Shizuku Sango was not a person that many people at school knew well. Yes, she was popular with the girls and boys side of the school, but that was mostly because of the image she projected. All the students saw was the image of the elegant big sister figure, and never saw what hid underneath that.

Which, honestly, Shizuku preferred, It was much easier to let people see what they wanted to see than actually try to relate to them honestly. Her few attempts to let people close hadn't ended all that well, after all. Her best friend Kaede went from a sweet, kind girl to a madwoman, while Natsuru... well, she liked Natsuru, but the young man was annoyingly unclear about his own feelings. Or her feelings, depending.

So when Nao Yuuki arrived, Shizuku was rather relieved at having such a amusing distraction come along. The redhead was attractive and quickly developed a fanclub of interested girls. She was someone who claimed to be very experienced, yet was vulnerable to teasing. And she was SO cute when she was flustered too. It was quite endearing, really.

She interviewed Nao after the first Kampfer attack, and later after a newspaper report outed Nao as gay friendly. Both times she had enjoyed teasing the younger woman, and she was faintly surprised at how easy it was to talk to her. She also had a sharp tongue and a lot of nerve, being willing to challenge Kaede like she did.

Later that same day she teased Nao at lunch, when they were discussing the danger of Kaede's White Kampfers. While it was fun making her blush, Shizuku was actually rather touched that Nao seemed concerned with her welfare. They walked home after school, and once again Nao startled her with her insights on Kampfer and their situation.

One of Shizuku's greatest frustrations was that no one seemed to ask questions about the Kampfers. No one seemed to wonder how supposed aliens were giving them magical bracelets. (And what about the talking stuffed animals?) Or for that matter why they were being compelled to fight to the death. There had to be more efficient ways to handle all this.

When Ryouka the machine gun using White Kampfer attacked them, Shizuku was taken by surprise. Not Nao, who shoved her down and quite possibly saved her from being shot in the head. She had laid there, stunned for a moment, even as the curvy redhead had laid sprawled over her. It had felt... surprisingly good, really.

She and Nao quickly handled Ryouka and her sword using ally, Sayaka, and the two women fled when Shizuku gave them the opportunity. Capturing them wasn't really a option, and killing them... well, again, not a option. The street was eerily quiet as they stood there, the only sounds cars off in the distance and Nao's phone as she called to make sure the others were fine.

"Looks like everyone made it home," Nao said briskly, but hiding her obvious relief, "they escorted Natsuru hone, then split up."

Shizuku smiled faintly as she noted, "Shouldn't that have been the other way around?"

"They're after Natsuru, I think the rest of us are just collateral damage," Nao noted dryly. She looked at Shizuku intently, "You all right?"

As she said that Shizuku realized that yes, she was a bit shaken by the battle. If Ryouka had managed to surprise them, it was quite possible she could have died. And as a long time survivor of the Kampfer wars she knew that death was very, very real for them all.

"Sit down for a minute," Nao suggested, gesturing to a nearby bench.

"I'm fine," Shizuku told her firmly, even as she drove away the feeling of fear. She didn't have time for it now, she could let herself feel it later.

"Then let ME sit down," Nao shot back. Shizuku looked at her in surprise as Nao continued, "Damn it, I nearly got shot and stabbed. With real weapons!"

"I'm sorry," Shizuku quietly apologized to her as they both sat down on the bench, taking a moment to recover.

Nao sat back with a sigh as she said, "You don't have to be that tough, you know." An amused look crossed her face and Nao laughed, "Not that I'm one to talk..."

Shizuku smiled, wondering what Nao was alluding to. She supposed it might have something to do with her 'delinquent' background. (Shizuku had seen her record when she transferred. Interestingly there were a lot of accusations of mischief, but very little proven. Shizuku rather suspected that the woman investigating Nao, Suzushiro, had rather lost her perspective on the girl.)

"I hadn't really considered that we were pulling you into our war, Nao," Shizuku admitted to her quietly, feeling slightly guilty.

Nao shrugged slightly, her expression actually rather amused. "My life in Fuka wasn't much more relaxed than here," she said dryly.

Shizuku raised her eyebrows, wondering what exactly had happened to Nao back at her school. "Anyway, thank you for everything you've done," she said with a smile.

"It's fine," Nao shrugged as they headed out.

Shizuku walked Nao to her home, and the two parted. Going home she sat in the window seat, looking out at the city as she considered what to do next. Yet as she sat there, something more... disturbing intruded on her thoughts.

When Nao has pressed her to the ground, bullets whizzing by them, Shizuku had felt a almost irresistible urge to pull her down into a kiss. Her heart had pounded as she looked up into those catlike eyes, and a surge of raw desire had made her weak.

'It was just a reaction from combat, soldiers have it all the time,' Shizuku tried to tell herself. Yet the urge to kiss Nao still remained...


Back at Fuka Academy, Nao Yuuki's former school, things were going in some... unusual directions. One of the more commonly known 'secrets' of the school was the Hime Festival, in which the girls possessed of Hime powers would be forced to fight each other until one was the victor.

However, the battle could not start without all the Hime being present.

Mashiro Kazahana hummed to herself cheerily, even as her counterpart Nagi just glared at her. "How could you let Nao leave the campus?" he demanded, the white haired boy looking much more aggravated than he usually let himself get.

"I had no choice," Mashiro smirked, "her father had every right to take custody of her."

"Arr." Nagi tore at his hair lightly in frustration. "I've worked YEARS to get everyone in place, and you..."

Mashiro quietly enjoyed herself as Nagi went incoherent in anger. She let him make various annoyed noises a while then sighed. "You need to calm down," she chided.

"Calm down?" Nagi yelped.

Mashiro looked at her servant and calmly said, "Fumi, slap him."

"Yes ma'am," the pink haired woman beamed. Before Nagi could react Fumi took two steps over to him and slapped him, firmly on the cheek and rocked his head back.

"What did you do that for?" Nagi complained.

"You were getting hysterical," Mashiro told him calmly.

Nagi took a few deep breaths, but strangely the slap had helped. He felt a bit more focused, his mind a bit clearer. "You know your supporters want the battle to happen too," he reminded her.

"I know," Mashiro conceded with a sigh.

Both she and Nagi represented factions with a stake in the Hime conflict. Nagi and his Obsidian Lord wanted the battle to happen so that they could claim the surviving Hime as a pawn. Mashiro and the priestesses that supported her wanted the power of the Hime to try to overturn the battle that had been waged for centuries. Neither simply wanted to call the whole thing off.

"You do know that I was serious when I said there is nothing I can do," Mashiro cautioned him. "Her father has every right to ask for custody."

Nagi scowled as he paced around the sitting room of Mashiro's mansion. ""I don't dare take action against the father," he muttered thoughtfully.

"Don't you dare consider that," Mashiro scowled at him. "It's against the rules our factions set, you know."

"Yeah, yeah," Nagi waved a hand.

Fumi ignored his dramatics as she asked Mashiro, "More tea, mistress?"

|Yes," Mashiro nodded, "but something decaff for Nagi. He clearly doesn't need to be more excitable right now."

"Yes mistress," Fumi beamed.

Nagi glared at Mashiro, "Sure, yuk it up." He sighed as he paced, "We need all the Hime together to activate the red star..."

Mashiro sipped her tea, hoping he would NOT deduce what she had already figured out. There was a relatively simple solution to their problem, though implementing that solution would cause it's own headaches.

"Your tea," Fumi returned with the plate, "and I brought some cake too." She gave Nagi a much less friendly look, "Would you like milk? Or some water?"

"No," Nagi scowled back, "but bring me some cake." He paused, a odd look crossing his face as he muttered, "Bring..."

'Oh dear,' Mashiro thought, realizing that Nagi might have figured it out.

"We can't bring her back here," Nagi said excitedly, "but can we bring the Hime to HER?" He looked at Mashiro, "Can it work?"

Mashiro frowned as she considered the possibility she had hoped he would NOT consider. "We can start things there," she said after a moment, "but there are too many critical elements here and around Fuka. The final conflicts would have to be here."

"We can work around that," Nagi said excitedly, "All we have to do is get some of the Hime to go after Nao. Piece of cake."

Before he could ask Fumi told him cheerfully, "No, I will not leave my mistress's side."

"No." Natsuki Kuga told him later.

"No," Shizuru Fujino told him flatly.

"Bwa ha ha ha ha!" Midoi laughed. "No."

"Why would I want to hurt Nao?' Mai asked innocently.

"Will there be delicious food afterward?" Mikoto asked.

"No, Mikoto!" Mai yelped, dragging the other girl away.

"No," Yukino shook her head, even though she knew her girlfriend would probably support going after Nao.

"Damn," Nagi sighed, "this might be harder than I thought."

To be continued...