Hello readers! I am working on another ShizNat fanfiction piece. This one is set in the old medieval times with knights and princesses and whatnot. Anyway, I lost inspiration to write "For Now" so I probably won't be updating that soon.

Disclaimer: I do not own Mai Hime or characters... just the lame old plot.

Chapter 1: PROLOGUE

"Push, Saeko-sama! Just one last push!" the maid yelled as her mistress gave one last strangled cry.

The sound of a crying baby is heard over heavy breathing. The mother watched through dazed eyes as her offspring was gently washed and wrapped up in a towel.

"Saeko-sama…" the maid hesitated as she brought the baby over to her mother.

"Announce that it's a boy," the mistress ordered.

"But—" the maid started, not wanting to lie to the master of the house.

"Announce that my baby is a boy. My husband must believe that his heir is a boy."

"Saeko-sama," the maid began pleadingly. "I understand that it must be hard for you, but I cannot lie to the master!"

"You must understand, Riku. This is for the benefit of the family. My husband is going to war soon and only god knows how long it'll take for him to get back, if he gets back. This house needs a proper heir. Without another boy in the family, no one can succeed in my husband's place. And without a successor, we will not survive. Do you understand me?" the mistress reasoned. "This is for the best."

"Y-Yes, Saeko-sama," the maid relented with a solemn expression upon her face.

No longer than three seconds later, Akio Kuga came rushing into the room, delighted to see his newborn baby. He rushed over to his wife's side and immediately took a look at the peaceful face of his child.

"Congratulations sir. It's a boy…" Riku announced.

"By the gods! My son." Akio started, taking the baby delicately into his arms, "My heir, you shall inherit everything that is mine, son! And you shall carry the name Natsuki!"

"Dear," the mistress weakly called out.

"Yes, my love?" he replied, glancing down at his fatigue wife.

"You'll wake him with all the yelling," she replied, smiling. Slowly, she reached out and stroked the baby's cheek, hoping that she did the right thing in lying to her husband. Natsuki's going to lead a hard life, but she'll become strong. And she will inherit everything that her husband worked for. The Kuga legacy will not fall within her generation. She will not let that happen.

"Thank you, my love," Akio kissed Saeko's sweaty forehead. "Thank you for delivering this wonderful gift to me. Our heir shall continue my legacy…"


Ten years later…

"Natsuki-sama! Natsuki-sama!"

Two maids were chasing after a ten year old child around the archery range, trying to clean their young master of the dirt that has attached itself to her expensive clothing.

"Please stop, Natuski-sama! We must clean you up for tonight's dinner party!" they yelled in unison.

Finally, the child stopped in her tracks and turned to the maids. "I don't want to attend the party."

"But you must! Your father will be back tonight for it as well, to celebrate our victory after eight long years of war."

Putting on a glare directed towards the maids, Natsuki growled out the words, "I will talk to mother."

A loud and rapid knock disturbed Saeko from her reading in the afternoon sun. Sighing slightly to herself, she motioned for her maid to open the door. A very displeased blunette child strides quickly over to her mother, stopping about two feet away for a proper greeting.

"Mother," Natsuki gave her mother a slight bow, "do I really have to attend that party tonight? I don't want to!"

"Yes, dear. Your father will be back for it as well. And I'm sure he will be proud to find that you will follow in his footsteps to be a knight like him."

"Then, I will wash up for the occasion," the child begrudging uttered.

"Natsuki," her emerald eyes gazed into her child's, trying to convey information without actually speaking.

"I understand, mother," Natsuki replied, seemingly understanding what her mother wanted to say. I will be careful in the baths. I know I mustn't let anyone find out that I am a girl.

Three hours later, when the sun has begun to set, causing the sky to turn a beautiful hue of red and orange, the party has commenced. Guests arrived from all over the country to the Kuga household to meet the young master and congratulate Sir Akio for the victory.

Natsuki wanders around the large room, hoping to find someone that she can interact with. But so far, the only people she has met are her mother's friends. As she was about to retire back to her mother's side, she suddenly spotted another kid in the crowd. Making her way to said person, she stopped to find violet eyes gazing back at her.

"Welcome to the Kuga household. My name is Kuga Natsuki, and I am the young master of this house. Who might you be?" she introduced herself.

"T-Tokiha Mai," she replied, dipping her head downwards followed by a curtsy.

"I'm glad I'm not the only kid here. I was starting to get really bored," the blunette started. "Tokiha-san, let's go out into the garden for a breather."

"O-Okay," the redhead replied.

Natsuki led her new friend out into the back of the house, where a small garden with a koi pond existed. Taking a seat on a rock by the edge of the pond, Natsuki motioned for Mai to take a seat next to her. Glancing at the redhead briefly, the blunette noticed that the she looked really nervous.

"Why are you nervous?" she bluntly asked. "I'm not going to hurt you."

"W-Well, that's because you are Kuga Natsuki-sama. I heard about you from my friend Tate," she replied, finally mustering the courage to look into emerald orbs. "But you seem a lot friendlier than he described."

"Hm? What'd he say about me?" she asked, completely curious.

"He goes to the same school you go to, the one that trains you to become a top-ranked knight. You excel in your studies, no matter what the subject is, and also in combat. He also said that you weren't very social and that you don't have any friends. I think he described you as a lone wolf."

"How did you meet Tate-san?"

"He's my fiancé," Mai replied.

"I wonder," Natsuki turned her gaze up into the sky. "If I beat him in grades and combat, will you consider being my fiancée?"

Mai gave a surprised yell, standing up from the rock that she was sitting on earlier. She made a few motions with her lips to speak but no words were able to escape. Finally, she straightened up and closed her eyes, as if composing herself. Natsuki watched her new friend in amusement, and waited patiently for Mai to say what she wanted to say.

"Are you expressing interest in me, Kuga-sama? I am just the child of a lowly ranked and unknown knight," she replied.

"So why do you think Tate-san suits you more than me?" the blunette asked, standing up to face Mai.

"I-It's not that… it's just that… Tate and I… we're…"

Mai was at a loss for words. It wasn't that she thought that Tate was a better choice to be her husband. She just never, in a million years, thought that THE Kuga Natsuki would even notice that she was alive; nevertheless, express an interest in her.

A small chuckle erupted from Natsuki's throat as she watched the redhead's expression change when she was deep in thought. "Relax, Mai-san. I will not steal you away against your will. I was just joking earlier."

After taking a look at the night sky, she turned her head and smiled. "Shall we get back inside, Lady Tokiha Mai?"

Receiving an affirmative nod from the redhead, the two made their way back into the loud and noisy room. Natsuki noticed that several of the people she met earlier have already left and decided to leave Mai in the care of her parents before scouting for her own mom. When she finally spotted the older woman, she quickly made her way over because of the solemn expression on her mother's face.

"Mother, what's wrong?" Natsuki immediately asked.

"It's getting late, and yet, your father has not returned. What is taking him so long?"

Saeko's brows were furrowed as concern took over her features. Her husband was supposed to be back already, but he has not walked through the Kuga's mansion's gates yet. She would know if he did!

The sound a horse's cry was heard in the distance. Then, multiple footsteps came stomping through the premise, revealing about five or six men in uniform. As soon as they spotted the mistress of the house, they landed on their knees and greeted her, "Lady Kuga!"

"What is it? Where is my husband?" Saeko questioned the men.

One of them stepped up and held the mistress's gaze, revealing through his eyes that he had bad news. The older blunette prepared herself for the worse, then nodded for him to report what he needed to report.

"Sir Kuga was a noble man and he fought valiantly at the Battle of Aeries. Regrettably, on the night that he and his troops were to report home, there was an ambush. Although, the war has been won, Sir Kuga could not make it tonight to celebrate with us. I'm sure he would have loved to see young Kuga before he went…"

"Ar-Are you telling me, that my husband died in an ambush?" Saeko slowly asked.

"Yes ma'am. My condolences," the uniformed man said. Then he turned his attention to the younger blunette and said, "Become a valiant knight like your father. He is proud of you."

And with that, the men left as quickly as they come. The two Kuga's stayed completely still, not knowing what to do. About a million things ran through Saeko's head, but one thing remained prominent. My dear Akio, all these years without you, and now I cannot even say a proper goodbye. You are cruel to leave Natsuki and me… so cruel…

Father… they told me you were brave… they told me that I needed to follow in your footsteps and become a man like you… Don't worry, dad. I will continue this legacy, your legacy… no matter what. But I wished you were able to come back to see my accomplishments. I'm the best at school right now… all for you…

The party died immediately after that, and all the guests returned home to allow the Kuga's to grieve for their loss. Before she left, Mai glanced over at the younger blunette. As she stared into those emerald orbs, the glint of youthful excitement was completely gone. And it was replaced by sadness and grief.

Ah, thank you for reading. Please leave me a review! It motivates me to write more... or faster... or even at all. Thank you!