Disclaimer: Mai HiME belongs to some fellows at Sunrise. It will still belong to them when we get to part two.
Notes: I'm calling this a companion and sequel because part one is mostly concerned with prior events, getting Mikoto to where she was in Rain Down on Me. Part two (which I should post not too long from now) will be the sequel proper. As always much thanks and appreciation to Crossy for pulling beta reading duty. All remaining mistakes are naturally mine.
Shine Down on Me
Mikoto was happy with her life as it was- not perfectly happy, but enough that she looked forward to almost every day. It was odd to look back at her life before, seen with her new perspectives on what was right and what was happy. Sometimes she felt a little foolish, but mostly she was glad that she got the bad bits over before she really knew how good things could be.
She had been a bit lost after the carnival. It didn't sink in right away, but bit by bit things would occur to her and she wouldn't know what to do with the information. She wasn't a HiME anymore. What did that mean? She'd never relied that much on her CHILD, and she was still strong and fast. Now she knew where her brother was and she did not have to defeat her enemies in order to claim a place in his life. She didn't even want the place that she had once been willing to kill for. And it was a strange thing.
There was no point in throwing blame around, at least, Mikoto didn't think so. Most everyone had just done what they'd thought would be the best for the people they cared about. They'd been wrong, but no more than she had been. She had been trying to do what was best too, and she did not want to hang on to the guilt and bad feelings. She figured that meant the best thing to do was to forgive them all… except the bastard who'd been behind everything. He was dead, so it was all good.
Still, there was the question of 'what comes next?' Mikoto hadn't even been trying to answer it when Mai started trying for her. Mai was ecstatic to see the end of the carnival and everything that had come with it. There was a whole list of goals from before that Mai simply picked up again and tore into with relish. Mai had been going home. Mikoto had been entering Mai's world for the first time. So many little things mattered here, and the steps to finding your place were so much more obscure and… well, silly than fighting your way there, literally. There would be fighting of another sort, she found. It started in earnest when Mai realized that beyond just a few symbols that Mikoto didn't truly know how to read. Mai got serious, which meant that she conscripted help.
It had seemed like the best possible plan would be to have each person teach the subject they were best at. You really have to know something to teach it, after all. This theory was abandoned after Mai failed to teach her any functional English and after Natsuki had come very close to committing violence while trying to get her up to speed in mathematics.
Mikoto hadn't wanted to cause anyone trouble, but she also hadn't really seen the point in this academic assault her friends had launched at her. She'd managed to get by as she was for years. When Mikoto asked 'why?' it had actually been Natsuki who'd answered, even though she'd been asking Mai.
"In this world we really want two things: a place for ourselves, and the tools we need to take care of the people important to us." When she'd added, "And good food," Mikoto had nodded seriously, in complete agreement. "So, without any real enemies left, killing people only leads to your place being in prison… which doesn't lead to being able to be there for your friends or to good food." Mikoto's full attention and horror had been won with that. "Getting a place in this world… well, you prove to them that you know things. More than that, you prove to them that you're willing to go where you're told, and learn what they tell you to. Some of it will be useful, some of it won't, but it's the willingness to work that people are looking for."
Mai had teased Natsuki that she was one to talk. They'd bantered for a while and Mikoto had thought. Willing to work? Mikoto had always been willing to work. She'd just needed to be taught a new way to work and then she'd fill out as many pointless pieces of paper as it took to be where she could protect her friends and family.
A new way to work…
Akira, back from America, had taught her writing. For the ninja, kanji was an art and any art could have a martial quality. There was an order, a kata for making the characters- a series of strikes.
Akane had tutored her in math. Akane struggled with the subject herself. In order to pass, she had to break the material into its simplest form, its smallest steps.
This was how Mikoto and her extended family tackled all of her subjects. They gave her a process and she learned how to work in the academic world. In time she got the hang of it. Even in her worst subjects, a year after the HiME carnival, she could get by on her own power.
With the tactic of asking for help from someone who had struggled, she did eventually go to Natsuki for advice. From time to time she went to the older girl with questions about social things. After the initial awkwardness had been conquered they had laughed a lot together.
Mai had also been concerned over the social aspect of Mikoto's life. That had to have been why Tate had approached her, shinai in hand. He had been remarkably patient too, in showing her the rules of kendo, explaining why most fatal moves were illegal. There had also been more than a few beatings taken 'round the head that he'd suffered more or less in stride. By the time she joined the kendo club she'd realized that she liked him well enough. Mikoto wasn't even really jealous of him, just a little sad. He was good for Mai she guessed, for now.
Two years had passed. She'd made and kept friends. She had a relationship with her brother they could both live with. She went to school and seemed to be on track to pass her junior year of high school. Still, some days she woke up feeling restless, as if her new life was alien. Once in a while she would stop hearing the words of her instructors as actual words and instead heard them as nothing more than random sounds. At times she would be in a situation and have no idea what people expected of her. She worked through these and more and more often she was better prepared next time.
Two years had passed, and she was starting to understand what Mai had tried to tell her back then. Love was good, but love was not all the same. There was familial love- which applied to some friends but not to others. Love of friends, respect of teachers, loyalty to teammates- all very different forms of the same thing and none of those the meaning that everyone talked about, worried over, obsessed on…
To learn that, would she need someone who had struggled with love? Or was that something she could trust to her own instincts when the time came?
A month ago, Mikoto had noticed Nao without an umbrella in the rain. There had been no question of whether to go to her or not. They did not perhaps speak often, but they had a bond and understanding. They were, had been, the children who weren't. Every time she looked into Nao's eyes, even from their first meeting, she found understanding- even if it had not always come with acceptance.
Nao was fun, sharp, and exciting. And sometimes, when you really needed, she was kind. She didn't pull her punches and she didn't give a damn about all the window dressing this world seemed to require. She was absolutely real.
That day, during the rain, had been important. Mikoto had felt things changing and it was as electric as the lightening in the sky. She hadn't known what change it was or what the future would bring. She had known it was for both of them and that made her happy. Nao was good company.
They had spent quite a bit of time together since then. They'd done some studying; they went places, and sometimes just stayed in, talking about all sorts of things. Of course, some very specific rules had cropped up, unspoken ones, during those talks. They didn't talk much about other people, and certain people, they didn't talk about at all. Mikoto suspected that Nao had some things, people, to forget. She wondered if any amount of talking about other things would really make that happen.
The answer turned out to be: sort of. They were making new memories, light hearted, to better balance the dark.