I make no claim to Mai HiME or Otome and I'm certainly not making any money out of this endeavor. I am, however, having a lot of fun.
Anyway, here we are with another installment of Relocation. If you're still following this, I hope you're enjoying it! Thanks once again to all those who took the time to leave a review, much appreciated as always. Thanks especially to Azfixiation, my heart is an icebox, devil-urd, koalarap, pri815, Vanilla Slash, KrazyJJ and nolens volens.
To comment on some of your comments;
I agree, skinny dipping is inherently funny. Like the word trundle.
Thank you but no thanks to the marriage proposal. I'm saving myself for when Ellen Page comes out.
The daftness continues in this chapter and shows no signs of stopping for a another few thousand words. Aye, you poor things. I'm sorry to subject you to my personal brand of comedy. Seriously. There's a plot here, somewhere.
"Right, Hallard," Haruka intoned solemnly at the crack of dawn the next morning, "you can guess why you're here, can't you?"
"To be hanged for treason, presumably, ma'am," Chie replied, staring resolutely ahead. Whatever horror was before her, she'd face it with as much dignity as she could muster. "Or, on a more optimistic level, to be incarcerated for inciting a riot."
Haruka blinked. "You need to get more sleep, Hallard," she said seriously, "you seem addled and incoherent."
Chie straightened, suddenly cautiously optimistic. "Referring to your earlier question, I cannot guess why I'm here, Brigadier General."
"Well," Haruka began, bringing Chie to a detailed map of Capra City that was laid flat on a large table. "To begin with, what you're hearing is so secret, that it's been given a new sensitive information designation beyond that of Above Top Secret."
"Yes. It's been rated Haruka Is Not Above Breaking Your Legs Should Yukino Ever Find Out-Secret. The designation also has the same rating, by the way. You may refer to it as Above, Over and Beyond Top Secret."
"Yes, ma'am." So much for optimism.
Haruka nodded. "Of course, as one of my helpers pointed out, we're undertaking this as civilians. So for the next two and a half days, you're on sanctioned leave and you're being considered a helper though not member of the Capra City LBGTQ."
Chie blinked. "Undertaking what, exactly?" she asked with a feeling of dread swelling within her.
Haruka rolled her expressive eyes. "Why, collecting signatures, you ginny."
"Ninny, I think."
"Yes, you are," Haruka agreed, clasping her hands behind her back. "Now, go and change into civvies and meet me back here in ten minutes. We need to plan our attack strategy when our allies arrive, she said, gesturing to the map. Little rainbow flags were stuck into the bayonets of tin soldiers scattered about strategic locations in the city, a little brigade on stand-by beside the board.
"Now, hurry up! This was your brilliant idea and you're bloody well going to help me out."
"Hold still, Midori," Youko Helene hissed to the fearsome leader of Aswald, running a firm hand up the inside of her thigh, inspecting the pale skin.
"Yeah, you try being calm when there's a mad scientist with a needle between your legs."
"At least I'm not a gynaecologist," Youko said with a wry smile, deftly puncturing the skin with a large bore needle. Midori hissed in discomfort and Youko looked up at her with concern.
"I'm fine," Midori said, turning her head to place her cheek on the bed beneath her. "Just uncomfortable."
"No pain?" Youko asked quietly. "Has the local anaesthetic kicked in properly?"
"I guess. There's no pain, just feels weird."
With practiced skill, Youko threaded a hollow tube into her leg, watching Midori's heart and respiration rates on a small monitor all the while. A long time passed before she spoke again. "Ready. You'll need to activate your REM before the stent goes in, just to make sure the nanomachines respond to it."
"Let's hope this doesn't kill me," Midori said with a small grin. Youko smiled sadly and lifted the delivery catheter in steady hands, waiting for the glow that signalled the REM reaction.
"It won't. And when it works, it'll provide many of our people with a much better chance of surviving until we can completely cure them," Youko said slowly, watching Midori's face carefully. Sweat beaded on her brow and her eyes were unfocused as Garderobe's resident doctor practiced her art. Her dark eyes flicked to an overhead monitor where a ghostly heart, outlined in blue and white beat strongly, an eerie green network of veins wrapped around it. A dark shape moved in the tangled mass of vessels and expanded slightly before withdrawing. "Just a moment, just a second," she said in a low voice, drawing the catheter and delivery tube out of her friend's leg before applying a strong skin adhesive.
Just as she returned to Midori after dumping the bloody remains of her efforts, she heard the distinctive crack of the REM shattering. Moving with careful, precise motions, she lifted the broken shards and replaced the green stone, cradling Midori's hand to her chest as she did so.
The leader of Aswald turned to face her, strain evident in every line of her skin and Youko was astounded at how old the other woman looked. No longer seventeen, she seemed aged and wearied. She moved her chair closer and stroked fiery hair out of Midori's eyes, fingers lingering on her sweaty brow.
"I wish you'd let me put you under for this kind of thing," she said.
"Not when there was a chance that the REM would see that thing as an enemy the next time it gets activated. You have my permission to knock everyone else out, though. That was horrible."
Youko chuckled and leaned forward, kissing Midori on the forehead. "Ah, my brave desert soldier."
Midori blinked with wonder and might have blushed, had most of her blood not been slightly heavier than normal. "I didn't think you'd remember that."
"Well, I had my two desert soldiers and you both had your team medic, right?"
"Right," Midori agreed, closing her eyes against the memories they were stirring. Emotion welled in her for the first time in a long while and felt akin to a punch to the gut. Reeling slightly, she realised it had affected her physically too. There was no way simple emotion could be that strong, she knew. "I feel nauseous, is that normal?"
"It is," Youko said apologetically. She lifted a needle and slid it into the delivery tube in the back of Midori's hand, injecting a light sedative. She was relieved beyond telling that the procedure had worked and didn't release Midori's hand after administering the shot. "I'll stay with you until you feel better, all right?"
"Thank you, Youko."
Natsuki cracked an eye opened and yawned widely before snuggling back into the bed and her lover's back, running her lips over the warm skin. She wondered, for a brief moment, why Shizuru tasted like vodka and algae rather than Shizuru before the evening before came flooding back in a torrent of humiliating memories. She groaned and wrapped her arm around Shizuru's middle, her hand splayed on her stomach. At least the belly flop had sobered her up, she thought. Also, the quart of lake water she'd gulped down by accident in the immediate aftermath probably helped.
"Shit," she mumbled, pouting to herself. Damn Philip and his booze, the man was in for a world of pain. Him and his moonshine. And his damn toast.
Shizuru made a small sound of pain and Natsuki sat up, frowning. Making a guess, she hopped out of bed and grabbed a large jug of water and a couple of glasses. As an after thought, she lifted some painkillers from Shizuru's bag, settling into a comfortable recline on the bed and began petting her lover's hair.
She felt woozy and a bit bleary, she admitted, but knew a shower and a large fried breakfast would solve all that. Shizuru, on the other hand, seemed to be in need of some proper care.
An eye cracked open, followed by the other. Both glared at Natsuki with real annoyance and something approaching anger. The Gakuenchou merely lifted one of the glasses of water and offered it to Shizuru, watching her down it before rolling over and lying on top of Natsuki, burying her face in her neck.
Natsuki just lay and ran her fingernails up and down the long planes of Shizuru's back, gently scratching the soft skin under her hand. After a few minutes, the hung over Column threw one leg over both of Natsuki's, unknowingly earning a small smile. The dark haired woman moved her hand onto Shizuru's neck and continued tracing idle patterns, feeling her wife relax on top of her. By the time she'd ventured to the spot behind her ears, both were almost purring with contentment.
"You let me drink too much last night," Shizuru complained. "Bad Natsuki."
"I hardly poured it down your throat," Natsuki retorted, softening the comment by nuzzling Shizuru's head and dropping light kisses over her forehead. "What can I do to make you feel better?"
"More water, to begin with. Then maybe a shower."
Natsuki took her chin in one hand, lifting her face to where she could see it properly and let out a delighted chuckle at seeing her beloved look so adorably bleary-eyed and pathetic. "Oh, you look awful. Here, have a drink and go back to sleep for a couple of hours. It's only seven."
"Seven?" Shizuru gasped between undignified mouthfuls of water. "Why am I awake?
"Well, you're dehydrated. You need to drink or else the real hangover will be worse."
Shizuru groaned and sank beneath the covers. Natsuki followed her and dropped a kiss to her lips, not caring about the strong taste of alcohol or the less than passionate response. When she lowered herself into the warm nest of blankets, Shizuru clung to her as if she were an anchor in a storm and once again the Gakuenchou felt privileged to be privy to these secret moments.
Irina Woods hummed to herself as she ran a quick diagnostic on Garderobe's internal network, fixing bugs and generally making things run as smoothly as she could manage. The young woman was content in the quiet of her little room, happy to be as far away from the chaos of a Nao run institution as she could be. Fans purred and hard drives spat out creaking clicks every now and again; alerts bleeped and messages jingled.
Soft music filled the room and Irina printed out a log of network traffic over the previous twenty four hours. All seemed relatively normal until she noted that a single user had transferred almost the entire combined network traffic of all others in the period. Frowning, she called up a terminal and began to dig.
"So," Leo frowned, "you're the one that out this crazy idea in her head, huh?"
Chie scowled at the young man. "She put the idea in her own damn head, trust me."
Chie hefted the sack of sheets she'd been given and looked around the room, watching various members of the Capra LBGTQ mill around with tea and coffee. One young woman was sitting counting completed sheets and signatures, a tally on a board above her reading 27,573.
"Good morning," Haruka boomed as she strode into the room, nodding at everyone assembled. "It's good to see everyone up and about. Once again, I'd like to thank you all for your help before reminding you that we still have a long, long way to go," she said, dramatically snapping a riding crop onto the running count board.
"So, we might be slightly under target but we won't let that disturb us or make us lose sight of the bigger picture here!" she said, bringing the riding crop to the table and moving several of the little tin soldiers to their present location.
"Gather round, we need to plan today's stratigraphy!"
Chiaki yawned over the pan of bacon she was frying, sipping her strong coffee and willing herself to wake up. She'd heard noise from upstairs earlier and presumed that Shizuru and Natsuki were both awake and in need of lard-filled breakfasts. She cracked a few eggs into the pan and threw the shells into the bin, watching them solidify and sizzle. She snagged a piece of tried tomato off the pan and chewed it with relish.
"Morning, Aki," Natsuki called, bounding down the stairs as if she were a child. Her white blouse and tailed morning coat held over one arm, two pairs of boots in the other hand. "Do you have some shoe polish?"
"Under the sink," she replied, grinning, "how's the head?"
Natsuki rooted around for the polish and brushes, humming to herself. "Fine, not bad at all. Shizuru was suffering earlier, though."
"Oh, she was?" Chiaki mused, smirking to herself. "Better now?"
"Of course," Natsuki said, brightly.
"I knew that all that noise had to be for something," she said, earning a scathing look. "Although, I would have thought you'd be too tender from that spectacular belly flop to even consider such activity."
Natsuki glared at her big sister, blushing like the tomatoes frying for a short while before standing with her boots and the polish. "Try and annoy me with with your daft teasing Aki, I dare you! It isn't going to work today."
"Ara," Shizuru said, emerging with her hair in a neat bun, "that does sound like a good challenge."
"Do you want me to polish your boots or would you rather do it yourself?" Natsuki asked, sticking her tongue out childishly. Shizuru sighed and dropped a kiss to the top of her head before moving to help Chiaki with breakfast.
Soon, the three were seated at the sturdy table, several Krugerhunds looking on with watery, soulful, hungry eyes. All were summarily ignored as it was well known that anyone caught feeding a dog from the Kruger table would be severely punished. In their youth, this had generally involved elder Krugers swapping the girls' food for the dogs' food. Repeat offences had been rare.
"So, are you ready Shizuru?" Chiaki asked politely.
"I suppose so," she said, smiling brightly. "Although I don't know how much good I'm going to be, to be honest. I'm not very comfortable with horses."
"You'll be fine," the elder Kruger assured her, while Natsuki nodded vigourously around a mouthful of bacon. "Hardly anyone falls off, Philip's just a bit useless when it comes to the great outdoors."
A while later, and after many reassurance, Shizuru was feeling slightly less nervous. Natsuki was standing in front of her, fixing her scarf and waistcoat. A small, fond smile graced her lips as she watched her lover fuss over her clothes, a rare reversal of roles.
"Right, you look beautiful," Natsuki said, lifting bright, happy eyes. "I never thought I'd see you in hunting garb, you know."
"You just want to see her in jodhpurs, you big lech," Chiaki mumbled, fixing her cuffs.
Natsuki made a positively heroic effort to not let her gaze fall to Shizuru's back side as the other woman pulled her tall boots on. Huffing, she pulled her own coat on, buttoning her gloves before turning to Shizuru. Thankfully, she was standing upright by then.
"Well, we'd better get a move on," she chirped. Chiaki retreated to fetch the Krugerhunds' leads while Shizuru stepped forward, laying her hands on Natsuki's lapels.
"Don't think, darling," she said, letting her eyes drift shut as her mouth ghosted over Natsuki's, "that I didn't catch you looking."
"Hmm," Natsuki smiled lazily back, "I won't deny it, then. I won't apologise for it either, though." She grinned and ran her hand over the top of the garment that had started the discussion and sighed happily, leaning in to kiss her wife.
"Ehem," Chiaki coughed none too subtly, "if you two start that, we'll miss the bloody hunt."
Nao shook hands with Mai and Mikoto in a peaceful corner of Garderobe's gardens, smiling warmly at the pair.
"It was great having you guys over," she said, genuinely meaning her words. Mai and Mikoto were relaxed, easy going people and having them around made the general madness of Garderobe that bit more tolerable.
Mai nodded and reached out to embrace her warmly. "Thank you for the hospitality. It was good to see everyone again. Give our love to Natsuki and Shizuru when they get back."
"Yeah," Mikoto agreed, lifting her staff and dropping it horizontally onto her shoulders, stretching for a moment. "Tell them next time they want a vacation to come visit us."
"Will do." Nao sighed and folded her arms, casting her eyes around for unwanted guest listeners. "Listen, once I get word on whether I can show Donnell the notes or not I'll let you know. These really could blow the lid open on the Harmonium. If not, I'll bet you a hot dinner that we just end up sending someone else through."
Mikoto grimaced. "That machine's bad news. It was never meant to be used by us, you know."
Nao nodded solemnly. "Who knows what kind of damage Nagi did by forcing Nina to use it."
"How is Nina?" Mai asked, worry apparent in her clear eyes. "She went back to Artai?"
Nao sighed and lowered her eyes, sadness clouding her features. "She has the potential, even now, to be one of the greatest Otome to ever exist. And her and Arika are still both contracted to Mashiro, you know. The pair of them together are unstoppable."
"The three of them," Mai corrected, quietly. "I can see why she'd be worried, though. People probably wouldn't like to see her in possession of a GEM again."
"But it makes it hard for Mashiro," Mikoto pointed out. "There's lots of stuff out there that only a member of the Royal Family can use. I mean, it'd be easy for people to figure out she isn't one of them."
Nao nodded grimly. "All she's worked for could be destroyed." She sighed expressively and folded her arms. "No one ever told me being an Otome would involve so much damn diplomatic work, you know."
Mai smiled and chuckled at the younger woman. "A little birdie told me you were all set to find a rich man to marry and retire, as soon as you graduated."
Mikoto wrinkled her nose. "Why'd you want to do that?"
Nao shrugged and smiled a sly smile, "money."
"Ick," the Nekogami replied, bending to one side, staff still balanced on her shoulders. "Well, good luck with that, anyway."
"Come on, Mikoto," Mai said, tugging her upright. "We need to get home and make sure the gang haven't burnt down the store."
"Don't be silly, Mai," Mikoto said, kissing her GEM gently, stealing a second quick kiss as she pulled back.
"Hey, I wouldn't call her silly," Nao reasonably pointed out as they watched Mai Materialise, "if the store has burnt down, you won't be getting any ramen today."
As the light around her faded and Mai opened her eyes, she found her shoulders already supporting the weight of her mate. Bright yellow eyes gleamed down at her with unusual intensity and purpose.
"Quick, Mai, we need to get back to the ramen!"
Mai turned suspicious eyes to a smiling Nao.
"Just what have you been telling her?
"So, we're ready to begin the hunt then!" Count Kruger boomed, smoothing down his dark blue morning coat and reaching for the reigns of his hunter. An enthusiastic roar went up around him and he grinned broadly.
"Fantastic! Ready the quarry!" His hunter pawed the ground, straining at the bit and hopping with excitement. The count merely laughed and reigned him in. "Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests and welcome neighbours. It is my proud duty to welcome you all to this, the Fifth Hunt. Now, without further ado, may I declare this hunt open! Release the quarry!"
"Release the quarry!" a tall man with an impressive beard called before blowing on a bugle.
"Release the quarry!" another man called, roaring into the murky depths of the stables. The crowd began cheering then, calling for the prey to be turned loose and clapping. Hounds bayed and horses snorted, infected by the excitement. When it all reached a fever pitch, a whistle blew.
Shizuru blinked with surprise as a door slammed open and a gangly young man with a hemp sack ran out of it, dragging the bag after him. The Krugerhunds barked with excitement and joy, prancing around on tender hooks, straining at their heavy leather leads. A pack of ten or so smaller Senkebluthunds bayed as well, skipping around their trainers' legs, slobber flying every which way.
"Explain it to me again, Natsuki," the second Column asked, wobbling on her horse. Natsuki reached out, never taking her eyes off the progress of the quarry, and grabbed her saddle horn. Garderobe's Gakuenchou led her own mount in a neat side step, drawing close enough to Shizuru that their legs were touching. Keeping a firm hold on Shizuru's saddle she turned to face her, favouring her with a brilliant smile.
"Well, one of the stable boys has just gone out with the scent, he'll have a head start of half an hour to get to the first finish line," she explained, pausing to adjust Shizuru's collar and giving her tack a quick once over (for the seventeenth time). "And the first Senkebluthund over the line wins, as does the first mounted rider and the first runner. Once we're there, the second team starts Running the Game, which means they'll attach a false wolf to a track and send it off. The dummy has a head start of a kilometre and runs for another two. The first Krugerhund to get him wins."
Shizuru blinked and looked between Natsuki and the packs of dogs.
"So, there isn't actually an animal being chased, then?"
"Oh, of course not!" Natsuki laughed. "Imagine, hunting a real animal!"
Shizuru raised her hand to her forehead and frowned at her lover. "So, you don't actually chase after anything more interesting than a stable boy and a model of a wolf?"
"And you breed dogs larger than most Corals to achieve this?" Shizuru asked, wondering how she'd managed to avoid this conversation before. Frankly, in her opinion, the entire sport sounded ridiculous.
"Hell no," Natsuki scoffed, "they're bred big to hunt wolves!"
Shizuru frowned, trying to remember her history lessons. "Natsuki, have there ever been wolves on Eorl?"
"No, of course not," Natsuki replied, eyes still hopping all over the crowd. "Such a creature would have been far too difficult to bring from Earth and besides, they wouldn't have any prey here."
Shizuru felt a head ache building. "Natsuki, are you telling me that this entire endeavour is replicating a hunt for an animal that never even existed on this planet?"
"Well, yes," Natsuki said, frowning. Some of Shizuru's disbelief seemed to penetrate. "I mean, we could hunt Ystercurs, but they're terribly dangerous. It makes a lot more sense to do it this way."
Shizuru laughed a small laugh and, risking to lift her hand from her saddle horn, gripped Natsuki's hand. "My, you really are so silly sometimes, Natsuki."
Natsuki, already aware of the absurdity of the hunt but too enamoured with the thrill of pounding over turf and the roar of the hounds to be bothered by it, merely kissed her wife on the cheek and grinned.
"I may be silly, but you married me."
"So this is how low Aries has fallen, is it?" an imperious voice cackled, a cruel twist of laughter running through the question. "To give formal recognition to deviants and perverts?"
Haruka blinked and turned to face the source of the disturbance. Baffled volunteers turned along with her, as well as members of the public. Standing several metres behind her, Tomoe Marguerite smirked at her with her arms folded over her chest.
"You again!" she called, handing her clipboard to Leo. "Damn it, weren't you deported?"
"Me? Why, what ever did I do wrong?" she asked, folding a hand over her chest coyly. "Is that the official position Aries takes? To deport those who oppose her leaders in democratic elections?"
"No, but we take a hard line for aiding and abetting that freak Nagi," Haruka continued, frowning at the young woman. She felt a slight headache building and wondered if drop kicking the annoying cow into a low orbit would get her into much trouble.
"Ah, well you know I was only following orders, just like all the other Valkyries. They didn't get deported."
"Well, yeah, true," Haruka conceded, "but you actually enjoyed it. You weren't exactly under any duress."
"Shut it," Tomoe growled, shifting her position and planting her hands on her hips. "I'm here as a representative of Citizens Reacting Against Perversion! We demand that you cease this terrible and immoral crusade."
"What terrible and immortal crusade?" Haruka asked, genuinely puzzled. "I'm not crusading. If I was, I'd have taken the Suzushiro."
"Silence! Is it not true that you're gathering popular support for the erosion of family values and normalisation of sexual vice?" she demanded, several of the people following her muttering their agreement.
"Um," Haruka frowned more deeply, more and more confused by the second. "No. And I don't know where you got that crazy idea from." She looked at the angry young woman and held her chin in her hand. "Perhaps you've mistaken us for something else."
"Are you or are you not trying to bring about the end of decent society with the introduction of gay marriage?!" she roared, getting more and more frustrated.
"No," Haruka said calmly, rolling her eyes. "Don't be daft. We're bringing about a constitutional amendment that doesn't limit marriage to an arrangement between a man and a woman." Had she been ten years younger, she would have given into the temptation to add a sardonic 'duh' to the end of the sentence.
"Thus allowing people of the same sex to marry?" Tomoe demanded.
"Well, yeah," Haruka said slowly, glancing around, wondering what was going on. "I mean, it was pretty crazy to have something limiting people's rights in the constitution. Silly, really."
"A product of older times," Leo shrugged, "it was worded that way to protect women at a time when other countries were pretty sexist."
"Besides," Lenks piped, "all the actual legislation dealing with marriage and civil unions doesn't prevent people of the same sex from hooking up. It's more a symbolic thing we're doing here."
"Enough!" Tomoe fumed, "you're seeking to undermine the entire institution of marriage! To destroy it and therefore normal society!"
"But more people will be allowed to get married," Haruka frowned, "and the more the merrier, when it comes to institutions, right? If more people can get married, more will get married."
There was a murmur of assent through the crowd causing Tomoe to scowl and raise a fist. "This wouldn't even be up for consideration if I'd won the election, you know!"
"Wow, it's a good thing she didn't get in, isn't it?" a young man murmured in the crowd.
"She's nuts," a woman beside him agreed. "I mean, I don't understand her argument. She's just a raving lunatic. Paranoid, too."
"What about family life, eh?" Tomoe demanded. "If you let this come about, what about any children involved?"
"Why are you bringing children into a discussion of same sex union?" Leo asked. "Surely we're the last people you should be worrying about there."
"Yeah, I mean, my girlfriend can't get me pregnant," one woman piped up. "Legislating for equality in partnerships doesn't mean she's suddenly going to become capable of knocking me up."
"She has a point," Haruka pointed out, "this is a ridiculous discussion. Go home, Tomoe."
"You're just a blow hard, Armitage," a man in the crowd called, "you're dumber than a sack of cement and twice as thick headed! You can't keep bullying us like this while your little weasel of a girlfriend runs immoral and disgusting pieces of legislation through!"
Haruka froze and turned to the man, eyes narrowing dangerously. "What did you just call Yukino?"
"Haruka!" Leo piped, grabbing one arm as he felt a cold pall settle over the crowd, "don't, he isn't worth it."
"Yeah," Lenks agreed, "you're a champion of justice and democracy; not a thug! Don't stoop to violence."
Tomoe laughed. "Oh, don't use big words, my friend," she said, turning to her crowd. "That idiot won't understand them. I mean, look at her. A big pair of airbags out the front and air between the ears." The majority of people on the street, astounded by the abuse being hurled at their heroine, were rendered speechless. Those closest to Haruka had the impression they were holding down the safety lever of a live grenade that had just had its pin taken out.
Tomoe, on the other hand, took advantage of the silence. "I mean, when you think about it, the entire concept of Otome is bound to lead to perversion, isn't it? If the Otome were allowed to, they'd all be with men anyway. Instead, good, decent people like us have to suffer watching them act out these little farcical relationships. And now they have the guts to ask for equal recognition? Please."
"Well, I'm not an Otome and I don't want to be with a man," the woman from earlier piped, "I've got nothing against them, but I'm not attracted to them."
"Ah, I see," Tomoe said, turning to her group, "can't get a man, then?"
"I don't want one!"
Tomoe smiled, though it seemed more a snarl, "just you keep telling yourself that. What's wrong with all of you that you can't just be normal? What do your families think?"
Haruka blinked in confusion, hurt and bewilderment. How could someone stand and spew such hatred? Such vitriol? Haruka Armitage was hard headed, stubborn and impulsive but she was not a violent or cruel person. She was driven by a desire to do the right thing and hated to be confronted with twisted words that made her actions seem foolish. Yukino was generally on hand to untangle these words and set her on her path again and she felt a guilty desire to have her lover on hand.
How could it be wrong? What she shared with Yukino? What Leo shared with his lover, Brian? How could anyone stand on the streets and tell them these things?
How could someone hold onto such hatred?
"Tomoe-kun," a smooth voice called, cutting through the expectant, rarefied air of the busy street. "Still up to your old tricks," Chie Hallard called out, graceful in jeans and a button down shirt. "Why don't you go home and stop bothering these people."
"Chie-sama," Tomoe simpered, "I wondered if you were going to show up."
Chie walked towards her old room attendant, her dark eyes cold and hard. "I find this a shocking display of hypocrisy, even for you," she said evenly.
"Ah, Chie-sama, be careful of what you say," Tomoe smirked, a grin on her face. "You don't want to get anyone in trouble."
A terrible flash of anger twisted through Chie and she balled her hands into fists at her side. Even without her Robe, she'd be able to take Tomoe, to finally punish her for what she'd done in the past. For the hurt and wounds she'd inflicted on so many hearts. "Get out of here now," she growled, "or else I'm going to have you arrested for incitement of hatred."
Tomoe stepped closer, watching with fascination the ferocious rage on the normally easy going woman's face. Something like desire snapped through her and she grinned widely. "You can't do that, Chie-sama," she said, her voice low in the middle of the street. Both groups had started to whisper amongst themselves, wondering who the new comer was and what was going on. It didn't take a genius to realise that things were a step away from degenerating into a riot.
"Are you still fucking the maid?" she asked with a coy smile. She tilted her head to one side at the soft growl coming from the Major. "Oh, so that rumour was true? I never thought I'd see you settle down with just one whore, Chie-sama. Good for you, I'll bet she's good at taking orders."
Chie tried to calm herself, resisted the temptation to wrap her hands around the throat of the woman before her and have done with it. She shook as she tried to still herself, knowing she was being goaded into reacting, knowing that she couldn't lift a finger.
"Listen!" Haruka bellowed, shrugging Leo and Lenks off with ease, worry lacing her expression. "Everyone calm down," she shouted. She walked up to Chie and placed an inhumanly strong hand on her shoulder, pulling her away from Tomoe. Something in her had toughened at the thought of Yukino and the inevitable disappointment she'd sport if this did get out of hand. Time for her to clean up this mess.
"You people," she said, pointing to the gang behind Tomoe, "have all got serious issues. You don't like the idea of two women together? Big deal! I don't get the idea of a man and a woman together! I don't see the attraction and I can't for the live of me begin to puzzle out the sex bit but who cares? You go on with your thing and I'll go on with mine. Live and let live, you bunch of losers!"
She whirled to her own camp. "And as for you all! What are you letting these idiots get to you for? Anyone that actually spends time campaigning against love and unity is obviously pretty pathetic. You should pity these fools, not let them make you feel bad!"
"Yeah!" someone in the crowd piped up. "We're not here to argue, we're here to help people and make a difference!"
"Don't listen to her!" Tomoe shrieked, "she's the enemy here!"
Haruka rolled her eyes and picked Tomoe up by the collar, scowling at her. "You know that you need a permit for a political demonstration that obstructs public thoroughfares, right? If you want to protest, do it where you aren't blocking traffic." She turned to the crowd,Tomoe squirming in her grip. "Look, you guys obviously have problems. I mean, you actually listened to her, for one thing. I advise you to all go home and have some tea and a bit of a think about why you feel the need to incite hate on the streets."
She tossed Tomoe to the group, wincing as she tumbled and fell after no one stepped forward to catch her.
"And another thing, are you all completely stupid?" she asked. "There's about fifty of you on this side protesting and about four hundred signing the sheets. Seriously, you're out numbered."
Natsuki flew over the hard ground, her hunter snorting as he cleared minor obstacles and thumped into the ground on the other side. She urged him on and saw Chiaki and her father just ahead of her, several of the locals clustered between them. Bent low over the horse's neck, standing in her stirrups, she urged him on.
Whooping with joy as he outpaced several other horses, she found herself neck and neck with Chiaki, her taller sister as intent on victory as she was. Senkebluthunds leapt through undergrowth in front of them, baying and bloodthirsty at the prospect of warm meat at the end of the trail. The Krugerhunds were silent in the chase, massive heads lowered with fierce purpose and intense concentration.
"Surprised to see you here," Chiaki shouted, catching sight of Natsuki's familiar mount. "You didn't Materialise and carry the horse here, did you?"
"'Course not," she laughed, "what did you do," she riled, "stick a pepper up your boy's arse?"
"Unlikely," she called, swinging the horse to one side to avoid a low branch. "After looking at your mug all week, I've had enough of horse's arses, to be honest!"
"Bitch," Natsuki called without malice. "Come on, old woman, race you to the finish line!"
Chiaki laughed and urged her horse forward, watching the immense muscles of his shoulders and neck flex with each stride. There came a point, during every race of this kind, when common sense and prudence had to be kicked out the door. She sensed this point was close and whooped with delight as her mount strode ahead, leaving Natsuki and her stallion behind.
Scowling, Natsuki leaned forward and sought to close the distance between them, watching turf fly up from the ground as the pair sped ahead.
"Come on, lad, get a move on!" she hissed. Somehow, her horse understood her urgency and pushed himself even further, his long stride eating the distance between them, closing it and pushing ahead over a ditch and swinging around a corner. Natsuki was filled with delight as she realised she was one more hedge and then a straight sprint from the finish line. There was no way Chiaki would catch her now!
Gripping the reigns as tightly as she could, they cleared the hedge and thumped into the soft turf, preparing for a last sprint to the finish line.
At this point, several things happened at once. The Krugerhunds exploded through the hedge and, with the end of the line in site, let loose with loud, full throated howls. The Senkebluthunds responded in kind and the noise shook the landscape around them, swelling excitement and joy in the pair of Kruger sisters' chest.
Sadly, it inspired a much more terrified brand of excitement in a flock of pigeons feeding in an adjacent field. They took to clumsy flight, spilling onto the course and providing a dramatic back drop to the sight of the two elegant riders surrounded by massive hounds crossing the finish line.
Or, rather, they would have provided a dramatic backdrop if one hadn't collided with the side of Natsuki's head.
Irina sat back in her chair, blinking in shock at the line of text before her. She'd checked and rechecked the code time and time again, trying to find a solution other than the blatantly obvious one staring her in the face.
According to this, someone with high level access to the Garderobe security system was routing a live feed from several cameras in the school to a non-Garderobe machine. Additional data had revealed that at least two of these cameras were located in communal shower rooms.
What dastardly, nefarious pervert would besmirch the holy institution of Garderobe by transmitting dodgy video footage of her students to a third party?
Her face paled, knowing that there was only one likely candidate.
"Damn it Nao," she muttered, revoking all privileges and booting the suspect cameras off the network. "Just wait until Kruger hears about this!"
"I honestly can't believe you hit a pigeon, Natsuki," her father crooned, cradling his woozy child in the crook of one giant elbow. "Silly girl."
"Indeed," Chiaki agreed, watching her little sister groan. She couldn't hide the feeling of triumph at having won, however. "My, is her nose broken?"
"Seems like it is, I'm afraid," he muttered. "Someone hand me a jot of brandy!"
At least a dozen hip flasks were presented and the count took the largest, spilling a healthy portion down his daughter's throat. She spluttered and coughed, blood and booze vapourising in an unsightly cloud.
"Oh damn," she groaned nasally, "you're finally killing me. I knew it!"
"Natsuki!" Kruger called, "come along now, pull yourself together, it was only a little pigeon." He nodded to a small, forlorn heap of feathers on the ground. "And it came out a lot worse than you did, m'girl."
"Pigeon?" she repeated, blinking around. Chiaki offered her a hand and tugged her little sister to her feet, peering at her battered face.
"My, you'll have a black eye too. Better get home and get some ice on it."
"But the hounds?"
"You're in no state to watch the hounds, my dear, you need to get that seen to. It's a nasty break," Kruger interjected gently. "Come along now, dear. Back up on Strider."
The horse in question shook his head, seeming contrite about the accident. A nearby stable boy petted his neck, comforting the giant beast.
"There's no way in hell I'm missing the hounds," she snapped, staggering slightly away, feeling her nose shifting as she felt it. She sighed. "Damn it, not again."
With a pained shout, she jerked her nose back into place, fresh blood gouting over her hands. Cursing and fuming, she narrowed her eyes.
"Materialise!" she shouted, though muffled by her hands. Shocked onlookers took in the strange sight of the Ice Silver Crystal muttering, swearing and flicking blood off her hands. "Has anyone got a tissue?"
Chiaki handed her a tissue and watched in morbid fascination as her sister mopped the excess blood from beneath her nose, waiting for a few moments for the flow to stop completely. Fascinated, she handed her sister her own hip flask and watched her sup a goodly amount.
"Natsuki, does that help?"
"Of course it does," she said, wincing at the strength of the liquor. "Bit rough, though."
"No, I mean, the Robe?"
"Oh, well, yeah. I mean, we're a lot tougher then Materialised. If I stay like this for a few minutes, I'll be pretty well healed. It isn't the first time it's happened." She sighed. "I left if too long once and my nose healed crooked. Youko had to break it and reset it."
"That's frightful, poppet," her father said, sipping his own brandy, slightly light headed after the spectacle.
"Nah, I'm fine," she said cheerfully. "Just a bit bruised. Now, where are those hounds?"
She went to move towards the hounds before a very, very strong hand clamped down on her shoulder.
"Going somewhere, darling?"
Natsuki turned, dread filling her gut, a false smile plastered on her face.
"Shizuru. Heh. Enjoy the ride over?"
"What the hell was that, Hallard?" Haruka demanded, shoving Chie forward into the rest room of the hotel they'd dashed in to. After leaving the petition come riot come petition in the tender command of Leo and Lenks, she'd hauled Chie into the first building she saw. She locked the door behind her and folded her arms over her chest.
"Well?" she asked, frowning. The Major was still shaking with anger, both hands resting on the sink, back firm as tremors shot up and down her spine. Her head was dipped down, her eyes clenched shut.
"Chie?" she asked again, somewhat brusquely, unnerved to see her so emotional. "Come on, pull yourself together."
Chie took a deep breath and held it in before flinging the air from her lungs, almost with resentment. She shook her head and took another breath, trying to calm herself. Behind her eyes, visions of fresh bruises swam mixing with memories of the worst time of her life.
"I hate her, Haruka," she bit out, "I hate that after she betrayed us all and joined Nagi, she could still walk around like she'd done nothing worse than follow orders. Last time, with the hostages, there was so much more to consider. I had to push it to the back of my mind but seeing her up there today, spouting all that shit... I hate her so much, Haruka."
Haruka frowned, having never seen her student and comrade in such a state of upset. She approached her and laid a firm hand on her back, patting her. She wondered what, exactly, had gone on during the occupation of Windbloom but figured she was probably better off not knowing. She sighed.
"I think she's a pain too, but you can't just go beating up everyone who annoys you. I mean, yeah, it's my first reaction to most things but you have to cool it, Chie. You looked ready to do her some serious damage." She sighed. "I was worried for a moment."
"Yeah," Chie nodded, "I wanted to. I wanted to hurt her."
Haruka slung an arm around her shoulders, nudging her. "Yeah, you did. You've gotta look out for that, kiddo. You're too good to get busted for letting some maggot like her get to you. I mean, you won't be much good to Aoi if you're cleaning toilets in the furthest reaches of Aries with a toothbrush, right?"
Chie finally began to relax, the memory of her gentle lover's face calming her. "You're right. I'm sorry."
"You didn't do anything wrong. Just, whatever hold she has over you, you need to break it."
"I'm still trying," she said, sounding small and defeated, not like her usual self at all. "I'm trying, Haruka."
"That's my girl," Haruka murmured, unusually soft, "do the zest you can do."
Natsuki and Shizuru sat side by side in the Great Hall in Kruger Manor, watching dozens of people mill around. The Fifth Hunt had been a spectacular success, though how this was judged Shizuru still had no idea. The Count was laughing with a couple of his friends, slapping them on the back and exuding a quite impenetrable aura of joviality. Krugerhunds, happy with large crowds of people, also milled around, their massive grey heads bobbing as they loped through the crowds like clouds, never upsetting a single glass or bumping into a single child.
Earlier, after an embarrassingly long scolding, Natsuki's face had been declared fit for public display and the grumpy woman had been graciously allowed to watch the hound coursing, although her wife hadn't let her out of her sight. Shizuru, not being the experienced rider that many of the Krugers seemed to be, had followed the hunt at a more sedate pace with Hokuto and Philip. Sami had been trotting somewhere in the middle with other children her age, supervised by her granny and several other riding teachers. As such, they'd missed most of the drama.
By the time they'd arrived on the scene, Shizuru had seen her Robed wife striding off towards the hounds and wouldn't let her go about her business without a thorough recount of the events leading up to the accident. Eventually, she'd relented and the group had watched the coursing. Although she'd admit it had been quite a shock to see Natsuki's white blouse dotted with blood when she'd released her robe.
Oh well, once a Kruger... Casting her eyes over the large room, she spotted the Countess pouring mulled wine from a large pot resting on a brazier in the corner of the enormous, smouldering hearth. She was handing the mugs of warm liquor to some of the hunters and stable hands, laughing merrily with them as they all shared the warm drink. Sami Kruger wandered over and was immediately handed two large mugs before being herded over to the pair of Otome. The word indomitable sprang to mind and Shizuru smiled to herself.
"Here, Aunt Natsuki, Shizuru-sama," she chirped, carefully handing the grown-ups their mugs before hopping up on the well loved leather sofa and nestling in between the two Columns.
"You know Sami," Natsuki began, smiling slyly, "you should really call Shizuru 'Aunt Shizuru', you know." She grinned at the shocked look on her lover's face before turning her face to her eldest niece. "It's only right."
"Can I really?" Sami asked, turning to Shizuru with a look of adoration and awe on her face. Shizuru, whose heart held a large enough soft spot for children at the best of times, clucked her tongue and nodded.
"We are all family, after all."
Sami nodded, seemingly satisfied with that. She fiddled with the cuffs of Shizuru's dark blue morning coat, tracing the embroidered rosemary leaves that made up an integral part of Kruger heraldry.
Natsuki proceeded to ask her niece about school and the three engaged in a lively conversation about the merits of the local primary school. Sami, it appeared, was an enthusiastic member of the riding club and hoped to take part in the hunts some day soon.
"But what I'd really love to do is be an Otome," she said shyly. "I mean, I know Auntie Morgan is kinda weird, but you two are so cool. It must be brilliant, flying above all the clouds and everything."
Natsuki smiled indulgently and nodded. "It's pretty amazing. And for what it's worth, I think you'd make a great Otome."
"Oh, is my little Sami already making her application to Garderobe?" a cheerful voice asked from behind them. The trio leaned back to see Sami's father Philip smiling kindly at the three of them. He reached over the back of the sofa and lifted his daughter, smiling again at the sight of her in her little breeches and riding boots. "I'm afraid it's time for bed, my dear."
"But daddy," she whinged, drawing the vowels of the word out to obscene degrees, "it's only early yet."
"It's nine o'clock, young lady," he said, affecting sternness, "it's long past bed time. Now, give your aunties a kiss goodnight and we'll go find your Granny and Grandpa."
Reluctant to leave the most grown-up conversation Sami, to her opinion, had ever been involved in, she pouted while kissing her aunts goodnight. She curled into her father's shoulder as he carried her to wish others goodnight, her lip stuck out as she went.
"Ara, there's someone who doesn't want to go to bed," Shizuru mused. She turned her face towards Natsuki and spied her watching her family with gentle, bemused (albeit swollen) eyes. It was a side that the fussy Gakuenchou often hid under heaps of irritation and annoyance and seeing it warmed Shizuru. She was about to lean in to fill the space Sami had vacated when a body suddenly landed between the pair of them.
"Hello, Aunt Morgan," Natsuki sighed, glaring at the tall woman. "Can we help you?"
"Well," she sniffed, "for one you two can refrain from rutting on the sofa while the guests are still here. I mean, isn't that why you're shacked up down in Chiaki's little cottage?" she asked, her usual incisive malice somewhat mellowed by the several pints of gin she'd consumed so far. Out of all present, apart from Hokuto, hers was the only outfit unstained by mud, horse sweat or dog saliva. Many present would maintain that was due to the fact that most animals were scared of Morgan Stanley Kruger. The reality of the situation was much more mundane, she'd merely skipped the day's outdoor activities entirely and spent the entire time in front of the fire drinking with the butler.
"We just didn't want to be underfoot in the run up to the Hunt," Natsuki said, as levelly as she could. "Chiaki's place was a better option."
"Yeah, right," she muttered, taking a long swallow of her drink. "Any idea if Koda will be around any time soon?" Funnily, Koda was the only other family member that that Morgan could stand. Many speculated that it had something to do with their shared love of restricted pharmaceuticals.
"No, I don't think so, there's still that warrant out for her, after all."
Morgan sniffed expressively, more relaxed that she usually tended to be. She pursed her lips and lifted an eyebrow. "Is Maria Graceburt still hanging around Garderobe, by the way?"
"Ara, you know Miss Maria?"
Morgan's face darkened. "Know her? I used to share a room with that horrible little bitch. They wouldn't let myself and Aggie room together, you know."
"And that," a regal voice stated from behind them, "was probably a good thing."
Morgan scowled and stood, vacating her seat. "Whatever you say, mother," she muttered, stalking off back towards the kitchens.
Freya Kruger lowered herself into the busy gap, patting the women's hands. The elegant woman smiled at the pair of them in turn, clucking her tongue at the sight of Natsuki's face.
"My dear, you do need to be more careful. Really, now."
"It wasn't my fault the dogs startled those pigeons," Natsuki pouted. "I'm just glad Strider was all right."
"From what I heard he crossed the line before Chiaki did."
Natsuki brightened at that bit of news and grinned widely, flinching as she disturbed her flattened face. "Ow. Brilliant, though. I won."
Freya rolled her eyes and gave her grand daughter a smack. "There's nothing worse than an ungracious winner, Natsuki. Especially not one who won by means of a mount unburdened by pigeon!"
Irina paced up and down the corridor in a quiet corner of Garderobe, hoping she wasn't making enough noise to attract any attention from either students or Miss Maria. In fairness, she wasn't actually doing anything wrong. She was pacing because despite spending the entire day combing the campus, she hadn't been able to find Nao anywhere.
She hadn't been in any of the classes, the libraries, the offices or private quarters. She hadn't been in the small marijuana plantation on the roof of the gymnasium, but Irina was still pretty sure that she was responsible for it.
She threw her hands into the air and fretted. She wondered what would possess someone to do this kind of thing and why on earth they'd think they could get away with it. Surely a smart girl like Nao should have known better.
And with that thought came the creeping doubt that had nearly sent her to seek Youko out. What if Nao wasn't behind this and it was all a huge coincidence? What if her reluctance to bring this to the attention of her superiors meant that by the time they took action, the footage already obtained had been disseminated?
Taking a breath, she realised that there was very little chance of this not being Nao's idea. And she was loath to get Nao into trouble of this magnitude. Perhaps it was because they were so close in age, or because despite all Nao's bluster and her bombast, she wasn't the terrible person she made herself out to be. She livened Garderobe up as surely as Miss Maria dulled it down and she was sure the world wouldn't be as much fun if Nao Zhang wasn't a Column of Garderobe.
Sighing, she decided to check Nao's rooms again, one last time before going to bed.
Meanwhile, one of the higher powers that Irina had been debating calling was readying herself for bed. Earlier, during a period of lucidity, Midori had made her way up to Youko's rooms and collapsed into bed, snoring loudly. The doctor had cracked a smile at that, the idea of the feared and terrible leader of Aswald snoring like a freight train.
She slipped out of the en suite quietly, turning the light off and moving across the floor, sitting on the side of her bed and checking her patient's pulse. It was strong and sure beneath her fingers and she smiled with relief before climbing into bed. The procedure seemed to have been a complete success. Sighing contentedly, she remembered their youth together, the fact that cold desert winter nights made sleeping alone foolish and sometimes dangerous. Few had batted an eyebrow if people kept sharing beds during the summer, Aswald was not a nation of gossips or prudes.
She'd come to realise that she'd missed having someone sleep beside her in the long years at Garderobe. She'd been far from celibate, she was under no compunction or oath to deny herself that facet of her life, yet the long hours and demanding nature of her job often left her with little free time and she was never really off call. In the end, what relationships she had developed had withered, blooming brightly for a while before dying. Cut flowers, rather than potted plants, she thought to herself. Amused by the analogy, she nestled into the blankets, closing her eyes.
Still, she mused, it was nice to have the solid, vital warmth of another person in her bed. It was nice to feel so comfortable and relaxed around another, to finally allow herself to trust another enough to sleep beside them. Sex was one thing, she'd been there and done that, but the intimacy of spending a quiet night sharing space was something else altogether.
She should, she supposed, have been slightly concerned that she was feeling this intimacy with Midori, of all people.
Funny, how things work out, she mused.
Chie sat against the wall of her hotel room, gazing out over the familiar skyline of Capra city, humming to herself. The rest of the day had progressed without trouble, thankfully, although she suspected they hadn't seen the last of Tomoe. The public had rallied around them and the day had ended with their tally up to almost fifty one thousand signatures. Not bad, for two days work, she mused.
Still, she sighed, watching the lights of passing cars flicker through her window. It was bad enough to have to deal with a bunch of idiotic protesters but knowing that Tomoe was still up to her old tricks was worrying. What discord would she be spreading behind the scenes?
It wouldn't take much to turn mole hills into mountains, to make issues where there had been none before. The masses were, collectively, quite thick. They were just lucky they had Haruka on their side.
Because she knew it didn't matter if you were right or wrong. It all came down to the spin someone could put on a story or an event. Rubbing her face with one hand she pushed those unhappy thoughts away and tried to concentrate on their plan of attack for tomorrow.
She lay back down on the bed and removed her glasses, closing sore eyes. Just as she laid her glasses down, her phone jingled and she lifted it, realising someone had sent her a text message.
Hey there! Just to let you know, if you have been hanged for sedition then I'm just going to tell everyone I have a well hung fiancee, OK? Sleep well. Love you.
She sniggered to herself and rolled onto her side, wondering with a smile how long Aoi had been sitting on that one.
Shizuru laughed with delight as Natsuki pounced, the pair of women tumbling together into the bed. A curtain of dark hair fell around them as Natsuki leaned in and gently nipped the end of her partner's nose, making a small sound of satisfaction. Her face barely hurt at all anymore and she was quite proud of this fact.
"Ara, you're terrible," Shizuru laughed, stretching her arms over her head and shifting herself into a comfy position on the soft bed. Natsuki shrugged and sat up, letting most of her weight fall onto her knees where they dimpled the mattress around Shizuru's hips. She bounced, earning an undignified snort and she dropped her hands, tracing the rich, deep brown velvet of her wife's waist coat. She followed the embroidered vines and leaves that curled up the soft middle before her, little leaves having been blown from the vine to scatter around her sides. The little false pockets sported the paired rosemary stalks that were repeated so often throughout the Kruger heraldry. The soft white cotton shirt beneath was loose at the throat, her scarf having been removed much earlier.
Her eyes met those of her beloved, gently and patiently watching her and she laughed again.
"You certainly look the part, my darling," she said, popping the little brass buttons open and watching as Shizuru inhaled deeply before breathing out, relaxing into the linens around her, glad to be freed from the tight garment. Hands played absently in her own hair, teasing out tangles and watching her lover watch her. Natsuki loosened her shirt too, unbuttoning the top few buttons on the tan riding breeches as she did. She ran a hand over Shizuru's belly, letting the welcome warmth tingle through her fingers.
"Oh, don't," Shizuru grumbled, "after having been few nothing but fried meat and eggs for a week, I'm a big as a house."
"You're beautiful," Natsuki disagreed, moving her hand to run up Shizuru's side gently. "I like your belly the way it is. Especially with it being so ticklish," she said with a wide smile.
"If you do, you're couched for a week."
"Come on," Natsuki pouted, "you know you love it."
Shizuru raised an eyebrow. Natsuki bounced on her gently. Shizuru, trying to stifle a smile, turned her face away. Natsuki only bounced again and her facade of composure broke. She laughed loudly as her treasured companion tackled her, landing on the bed beside her and tickling her without mercy. They rolled like kittens on the bed, shrieking with laughter as they tickled each other. Eventually, Shizuru found her stomach hurting and grabbed a pillow, batting Natsuki with it.
As she lay panting on her front, curled around her belly protectively, listening to Natsuki alternatively laugh and groan with pain from under the pillow, she plotted revenge. Eventually, before a full plan could be decided upon, Natsuki leaned over her and rolled her onto her back, kissing her forehead. Shizuru opened an eye and chuckled at the sight of several feathers sticking out of her dark hair.
"You're not off the hook," she chided, lifting several of the scraps of down away.
"Of course not," she replied,still unable to contain her mirth. She drew closer, easing herself along Shizuru's side, her eyes dipping to the pale skin exposed by Shizuru's open shirt. "Heh," she chuckled, a smile almost splitting her face (and earning a flinch) as her eyes softened at one of her favourite sights. "Boobs."
That set Shizuru off again and she howled with laughter, the sight certainly showing the aforementioned body parts in new ways. Natsuki just sprawled with a content and lecherous smirk on her face, accompanied by a slight blush. "What's so funny?"
Shizuru just pulled Natsuki to her, kissing her soundly. "You really are a simple creature underneath all your bluster, aren't you Natsuki?