Of Fortunes and Ferrets

Disclaimer: The author rightfully respects the genius of Tachibana Higuchi, creator of Gakuen Alice.

Author's Note: Your reviews are appreciated. Your PMs are never ignored. Requests are accepted. And this one finally made it off the board. Ü

This is the story that would've been published if His Dark, Kind Soul hadn't taken form, so it's quite overdue. Save for the Prologue, the story is set after How Yuu Became the Coolest Kid in School and before Natsume Nullified. Ultimately, it could also stand alone.

Prologue: The One-Line Fortune

It was hard to tell who knew it first, if he did or if she did. There had always been something between them: enmity, a tentative truce, a never-ending competition. There was antagonism. There was history. But it was strongly believed that above all there subsisted friendship— the most bizarre and colorful kind.

He was there when she arrived late for a competition because she had to stay up all night after her lab blew up. Her best friend tried to take her place and he saw her rush to an injured robot after it had rescued her friend from harm. She was there when he lost his senses and tried to attack the school with his Alice. She would've gotten hurt if his own best friend hadn't stepped in to save everyone. He was there when she won an award at the Alice Festival. She was there when he first fell in love. Yes, he was always around, just as she had been; but they were never ever there specifically for the sake of the other.

He thought about it. It was hard to sit next to the girl everybody worshipped and not wonder what kept them captivated. Even though she'd sooner shoot him with that gun of hers, he did consider being with her. She thought about it too, but not the way he did. Not as openly. Not as honestly. To her, he would always be the guy who saw her best friend first and she wasn't used to being second.

So he looked at her and she glanced at him. But their gazes never met. They never saw each other at the same time. They continued to play their game and for a long while, nobody won.

"Oh look! Otonashi has a fortune-telling booth!" twelve-year-old Mikan cried excitedly then read out loud, "Step right up for Otonashi's one-line fortunes. Your future in a nutshell."

"Is that allowed?" Kitsuneme asked. He landed next to Mikan and studied the signboard. "A fortune from her isn't exactly for fun, is it? It's a real look at tomorrow."

"That doesn't sound so bad," Yuu commented just as the rest of their group stopped in front of the large colorful tent that was their classmate's stall.

"Yeah," Koko agreed, "At least then you'll know you're getting value for your rabbit."

It was the third day of the Alice Festival and they were touring the set up of the Latent Ability Class. It had been a long day for everyone and a while ago some of them had fallen back. They agreed to meet up at the last booth, which was Otonashi's Divination stand. With a real psychic manning it, the place was packed.

"I have an idea!" Mikan cried gleefully. Everyone around her immediately backed up a step and Kitsuneme took off to the sky. As her record would show, every time Mikan got an idea in her head it could lead to all kinds of consequences. "Let's all get fortunes! Come on guys! It would be fun. Besides, I have a lot of questions."

"I don't think it works that way," Nonoko said, looking up from the sign. "It says here you don't get to ask. She only does a really quick reading then gives you your fortune."

"I guess she did that for it to be less exhausting," Sumire remarked. "Can you imagine having to dance for all these people?"

"Ten rabbits for a precise fortune and five rabbits for a cryptic one," Koko read out loud. "What's a cryptic fortune?"

"Cryptic, meaning obscure, unclear," Yuu provided. "She'll give you a puzzling fortune for five rabbits."

"Who would want that?"

"Cheapskates," Mochu said, suddenly appearing with Natsume, Anna and Wakako.

Mikan eyed them skeptically. "Weren't Hotaru and Ruka with you?" Natsume blinked then glanced over his shoulder. On cue, there was an upsurge in the crowd.

"I told you not to take a picture you crazy, self-seeking little—"

Ruka's words were drowned out when Hotaru zoomed past them atop her flying goose, narrowly missing Kitsuneme who remained aloft. She circled them overhead then aimed her professional camera at the crowd, particularly at a red-faced Ruka who was riding the back of a polar bear. "Come back here Imai!"

Hotaru's camera flashed before she lowered it then said blandly, "You're so excitable."

"They're at it again," Wakako muttered needlessly. Ruka began leading his polar bear in a tight circle as he contemplated how to get to Hotaru and her darn camera.

"You annoying, overbearing—"

"It wasn't such a bad shot, Ruka," Mochu said, trying to smooth things over. "You were just eating cake after all." Instead of being appeased, Ruka glared at him while Natsume snickered.

"I told you not to share your dessert with the Komodo dragon but you just had to do it…" Above them, Hotaru took another picture and Ruka growled. Natsume spoke mildly. "Just leave it."

Ruka jumped off the polar bear, which immediately scampered off without harming anyone. Then he scowled at Hotaru before turning to the others, catching Mikan's eye and proceeding to blush when she smiled back. Natsume and Hotaru, who quickly focused her camera again, did not miss the reaction.

"Hey Mikan."

"What are you standing in line for?" Natsume interrupted in a bored tone.

"We're supporting Otonashi!"

"What she means is that we're getting our fortunes told," Sumire explained better, sidling up to Natsume.

"That's right!" Mikan grinned as the line started to move. "You go first, Yuu!"


Koko grinned. "Class representatives must always set an example."

Yuu looked reluctant but he took his place in the queue and everyone else filed in behind him. Natsume looked like he was about to beg off but Ruka had already fallen in line behind Mikan and had struck up a conversation. After a couple of minutes they were finally at the entrance and Mikan whipped out her starfish communicator to call for Hotaru to come down. Yuu took a deep breath then went inside the tent.

"What do you think she'll tell him?"

"He'll live a long full life with seven children and thirty grandkids."

"Very funny." Sumire rolled her eyes as Hotaru landed next to Mikan. "I suppose that would fall under the specific fortune category."

"Of course Yuu can spend ten rabbits on his fortune but I think I'll only spare five," Koko said, thinking out loud.

"I don't know Koko. Maybe you should taken a ten-rabbit fortune," Mochu put in. "If you take the cryptic one, you may not be able to decipher it even after it's come true."

"That's not cool!"

"This is pointless," Hotaru said when she couldn't shake off Mikan's hold on her arm. "Why would I want to spend any rabbits on a fortune? I already know what my future will be like."

"You do?" Mikan said in surprise. "What will you be?"

"Rich. Filthy rich," she smiled wickedly. "So I don't need to waste any rabbits here."

"But Hotaru, she could tell you something you don't know. Okay, so everybody already knows you're going to be a trillionaire but Otonashi might tell you something else. Say… whether you and I will be together forever."

Hotaru scoffed, "I think I'll pass." She tugged her arm free and was about to walk away when Yuu stepped out looking confused and even a little bit upset.

"Hey Yuu, what happened?"

He turned crimson. "Well, I decided to go for the five-rabbit reading and I thought she'd give me a vague fortune but what she said was pretty clear." He looked at all of them morosely. "She said I'll be number three." They all stared back blankly so he pushed up his glasses then clarified, "In class. I'm going to be number three in class."

"No way."

"But you and Hotaru have always been one and two!"

Yuu shrugged then pocketed the slip of paper Otonashi had given him as his one-line fortune. "Oh well, I guess when it happens… it happens."

"I'm leaving," Hotaru stated, turning away from the tent. Mikan gripped her arm then nudged her forward just as Otonashi called out, "Next!"

"Please Hotaru!" Mikan wheedled. Then as though it was a stroke of genius she cried out, "I'll pay for your fortune! Go on Hotaru. It's on me." She began pushing Hotaru earnestly towards the tent. "Here she is Otonashi. One puzzling fortune please!" She dropped five rabbits inside the bin then pranced outside, leaving her two classmates behind.

"This is so senseless—" Hotaru stopped then glanced at Otonashi. "No offense."

The fortuneteller gave her a wispy smile. "I've been waiting for you Hotaru Imai."

She grew suspicious. "You have?"

"Let's proceed."

With a snap of her fingers, her "band" started playing a rhythm and Hotaru watched her hop and skip around the room. It had been a long time since she last saw Otonashi dance and she had gotten much better. She was graceful and more pliant. With the flowing ribbons that were part of her attire, her movement was enchanting.

When she finally stopped, her eyes were smoky and she leveled Hotaru with a piercing stare. Hotaru was about to open her mouth when Otonashi suddenly pointed her forefinger at her then declared with certainty:

"Your future lies with a snow-white ferret."