So, I wanted to start this off by saying that I have always had a lasting fascination with Greek Mythology. But of all the stories I've heard, the Hades-Persephone relationship was always the most appealing to me. Rather than a forced kidnapping, however, I like to think of it as a sweet, eventually-mutual love story. Yeah, I've always been a romantic :)
And from that little note, I think you can all assume what this story will be about. I actually planned on writing this for Bleach as I always do, but in the end, I couldn't deny that Natsume and Mikan fit these roles too splendidly. With her liveliness and his constant "lone wolf" act, they could have been the Gods of Spring and Death themselves :D
Also, for those of you who are aware of the legends, you know that the Olympian family was a messed up tree of incest and distant relations. Each of them had strange connections with everyone else. Because of this – and for this story to work – I've taken a little liberty with familial relationships. I don't think it should bother anyone too much, though; this story is mostly focused on Natsume and Mikan, after all.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice or any of its characters. (Note that I will not be writing a disclaimer for the Greek legends, because I don't think religious beliefs are explicitly owned by anyone).
Tsubasa was not a happy camper.
Seated in his prestigious throne with his chin tucked in his hand, he drummed his fingers against the armrest, a pout planted so firmly on his face that it was obvious it had been fixed there since the early morning. The other gods shot him looks of anxiety or contempt, with a few pitying gazes thrown into the mix. Most were simply flat-out disapproving of his behavior, however, especially as his temper had caused them all to be called into a last-minute meeting about an issue that was hardly their problem.
The home of the gods rumbled so furiously that one would almost think they could hear the rumors flying through its walls. With their ears pressed against the grand entrance of the meeting hall, countless nymphs and stray messengers whispered to one another, hoping to overhear the content of the discussion taking place inside. Scandalous words were passed on by mouths giggling against eager ears, and everyone was in a titter about the shocking news of the day. After all, it wasn't often that the gods had to hold a meeting over a simple demigoddess.
"I don't like this," the raven-haired god inside finally growled, straightening in his seat and folding his arms. The others shuffled in their own thrones, rolling their eyes at his words or simply sighing wearily.
"No one says you have to," Tono spoke up, tugging at his hair and looking extremely bored by the whole matter. Jinno shot him a nasty look for it, though he ignored him in favor of fixing his old friend with a frustrated stare. "You're getting too bent out of shape. This has nothing to do with you, anyway."
"Nothing to do with me!" Tsubasa blew up, red in the face from the enraging declaration. "This is my sister we're talking about –"
"Don't go acting like you're a saint of a brother," Misaki piped up, picking at her nails as she did so. "You hardly ever see her as it is, so stop thinking you can control her life."
"I make time to go see her every month," he defended himself with a huff. "Which is more than I can say for some people."
His eyes strayed towards Imai, who ignored the blatant taunt. It wasn't as if it was unusual for him to act so detached with his own sister and hardly see her; none of the gods could be considered close with their direct families. In fact, Tsubasa's family was certainly unorthodox in that aspect. While the others paid no mind to anyone besides themselves and kept to their own affairs, they had actually maintained a strong connection throughout the years, despite their origins and rocky history.
Yuka and Izumi, both gods from birth and deeply in love with each other at first sight, had sired their first child only years after their marriage. Tsubasa had been born into great power, and he'd taken over his role as an almighty being splendidly. Misaki and Tono had joined his small circle not soon after, and despite their contrasting domains, their friendship had lasted many centuries.
But tragedy struck when Yuka had been stripped of her powers by a spell gone awry, and she'd banished herself to the land of the mortals in shame. Izumi had followed her without question, and their only son had been trusted to live his life freely with the other gods while the two began a new adventure in an ordinary world. The young boy had taken everything in stride, willingly moving in with Nodacchi, the unstable God of Time, to lessen their burdens.
Hundreds of years into the future, news arrived that his parents had been blessed with yet another child. Hīmemiya, the Goddess of Fertility and Childbirth, revealed that their excessive prayers to her domain had succeeded in winning her favor, and she had gifted them with a beautiful little girl. Enclosed with the picture of a baby with a tuft of hair colored brown had been a small note, introducing Tsubasa to his newest sibling: Sakura Mikan, rightfully named as the pending Goddess of Spring. He couldn't have been more proud, and the raven-haired God of the Shadows took to brotherhood excitedly, despite hardly ever seeing his sister as they lived in two different realms.
But Mikan, they soon discovered, had turned out...differently than anyone could have predicted – except maybe for Hotaru, the Goddess of Knowledge, of course. Things didn't seem so strange at first, so nothing was discovered until she had well passed her toddler years. In fact, the bubbly girl had just reached the age of ten when, while attempting to climb a tree to prove to the boys in her neighborhood that girls were just as capable as men, she slipped on a branch and twisted her ankle after landing on the hard ground below. The injury took weeks to recover, and Izumi and Yuka came to the terrifying realization that their daughter had not been granted the power of accelerated healing that all gods possessed.
Eleven years had passed since that fateful day, and the family had come to accept that their newest member might never fully become a part of the world of the gods. Yuka's powerless state had stunted her chance at potential herself, and the mighty blood rushing through her veins from Izumi's powers did little to make up for such a drastic lack. The gods had resigned themselves to accepting that the girl would always be nothing more than a demigoddess, so enticingly close to power yet unable to fully harness it. So she remained in the human world, content with life without godly status because she had never known different.
Tsubasa, however, had always made it a point to visit the human world each month so that his sister would not forget him. But his life stayed in his own world, apart from the rest of his family. The arrangement had never posed problems before, but now, he wished more than anything that he was with her, so he could protect Mikan from what the Fates had in store for her shaky future.
And it was all Natsume's fault.
"That's enough," Yukihira suddenly interrupted the brewing arguments in the throne room. He fixed his calculating eyes on Tsubasa, shooting him a look of warning. "Your complete lack of control is only a disturbance to our realm. Nothing has befallen Mikan as of yet, so you are ordered to fall back and hold your temper. Understand?"
Tsubasa spluttered in protest, aghast that even the God of all Gods would take this matter lightly. She was his niece, too! Did they not care that his very own baby sister could quite possibly be in danger? She required protection – his protection – and he seethed that not one person in the room was willing to side with him and go to her aid. Cursing Natsume furiously under his breath, he shot his uncle a heated glare.
"Mikan needs help!" he argued, ignoring the outrage his blatant disrespect caused among the others. "She's not even expecting anything to come at her, so her guard will be down. Who's to say Natsume" – he spat out the name like it was acid on his tongue – "won't try something?"
His superior shook his head. "Hyuuga is not a brash man. He knows the troubles that will follow him should he act on his impulsive desires. I am confident that he would never attempt anything so impudent as to actively target your sister."
.. ღ ..
At that very moment, as the gods discussed her fate, Mikan wandered back to her apartment after a class at the university. Her bag was slung carelessly over her shoulder, and she paid it no mind even as it repeatedly collided with her back. Instead, her bored gaze was fixed on the same old scenery she always looked upon on her path home. The flowers were in bloom, and the potted plants people had set out on their patios really spruced up the area. Considering her lively domain, this was usually a cause of celebration for the young demigoddess, who would gladly use her minute yet existing powers to secretly sprout yet more flowers.
But now, she had to stifle a yawn as her eyes trailed over each of them. She'd seen it all before, and she was growing quite bored of all this routine. Couldn't something exciting happen in her life for once? With the way each of her days passed exactly like the one before it, even the fact that her family originated from a godly world did nothing to excite the repetitive cycle that was her life. And since they'd discovered that she had not been granted the same magnitude of power as other gods, her parents had become exceedingly controlling of her life – well, her mother more than anyone, as she blamed herself. Yuka shadowed her every move with concern, afraid that just the slightest slip-up would send her packing to the dreaded Underworld.
Such resignation that she felt presently had never been part of her cheerful personality, but Mikan was exhausted from attempting to fight her mother over everything, only to end up with a stale lifestyle she wanted so desperately to change. And even her father, who she would have thought might side with her, always allied with Yuka, both out of love for his wife and concern for his daughter. It was enough for Mikan to wish for some sort of break from the norm; even a small disturbance would be appreciated in her books, considering she had lived such a sheltered life that she had never truly experienced the world. Her friends spoke of all the wonderful adventures they had been through, and all Mikan could offer was the time she had twisted her ankle by falling from a tree, because her life afterwards had always been nervously shadowed by her family. Just thinking of the pathetic thing that was her existence had her fighting back tears.
With a groan, she threw her head back and let out a frustrated scream to the sky. "Why can't anything ever happen around here!"
And just then, as if to answer her prayers, the world cracked in two. Quite literally.
Mikan's mouth fell open, and she dropped her bag as she gaped at the sight. But she ignored such a trivial matter as a large split appeared in the road before her, shaking the ground violently. She stumbled, falling back against a wall weakly as the crack began to spread, pulling the path apart. An ominous, red light shined through from underneath, and her overworking heart practically stopped beating.
Something flew out of the broken seam in the path. It happened so fast that her almost-human eyes missed the movement, but her ears definitely picked up the rush of the wind, and she noticed the shadow looming on the wall. But before she could react, something had grabbed her around the waist and jerked her harshly into the ground along with it. She only caught sight of a flash of fluttering black robes and something crimson before the world closed up above her, leaving her trapped inside.
The only sign that she had been there at all was her bag, discarded on the side of the deserted road.
.. ღ ..
She was beautiful. Truly magnificent, Natsume mused with a content satisfaction, and now she was his.
Unable to resist, especially as she was asleep and unaware, he reached out a hesitant, gloveless hand to her glistening hair. Taking a small tuft in between his finger and thumb, he marveled at the softness of her locks. But the childish ponytails were too unappealing for his ancient tastes, and he mentally vowed that before long he would convince her to let them down – for him.
She stirred slightly, probably sensing the disturbance in her hair, and he immediately pulled back his hand. Despite his jerked reaction, she did not awaken, but he stepped away from her nonetheless as he felt someone stepping closer to his room in the hallway. As he had expected, a soft knock sounded at the door not soon after, and he sensed the same familiar presence before she even entered at his permission.
"My lord," Sumire breathed, shutting the door behind her softly. Her eyes flitted to the distance between him and his captive – close enough to imply a previous connection, but far enough to reveal that he had turned away because of her appearance – and she grimaced. "Is this her?"
Rather than answer, the God of the Underworld simply carried on with his own tasks silently. He slipped off his second glove and set them on the table, reaching for a tangerine that a servant had brought to him earlier. Ignoring Sumire, as he so often did, he set to work on peeling the fruit.
Sumire watched him with narrowed eyes, debating whether it would even be worth it to kick up a fuss at his lack of reception. Then again, such treatment was nothing but normal on his part, as much as she loathed to admit it. Their ruler had never particularly spared much thought to others. Not until this Mikan girl, of course.
Her curiosity overtaking her, the Goddess of Witchcraft stepped slightly closer to the bed, hoping to catch a better view of this mysterious girl who could apparently captivate even the most soulless man in practically all of the world. She sniffed haughtily, however, when she came across the drab and horribly plain woman unconscious in her master's bedroom. This was the girl he had jostled the entire Underworld for? For days they'd all watched him agonize over her, secretly planning out their first encounter and possibly the rest of their lives together. Even Ruka had proved to be unsuccessful in diverting his attentions or shaking sense into him, and that alone had sparked everyone's interest in this exotic beauty that had snagged his heart. But what lay before her was nothing more than a child, one who had yet to lose her juvenile looks and hairstyle. Needless to say, Sumire was beyond disappointed.
"Shouda," Natsume called over to her quietly, and though his voice sounded as detached as it always did, she caught the slight undertone of rage hidden beneath. With a gulp, she turned to find that her King watched her with narrowed slits for eyes, looking menacing even as he slowly swallowed a piece of tangerine.
"Y-yes, my lord?" she stuttered, smoothing out her skirts and hoping to cake her words with a hint of innocence. Of course, the action did nothing to preserve her character, as Natsume was already aware of the horrible misdeeds in her past that had forever tainted her persona.
"You will not look at my betrothed in such a way again," he ordered, the harsh words sounding more like a threat. Obviously he had caught the disapproval in her gaze, and Sumire cursed inwardly for having allowed her emotions to show. Still furious, if the tight line of his lips was any indication, he warned her, "You will show respect to your future Queen."
"Understood," the goddess mumbled, bowing low in a curtsy to save face. With apologies on her tongue, she scurried to the door, hoping to make an escape before she did anything else to upset him. After all, he seemed exceedingly touchy when it came to this Mikan girl, and she was unsure of what would set him off.
"Oh, and Shouda?" Natsume added, catching her just before she exited. His gaze remained fixed on the girl on his bed, but his voice was icy cold. "Do not dare speak of her to another, or I won't let you off so easily." And from the corner of his eyes, he shot her a glare so lethal that, rather than answer, she scrambled out to the hall without another word.
Once he was alone with his future bride again, Natsume finally allowed himself to relax. Running a hand through his hair, he swallowed the last of his tangerine, enjoying the tangy flavor. He'd always hated the fruit for all those centuries he had lived, but since learning of the sprightly Goddess of Spring, he'd found a new appreciation for its taste. And he'd discovered that it was her favorite as well, which was why he had gone to such great lengths to grow them in his otherwise dead kingdom, hoping that something familiar would coax her into appreciating this foreign place. He hoped that it would make her smile.
"Natsume..." Someone's voice suddenly interrupted his thoughts, and the King of the Underworld snapped out of his daze in shock. How had he not sensed him approach when he was always so careful to keep a lookout on his surroundings? Mikan had just somehow stolen all his attention without even trying.
"Ruka," he returned, attempting to cover up his blunder by keeping his voice steady. He had a feeling he didn't fool his friend, however, because he smiled in the mysterious way one did when they had learned of a precious secret. Scowling at having been found out so easily, he almost snapped, "What do you need? Shouldn't you be at the river, ferrying people across?"
"The souls are dwindling," Ruka replied with a shake of his blond head. "A small break would do no harm. The dead have an endless amount of time ahead of them, after all."
Natsume simply grunted in reply, seeing the logic behind his words. And he would never berate his old friend, who had followed him to this dreary Underworld heedlessly, for taking a well-deserved rest. He didn't take enough of them, in the god's opinion, what with his determined work ethic and dedication to helping anyone who had passed onto the afterlife.
Since their first arrival to the land of the dead, Ruka had taken over the task of transporting souls across the river Styx. His work played an important part in easing the transition from life to death. The otherwise treacherous body of water would be impossible for a mere human to cross safely, so Ruka had spotted the danger for others and taken up the job of ferryman. In return, he asked for nothing but two gold coins in return, and not even just for himself; because tradition now stated that the family of the dead placed the payment inside the mouth of the deceased, when a soul arrived with the correct fee, it was a comfort to them that their family had finally accepted their fate and moved on. Sometimes it was amazing how much his old friend was willing to do for others. Natsume could never hope to mirror Ruka's compassionate nature, so he was content with simply staying side-by-side.
Ruka glanced towards the bed quickly, also unable to resist the temptation of finally seeing his friend's betrothed in person. Unlike Sumire, however, his eyes softened at the sight of her ponytails and childish features. "She's pretty," he commented, grinning encouragingly.
"I saw her first," was Natsume's instant reply. It was partly in jest, but his oldest companion could never have missed the possessive tone behind the teasing words. He immediately held his hands to his chest in surrender.
"Of course," he assured him. "I simply wanted to commend your taste."
Once again, Natsume relaxed, this time more easily because the two people he cared for most were in the room with him. As much as he loathed admitting it, he was indebted to Tsubasa for bringing him towards this enchanting goddess in his room. He would never even have learned of her if not for her brother, after all, who had introduced him through a picture. He never made trips to the land above more than a handful of times in a century, so he could never have even known about her existence otherwise.
It was stroke of luck and a little help from the Fates that even guided him towards Mikan, pushing him to act and secure the girl for himself before any other man dared to take her. He'd only stepped into the world of the living for a quick word with Tono, whom he'd learned had been having a secret affair with one of the more physically appealing souls to recently pass into his realm. Somehow the youngster had managed to sneak in multiple times to court her, escaping under his radar. As King of the Underworld, it was Natsume's duty to keep a balance between the living and the dead, meaning he could not allow their rendezvous to continue any longer. He'd marched to the home of the gods with a purpose, only to find Tsubasa flashing a picture brightly to anyone who was willing to listen to his blathering.
"My baby sister just turned twenty-one!" he announced with brotherly pride, and Natsume paused in his quest to raise incredulous eyebrows. He was not aware there were gods who bothered counting birthdays, considering their immortality. And the shadow bastard had a sister?
He was all set to offer a snide comment as he usually did when these pathetic gods acted so much like mortals. But then he managed to glimpse at the photo in his hand, and his heart skipped a beat. In fact, his entire universe just stopped for a moment, and when it started up again, it revolved solely around this girl.
She was amazing. In all of his life, he had never witnessed a creature more beautiful, more captivating, or more worthy of becoming his Queen. Something stirred inside of him at his first sight of her, and he was overwhelmed with a desire to protect, to keep her from any harm that could befall her in any way. He needed to make her his.
"Your sister," he spoke up quietly, catching Tsubasa's attention. "I have never heard of her."
And so Tsubasa gladly explained his sister's history, how she was neither a full god nor immortal, how she lived her life in the mortal world as a regular human, how she had obtained only a minuscule portion of her powers as a goddess of Spring. Not once did it cross his mind that someone, least of all the God of Death, could have an ulterior motive for learning of his sister – not until a messenger god overheard his plans of kidnapping and anxiously brought the news to the others.
The more Natsume heard of her bubbly personality, the deeper he was convinced that she was the one for him. She was his foil, able to offer a compassionate hand to others that he was not capable of. Even if the Underworld was not a place for a delicate flower such as her to live in, he was convinced that with her there, it could become one. She was fragile, not gifted with immortality, and he wanted nothing more than to protect her. And now that she was finally his, he could do so.
Even if he would have to bare the brunt of the world himself, he planned on never letting her go.
But she'd passed out not long after he had pulled her underground with him, most likely from the shock. Since then, her condition had seemed unstable; she had not moved once – not even a twitch, aside from that moment he had touched her hair – nor had she made a single peep of noise. It frightened him slightly, and at first, he could not shake the worry that he might have…killed her. But simply residing in the Underworld was not enough to end a mortal life, so his worries escalated into fear of an undetected illness or an otherworldly phenomenon.
"She hasn't awakened yet," he murmured, hooking a finger and stroking her soft cheek once. He suddenly gave Ruka a sharp look, silently demanding answers. The ferryman shook his head with humor, amazed how frazzled one girl could make him when he was typically so cool and collected.
"You know as well as I do that the Underworld is a kingdom completely different from the living realm," he softly reprimanded his unusually absentminded friend. The air was thicker here, harder to breathe, and it made one's chest feel heavy and strained. "She's only taking time to adjust. At least give her until this evening."
"Of course," Natsume breathed, partly in relief and partly in self-disapproval. He didn't bat an eyelash at her shallow breathing afterwards, nor the sweat coating her forehead. Instead, he took up a seat beside her on the bed, watching her with a cool detachment that hid his concern well. Ruka was used to this side of him – he had been on the receiving end of it many times, after all – so he understood that his friend simply needed time alone with his guest, to watch over her and reassure himself that she was truly all right. And he could never do that comfortably with someone else in the room, even if it was his childhood companion.
"I'll be heading back to my post now," he spoke up into the silence, already making a beeline for the door to give them their privacy. Natsume looked up at him briefly in surprise, though he made no moves to stop him. "I'm sure the souls are missing my presence at this point."
"Join us for dinner tonight," Natsume ordered stoically, but underneath the authoritative tone, Ruka was well aware that it was simply a sincere offer, one that he was free to refuse if he chose to. At the same time, it was a silent reassurance that he could never be replaced in the god's eyes, even if he had finally found a woman to call his own. Ruka had always admired that silent, protective part of his friend – the part that watched out for him unconditionally, even though he was uncomfortable with showing emotions.
"Of course," he returned kindly, a grin overtaking his face.
"And," Natsume added, his tone suddenly grave. He looked up from his lady for a brief moment, fixing the ferryman with a knowing stare. "Don't let any of the gods across the river."
Ruka chuckled, rolling his eyes. "You didn't even have to say it."
Just before he shut the door behind him, he noticed how Natsume had already inched closer to the goddess, finally at ease now that he was as close as he had truly wanted to be.
.. ღ ..
Mikan delved into consciousness slowly, keenly aware of the pressure on her chest. It was difficult to breathe in, as if something had blocked both her nose and mouth. But she found that the more she tried, the easier it became.
Slowly, she fluttered open her eyes, feeling her lashes tickle her skin from the action. Her vision blurred, and she vaguely attributed it to the deathly absence of light around her. The room she was in was dark, and the only source of light seemed to be a fireplace nearby, if the twisting orange shapes on the ceiling were any indication. She was quite sure that, the last she remembered, she had been on a sunlit path home from school.
Her breath hitched in fear, suddenly alert and aware that she was not where she should have been. Instead, she was in this foreign place, and if she thought through her pounding head, she recalled a memory of a darkly cloaked figure grabbing her and pulling her away to someplace unknown.
Oh, gods, she whimpered weakly in her mind, feeling her eyes sting with frightened tears. I've been kidnapped. This is the end for me.
Oddly enough, however, she was extremely comfortable for a captive. She felt her back pressed against a wonderfully soft mattress, covered in sheets so fine they could only have been silk. And her body had not been bound against anything in an attempt to hold her in place. A wiggle of her arms proved that, and she twisted her mouth in confusion. Where am I?
"Finally awake, I see," somebody suddenly broke through the silence, and she jerked in shock. The voice was quiet yet tinted with a masculine roughness; it was an attractive sound, without a doubt, and she felt herself flushing just from the sound of it. It was an absolutely ridiculous notion, yet she had always been a blubbering fool around appealing men.
With the tiny strength she could still muster, she tilted her chin to lift her head and tentatively looked around the room. Next to the bed, standing straight and sullen, a young man looked down at her, his lips thin and his eyes aflame. She gulped heavily when she noticed how beautiful he was, if such a word was appropriate to use when describing such an obviously hardy man. Beneath the royal robes, she spied a muscular figure, and just a glimpse of it made her face heat up in embarrassment.
But his most gorgeous features were his eyes, she decided. They were a pretty crimson, so fiery yet darkened with wisdom. They were both youthful and aged, as if he had seen things incomprehensible by someone having lived her brief years of life. But his gaze was passionate, and he looked at her as if she was the only thing that mattered in this world – in life and afterlife. She suppressed a pleased shudder from the intensity of his gaze, forcing herself to focus on more important matters.
Her lips were chapped, and she ran her tongue over them slowly before choking out a hoarse whisper. "Who are you?"
He bent closer to her, giving her a perfect view of his breathtaking face. Each line of his jaw was hard, set under pink lips that seemed to have tightened over the years from lack of smiling. She couldn't help but take notice of the maturity radiating from his stoic face as he introduced himself.
"Hyuuga Natsume, Lord of the Underworld. And your future husband."
Hooray for cliffhangers! Anyway, as you will notice, I have already made slight changes to the legend. For one, it takes place in a modern setting, and I changed the famous fruit from a pomegranate to a tangerine (it seemed appropriate, considering Mikan is the main character). I'll probably continue to change details like that, since the myth is not very specific about what happens in the Underworld.
To be honest, I partly put this up because I can be a very anal person, meaning it was killing me that I had nineteen stories published instead of a more round number, like twenty. :P The other reason – as much as it saddens me to admit it – is that I feel like I need a small break from Bleach. I want to explore a different array of characters, as well as write about one of my other favorite couples.
This story will be five chapters, and I will try my best to keep to that number. The entire story is planned and I have parts from future chapters written, so as long as I don't add a major plot line at the last second, it shouldn't be so hard to stick to my planning. I hope. Also, the only couple will be Natsume x Mikan (aside from the brief Izumi x Yuka, but they're canon and unavoidable now).
Next chapter: Mikan has a spazz attack. :D (Well, wouldn't you)? Also, proper introductions and a very uncomfortable dinner.
Sorry for the super long ANs, but let me know what you thought. This fandom is fairly new to me, after all, so I want to make sure I'm doing an okay job so far. :)