Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice nor its characters but the story is entirely mine.
Natsume watched the car drive away with his sister. He managed to send her away in time but he was so regretful he couldn't say anything. He could only smile at her, kiss her swiftly on the forehead and say goodbye.
Mikan came to find him anyway. "Did you say goodbye?"
"That's good… Hotaru's going to give me some contacts later. So let's go on a date," Mikan grinned.
The date happened during twilight – before the sun set completely. The morning was full of grieving but Mikan tried her best to be cheerful. On the bus ride, Mikan rested her light head on Natsume's broad shoulder then she took the chance to hold Natsume's hand as they window shopped.
On the other hand Natsume was not feeling joyous. Although he was feeling grateful that Mikan was on a date with him and that she was being sweet, it just didn't feel right. He couldn't enjoy himself because his dear sister was gone – he was irritated. Is Aoi more important than Mikan? He didn't want to answer that question no matter what.
"Maybe we could go somewhere quiet. It's getting dark and the bus isn't for another twenty minutes," Mikan suggested as she headed to a shaded tree. Usually Natsume becomes more… pleasant in a cool place.
"Polka, if you haven't noticed, it's already past 11," Natsume answered with his straight face.
"Don't call me that!" she yelped and then sighed when she realized the trick wasn't working. He hasn't even smirked today. "Are you upset Natsume? I'm sorry for using this day as a date. We should be-"
"You don't expect me to do that though do you?" he questioned her, leaning against the truck, "You know I won't hide in a corner and start crying. You also know I don't want to have fun. I don't know what you're trying to do truthfully."
Mikan cringed, "You know me better than I know myself Natsume. I just wanted to keep you from feeling upset. I don't necessarily need you to feel happy, just to avoid the unhappiness."
"It doesn't matter." He glanced down at his hand. Natsume placed his hands on her shoulders and leaned in close. Breathing steadily, he whispered, "Happy birthday."
His lips touched hers tenderly just as the fireworks erupted in the air. Mikan was more than surprised but enjoyed every second Natsume was being romantic. This would probably be the last time since he would be leaving…
"So you know who he's going to attack?" asked Nonoko, shocked by the fact Hotaru had been doing this behind their backs.
Hotaru nodded in reply and glared at her spies, "Unless they didn't get their facts right."
Grinning, Koko protested "I won't get it wrong! Believe me, my info is the best you'll ever get."
"I got mine from the staffroom and the private section of the libraries… What if I can't be class president because I stole information?!" Yuu cried, completely stressed out.
"Calm down Iinchou. No one knows it was you who took it. And if they do, place the blame on me," Mochu comforted. "I've never been a good student and I didn't help you guys either."
"No, you guys all did. By not looking suspicious was good enough. Now, you all have to promise not to tell Mikan and Hyuuga about this," Hotaru told them solemnly. "Nogi, explain," she added when she saw the confusion in her friend's faces.
"They know we're worried. And if they know we're risking this to help them, they'll interfere and everything we do (or did) will be a waste," Ruka explained calmly to all their mislead friends.
"So we say nothing about this, agreed?"
They all answered unsurely, "Alright."
Mikan visited Hotaru again. She gave her best friend a hug which she didn't reject because it was New Years' – also her birthday.
"So?" Mikan urged.
"Here. It's a contact to the neighbor of Mr. Hyuuga. He's called Kitsuneme. I talked to him already and he's expecting a call from you or Hyuuga. Just tell him who you are and he'll pass it on to Mr. Hyuuga," Hotaru explained but then told her the down side, "You have to be really quiet in case anyone or thing overhears you. Make sure you are not together with Hyuuga when either one of you makes the call. Make only one call and make it as short as possible."
"One call? How is he going to escape with one call?!" she exclaimed.
"You'll work it out. Kitsuneme is prepared to take the risk and help because you have to know Mr. Hyuuga is disabled."
"A story for another time. Hurry up and go. Rip up that piece of paper once you've used it and delete your call history, do you understand?"
Mikan nodded and gave Hotaru a bear hug, "Thank you so much Hotaru. I love you so much."
Natsume received the message and carved it in his head to thank Hotaru. He dialed the number as Mikan left the room.
"Hello?" a man's voiced answered him.
"I'm Natsume Hyuuga," he introduced.
"It's nice to meet you. Hang on a second. I'll pass it on to your dad." The line was silent for a while and shuffling was heard. Natsume's heart sped up as the shuffled subsided.
Then finally, the voice he hadn't heard for years showed up, "N-natsume?" His rough voice stung Natsume. Was it that rough those years back? Was he still the same? Did Aoi reach him yet? He remained calm and began talking.
"Yes. It's me, Dad. How are you?"
"I'm devastated. Aoi… how'd it happen?"
"I'm sorry. I promised to protect her after Mum but… I'm sorry."
"Normally you wouldn't admit that. You've grown up Natsume. I wish I had watched you grow. I'm the one that's sorry… So you're planning to leave now?"
"…I don't think I can."
"What'd you mean? Your sister is gone and I don't want you to go either. You have to come home."
"Is there something going on in school?"
"… No, Dad, it's nothing. Get Kitsuneme to prepare a car at Gakuen Alice in two days at 11pm and I'll sneak out. Two days from now Dad. I'll be home in two days and we'll get a funeral done for Aoi."
"Alright. I'll see you soon Natsume."
"I promise you will Dad." He switched off the phone, deleted the history and then tore up the paper. Just in case, he burned it with a lighter. It seemed like a dream.
Mikan was glad everything went brilliantly. She went on a date with a romantic Natsume who remember her birthday, whereas she stayed in the medical department with him for his. Then she managed to get hugs form Hotaru. She'll be able to watch Natsume leave the warped school soon and then he'll be safe.
Whilst whistling the sonata she was practicing on piano, someone's freezing hand pricked her skin.
"Mikan Sakura, pianist, currently 17," he smirked, his hand tightening on hers. His pale face covered by a pure white mask. Everything else about him was dark – including his aura. It wasn't good and Mikan grew anxious.
He smirked at the girl's knowledge. "I guess I'm pretty popular... I'd like you to join me."
Mikan was speechless.
"I'll need someone to fill the gap of pianist after this one leaves. Sadly, I had to get rid of the previous pianist."
She gasped, "You-!"
"Yes, I know. So, do you want him to leave safely and join me or would you rather refuse and let him face what he should've years ago?"
"I… You have to promise to leave everyone out of this. As long as I stay in the class and play for you, you'll let be Natsume be free and you won't drag anyone else into this?"
"Yes, that's it."
"… Then yes."
"Perfect," his lips spread into a crooked smile and Persona guided Mikan into the music rooms. "Shall we begin my precious pianist?"
She gulped, "Yes."
The morning came quick and Mikan went to visit Natsume. Smiling as though she knew nothing, she asked, "How was the phone call?"
"Alright, I guess?" he shrugged then kept reading his manga.
Mikan sighed and gave Natsume a lazy kiss on the cheek. "When are you going?"
"… Tomorrow night."
"Oh… That's quick. But I guess the sooner you're away, the safer you'll be."
"And you have to go quickly if you don't want Persona to come chasing after you," Mikan stiffened as Natsume eyed her.
"Aren't you doing anything for your birthday?"
She exhaled, "Well… I think Anna and Nonoko are planning something with Hotaru but i can't be bothered at the moment. I just want to play piano."
"You wanna do it here?" he smirked as he jerked his thumb at his own piano at the end of his room.
"Um… No thanks. I wanna go to the practice rooms. Bye Natsume."
She had said it herself, 'You know me better than I know myself.'
Did she think she could slip her way through him; to lie to him? It was just wrong no matter how he tried to bend the facts he's gotten.
Something was bothering her and he had an idea of what it was. The way she wasn't giddy about her birthday was concerning enough – that's why he brought it up. Playing piano? In a music room? Now it was just plain concerning. She'd never play on her own unless she had to or no one would agree to listen to her – another reason he asked.
Feeling betrayed, Natsume snuck up on Mikan (more like spying). "I've told you before: I cannot play in front of audiences!"
"Well, you have to. We made a deal and you have to stick to it – for your lovely boyfriend," Persona's icy cold voice sneered.
Natsume had no idea what the twisted Persona had anything to do with his untainted Mikan, but it was made clear now. That was why she wanted him to get out the academy: because she made a deal. But he found out – as expected of a Hyuuga.
"So can we get the lesson over with? It's my birthday and I want to spend it with my friends without them suspecting anything," Mikan groaned.
"Whatever. Get in and get going."
Now he needed to do something about this with whatever time he had…
End of Chapter 27
nix, no worries! I'll keep continuing this since it's my first fanfic. Aw, ToriChuck! 20 chapters a day? I'd die :P Thanks guys. Please review if you enjoyed it - or hated it.