Shizuru around so she could see her face she stared at those crimson eyes and merging all her love in her next words she asked.

- "Shizuru, would you be my strength forever?"

Shizuru's eyes couldn't contain the tears that had formed there and now were flowing freely down her cheeks. She wanted to say something, she wanted to give Natsuki her answer but she couldn't form any coherent words now. She didn't want Natsuki to misinterpret her silence, so before the emerald eyed girl could say anything or jump to incorrect conclusions, she leaned and captured Natsuki's lips forcefully in a passionate kiss. This action of course erased any trace of doubt from Natsuki's mind; she wasn't expecting this kind of answer, but this was much better than words.

When finally Shizuru released Natsuki, she took the opportunity and placed the ring on Shizuru's finger. Shizuru looked at the ring, it was a precious piece. While she examined it, a question formed in her mind. She had a guess about the answer, but she wanted to hear it from the person she loved.

- "Natsuki?"

- "Yeah?"

- "Why here?"

These past years, Natsuki had come to realize that she didn't need many words to communicate with Shizuru; she knew what she was referring to, taking her hands between hers she said.

- "Because this was the perfect place for it; this is where your dream came true, and so did mine. This is where all will begin and our future will be formed; where our hearts became one and our lives had found their meaning. This is…"

- "Our little Utopia."


I hope that you liked it. Thanks for reading and for your support; don't forget to leave a review. Thank you everyone! My new story will be full of surprises so look forward to it.

See you around!

Shezaei neko