A/N: I'm sorry this took me so long. Again, this is not edited, so I apologize for any mistakes. I really should go find a beta. In any case, this chapter features Shizuru as per Ookami Z's request.
Their power would come to them at the hour of great need, and then it would destroy them.
Chapter 2 Shizuru
A shrill cry filled the air as a baby took its first breath. It was the cutest thing one could ever view, tiny hands, tiny feet, cute nose, matted blond hair and glorious red eyes. One look and anyone could fall in love. The plump little arm reached out as the hand grabbed the nearest object, one being the shirt of the nurse that placed it into a nearby plastic crib.
The mother lay on her back, with blank eyes staring at the ceiling. Her rapid breathing was slowing down. Tears rolled down the side of her face as her task was done. The doctors rapidly moved around her, but it didn't matter anymore. Her daughter was brought into the world, and despite her regrets, she wasn't allowed to stay. There was a complication during the birth, in the end it was either save the mother or the child.
The boyfriend paced outside the delivery room in anticipation. When the doctor's asked, he said "Save the brat" without hesitation. Though they stared at him with concern and a little curiosity, they did as he asked. His girlfriend was lost and the baby was saved. He declined their offer to let him in the room and refused to hold the child. Instead, he just menacingly stared at the ruby red eyes through the looking glass of the nursery, and smiled.
A phone in hand, he dialed the number the dead woman gave him. "Hello, Fujino-dono?" he said in a distinct Russian accent. "I have something for you at the children's hospital." His lips curved into a large smile as the person on the other end spoke. "Just bring the money."
Fujino Shizuru was lying on the veranda of her family's traditional Japanese mansion. Her father was inside the room behind her arguing with her grandmother.
"What are we supposed to do with her?" He pointed to the newborn outside.
"We will teach her like everyone else." Her grandmother insisted. "At least until you have a proper heir."
He grunted and folded his arms in anger. "I will soon enough, there is no need to waste our time." He glanced at the child happily chirping while kicking her feet in the air.
His mother merely sipped her tea. "What's done is done. I will not have a child bearing our name running wild like a dog. She will learn how to act and behave in a manner befitting our family. At the very least, her actions will not dirty the Fujino name, even if she is a half." A hint of disgust lingered in her words.
Fujino Ayako was disappointed in her son. He couldn't control his desires. The very moment the pretty blonde Russian introduced herself to him at his college, he wanted her. He was young, rich and foolish. She was different than all the other women he bedded. She didn't want to marry him. She had a boyfriend. They were sneaking around; it was exhilarating. However, it didn't last long. Three months into their affair, her belly grew a little.
Fujino Ichiro couldn't afford to have an illegitimate child. It was an insult to his family and their business. The heir of the Fujino School of Etiquette risked everything if such news got out. He begged for her to terminate the pregnancy; she refused. He demanded her to listen to reason; she ignored him. Finally, he threatened her life; she disappeared without a trace.
The issue wasn't over. Every month ultrasound pictures would arrive in his dorm mail box along with a card asking for a large sum of money. The whore only wanted money. She seduced him; tricked him and now demanded payment from him. Ichiro was angry at his naiveté and lust, but furious at the foreign woman who dared to trick him.
All the cards were the same. "Give us the money, and you can have it." He couldn't avoid payment. The child had rights as she was related through blood. In the long run, paying them for the kid would be cheaper.
The call came as expected the day of the birth. Ichinose gathered up the amount he had prepared into a briefcase and walked into the hospital. He could see the boyfriend smiling next to the nursery.
"How is she?" he asked from trained courtesy. Of course he didn't particularly care.
"Dead," replied the unfeeling man. "Your kid is cute though. It's that one with red eyes."
Ichinose didn't even bother to glance. "It's all in there. What did you tell the staff?"
"That the father was on his way. You can name it whatever you want." The man replied and happily skipped off with his money.
Why should he name it? This child didn't deserve a name. Still, he needed something to give the staff. Looking around he saw some old woman wheeling across the waiting room. "Obaa-san, what is your name?" he asked her.
"Inoue Shizuru" she replied.
There he had it. His daughter would be named Fujino Shizuru. He would have preferred that they did not share last names, but the nurses asked for identification. He couldn't explain why they would have separate last names. Thankfully, his family was not well known among the common people.
Ichinose took his daughter home within the week. At this point he could make her disappear. No one would wonder about a child that only existed in paperwork. His mother could help him with cleaning up and arranging a death certificate. They were a well connected family.
The girl lay in her crib. He stood over her, clutching a pillow to his side. She gurgled and laughed happily at the human face. Her little hands reached out to him. Ichinose held the pillow an inch from her face. It was now or never, he had to seize the chance to end her life. With all his strength, he willed himself to push down the pillow.
The baby babbled more. She could no longer see the face above her, but could feel his presence. It grew more sinister by the second. She wanted to see the face once more, the light brown pillow in front of her eyes was disturbing her. The child sniffled.
He couldn't do it. Ichinose could not smother the baby. He was not, and could not be such a monster. The pillow was violently thrust to the edge of the room. He glared at his daughter. She saw his face again and giggled while reaching out to him. Ichinose turned away, disappointed in himself. He kicked the crib in anger before storming off. The baby was left crying all night.
At three years old, a new member entered the family. Shizuru gained a new stepmother, who seemed nice enough at first. She came in with promises of love, care and comfort. For the first time, Shizuru was pampered, spoiled and loved. The child desperately wished the nice woman would become her new mother. She even went so far as begging her distant father for a marriage, knowing only that it was what the nice lady wanted.
He brushed her off with anger, yet the decision had been made even without the girl's influence. His mother had arranged the marriage before the woman had even visited. They were married within the month.
She was nice as first, but as the years passed, the more bitter her stepmother became. Shizuru was the constant reminder of her father's indiscretions. Being Ichinose, a wife certainly did not mean she was his only bed mate.
The girl got over it. She always did. Stepmother was no longer as kind as she was when they first met, but it didn't matter. Nice things were always fleeting in her life, like a flower that bloomed in the spring and died with the first winter frost.
Everyone around her was acting, and so she learned to do so as well. In the play that was the Fujino household, Shizuru was the best performer. Father insisted she be grateful that he let her stay. Grandmother hated any extreme emotional outburst of any kind, so she learned how to constantly look moderately pleased, a regular Yamato Nadeshiko. Finally, stepmother resented her for what she represented, the heir she would never carry.
If there was one good thing her mother passed on, it was her intelligence. The Fujino matron would never accept anything less than perfection, so perfection was exactly what Shizuru achieved. She excelled at everything she did, and if she was not perfect, she quickly became so. Every movement, every gesture, every blink of her eye was coldly calculated to be the most graceful, beautiful action ever seen.
By the time she was ten, she had mastered nearly everything her paternal household could teach. Everyone knew she was a genius. Her grandmother, though filled with disgust, had to acknowledge the girl's natural abilities. Her father and stepmother could see the talent elegantly rolling from her kimono. They hated her for it. Every accomplishment or award she gained was more proof that her stepmother bore no children. They were beginning to believe that the Fujino wife was barren.
Finally the day a miracle came. Stepmother was pregnant. After years of trying, and hormone therapy, she was finally with a child. Everyone in the mansion was excited and bustled about in preparation for the wonderful day that the official Fujino heir would be brought into the mansion. Shizuru was treated as she always was, an extra ornament that was easily disposable.
She accepted it. Grandmother was a conservative strategist. She would not exile the girl before the actual child was brought into the world. Until then, Shizuru would be safe. However, this future was far too uncertain. Medical technology was far too reliable. There was a high chance she would be forced to leave her home. Shizuru was at home in the Fujino mansion. She was accustomed to the passive insolence of the servants, and the cold, unfeeling orders from her family. This was how she lived her whole life.
Her stepmother's water broke in the middle of the afternoon during a short flower arranging session. They rushed her off to the hospital, but Shizuru was not allowed to go with them. It didn't really matter; the girl was not in the least interested in her new sibling. Why should she be? The child's existence did not present her with any usable opportunities.
Late the next morning her Grandmother informed her that the boy had been born. For the first time, Shizuru had seen the old woman act genuinely happy. "Strange," she thought. Her grandmother had never shown any emotion besides general displeasure.
"You will transfer to Fuuka Gakuen tomorrow," said the old woman. Without another word, she got up and left the confused, but well composed child to ponder her future.
Fuuka Gakuen was a nice place. She was confused at first. People were so lively, happy and honest. They did not hide their emotions, and did not bother with formalities. They were awed by the way she spoke, as if it were something exotic. They mistook her smile as a warm welcome of friendship instead of a mask hiding her true feelings.
It was interesting. The girls constantly chattered about superficial things, clothes, hair, or weight. Shizuru found it very amusing that all those things were for nothing more than attracting the attention of the boys.
The boys, however, were rough, vulgar and generally unappealing. The red-eyed beauty preferred the presence of her fellow females over the rowdy men. Perhaps it was due to her education, for she liked refined, beautiful things, and the boys there were none of that. Other than the reputed Kanzaki Reito, there was no male in the school that could draw her attention.
Still, her interest in Kanzaki had never gone beyond that of friendship. Even with all his charms, he could never compare to the true beauty of a woman. Though discomforting, Shizuru never felt any shame over her preference. For her, it wasn't nearly as abnormal as the idea of leaving love letters in a locker. The only issue she had, was while it was obvious that though the other female students greatly admired her, they easily outcast those that shared her peculiar interests, so she hid them. Standing out for reasons other than personal excellence was unacceptable.
The girls were fun for a short time, but they hardly kept her interest for long. After a while, middle school was nothing more than a routine that only seemed longer by the minute. Soon enough, Shizuru was slaving away her days studying, chatting about nonsense and attending club activities, until she met Anh Lu.
She was an exchange student from China. Intelligent, fun-loving and easygoing, Anh was a hurricane who swept up anyone into her insanity. Sometimes she would excitedly chat with strangers and share the most peculiar secrets, whereas other times she would sit a friend down and seriously talk with them about the future. Everyone loved her.
Shizuru was completing her final year in middle school when Ahn Lu decided that the Kyoto maiden was someone interesting. The girl was attending a student council meeting on the high school campus due to renovations of the middle school building. On her way home, a very excited Ahn ran into her and decided that Shizuru would be her new best friend of the day.
Taken by surprise, Shizuru was unable to deny the request and was dragged to attend a very interesting group date at a local Karaoke parlor. It was promising, with both Ahn and Shizuru there, the other girls didn't stand a chance.
The boys were entranced by the red-eyed seductress and blown away by the beautiful blonde. In no time, Ahn was drunk and rambling away about inane things that made little sense. The other girls at the date were growing unsettled by their companion's behavior, and really became frightened when their companion decided that stripping her fellow females was a good idea.
Shizuru, on the other hand, could hold her alcohol well. Though initially an unwilling participant, she soon found herself drawn into the whirlwind that was Ahn Lu. With a lot of effort, she managed to get Ahn under control while ensuring that none of the girls accidentally flashed any of the boys. Somehow the party successfully ended when Ahn lost her lunch on the table and collapsed.
They became fast friends. For the first time in her life, Shizuru truly liked someone for who they were, and she hoped Ahn liked her as well. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, because when the year ended, Ahn went home. The hurricane ended, and Shizuru was left behind, slightly heartbroken at what never existed.
Her first year of high school was painfully slow. She slowly sunk into a depression. Even Suzushiro Haruka, the painfully dense, but extremely meddlesome, student representative noticed. Keeping up appearances grew more difficult everyday as she just wished for another friend.
Finally one day, she managed to hide from her usual fans and found herself in a flower garden nearby the campus. It was the first time she had been to the area, so decided to look around. Before she could take two steps into the garden, Shizuru was rooted to the ground. A beautiful raven-haired angel appeared in front of her.
The girl looked like a porcelain doll wearing Fuuka's middle school uniform. Her hand hovered over a nearby flower, preparing to crush it. It made Shizuru wonder, was this girl an angel or demon?
"You shouldn't do that," said Shizuru, "Beautiful flowers try so hard to bloom in their short life. They're meant to be loved."
Natsuki huffed in annoyance and walked off. It would be the first of many times Shizuru would try to talk to her. Eventually her efforts paid off. One day out of the blue, the rebel girl approached Shizuru with a request. "I need all the info you can get about this schools history."
Though surprised, the Kyoto girl was more than happy to oblige. After that, she managed to befriend the mysterious Kuga. Natsuki was her first friend since Ahn left. She was precious. Shizuru was never going to let her go.
A month passed, and they grew closer. The raven-haired girl had a thing for lingerie; it was cute. She also liked mayonnaise, which bordered the disgusting. Shizuru found her to be unusually feminine, despite her rough demeanor. Slowly but surely, the girl was in love with her best friend.
At first it was bothersome. Love changed everything. Natsuki was adamant that love was unnecessary baggage she did not want. Shizuru had questioned her with "what-if" scenarios many times only to get one response. "I'm not interested, and I don't have time for anyone." It was discouraging.
It didn't take long for Shizuru to find out about the HIMEs. Natsuki constantly ran off to random places and came back with cuts and bruises from fights. Concerned Shizuru felt it was her duty to look into her friend's activities. That was when she found out about the Orphans and HIMEs, and that is when Nagi Homura approached her for the first time.
"You don't want her to get hurt anymore right?" he asked while she helplessly watched her friend rush in head first to fight against an eight-foot tall monster.
"Yes." The red-eyed beauty was curious as to why a child suddenly appeared, but Natsuki's immediate safety weighed more on her mind. For the time being, her sense of logic was abandoned.
"I can give you the power." He offered.
Now the small white-haired child had her attention. "How?" Natsuki was her most precious friend, and she was not going to let anything happen to her.
"If you're willing to put what's most valuable to you on the line, then you will gain everything you need." He replied. Purple smoke floated around the air. Suddenly, an electric jolt shuddered through her body.
If she had to wager her life for the power to protect her precious Natsuki, then it was hardly a difficult choice. "I am," she said without a second thought.
"Alright, then it is yours." He replied before disappearing.
A naginata materialized on her hand. Somehow, she just knew this was her weapon, and how to wield it. A silent call in her mind summoned the great beast known as Kiyohime to her side, and before another second passed, Kyohime destroyed the orphan Natsuki was fighting.
The rebel was shocked to see the creature crushed, but could not see what did it. The night was dark, and the street lights were destroyed during the battle. She could have sworn a dark figure with a long stick was hiding in the shadows of an alleyway to her right, but soon brushed if off as a figment of her imagination. Thankful that the Gods were favorable that day, Natsuki returned to her apartment.
Shizuru watched her friend sleep through the window, grateful that she was not found out.
"I'll protect you, my Natsuki."
End Notes: People can still vote for who is up next. Unless someone says otherwise, it'll be Mikoto.