So ummm...have no idea what to say here! Anyhoo, this is my first fic. In the past month i have read so many amazing fanfics and believe me, it was overwhelming! I have added a few authors in my favs and absolutely love their styles. I can only wish to get some of the Shiznat appreciators to read my fic.
I have no clue how good or bad i am, but please be honest in what ever you say. I do not mean to offend anyone with the matter and hope that nobody finds any such thing. Positive or negative feedback, all welcomed! That will surely help me grow as a budding on-trial-basis writer! Lastly, if it isn't too much to ask can every shiznat fan read my fic...please...pretty please! Argh...can't help but be greedy...
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or Mai-HIME or Mai-Otome or anything.
But, not a single soul on earth can deny my claim on this particular story!(Now i am just blabbering...)
Summary: Alternate universe. It's merely an introduction of the characters. Depth will come along as it proceeds. Destiny plays a major part in this. Of course their personal struggles, drama, comedy, and all...in short everything!
CHAPTER 1: The Blind Date
"Dad no", declared a twenty-one years old girl with all her might. Trying not to be loud and offensive towards her father, she hoped her words carried the required amount of weight and means necessary for the situation.
Finally, a man in his mid forties realized that he had no choice but to pay attention and have a calm and calculated talk with her daughter. He, without looking at her daughter, slowly folded the newspaper and placed it on the coffee table. After this, he again, ever so slowly took out his glasses and kept it on the folded newspaper.
"Ahem..hmmhh", he cleared his throat, shifted on the single seat stylish looking sofa, and steered his gaze in the direction of his daughter who was standing hovering over him attempting to look anything but serious and angry. "Okay, so what do you want to talk about"?
"What? Seriously haven't you heard a word of what I just said", said the girl and sat down on the long sofa kept in the right direction of his father. Composing herself in a moment of silence, she relaxed in her seat positioning her head on the head-rest watching the ceiling.
"Well…", the man trailed off the sentence with an expectant tone.
The girl, though unmoving, only tilted her head to her left and looked at her father with slightly drooped eye-lids and said, "I don't want to go on this date you said".
"And why not", the man, not caring to keep an eye contact, asked while running both his hands through his hair. He hoped his gesture might make his daughter see how not-interested he was in this so-not-important conversation.
"Umm…because blind dating is just so tedious and who goes on blind date now a days anyway", replied the daughter. "Well, that and I plan on getting wasted on my graduation party tonight…hehe. Like hell I will tell you that", she felt giddy and smug inside at the thought of all the fun she'd be having tonight at the party.
"That's it! Just that and nothing else", the man was obviously bored and disappointed with the point brought forward by her daughter. He started putting on his glasses and lifted up the folded newspaper. Unfolding it to the page he previously was reading he added, "if that was your effort of having an important conversation then I suggest you start talking a lot less please".
"Huh? What the…". Her father's words took a moment to register in her mind. She felt a little insulted and now understood that she does not have a shot at making him listen to her. Taking a last shot she said, "So you are not going to listen. Okay fine, I am calling mom now". Feeling self-satisfied she watched her father put down the newspaper and wait for her to call her mother. "Mom". She shouted a few times repeatedly as she knew her mother would take her time to come from the study.
A woman around the same age as the man present in the room came, rather casually. While walking past her daughter, who was now diffusing animated fumes from her body, she came to stop in front of the single seat sofa where her husband was sitting with a playful and seductive look. The woman bent down and kissed the man quite openly.
After few seconds of uncomfortable environment the girl spoke up, "Hello there! This is your daughter standing watching you guys make out". She said and turned around to avoid seeing the scene playing out before her. At that uncomfortable and weird moment she felt like the luckiest person in the whole world. Every day since childhood she would hear about some kid's parents getting separated or divorced or extra-marital affairs and god knows how many stupid problems.
Never in life till date, neither she had nor will she have to think or worry about that kind of thing. Her parents had always been openly expressive of the love and admiration they felt for each other. She had grown up listening to the series of stories that formed her parents' love story. A small gratifying smile formed on her face while she still waited for them to stop kissing and pay attention to her.
Her mom was now sitting down on the hand-rest of the sofa her father was sitting on. She had both her hands resting on her husband's shoulders and he had his right arm curled around her waist. She cleared her throat and gestured her daughter to turn around as their make out session was done now.
"What is it dear", her mother asked.
"Nothing big, I just do not want to go to the blind date you guys are setting me up on".
"And why is that"?
"What why? Without even asking me you have set me up with a girl", She said. Without waiting another moment she exclaimed, "A GIRL MOM", she tried to stress this part and wished she will be able to get out of this "blind date" by emphasizing on the means of uncertainty of her parents about her sexuality. Within a second after this thought, another one passed through her mind and a flash of confusion came upon her features. She could not stop herself from uttering the question, "by the way, how do you guys even know if I like girls or guys"?
At this question her mother stood up. While sauntering towards her daughter she, oh so seductively, ran her left hand fingers from the back of her husband's neck to the corner of his mouth. Her daughter rolled her eyes at this gesture. When she reached her daughter, she gave her an all-knowing motherly smile.
Her daughter loosened herself on her mother's loving gesture and kept looking at her minutely confused. "Ummm…Oookay, why do I feel like this smile is not what it seems like".
"Well, you have not brought a single boy home ever, not even just a friend. You have been a part of an all girl group since childhood. You might have not understood the meaning of getting over-protective about some friend of yours but I did. You might have thought you had hidden away your tears and heartache in high school when you first realized the girl you liked is happy with a guy, but I noticed. I also noticed the awkwardness between you and your red-head friend after some episode of drunken fooling around".
Her daughter only stood still motionless wide-eyed. It was too much information to process just in few seconds. Hell, it was too much for all her life. Hearing her mother say every single thing she had always thought was way out of her mom's reach, was just unbelievable.
"Whoa! Mom you were not supposed to know those things! Man, this maternal power is sick strong". She thought to herself while remembering and flashing back to every single incident her mother was mentioning.
"Do you still need to know how I know all these things? Sweetie, you are a part of me. Anything and everything that has an effect on you will affect me too. Either bad or good, I do not need to talk to you to know how you feel at the moment. Just one look and I know. I am your mother, Natsuki Kuga. Do not ever forget that", her mother at that instant believed that her daughter now knows who holds the cards here. Satisfied with the emotional web she laid around her daughter, she went back to her previous seat beside her husband.
"God, why do we children have such reactions to our mothers? Damn it… it's not fair". She knew that she now had no choice but to do what they asked her to do. "Okay fine. Just tell me again who she is and where do I have to meet her".
( ( ( ( ( _) ) ) ) )
After around an hour, in the study of the same bungalow the husband and wife were going through some official documents. They both were standing on the opposite sides of the table scattered with files and papers and few other things.
"You sure merger file is absolute? We won't have to call the lawyer at the last minute right", questioned the wife with a slight amount of anxiety in her voice.
"Relax. The merger does not worry me at all. I am more curious if Natsuki will be okay tonight? Will she even like that girl? I am not making a mistake by including her in this, am I", the husband kept on going nervously.
"Natsuki will be fine. She is our daughter, have a little faith at least", said the wife now turning to face her husband. Lifting her hands she wrapped them around his neck and waited till his hands were on her waist pulling her close. "Besides, she just has to meet. She is not pressured into any relationship. It's freewill for both the girls. And, no. You, my dearest husband, are not doing anything wrong. You can never do anything wrong, trust me", she added confidently and kissed her husband on the corner of his mouth.
"Your nearness has such a calm effect on me", the husband said while savoring the feel of his wife's lips on his skin. "I love you so much, Seako Kuga", he expressed while he looked at his own reflection in those light emerald pools.
"I love you too, Shoji Kuga", said the wife and leaned into her husband's arms to reach for his lips.
Shoji Kuga, was a successful and highly respected businessman in Fuuka. SNS enterprises were fast making its place in the top list of two-wheeler engine manufacturers all over the country. And soon, with a successful upcoming merger he was going to venture in the world of four-wheeler engines.
Shoji and Seako Kuga fell in love while in college. Shoji was the most sought after lady charmer and on the other hand Seako was the feared yet worshipped heart breaker. At last Seako had to fall for the charmer, after all how long can one resist the inevitable and also she had to, for Shoji, disrupt the heart trending pattern and preserve this particular heart. The love and admiration between them had only grown and become stronger day by day.
More so, when they were showered with the poise of an amazingly beautiful daughter. Their daughter, Natsuki Kuga, was the finest of refinement of best of the features of her parents. The eye-catching blend of her father's cobalt and her mother's midnight black long locks had made her illustrious even among crowd, the emerald eyes of her mother unified miraculously with the sturdy and piercing gaze of her father, the lithe body for a woman, and the vigor of a lioness. Natsuki Kuga, the girl, was now becoming quite an enticing and sensual woman.
The SNS enterprises had been on the hunt to expand their hold in the market. During which period, they came to know about another firm from another city aiming for the same thing. Through some contacts, they both had met and decided to venture into this as a joined force. So, now after two months of, formally and casually, getting familiar they became greedy and wanted to make their association more special. As a result of which, they had decided to set their respective daughters on a blind date with each other.
Killing two birds with one stone, was how they wanted to think of this. The company merger will bring the same amount of profits to both of them and if, that was an if, their daughters had come to like each other they would just about become family. For both the families, conjoined resultant of their names was rather appealing. Kuga-Fujino or Fujino-Kuga sounded like music to the parents of both the families!
If only their daughters would agree…
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
Somewhere in Garderobe, two hours away from the city of Fuuka, in the meantime a young lady's mind was fixated on an inane conversation she had had with her father that morning.
On the 10th floor of Fujino Corporation building, the early morning meeting was going on with full force. It was just another important monthly meetings held to overlook the progress of every department. All the twelve chairs surrounding the large rectangular table were occupied by professional looking officials, listening to everything being said with unwavering interest. It had basically gone well. After the meeting, the current CEO of Fujino Corps had gone to her cabin.
After about fifteen minutes of going through the contract of upcoming merger, the intercom buzzed.
"Yes Miya", asked the CEO picking up the receiver but not looking up from the file.
"Miss Fujino, your father is here to see you", replied the secretary.
After getting a heads up from her boss, the secretary had accompanied him to his desired cabin. When the glass door slid, she got up from her chair to receive her father in.
"Ah…You are so very kind to accompany him, Miya. Please do not pass through any calls for the time being. Thank you. You may excuse us now", she said with a soft commanding tone while holding the gaze of her secretary.
"Yuh-umm yes, yes Miss Fujino, of course", replied the secretary after tearing her eyes away from those acute and in-control crimson stare. Slightly blushing she excused herself and backed away after sliding the door back. "Damn it! Those eyes are lethal", was the only thing she could think.
"I take it your staff is happy working with you", said her father who did not miss the pink on the secretary's cheeks and felt proud on her daughter's immense subtle aptitude in conversation.
"Ara…I only hope to stand up to your expectations, father", replied her daughter with a warm and self-pleased smile.
"From what I hear about today morning's meeting I can, without a speck of doubt, say that you have already surpassed any expectations dear", complimented her father feeling a little smug about his decision of making her daughter the CEO of Fujino Corps few months prior.
By this moment she was seated back on her chair and had once again retreated back to the file she had left off. Her father was now approaching the chair kept across her neatly settled table.
He made himself comfortable. After a few moments of silence he finally spoke up, "Shizuru….
"Hmm… yes father"?
"I have been meaning to talk to you about something". He knew that her daughter was smart enough to understand he was not finished yet. When Shizuru propped up her head looking at her father indicating for him to continue he added, "I comprehend that you are aware of the merger with SNS Enterprises that is going to be officially announced this Saturday".
He waited for her daughter's response. Shizuru nodded once in agreement and again waited for him to keep going.
"Well, you see, Shoji Kuga-the founder of SNS Enterprises, and myself have gotten fairly acquainted in these last few weeks. They are really nice people. And I have no doubt about my decision regarding the merger. But before, I go on I also need to know something about your life".
Shizuru was a little perplexed with the last part. But keeping any sign of confusion away from her features she serenely replied, "Of course they are good people, father. Everybody in this company has complete faith in your actions. But, I apologize for I do not grasp what it is that you want to know about my life".
Her father, Aiko Fujino-the director of Fujino Corps, again was quite pleased with the ingenious way her daughter had indicated her doubt without actually pointing it out in the open. "Well, I only wanted to know if there is someone special in your life at present". He expressed his concern rather nonchalantly.
At this, Shizuru could not compose herself from faltering and her eyebrows furrowed for a fraction of second. Her uneasiness faintly increased. She slyly recovered and chose to answer as normally possible. "Ara, I most certainly do not understand what my private life has to do with this merger and no, I do not have someone special in my life at present".
"Ah… I am glad", he muttered not letting the annoyance in his daughter's voice hinder him a bit. "Shizuru, I have set up a meeting for you tonight with Shoji Kuga's daughter. See if you can come to like her". He stated very bluntly and stood up from his chair prompting his daughter too to stand up with him.
"But father I assumed the official announcement of the merger was going to happen this Saturday at our residence with the Kuga family present. So, why this meeting all of a sudden", Shizuru asked and hoped that her playing innocent and dumb might get her out of this sudden abrupt request from her father. "Huh…Since when has my father started setting up blind dates for me? 'See if I could come to like her'. What was that all about"? She was panicking inside.
"Shizuru, this meeting is not an official one. I doubt Kuga's daughter even knows about the merger as she has just finished graduation and is yet to join hands with her parents in family business. It is a date, dear. I do not want to force you into something you do not want to do. But, I only ask for you to meet her once and see how it develops further. You can say no too but it would mean a lot if you at the very least meet her once", he said while walking back to the sliding glass door of the cabin.
Shizuru just stood by her chair dumbfounded and slightly hurt as she knew it was more of a command than a mere request. She was lost in all sorts of thoughts and confusions. She heard her father call her name again and she looked at his receding back with low questioning hum.
"You will get the mail of the meeting venue and time. And I will be handling your appointments for today. You should take an early leave for now". He said and walked out of the cabin leaving his confused, annoyed, and slightly furious daughter behind.
"Ara…a blind date". She flopped back on her chair and kept staring at the merger contract placed on her table. That file, that poor non-living thing was at that moment the object of her misdirected wrath. She kept staring and staring at it.
About ninety minutes of feeling gloomy and madly irritated, she came to her senses. Staring at the file was not going to do any good. She stood up from her chair and started pacing in the cabin pointlessly. The thought of having some green tea to calm her nerves crossed her mind but she did not feel like staying at office anymore. Hastily she cleaned up the table and picked up her bag.
She came out of her cabin and paced in the direction of the hallway. While passing by her secretary's desk she only said, "I will be taking my leave for today", without looking in Miya's direction and shot off towards the lift. She had left for home to calm herself and think the matter through with a cool mindset and, of course, a cup of steaming tea in her hand.
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
Natsuki was now furiously driving past the traffic not caring about the anything else. She only wanted to ease herself a little. Her friends were waiting for her at the Fuuka club. After parking and entering the club, she was directed towards the private chamber that her friends had occupied for few hours.
Entering it, she saw that Mai was instructing Mikoto something about how to play or shoot at pool, Nao who stood across them both was only making noises and faces while assuring that Mai was wasting her energy. On the sofa, at the other end of the room was Chie and Aoi making out very shamelessly.
Walking towards the sofa, she threw her leather jacket over them in an attempt to cover them and threw herself on to the couch disrupting the lovey-dovey couple. Noticing the annoyance through her actions, Mai walked around the pool table and came to sit beside Natsuki. "Why act so grumpy, princess"? She asked.
"Sorry guys, the graduation party needs to be postponed. No can do it today", said Natsuki appearing apologetic.
"What the hell, mutt! What is wrong with you? We have been at it since last week and just because you feel a little grumpy, you don't get to cancel the party", yelled Nao not moving from her place around the pool table.
"Shut up spidey". Exhaling out a bit loudly that necessary she turned to look at Mai who was the most capable and sound minded of all the people present in the room. "I am serious, I can't join you guys today. There is something I got to take care of for my parents."
"What is it, you sound a little off"? Questioned Mai now feeling a little concerned.
"Well, my parents suddenly felt the need to fix my love life"! She thought sarcastically. Feeling annoyed, again, at her own thought she placed her face in both her palms and grunted loudly. From her left she picked up some giggling and turned. She saw that Chie and Aoi were still covered under her jacket and god knows why they were giggling.
Without waiting another second, she got up and picked up the water pitcher placed on the side table at Mai's side of the sofa. Mai shot a questioning look but she did not care to answer. She walked back and stood hovering above the couple. Instantly yanking the jacket off of them, she poured out all the water from the pitcher over them.
"What the heck Natsuki"? Chie shot up. Aoi was still sitting, all drenched, as if trying to register what had brought her back to earth from la-la land.
"Get a room you idiot", Natsuki shot back and sat at the arm-rest at Mai's side as her previous seat was now all wet.
Chie pulled up Aoi and motioned her to come with her. She mouthed a curse and flashed the middle finger to Natsuki. They both then went to other side of the room and stood beneath the ceiling fan to dry themselves.
"What is going on? What did your parents do to you", asked Mai looking up to her right at Natsuki.
"Well, they have set up a blind date for me".
"Yup! Blind date with the daughter of some business person he knows I guess…
"It's just a date right? So what is the problem? Go, meet her, and tell your parents you do not like her. Simple as that". Mai stated a simple solution.
"I know that thanks", said Natsuki placing her head in her palms once again. Mai was not sure why her friend was over-reacting to such a simple situation. She got up and went back to teaching Mikoto. Natsuki herself did not know why she was behaving in such erratic manner for something that has out and out solution. "Why am I being so difficult? It isn't like they have forced me into a marriage or something. I can anytime easily say that I do not like this girl and my life will be unchanged. But, why do I feel anxious and uneasy about this"?
Constantly thinking about it was not helping her at all. She saw her friends who were enjoying playing pool. She looked at the time and she had almost an hour now before she needed to go back home to get ready for her blind date thingy. She thought of enjoying some game and refreshing her mood. She might need it later if her date was some boring stuck-up businesswoman. She nodded to herself in agreement of her thought and stood up sauntering towards the pool table.
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
Shizuru was now sitting in her study with a cup of tea and a work file she was going through to distract herself. But all her efforts seemed fruitless as after every few minutes her train of thoughts took a trip back to the same conversation with her father. "Why would father suggest something like this? A blind date with a daughter of his business associate"?
She then thought of the part where her father mentioned that she can say no she wanted to. But, also she could not ignore the underlying commanding tone his father held while making her daughter deem it as a request. And above all she could not understand her state of confusion and uneasiness regarding this whole matter. "Father has only asked me to meet her once. I can always deny any kind of further interest in future. The solution is quite straight and in front of my eyes but why this panicking restlessness and anxiety"?
They both only wondered to themselves about their respective agitated thoughts. No one can say what destiny has up its sleeves till the moment one stands face to face with their fate. Natsuki Kuga and Shizuru Fujino, like any other person, were just moments away from having to face their fortune, which they now feared as their misfortune. Little did they know that this was mere the silhouette of the bliss they were going to be showered with.
Back home, Natsuki stood in front of a full view mirror of her bedroom and looked at herself in wonder. "Is this how people dress for dates"? She felt a tad bit uncomfortable with her reflection. On her father's insistence she was wearing a dark bluish suit complete with a vest inside the blazer. "Trust me, this will complement combination of your hair and eyes", was what her father had said. To her eyes, she looked like someone had dipped her in dark blue paint and put her in front of the mirror!
But, only an onlooker could understand how beautifully balanced the color looked on her. Her hair that was let loose looked absolutely magnificent when the shift of light and dark shades of the same color got exchanged between her clothes and her dark locks.
The overall harmony of blue brought out the fierceness of her emeralds out, more than usual. The vest that clasped at the sides of her upper-body would definitely coax every soul around her to stare at her in awe. The fitting trousers efficiently added to the scenery. And in the end was the classic black not-too-pointy boots that finished the godly elegance of Natsuki's perfect body.
She was sent off with the car and the driver. Well, her parents of course did not want their masterpiece destroy its effect on the way. So, the driver was instructed about the venue which was going to take around an hour to reach. She had her PSP with her for passing time and her father told her that he will mail her about the reservation once he gets a confirmation. Natsuki Kuga was, at last, on her road to her destiny.
At the exact opposite side from this, in Garderobe, Shizuru was giving herself a last look in the mirror before leaving. She was adorning a red backless strapped gown with a front right cut that reached her right mid-thigh. She had a silver necklace with a ruby pendant around her neck. The pendant rested at the triangular hollow where slope of her neck came to a finish and was supported by the slightly protruding collar bones from both sides. To match everything she put on silver heels with a little black thrown in. Her chestnut hair and smooth creamy skin worshipped the garment clung to her body.
She lifted the black long overcoat from the coat rack. With that she left for her car. Shizuru found out that the driver had already been instructed about the venue and time. She only had to sit down and wait for them to arrive. The drive would take about an hour during which time the rapidity of her thoughts was only going to increase by every minute. Reluctantly she had seated herself on the back seat and the drive had begun. Likewise, Shizuru Fujino had embarked upon the pavement to her fate.
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
The exquisite city of Cardair, that lay between Fuuka and Garderobe. It generally took an hour or so from both the cities to get here. The Celest Hall, was the pride of this city and attractions for many people all over the country. The beauty of this place never failed to amaze anyone who entered these halls. The ground floor was occupied with a few small coffee house and small take out places. On the next two floors was the restaurant and then all the above floors were the rooms that kept improving as the floors went up.
On the second floor of The Celest Hall, in the restaurant, a private booth was reserved for a lovely date.
Five minutes away from reaching, Shizuru's cell phone beeped in her clutch. Flipping it open she had a mail from her father. It read:
Venue: The Celest Hall, Second Floor restaurant, Private Booth No. 9. Reserved in the name of Fujino-Kuga.
Shizuru sat immobile bewildered as if in shock of something she had read. She unconsciously kept chanting Fujino-Kuga repeatedly in her head. The letters started dancing in front of her eyes in different fonts and colors. She jerked forward as the car came to stop in front of the gateway of The Celest Hall. Her body worked on its own and entered the building. She avoided the elevator; unaware of the gawking eyes she took the stairs. Her train of thoughts was now moving at a very dangerous speed. Her heart was also responding to the mind threatening to fail at any moment. At reaching the second floor there stood a young guy who offered to take her overcoat. Absentmindedly she took it out and gave it the man. He stood there in shock after watching the beauty in front of him. Shizuru had already walked past him, and he stood there staring at her disappearing back.
"Fujino-Kuga! Has father already assumed I will like this person? Is he intending to marry me off? What should I take the meaning of this Fujino-Kuga? What if he has already decided everything on my account? I can never go against him! I won't have a say in what happens in my future". She was standing at the hallway of the second floor. When she took one daring step towards the private booths, she had such a strong urge to take ten steps backwards. But, remembering how his father assured her that she won't be forced into anything she didn't want, she took another step, then another, and then another.
After five too-troubled steps, she stood still. Her future flashed in front of her eyes. She imagined that she was forced into this marriage, she was never happy, she was not left with any option of getting out of it, any chance of experiencing true love and loved by someone dearly was so completely out of question. Terrified and searching for air, she stood there. She gulped noisily a few times. Every single muscle in her body had ceased working.
Then and there she decided to back away. Fear finally took a toll on the built-in respect she had for her father's decision. Shizuru started walking back, one step at a time. The more she moved back, the more free and liberated she felt. Her body has again started working and her lungs were again filling with pure air of freedom. She turned and started walking hastily in no particular direction.
Shizuru reached side-passage of some sort. She entered it and came to a small door that seemed to lead to somewhere. At that point she only wanted to hide herself from any kind of possibility that would lead to the horrible future that just flashed in front of her eyes moments ago. She opened the door and went in.
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
The car stopped in front of The Celeste Hall. The moment she stepped out of the car her phone in her right jacket pocket buzzed. "Nice timing dad, I have already reached". She put the blazer on and entered the building. For a moment she was pleased with the interior and architecture of the venue. She waited for the elevator when the thought came to her mind that she had to read the text. She slid her phone open and opened the inbox. The text was:
Venue: The Celest Hall, Second Floor restaurant, Private Booth No. 9. Reserved in the name of Kuga-Fujino.
She did not read the whole text in a single go. Once she saw second floor she shrugged her shoulder and went to take the stairs as it was only second floor. On the final flight of stairs that led to the second floor hallways, she looked at her still open text and read further. There on starting point of the hallway, she came to an abrupt stop. Thunderstruck she kept staring at the phone screen. Only words visible to her were Kuga-Fujino.
The young guy of the cloak room was asking her something but she only kept staring. Without blinking she lifted her head and saw the guy who was now scared to death. He wondered what he had done wrong. Inattentively she asked the guy for the directions of restrooms. She then sped into the pointed direction.
In the restroom, she stood in front of the large mirror. Seeing the disbelief in her own eyes, she for one second hoped that what she saw was some confusion of her mind. She looked at the screen again, widening her eyes as if it would enable her to see clearly. But no change. That moment she panicked. She kept her phone back in the jacket and splashed some water on her face to cool down. Propping her palm heels on the wash basin she stood and closed her eyes.
"Kuga-Fujino! Kuga-Fujino? What the fuck! Dad… Why did dad do it? Shit…this name thing is something people do after getting married. Married… no way! My parents are thinking of my marriage? Damn it I am only 21…. Aarrghhh"! She kept her eyes closed trying to think calmly. "Ah… dad must be teasing. He never leaves a chance to pull my leg. Yes, that's it. That must be it! It has to be a tease. It is a tease". She repeated the last part in her mind countless times and when she thought she believed it herself then she opened her eyes.
She walked out of the restroom towards the direction of private booths. At the front desk, she confirmed her reservation and turned to proceed towards booth no.9. It was straight ahead ten steps from where she stood. Eyeing the booth for a minute she inhaled a long breath as if going under sea and then the first step.
As soon as her foot touched the floor, the color and surroundings started changing. The booths became blurry to her vision. She did not pay any attention and took another step. Then the booths slightly got replaced with benches and people sitting on them staring at her. Knowing that it was only her imagination, she took the third step and her breath hitched. The whole place had turned into a church with people sitting and staring at her like the bride walking down the aisle.
"This is just my freaking imagination. Natsuki Kuga is not scared of anything". She convinced herself and looked upfront to her booth but all she could see there stood a minister who was giving her some look. She again repeated the earlier mantra and took another step. That was it. Every person in the room had turned into a zombie. As if on cue, she looked down at herself and sure found a wasted, torn up, and bloodied white wedding gown. She yanked her head straight up ahead and found a tux wearing black-haired giant zombie waiting with a ring in her hands. Just then she felt something wrap around her neck tightly. Unable to breath she held her hands up to her neck and tried to ease up the muscles. Then she saw long ribbons made of words 'Kuga-Fujino' wrap all four of her limbs and pull. She felt like she had been under water for years without breathing.
She turned around ran like her life depended on it. As a matter of fact, it did. She did not stop anywhere in the middle. Reaching a hallway where nobody was present, she ran to the last door that appeared to lead somewhere. She pulled it open and entered the room. Just disappearing was not enough though. She pushed the latch on the top of the door, coming down she twisted the knob locking it, and then she even pushed down the bottom one. Once satisfied she was safe, she took a long breath and supporting her back she stood by the door.
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
After having adequate amount of air inside her lungs she pushed herself off of the door. "Damn it! Fuck… Ffuuucckkk…Fuuuuucccccckkkkkkk", she shouted out getting the good use of the air she had just sucked in. Each curse prolonged, extended, and louder than the previous one. Another minute passed in silence and she examined the room. It looked like some storage area of some kind. There were all kinds of broken furniture, kitchen equipments, buckets, plastic containers, old table clothes or bed sheets etc.
She started walking further inside the room. "Well, not bad huh"? She had just gotten the idea of spending an hour in that room and leave for home early enough to make it to her graduation bash. She felt smart about the idea and took another step inside. From right of her side she started watching everything coming in her view. When she reached the left wall, there she saw a red colored figure standing with support of a wooden plank placed by the wall.
"Hey", she greeted the red figure with a casual nod. It took another second for her mind to register that there was someone else with her in the room. "What the hell! Who is that"? She did a double take at the red figure. She voiced her thoughts. "What the…
"Ara…Please", another voice cut in before she could curse again. The red figure now free of its previous position, started approaching the small glass window. When the figure reached the window Natsuki could tell it was a woman. The woman crossed her arms across her chest and propped herself on the wall by her left side looking out the window. "Please, do not let the other word that comes out of your mouth be a curse", added the woman indifferently still looking out the window.
"Wha…huh", she muttered burrowing her brows in confusion. Then she realized the only words she has said audibly after entering the room has been the not-so-good ones. "Oh that. Well I am sorry".
No one said a word for good two minutes. Natsuki was getting agitated as she did not get any response to her apology. Slicing the silence, that was uncomfortable for her, she said, "Helllooo, I said sorry! But you know it's your luck if you caught me at a bad moment".
"Ara...I heard", replied the woman. Then again she fell silent. After few seconds she turned now facing Natsuki and continued, "You know, you really should not curse that much".
"Yeah? Well, what do you know? I had the worst experience ever…here in this building… this… this freaking oh-so-beautiful Celest Hall"! Natsuki spat out and started checking table if it was okay to sit on. "Beautiful! Beautiful my ass". She hissed and sat down.
She heard soft giggle coming from the other woman. After a moment of uncertainty Natsuki realized what that last part had sounded like and her cheeks flared up with embarrassment. "Arrghh… you know what I meant! Stop laughing". Fraction of second passed and a queue of thoughts crossed her minds. Unintentionally she blurted out those thoughts, "Who are you? What are you doing here in this room? And why am I even talking to you"?
"Are you not conscious that the same questions apply to you too", the woman stated and waited for Natsuki to grasp. The moment she realized she was going to get another angry retort she spoke softly, "I do not have any intention to offend you but I rather counted on having alone time and silence to myself".
Natsuki mouthed an 'O' and nodded her head in agreement. "Sorry! I won't talk anymore so go ahead, enjoy your silence". Natsuki took out her blazer and set it aside on the table and lied down carefully. She took out her PSP and started playing some racing game on it.
Shizuru, who was still standing by the window, turned to look at Natsuki. When she saw that the other girl had now busied herself in something and will probably not speak another word, she returned her gaze to the window. She stayed as she was and revered the moonlight combined with silence. Her eyes were closed now.
One minute…two minutes…three minutes…four minutes…tick-tock went on…
Natsuki had stopped playing. She was feeling extremely bored. She got off the table and looked around for some interesting stuff, but to no avail. In the whole room the only thing, well actually not a thing, the only other person was what caught her interest. She tip-toed towards the other person and stood across her.
Natsuki playfully mirrored Shizuru's form and stood there. When she was out of her playful mood, she could attentively look at Shizuru's stance. Natsuki did not need a touch to determine that the skin was velvety soft. The blend of chestnut locks and creamy skin was emanating a goddess' aura.
Natsuki's eyes fixed on the flawlessly defined jaw line. Then inching down she slowly traced the length of her slightly craned neck. She had this sudden urge to reach out and sketch out her neck's length with her finger tips. Natsuki was by now completely enthralled by the beauty standing in front her eyes. In the back of her mind she unconsciously wondered how her eyes must be.
She straightened herself from her form and stood straight gawking at Shizuru. As if wanting to see if this was all just an illusion or reality, her left hand lifted itself like it had its own mind. Her finger yearned to be placed upon that soft creamy cheek, but mid-way her hands stopped before reaching Shizuru.
Shizuru opened her eyes. Her mind took a moment to enlist where she was. She straightened her head and cocked an eye brow when she saw Natsuki standing in front of her and a hand seemed to be approaching her figure.
The moment Shizuru opened her eyes Natsuki noted the eyes. She was still in daze. "Amazing", she accidentally muttered under her breath. Shizuru's eyes narrowed in confusion and she freed herself from the long time pose she was holding. Natsuki blinked once and saw her right hand in mid-air.
"Oh my god! What the hell was I doing? Please don't think I am a pervert…please", she blinked a few times. "Think and speak you idiot. Think and speak now. NOW". "Umm…window". "Good job, continue". "Window. Yes, the window. I actually came to open it. I don't like all packed places. You see it gets claustrophobic. Also I need air. Of course I need air". She stopped the nervous blabbering when Shizuru moved a little to side.
Shizuru watched Natsuki's action with a certain interest. Natsuki had folded the shirt's arms a little above the wrists. Her vest was let loose and three top buttons of her shirt were undone. Shizuru stood in the shadow of the wall. The second the un-adulterated moonlight collapsed on Natsuki's face, everything shifted to slow motion.
Natsuki's pale skin gave a raw glow under the moonlight. After opening the window she closed her eyes and stood there. Shizuru saw Natsuki's chest fall up and down with every long breath she took. Her unbuttoned shirt came till the point just where the valley between her breasts had started steeping. Shizuru's cheeks heated up when she wished she could view a little more than that. She shook it off but her breath got caught up in her lungs when Natsuki flicked her hair back.
Shizuru then watched Natsuki take out a band off her wrist and pull up her dark midnight blue-black hair into a ponytail. The flawless structure of her long face surfaced. Natsuki silently stood there. Shizuru came a little forward and stood at the left side of the window. Natsuki's emeralds pierced through the streets and alleys that came in the window's view. When a silent breeze showered upon her, Shizuru hummed in some kind of satisfaction she did not understand and embraced herself feeling a little cold.
Natsuki had left Shizuru's side. She went to the table where she kept her blazer. She took out her cell phone from the right pocket and slid it in her vest. Taking it she turned to walk to the window again. A few steps mid way she stopped and saw that Shizuru's gown was backless. Her full back would be visible if her hair did not fall back. But still some portion of her lower back was in the open. Again Natsuki felt the same urge to reach out and touch Shizuru's back.
"Not again! I do not want to touch her. Nope…I don't", she made that statement to herself and went back to her previous position. "Here", Natsuki said to Shizuru while holding out the jacket for her to take it.
"Ara, aren't you being such a gentleman"?
Natsuki, for some goddamn unknown reason, was getting irritated. Normally, she would not offer her jacket to some stranger. She gritted her teeth for a second and snapped, "Look, you either take it or you don't take it! And just stop making stupid remarks at someone else's expense and might I add whom you don't even know", still holding the jacket in her left hand by Shizuru's side.
Shizuru looked up to meet the deep green eyes. She did not understand what had she said that made the other girl snap like that but not bothering to ponder further on this she silently took the jacket and draped it around her shoulders.
From the corner of her eyes Natsuki saw Shizuru who was now covered in her dark blue jacket. Surprisingly, her jacket looked much better on Shizuru than on her. She shook her head slightly to fight of the blush threatening to crawl up her cheeks. Natsuki was getting baffled inside by her aberrant behavior around this other woman. She opted to stay afar from her and focus on everything else but the woman from that very moment.
Shizuru too was trying to understand why she had chosen to be playful and teasing towards this younger girl since the starting. Of course, the girl was attractive but she has dealt with far too many attractive people, men and women, to let someone get under her skin like this. When talking or responding to the younger girl, her mouth seems to be working faster than her mind.
"May I know what are you doing here anyway", Shizuru's mouth again trumped her mind much to her chagrin. Now that her mind had started working she thought she was wrong on asking the question, more so because she herself was obligated to answer that same query! But before she could apologize…
"Well, who are you to ask? You are doing the same thing, aren't ya"? Natsuki retorted harshly. "What the hell is wrong with me? I am getting furious for no reason here! And seriously what is wrong with this woman's face and that...that freaking creepy smile"!
"Ara, I apologize", Shizuru tried her hard not to let the rage she felt inside from showing on her face and also the reasoning was not wrong, "I certainly did not mean to pry". But another thing she did not understand was more that rage she had felt really hurt at receiving such harsh reply.
"Yeah", Natsuki said giving out a sarcastic laugh and concluded avoiding the eye contact, "You just did", "Get that freaking smile off lady. I just snapped at you, you idiot"! Natsuki found herself too focused on Shizuru's smile and for some reason that smile vexed her to her inner core.
Shizuru was just trying to be her nice usual self but the urge to spontaneously shout and yell at the younger girl was too damn biting. "Keep your cool, Shizuru. You are a Fujino, maintain the person you have always been. Do not do anything that you will regret later. Wow! Just great…I am having a one-on-one session with myself".
Natsuki was back near the table she previously rested on. Leaning on it against her waist she stared at Shizuru's direction. "How long do you think you can keep the anger inside from showing on your face", Natsuki, after ten minutes of pin-drop silence, asked from her position pulling Shizuru from her self-controlling session.
Keeping her composure, she looked over her shoulders towards the dark haired girl and replied calmly, "I beg your pardon but I do not understand what anger you are referring to". On the inside Shizuru was shaking, absolutely stunned, as to how someone could not be convinced by her smile!
Yet to recoup her senses to work properly, she heard another question being tossed at her that made her feel like a spineless creature. "And why do you feel the need to talk to me so sweetly when actually you just want to rip my head off", Natsuki hissed while she took slow steps towards the window where Shizuru stood.
Shizuru now needed support to stand and thus she was holding on the window pane with her right hand. She felt the voice from her back nearing her. "Is this how a prey feels like when it is being ambushed by a lioness", she thought and the next second, "Why am I thinking of such ridiculous things"?
Without preparing herself, Shizuru did a 180 stopping Natsuki mid way. Shizuru kept her expression unchanged and the smile intact where as Natsuki kept her eyes narrowed and expected the older woman to falter at any second now.
"Ara…now who is the one making stupid remarks at someone else's expense", Shizuru replied carefully keeping her wavering confidence off the tone. When Natsuki stood there baffled, the job was done. "Forgive me for I cannot ever allow anyone to through my pretense". Even though she had known that she was at fault here, she could not bring herself to ask for forgiveness for her rudeness.
Natsuki was caught off guard with sudden question directed at her. She blinked a few times fixing the blurred image in front of her eyes which was, yet again to her annoyance, calm and collected plastered with that meaningless smile of hers. That smile started to get to her again. Seeing that her annotations had no effect she cursed under her breath and turned her back to Shizuru.
They both in their minds kept asking themselves all the 'whys' they could come up with. For half an hour, no body spoke. Then Natsuki's phone buzzed in her vest. It was a text from Nao, "Hey mutt, get your ass over here! We are heading out now. It is gonna be INSANE…Damn"! It was not like she had any work here better get out or she could seriously end up arguing with this other woman again.
Natsuki turned and looked at Shizuru. She still stood the way she had been since she had entered the room. "I am so sorry, I don't know what comes over me when you talk to me", with this apology in minds she took a step ahead but stopped after her mind comprehended, "Yeah nice apology you idiot and why not, she will believe it right away! Get yourself out of here and that will be apology enough for her"!
After making her mind she sighed with relief. And anyway she was never going to see this person again, ever. So why say sorry? With that she assented to Nao's text and walked to the door. Shizuru peered through her left shoulder when she heard someone fumbling with door latches.
She untied her hair and let it fall gracefully on her back. A sideway glance told her that Shizuru was watching her. She swore she could not see the smile but as soon as she could fully turn her gaze towards her, Shizuru had fallen back into her previous stance.
"You know, it won't make you less of a human being if, for once in your life, you express what you feel in your heart. Trust me, it will be far easy than what you endure now", Natsuki said. This was probably the first normal toned sentence she had spoken to Shizuru in the last two hours and it felt good. She then walked out without looking back.
Shizuru kept staring at what she did not know. Both her hands wrapped around herself, she tilted her head and soothed her left cheek with the soft fabric of Natsuki's jacket. It felt reassuring. She kept repeating the action, and with every stroke her heart shrunk a bit remembering the younger girl's words. Without notice, tears had started falling freely.
Natsuki's driver was directed by her father to drop her back home, but she asked, aptly stated threatened, him to drive her to her desired destination and then head home. Throughout the journey back to Fuuka, Natsuki kept looking outside at the world passing by. Either her mind was so full that she could not keep track or her mind had been as blank as dead!
Shizuru was now seated at the backseat of her BMW. After few minutes she remembered that she had left her overcoat in cloakroom itself. She did not have the courage to go back to that place. She silently vowed to herself never in her whole life to come back here.
Fate had played a horrible joke on her today, and she wanted to leave every reminder of it back where it happened. She was very much aware of how shallow her existence was, and she did not prefer the presence of a person who could make her realize about it every second.
Be it devastation or preservation, the divine forces never intervene just once. If so, it wouldn't be called as 'inevitable fate' now, would it?
( ( ( ( (_) ) ) ) )
After knowing that none of the girls had shown up, Aiko Fujino and Shoji Kuga had talked about only business. While Shizuru busied herself with office her father was solely taking care of the Fujino-Kuga merger. Shizuru was not even present at the official announcement of the merger and neither was Natsuki. The desire of becoming more than just business partners had taken a far back-seat for both families.
Natsuki had been accepted in the Fuuka Universtiy for Masters in Business Administration. In less than a week the college had started. To her parents' disappointment, Natsuki had chosen to live at the dormitories instead of driving daily from the comfort of her home. Mai continued pursuing the advanced culinary courses from the same university. Chie and Aoi, both too had chosen to go for further studies though in different streams. Chie was in the same class with Natsuki and Nao where as Aoi had chosen for Masters in English literature.
Shizuru dug deep in the heavy amount of paper works. She had been the only handler of Fujino Corps as her father had completely associated and devoted himself in the foundation of the merger project. During these times, Shizuru had a few times met the Kuga duo. At first there was some extent of awkwardness for Shizuru, after all she thought she did not show up for the date, but the Kuga pair knew better. With every meeting the air around them had loosened up.
Time had gone by quite peacefully, may be too peaceful. But neither had paid any heed to the regularities until one day something happened which seemed very normal and regular but would change their lives forever. And this chance meeting was sure to develop and last longer than the last time. For a very long period of time…indeed!