Chapter One: A Day With Rei
Although nothing compared to the sanctuary of her shrine, Hino Rei did not mind school.
For her, it was tolerable.
Teachers respected her, students revered her, and even a few—she did not want to admit—worshiped her.
Despite being the wealthiest and most prestigious educational institution in Tokyo, Rei had managed to single-handedly conquer TA Girls Academy.
Actually, she barely had to lift a finger. All she had to do was place high on the exams and everyone else did the work for her.
It was not like Rei exactly welcomed the attention or took advantage of it. She simply let it be.
She had no problem doing just that with her peers, either. Although rather introverted and aloof, you could not exactly say that Rei was a loner. She had many friends at the academy. Too many, really. Friends for comparing notes. Friends for trips to the bathroom. Friends to eat cake with at that one place by the station. Friends she could discuss things like literature and beauty tips and lessons and other people with. Things on the surface, unlike life at the shrine or her father or him.
Well, they were more like acquaintances, really.
But still, she tolerated them.
Her life was quite established. Despite having a deceased mother and a father who was practically heading in that direction for all she cared, Rei could not exactly complain about her life. Things had happened, but had they not gone that way, she would never have had the shrine. She loved the shrine.
What you could say is, in regards to her life, Hino Rei was quite content.
To the Princess of TA,
Hollow and empty inside
I did not know until I found you
And became lost in a sea of violet
Please meet me tomorrow at five by the gates.
She carefully folded the piece of stationery and tucked it away in her leather briefcase, letting out a small sigh. Closing the door to her shoe locker, she traveled down the hallway to her classroom.
Rei could barely tolerate love letters.
For one thing, she knew for a fact that nobody really knew her.
All they knew was that Hino Rei, daughter of Senator Hino, attended TA Girls Academy and lived at Hikawa Shrine.
(Although slightly more enthusiastic admirers would be able to pinpoint her bus routes.)
Sure, many from her school had been to the shrine, but Rei had never personally invited any of them there. Students from all over visited the shrine for normal things, like buying charms or praying for an upcoming exam.
(But then again, they also did absolutely abnormal things like present its resident miko with flowers or cram the donation box with more of those godforsaken letters.)
Still, Rei could confidently say that high school students mostly visited the shrine for, well, the shrine and its kami. Its purpose.
(That had been her silent mantra for months, her grandfather would explain. He, on the other hand, took great amusement in the attention and reveled in the increased business.)
Rei glanced at her bag warily, thinking about the message again. Why did so many of her letters refer to her as "The Princess," anyways? Did they not know her given name?—
Wait a minute. Exactly how many princesses at the school were there?
She dug into her bag and retrieved another letter she had received last week and unfolded it, her eyes landing on the second line.
—compared to unyielding elegance of twilight, the sun of the other Princess cannot compare.
It was then that Rei lost control and let out an audible giggle. She didn't know what was more hilarious: the embarrassingly poetic comparisons or the school's creepy enthusiasm for handing out such ridiculous titles.
The bell was ringing now. Still laughing, Rei quickened her pace.
Today was a Thursday, and Thursdays meant modern society straight after homeroom. Although Rei disliked the subject, she tried her best in it anyways.
She was at the front taking notes when all of a sudden, a body barreled through the sliding door.
"Aino!" Their teacher, Yamanaka growled. "School started over an hour ago! Where were you during homeroom?"
"Please excuse me, sensei. I just love beating personal records," this Aino girl replied cheekily.
There was a chorus of laughter which did not cease even when Yamanaka appeared to have blown a gasket.
Aino had a reputation for almost never arriving to school on time. In the few months since the school year had started, their homeroom teacher's impressively varied reactions had become a daily source of entertainment for the entire class. Today was a special day, however, as it was their modern society teacher's turn to scold her. Although Aino was always late, she was seldom late enough to miss an entire period.
Yamanaka rubbed at his temples. "Just cut the remarks and go take your seat." Nodding sheepishly, the blond made a beeline for the back of the classroom. She tossed Rei an unreadable glance as she passed her seat, but it went unnoticed by all.
Aino was a humorous, cheery and overall popular girl, Rei knew. Seated in the back, she had a knack for completely capturing the attention of those around her (and consequently dropping their grades). People flocked to her, and she encouraged it, unlike Rei, who merely accepted it (as one would cruel fate).
This was all basic knowledge, of course. Even somebody as disinterested and uninvolved as Hino Rei had noticed when Aino (what was her name again? Makoto?) had transferred in that spring. After all, it wasn't every day that TA accepted transfer students. They weren't supposed to, actually, but there were always exceptions for everything in this world Rei lived in.
It wasn't every day that someone like Aino came along, either. In a matter of three months, she had practically climbed the social ladder to what Rei believed to be the most popular girl at school. And that was saying something, in a school filled with the offspring of the wealthy and famous.
With the girl-in-mention settled in her seat and the overall noise of the classroom at a respectable level, Yamanaka cleared his throat.
"Now, Aino, is there anything else you would like to tell me before we resume our lesson?"
She placed her pencil on her upper lip and scrunched her face in mock concentration.
"I didn't do my homework."
Even the filled buckets the teacher presented her with as punishment did nothing to detract from her enthusiasm. The girlish little bounce in her step was impossible to miss as Aino practically danced through the door she had left open.
But from her spot by the exit, Rei was the only one who noticed the large candy bar nestled in the waistband of the troublemaker's uniform skirt.
Fortunately for Rei, modern society passed quickly and Yamanaka was replaced with their calculus teacher, Hanimoto.
"Hino," the teacher began, addressing the class representative. Her tone was careful and measured, a stark contrast to how Yamanaka had dealt with Aino. "Would you mind bringing these printouts to the staff room? They need to be delivered now, but of course I cannot leave this room unattended."
Rei made her exit, sliding the door closed behind her. She nearly bumped into Aino, who had made herself very comfortable with her back to the wall. Surprisingly, both buckets were still in hand. Rei had half-expected her to not bother, but then remembered how proud Aino could get during physical education. To put the load down would admit weakness.
There was a slight pause as Rei didn't quite know what to say. In the few months she had been here, Aino had never said a word to her, and neither had Rei. And they had certainly never been this close.
Aino broke first. "Aren't you lucky." She gestured over to Rei and then back to her buckets.
The raven-haired girl blinked and shifted her focus to the printouts in her possession, trying very hard to ignore how blue Aino's eyes were.
"At least he didn't send you to get get paddled by the headmaster."
The two girls winced at the thought, but Aino managed a half-smile.
"I suppose. But maybe Hanimoto will send you if she catches you talking to me."
Rei flushed slightly. "I.. I.. wait. You knew when modern society ended?"
"Of course. I saw Hani-sensei enter, didn't I?"
"Then why are you still out here?"
"Beats derivatives. You could say I 'provoked' Yamanaka a bit when he exited, enough to warn Hani."
This made Rei laugh softly. She stopped at the indiscernible look on Aino's face, however.
"What, thought I didn't have a sense of humor?"
"No, that's not it.." the blond murmured. She was about to say something but was interrupted by a loud grumbling. "Um.."
"Let me guess, you didn't get to eat breakfast?" An embarrassed nod. "What, never got to eat your chocolate?"
"My hands are kind of full. I honestly didn't think Yamanaka would go all old school and give me these..." Her sheepish grin slipped from her face. "Wait a minute. How did you—"
"You should learn how to hide stuff better." Rei then took a bucket from the other girl's hand. "See, now it'll look like we're both in trouble."
Rei honestly didn't know why she went out of her way to help this girl—who was practically a glutton for punishment—much less allow herself to get pulled into conversation. She was supposed to be good at not investing herself in others. Rei was sure that had it been anyone else, she would be in the staff lounge right now, or even the classroom. Not hanging around in the hallways with a notorious truant.
There was an oddly comfortable silence as Aino unwrapped her candy with a free hand and took a bite. Rei was almost disturbed with how she ate it. If it were her, she would've broken off the individual cubes of chocolate by hand. She shook the odd thought from her head and began to stare off into space, questioning all of the actions she had made in the past ten minutes.
Her thoughts were interrupted when the bar was waved in front of her face. She looked over to Aino, who grinned.
"Thanks for helping me out."
And now I'm eating candy. You know what? Screw it, Rei thought. She took a sizable bite without actually taking the bar from Aino's hand, not caring that the other girl's mouth had been on it.
The hand holding the bar instantly stiffened, and Aino turned her face away.
"Anyways, you had better be on your way before you end up standing next to me for real."
"But what about the buckets?"
Aino smiled and looped her occupied arm through Rei's bucket, nestling the handle on the inside of her elbow.
Rei gave her a peculiar look. "You mean you could've done that all along?"
"I don't know, it was kind of nice taking advantage of your kindness."
The raven-haired girl had the feeling that she was missing out on something, but brushed it off. "You're really something." She said this with good humor, surprised that she didn't feel irritated at all. "I guess I really had better go now. I could probably make some excuse about the staff being in discussion."
Resuming her duty as class representative, Rei waved goodbye to the girl who turned out to be not-so-bad.
But she wasn't exactly sure how to feel about this Aino girl.
The blonde waved back until the other girl disappeared behind the door to the staff lounge.
Minako glanced at the half-eaten chocolate in her hand for a full minute before ungraciously cramming the rest into her mouth. There was no way she was going to share this with anyone else, not at all. She decided to reenter the classroom out of pure boredom.
It was something she had planned on doing until the moment Hino Rei had abruptly appeared before her.
I figured I'd hurry on and update now because I've been so spoiled this week. The Rei/Minako ship has had a whopping total of fifteen updates within the past ten days! FIFTEEN! I remember when getting one every two weeks was a good pace.
And yeah, you're not alone. This chapter was pretty weird to me. I swear, if I have to refer to Minako as 'Aino' one more time, I will.. I don't know. HAHA.
But hey, at least it didn't take 8573495 chapters for them to meet like originally planned! Just kidding, I'm not planning anything at all here. Just goin' with the flow. (I need to pee now.)