A/N: Alice tells Himeko about how she met Chikane in Chapter 5 of "The Seven Mysteries," but I'd gotten a couple of questions about how things went between them, so here's the expanded version of the story. Edited 9/14/12 to change "appropriate" to "opposite" in paragraph 4, which is clearly one of those "typed the story from the paper copy while watching anime" mistakes that thankfully, nobody pointed out.
~X X X~
Himemiya Chikane was daydreaming about romance.
This was not an uncommon preoccupation among nine-year-old girls. Society, after all, bombarded them with any number of messages, in movies and books, television and manga, about the importance of Love in a woman's life. The idea of the perfect boyfriend, a prince come to life, was a major hope for the future for most girls.
Or in Chikane's case, the perfect girlfriend.
Most lesbians were not quite so aware of their sexuality at Chikane's age. The assumption made by society was that people were attracted to the opposite sex. For those who didn't fit that neat little mold, it was often a difficult path to self-discovery, realizing that they were uncomfortable within expectations, then trying—somehow—to define their feelings. Chikane had, in fact, gone through that struggle herself, only it was two lifetimes ago. It was so much more convenient when she could remember her past lives.
And, of course, remember that sooner or later, Himeko would come back to her, sun to her moon.
It would certainly make the teenaged dating years less drama-filled, having a true love with whom she formed what amounted to an old married couple. That was nice. Being a high-functioning sociopath in a lesbian relationship with a girl beside whom she was resurrected again and again to find and destroy the incarnated spirit of human malice and despair made for a certain amount of drama in most of her lives.
Probably she ought to have been paying more attention in class, but she also remembered sitting through elementary-school math in each of her past lives, and the material didn't change. Chikane liked the stability of numbers, but being "taught" about them was possibly one of the most boring things she could do while waiting for Himeko. Keeping only just enough attention on the class so that she wouldn't be taken off-guard if the teacher called on her, she went back to her daydreams until the lunch bell rang.
The crowd descended almost at once.
"Miya-sama! Miya-sama!" they chorused. "Would you sit with me at lunch?" one would ask. "No, with me!" "She sat with you last week!" The babbling was interminable, the cluster of Chikane's little fan club reminding her of a pack of starving dogs fighting over the scraps that fell from the table.
Most of the time, she worked hard at being the person at the table, the queen dispensing her royal favor. Some days, though, Chikane felt more like the scraps.
Today was one of those days.
She shot a gaze across the room towards Ohgami Shizuka, younger daughter of the priest of Ohgami Shrine. They'd known each other since they were four, and the tomboy was the closest thing to a real friend that Chikane had.
Unfortunately, a friendly rescue was not to be had. Ohgami-kun shook her head regretfully, then shrugged. Obviously she was busy with something else during lunch hour, probably something to do with sports (in which she was excellent) or disciplinary action (which she was often on the receiving end of).
Multiple lifetimes of practice had engraved in Chikane's soul the combat reflexes to isolate without thinking the sudden patter of footsteps from behind and be aware of the body launching itself at her back. She could have pivoted aside without apparent effort and let the other girl go flying by to crash into Chikane's desk or the crowd of fangirls. The Lunar Priestess's training over those same lifetimes, however, had developed rigid control over those reflexes, and she only sighed as a redheaded girl pounced on her back, throwing her arms around Chikane's shoulders.
The sudden contact made Chikane flinch slightly. She really wasn't fond of being touched. Himeko was the obvious exception to that, and she'd found somewhat to her surprise that her parents' hugs, too, conveyed the elusive sense of being loved and cared for. Skinship between classmates, though, left her cold.
"How's it going?" the burden around her shoulders cried, then thankfully ended the glomp, dropping to her feet.
Alice Ishida was an odd girl. She was, for one thing, a foreigner—a Canadian of Japanese descent whose family had moved to Mahoroba a month ago when her father had found himself the heir to a moderate-sized family business. Chikane's parents thought the show of filial respect spoke well of them—she herself would certainly not have wanted to uproot her entire life and move to another country out of an obligation to people she'd never met. This was especially true given that Mrs. Ishida was a fourth-generation Canadian whose interest in Japan had been no more than casual curiosity, and that they had four children of various ages.
For most of the other girls, Ishida was a bit of a curiosity. And for some reason, she'd decided to clamp on to Chikane. Rather than joining the crowd of worshippers, though, she did it up close and personal, seizing every chance to pounce on her, babble about her life, or anything similar no matter how much princess-like reserve Chikane tried to maintain.
So Chikane guessed she was a curiosity for her as well.
Of course, Chikane's fans had a definitely different opinion of Ishida's behavior. A subtle reserve was what they demanded. Worshipping 'Miya-sama' from afar was to their minds only natural, but to push across that boundary line into direct contact was not acceptable. She was fairly sure that Ishida came in for a certain amount of bullying for that over and above what happened more or less naturally from being foreign.
"Leave Miya-sama alone!" snapped Izumi, the current queen bee among the fangirls.
"Yeah! Don't go jumping on her like that, you disrespectful cow!" That was Kisaragi Otoha, a blonde who seemed to have a little more depth than the rest of the starstruck idiots. Or maybe Chikane just wanted to think that because she reminded her so much of her loyal (though jealous) maid from two lifetimes ago.
"I don't have to do what you say!" Ishida shot back. "Miya hasn't said so!"
"It's Miya-sama, you stupid foreigner!" shouted Mifune Kyoko. "Even if you can't act properly, you can at least do that much."
Chikane could feel her jaw twitch at the brunette's outburst. Ishida was annoying, yes, but what right did these self-appointed protectors have to say so? When had she ever said that they had some kind of right to determine who her friends were?
She hated pretentious, grasping people like that, arrogant in their belief that their one-sided feelings gave them any authority at all. Especially since in past lives that kind of person had tried to take those feelings out on Himeko, jealous of the attention Chikane had given her. Even in their last life when Himeko had been her twin sister, there had been that kind of person trying to drive them apart!
The instinct flared up in her to simply punch Mifune in the face. It was absolutely what she wanted to do, to vent her anger on the stupid little—
She mastered herself quickly, with effort. Letting her temper win would help no one. It wouldn't protect Ishida in any way; it probably wouldn't even teach Mifune anything. And it would put a nasty little crack in the wall she tried to keep up around herself that made sure that her interactions with her classmates were on her terms.
And then she got a better idea.
She turned to Ishida and put a smile on her face. It wasn't a real smile, but it would do, and very few people could tell the difference.
"Come on, Alice," she said. There was more than one gasp from the group at the fact that Chikane had used Ishida's first name, and without any honorific besides. "Let's go get our lunch before the cafeteria runs out of sandwiches." Without bothering to wait for the stunned onlookers to respond, she turned and headed straight for the classroom door. Ishida..."Alice," now, I suppose...showed quick mental reflexes by recognizing her cue and pattering along afterwards. Chikane did not slow or look back, but made a beeline for the cafeteria, where she ignored the fact that she had a perfectly good bento box in her bag and stepped up to purchase a sandwich. The throng of students clamoring for food parted naturally for Miya-sama, so she went right to the front.
"Melon bread, please," she asked the seller, then looked back over her shoulder at Alice. "Would that be all right for you?"
Alice nodded eagerly, still looking more than a little confused. "Uh-huh."
"Two, then," Chikane ordered, paid, and accepted the bread. She handed one to Alice, then led the way over to a side table. A few eyes followed them, kids in their grade mostly. If previous lifetimes were any indication, it wouldn't be until junior high that "Miya-sama" was enough of a standout to be a true school idol.
Alice just looked at her for a long minute while Chikane took a dainty bite.
"Why do they call this 'melon bread,' anyway? I mean, it doesn't taste like melon," she finally said, looking curiously at her meal.
"I think it's because the top is patterned like a melon rind," Chikane explained.
"Oh. That actually makes sense."
"You sound surprised."
"Well, so much doesn't!" Alice suddenly burst out.
"You mean, here in Japan?"
"Yes! I just don't get it most of the time!"
"Well, why would you? I'm sure I'd be just as lost in Canada."
"That's kind of hard to believe."
Alice took a big bite of the bread and chewed.
"Why'd you do it?" she finally got around to asking.
Chikane didn't bother asking what "it" was when they both knew perfectly well.
"I'll tell you if you answer me one thing."
"That's not fair," Alice pouted.
"Making a cute face like a puppy doesn't work on me." At least when it isn't Himeko making it.
"Darn. My dad's a total sucker for it. It drives my brothers crazy. What did you want to know?"
Alice didn't ask for elaboration anymore than Chikane had. Chikane liked that; it was nice to be able to talk to someone who could keep up.
"Most of these girls are really nasty 'cause I'm a foreigner."
"But why me? You just started calling me 'Miya' and glomping me and chattering away like we were friends. What made you think I would go along with that?"
"I figured that if I was going to make a friend here, you'd be my best chance. The boys and girls barely talk to each other, and most of the girls are all cliquey. And you hate everybody."
Chikane almost dropped her melon bread in surprise.
"Well, don't you?"
"Why would you think that?"
"You're always smiling and gracious and polite to everyone. You act like you're somebody's mom, sometimes stern, sometimes kind, but never showing your feelings."
"It wouldn't be proper for the heiress of the Himemiya family to make a scene."
"Oh, horse pucky! There's no way anybody's as perfect as you act."
"This is Japan. You're not used to—"
"Nuh-uh!" Alice shook her head firmly. "Just look at Izumi and Mifune and those girls. They get mad all the time. And you're exactly the same to everybody! So...you've got to be lying, right?" She sat back in her chair, a smug grin on her face like she was Encyclopedia Brown and had just caught Bugs Meany out again. Does anyone still read those books? Chikane thought, questioning her own metaphor, then wondered why on earth her brain was wandering that far off-topic.
"So you decided that a kid who lies to everybody and doesn't have friends would be a good choice for a friend?" she asked incredulously.
"Sure! I mean, if you don't like anybody, then you don't dislike me specifically for being an outsider, right? It's not like the ones who don't like me 'cause I'm Canadian or talk funny or something!"
That almost made sense. The fact that she could follow Alice's logic made Chikane wonder if this was one of those times where her forty-four years of memories and her biologically childish brain were running smack into each other.
So she gave up and laughed, a playful little giggle that demanded to come out and be heard. Alice's face lit up happily at the sight.
"Yes! You do laugh!"
Apparently, she smiled as well, because Chikane found herself grinning, not her usual serene Yamato Nadeshiko princess smile that she used most of the time at school, but a genuine grin.
"I knew this would work," Alice said, clapping. Chikane arched an eyebrow at her.
"I haven't said anything yet. After all, I only went along with you because Mifune-san went off, acting as if she had the right to dictate terms on my behalf."
"So we're going to be friends because Mifune said we couldn't? I'll have to remember that when I want to get you to do something."
"Are you ever serious?"
"Not when I can help it. Serious is no fun. And you've got all the 'no fun' you need already, right? It's like my mom always says, you might not like her, but you'll never find her boring!"
Chikane shook her head. The foreigner reminded her so much of the kind of girl Himeko always seemed to make friends with, like Saotome Makoto or Ohgami Marika. The kind of girl who was so bursting with energy and life that she was an antidote to all the deathly seriousness and bitter angst of being the shrine maidens of the Godless Month, to say nothing of Chikane's rather staggering mishaps on the way to romance.
For the first time, Chikane felt like she could understand the attraction of having a person like that around.
"Hey, what's going on? You're making this weird dreamy face, like Dad gets when he drinks too much."
"I was just thinking how someone I know would like you very much."
"They've got good taste!" Alike joked. "Who is it?"
"Someone very special to me. Maybe some day I'll tell you about her."
"Some day? But I want to know now!"
"I know. But like you said, I'm no fun."
Alice facepalmed, groaning, which made Chikane giggle again.
She had an intuition, somehow, that getting to a "some day" where she felt comfortable enough to give Alice at least the parts of the story she had told her parents wouldn't take that long at all.