New AN (2016-11-13): I am currently in the process of revising this story. No updates will occur until I am done. Earliest estimated date for updates to resume is May 2017. Sorry that I keep pushing this date back - I am trying to finish my other fics that are closer to completion first. This way, I can allocate more time to updating this story regularly to avoid another long hiatus. I really appreciate your support and hope that you will enjoy the revised story and future chapters.
Disclaimer: I don't own Mai-Hime or any of its characters. They belong to Sunrise last time I checked.
Warning: This story is AU and somewhat OOC. Hope you'll still like it nonetheless, because I really like AU ShizNat fics myself.
Chapter 1 - Welcome
As though this can get any worse…
Kuga Natsuki finds herself facing her prof's office in the dead of summer. Even with the air conditioning blowing full force, it still feels like an oven.
Rm. 2206 – Fujino Shizuru, Assistant Professor, Department of Biophysics
Her emerald glare lands on the nameplate as though wanting to burn a hole through it.
It's bad enough that she's still in college at age 26.
It's made worse when she finds out her prof is just a year older than her.
And to make it double worse, she just failed said prof's course and has to do some stupid summer project at her lab for credits.
Screw Fujino. Sadistic bitch gave me a 49 for the final grade…couldn't she have rounded it up?
Without knocking, she invites herself into the office.
"So what do you want me to do, Fujino?" Natsuki says first thing after stepping into the tidy room, plopping down onto the couch facing the desk. The room's occupant glances up from her laptop with the faintest hint of amusement lining her shapely lips.
"Ara, you must be Kuga Natsuki-san?"
Her eyes meet their crimson counterparts on Fujino, and she finds herself carefully surveying the pale brown locks that cascade down her prof's slim figure.
Never noticed she's actually pretty for a boring scientist, not that I've been to lectures enough to know that. Well, she's young as they say, that's for sure.
…why the hell am I checking out my prof? The fuck?
Natsuki snaps out of her thoughts to see that Fujino is literally in her face. They're about 5cm apart, at most.
She jumps out of the couch and nearly trips on its legs, completely unaware that a blush has just crept up her face.
"The hell you want, Fujino?" she snaps.
This time, Fujino Shizuru just can't hide the amusement she has found in her student, chuckling as politely as she can manage behind the back of her palms.
What an afternoon.
First, this raven-haired girl barges into her office without so much as a knock.
Then she calls her "Fujino". Seriously? No "sensei" after it? Or at the very least, a polite suffix?
And now she nearly trips on the couch. This is priceless entertainment.
"Oh, I just asked if you'd like tea, Kuga-san."
The brunette prof holds out the cup of steaming green tea in her hands, suggesting if Natsuki would like the same.
"Ugh…sure. Why not."
As the brunette picks out a clean cup from her cabinet to prepare tea, Natsuki's eyes wander around the office. At first glance, it seems quite spacious compared to the other rooms in the building, but a closer look tells that it's just because of the minimal furnishings. It's pretty amazing how so many books can fit so snugly on the towering bookshelf to one side, and how the narrow window sill can be converted into a mini oasis with a tank of tropical fish standing beside a cascade-style flowering bonsai.
"See something you like, Kuga-san?" the voice thick with accent clears the silence in the room. Natsuki shrugs, grabbing the cup of tea from her prof and dropping back down to her seat.
"Nice bonsai. You sure have a lot of time," she answers, deep voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Actually, this brings us back to the topic of our meeting today," Shizuru says, sitting down as well, "About the email I've sent-"
"Yeah, do a summer project and I get a pass, right? Not that I really care about passing your course, but whatever…I'll do it."
Fuck that old man for making me take summer courses otherwise. Just give me the money, damn it.
At this, Shizuru raises a trimmed eyebrow in mild surprise before settling down for her usual calm demeanour. This is getting way too interesting.
"Yes, about that, I actually haven't decided on a project for you."
"What?" Natsuki shoots up, knocking over her teacup to send hot green liquid pooling over Shizuru's desk. Crap.
"My, my…I suppose we can start with the table then."
"You can't be saying…"
"Cleaning the table. Then, you can help me trim my bonsai."
You fucking kidding me? This is my project for passing Physics 101?
They say "directed studies" is a pretty name for "free labour".
But Natsuki at least thought it'd be free labour related to the course she just failed. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Not that she really cares about the course content, so whatever.
After cleaning the table, they spent two hours on the bonsai. At least the burning sun seems as exhausted as she is now and has settled down on the horizon.
Still, it's baking. Not the scorching hot of afternoon, but a humid, stuffy dusk.
Sitting on that same chair, in front of that same desk, is her young brunette prof, sipping on the umpteenth cup of green tea she has witnessed since she has stomped into the office.
How Fujino Shizuru can spend all this time on the table and the bonsai alongside her new "directed studies" student, or rather slave, is questionable. Doesn't she have to do some actual…work?
As much as Natsuki is telling herself that she really doesn't give a shit, she's actually a little curious.
"Ara, Natsuki. Is there something on my face?"
Natsuki is flustered that she has been caught staring, even more so when her prof just blurted out her first name without even asking.
"A tea leaf, Fu-ji-no," she lied blatantly with special emphasis on the surname. There it goes again, her prof's smile widening while the older woman sits her chin onto the back of her palms. What's that supposed to mean anyway?
"Shizuru is fine."
This catches her off-guard, and she finds herself just staring, again.
"It is customary for lab members to be on first name basis. Doesn't it feel nicer to do away with the formalities and work in a more homey environment?"
Damn it, why am I thinking about this now.
To hell with that Fujino.
"'Kuga-san' will do just fine with me," she retorts, really poorly imitating the smooth accent Shizuru uses, earning her a chuckle. She tries to give her most angry glare at the brunette before turning on her heels to leave, "You said it's a 9-to-5 arrangement and it's 5 now, so I'm heading out."
She stops, turning ever so slightly to look behind her. The setting sun is casting a golden glow on the chestnut hair, and at that moment, the crimson orbs appear warm.
"And welcome to the Fujino Lab, Natsuki."
End of Chapter 1