How should I start this...? *Is my hair okay? Do I look strange?* Uh, hello, dear Mai-HiME fans! This story is my first try at fan fiction, but since I've been reading like mad these past few weeks, I decided to try something on my own. English is not my mother language and I don't have a Beta reader, so I'll kindly ask you to notify me if you find a word or phrase, which is out of place or inappropriately used. That's all, I think. Now, about this story.

This takes place in an Alternative Universe... and you'll find out the rest ^^ Though I should probably point towards the main pairing in this story, which is ShizNat (I'm sorry, I'm a sucker for those two). Mind you, it won't lack other pairings, but the whole story-line won't revolve only around romance. Ah, and for those, who don't get the terminology I'm using, please tell me. I have put a glossary at the bottom of the page, but just in case... Anyways, enjoy!

Added later (December, 2010): I've started revising the chapters after some advice I received. There are no big changes, I just changed some context synonyms and corrected some spelling mistakes. I don't know about the grammar, though, so I'm sorry if it's annoying.

Disclaimer: I don't own Mai HiME or anything that, uh... doesn't belong to me, I guess.

Every event has a starting point, or so most people try to convince themselves. However, that spring morning was most certainly not this story's beginning, but only its continuation. A continuation in which Yuuki Nao had no idea she would be participating. If somebody had told said girl that she would soon be mixed up in a struggle for power, vengeance, and love, she would have just snickered and continued to file her nails without a care in the world.

Yes, Yuuki Nao was not a person who cared about what people thought of her, or about what happened in the city she lived in. After all, in the young girl's opinion Fuuka city was a dump. She could not deny that it was clean and seemingly well-run, but that was only in downtown and some of the richer neighbourhoods. John Smith ruled the parade; he was the head of the city. He called himself a democrat, Nao called him a tyrant. Why? Well, for one he had been mayor for a decade now. When it was time for elections, everybody who wanted to would put their names down for the position, unless they were restricted by age or by not being John Smith. Wasn't that a slight bit wrong? Yes. Did people care? No.

A funny human trait is that people claim to struggle to change and evolve all the time. The high school freshman had reached the conclusion – and she was sure that the mayor (who was undoubtedly highly intelligent) had done the same – that the citizens only wanted for things to go on as normal, and for the next day to be pretty much like the one before. Not that Nao cared what those idiots thought, anyway.

The lime-eyed girl was sure, though, that no-one appreciated the rise in the crime rate. Strange how everything else seemed to be right, except for the "forces of good". Nao wondered whether Smith's reasoning was that having crime is inevitable, so it might as well be organized. Small-fry were taken care of and put in prison, but the ones left simply realized they could not survive out there alone. So that was why the gangs had appeared. The gangs! Oh, how much she hated them! Those thugs who thought they owned a whole district, or even worse – other human beings… She knew that if she had the chance, she would…

Her destructive thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of screeching tires and angry yells. Nao hadn't realized how long she had been walking, for now she was only ten minutes from her high school building. What interested her more, however, was the accident that had occurred on the crossroad before her. Even though it looked like the car crash wasn't extreme, she decided to check it out – it was on her way, after all.

As she got closer, she could make out the voices of the drivers. The two men were shouting at each other while on-lookers watched with amusement, given that there weren't any casualties and the only damage was a tilted front bumper.

"What the hell? What's wrong with you, dimwit?"

"Wasn't my fault, you blind idiot! It was that blue motorcycle!"

"A bike? Bullshit!"

"There really was a motorcycle," came a voice from the crowd and a few people nodded in agreement.

"Probably a gang member!" Somebody shouted. The two men grumbled and continued arguing, while the sound of police sirens came closer and closer.

Deciding not to see the outcome of the stupid accident, Nao yawned and headed for school. What a boring way to start the morning, she mused.

The campus of Fuuka's educational facilities – hosting the district grade, middle and high schools – was like a different world altogether. Surrounded by high fences, the bars covered in well-trimmed and kept ivy, the three main buildings were separated by vast areas covered with forests, club buildings, swimming pools, and places for all kinds of sports. All in all, it was nothing like the concrete fortresses of Fuuka city – on the contrary, it was clean, full of greenery and smiling youngsters. Well… most of them were smiling. One particular loud, blond, big-busted girl was disrupting the serene picture by standing in the middle of the car park, waving her hands frantically at a lone figure sitting on a dark-blue motorbike.

"You! You come here with your loud rumbling machine and pollute our fresh air!" Shouted Suzushiro Haruka. She was panting heavily, for she had run all the way to the parking lot from the student council room. The Head Executive had obtained something like a sixth sense for whenever that despicable delinquent entered through the gates of the school with that… that… chariot from hell!

Straightening her special green school uniform (a symbol of authority) she continued with her tirade.

"I have no idea whatsoever how you continue to be left unpunished after breaking so many school rules! Honestly, delinquent, if it were up to me-" she was cut off by the rider, who was now taking her helmet off her head.

"Yeah, yeah, I would be expelled." Raven locks spilled on an 18-year-old girl's leather clad shoulders. "However since it is not up to you – and thank God – you, Suzushiro, cannot do a thing about it."

Haruka glowered at the beauty in front of her. That cool voice annoyed her, that defiant look grated on her nerves, and the inappropriate leather suit...

The Executive's purple gaze clashed with cold emeralds, and time stopped while they battled each other silently. Silence wasn't Haruka's strong point. The moment was broken and she opened her mouth to retort, aware that a few students that had been heading for the opening ceremony were now stopping to watch the never-ending struggle between the Lioness and the infamous Ice Princess.

"This year, I swear, I will get you thrown out of Fuuka High School."

The biker was now dismounting her machine, pulling a bag out of the compartment and stuffing her helmet inside. It appeared she was ignoring Haruka who, despite that, continued.

"It is unforgivable what you and your little friends have been doing. I can't prove it yet, but given the opportunity, I am going to strike and finish you! All of the times you people have skipped class, hurt a teacher's dignity, destroyed school property, established that club of yours - which I'm sure has a shady agenda – started cafeteria flights…"

"Oh, for the love of mayo and everything holy, shut the fuck up, Suzushiro!" The other girl looked annoyed out of her mind. She turned her back to the gaping blond and walked off. "And it's 'fights', loud-mouth. Fights!"

Haruka gaped after her, still not fully comprehending the 'mayo' part of the statement, but decided that right now it was far more important to vent her anger.

"Curse you, Kuga Natsuki!"

Nao cringed at the loud voice, coming from not far behind her.

Kuga who?

She had just reached campus and was heading for the opening ceremony, after which she was supposed to find out who she had been placed in a room with. If that hadn't been the case, she wouldn't even have bothered to come, really. She had better things to do. Like tricking men into submission and stealing their money.

Fujino Shizuru was a paragon of a student. Everybody thought so, and she believed it really was actually like that. Why then did she find it so hard to pay attention to headmistress Himeno's speech? As the president of the student council, it was obligatory for her to look attentive at all times, even as she felt her crimson eyes involuntarily search the crowd for a certain somebody.

She scanned over the student body from the platform where Himeno Fumi, the student council (which obviously included her), and the school staff were situated. Every time her gaze fell upon a fan of hers the person would blush and look away shyly, or squeal with delight. Still, she could not find… ah! There they were!

Shizuru hid her excitement, and turned her attention towards the pink-haired woman who managed the school. After all, she could not look at the object of her affections for too long – they had to be careful.

"… And as of this year security will be stricter, so I suggest, my beloved students, that you…"

"… you follow the regulations and…"

"Natsuki," Tokiha Mai nudged the girl who was sitting next to her. The effect was minimal – she only grumbled from under one of the brochures which were given to all students at the beginning of the ceremony. It served perfectly for blocking out the light, while Natsuki slouched in a chair between her carrot-topped friend and another member of her… err, Mai's club. That member – Harada Chie – had her girlfriend Senou Aoi by her side.

"Natsuki!" Mai elbowed her friend harder this time, causing the second-year student to curse and straighten up.

"What?" She asked after removing the pamphlet from her green eyes, which now glared at the source of her discomfort. Natuski then concluded that she needed to improve her trademark glare, for said source of her discomfort was not troubled by it at all.

"This is important, so listen carefully! It could greatly affect our… club activities and…"

"Yes, mother," Natsuki cut her off, causing her other two companions to chuckle quietly.

Before Mai could respond to the rude retort, she noticed where Natsuki was now looking. She was such an enigma sometimes, but when it came to that person she was both obvious and uncharacteristically sincere.

"Natsuki, you know you should be careful."

This only earned her an annoyed huff, but with great reluctance Natsuki turned her attention to the headmistress' babble.

"Another new rule is that all students are obliged to become members to a club of their liking," happily announced the lithe woman.

The crowd groaned.

Wait, what? Nao was sure that this new rule was going to screw up her life.

She had no idea.

"So it's obligatory to enter a club? That's not fair, I want to watch my evening dramas," whined a girl sitting next to her.

Oh, yeah? Cry me a river now, won'tcha? Nao sarcastically retorted in her mind, discreetly eyeing the girl with dislike. What was with those people? She had much more important things to do, and they were worried about their dramas.

"I think I'll check out the tennis club!" Exclaimed a boy who was getting up, excitement in his voice.

The new high schoolers were being called to the front so as to receive the keys to their new dorm rooms. Nao sneered, but decided to listen in on her peers. She had never taken any interest in clubs, and clearly needed to find out more about them Nao got closer to a group of bubbling girls and started eavesdropping.

"I heard that Kanzaki-sama used to be in the Kendo club, but now the Captain of the club is that Takeda Masashi guy," said one of them.

"I don't know… I'm not much of a sport-lover," complained another.

I wonder if there's a club for slackers. The lime-eyed adolescent sighed, knowing that she probably was going to get thrown out of school long before finding something suitable for her.

"Maybe you should try the Tea Ceremony club, or Ikebana," suggested a third girl.

Or maybe not. Nao snorted quietly.

"Oh, I know!"

Lime eyes rolled. What ingenious idea is it now?

"Why don't you ask the Bridge club for membership? After all, it's just a card game, it can't be that hard!" The owner of the suggestion was obviously very proud of it.

Nao was already at the front of the line to get her keys when she heard it.

Great, that'll do. The losers probably don't even hold more than one meeting a week! Nao smirked. That earned her a strange look from Sagisawa-sensei, who Nao realized was standing before her and was giving her a key. The woman was dressed with a white coat and had her chestnut hair cut a bit shorter than Nao's, whose was shoulder-length.

"Um, Yuuki Nao?" She received a nod in return. "You'll be rooming with the second-year Senou Aoi. Here's the key and the number of the room."

"Yeah, sure, whatever." Nao snatched the piece of paper and key, then turned around to exit the hall.

Just as she reached the entrance, someone bumped into her back. It really was as if the entire mob of students had decided to leave at exactly the same time! Angrily, she turned around to snarl at whoever had dared to push her, but instantly held her breath when she locked eyes with the most intensely forest-green eyes she had ever seen. After a brief moment of silence the stranger, wearing the same orange uniform she was, opened her mouth and spoke with a husky and intimidating tone.

"What? You got a problem, flame-head?"

Nao narrowed her eyes and immediately spat back. "Yeah, you shouldn't push yourself on other girls without their consent, you brute."

To Nao's surprise the stranger blushed a bit at her insinuation. Nao blinked a few times, and then snickered. Regaining her composure, the beauty glared at the now amused first-year.

My, my, scary, ain't we? Thought Nao, who was genuinely startled for a second before going smug again.

"Shut up and get a move on. I'll beat your ass up!" The raven-head growled.

"Okay, okay… Sheesh. Stuck-up bitch." Nao spun on her heels, exiting the hall before she could get herself beaten black-and-blue, as she knew for sure would happen if she stayed longer. She was a smart girl.

Malls were not her usual hunting ground, but she just couldn't pass up this opportunity: she had baited this animal for two weeks before he had agreed to meet with 'Julia'. Well, he had clearly shown that he was uncomfortable with being alone with her on a first date, and had insisted that they were to meet in front of a café called the 'Linden Baum'. This was situated right next to Fuuka city's biggest shopping centre.

Typing at the speed of light on her phone's keyboard in order to send another e-mail, Nao exited the huge glass building - an achievement of architectural genius according to connoisseurs, and an invaluable gift from God to the lechers. She was going to be a bit early for her 'date', so she decided to sit on a bench in front of the Linden Baum. The sun had already set, and if anyone from the school staff saw her out at this hour, she would surely be punished. She pressed the 'send' button and stared at the small screen. What to do now…? Lime eyes closed, and she let herself think of what her high school life had offered her so far.

Bullshit, that's what, she concluded with an inward snort.

She was supposed to join some stupid club or she would be kicked out, which kind of sucked. Suddenly she remembered what the group of her stupid schoolmates had been talking about, and she clicked her phone's display back to life to type into the search engine 'bridge rules'. The results she got were not satisfactory at all – pages and pages of difficult rules and terminology, which she didn't get.

Wasn't this supposed to be easy or something? She fumed, while reading about terms like 'advance sacrifice', 'positional squeeze', 'blitz', 'endplay', 'tempo' and 'Blackwood finesse'. This year surely was going to be one hell of a ride.

"Hey," an unfamiliar gruff male voice greeted her. Nao lifted her eyes, annoyed at first, but then realized that this might be her 'date' so she switched to 'play nicely' mode.

"Hey yourself," was her reply. The guy looked big and strong for somebody so shy on-line.

"Are you 'Juliet'?" He asked, brushing dark hair out of his onyx eyes. He acted too smug for Nao's liking, but hey - she was robbing this man. Surely she needed some added motivation.

She smirked. "And what if I am?" She drew out in a seductive tone.

White teeth flashed in a disturbing grin, and the girl almost cringed at his look.

"You heard her," he pulled a telephone out of his pocked and pressed the red receiver button.

There goes my motivation… I'm screwed…

Nao nervously observed a group of men – men she somewhat remembered – slowly closing in on her. Some of them came from the streets, others from the café behind her. She was being surrounded. Not realizing when she stood up, she instead started searching for an opening from which she could escape. Her throat had gone dry and each gulp of air grated in her lungs; she could not deal with so many of them!

"I'm bored! Those people haven't done anything spicy during the break!" Exclaimed a bespectacled black-haired teenage girl, sitting next to Mai at their favourite hang-out – the Linden Baum. Her blue-eyed, loveable girlfriend nodded from Chie's other side, and decided to emphasize that statement a bit by waving her arms about.

"Chie-chan's right! Almost no gossip! This is preposterous!"

Natsuki just kept nodding, watching out the window at the street, sipping from Mai's drink without her noticing. Chie leaned back in her seat and watched sadly as only a hundred photos were uploaded from her telephone to her new laptop.

"And just when I thought I would be able to write anytime I wanted with this baby and everything." The fine-looking girl sighed heavily. Life was too unfair!

"Say, Chie."

That girl turned her head to Natsuki, indicating she was listening. "Can you access the net from anywhere with your computer?"

"Yes, sure, Natsuki-kun why?" Asked Chie, a bit baffled by the sudden change of topic.

"Well, did you notice those men that just exited the café?" A nod. "They sounded like they reaaally wanted rip that fire-top a new one." Natsuki, face expressionless, pointed outside the window towards the almost cornered Nao.

"Oh my!" Exclaimed Mai. She stood up, but her hand was caught by her friend. "Natsuki! Are you just going to…?"

"No, I need you to hear the game strategy before we go out there and make a Grand Slam*," Natsuki smirked.

Mai knew that look in her friend's eyes – it meant that the game was afoot. She relaxed a bit – after all, no need to worry since Natsuki already had a plan. Chie and Aoi leaned forward and listened carefully – in the game there was no place for mistakes. As soon as Natsuki had finished speaking, the other three sprang to action: Chie exited through the back door of the café, while Mai and Aoi left from the front but separated at the entrance. Quietly watching them, turning on her Bluetooth device, Natsuki tried their connection.

"Are we ready to play, girls?"

She stood up, left some money on the table and exited the establishment. Then she headed for the bunch forming around their new high-school mate.

"Sure, Blackwood, whenever you are," came Chie's joking reply, proving that their conference link was working. Natsuki cringed at her nickname – she didn't like it at all.

"Okay, then," she said, almost smiling in her excitement. "Let's show them our attitude**."

Did Nao know any prayers? No, except for one: 'Please, God, I beg of You, kill the bastards with a lightning. A piano would work too, oh, Almighty!' And she hoped it would work, for she saw no other escape from her current situation. If she had expected something of this magnitude to happen, she would have never, ever have left her mother's womb. The guy with the toothy grin spoke, his voice sickening.

"Now that we have you cornered, Juliet, we would like to take you somewhere where you cold return us our money. In kind, if you somehow lack the finances." He licked his lips, while the others snickered.

That's why I hate gang members. If only… She closed her eyes and sighed, defeated. No more punishing the evil bad boys for this little Nao…

"Oi! What're you doing with my…uh…"

Nice one, Kuga, you thought up a whole escape plan, but you fail at this? Natsuki mentally hit herself.

"My friend!"

That would do for now… probably.

Acting tough wasn't hard, coming up with strategies wasn't that challenging either, but when it came to talking, Kuga Natsuki was a lost cause.

Nao almost face-palmed at the sight of the girl she bumped into this morning trying to save her sorry ass. At least she looked hot… somewhat.

Her lame saviour stood at the rim of the circle of men surrounding Nao. By-passers clearly thought that was some kind of street performance, but few of them stopped to look or pay attention. Natsuki motioned for Nao to come to her, and the red-head did so without a moment's hesitation.

"Now what?" She whispered to the dark-haired teen. The men were watching them with smiles, most likely wondering what two girls would do to stop them.

"Now…" the biker spun on her heels and smashed her fist into the closest man's face, creating a small commotion in the enemy's 'ranks' and allowing the two of them to break free from the circle.

"Now we start running like we're gonna be undertricked*** big time!" Natsuki was sprinting towards the mall like there was no tomorrow. Nao followed close behind her.

"Underwha-? Oh, never mind!"

The glass doors closed behind them, only to open a few seconds later to let the angry male mob inside.

I'm so dead! The flame-head thought, closing her lime eyes and running as fast as she could.


A short explanation of the game:

Contract bridge, usually known simply as bridge, is a trick-taking card game played by four players in two competing partnerships using a standard deck of 52 playing cards with partners sitting opposite each other around a table. For purposes of scoring and reference, each player is identified by one of the points of the compass and thus North and South play against East and West. The game consists of several hands (or deals) each progressing through four phases - dealing the cards, the auction (also referred to as bidding), playing the hand, and scoring the results. Dealing the cards and scoring the results are procedural activities while the auction and playing the hand are the two actively competitive phases of the game.

*Grand slam - a contract to win all thirteen tricks (hands). Bidding and making a grand slam scores significant bonus points.

**Attitude - a defender player's desire, or lack thereof, for his side to continue playing a suit. By means of signals, defender encourages or discourages the continuation of the suit.

***Undertrick - a trick that declarer does not win, causing the contract to go down. Multiple undertricks occur: for example, two undertricks could result in 4 hearts down two.