CHAPTER 1: The Painter

That was the last stroke that she could muster for now. For the day. Not that she wanted to end by leaving all her work, and therefore sleep, but that was the last straw. For the day.

She was fascinated by the stupid realization (no, recurring realizations) that inspiration is one fickle lover—it came in style and in haste, blowing all Yumi's faculties away; somehow the desire to get Yumi her hands into her, through her, was increasing beyond tangible bounds, and her head started to drown into her. Then, she'd start seducing Yumi.

Then, Yumi would paint.

The preparation for the canvas was almost as long and as tedious as the act of painting itself, but that period seemed not to last long; all she cared about was the sudden inspiration and the mission to put it into canvas without neglecting all the details that repeatedly running through her head. In haste, she would prepare. In haste, she would pick up brushes that had been with her for almost all her career-life, and some of them were acquired before the fame, the education, the hobby, and even the time that she used to consider painting a mere job to bury oneself worse than a city rat.

Yet she was beyond the threshold of poverty, mentally speaking, even with the money that has been pouring down in her account due to her works two years ago.

And to paint was to paint with emotion and peace of mind. How the fuck am I going to do that?

You fickle bitch. She spat as her muse went away in torrents, leaving her in the midst of destruction. Now, she had nothing to draw. Even with all her materials lying around.

She glanced at her studio, and she sensed nothing of her muse. Inspiration was down into the drain, leaving her with wet paint, half-filled canvas and a fucked-up mind. It was so frustrating to leave a job not finished, and she had been frustrated for two years. Not that she actually neglected her job, but somehow, nothing seemed to come to mind.

No, she stood corrected by her inner consciousness. You tried to paint for two years. But everything was unfinished. The right sentence was: Inspiration came and went before you could finish your painting.

(And such a waste of money.)

Sure, she had art supplies that would make any neophyte artist throw herself in the fits of hightened lust to possessthem all, but that does not mean that the materials itself count for producing her. That's not entirely about that. Well then, after you have acquired it, what are you going to do about it?

A flashback came to her, back when she had vent her frustration to an unknowing Sei-sama, who acted as if she was not noticing anything. After all, the senior was her only intermediate to what the laymen termed 'art world'. That kind sure existed before, but it was not as prominent as it once was. Sei was the only person who she allowed to see her in such uninspired state, and she would not have others to see her that way. Other artists may wish that they should have the recognition that Yumi was unmindful of, but say, who would want to be like me, a painter without anything to paint?

(Stupid artist's block.)

Sei once mentioned unguardedly, that Yumi should have stuck with the traditional Japanese painting and not revolutionize for oil two years ago. Two years too late. She was stuck with the idea of producing something out of oil that the comment sank into her too lately. NO, she corrected herself once again. This is not because of the medium.

She could not just throw paint all over her canvas, ang give it a name. It's a petty excuse for abstract and modern art, not that she had any grudge for the movements.

That last stroke was enough. Thank you, Maria-sama, for the inevitable and natural thing called decay. With that, she had the job of restoring old paintings, which required oil and acrylic as media. The last item that she needed to work with is due within two weeks, therefore, there's still time to slack off—to think of something to paint.

Why in the hell did she change her interest from traditional Japanese painting to oil? What happened to that?

Boredom. That's what. Never had been a moment that she was too fed up with something that she's exceptionally good; for once she had a talent to consider as above-average—in fact, incomparable—which Sachiko had even mentioned so many times before, back when she decided to apply for an art major.

Somehow being bored and having artist's block never meshed. But why was she feeling that way? When did she ever become so sarcastic while talking to herself?

She collected the rest of the brushes that she used for the day (and for last week) and went to the sink to clean them. Simple paint thinner would not even remove the kind of oil that she used. The sponsors had been so generous in providing the best paints and she had no problem with that.

After cleaning the brushes, she went back to the infinished restoration and inspected it once again. Crap, strayed plastered paint. She was in the eye of the mess when she looked for the x-acto knife to pluck the dried paint off the canvas. There it was, lost among a can of brushes.

Then, she cut herself. Damn.

An art student should be cut with the famous x-acto knife as some sort of passage—a christening. However, christening did not happen in the middle of an elementary level art class, but elsewhere. She had her first cut way before she became one, back when she sneaked into his father's studio. She was fiddling with the x-acto to his father's unfinished canvas, copying him, and then with her untrained hand, she cut herself. It bled terribly; she was running to her father, telling the story, saying sorry because of her intrusion to her father's things. Yet, her father gave her a blank stare, then another to her injured hand. The x-acto was telling something, he said, and then proceeded to get the first-aid kit.

That was the legend. Still, cutting herself would mean that something happened with her works. That was what some sempai would often comment. She looked at her bleeding ringfinger. The hell that she would lick her paint-covered hand. She could handle the small fresh slit upon her skin, yet the blood just won't stop flowing. Damn it, any clean rag here? Having no patience, she raised the front of the hem of her workshirt, and dabbed the injured skin inside.

Three knocks resonated from the door. It must be the boss, inspecting the changes in the painting under restoration. The person outside let herself in, and was having a slight worried expression upon her face. When Yumi noticed her, the former smiled as if to say: come on, give me something rather than, how's the progress?

Indeed, it was different.

"Fukuzawa-kun, The Passing Wind,"

That was the title of her most celebrated painting, done three years ago, before she decided to change into oil.

"It was stolen."

Yumi's eyes went wide. Then, she frowned grimly. So that's what the x-acto is telling me.

That happened at the east wing of the gallery that Fukuzawa Yumi was working. She abruptly left her working station, passed her small office, and to the first floor where the police, gallery ushers, security guards and curators were gathering people and leading them outside. Most of the civilians were fuming because of the disturbance, but others were turning to spectators, shocked at the spreading news that a Fukuzawa painting was missing at the Nihonga section. Yumi checked her watch; it was three in the afternoon; how come that the painting was stolen at a godforsaken time like this?

She headed straight to the crime-scene, following the footsteps of her boss. Everyone was angry, looking at the messed up wing—apparently, someone induced fire and smoked inside, activating the alarms and water sprinklers. Metal plates covered the paintings. Yet, when the metal sheets uncovered the walls, one painting was missing after the alarm and sprinklers were disabled. Fukuzawa's painting was gone, apart from all that should have much more worth. Indeed, this made Yumi smile for a bit—someone preferred my work than the more famous ones. Bite that. Yet, she did not want that. She just wanted her works to be displayed in public, for the public audience, and not in some private collections and lonely houses who just want a piece of Japanese painting as internal décor.

When the metal barricade that was activated during the alarm was uninstalled, Yumi stepped her paint-covered loafers onto the wet floor, inspecting the empty wall that used to be the home of The Passing Wind.


She looked sideways, to the direction of the voice and found her brother standing beside her, who was looking at the empty wall too. He said, "Do you have any idea why someone would want to steal your work?"

"Everyone wants my work, Yuuki." She folded her arms. Then the room now was filled with uniformed officers, sleuthing to every corner of the wet room. She personally doesn't like the suddenly humid atmosphere. Yuuki, however, donned the usual black coat and tie; his average-size frame misleading others as a sign of frailness, yet he held himself in standing position for a long time without any movement detected from his sharp black leather shoes. Not even a trace of twitching or fatigue.

The painter looked back at the empty wall, not minding the people swarming to and fro behind her. "You have your gun with you?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Nothing. I just need to feel it in my hands."

Yuuki tried to ignore that comment. "No leads yet," He, too, was looking at the same direction. "You could have been filthy rich if you sold your paintings in auctions. Many wealthy guys are drooling at the sight of your works. I really don't understand why you only want them for the public gallery."

"They don't understand a single shit of my work. Don't you have work to do, Detective?"

"Lots. Thank you, Yumi, for giving me a job. Our guy made too much mess."

"You don't say." She spat.

Yumi looked at his brother, who was now taking a medical glove from a uniformed officer and was inspecting the blasted hidden camera that was shut down. Even though those paintings were installed with sensors and invisible lasers, they still manage to pilfer it in such short period of time. Two minutes of shutting down the security, disabling the cameras, getting the painting out of its frame, and getting it out of the gallery was just too crafty. They were getting more conniving and clever as time passed by.

But, on second thought, without thieves trying to steal works of art, galleries around the world won't bother upgrading their own toys too. But the fact that the gallery had some of the latest security measures was the thing that bothered the painter. And she thought that the place where she stood was the safest place in the Earth.

Looking at her brother, she noticed how different their trails that they took after high school graduation. He became a cop, consistent to his ideologies and principles; she became a painter, consistent with their family's tradition. Their father was an architect, while their mother was an illustrator for many children's books. She shifted her interest with the hard art, while his brother deviated from the usual Fukuzawa occupation and shifted to something totally unrelated. He preferred guns to the x-acto knife.

Yuuki had been a part of the robbery division of the Musashino police. This was the first time someone has successfully got a painting outside the premises of the public gallery. Too bad that even with his job, he could not even prevent himself from getting involved in anything artsy.

She went to his brother who was now fingering the wall where her painting suddenly disappeared. She stated what was on her mind, "Even with your job, you're still able to get into my workplace. This must be a sign for you to join the family business. You can still consider the visual arts as a hobby." She said it so mockingly that Yuuki rolled his eyes because of irritation.

He retorted, "When was the last time that I found you so endearing?" Yuuki, however, was faithful to his work that he did not even move his head to face his sister.

"I don't know. You tell me."

"Art school changed you. Ever since you went out of Lillian, you've been in constant shit. Is it because Maria-sama is not watching you anymore?" He returned playfully.

"You can say that." She smirked. Then she offered again. "I've seen your sketches before. They're actually pretty good. Why did you choose this cop job anyway? Too tired of the smell of india ink and watercolor and acrylic?"

"I have different way of viewing things. I still believe I can change the world this way. Too bad I'm in assigned here. Have you ever dreamed of changing things?" He said, fed up with Yumi's mockery, Yuuki faced her and his eyes turned into slits. "Why am I so surprised that I find you so calm? Your work is missing. It's stolen. Doesn't that disturb you the most?"

Yuuki was able to get into her nerves. It was moments before she whispered, "That's why I needed your gun."

The detective sighed, regretful of what he said and what it implied. "I understand. Little brothers are always the shock absorbers of angry older sisters. Rest, take a sleeping pill or whatever and do something not artsy."

Not artsy. That's all you could come up with? She put her hand on Yuuki's one shoulder. He just smiled. Somehow, that made her calm.

"That's so sad, Yuuki. I'll let your people deal with this. Just get my stuff back to where it belongs. I'm busy."

Not artsy, my ass.

Yuuki went to his sister's office to take a sneek peek at her office room and studio. He did not bother to knock—being a police officer made him forget that simple gesture if it were related to her sister. He did not bother; why would he knock if he assumed that Yumi was not there anymore, doing something suicidal, or whatnot?

Suicidal was the term—it became part of Yuuki's description of the former Red Rose and sister, ever since she came back from Kyoto years ago. She was there to be an appentice for one of the masters in tradional painting, and from then on, things happened. They never met, talked, or corresponded when she was undergoing her apprenticeship, and few years after she went there, her immediate and frequent answer for her failure to communicate was because she was very busy.

Busy means social isolation.

(Busy? She was so busy in the last two years that she could not produce a finished painting.)

The detective silently opened the door leading to the artist's studio and as expected, she was there, doing some restoration of some oil painting (Yuuki tried not to analyze the general principles applied into the artwork; he was way too done with that). Yuuki could see parallel lines forming on Yumi's forehead; her eyes were focused to a large, thick lens, inspecting a minute portion of the canvas, while her other hands separately holding an x-acto knife and a 0.25 mm round paintbrush. With those two weapons, it was better not to bother her—she could kill a person if someone jerked her off of her concentration.

Before, if he did something like that, Yumi's initial reaction would be a high-pitched shout, a pout, and eyes flowing with tears. He never saw her like that anymore. She used to be a crybaby; now, she's able to be a complete bitch with a sharp tongue, a quick mind, and a silent smirk.

(In a way, she scared him.)

He was staring at her through the small slit of the door, and there he watched her calm hands worked upon the canvas she's restoring. He was about to leave, when he heard her removed her hands away, shoved the x-acto and the paintbrush into a can, removed the thick lens away from her face, and muttered an angry expletive.


A/N: Thank you for reading this chapter. I do not own anything of Maria-sama ga Miteru. I could only account for the plot. To those of you, who read this prologue, please tell me if there are inconsistencies about Yumi's occupation—she restores old paintings. And she's doing things in oil. If some art student or art enthusiast had read this, please PM me so that I could correct my mistakes and advise some sort of avenue or source to make this authentic. The detective thing too. It will be my pleasure to include your name in the chapter to acknowledge your cooperation while working this fic.

This is my second Marimite long story. This is going to be Yumi-centric. Please don't forget to PM/review, so that I would know your opinions. I am excited to write this one, and it will be much more fulfilling if I could see some feedback. Thank you.