Centauri2002's Fanfiction

The Chains That Bind

Prologue

In the beginning there was nothing...

And then there shone a light, small at first but ever increasing. With the light came warmth, and creation, and life. With it came consciousness, and it's polar opposite. Darkness and Light, forever dancing together but never truly meeting and merging. Skimming around the edge of one another's existance, peering into the others' world but never stepping inside. Fated to play out the same dance, over and over.

Time moved through everything. It watched. It listened. From beginning til end it would be there. A constant companion.

----

Chapter One

The sun peeked over the hills that for decades had watched over the small village at their base. Light raced over the green fields and wrapped itself around the small buildings, down the streets, through the park, until finally resting inside a bedroom, upon the face of a girl, slumbering peacefully. The sudden light made her golden hair shine back at the invading sun, and her eyelids opened ever so slightly. She murmured slightly, then seemingly aware of the time, groaned and rolled over, burying her head into the pillows.

Her room mate however, took the intrusion as her cue to slip out of bed. The short haired brunette stretched and let out a quiet yawn. She peered out at the orange and yellow hues and decided it was a good day to run. She glanced down at the sleeping blonde and smirked. Waking her was going to be a problem but she delighted in thinking of new methods to do so. So what would it be today? A bucket of water? A yell in the sleeping girl's ear? A poke in the ribs? So many choices. She chuckled slightly as she thought of the reaction she would get.

The brunette ran her fingers through her hair and shook her legs out, expelling the sleepiness from her joints. She reached out for her dressing gown and wrapped it around her body. The blonde behind her murmered something in her sleep, causing the brunette to smile again. 'You better be awake when I get back, Himeko, or you're in some serious trouble.' She said to herself while heading for the communal bathroom.

The sound of the door closing drew Himeko from her sleep, and she pushed blonde strands of hair out of her face. She'd been having a dream but the details were now fading from memory. She glanced over at the door. Makoto must have left to get washed. She wondered why her room mate had to get up so early. She sighed and pulled herself into a sitting position. She supposed she should get up too or she'd have Makoto annoying her all morning. Slipping out from under the covers, she carefully maneuvered herself onto her feet. The soft carpetting tickled as she padded over to the wardrobe. She pulled out her school uniform and started to get dressed.

Himeko smiled as the sun shone in on her face. The start of the day bode well for its remainder. She had a feeling it would be a good Thursday today.

"Oh. My. God."

The voice from behind her startled Himeko and she spun around, almost losing her footing. There stood Makoto, a towel lying over one shoulder.

"I can't believe you're actually awake! What apocalypse occured to make that happen!" She smirked as she poked fun at the blonde.

Himeko pouted whilst hurriedly pulling on the remainder of her clothes. "Well, if you weren't so noisy leaving the room, I could of had more beauty sleep."

Makoto chuckled as she too began to get dressed. "I had plenty of ways to wake you too. Now you've spoiled all my fun."

Himeko looked down at her bag and wondered if she'd remembered to pack everything last night. "Mako-chan, you can be a bit scary sometimes."

"Heh, don't be silly. I'm loveable really!" Makoto flung an arm around Himeko's shoulders and pulled her into a single limbed embrace. The blonde giggled in response.

***

Director Mark Phelps tapped his fingers across his desk impatiently. He'd just come out of a very long meeting and he was becoming increasingly agitated. Not only was his department understaffed, they were also overworked. And now something major turns up. He let out a frustrated sigh. He lifted his head at the sound of tapping at his door.

"Enter." He said curtly.

The door opened and in stepped a young woman, dressed in jeans and a shirt. Her long brown hair fell down her back. Her disregard for practical and respectable work attire annoyed him endlessly but he let it slide. She was good at what she did afterall. She turned around and stepped up to his desk. She was very young for someone of her job and rank, only twenty. She was their Computer expert, and had been with them for six months now. Wherever she had been before that, Phelps had never been privy too.

"Ah Klavdiya Zhukov. I called you here to talk about a new assignment."

Klavdiya frowned at the director. "Another one? I'm already working several cases." Her accent was not easily placed. Phelps had noticed this immediately. Her papers said she was of Russian decent but her accent was almost mixed from several different countries. Yet another mystery surrounding the computer tech.

"Yes. You'll have to drop those for now. I'm sending you to Japan." He said plainly.

Klavdiya's eyes widened slightly. "What? I've put weeks of work into these cases. What can be more important than-"

"That's enough, Zhukov. This comes right from the top. You're going and that's that." He stated firmly, satisfied when she didn't immediately argue with him.

She seemed to ponder this for a moment before speaking. "So, what's this all about, sir?"

He motioned towards a seat in front of his desk. "Interpol has received some information about a criminal organisation operating in Japan. As that is under our jurisdiction, it's up to us to investigate. Now... from what I've been told, there is very little fact involved but certain events have unfolded that makes me think there's a cult involved somewhere." He paused, allowing Klavdiya to absorb this new information. "The Japanese government has cleverly put a file together making it seem more like a criminal organisation, forcing us to step in."

"You've got to be joking. A cult?" Klavdiya said incredulously.

Phelps shook his head. "You'll be heading to Mahoroba, a small place it seems so hopefully the investigation wont take too long."

"You can't be sending me alone?"

"Of course not, a team will be going with you. You're not a lead investigator afterall. But you are our computer tech and I want you to look into some things whilst you're there. It's all in the case file." Phelps explained.

Klavdiya rubbed her chin with one hand. "Hmm, so who is going with me?"

The director glanced at a piece of paper lying in front of him. "Frederic Haineau, he'll be the team leader, and Mikkel Hagstedt who is also an experienced investigator. You can, of course, have back up from the local law enforcement if you find it necessary."

The brunette regarded this new information for a few minutes. "Why is it that you've called me in on my own and aren't briefing us all together?"

Phelps had to commend her on figuring that out, or at least pointing it out to the director. "Well, there's something I need you to do that the others can't do."

"Oh..?" Klavdiya leant forwards in her chair as Director Phelps explained.

***

Kurusugawa Himeko stretched her legs slightly after rising from her chair. The long history lesson had taken its toll on her endurance and she was glad it was over. Saotome Makoto winked and waved to her from the opposite side of the class. She always went off to the track at this time to do a few laps. She very rarely got to eat lunch with her. She didn't mind though, Makoto was working hard towards something she believed in.

She made her way through the chattering crowd, making sure to stay as hidden as possible. The more they ignored her, the happier she was. She wasn't one for attention, it made her feel very uncomfortable. A small group of girls were talking rather loudly by the school entrance. She couldn't help but eavesdrop, though if the information was forced upon you could you really call it that?

One of the girls squealed. "No way! She's coming back?"

Another jumped up and down excitedly. "I can't believe it. It's been five years. I wonder what she looks like!"

The third giggled uncontrollably. "I wonder how she's changed? Is she still cute?"

Himeko rushed past them, idly wondering who this Miya-sama was. She must be important to cause such a stir. She walked hastily up the path until, finally, there were no more students around. She paused at a junction in the pathway. In front of her was a large green bush, spotted with colourful flowers. Behind it was a tall, aging tree. She stared at it, her heart starting to beat quickly. This all seemed so familiar somehow. So familiar yet so empty. Her chest began to ache and she felt as though she would cry. She had to get away from here. She ran down one of the paths, unaware of where she was headed. She only stopped when she had to pant for air, bending over wearily. Why did she get this sometimes? In certain places, at certain times. It was very confusing. And it hurt. So much.

A tear finally made its way down her cheek, meandering over the reddened flesh before finally falling from her chin to the ground below. She suddenly became acutely aware of a presence looming over her. She looked up slowly, and looking back at her sternly was a tall girl, a few years older than her. Her long straight black hair swirled around her slightly in the breeze, her dark eyes baring a steely gaze.

"R-Rei-san?" She stuttered, recognising the upper classman immediately. It was Tanaka Rei, who was in her last year of school. She always seemed to be in a mad mood though and Himeko didn't know why.

Rei narrowed her eyes at the words. "That's Tanaka-sama to you, Kurusugawa." Her voice held as much steel as her eyes.

Himeko straightened and took a few steps back. She always found this girl a bit intimidating. "S-s-sorry, Tanaka-sama."

Rei 'hmphed' at her and continued walking, not giving her a second look.

Himeko felt like crying even more now but she held it in and just made her way back to the school building. She'd just forego lunch now, she didn't feel much like eating anymore. As she neared the entrance again, she spotted Oogami Souma standing there, surprisingly on his own. He was one of the popular boys, skilled and handsome. Not long ago he had confessed his love for her and, surprisingly, she'd turned him down. She knew she was waiting for someone, and she knew it wasn't him. She had avoided him for a while, not wanting to see his hurt expression, but he had seemed fine with it.

He turned towards her as she approached and gave her a wide grin. "Gokigenyou, Kurusugawa-san." He greeted her.

Himeko gave him a beaming smile. "Gokigenyou, Oogami-kun."

His grin was replaced by a worried expression as she drew closer. "Is everything okay, Himeko? You don't look so well." He reached out to her but pulled back his hand once she was within reach.

She nodded. "I'm fine." She replied quietly. Then she felt a warm hand on her upper arm. She looked up at Souma again.

"If you want to talk..." He blushed slightly and looked away. "I'm here for you."

"Th-thank you, Oogami-kun." She smiled again.

He offered his arm to her. "Come on, I'll walk you back to your class." He grinned at her, making her feel better. She accepted the arm and walked with him.

They walked through the doors and a group of girls shot her envious glances. She could hear hushed talking behind her, but she knew it was harmless. There was no chance of Oogami-kun and her becoming a couple, so the girls had nothing to fear. At least she hoped they knew that.

"Jin-sama!" A small pack of girls popped out from seemingly nowhere and assaulted him. He sighed slightly. "We wanted to have lunch with you, where were you?" One of the girls whined.

Souma rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. "I was talking to my friend. I can't be available every lunch." He tried his best to give a convincing smile. Himeko thought it was so kind of him to try and accomodate all his admirers. He never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings. He would make someone a nice boyfriend one day. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm walking Kurusugawa-san back to her class."

With that he pushed his way through the group, much to their chagrin. They muttered something that Himeko couldn't quite make out. "Sorry about that." Souma chuckled nervously. Himeko merely smiled back up at him, making him blush again.

They got to her class and she stepped inside. "Thanks for walking me, Oogami-kun!"

He smiled back at her before taking his leave, followed by yet another group of girls.

***

Kurusugawa Himeko managed to get through the rest of the day without incident. Mathematics and Geography had droned on but now she was out of school and walking down Mahoroba High Street. She did her best to move through the groups of people. She wanted to try out that new cafe that had opened nearby. She had hastily changed into a short cream pleated skirt and a green sleeveless top when she'd gotten back to the dorms. Picking up the first pair of white shoes she could find, she had rushed out, hoping the cafe was still open. She looked from one side of the street to the other. Now where was it? Mako-chan had told her it was somewhere near here.

She stepped down from the pavement, onto the street crossing. The crowd seemed to part in front of her slightly. She looked ahead as she walked. She caught a glimpse of white in the middle of the throng of people, flowing white in a sea of bodies. Her eyes wandered up the slender form and her heart skipped a beat as her gaze settled on pink. There hung a pink shell, softly tapping against pale skin, held by a string around a slim neck. She froze as something hit her, mentally. The figure approached and stopped in front of her. Everything went blank, and her vision seemed to be filling with a bright light. She felt her body falling forwards, a magnetic pull to this figure. She could not see but she could feel... everything. Strong yet gentle arms engulfed her and she felt like she was falling, falling into an abyss. She felt herself wrapping her arms around this other person's neck, silky hair against her skin. Smooth, flushed skin slid against her cheek as she buried herself in those raven strands. She inhaled deeply and smelled roses. Oh gods. That smell. It was so familiar. So comforting. She felt a warm hand slide up her back, causing her to shiver, and it settled on her neck. She could feel the heat from the other body pressed into hers. Soft mounds pressed against hers, causing her to blush and pull back her head. She peered into mesmerising deep dark blue eyes. They pulled her in, spiralling down, deep down. She felt the face in front of her come closer, warm breath against her lips.

A loud blaring sound startled her from her trance and she blinked herself back to reality. She jumped out of the embrace of the other woman. She stared, disbelieving of her own actions. The hot blush on the other girl's stunningly beautiful features told Himeko she was just as embarassed. What the heck was I doing? She glanced around, several people were staring, and a few cars were trying to maneuver past them, beeping their horns. She glanced at the other girl again but she was avoiding eye contact with her.

"I-I'm s-sorry..." She managed to stutter out a quiet apology before turning on her heels and running.

She ran as fast as she possibly could. What had she done? Why had she done it? She couldn't understand. She shouldered her way past a particularly large man who grunted something at her but she kept running, head down. She had seen that pink shell, the exact same as the one she wore, and then... then thrown herself at a complete stranger. What would make her do that?

She finally came to a stop at the edge of the village center. She hoped she was far enough away from anyone who had seen that display. She breathed rapidly and her heart thudded noisely against her chest. She wasn't sure if it was from the running or from her encounter though. She brought a hand up to her still burning cheek. That woman... she was so beautiful. She may have been the same age as Himeko but she could have been older, it was hard to tell. Her mind took her back to how that embrace had felt. She shivered again. It made her feel hot all over. She shook her head. What are you thinking? I need to go home and forget all about this.

She jumped as she felt a hand on her shoulder. She let out a yelp and spun around, hoping the black haired girl hadn't followed her. Makoto stood there looking at her with a bemused expression and a cocked head. How foolish of you, Himeko, why would anyone want to follow you, let alone someone you embarassed in public? She blushed even harder with that thought.

"Himeko? What's wrong?" Makoto asked, concern in her voice.

She was dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt. She had obviously been running; part of her evening training regime. She wasn't out of breath like Himeko though. No, she was actually fit. Himeko shook her head, not able to get any words out just yet. Her mind was still racing, as was her heart.

"Come on, I know something's wrong. You don't run. Ever." Makoto gave her a light tap on the arm with a smirk.

"Mako-chan..." Himeko murmered.

Makoto leaned in towards her and tried to make eye contact. "Did you spill something in the cafe, maybe over a cute guy?" She teasingly asked.

Himeko shook her head. "No..."

The brunette straightened up and rubbed her chin. "Well, let's get you back to the room and I'll make you a nice hot cup of tea. That should be you feel better, right?"

Himeko nodded her head gratefully. She wasn't sure if she should tell Makoto about what had happened. It might make her sound like more of a freak than she already felt.

Fifteen minutes later, they were comfortably seated in their dorm room and Makoto was preparing the tea. Himeko leaned back into the bed and let out a sigh. She closed her eyes and tried to relax but immediately regretted doing so. All she could see was those beautiful blue eyes, peering into her soul. She could feel those gentle hands on her back, the sweet breath on her lips. She felt a blush rising up inside her again. Why am I thinking like this?

"What are you thinking about Himeko?" Makoto asked, regarding her blush.

Himeko quickly sat up, banging her head on the bunk above in the process. She grabbed the top of her head, wincing at the pain. She could hear Makoto laughing. "It's not funny, Mako-chan!" She complained.

"Heh, sure it is. That's my Himeko. Always clumsy." She continued to laugh.

Himeko shot her a look of feigned hurt whilst rubbing the sore spot. Makoto offered her the steaming cup of hot tea that she'd been holding. She smiled at her. "Hope that makes you feel better." She then sat down in the chair at their desk.

The blonde gladly sipped at the soothing liquid, it's warmth sliding down her throat. She felt the tension release itself from her muscles slightly.

"So let's hear it!" Makoto chirped, smirking at the other girl.

Himeko sighed, resigned to the fact that Makoto wasn't going to let her get away with not telling her what had happened.

"Have you ever done something so utterly stupid you wish the ground would open up, swallow you, spit you out and repeat it all over again..?" Himeko began.

The brunette's eyes opened wider slightly before an amused expression crept its way onto her face. "Of course not, I'm perfect remember?"

Himeko pouted at her. "You're not making this easy, Mako-chan." She complained.

Makoto chuckled. "Sorry, please continue."

The blonde paused, wondering how she should word it. "Well... I did that today..." She continued hesitantly. "I did something really, really stupid." She lowered her head, her cheeks reddening.

Makoto's voice lost its playful touch. "Himeko, jeez, what happened? It sounds really bad? Did you kill someone or something?"

Himeko let out a quiet laugh. "No, no, nothing like that. I saw this girl in the street and then, for no reason, I just lunged at her. I just felt this want... no, need... to hug her. I don't know why." She waited for Makoto's derision.

She was, instead, met with a lively chuckle. "Is that all, Himeko?" The blonde looked up at her with surprise in her eyes. "So what? I hug strangers all the time! Remember the day we first met, I hugged you because you were so kawaii!"

Himeko smiled at the fond memory. It was true, Mako-chan had just jumped on her in her seat at school. It was her first day, she was really worried and the tomboy had made her feel like she belonged. Probably for the first time in years.

"But this... this was different. I've never seen her before but it felt like I'd known her for years." She explained.

Makoto stood and crossed the room, settling down beside her and putting an arm around her. "You worry too much. It doesn't sound different at all. And you'll probably never see her again so don't worry about being embarassed." She gave the blonde a reassuring smile.

Himeko took a little solace in the fact that Makoto was probably right, she'd probably never see the raven haired girl again. But her heart also sank at the thought. She quickly returned the smile. "I think I need a little rest."

Makoto rustled the blonde's hair slightly with one hand. "Sure thing, I'll go finish my run then. I'll check on you when I get back."

Himeko watched as the brunette left the room, throwing one more smile over her shoulder at her. She was glad to have a friend like Mako-chan. She always knew how to make her feel better. She lowered herself onto the bed once more and pulled the covers over herself. She felt too drained to get changed right now. She let her eyes flutter shut and hoped that sleep would claim her soon.

***

The wind picked up outside the dorms, and the brunette scanned the darkness outside the window. There was a full moon and it illuminated a large part of the campus. She tucked her long hair behind her ears and sighed. She couldn't believe that her Director had assigned her to a high school dormitory. At least she managed to get a room inside the unused wing. The principal had said something about them refurbishing. She still couldn't understand it though, even if the Director was worried about this school, she and her team could investigate from outside. Ah well, not much point worrying about it now.

She pulled her hair back out of her face and tied it back into a pony tail. She then knelt down in front of her bags and pulled out her laptop and paraphernalia. She set it out as best as she could on the small desk. Switching the power on, she left it to start up. She moved back to the window. There was little movement outside, except for the ebb and flow of trees and leaves from the strokes of the wind.

Her laptop beeped to signify it was ready for input. She positioned herself in front of it, making her self as comfortable as possibly in the small chair. She went into the password protected folders and selected the case file. She'd better review it if she wanted to make a good start tomorrow. She skimmed over it, making sure to note the important points.

As the Director had mentioned, a cult was supposedly involved in several disappearances in the area. Noone had gone missing from the school yet, but the local law enforcement had received information that some of the students may be targetted for recruitment. Typical, she thought to herself. The source was anonymous too, which could mean she was being led on a goose chase. Several bodies had also turned up in the past few months, all had the same M.O. They were ritualistic in nature but experts who had been brought in couldn't match it to any known cults.

Klavdiya supposed it could be considered organised crime but the local authorities really should be able to handle a case like this. Bringing in Interpol was a bit extreme. She guessed that someone in the local government knew someone influential in Interpol. That, or her boss really didn't like her. Sending her off to some remote village when she had two other cases she had to work on.

The Director had noted a business in the area that might be worth looking into. Before they had gone to the hotel, Haineau and Hagstedt thought it would be a good plan for her to look into it, before they did any leg work. Typical, leave all the work to me. She sighed. The two older men hadn't been able to stay at the dormitories, mostly because of their age, but also because of their gender. It seemed the Principal hadn't found her to be of too high a risk to the students.

How old were they anyway? She knew Mikkel Hagstedt was thirty one, she'd worked with him before. She wasn't sure about Frederic Haineau, somewhere in his mid forties she'd guess. She stretched out in her chair for a moment and rested her hands behind her head. Where to start? The name of the company was A.O Co. Ltd. They were supposedly a machinery supplier. She'd find out if that were true or not.

She leant forward again and started work on breaking into the A.O Co. network, hoping it would at least give her a challenge.

***

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Two

Kurusugawa Himeko found herself being dragged along by the hand, all the way to school. She could only concentrate on making sure her feet kept up with the rest of her body. From time to time, Makoto would yank on her hand even more and she was sure she would topple, but by some miracle she didn't lose her balance.

"I can't believe I didn't hear about this before now!" Makoto muttered.

Himeko couldn't quite understand why she was so upset. "What's so important-?"

"It's Miya-sama! How can you not know about her?" Makoto glanced back at her for a moment, a disapproving look on her face. "Well, I suppose I can let you off, as you haven't been here all your life. Himemiya Chikane is a daughter of the great Himemiya house. From what I heard this morning, she's just returning from five years of studying abroad and recently won the national Kyudo tournament!"

Himeko gasped for breath and after a while realised that they'd stopped. Makoto was grinning at her sheepishly. "Sorry, I need to remember you're not a runner."

The blonde smiled weakly back at her. "Mako-chan, I-"

Makoto held up a hand, silencing her friend. "Let me finish. Where was I..? Oh yes, she left about five years ago to study in Europe and America I heard, I think she was eleven at the time. She's said to be the most promising pianist in Japan of her age aswell." She wiggled her eyebrows as she spoke. "You getting why this is a momentous occasion now?"

The blonde merely nodded, not wanting to question her friend further, for fear of a lecture.

"Okaaay, well we can walk the rest of the way. We should be early enough now." Makoto grinned.

Himeko couldn't help but find her friend's enthusiasm infectious. She grinned right back at her. Though, initially, she had been annoyed at having to get up earlier than usual, she soon got into the spirit of Makoto's mission. She was curious as to what this Miya-sama looked like aswell. Makoto had told her earlier that, before she left, she had been a very cute child so Himeko sort of knew what to expect.

The two girls continued on their journey, and Makoto told more interesting tales of her junior years at school. Himeko listened and giggled. Makoto always had a way with telling stories. She was so animated and enthusiastic. She was enthusiastic about anything she did. That was one of the reason's they'd become friends and stayed friends.

Makoto grabbed Himeko's hand as they heard a commotion coming from up ahead. She glanced excitedly at her friend. Makoto then ran off ahead, leaving the blonde to hurry after her. Up ahead, she could see a group of girls gathered, though she couldn't see around what, or who. This is Mako-chan's moment to satisfy her never ending curiosity, she giggled to herself.

As she drew closer she could just see someone at the centre of the swooning girls. The top of someone's head, covered in silky black hair. Her heart skipped a beat. And then the group parted and she found herself staring into those eyes again. Those dark blue orbs, that wanted to swallow her. She gasped but she couldn't move. Her muscles refused to work.

That beautiful girl, wearing the Ototachibana school uniform, walked towards her, her gaze never faltering. The other girls fluttered around her but she barely noticed them. This couldn't possibly be Himemiya Chikane. Why was fate so cruel? She'd embarassed one of the most important people in the village. And then the girl was right in front of her, looking down at her.

"I'm Himemiya Chikane." To Himeko, it was if she spoke in melodic tones. The warmth in her voice engulfed her. The taller girl bowed slightly with the introduction and startled murmers from the other girls followed.

Himeko stood there speechless for what seemed like a long time. She eventually managed to summon the will power to look away and down at the ground. "I-I'm Kurusugawa H-Himeko, Ch-Chikane-chan." She instantly covered her mouth with a hand. She shouldn't have addressed such an important person so informally. She glanced up but didn't see the expected ire in Chikane's eyes.

Chikane smiled at her slightly. "Himeko, that's a lovely name." She then glanced around her. "Well, Gokigenyou, Kurusugawa-san." With that said she turned and walked away, her hair fluttering behind her.

Himeko suddenly felt weak in the knees and she was sure she would have fallen to the ground if Makoto hadn't excitedly bounded up to her and grabbed her. "Oh. My. God!" She screeched.

"Why? Why? Why?" Makoto chanted at her.

After Himeko had taken a sufficient amount of time to recover she managed to answer her friend. "That's her..." She spluttered.

Makoto cocked her head at the blonde. "Her?"

Himeko nodded. "That's the girl from yesterday." She blushed.

The brunette gasped. After a moment of silence she said, "You're so damn lucky!"

------------------------------------------------------

Himemiya Chikane sat in class, with only one thing on her mind. A certain blonde. She hadn't been able to concentrate on anything else the past two days. What had happened yesterday was... strange, admittedly but it had felt so... familiar to her aswell. And after the girl had run off she thought she'd never be able to find out the reason for it. But then, upon seeing her on the way to school, she was given hope. She had wanted to ask her right there but with all those other girls around, they'd had no privacy. And then she'd called her Chikane-chan. Noone had done that. Her cheeks flushed slightly thinking about the blonde. She needed to find her again and talk to her alone. But getting a moment to herself was bad enough. Plus, she knew how the girls in Ototachibana were... they could be rather vindictive.

She sighed. Perhaps she should just forget the whole thing. Besides, there was probably nothing in it. It was probably just another fangirl who wanted to brag to her friends that she'd hugged a Himemiya. She frowned. She hoped that wasnt the case. Those girls usually didn't do anything so brazen.

The school bell rang out, disrupting Chikane from her thoughts. The class had passed quickly and she suddenly felt guilty for not paying attention. She couldn't let her concentration slip now, she didn't want to disappoint anyone. As she packed up her books, she couldn't help but overhear the chattering coming from a group of students near the doorway of the classroom. She glanced over. A few boys and girls were there, gossiping conspiratorially.

"Oh yeah, I heard that there's been loads of murders."

"No way. That's scary."

"Not only that, some kind of detective has moved into the abandoned wing of the dorms."

"You think they're investigating ghosts?"

The boys in the group let out a laugh.

"No dummy, they're investigating the murders. I wonder if we can take a peek up there."

"I don't know... we could get in trouble..."

The conversation tailed off as they moved out of the classroom and down the hall. Murders? In this village? Chikane purged the thought from her mind. She couldn't afford to worry about things outside her control for the time being. She'd have to check with her maid to see if these rumours were true though. Otoha had a surprising quality of finding the truth in a certain place, wherever they may be at that specific moment in time.

Chikane picked up her bag and walked out the room, making sure to take the quiet corridors out of the school. She managed to slip past all the groups of students looking for her and out to the more deserted areas of the school grounds. She found herself walking up a familiar path. Ahead of her was the rose garden, a place she used to escape to when she was young. She smiled at the memory. She wondered if that hole in the bush still existed.

Just as she was peering down at the shrubbery, she heard a soft gasp. Oh no, I've been found. She sighed inwardly, accepting her fate. She turned around, steeling herself. She was surprised to see the petite blonde standing there, a little parcel cupped in her hands that was obviously her lunch. She let out a sigh of relief. The blonde was frozen on the spot again.

Chikane smiled and stepped towards her. "Kurusugawa-san." She said and gently took her wrist. Himeko seemed to snap out of her trance and looked down at Chikane's hand. "Follow me."

The raven haired beauty pulled the smaller girl into the bush and she was relieved to find the small passageway still there. She would have been a bit humiliated if she'd managed to get them both stuck in a bush. She emerged on the other side and it was if she'd been taken back in time. It appeared as if nothing had changed since the last time she had been here, over five years ago. She glanced at Himeko and the blonde let out a little delighted gasp as she saw where she was. That made Chikane smile.

"Oh! I never knew this was-" Himeko began but was cut off by Chikane grabbing her from behind and putting a hand over her mouth. She let out a muffled cry but soon quietened down when she heard voices on the other side of the bushes. It was obviously a group of girls looking for "Miya-sama". Chikane became accutely aware of the girl in front of her and regretted pulling her in so tightly. The heat of her back was playing havoc with her nervous system and it felt like hot lava was pouring through her veins all the way to her groin. The blonde hair tickled her chin and it smelled of shampoo, a smell she couldn't quite place but a familiar one. She could feel Himeko's hot breath on her palm and those soft lips against the sensitive skin there. Part of her didn't want to let her go but she was becoming increasingly aroused at the closeness of the girl, and it bemused her slightly.

After she thought she was completely safe from prying ears, she slowly let go of the blonde. As quickly as she could she bowed slightly. "My apologies, Himeko, I had no right to invade your personal space like that." She said with as much confidence as she could. She tried to push away the feelings that were coursing through body and hoped she wasn't too red in the face.

Himeko seemed to have recovered but she was blushing prefusely now. "N-No, not at all, Chikane-cha-" She brought a hand up to her mouth once more. "Oh, I'm sorry I keep..." She trailed off, averting her eyes.

Chikane reached out a hand and pulled on Himeko's, freeing up her face again. "Don't be silly, you can call me whatever you like." She smiled warmly at the other girl.

In response Himeko looked up at her with a beaming smile. Her smile was so bright it felt as though she might be blinded by it. But instead, she was mesmerised by it. She felt as though she could see that smile and be happy forever.

"Can I ask you something, Himeko?" asked Chikane, unsure whether she should break that lovely moment.

The other girl nodded, still smiling.

"Why... why did you hug me yesterday, in the street like that?" Her heart sunk as the smile disappeared. Himeko's head ducked down and long strands of golden hair fell into her face.

"I.. I don't know." Was all she could say.

Chikane looked at the other girl thoughtfully. "Me either."

Himeko looked up at her, unsure of both herself and what Chikane was thinking.

"I mean, I don't know why I hugged you back... I felt as though I knew you... if that makes any sense at all..?" She tried to explain.

Himeko nodded in understanding. And hope found its way into her expression. "Yes, that's exactly how I felt!"

Chikane smiled at her. "How strange." She walked towards the tree and sat down with her back against it. She opened her bag and took out her lunch. She paused and motioned for Himeko to join her. The blonde gave her a wide grin and eagerly took the offered seat.

They both ate their lunch in silence. Chikane couldn't help but glance at the other girl occasionally though. She was filled with such energy, such positive energy, she had to gaze upon it. The blonde nibbled daintely on her food, seemingly unaware of Chikane's eyes on her. Her eyes focused on those lips, unable to pull away from the mesmerising sight. Chikane's eyelids drooped slightly as she thought of what they might feel like.

She became aware of those lips moving and sound accompanying them. "Chikane-chan?" She blinked quickly and looked away, trying to control the emotions coursing through her.

"Is something wrong?" Himeko asked timidly.

Chikane cursed her lack of self control. She'd just met this girl and already she was scaring her. She hadn't had this much trouble with an attraction before, there was something about this blonde. She only hoped that Himeko wouldn't think her strange. "No." She replied, simply.

"O-Okay." Himeko muttered before returning to eating what was left of her lunch.

Chikane sighed inwardly. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Just being around Himeko was proving difficult for her. She couldn't remember a single person who had ever provoked such extreme emotions in her before. But the blonde facinated her. She wanted to learn more about her, get to know her. She glanced at Himeko again. She looked so innocent and unaware of everything.

"Himeko." She found herself saying.

The blonde looked at her, smiling. Chikane's heart skipped another beat at that expression. "Yes, Chikane-chan?"

"I... want to see you again." She began, pausing to gauge the other girl's reaction. The smile never faltered. "If it's okay, can we meet here every lunch?"

Himeko nodded eagerly, delighted at the idea. "I'd love to!" She exclaimed. Then, a more serious expression pulled at her features. "B-But... why?"

Chikane tucked her hair behind one ear, regarding Himeko with stoic expression. Her confidence was almost non-existant. That was something she really had to work on. "Because I like you, Himeko. You seem to be nice person, and genuine, unlike most of the other girls at this school. I want us to be friends."

Chikane suddenly found herself being jumped on and hugged by the blonde. Her eyes widened in surprise but she let herself return the embrace, her hands wrapping around the other girl's petite waist. Something ached inside her at the feeling of Himeko in her arms but she pushed it down. The last thing she wanted was to show such feelings to the blonde, she'd run for sure.

All too soon, the blonde pulled back, her cheeks flushed red. "I-I'm sorry, I got a little too e-excited." She apologised but still smiled at Chikane.

Chikane chuckled slightly. "That's quite alright, we're friends after all. Aren't we?"

Himeko nodded happily. "R-Right."

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Tanaka Rei sat alone, her legs tucked underneath her, inside the Oogami Shrine. Her eyes were closed, her face a sea of calm. She wore priestess' robes of pure white. The small room was barely lit by a few scattered candles but Rei wasn't interested in seeing what was in the room. Her meditation was intended to allow her access to visions of the past, present and future.

Since birth, she had been raised as a Saiin Priestess. Her family had descended from an Emperor of old and because of her blood she was destined to bare strange visions. She had been sent to this village a year ago to study under the priest here, to hone her talents into something that could be used. Through meditation she could see images of distant lands and times, though she was never able to tell where and when these took place. She wasn't in control enough for that yet.

With her eyes closed, her mind and body relaxed, she could feel the life energies flow around her. She reached out to the flow and ebb, attempting to pick up on something, anything that might form an image. With intense concentration, she found a strand of something, almost a thread of memory. She clung onto it, willing it to open itself to her. Finally, images began to form before her, slowly at first but then increasing in speed, increasing so fast they became nothing but flashes.

She saw figures, some standing, some sitting. Then a symbol, a circle, drawn in a dark pigment. Then a huddled group. A blinding flash of light. Red. Crimson. Another light. Naked skin, bared and vulnerable. Moonlight. Trees. Then a figure running. Then a pain, deep in her chest.

She lunged forwards, breaking herself from her trance, barely supporting herself on her hands. Sweat trickled down her forehead and she shook, uncontrollably. What was that?

"Tanaka-san?" Came a soft, deep voice in front of her.

Her head shot up and she saw the priest standing there, his green hair rustled slightly by the breeze from outside. "Sensei." She breathed.

He knelt down in front of her and offered her a hand. She refused it and pushed herself to a standing position. He smiled slightly at her. "You're pushing yourself too hard."

Rei shook her head, strands of black sticking to her wet brow. "No. It was something else... I saw..." Her brow knotted in frustration. "I don't know what I saw but it was different."

The priest seemed to take this in for a moment. "I see." Was all he said. He then guided her to the door of the shrine. "You need some rest, we can go over this tomorrow if you feel up to it."

Rei wasn't satisfied with the answer but she respected Oogami-sensei so she agreed. She'd need to go back to the dorm in these clothes, it was getting dark and if she didn't hurry she'd be locked out. "I'll see you tomorrow then, Sensei."

He nodded and watched as she walked shakily down the path.

She took a deep breath once she was far enough away from the shrine. What was wrong with her visions? This had never happened before. She usually had full control over how she saw things but it was as if a lot of events were pushed on her at the same time. She felt physically and mentally drained and she wished she were stronger. She cursed her weakness, screwing her fists into tight balls.

"Tanaka-san." Came a familiar voice.

She looked up and saw Oogami Souma wheeling his motorcycle up the path to the shrine. She rolled her eyes, not happy to see him. "You're coming home late." Was all she said.

"I went for a ride..." He explained.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Still brooding over that Kurusugawa girl?" She said coldly. When he shot her a surprised look she said, "I'm not blind, it's obvious to me how you feel about her."

Souma seemed annoyed that he was so easily read. "I don't feel anything for her."

Rei waved a dismissive hand. "You can joke yourself, but don't bother trying that with me. Why don't you act like a man and ask her out." She stated with steely resolution.

Souma's shoulders slumped slightly. "I did..." He said quietly.

Rei looked at him for a moment, and then let out a laugh. He visibly recoiled. "That's priceless. The amazing Jim-sama denied by that girl. I have to give it to her, she sure went up in my expectations." She continued to chuckle.

Souma clenched his fists. "You know nothing about it!" He spat. "You wouldn't know anything about love, your heart is made of stone!"

The black haired girl smirked at him. "Oh you wound me, Souma."

Souma started to push his bike up the hill hurriedly. "Why don't you go back to wherever you came from!" He shouted.

Rei narrows her eyes at him but didn't retort. He wasn't worth it. The two of them hadn't gotten along the first day they'd met. He was always a constant source of annoyance to her, and as she had to be at the shrine almost every day, they had to see each other a lot. She shrugged and continued on her way down the hill.

Eventually, she arrived at the dormitaries. Luckily, the gates weren't shut yet, she would have hated to explain her way past the night watchman. She walked slowly along the path that ran along the side of the dorm building. She looked up to the darkened end of it. Surprisingly, there was a light on in one of the rooms. She had been told that that wing was empty and refurbishment was due to commence in it soon. She closed the distance slightly, her curiosity peaked.

She saw a figure standing at the window and then she remembered one of the rumours she'd heard earlier that day, at school. Apparantly a team of investigators had moved into the village. She wasn't sure what they were here for but it had been said one of the investigators was staying in the empty wing of the dorm. As she got nearer, she could make out the slender form of a woman. From the silhouette, she could tell the woman had long hair, tied back into a pony tail. Her curiosity pushing her forward, she reached the path directly under the window. From there, she could see more detail. The woman's hair was a deep hue of brown, and free strands fell into her face. Rei was surprised to see how youthful that face was. The soft lines of her features were easy to appreciate. The young woman's arms were folded across her torso and she seemed deep in thought.

Rei gasped as her eyes travelled back up to the woman's face and found grey eyes staring directly back at her. The woman was smirking at her, which annoyed her slightly. She was also annoyed she'd been caught staring. She started backing away and was about to turn when the woman waved at her. She wasn't sure what to do. Was she mocking her or being genuine? She found herself waving back and she cursed her defiant hand. Quickly, she turned and walked hastily towards her own building, refusing to be seen running.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Three

Himemiya Chikane sat at a desk in one of the studies on her family estate. The large oak table was intricately carved and etched into an elegant design, but still practical. She leaned back into the leather chair and gazed out at the moonlight. The past few days had been good to her. She'd managed to eat lunch with Himeko undisturbed and was slipping into Ototachibana school life with much ease. She had the hordes of admirers to deal with, of course, but it was a minor nuisance, one she could distract herself from easily enough.

She reached across the desk and picked up a small pile of papers sitting neatly there. She scanned the top page, satisfied with her work. She normally didn't take this long to finish her assignments, certainly it didn't take her to the moonlit hours but she found her concentration slipping as of late. It irked her slightly. She was always so in control of herself, her feelings included. But ever since Himeko had come into her life, things had been changing. Little things but still significant for her to notice. Chikane smiled wryly. I've only known her for four days and she's already firmly rooted in my mind, she thought.

Finally done with her assignment, she scooped the papers into a folder and placed it back onto the desk. She slowly stood and walked over to the ceiling high windows. The view was beautiful from here at sunrise. With the right light, she could see the entire south side of the estate, including the sprawling woods, the serene lake and the stables. The stables were one of her favourite places here. She loved her horses, especially Sungest, who she'd spent a lot of time riding when she was younger. She often felt like taking walks out there, alone except for the moon for company but she was never alone for long. Some member of staff or other would come looking for her and insist she returned to the house where it was warm and there was no risk of her catching anything. She let a soft sigh escape her lips.

There was a muted tapping at the door and she heard it being pushed open and then footfalls on the carpetting. She didn't turn to see who it was, though.

"Ojou-sama." Came Otoha, the head maid's voice.

Still not turning to face the maid, Chikane waited for Otoha to say what it was she wanted.

"It is getting late, would you like me to prepare a bath?" Otoha said timidly.

"No thank you." Chikane said simply.

"Is there anything I can get for Ojou-sama?" She asked.

"No, you may retire, Otoha." The raven haired young woman stated, unmoving.

She could imagine the maid bowing slightly and retreating from the room backwards. Then she heard the door close with a click and she was alone once more. She peered up at the moon, not quite a full moon but almost. It was waning, slowly diminishing. She estimated it at being almost midnight, which meant she'd have to sleep soon if she was going to be fresh for tomorrow.

Chikane took one last, lingering look at the silver orb watching over her and then crossed the room to the door. She opened it quietly, hoping that Otoha had not hung around. She was pleased to see the corridor empty and she made her way to her bed chambers. The Himemiya Estate was large and sprawling and she was lucky enough to have an entire area of the house to herself. There was her bedroom, boutique and bathing area. She lingered in the doorway to her bedroom, glancing down the corridor to the room where her clothes and accessories were kept. Some vague nagging feeling was pulling at her. It made her feel a little sad but she didn't know why. She dismissed it and slipping into her bedroom, closed the door behind her.

The spacious room was filled with ornate antiques and modern marvels of art. She tried to mix the two as tastefully as possible. The huge four poster bed was the center piece of the room and drew the eye immediately. A persian rug lay at the foot of the bed. A carved wooden vanity table sat against one wall, home to expensive perfumes and make up. She had amassed quite a collection but didn't use much of it. Several paintings hung from the walls but she wasn't sure of the artists' names as her father had gifted them to her. A long bench sat under a particularly large painting, cushions strewn across it. There were no typical appliances in her room, no television, no stereo, no computer. Her family didn't agree with such distractions in a young lady's room. If she wanted to use those items she could go to a lounge or study.

She walked over to the tall chest of drawers and searched for a nightdress. Before long, she found one she liked and she started pulling off her clothes. Folding them and setting them down on top of a chair that sat beside the bed, she scanned the room to ensure her school uniform was ready for the next day. Her eyes fell on the items of clothing hanging on the back of the bedroom door, freshly pressed. Chikane was glad she could rely on Otoha to take care of things for her. She pulled the nightdress over her head and enjoyed the feel of the cotton slipping against her skin as it tumbled down her body.

Chikane stretched slightly before sliding under the covers of her bed. She pulled the covers around herself. She always loved the feel of cool, clean sheets. Her body began to succumb to the tiredness she was feeling and before long her eyelids drooped with the weight of slumber.

-----------------------------

In a lonely wing of the Ototachibana Academy dorms, Klavdiya Zhukov cursed at her laptop screen for the umpteenth time. She slammed the offensive piece of equipment shut and leant back in her chair. For several days she'd been trying to break into the A.O Co. Ltd network but to no avail. Her teammates hadn't understood her frustration however. The previous day she had shown them the progress she had made and they had been satisfied that this company wasn't up to anything criminal. But she knew better. Under all that normality lay something hidden. There were too many abnormalities in their network security for it to be all kosher. All she needed was one little entrance, a way in that could give her access to the big picture. As of yet, she hadn't found it. It normally wouldn't have taken her this long to find it but these people were good, she'd give them that.

She rubbed the back of her neck, allowing herself to relax a little. She hadn't slept in over thirty hours and running herself down like this wasn't going to get her anywhere. She'd felt a little on edge the past few days, due in no small part to the nosey students that had come snooping around. She supposed she couldn't really blame them, youth brought curiosity afterall. But, she didn't trust them either so she'd felt as though she had to stay awake just in case her expensive equipment decided to take a walk one night. Truth be told, the students seemed pretty scared of her though. Every time she went for a walk around the grounds she noticed them scurrying away. She'd heard a noise one night and frightened a few boys off when she went to see what it was.

"A walk sounds like a pretty good idea." She spoke aloud.

She pulled herself to her feet, pausing to look around. The room had gotten a little messy during the course of her work but she didn't have the energy to tidy it right now. She kicked aside an empty beer can and reached for her leather jacket. She picked up her mobile phone and stuffed it into a pocket before grabbing the set of keys lying beside her laptop. The school caretaker had given them to her which, he explained, allowed her access to this wing of the dorms and to the school. She wasn't sure why she was given those keys too but she had a feeling Phelps thought it might be necessary to have access.

She stepped out of the cramped room and locked it behind her, hoping the curious students would stay away for tonight. She followed the corridor for a while before coming to a staircase. She decended to the ground floor and found herself in an old reception area. There was a desk against one wall and a few dead plants here. They really should refurbish this place soon, she thought. Such a waste. She pushed open the double doors that led outside and the cold breeze hit her, sending strands of hair dancing around her face. It was refreshing and she closed her eyes, letting it awaken her senses. She took a deep breath and, finally, moved forwards. She followed the path for a while as it skirted around the outside of the building.

The day was drawing to an end and the sun was beginning to drop behind the trees. She could hear female laughter off in the distance and guessed it was from the populated dorm nearby. The path forked ahead of her, one way continuing around the side of the building, the other leading off amidst the trees. She stood staring at the wooded area for a while before heading that way. She hadn't wandered over here before and wondered where it would take her. The cool air made goosebumps rise up on her arms but she hardly noticed it.

She slowed her pace and realised she couldn't see the dormitary building anymore, the foliage had become too dense. She pondered returning the way she had come but a noise caught her attention. She couldn't reallt make out what it was but could tell it was coming from somewhere off to her right. She left the path and slipped through the greenery expertly and silently. The closer she got, the more she was able to recognise the sound. It was a low murmuring, obviously human now. She lowered herself into a crouching position and pulled aside the plants in front of her.

There was a small clearing here and she was surprised to see a girl sitting there, muttering to herself. The girl's eyes were closed and she had a look of intense concentration. Her long, straight black hair fell down her back and over her shoulders. She was wearing the Ototachibana school uniform and Klavdiya estimated she was in her senior year. Her eyes drifted down the sitting girl's form and up again. She remembered seeing her before, a few nights previously. She had been dressed completely differently then, though. She had recognised the attire as priestesses' robes and it had certainly piqued her interest. Now, this same girl was mysteriously alone in the dark, in a secluded area, murmuring strange words into the night. Klavdiya couldn't make out the words either so she stood slowly and edged closer.

Surprisingly, the girl's eyes shot open and she stared straight at her. Klavdiya hadn't made a sound, how had she known she was there? The girl looked at her in shock but the expression was soon replaced with one of suspicion.

"Why are you spying on me?" The girl's voice filled with outrage.

Klavdiya placed her hand against the rough bark of a tree and raised an eyebrow at the girl. "Spying? Isn't that a bit paranoid?" She questioned, a hint of mischief in her voice.

The other girl paused and seemed to be considering her. Whether it was her accent or her demeanour that caught the girl off-guard, she didn't know. "I came here to meditate, you're watching me, I consider that spying." She continued, her tones more calm now.

Klavdiya walked forward, entering the clearing and causing the girl to stand and take a step back. "You're meditating? Hmm. I didn't think anyone took that seriously anymore." She said distractedly.

The black haired girl's eyes narrowed slightly. "What would you know?" She paused for a moment. "Who are you anyway?"

Klavdiya gave her a charming smile. "How rude of me, let me introduce myself. I am Klavdiya Zhukov, investigator with Interpol. I am currently residing within your lovely dorms." She gave a slight bow, her eyes never leaving the brown ones before her.

The other girl seemed slightly stunned by her flashy introduction. "You." Was all she said.

"Yes, me." Klavdiya grinned. "I remember seeing you the other night aswell. Would you happen to have a name too?"

Brown eyes flashed with annoyance at Klavdiya's cheekiness but she did introduce herself. "Tanaka Rei." She said, her voice reflecting nothing but calm.

"Rei... such a graceful name." Klavdiya said, almost groaning at her poor attempt at charming dialogue.

She watched in amusement as a slight blush began to creep its way onto Rei's cheeks before indignance settled in and she drew her lips into a thin line. "You will kindly address me with some respect. Ignorance is no excuse." She spat.

Klavdiya's right eyebrow rose involuntarily and she couldn't help but chuckle, which made Rei's jaw clench even tighter. There was something indescribably delightful about this girl. Her eyes wandered over the younger girl's form and she licked her lips absent mindedly. She could tell she was making Rei uncomfortable with her stare so she turned away from her slightly. "My apologies, Tanaka-san."

There was silence for a while and Klavdiya wasn't sure if Rei would ever say anything. She looked surprised that she had acknowledged her complaint. She straightened her short leather jacket and prepared to leave.

"Why are you here?" Came Rei's voice from behind her.

She turned and looked at the girl, that same cold stare adorning her beautiful features. "I could never resist a pretty face." Klavdiya muttered quietly.

Involuntarily blushing, Rei stuttered out a response. "Th-that's not what I meant!" She seemed annoyed that she'd let her cool demeanour slip.

Klavdiya couldn't help but smirk. She hadn't actually intended on the girl hearing her but that reaction was well worth it. "Oh I see..." She paused, wondering how she should answer. "I'm afraid whilst an investigation is ongoing, I'm not able to divulge any information."

Rei regarded her, an irritated look on her face. "That's just an excuse."

The russian shook her head. "Rules are rules." She stated, the smile fading from her lips.

The girl stared at Klavdiya, almost as if she were trying to will her into giving her the answer she was seeking. Finally, she broke eye contact and shrugged. She walked forwards, heading for the taller woman. Without faltering, she brushed past her, not actually coming into contact but she was so close Klavdiya could smell her. She smelt of candles and spring. She could almost feel the heat from her body. She continued to the path without so much as a glance in her direction.

When Klavdiya managed to regain control of her vocal chords she called after the girl. "Although..."

Rei stopped, mid-step. She peered over her shoulder, expectantly.

"If you were to assist me, you may further our investigation. If you don't mind answering a few questions, that is..." Klavdiya offered.

----------------------------

Kurusugawa Himeko stared down at a piece of paper she was clutching at between her fingers. It was a small thing, but it brought her so much trouble. Scrawled across the white surface in red ink was her teacher's opinions of her performance in the recent test. Her face was screwed up with worry and she let out a frustrated breath. There was a quiet rustling off to her left but she didn't notice it. She was lost in thought, wondering how she was ever going to pass this subject, especially when the teacher seemed to dislike her so much.

"Himeko..?" Came a soft, gentle voice from above her.

She dropped the piece of paper in surprise and looked up to see Chikane gazing down at her with a mixture of worry and amusement etched into her features. The taller girl was carrying a basket and a blanket. She placed them on the ground and knelt down, scooping up the piece of paper as it fluttered past her. Himeko panicked and lurched forward to grab it.

"No..." She gasped, trying to wrest it from her friend's grasp.

Chikane expertly maneuvered away from the flailing blonde, hiding the paper behind her back and causing Himeko to tumble to the ground face first. She chuckled slightly. "What could be so terrible that you wouldn't want me to see this?" She asked, looking down at the crumpled piece of paper.

Himeko rolled over and propped herself up on her elbows. "Please don't read it." She begged.

A flash of something washed over Chikane's face, an emotion she had never seen before and she blushed slightly, aware at her posture. She quickly collected herself up into a sitting position, tucking her legs underneath herself. The raven haired beauty smiled at her with a little confusion. "Why not..?"

Himeko looked away, ashamed of her recent performance. "I just don't want you to see it." She muttered.

Chikane paused, lost in thought. Finally, she spoke. "Is it... a love letter?"

The blonde almost choked as she heard the question. She looked at Chikane whose gaze was now firmly directed at the ground below her. "No! Of course not!" She sputtered.

Her friend let out a breath and let out a nervous laugh, seemingly embarassed by her own question. "Well... if you truly don't want me to see it..." She said, ending her sentence by offering the piece of paper to the blonde. Himeko took it quickly, slipping it into her school bag.

She watched as her friend picked up the blanket and shook it out, finally placing it down flatly on the grass. She then lifted the basket she had brought and sat on the soft blanket. She began to lay out the contents of the basket. Himeko smiled widely at what she saw. There were little parcels of delicious food and, of course, tea. She stood and walked quickly over to their tree, settling herself onto the blanket beside Chikane. The other girl passed her a delicate little tea cup and Himeko gladly took it.

The ate and drank in silence and Himeko found herself thinking about that piece of paper again. She was starting to feel guilty about not sharing her problem with her friend. Why was she trying to keep it secret? It made no sense. Just as they were finishing their meal, Himeko looked up at Chikane, whose face was a picture of calm and serenity. She found herself just staring for a while, unable to tear herself away from those beautiful and captivating features.

She blushed as deep blue eyes found hers and looked away quickly. "What is it, Himeko?" Chikane asked kindly.

Himeko let out a little sigh. "I.." She pressed her lips together, unsure of whether she should continue.

"Yes?" Her friend softly urged.

"I... I'm sorry for earlier. I shouldn't have kept it from you." She explained.

"That's alright, Himeko. You're allowed to keep things to yourself. You don't have to share everything."

Himeko didn't want to look at her face. It would be all to forgiving and understanding. "Chikane-chan... I want to share everything... with you." She managed to get out.

When Chikane didn't say anything, she glance up at her. The other girl was looking at her with a mixture of surprise and happiness. This urged Himeko onwards. "I know we haven't known each other for long but it feels like we have to me. I want us to be able to tell each other anything." She said firmly, nodding to emphasise her point.

Chikane smiled at her. "Me too."

Himeko grinned but it faded slightly as she thought about her teacher again. "Well, that piece of paper..." She began, pausing to make sure Chikane knew what she meant. "It was a note from my history teacher. He said if I don't improve he's going to fail me outright. He wouldn't even tell me what score I got on my test!" She was getting more and more upset as she spoke but managed to get it all out.

Her friend's features filled with concern and anger. "How dare he! I'm going to..." She fumed, beginning to stand with purpose.

Himeko quickly grabbed her wrist, pulling her back down to the blanket. "No, no, I don't want you to..." She trailed off, not exactly sure what Chikane was planning.

Chikane gazed at her blonde companion, thinking her words over. "Maybe I can help, afterall."

"You can..?"

The raven haired girl gave her a disarming smile. "Of course! I'll tutor you!"

Himeko looked at her with surprise. "Chikane-chan is good at history?" She winced inwardly, thinking how stupid a question that was.

Chikane nodded. "I do fairly well."

"But... but... you don't have much time as it is, let alone to tutor me aswell." She argued.

Chikane held up a hand and shook her head, her black tressed dancing around her face. "I won't hear any complaints. I'm tutoring you and that's that." She stated.

Himeko couldn't help but smile at her friend's stubborness. "Shall we start tomorrow at lunch then?" She asked eagerly.

Chikane seemed to mull this over for a while. "No... those times are for us to relax. Can you... come over to my place after school?" She asked hesitantly.

The blonde tried to hide her surprise. Chikane-chan's house? She had no idea what it looked like and the idea of going there, to where Chikane slept, excited her. She'd be able to see her friend outside the school atmosphere. She almost couldn't wait. "Sure!" She gasped out, excitedly.

Her friend smiled fondly at her. "I'll send a car to come pick you up at your dorm. We can have dinner after we study too."

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Four

A large black limousine drew up slowly outside Kurusugawa Himeko's dorm. The blacked out windows did nothing to reduce the attention it was garnering. Its intended passenger stared down at it from the safety of her room and tried to calm the butterflies fluttering around in the pit of her stomach. She wished she'd insisted on taking the bus. She knew Chikane wanted to keep their friendship hidden but sending a car around in plain view of everyone wasnt the way to do it. Makoto was sure to ask her many questions if she were to see her anywhere near the limo.

Glancing behind her, she saw her room mate had her head buried in a manga. She quickly picked up her bag and grabbed her coat from the back of the door. Makoto looked up, the movement catching her eye. She wore an expression of curiosity.

"Where are you off to?" She asked.

Himeko wracked her brain. Why hadn't she thought of an excuse already. She should have preempted this. "Um... I... was going to go... to the, erm... library. Yeah, the library!" She managed to stammer out.

Makoto cocked her head at her, clearly not believing her. "Yeah right. You're a terrible liar Himeko." She giggled slightly as the blonde flushed red. "You wouldn't be running off for a secret rendezvous would you?" She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

This just caused Himeko to blush an even deeper shade of red and she lowered her gaze to the floor.

Makoto jumped up and grabbed the blonde by the shoulders. "Oh my God! You are!" She breathed excitedly.

"N-No, I'm not." Himeko tried desperately to dissuade her friend from her line of questioning. She was getting worried about how long the limo had been waiting outside.

Makoto squeezed her shoulders slightly. "Come on Himeko, don't hold out on me. Spill!"

Himeko was starting to feel upset now, she felt so guilty at not being able to tell her friend and it made her feel as though she were harbouring some kind of terrible secret. "I.. I can't, Mako-chan. I-I'm sorry." She said quietly.

The brunette's face fell instantly but after a few moments she smiled again. "It's okay, Himeko. If you can't tell me I'm sure there's a good reason. And I'm sure you'll tell me eventually, right?"

Himeko nodded slightly, chewing nervously on her lower lip. Makoto quickly drew the other girl into a firm hug. The blonde gladly returned it, wrapping her arms around the tomboy.

"Don't get yourself so worked up, Himeko." Makoto said with one last squeeze, before stepping away from her. She glanced at the window. "Is he waiting for you?"

Himeko blinked at the other girl before realising what she meant. "Oh!" She wondered how she should reply. "Well, erm, there's a car waiting for me."

Makoto's eyes lit up at her words. "Ooh, is he wealthy?" She almost jumped up and down with excitement before running over to the window and gazing out. Himeko was sure she heard her room mate choke. "Oh. My. God!" She looked back at the blonde. "Is that limo for you?"

Himeko nodded timidly. "Y-Yes."

Makoto squealed with delight. She skipped back over to her friend. "I'm so happy for you!" She beamed.

The blonde couldn't help but giggle back at her. "Th-Thanks."

Makoto began bundling the other girl out the door, pushing her gently in the back and pulling the door aside. "Quickly, you can't keep a wealthy man waiting." She joked. Himeko turned around and smiled at her. "Have fun, okay?"

Himeko nodded. "Thanks for understanding, Mako-chan."

The brunette waved a hand dismissively at her. "Go. Go." She smiled as Himeko ran off down the hall.

Himeko hastily made her way through the building, down the stairs and out into the cool evening air. Her gaze fell upon the dark vehicle and she slowed her pace. The car was almost intimidating. She couldn't see the driver or if there were any passengers, and it was so large. She swallowed the lump in her throat down and pushed onwards. As she approached the car, the driver's side door opened and a tall man in a dark uniform and cap stepped out. He walked to the rear door and pulled it open, waiting for her. She paused in front of the door, not really sure what to say. He didn't speak or look at her, he merely waited patiently.

"Thank you." She finally decided on saying and ducked into the limousine. The inside was spacious a luxurious and she gaped at it. The driver closed the door behind her and returned to his seat.

She looked around, not sure where to settle her gaze. There were so many features inside the vehicle and she wondered if anyone could possibly use them all in one trip. Above her and to the front was a drop down television screen, small but large enough for her to see the picture quickly. There were speakers set into the upholstery. To her left was a built-in refridgerator and some drinks holders. Placed in one of the holders was a long stemmed glass of what she guessed was water. There was a dark screen in the centre of the panel seperating the passenger compartment with that of the driver. She felt the car move and guessed they were on their way now.

She tried to relax and settle back into the leather seat but all this luxury made her feel a little uncomfortable. She didn't really see the necessity in putting all these extras in a car. A car was just a way of getting from one point to another. Though it was still pretty exciting to be inside a limousine, she had to admit. She considered playing with the buttons on the arm of her seat but the sheer amount of them intimidated her and she was sure she would blow the car up if she pressed the wrong one. There was a button for everything else it seemed.

Before long, she felt the car come to a halt and rock a little as the driver got out. Her door was soon pulled open and there he stood, offering her a hand. She politely took it and stepped out onto gravel. She gasped as she saw the building looming above her. It was beautiful and somehow fitting that Chikane would live in such an elegant looking place. The road leading up to the main building was long and winding, lined with trees. The gardens seemed to be extensive and she couldn't tell where the boundaries of the estate were. The architecture of the building was old, that much she could tell, though from what era she didn't know. Large, arcing windows peered down at her, ivy creeping up around them and over the ruddy-brown brickwork. The main entrance held two huge wooden doors, carved with what she guessed was the Himemiya family symbol. The symbol was a crown surrounded by a plant of some kind. Himeko wasn't sure what it was. She remembered Chikane telling her Himemiya meant Princess though.

She looked with uncertainty at the driver who offered her no words of encouragement so she made her way to the steps that led up to the main entrance. She paused there. She was beginning to wonder if she should have worn something more formal, instead of the light blue summer dress and sandals she had picked out. Everything about this place oozed formality. With caution, she ascended the steps, one at a time, not wanting to tumble back down them.

A noise above her caught her attention and she looked up in time to see one of the double doors opening. From within came Chikane, dressed in a red blouse and a long dark blue skirt that danced around her legs in the wind. She spotted Himeko and immediately smiled, the blonde returning the gesture in kind. She hurried her pace slightly and soon reached her friend, taking the offered hand. Chikane merely stood there for a while, grasping the other girl's hand.

"You look lovely..." She breathed and Himeko was sure she could see her blushing.

"Th-Thank you, Chikane-chan. So do you." She managed to reply.

She was then being pulled inside and past a group of maids who were hovering behind the raven haired beauty. She attempted to bow in acknowledgement but found it extremely hard when she was being tugged at some speed across a hallway. She barely managed to take in her surroundings. The entrance hall was huge and cavernous. Their footfalls echoed loudly as they ran. She found herself moving up more stairs and down several corridors. She hoped she wouldn't have to find her way out on her own.

Finally, Chikane pulled them inside a room and closed the door behind them. She tugged on Himeko's hand once more and she fell into the taller girl's arms, somewhat surprised at the tight embrace. She soon relaxed into it though and wrapped her own arms around her friend's waist. She could hear the loud thumping of her heart against her chest, feel the warmth of her breast against her cheek and the motion of it as she took in quick breaths. She felt a gentle hand stroke her hair, the other pressed firmly against her back in between her shoulder blades.

Himeko eventually pulled her face backwards and looked up at the other girl, who's cheeks were slightly flushed from the exertion. Mischief was dancing in those deep blue pools. "I finally have you to myself." She smiled.

Himeko's heart skipped a beat at the words. She couldn't mean anything by it, she told herself.

When the blonde didn't speak, Chikane shifted and released her grip. "My apologies for the drama, Himeko." Her tone was still light and she still wore a smile. "I just didn't want anyone questioning you. My head maid can be especially inquisitive." She explained.

"That's ok, Chikane-chan." Himeko replied as she watched Chikane walk across the room.

She realised they were now in a bedroom. She gushed with excitement. The decor was gorgeous and the paintings were exquisite. She heard Chikane giggling and turned to face her. "You're just too cute." She grinned.

Himeko pouted with mock indignation. "I've just never seen such a big and beautiful room before." She said seriously.

Chikane smiled at her. "I guess after sleeping here for most of my life it doesn't seem so special to me anymore."

Himeko thought that was rather sad and wondered if she would ever grow tired of all these fine items if she were to live here. She almost blushed at the thought of living under the same roof as Chikane, sharing everything with her. She quickly pushed that thought out of her mind as her friend motioned to a desk. There were books and notepads already set up at it, with two seats placed next to each other in front of it.

She slipped into one of the seats and the two settled down to studying. They started by going over an outline of the major eras they were studying. Chikane was very efficient and had written up a plan on how they would proceed. First, they would focus on Ancient Greece, followed by Ancient Rome, then Feudal Japan, then the English Civil War, followed by the Renaissance. She said they could do an overview of the two World Wars if they had time before their next test but she didn't think it would be necessary. Ancient History was much harder to remember than the more recent events.

Himeko couldn't help but stare in awe and wonderment as Chikane explained their current topic. She was enthusiastic about it and very animated. Her face was alive with energy as she pointed out the important events on a timeline she'd made. Himeko watched as long slender fingers traced the ink on the paper and she imagined those fingers tracing her skin. She involuntarily shuddered at the thought.

"Himeko?" Chikane asked, a worried expression adorning her graceful features. "Are you cold?"

"N-No." She could feel the blood drain from her face, as if the other girl could hear her thoughts.

Chikane reached out a hand and placed the back of it against Himeko's forehead. "You sure? You seem a bit pale." She let her hand rest there a while, which just caused Himeko to blush furiously as her mind focused on the sensation of skin against skin. "Hmm, you seem a bit hot actually, are you unwell?"

Himeko took in a deep breath. "I'm fine, Chikane-chan."

The other girl withdrew her hand and regarded the blonde for several minutes. "If you say so." She eventually relented. "But you can always rest here if you want. My history lessons must be awfully draining."

Himeko began shaking her head vehemently. "Not at all. Chikane-chan's tutoring is really exciting and definitely not boring! I'm really happy you took the time to help me."

Chikane reached out and lay her hand over one of Himeko's and squeezed. "Me too. I hope it helps."

The blonde looked up at the other girl with admiration, enraptured by those blue eyes once more. Chikane stared right back, smiling. She felt the pad of the other girl's thumb brush against the top of her hand ever so fleetingly and it sent a tingle up her arm and down her spine. She could feel herself leaning forwards slightly, moving magnetically towards the other girl. Before long, she could feel the heat from her body and Chikane's thigh press against hers. "Himeko, I..."

Himeko blinked several times, braking herself from the trance. "Yes..?"

The sound of the blonde's voice seemed to bring Chikane back to reality aswell and she quickly looked away. "I... uh, I... think we better stop there for tonight." She said awkwardly. Himeko noted that she'd never really seen her friend speak without grace and poise before. She wondered what was bothering her. Perhaps it was because she'd leaned in so close. That was kind of weird, she chided herself. Why had she been compelled to do that?

"O-Okay." Himeko agreed reluctantly. She didn't particularly want to end their session as that meant she had no excuse to stay any longer.

Chikane stood and busied herself with packing away the books, papers and utensils that were scattered across the desk. She jumped and dropped a few pencils when someone knocked at the door.

"Yes." She said coolly, her voice showing none of the nervousness that her body was exuding.

"Dinner is ready to be served, Ojou-sama." Came a muffled voice from the other side of the door.

"We will be there shortly." Chikane replied.

Dinner. Himeko had forgotten that they had planned on eating after their study session. Her belly growled in recognition of the thought.

One of Chikane's eyebrows shot up as she looked at Himeko, a smirk planting itself on her face. "Hungry?" She asked, a hint of amusement in her voice.

The blonde nodded shyly. Chikane offered her a hand, her nervousness all but gone. Himeko gladly took it and was pulled gently to her feet.

"Well, we can't let you starve can we?" The other girl joked as she led her from the room.

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Tanaka Rei stood outside the abandoned dormitary of Ototachibana Academy, still dressed in her school uniform from earlier in the day. After her encounter with the Interpol agent yesterday, she'd been a little distracted. She pondered the invitation she had been given, to assist in their investigation. It certainly was an opportunity to find out a bit about their reasons for being here. But something about the older woman made her uneasy. She sighed slightly, and with resolve, opened the main entrance to the dorm. She stepped inside the darkened foyer, her eyes adjusting quickly to the gloominess.

From the state of the place, it hadn't been attended to in a while. This wing was unused long before she came to the school but she hadn't looked into it as it was uninteresting. She walked slowly deeper into the room, watching as the dust settled back down after each step. She wondered where exactly Klavdiya's room was. She looked down a corridor but it was just as dark as the rest of the dorm. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. The way things were going, she might just get jumped here. It was an ideal place for an ambush, afterall. Though, if it was Klavdiya, she might not mind.

"Bakka." She cursed herself under her breath. She was being both paranoid and optimistic in the same thought. That was strange for her. As soon as she had seen the older woman, she had been attracted to her. She wasn't one to deny her own feelings. That only led to depression and unhappiness. Though, acting on her feelings was an entirely different matter. She had been attracted to a few girls as she was growing up but she'd rather act coldly towards them, she knew she'd get hurt otherwise.

Klavdiya had acted strangely towards her though and it had thrown her off-guard. She was friendly yet cheeky. Her eyes told a different story completely though. She could see many things in those grey depths. There was a wisdom there that didn't match her age and that most certainly intrigued Rei. There was also a desire she had never seen directed at her before. Perhaps she was just seeing what she wanted to but she thought of herself as an insightful person. Her training helped her with this, just as it had helped her detect that someone was nearby in the woods last night. She could detect Klavdiya's aura during her meditation, and the strength of it nearly bowled her over. This was another thing that intrigued her. Normally, a person's aura was muted to her when she was focusing on her visions but Klavdiya's almost jumped out at her. She would have to talk to Oogami Kazuki-sensei about it when she went to see him tomorrow for her training. She would also have to find a more secluded spot to do her person meditation. She had thought that noone would venture that far into the woods at night but she had apparantly been wrong. She was just glad that Klavdiya hadn't questioned her further on her reason for being there. She didn't want anyone finding out see was a Saiin unnecessarily.

She glanced up to the stairwell. It seemed that that was the last place she could look. She slowly ascended, gripping the banister tightly. Perhaps the Interpol Investigator wasn't even here. It was quite possible that she was out even at this late hour. As she reached the top of the stairwell, she saw a faint light coming from one corridor. She peered down it and saw it originated from behind a door. The hallway was eerily silent though. She tried to walk as silently as possible towards the door. When she was a few feet away she could hear a muted tapping. She edged closer, listening intently.

The tapping grew more fervent and she heard a muffled voice. "Govno." The word was spat in anger, that much she could tell but she had no idea what it meant. Then there was more muttering that she couldn't make out. She considered listening in for a bit longer but if Klavdiya was going to continue speaking in a foreign language then there wouldn't be much point.

Taking a deep breath, she reached out and tapped firmly on the door. A good knock was not to be underestimated. You could tell a lot about the way they knocked on a door. At least, that's what she believed.

"Vstupit'." Came Klavdiya's accent thick voice.

Rei paused, unsure of what to do. What if that meant 'Go away!'? Well, she was damned if she was leaving now so she took a firm hold of the door handle and pushed it down, opening the door with a cool expression planted on her face.

Klavdiya looked up and, obviously realising what she'd said, gave Rei and apologetic look. "Sorry, I was a little distracted." She glanced back at the laptop she was sitting facing. She quickly closed it and stood, beckoning the newcomer into the room.

Rei looked around, eyeing up the mess on the floor. There were several empty cans of beer scattered over the floor and a few takeaway food containers. She looked back at the other woman with a disapproving glare. Klavdiya looked at her sheepishly before scooping up as much rubbish as she could and stuffing it into one corner where the bin was. "Er, I wasn't expecting company."

"You invited me here." Rei stated coldly.

Klavdiya turned to face her once more. "True, but I didn't think you'd take me up on the offer." She smiled.

If truth be told, Rei wouldn't have thought she would either but something compelled her to come here. She looked around for a safe spot to sit and, finding the bed the only clean place, sat down carefully. At least the older woman could keep a tidy bed. "Are you busy?" Rei asked, peering at the laptop.

Klavdiya glanced to where Rei was looking and back at her. "I was but I can make time for you." She looked away and pulled the chair over next to the bed, placing herself on it.

Rei contained the blush she was feeling and smoothed out her skirt. "So where shall we start?" She asked, quickly changing the subject.

Klavdiya opened her mouth to say something but quickly shut it, leaned back on her chair and regarded the younger woman. She shook her head briefly and sat forwards again. She reached down to where a bag lay and took out a small device. Rei recognised it as a dictaphone. "Do you mind if I record this?" She asked. When Rei shook her head, she pressed a button on the side of it and placed it on the desk. "Interview with Tanaka Rei starting at 18:24 hours on the Twenty Ninth of July, Two Thousand and Seven." She stated precisely. She then looked at Rei, smiling reassuringly. "Miss. Tanaka, could you please state your name and date of birth for the record." She asked, using western terminology.

"Tanaka Rei... Twelfth of May, Nineteen Eighty Nine." She said with a little uncertainty. Klavdiya's demeanour had changed from the playfulness she had seen yesterday. She guessed when it concerned work she was all business.

"Miss. Tanaka, you have agreed to cooperate with our investigation, yes?" She asked.

"Yes." She stated, wondering if these questions were necessary.

"Now the formalities are out of the way, we can relax a bit." Klavdiya smiled.

"Is it necessary to ask those questions?" Rei asked, voicing her concerns.

"Unfortunately yes, plus it's an easy way to find out how old you are." The older woman said without a change in her expression, leaving Rei to wonder if she was joking or not.

Rei shifted her sitting position slightly, crossing one leg over the other. "I see..."

Klavdiya reached over to her desk and lifted a piece of paper. "Firstly, have you noticed anything unusual recently? Any suspicious people hanging around the school? Anything happening that sent alarm bells ringing in your head? Any rumours even? That kind of thing."

Rei's brow knotted as she thought. "Apart from you, you mean, Zhukov-san?"

Klavdiya chuckled slightly. "Please, call me Klava." As Rei was about to decline the offer she continued. "For the sake of an investigator building up a rapport with an interviewee, of course."

Rei paused, still not sure how to gauge this woman. "Okay... Klava."

"So, can you think of anything at all, Tanaka-san?" She persisted.

"It might help if I had a little context." Rei offered.

Klavdiya let out a little chuckle. "Determined aren't you?" Rei opened her mouth to object but the other woman held up a hand and continued. "It's okay. Hold on." She reached across to the dictaphone and clicked another button. "I think it's best if this is off the record."

Now Rei's curiosity was piqued. It was possible Klavdiya was making a big deal out of it to impress her but she had the feeling that the other woman was being serious. She waited for her to continue.

"Obviously, I can't tell you much but enough to help you answer my questions." She began to explain. "My team and I are here to investigate some... recent homocides. You may have heard about them." At Rei's nod, she continued. "Well, we believe a... group are responsible for them. The M.O of each death points towards more than one person being involved. We also believe this group are trying to find more members in the local area."

Even though Klavdiya was deliberately being vague, Rei was able to deduce a lot from what she said. "So you believe a cult is responsible?" She asked, satisfied at the look of shock on the other woman's face.

"Callidus." Klavdiya muttered, a smirk reaching her lips.

"What?" Rei asked, a confused look on her face.

"Nothing." The brunette said dismissively. "But yes, that's what we believe."

"You must know what schools are like. The rumour mill is rife here. I've heard a great many things about the murders, most of which is completely untrue I'm sure but there is sometimes an inkling of truth there." Rei explained.

Klavdiya nodded. "Yes. And what exactly have you heard?" She urged.

Rei scanned her memory for the myriad of rumours she had heard in the past weeks. And there were a lot of them, to be sure. She had a few... acquaintances at school, she couldn't really call them friends nor did she want to, and they loved to gossip. She could barely tolerate their incessant whispering but, she mused, it was a good source of information at least. "One rumour tells of the ritualistic manner of the deaths. The bodies were laid out specifically in a manner that led local police to think it was a satanist at work. But, of course, when someone mentions ritual they immediately think Satanism but any number of cults could be the culprit."

"I'm impressed, Tanaka-san, you seem to know what you're talking about." Klavdiya said with an appreciative smile. "Have you heard of the A.O Co. Ltd?"

Rei shook her head. "I don't think so." She admitted.

"Hmm, that's a shame." Klavdiya muttered.

"Who are they?" Rei asked.

"They deal in machinery parts, supposedly." Was all the brunette said.

Rei narrowed her eyes slightly, getting annoyed at Klavdiya's vagueness. "And you think they're involved with the cult?"

"Possibly." At Rei's sigh, she looked at her, cocking her head to the side slightly. "I haven't been able to crack their inner network. Not something I like to admit." She said, frowning.

"Their inner network?" She wasn't sure what the brunette was talking about.

Klavdiya motioned to her laptop. "I'm trying to break into their computer system, to put it simply."

"You're a hacker?" Rei asked, with genuine surprise.

"Well..." Klavdiya squinted at the expression. "I don't really like to be called that."

Rei considered asking her what she did like to be called but she thought they were getting a bit off topic, plus she was a little anxious at what sort of response she would get. "So what's the connection to the school?"

Klavdiya frowned again and Rei found herself thinking that the way her brow wrinkled was rather cute. "I can't really..." She began.

"Rules." Rei stated and Klavdiya nodded. These rules were certainly getting in the way of her gaining knowledge. She briefly considered tell the other woman about her visions and that that was actually the reason why she had so much insight into this matter. Even if it was just flashes of images she was able to garner a little information from them. She quickly dismissed the idea. It was out of the question.

Rei stood suddenly, surprising the brunette who quickly got to her feet aswell. "Well, I suppose I should go and let you get back to work. Unless you wish you officially record what I've said." She stated, motioning to the dictaphone.

Klavdiya considered but finally shook her head. "No it wont be necessary. I haven't learned anything new as of yet." She explained.

Rei nodded once and headed for the door. "I'll keep an eye and ear out at school."

"Thank you." Came the reply from behind her.

Rei reached for the door handle but stopped when she heard the other woman speak. "You know..." She turned slightly, waiting for Klavdiya to continue. "You don't have to come here to only help me with the investigation." Klavdiya's expression remained neutral throughout her speech.

Rei blushed at the words. Her heart stammered in her chest and she cursed it inwardly for betraying her usually cool demeanour. "I... I don't think that's... a-appropriate." She stuttered out.

Klavdiya stepped forward until they were only a foot apart. "Why not?" She queried with a slight smile.

Rei opened her mouth to speak but couldn't think of a convincing argument. She took a involuntary step backwards and her back hit the solid wooden door. She let out a quiet gasp at the obstacle. Klavdiya moved to step forwards but as she did she suddenly jerked to the side, tumbling down against the wall, clutching her head. Rei lurched forwards to grab her instinctively. She managed to catch her before she hit the ground, supporting her weight in her arms.

Klavdiya let out a hiss through clenched teeth and Rei could feel her shaking violently in her embrace. She was acutely aware of the heat from her body but tried to ignore it, instead concentrating on checking if the brunette was okay. All of a sudden, Klavdiya's legs buckled causing both of them to drop to the ground. Rei found herself on her knees, her legs tucked under her body, Klavdiya's upper body resting in her lap. She could see the other woman's face, her eyes screwed tightly shut, hands planted firmly around her scalp, mouth curving in a pained grimace.

"Klava..?" Rei asked, urgency in her voice. "Klava, are you okay?" She lightly shook the other woman's shoulder.

"Na huy..?" The foreign words slipped past Klavdiya's lips but weren't directed at her, as far as she could tell.

She gently laid the palm of her hand against Klavdiya's cheek, trying to comfort her. But it caused the other woman to jerk violently for a moment before her eyes shot open and she was perfectly still again. She lay there, merely staring up at Rei, her eyes clouded over at first but eventually becoming a clear shade of grey.

"You're..?" She whispered the question and Rei looked down at her with confusion.

"I'm what?" She asked.

The brunette pulled herself shakily off of Rei's lap and knelt opposite the younger woman. She held most of her weight on her hands, loose strands of hair falling into her face. She peered up at her. "Saiin..." She breathed, her voice hoarse with pain.

Rei's heart stopped. How could she know? How? She quickly stood and backed away. "W-What?" She said with an uncharacteristacally high voice. But Klavdiya didn't speak again, she merely knelt there staring at her through brown strands of hair. She felt as though those grey eyes were burning through her, and she her stomach churned with nausea. Panic began rising up inside her and she threw open the door and ran. As fast as she could.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Five

She had lost control. That had never happened before. Klavdiya Zhukov sat on the edge of her bed, clutching her throbbing head. She watched as a droplet of blood plummeted to the floor, staining the beige carpetting. She wiped at her nose, spying the smear on the back of her hand and sighing. Her head was spinning and she found it hard to think clearly. Damn this body, she inwardly cursed. She felt extremely mortal now, her body almost emanating weakness. She pulled at the band that she had tied up her hair with and let the long stands fall around her shoulders and face. That eased the pain a little. What the heck was happening to her? She couldn't think of anything that could cause this.

Her thoughts eventually made their way to Tanaka Rei and she groaned. She'd scared the girl off for good now. She clenched her teeth. Perhaps she could explain things to her. She was a Saiin afterall, maybe she'd understand. She shook her head, immediately regretting the gesture, waves of pain washing over her skull and down her neck. It did explain some things though, her meditating for starters. Saiin were royal priestesses, if she remembered correctly. They would train and then be tied to one of two Kamo Shrines in Kyoto. She knew they usually had prophetic powers but that was in ages past. She doubted that would be the case now. Beyond that, she couldn't remember much more.

Not that it mattered, Rei had seemed completely mortified at her knowing who she was. It was a weird thing to come out with, admittedly. If she hadn't lost control then that never would have happened. Someone had to be behind this. But she was unaware of anyone with the power to do so. She sighed. Yet another problem on the long list of things she had to deal with.

She stood and swayed a little, grabbing on to the headboard of the bed for support. She should probably just sleep and let this pass. She was torn between going after the girl that had run from her room and merely just resting. In the end though, the bed won. She wasn't fit to go chasing some hopeless idea around. She sighed and lowered herself carefully onto the bed, pulling the covers weakly over herself.

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Himemiya Chikane stepped out of the limousine and walked gracefully around to the opposite side of the car. They had stopped at the deserted side of the dormitories, by the request of Himeko. She opened the door and offered a hand to the smiling blonde. The cool night air brushed past them as she pulled Himeko to a standing position, merely a breath away from her. Her breath caught at the closeness. She couldn't help but gaze down at those beautiful, innocent eyes before her. She wished she could lean forwards and capture the slightly parted lips that had been tempting her all night but she held back yet again. She forcefully stepped back, giving the other girl some space.

Himeko's cheeks were slightly reddening and she moved away from the limousine, to allow Chikane to close the door. "I really enjoyed myself tonight, Chikane-chan." She said timidly.

Chikane smiled at her. "Even with my tedious History tutoring?"

"It wasn't tedious!" She objected.

Chikane chuckled and grabbed Himeko's hand once more, gently leading her up a path. "I'll walk you back, Himeko."

"Th-that's not n-necessary." Himeko managed to get out.

The taller girl paused, looking at her companion. "Perhaps not, but if you think I'm going to leave a beautiful girl like you to walk home alone at night, you're mistaken."

Himeko's blush deepened at the words and she smiled shyly at Chikane, which just caused the raven haired beauty's heart to melt. If only she could see that smile all the time. She squeezed her friend's hand slightly and they walked side by side up the path once more.

A sound from somewhere ahead caught Chikane's attention and she instinctively placed herself in front of Himeko. All of a sudden, a girl emerged from round the side of the dormitory, running and clearly upset. She hadn't noticed them. Himeko gasped slightly from behind her and she glanced back at the blonde with a questioning look. "It's Rei-san." She whispered.

If it was someone Himeko knew, Chikane felt obliged to see what was wrong then. She moved to head off the older girl and as she got close she reached out, grabbing her by both arms. Rei let out a surprised cry and looked up. Her features werent tear stained as Chikane had expected but there was a panic in the girl's brown eyes that made her glance behind the other girl to see if she were being chased. She wasn't.

"Let go of me." Rei hissed, her voice as cold as ice.

Chikane was taken aback by her tone, which didn't match the expression from her eyes at all. She released her grip on the girl's arms and stepped back. "Are you okay?" She asked.

Rei glanced from Chikane to Himeko and back again. "That's none of your concern." She stated, her demeanour calmer now.

"B-but, Rei-san, you-" Began Himeko.

"I already told you!" Rei cut in, taking a step towards the blonde. Chikane moved with her, never allowing her a clear line of sight at the blonde. This obviously surprised the older girl, who eyed Chikane up and down. "And who might you be?"

Chikane's eyes narrowed, anger building up at the other girl's confrontational tone. "Himemiya Chikane." She said coolly.

This seemed to make the older girl pause and she took a step back. She opened her mouth to speak but then that same look of panic gripped her features and she glanced back at the building. Her hands squeezed into tight fists and she quickly moved around the two girls and began running again.

"Strange girl..." Chikane muttered.

She then felt warm arms wrap around one of her own and she looked down at Himeko who was gazing up at her appreciatively. She raised a questioning eyebrow at the blonde. "Th-thank you for being all protective." She murmured, which just caused Chikane to blush.

"Of course..." Was all she could think of to say.

She led her friend down the path and around the side of the building, Himeko still clinging to her arm. That closeness was making her dizzy again and she was finding it difficult concentrating on breathing. Her heart thumped loudly against her chest and she felt a shiver go down her spine as Himeko squeezed her arm tighter. Doesn't she have any idea what she's doing to me? She asked herself. She took a deep breath and let out a ragged one.

Himeko seemed to notice this. "Are you still annoyed at Rei-san?" She questioned.

Chikane looked at her companion. "No... it's not that."

"Because, she's always like that. It's just the way she is." Himeko explained.

Chikane frowned. "That's a shame."

Himeko nodded. "I don't think she means to be horrible to everyone, I think she's just trying to protect herself. I feel kind of sorry for her."

Chikane stopped walking, which caused Himeko to look up at her with a questioning look. She reached a hand up gingerly to the blonde's face and brushed some of the unruly strands out of her face. "You are too kind, Himeko..." She breathed.

Himeko blushed furiously but didn't break eye contact, she couldn't. She was entranced. "Too kind..?" She managed to ask.

"Mm." Chikane let her fingertips graze the other girls cheek. "Even those that would hurt you if they had the chance, you offer them your kindness." She felt Himeko lean into her touch and, growing in confidence, she placed her palm against the reddened skin.

"Sometimes... it only takes... a little kindness..." Himeko's speech was slightly broken, perhaps through nervousness but Chikane couldn't help herself. It was as if touching the other girl had pushed her over a precipice she couldn't return from.

With the same hand, her fingers trailed down Himeko's cheek and traced her jawline. Then, placing her forefinger under the other girl's chin, she lifted the blushing face up so she could see it in all it's beautiful glory. Her eyes drifted down to the slightly parted lips, pink and slightly pouting, the same lips she'd wanted to capture so many times during the day. Her tongue darted out to wet her own lips, almost in anticipation. She could feel her legs weaken and the butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

"Chikane-chan..." Himeko breathed, her voice had lowered quite a bit and was hoarse. The sound of it almost made Chikane's legs buckle completely.

"Hi... me... ko..." She heard her own voice say in a husky tone she didn't recognise, as she leaned forwards towards the other girl.

The distance between their lips was closing, but it was teasingly slow to Chikane. She saw Himeko's eyelids flutter closed and she was happy she hadn't pulled away, she had given her time to do that. She could feel the short sharp breaths coming from between Himeko's lips and it drew her in further.

All of a sudden, a sound caught her attention, the sound of gravel being trodden underfoot. Without thinking she jumped backwards, pushing Himeko away slightly. She immediately regretted it, missing the close proximity of the other girl. Himeko's eyes opened in surprise and she was looking at Chikane with a hurt expression on her face. Chikane couldn't forgive herself for causing such an expression to mar those beautiful features. Her head shot to the right as she saw someone coming around the corner. The man immediately spotted them and stopped in his tracks, regarding them with a bemused expression.

Chikane looked between the man, Himeko and herself and realised the scene must look rather strange. There she was standing, her back flat against the wall of the building as if she'd been cornered by a wild animal. Himeko was grasping onto the trunk of a tree, having nearly lost her balance when she'd been pushed but gazing at Chikane with hurt in her eyes. The taller girl pushed herself off the wall and straightened out her clothes, embarassed to have been caught like this.

The older man coughed slightly and continued to walk towards them, smirking slightly, which just caused annnoyance to bubble up inside Chikane. Himeko had only just realised someone else was nearby and her face had turned an even darker shade of scarlet, if that was possible. She looked down at the ground, playing with the tip of her hair. "Gokigenyou." The man muttered in a strange accent. Chikane didn't reply, she merely scowled at him as he passed them.

After he had disappeared around the side of the building once more, Chikane looked over at Himeko, completely unsure of what to say. "Himeko, I..." She trailed off.

Himeko stood up straight, her gaze still on the ground. "It-it's okay, Chikane-chan. I n-need to go back to my room now, Mako-chan will be w-worried." She stuttuered out before rushing off and away from the other girl.

Chikane reached out towards her but didn't follow. She sighed. Damn it. What a mess.

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Kurusugawa Himeko burst through the door of the room she shared with Saotome Makoto. She felt like crying, like sobbing all the pain and confusion away but she kept it inside, she didn't want to alarm her room mate. She closed the door behind her and scanned the room. Makoto was staring up at her from the chair she had been seated in earlier. This time, school books and a notepad were spread across the desk instead of a manga. Himeko looked away from her quickly, knowing that if she maintained eye contact she'd burst into tears for sure.

She quickly grabbed her brush and settled down on the bed, pulling it through her golden locks. What had happened between her and Chikane? She was so confused. She had been so sure they were about to kiss, but she'd been pushed roughly aside, even though Chikane had made the first move. Then there was the guy that had walked past them. Had Chikane pushed her away because she'd heard him or was it because she was about to make a mistake? Her heart was in turmoil. She just couldn't decide on one answer. If that wasn't confusing enough, there was the fact that Chikane had wanted to kiss her in the first place. And Himeko had wanted it with all her heart at that moment. She yearned for it. It hadn't mattered that Chikane was a girl, it hadn't mattered that their backgrounds were worlds apart, it hadn't mattered that they'd only just met. All that mattered was being close to each other. At least, that's how she felt.

"Himeko..?" Came Makoto's concerned voice. She hadn't realised it but she was staring blankly ahead at the kneeling brunette, tears making their fateful journey over the curve of her cheeks. Makoto reached up and brushed away one of the droplets. "What's wrong? What happened?" She urged.

"I think..." She let out a sob, trying desperately to hold them back but to no avail.

"Yes..?" Makoto said softly.

"I think..." She held in the next bout of sobs that threatened to spill over. "I've found the other half... of my shell." She confessed, before burying her face into her hands.

The other girl soothingly stroked her arm, running her hand up and down it. "The person you've been waiting for? You mean the guy that owns the limo?" Makoto waited for an affirmative but didn't get one. "Then what are you so upset about?"

Himeko looked up from her hiding spot behind her hands. "I think I've messed it up." She said sadly.

"How?" Makoto said with more than a little surprise. She found it hard to believe that Himeko could ruin any blooming relationship, she was just too sweet.

The blonde shook her head, not wanting to concentrate on the memory. "We were about to kiss... and then..." She trailed off, not wanting to give away Chikane's identity to her friend. Firstly because Chikane had wanted to keep their friendship a secret and secondly, because she didn't know how Makoto would react to the object of her affection being a girl. She didn't even know how she felt about it yet.

Makoto squeezed Himeko's arm reassuringly. "And then?"

Himeko took a deep breath, thinking about how she could tell her friend what had happened. "I was pushed away. I really thought I was going to have my first kiss, Mako-chan..."

"He pushed you away?" Makoto scoffed incredulously. "Tell me who he is and I'll tell him a thing or two!"

Himeko shook her head, smiling slightly at her friend. "Maybe it was me imagining it... maybe I just wanted to be kissed..." She sighed solemnly.

"Don't be silly, Himeko. Who wouldn't want to kiss you!" She said firmly. Himeko had to giggle at that. Happy that she'd cheered her friend up a little, Makoto took the brush from her friend and laid it down on the bed. "Even if the guy is wealthy, he can't treat my Himeko like that. You shouldn't allow it!" She nodded to emphasis her point.

Himeko allowed her friend to undress her and change her into her nightwear. "I don't think..."

"No, no. Whatever the reason, you can't allow him to take you for granted. If he commits to a kiss, he should damn well follow through with it!" She continued her tyrade whilst pushing Himeko into a lying position on the bed. She quickly pulled the covers over her friend and tucked her tightly in. "Now you get some sleep and don't worry about guys like that."

Himeko could do nothing but nod, knowing that interrupting her friend when she was like this did nothing but spur her on. She didn't agree with her though, she was sure whatever had happened, was her fault, it had to be. She smiled at her friend for trying to cheer her up though. She closed her eyes hoping she could see tomorrow quickly. But all she could see was Chikane's face. Those beautiful blue orbs, filled with kindness. Her soft curving lips. Oh god. She so wanted to kiss them. She shivered slightly under the covers. She rolled onto her side and tucked her knees up as if it would keep those thoughts out. It was a futile attempt though.

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Mikkel Hagstedt knocked firmly on the door before him. When he didn't hear a response he knocked again, louder this time. He let out a frustrated sight. He had walked all the way here from the hotel and didn't fancy having to go all the way back just yet. Besides, Haineau would expect some kind of report from him. He looked down at the door handle in contemplation. If Zhukov had gone out she would have locked the door and it wasn't like her to sleep this early. In fact, it wasn't like her to sleep much at all. He chuckled to himself. He reached out for the brass handle anyone. It turned and the door surprisingly opened with a click. Odd, he thought.

He pushed the door open and peeked inside. The room was in complete darkness but as his eyes adjusted to the lack of light he could make out a shape on the bed. Perhaps he had been wrong about Zhukov afterall. He stepped inside. She was going to have to give him a report whether she liked it or not. Hainaeu wouldn't let up on that, he was a 'by the book' kind of man. With a smirk on his face, he flicked the light switch to the 'on' position, watching with amusement as the shape beneath the bed sheets shifted slightly.

His amusement was short lived however when he spotted the fresh stain on the carpet. He quickly knelt down to confirm his suspicions. Yep, blood. He hastily stood and pulled back the covers to the bed. It wasn't much blood but enough to worry him. Underneath the covers lay Zhukov, her arms thrown up over face. She was still dressed in her street clothes. She seemed to be alive so he relaxed a little.

"Zhukov!" He shouted, trying to get her back to the land of the living.

She mumbled something and turned over, pulling a pillow over her head. He grabbed it off her and shook her shoulder. She didn't respond.

"Dammit Zhukov. Wake up!" He raised his voice a bit more.

She opened one eye at him, scowling slightly. "I am awake. Can't you leave a girl to her sleep?" Her voice wasn't groggy at all, causing Mikkel to believe she hadn't been sleeping in the first place.

"Oh sorry." He muttered. "But when I see blood on the floor, it tends to make me worry."

She sat up, wincing slightly. "Oh that." She mumbled.

"Okay, that's it, tell me what's wrong." He ordered her. Sometimes outranking someone came in handy.

She squinted up at him, not answering at first. His gaze didn't waver. They'd played this game before, and he generally lost and gave up whatever line of questioning he'd been doing but not this time. "Tsk fine." She conceded, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. "I just had a little headache and then my nose decided to join in on the party."

He gazed at her, sitting on the bed beside her. "That's all?"

She glanced at him before rolling her eyes. "Quit worrying. It happens."

"You don't usually push yourself this much, Zhukov." He commented. "Seems as though something or someone has gotten under your skin."

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Maybe." She was being her usual aloof self. He could never get anything out of her when she was like this.

"Fine, fine. I get the hint." He said whilst standing. He walked over to the window and surveyed the night scenery. "Anything new to report?"

"Not really. I haven't been able to get anything new out of the A.O Co. Ltd site. I've talked to a few locals but just rumours at the moment. I might have a good source of information within the school. If it pans out, that is." She explained.

"Staff or student?" He asked.

"Student."

He let out a small snort, drawing Klavdiya's attention. "The students around here a bit strange no?" He waited for the eyebrow to rise in curiosity before continuing. "I came across a pair on my way here. They were either having one heck of a fight or were just about to go at it like rabbits. Hard to tell. I do hope it was the second. They were both rather cute."

Klavdiya rolled her eyes again. "Pervert." She breathed with a smirk. She pushed herself to a standing position but Mikkel didn't fail to notice the swaying that caused. He didn't mention it though. He knew better. She walked over to the desk and picked up a piece of paper, passing it to him.

"Check out those people if you can. They work for A.O Co. They might have information." Her voice was a bit strained now but he took the paper without a word. She waited for him to speak, surprised when he didn't. "Aren't you going to lecture me about going after a dead lead? Or are you not as much of a Haineau lapdog as I thought?" She teased, but it hit a nerve with Mikkel.

"There's never much point arguing with you, Zhukov. Once you've got something into your head there's no getting it out." He folded his arms across his chest.

"Heh. Whatever you say, Mikkel." She dropped herself back onto the bed, cradling her head with one hand.

Mikkel walked over to the door, he clearly wasn't going to get anything more out of her tonight. "I'd ask you out for a drink but I think I know the answer already."

Klavdiya looked at him with a slight frown. "What did I tell you about flirting with me, Mikkel?"

It was the answer he expected but he couldn't help feeling a pang of disappointment. "Yeah, yeah, you can't blame a guy for trying though." He waved to her and let himself out, leaving the young woman alone in her room.

He made his way out, folding the piece of paper and tucking it into his inside jacket pocket. He mused over Zhukov's words. He'd worked with her previously on a case when she'd just joined Interpol. He'd immediately found her alluring and somehow mysterious too. That was probably part of the appeal. There was always something that seemed strange about her. She seemed wiser than her years, much wiser in fact. She reminded him of some war veterans he knew but one that still had the zest of youth. She had rebuked his advances though but not his friendship, at least. He wasn't satisfied with that of course, even though she was quite a bit younger than him that hadn't put him off. He shook his head. He needed to stop thinking about such things and concentrate on the case. Distractions wouldn't solve these murders and bring down organised crime in the village.

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Tanaka Rei finally allowed herself to relax. After her display in front of Kurusugawa and that Himemiya girl, she'd ran as fast as she could to the Oogami Shrine. There, Oogami Kazuki-sensei had worriedly taken her into the room where she usually meditated and wrapped her in a blanket, promising to be back soon with hot tea. At least she had stopped shivering now. She tried to focus on the room around her, anything but what had happened earlier. She would wait and explain that to Kazuki-sensei. She drew the blanket around herself tighter and tried to calm her mind. She focused on her training, trying to remember everything the priest had told her.

Soon, everything grew still. She was back at that familiar place, the place she needed to be to be able to reach out to strands of memories, of things that were to happen yet. She relaxed and didn't reach out, her mind was far too tired to be baring witness to visions right now. Apparantly, the energies swirling around her had other ideas. She didn't see it coming but was more aware of something circling her. She tried to push it away with her mind, closing her aura off. But the energy broke past her barrier without a pause and soon she was completely enveloped by it.

She slowly opened her eyes and gasped. She was no longer in the shrine. She looked down at herself, drawing her hands up. She was wearing her chihaya, the white colour in stark contrast of the charred ground beneath her. Then the smell hit her. The scent of death. Her senses reeled at the assault and she found it difficult staying upright. She looked around desperately, trying to discern where she was. On all sides, she was surrounded by charred ground and smoke. She could hardly see anything. She attempted to take a step forward and as she did a cloud of soot wafted up from the ground and floated down again, settling on her foot, turning her tabi sock black.

"Where am I..?" She breathed, the taste of ash entering her mouth as she did so.

She brought a hand up to cover her mouth as she coughed. She couldn't understand it. How could she go from being in the shrine, to being... wherever this was. She tried to listen, to hear something, as all her other senses were failing her right now. A cry echoed out around her and she spun around but she couldn't tell where it had come from. She stopped, holding her breath but there was just silence now.

And then the smoke began to clear though she wished it hadn't. Before her, for what seemed liked miles, was body after body. Bloodied corpses lay lifeless at her feet, metal and flesh stained red. She opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out. She clenched her fists tightly, forcing her stomach to hold onto its contents. Every instinct in her body was telling her to run but she wouldn't listen. She had been brought here for a reason. She screwed her eyes shut for a moment and took a deep breath, ignoring the stench of death that invaded her nostrils.

"I am Tanaka Rei, a Saiin, I will not let this beat me." She chanted to herself, almost whispering.

As she opened her eyes she felt calmer though she had hoped that the carnage before her would be gone. Life was full of disappointments. She walked forwards, stepping carefully, trying to ignore the red tarnishing her chihaya. Her gaze lay level with the horizon. She could make out a silhouette there but she wasn't sure of what. It was something to head for, at least. Occasionally she could see something move out of the corner of her eye but she dared not look to see what it was. She was sure she would see some twitching body part or other.

As she got closer, she could make out the silhouettes were tents and she could see movement nearby. She narrowed her eyes, trying to make out the forms. Whoever they were, they were carrying long deadly looking spears and wore heavy looking and ornate armour. Where am I? The middle ages? She considered going back the way she came but she had to find out where she was. This wasn't the time for cowardice.

Before long she was on the outskirts of the encampment and she was surprised to find none of the men had seen her. She moved slowly around the edge of one of the tents, almost stumbling into the middle of a group of soldiers. At least, that's what she thought they were. They were wearing similar armour but they seemed to be highly intoxicated. They laughed and pushed against one another playfully. She sneered at them before backing off. She couldn't understand a word they were saying either, they were obviously not Japanese. She moved around to the other side of the tent, here there was an opening leading to the inside of the construct.

She glanced behind her a let out a gasp. There stood one of the spearmen she had noticed earlier, only a few feet away and looking right at her. She braced herself for an attack but none came. He wasn't looking at her, he was looking right through her. And then he walked right through her. How rude, she found herself thinking and almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of the thought. Was she dead? Was she just a ghost. No, that didn't make any sense at all. Perhaps this was all a vision but it seemed so real. None of her previous visions had been anything like this. They had been mere flashes and she certainly hadn't been able to smell, taste and feel in those images.

She turned around and watched the spearman bow in the direction of the tent interior before marching off. She moved to where he had been looking a peered inside. The tent was sparsely furnished, with only a table and an uncomfortable looking bed. At the far end of the tent stood another soldier in more ornate looking armour. Rei, feeling more secure that she wouldn't be spotted, stepped inside the tent. She could see the soldier more clearly now, due to the candle flickering away on the table. The soldier leaned a long spear-like weapon against the table. It was different from the others she had seen, the blade at the tip of the shaft was wider and more decorative. The soldier then began to pull of his helmet. As the helmet was dropped to the floor, Rei's eyes were drawn up to the thick brown mane that had fallen across the soldier's shoulders. The soldier turned and Rei was able to see their face for the first time. She gasped, bringing a hand up to cover her mouth.

"Klava..."

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Six

"Klava?"

The voice seemed to act as a catalyst, causing the world around Rei to melt away, replaced by the familiar shrine walls. She was relieved to find herself in the safety of her sensei's company but sad to see the face of the woman disappear aswell. She was overcome by a wave of fatigue and she slumped into the arms of Oogami Kazuki, who had rushed to her side. He allowed her to rest her side against him, keeping her wrapped in the safety of his arms. She closed her eyes and tried to steady her mind, the world spinning around her. Kazuki's presence seemed to anchor her and she was sure she would have been overwhelmed had he not been there.

"Tanaka-san?" Her sensei's kind but firm voice forced her to open her eyes and she lifted her shaking body off of his to look him in the eye questioningly. "What is this Klava you spoke of?"

Rei's brow furrowed as she took in his words. She realised she must have said the name aloud during her vision, just before she had been returned to the real world. "I.." She wasn't really sure what she should tell Kazuki-sensei about that woman but she definitely needed help with sorting the storm of thoughts swirling throughout her mind. "I... had a vision... it was so... vivid." She spoke with difficulty but forced herself to go on, refusing to give in to the exhaustion. "I met a woman recently... I saw her in my vision but it seemed to be... in the distant past. If it was a reall event... I'm not sure how that's possible. I don't know what's happening to me."

Kazuki's features remained neutral as she explained what she could. "I see." He said thoughtfully. "And the name of this woman is Klava?"

The dark haired girl nodded weakly. "She... knows what I am, sensei. She knows I'm a Saiin." She said quietly, hearing the words making the event that much more real for her.

Uncharacteristacally, Kazuki's eyebrows rose and then quickly fell again as his eyes narrowed. "Did you tell her..?"

Rei shook her head with as much emphasis as she could muster. "Of course not. I would never..." She trailed off, slumping against him once more.

"My apologies, Tanaka-san. I do not see how she could know though. You must tell me more of her..." He shifted slightly, pulling her into an upright sitting position. "But once you are rested."

Rei didn't have the energy to nod in affirmation so she merely let the older man lift her and carry her to an empty sleeping chamber within the shrine. On occasion it had been necessary for her to stay overnight here before, much to Souma's chagrin, due to meditation sessions and training running past their usual times. She was barely aware of herself being lowered into a bed and a blanket being pulled over her weary form. Soon, the darkness enveloped her and she was pulled into a fitful slumber.

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With practiced ease, Chikane pulled back the string on her bow and let fly another arrow. It sailed through the air with a whistle and plunged into the Kyudo target with a satisfying 'thunk'. She frowned at where it had landed. It rested between one of the outer rings of the target and she knew her poor performance was caused by her wandering thoughts. Sighing, she pulled another arrow from the quiver and placed it into position on her bow and in between her fingers. Raising the weapon and pulling back once more, she paused, the wire taut. She narrowed her eyes, focusing on the centre of the target in front of her. She imagined it was the embodiment of all her frustrations and worries. Releasing the string, the arrow made its deadly flight with precision accuracy, landing within the smallest circle of the target. She smiled. At least she could get that right, when she put her mind to it.

A round of excited applause erupted from behind her and she glanced over her shoulder. A pack of girls had collected, a few from the nearby Kyudo classes. She had come here to practice alone but she realised now that that had been wishful thinking. News of her presence had certainly spread quickly. She gracefully slung her bow over her shoulder and lifted her quiver. The group of girls seemed to know she was about to leave and gave her disappointed stares. Chikane inwardly sighed. She wasn't in the mood for this today. She walked swiftly in the direction of the building that housed the locker rooms so she could change out of her Kyudo clothing and pack away her equipment.

Once she reached the confines of the locker room she allowed herself to relax a little, there didn't seem to be many other girls here and they hadn't appeared to notice her yet. She slipped quietly between the rows of lockers until she reached hers, quickly and deftly entering the combination to open it. She pulled off her arm guard and slipped it into her bag before continuing to do so with the rest of her outfit. She slipped into her school uniform, vaguely aware of a couple of girls chattering on the opposite of side of the row of lockers. Their conversation caught her attention when a familiar name popped up.

"Tanaka Rei-sama didn't come in at all today?" A particularly high pitched voice questioned.

"No, I haven't heard anything. It's odd for her to miss school." Came another, slightly lower toned voice.

"I know she's not always very friendly but I am a little worried. It's not like her. If she was planning to be off she'd have asked me to get copies of the homework for her." The high pitched voice took on a tone of concern.

"You shouldn't worry Kiku-chan, I'm sure she's fine." Came the response.

Chikane wondered how it was possible that that girl had any friends at all, considering her supposedly usual attitude and behaviour. She thought it odd that she suddenly hadn't turned up to school after what had happened the previous night aswell. A twinge of guilt hit her as she thought about what had occured afterwards. Himeko...

She roughly grabbed her bag, barely able to hide her frustrations, and closed the locker. She glanced up as she saw two girls leaving the locker room, one with brown hair tied up into a messy bun and wearing glasses, the other with dark blonde hair falling around her face. She guessed they were the owners of the voices she'd heard. Clasping her school bag in front of her, she followed the girls out, taking her time so they'd be far enough ahead of her so as not to notice her. She followed the path down towards the main school building, noting that the lunch period was almost over. She glanced up at the midday sun, briefly closing her eyes to allow its warmth to soothe her troubled mind. She smiled slightly at the sensation.

A commotion in front of her caused her to open her eyes again and she squinted to see what was causing it. A small group of girls appeared to be circling around something, almost as if they were vultures diving down upon a meaty carcass. She shuddered at similarities. She frowned with concern when she noticed a familiar flash of blonde, her heart fluttering in her chest. She quickened her pace and she could make out the group of four hostile girls taunting Himeko and her companion, who was a wiry girl with messy brown hair and an extremely agitated expression.

"What gives you the right to steal all of Jin-sama's time like that?" Snarled one girl as she jabbed an accusing finger at Himeko, who's eyes were wide with fear.

Chikane froze for a second, torn between intervening or letting it play out. Those panicked violet pools hadn't noticed her yet but they were pulling on Chikane, she so desperately wanted to go to their aid but the events of the previous night caused her to hesitate. What if Himeko didn't want her help? What if she didn't want to see her again. She bunched her hands up into tight fists. No, she had to protect Himeko, something deep inside her assured her. That's what she was there for. If that's all she could do, she should protect her and ensure no harm came to her.

"Back off!" Shouted the messy brunette, trying to come between the girls and the blonde but failing miserably as they were surrounded.

"This is none of your business!" Another of the bullies sneered.

Taking long assured strides towards the group, she was about to call out when one of the girls brazenly grabbed some of Himeko's precious golden tresses and yanked, eliciting a pained yelp from the girl. Without thinking, Chikane dropped her bag and surged forward, quickly making up the distance. It took a while for the others to register her presence but by the time they had she had backhanded the hair-puller and wrapped her arms around Himeko in a protective embrace, her body shielding the smaller girl from any other possible onslaught.

Multiple gasps sounded as the girl who she'd knocked aside tumbled across the path and onto the grass beside it. She stared up at Chikane, shocked at first but soon bursting into tears as she held her reddened cheek in pain. The other girls backed off nervously while Himeko's friend just stared at Chikane in disbelief. As for the blonde, she'd felt her stiffen initially but now she had relaxed into her protective embrace and her shaking arms had latched onto the taller girl's waist.

"M-Miya-sama!" One of the bullies gasped, almost tripping over herself as she backed away further.

"It's n-not w-what it l-looks like!" Another trembled.

Chikane glared at them with cold malice. "If you ever touch Kurusugawa-san again..." She trailed off, allowing the girls' imaginations to finish her sentence, her tone surprisingly calm.

One of the three remaining standing girls burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably and they all ran, barely taking the time to pick up their injured friend. After they had disappeared out of sight, Chikane finally allowed her tense muscles to relax, releasing the tight grip she had on Himeko slightly and she turned to look down at her. The blonde had buried her head into Chikane's chest and she was unable to see her face. She glanced over at her friend who still seemed to be in a state of shock.

"Are you okay?" Chikane asked her, her tone softer now.

The brunette blinked rapidly for a few moments before silently nodding. Satisfied with the answer, she turned her attention back towards Himeko. She brought up a hand and laid it on the top of the girl's head, gently stroking the golden strands there. This seemed to relax Himeko and she stopped shaking so much. Slowly, she pulled her head away from Chikane's bosom and looked up, teary violet eyes melting her heart.

"Himeko..." She whispered, surprised at how pained her own voice sounded. She moved the hand resting on Himeko's head down to her cheek and brushed away the tears marring the perfect pale skin.

"Chikane-chan?" Himeko murmured, subtly leaning into her hand, just enough so she could feel it.

"Are you hurt?" Chikane enquired, her brow knotted together in concern.

A slight smile fluttered across Himeko's lips as she shook her head. "Nothing serious." She muttered.

Chikane's eyes flitted over Himeko quickly before resting upon her hair again. She stroked the top of her hair. "If she pulled even one hair out I'll-" She growled but Himeko interrupted her.

"Chikane-chan, I'm fine." Her eyes danced with amusement, which caused one black eyebrow to arch upwards.

A not-so-polite coughing came from behind the raven haired girl and she became acutely aware that she and Himeko were still wrapped around one another tightly. She reluctantly pulled away, instantly missing the warmth and scent of the other girl. As for Himeko, she was blushing furiously, which Chikane couldn't help smiling fondly at.

"Th-thank you very much for coming to our aid, Miya-sama." The brunette said with an awkward bow.

"Saotome Makoto-san, I presume?" Chikane asked coolly.

The other girl seemed surprised at this and stuttered out a response. "Y-yes."

If Himeko hadn't told the other girl of their friendship, and Chikane suspected she hadn't, then they would certainly have a hard time hiding it now. Besides, Chikane was growing tired of hiding her affection for the blonde in public and she thought her room mate of all people deserved to know. Himeko spoke of her fondly, afterall. Of course, she'd have to worry about some of the more obsessive fangirls in the school finding out, as today's bullying proved, but she'd deal with that if and when it happened.

"It's a pleasure to meet you finally, Makoto-san." She said with a smile.

Makoto's eyebrows shot up and Chikane was sure they'd flying straight off the top of her head. She peered between Himeko and Chikane, trying to work out what exactly was going on. Himeko looked a little embarassed, rubbing the back of her neck uncomfortably.

"Mako-chan..." She let out a sheepish laugh. "Chikane-chan and I..." It was proving difficult to find the right words it seemed.

"Eh... 'Chikane-chan'?" Makoto questioned.

Chikane decided to cut in, relieving the pressure on Himeko. "Himeko and I struck up a friendship the day we first met, but we decided to keep it between us for the time being, to avoid any undue attention." She paused, waiting for this new information to sink in. Makoto's expression shifted from shocked to slightly hurt very quickly. "In all honestly, it was by my request, so don't blame Himeko please, Makoto-san."

The brunette stood, eyeing Chikane warily for a few minutes, the silence stretching out between the three of them. Himeko seemed to be growing increasingly uncomfortable and Chikane could tell something was bothering her. She decided now wasn't the time to ask though. Lunch was drawing to an end and the beginning of classes would soon be marked by the school bell.

As Chikane was considering taking her leave, Makoto decided to break the silence. "Wow, Himeko, not only do you keep your new boyfriend a secret but now you're keeping Miya-sama from me too!? What else are you hiding?" She half-teased.

Chikane shot Himeko a questioning look, tendrils of dread snaking around her heart at Makoto's words. "Mako-chan!" Himeko complained, her cheeks flushing once more and she avoided Chikane's intent gaze.

"Hime-" The school bell obnoxiously interrupted Chikane's attempts to question Himeko on the matter. She shook her head. "I'd best be going now. Himeko. Makoto-san. Enjoy the rest of your day." And she quickly turned and made her way towards the school, face downcast with a pained expression, all the doubts and worries she had previously were now two-fold and she felt as though she was suffocating.

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Feeling slightly refreshed, Rei sat in her chihaya, legs tucked under her body. She had slept for a good part of the day and after getting over the initial annoyance, she conceded that she had needed the rest. Opposite her sat Kazuki-sensei and Yukihito. Rei didn't really feel comfortable with Yukihito being present, she was used to spending time with her sensei only but it was a presence she'd tolerate for now. There were more pressing things to concentrate on. Either side of the trio were placed a few candles, to add to the relaxing atmosphere of the shrine. In between Rei and the two men sat a small tray with tea cups sat upon it.

It was almost as if they were sat prepared for an important ritual but they were, in fact, readying for conversation. Rei was used to this formal atmosphere though. She carefully reached forward and picked up the small tea cup in between both hands and raised it to her lips. Pausing before she took a sip, she looked at the two men before settling her gaze upon her sensei.

"Kazuki-sensei, you wish to ask me some questions?" Rei stated more than asked, finally taking in some of the dark liquid, letting in slide soothingly down her throat. She held the cup in her lap, waiting for the inevitable.

"From what you said last night..." He began, choosing his words carefully. "I think it is important we learn more of this Klava. She obviously knows too much about you."

"I'm not sure..." Rei said thoughtfully. Even though Klava had come out with that knowledge, she hadn't really seemed to be pushing her for information on it. In fact, she seemed just as surprised as Rei was that she knew she was a Saiin at all.

Yukihito decided to chime in. "How do you know this Klava, if you don't mind my asking?"

Rei certainly did mind him asking but kept that thought to herself. They were only trying to help afterall. "Through rumour and her own words, I learned she works of Interpol. Her name is Klavdiya Zhukov, she's supposed to be here investigating the recent murders." She recalled.

Kazuki remained silent so Yukihito continued his questioning. "That doesn't really answer my question, Rei-san."

The Saiin visibly flinched at his use of her first name. Still, she tolerated his words. "She came across me meditating in the woods outside the dorm building. I've been there many times and never been discovered. I remember knowing she was there by her aura, it was almost overwhelming."

The older of the two men's expression shifted slightly, although it was hard to read. "Explain this aura please, Tanaka-san."

Rei drew her lips together into a thin line. It was hard to explain and she didn't want to have to recount everything that had happened that night. How the other woman had made her feel. "I don't know. As I said, it was overwhelming. She had a powerful aura, enough so that I could sense her there whilst in deep meditation. It almost pulled me to it." She explained as best she could.

"I see." Said Kazuki in his usual thoughtful way. "Please continue."

Rei brought the tea cup back to her lips and sipped. She kept silent for a while, not sure what to say next. Once she had finished her tea, she gently set the tea cup back on the tray. "She didn't seem interested in what I was doing there." Was all she said.

Yukihito studied her for a moment. "What was she interested in?"

Rei suppressed the blush that was threatening to rise to her cheeks. Was he being annoyingly perceptive or just asking random questions? "I don't know." She wasn't exactly lying, she truly didn't know what Klava was interested in, though she had a good guess.

"What led up to her revealing she knew of your nature?" Her sensei asked. This was beginning to feel more and more like an interrogation.

Rei finally allowed herself to think back on the previous night. She wasn't sure why it was so painful to her, why she had held so much fear and dread but it scared her. That was pretty much all she did know. Perhaps it was because she truly liked Klava and that she could just turn out to be another person out to use the Saiin for their own ends... well, that was disappointing to say the least. A part of her refused to believe that though and she cursed it. She had never been one to cling to hope before, why now? Baka, she thought.

"Tanaka-san?" Kazuki urged.

Rei blinked back to reality. "O-oh. Sorry, sensei." She apologised, slightly flustered now. "She had asked me to help with her investigation so I agreed to answer a few questions. I went up to... her room and she asked me about rumours and such. I couldn't really give her any new answers so I went to leave when she... she..." She hesitated, remembering what she'd said, her cheeks unintentionally colouring.

Yukihito gave her a questioning look and Rei had to avert her eyes to avoid even more blood rushing to her cheeks. "Tanaka-san? What happened next?" Came Oogami Kazuki's soft words but there was an edge to them now.

Stop acting like a little school girl, Tanaka Rei. Sort your damn hormones out, Baka! She inwardly scolded herself. "She collapsed." She finally decided on saying, omitting their previous conversation. "She seemed to be in a lot of pain so I tried to see if she was okay. I touched her face and she seemed to jerk quite violently and then she was looking up at me with a strange look in her eyes." She shuddered slightly at the memory. "That's when she asked it. No, she seemed to be stating it more than asking it."

"Strange." Kazuki admitted, his brow knotted in deep thought.

"What could it mean?" Yukihito asked him.

The green haired man shook his head, whisps of emerald waving with the effort. "I'm not sure. I'll need to do some research on the matter."

Sensing the matter was drawing to a close, Yukihito lifted the tray and stood, the tea cups clinking together slightly. He looked down at Rei and Kazuki in turn. "Excuse me." He took his leave, the sound of clinking china following him.

Kazuki, still deep in thought, didn't give any signs as to whether he would leave or stay so Rei decided to take the opportunity to ask her own questions. "Sensei..?" The priest looked at her, breaking from whatever thought pattern he had been on. "Could I ask you about my visions?" She ventured.

"Of course." Kazuki stated simply, a slightly smile urging the Saiin onwards.

"You know of my vision last night... well, I don't understand why it was so different. And why I had no control. It just overcame me suddenly." She explained her concerns.

Kazuki didn't speak at first, he merely looked at her, his gaze making the girl uncomfortable. Finally, he answered. "It is another mystery, I'm afraid, Tanaka-san. I can say for sure though, you shouldn't have any where near that amount of clarity in your visions at this point. It takes many many years to reach that. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. They are five very slow steps and it seems you have been plunged into their depths. It is troubling indeed."

His words did nothing to calm her fears. "A few days ago I also had a vision. But it was completely different... it was flashes... flashes of images, but they were disturbing and I have the feeling they're important."

Kazuki nodded. "I remember you saying, Tanaka-san." He then lifted himself to a standing position, Rei's head lifting to keep eye contact. "If you will permit it, I'd like to try something with you to reach into your memory and see these images for myself."

Rei arched an eyebrow at his words. "What do you mean?"

He merely smiled. "It is an ancient technique, used for interpreting dreams mostly but, with your help, I think we can adapt it."

"Then why not do it now?" She asked, eagerly.

The priest held up a hand. "While I admire your thirst for knowledge, this procedure will be very draining for both of us, you must rest. Come back to me in a few days, Tanaka-san. Meditate in the mean time."

Rei considered this but she couldn't think of any persuasive arguments that could change his mind. "Fine. I'll be back once I've regained my strength fully." She bowed before him and he reciprocated the gesture before leaving. She let out the sigh she'd been holding in for a while. It was all so confusing. More so since her sensei didn't have any answers either. Klava. What did she have to do with all his? Was she here to harm her? Or was there a reasonable explanation?

Clenching her teeth together, she could feel the frustration rising within her. Meditation was the best course for her now. It would clear her mind and allow her some reprieve from the onslaught of worries and doubts she had. And it would hopefully steer her thoughts away from the brunette that had been haunting her mind as of late.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Seven

Kurusugawa Himeko stared at the retreating back of Chikane. She disappeared into the main building of the school and out of sight. She chewed on her lip absent mindedly, wondering what had upset the girl so much. She turned to face Makoto who was standing, hand on hip, giving her an expectant look. She suddenly felt uncomfortable but couldn't think of a single thing to change the subject to.

"W-what?" She asked hesitantly.

Makoto's expression was constantly shifting between irritated and excited, and Himeko would have found it amusing if it hadn't been directed at her. "Since when did you hide things from me, Himeko?" She questioned her with a slight smirk.

Himeko let her shoulders slump a bit. "I'm sorry, Mako-chan. I didn't want to but I also didn't want to go against Chikane-chan's wishes."

"And what about this guy?"

The question made her freeze. What was she meant to tell her friend? That the guy she'd spoken of was the girl that had saved her from the mob of girls? She frowned and she looked anywhere but at her friend. Her eyes finally rested on a bag, lying further up the path as though it had been hastily discarded. Himeko walked towards it, realising Chikane must have dropped it when she'd come to her aid.

"Himeko?" Came Makoto's questioning voice.

"Chikane-chan's bag... she's forgotten it." Himeko said as she reached down and picked the item up, fingers slipping around the brown leather handle.

Makoto walked up behind her and she glanced at the brunette, becoming slightly worried at the mischievous glint in her eye. "No, Mako-chan, we're not going through her things." The other girl feigned hurt at her words. "I'd better get this back to her."

"As much as I want to go with you, you'd better go on alone. My coach is going to kill me if I'm any later." Himeko nodded quietly and Makoto waved and ran off down the path, towards the locker rooms.

The blonde stared down at the dark satchell for a moment, wondering if it was wise to return it to Chikane right now. She shrugged to herself and quickened her pace, hoping she could catch up with the raven haired beauty. She slipped inside the building, only a few other students around. Most of them were already in class and she knew she was going to get into trouble for being late. She pushed the thought away, searching the corridors for a glimpse of her target. She let out a disappointed breath before jogging down one hallway.

She was relieved when she spotted a flash of black hair down another corridor, catching up to the other girl. Chikane seemed to be walking rather slowly and Himeko thought that she may have been putting off going to class.

"Chikane-chan..." She called out quietly when she was a few feet away. The other girl spun around quickly, surprised to see her there. Blue eyes shot down to the bag she was carrying. Her expression was unreadable. "Your bag." Was all Himeko could think of to say.

The taller girl glanced up and down the hall once and then stepped closer to Himeko, leaning in slightly. "Is it true..?" She almost whispered.

Himeko could only blink at her friend, unsure of what she meant. She turned her head to the right when she heard a hushed conversation nearing them. Chikane also noticed it and she quickly grabbed the blonde's wrist. Before she knew it, Himeko was being led through a door and into a darkened room. Not really a room, she thought as her eyes registered their location. Chikane quietly closed the door on them and they were plunged into complete darkness.

She couldn't really see Chikane but she could certainly feel her. The other girl must have been standing very close to her but it was unavoidable due to the cramped compartment they found themselves standing in. She absently noted there was a bucket and mop standing behind her left foot and a few shelves to the right of her head. They probably had cleaning products on them. But the hot breath coming hard and fast against her cheek was driving her to distraction and she couldn't bring herself to care where she was or what items were scattered around her.

"Ch-Chikane-chan?" She asked with a little trepidation.

The grip on her arm loosened and she heard something drop to the floor, realising it was the bag she had been holding. Her eyes finally began to adjust to the gloominess but all she could see was a mass of black hair. Chikane must have been standing over her, her face beside her own. She could smell the other girl's subtle scent and it sent a surge of excitement down to the pit of her stomach.

"I... I'm sorry, Himeko... I... I didn't mean to..." Chikane's words were slightly broken and it was clear she was nervous.

The blonde immediately felt compelled to reach out and comfort the other girl but she didn't, for fear of grabbing something inappropriate. She felt heat rise to her cheeks at the thought. Instead, she decided to steer her friend back to the question she had asked. "Is what true?" Her voice came out almost as a squeak and she wished she had more control over it.

Chikane didn't speak for a while, but she didn't pull away from her either. Himeko could still feel that hot breath on her cheek, causing it to warm even more and moisture to collect there. She felt the hand on her wrist move and glide up her arm to rest on her shoulder. She shivered at the caress. She felt another hand come up and rest on the opposite shoulder aswell and she felt for a moment as though the other girl would pull her into an embrace. But it didn't come. "Do... you..." Chikane's voice was timid now and she hardly recognised it. "Do you... really have a boyfriend?" She continued, more forcefully this time.

Himeko's breath caught and she held it. What did she mean? Why would she ask that? She recalled what Makoto had said and she inwardly groaned. So that's what she had been upset about. But why? Was she jealous she might have been spending time with someone else? Or did she feel hurt that she might not have told her about something in her life? Or could it be...? "N-no." She stammered quietly.

Chikane's hands gripped her shoulders a little tighter and she was sure she could hear the other girl let out a sigh of relief. "Then why..?"

Himeko swallowed the lump that had been forming in her throat. "When I couldn't tell Makoto who I'd been spending time with... she assumed I'd been seeing a guy." She explained.

The laugh that erupted from Chikane surprised Himeko. It was almost bitter and she could tell the other girl was shaking. "Oh god..." She only just made out the words as Chikane whispered them. "I'm sorry, Himeko." She finally said.

Himeko shook her head slightly, though she wasn't sure if the taller girl could see the gesture. "But why... a-are you...?" She wasn't sure exactly how to ask the question that burned inside her.

Chikane didn't answer right away but her breathing had become steady again, her body calm. Her thumb was idly stroking the skin of Himeko's shoulder. "I thought that maybe..." A pause. "It doesn't matter, Himeko." The hands on her shoulders fell to the other girl's sides and she felt her pulling away from her.

The blonde, suddenly becoming annoyed that she wasn't telling her the truth, reached out and grabbed her arm. Relieved that her judgement was good, she pulled on the wrist she had found, stopping the other girl before she reached for the door. She kept tugging on the wrist until Chikane was close to her again, close enough to smell, close enough to feel.

Perhaps emboldened by her friend's touch, Chikane slipped an arm around the blonde's waist and pulled her to her own body. Himeko let out a little gasp, the heat of the chest against hers surprising her. Dark hair tickled her cheek as she felt Chikane nuzzle into her neck. Her pulse quickened at the embrace, blood rushing to her cheeks as it always did when Chikane was close to her. She brought her own hands up and slipped one around the taller girl's neck, surprised when she felt her shudder against her, and the other over her shoulders. She let her fingers idly trace the tense muscles she found there, eliciting more shivers.

"Himeko..." There was that same tone, the one she had heard the previous night just before they had nearly kissed. It sent her belly fluttering and her heart skipped a beat. All the doubts she had, all the worries she'd gone over during the night, everything dissolved with that one word. She was sure now, so sure that she wasn't the only one who wanted to be closer, that wanted more from their time spent together. Her chest tightened with the yearning she felt for the other girl.

She pulled her head back slightly, letting the hot skin of her cheek slide against the other girl's cheek, causing her to let out a breath against her neck. This is turn sent a jolt down her spine and she had to hold back the gasp she felt rising up in her throat. Reluctantly, Chikane removed her face from it's hiding place and looked at the other girl, squinting to try and see her face in the gloominess. Even though she could make out the silhouettes of objects in the room, and the glint of Chikane's eyes, she couldn't see the details she really wanted to. She could imagine the red tinge to Chikane's face but she really wished she could see it. She wished she could really see what expression was there.

She resigned herself to feeling it instead. She pushed herself onto her toes, not wanting to wait for Chikane to make the first move this time. A well of confidence spurred her onwards, one she was sure she'd never find but had surprisingly come in this enclosed space. She could see those deep blue pools widen for a split second before slowly sliding closed, her own eyelids following suit. Feeling burning breath on her mouth, she closed the gap and pressed against the eager, waiting, trembling lips. She felt her own move against those soft, moist lips and she couldn't imagine anything more divine. It sent shivers down her body, straight to her knees which buckled. Chikane held her close, keeping the girl on her feet. She heard a low moan come from the taller girl's throat and she felt the entire world melt away, leaving only the two of them and that one, perfect kiss. She reluctantly pulled back, breathing hard. Her first kiss. She couldn't help smiling. It was everything she had imagined and more.

She felt a hand against her cheek, the skin cool against her face. She leaned into Chikane's palm, suddenly realising the other girl was supporting her entire weight. Carefully, she shifted so she was standing properly, smiling sheepishly at the other girl. "S-sorry."

She heard Chikane chuckle softly. "I don't mind." She murmured.

"I guess Chikane-chan does that to me." Himeko said shyly.

She knew the other girl was blushing now, she could feel the heat from her face. Instead of replying, she leaned down and captured Himeko's lips, the kiss lasting only a few seconds but leaving a lasting impression. They tingled where they'd been in contact with Chikane's and she could taste the sweetness of their kiss. She let out a little contented sigh, earning a squeeze from the other girl.

"As much as I hate to say this..." She began, brushing her fingers against the smooth skin of Himeko's cheek. "We'd better get to class."

Suddenly realising where they were, Himeko jumped out of the embrace. "Oh!" She let out, taking a few steps back, stumbling over something that made a very metallic, and very loud clang. She cringed, hoping noone was passing the closet at the time. She crouched slightly, fumbling to pick up whatever it was she'd knocked over. "I kicked a bucket." She said meekly.

Chikane let out an unrestrained laugh at her comment, amused even more because Himeko hadn't realised what she'd said. Once she had recovered, she helped Himeko to her feet and turned around to open the door. "I think it's time we got out of the closet." She could hear the massive grin in the other girl's tone of voice. Himeko didn't get the reference though.

The taller girl opened the door slightly, peeking out at the bright corridor. After a few moments she pushed it open further and stepped out, looking one way and then the other. Breathing a sigh of relief, she glanced back at Himeko, giving her a beaming smile. Himeko smiled back at her and quickly leant down to pick up the bag that had been dropped to the floor. She followed Chikane out into the corridor and watched as she closed the door behind them. It had been the janitor's closet.

After checking the coast was clear once again, Chikane allowed herself to look at the other girl. Himeko blushed under her instense gaze but didn't avert her eyes. "I had hoped we could have done that somewhere more... romantic." Chikane stated, a smirk on her lips.

Himeko couldn't help but stare at those inviting lips. "You had hoped?" Himeko asked.

She was surprised to see Chikane's cheeks redden slightly but she thought it was incredibly cute. "Yes." She admitted, glancing up the hall. "Can we meet up later?"

Himeko nodded eagerly, a wide smile plastered on her face. "Please."

A caring smile pulled at Chikane's lips. "Meet at the usual place after classes. We can decide what to do then." She checked they were alone in the corridor once more before leaning in and quickly placing a short kiss on Himeko's cheek. She smiled at her blush and took her bag before walking away, waving as she did. Himeko merely stared after her, standing there long after she had disappeared around the corner.

She couldn't help but smile. At long last she had found the person she had been waiting for and she cared for her in the same way. That feeling of emptiness was gone for the first time in her life. Everything seemed right with her world. With contentment filling her heart, she walked with a light step, not even worrying about how late she was for class.

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Klavdiya lurched forwards, gripping the sides of her desk, her knuckles white. "Govno." She spat through clenched teeth. "Not again." The pain was indescribable. Her head felt as though it were being split open. Violent shudders wracked her body as though she were being electricuted. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to expel the sensations but with no luck. She felt liquid drip from her forehead to the table and she realised it was her own perspiration. Tendrils of stabbing pain coursed through her brain, shattering coherent thought and sending her senses into freefall.

And then it was gone. It had disappeared as quickly as it had come. She allowed her body to slump forwards onto the table, unable to hold herself up. Her body trembled, her teeth chattering together. She felt a warmth at her ear and she brought a shaking hand up, feeling wetness there. She forced her eyelids apart and noticed the red smear on her fingers. Cursing again, she attempted to sit up, her head spinning, her stomach churning. What's happening to me?

The throbbing in her head caused her to wince but she decided it was much better than what she had just experienced. She peered down at the laptop and breathed a sigh of relief. She was worried she'd damaged it during her seizure. Or whatever the hell you call it. She slowly pushed it closed, knowing she'd get no more work done on it tonight. She pulled her weakened body to a standing position, ignoring the sway of the world around her.

She wasn't putting up with this. She had to find out what was happening to her. Normally, someone would go to the hospital when something like this happened. But not Klavdiya Zhukov. No. She had to look elsewhere. She let out a wavering breath and leant heavily against the wall, searching the room for her jacket with her eyes. She spotted it hanging against the back of the door and slowly made her way to it. Perhaps some fresh air would help strengthen her. She cast a sidelong glance at the tall black case leaning against the corner of the room. It was taller than her and she came to over five foot eight inches. She hadn't measured her height recently so she wasn't sure exactly what it was. The thick walls of the case could withstand quite a bit of damage, she'd made sure of that. She decided against opening it. She wouldn't need its contents tonight hopefully.

After awkwardly pulling the leather jacket on, she opened the door, almost falling right through to the hallway but managing to steady herself on the doorframe. She locked it and leaned against it for a moment, catching her breath. It was quite an exertion on her already weakened frame but she knew it was necessary. If she didn't find the cause of this soon, she might not be well enough to search at all. She stumbled down the corridor, reaching the end of it and eyeing the stairway warily.

She reached into her jacket pocket and fumbled around to find her mobile phone. After she pulled it out she flipped it open, typing in a number. She leaned against the corridor wall and placed it against her ear, the ringing resounding in her ear. A soft click and someone answered.

"I need some help." She managed, her voice strained. A question came. "Just get over here." More words from the other end of the phone. "I'll explain once you get here." Silence and then a response. She flipped it shut and let her body sink to the floor.

A low buzzing filled her ears and her vision was beginning to blur. "Dammit." She cursed. She could tell she was in danger of passing out but she was too stubborn for that. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Footsteps on the stairs forced her to open her eyes again. That was quick. She found herself thinking. But the figure who appeared wasn't who she was expecting and she chided herself inwardly, knowing Hagstedt couldn't possibly get here that fast.

A tall man was now towering over her, dressed in a dark robe of some sort. She couldn't really think clearly enough to place the attire. His green hair flowed down past his shoulders and his dark eyes peered at her questioningly. Don't just stare, you git. She raised her head slightly and he took a step back. Maybe he had thought she was dead.

"Can I... help you?" She asked with a pained tone, annoyed that she couldn't cover that.

He continued to eye her. "Klavdiya Zhukov?" He enquired, seemingly ignoring the fact that she was in a crumpled heap on the floor.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Yes?" Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to reveal her identity to him but he seemed to know her anyway.

His face showed a slight hint of concern when he took a step towards her and he quickly kneeled, looking at the side of her face. "You're bleeding." He stated.

Klavdiya merely grunted at him dismissively. "What do you want?" She attempted to to pull herself into a more graceful position.

The man seemed to be deliberating whether or not to assist her but he must have realised she'd refuse it so he merely watched her. Once she'd managed to place herself in a reasonably normal sitting posture, he reached inside his robe and pulled out a handkerchief, offering it to her. She hesistantly took it and pressed it against her ear. "I came to speak with you, Zhukov-san." He said.

"I see... What about?"

He lowered himself into a sitting position opposite, tucking his legs beneath him. "I am Oogami Kazuki, the priest of the Oogami Shrine." He explained.

"Shrine, eh?" Klavdiya said carefully.

He nodded. "I came to speak with you about Rei Tanaka-san."

The Russian looked at him warily, not showing the shock she felt. How did he know her? And why would he need to talk to her? "What about her?" She decided on saying.

"I want to know how you knew she was a Saiin." His expression had not changed during the entirety of the conversation.

She didn't trust him. Not one bit. And his bluntness was a little off putting. So it seemed Rei had gone to him about what had happened. "I... just did." She said, not wanting to give anything away.

The first flicker of emotion passed over his smooth features. His brow knitted in... annoyance? Anger? "You can't fool me, Zhukov-san. Now the truth, please." His voice was still even, unwavering.

He was beginning to irritate her. She had a feeling he was a true priest. Not one of those poser types that modern times had so often manufactured. "And what will you do with the truth?" Klava asked.

He obviously wasn't expecting that and he let the surprise show on his face. "I merely want to know your intentions towards her. If you intend on benefiting from her abilities then I will not allow it. I am her guardian whilst she is here."

"My intentions?" She had to let out a chuckle at that one. But she immediately regretted it and brought up a hand to her head as the echo resounded around her skull. Once it had dulled she looked him straight in the eye. "I have none, apart from perhaps dating her." She smirked, watching his reaction with amusement.

"Dating her?" He repeated.

"You don't believe me?" The smirk didn't leave her face.

He didn't reply for a while, he just sat and looked at her as if judging her. He eventually sighed and raised himself to a standing position. "You don't appear to be lying. But that doesn't mean anything. Leave the girl to her studies." He moved to turn away.

"Shouldn't you allow her a say in the matter?" Klavdiya shot at him, annoyed at his arrogance.

He turned back to her, an eyebrow raised. "She is a Saiin. She isn't allowed to venture into any sexual relationship." He stated bluntly.

With what remained of her strength, Klavdiya pushed herself onto her feet, drawing herself up to look at him levelly. "That's a load of crap." She spat. "Saiin in the past have done just that and been able to keep their position." Dammit, the Russian cursed, realising that her passion had pushed her too far. She should have stopped speaking long ago and let him go.

Surprisingly he smiled at her. "Perhaps you are right. But she is beginning to progress steadily, distracting her would only hinder that."

Klavdiya bit her tongue and watched as he nodded and descended the stairs. "Zasranec." She muttered, placing her hand against the wall to steady herself. Where the heck is Hagstedt, good for nothing...

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To anyone watching, Himemiya Chikane would have been the picture of calm, her legs tucked under her, her back straight, her posture perfect. Her face wore a mask of neutrality, her eyes closed as the wind picked up strands of her dark hair and carried them about her face. Her hands were folded into her lap. But inside, she was anything but calm. Her mind in particular had not rested all day and was a whirlwind of different thoughts. Since lunch, she couldn't help thinking about soft, eager lips and gentle touches.

She opened her eyes, gazing around the small private rose garden, disappointed when she didn't spot Himeko there. Chikane had managed to slip out of class fairly easily for once, her determination had probably had much to do with it though. Ignoring any and all admirers, she had forced back the urge to run here and await the beautiful blonde. It had perhaps been fifteen minutes since she'd arrived and the final bell had gone only seconds before that. So where was Himeko? She'd agreed to meet her here afterall.

She'd also been trying to plan out what they could possibly do whilst in class. She'd missed more than half of what the teachers had said but that was the least of her worries right now. Some of her ideas had been abandoned immediately and some she'd enjoyed thinking about a little too much, causing her to blush in class which had drawn a bit too much attention. She brought a hand up, idly running her fingers over her lips, lingering on the memory of that first kiss.

Chikane's gaze rested upon her dark brown leather satchell and she lay a hand upon it. Thank you, she silently said to it. If it wasn't for the bag she wouldn't have ended up in that closet with her, and then she wouldn't have found herself being kissed by Himeko. She let out a pleasant sigh at the memory. A rustling noise brought her out of her reverie and she looked up to see a familiar head poking through the bushes.

"Himeko." She murmured, a large grin gracing her features.

Himeko looked up at her with an equally pleased expression. "I'm sorry I'm late, Chikane-chan, I was kept behind because I was late to class."

Chikane shook her head slightly. "It's okay, I'm just glad you're here now." She watched as the other girl sat down next to her, close enough so their bodies were touching.

Himeko leant against Chikane, slipping an arm around one of hers and resting her head on the other girl's shoulder. Chikane lowered her head to the side and revelled in the feel of silky golden hair against her cheek. She breathed in the the scent that lingered there and closed her eyes. She wasn't sure how much time had passed when Himeko spoke next but the light was beginning to diminish.

"Chikane-chan... what do you want to do now?" She asked quietly.

"Mm, I could stay here quite happily." She answered a little drowsily and she realised she had dozed off against the blonde.

She knew that would get the other girl blushing and smiled, not leaving her place atop the girl's head. "Me too, but I still have a History exam coming up..." She said, a little worry in her voice.

Chikane made a small grumbling sound as she lifted her head and looked down at the blonde. "I'm not sure how much we'll get done if we study in my room again." She said, keeping her face neutral. She was sure the other girl was going to pass out with the amount of blood that rushed to her cheeks.

"Ch-Chikane-chan!" She gasped.

The taller girl leaned down and placed a kiss on Himeko's forehead. "You have that kind of effect on me, I can't help it." She continued, unable to stop the smirk any longer.

Himeko realised that she was being teased and tapped the other girl lightly on the arm in feigned indignation. Even though she was teasing her, Chikane was also being truthful. She was sure she'd find it incredibly hard to keep her hands off her. Every second she was around the blonde she felt compelled to hold and kiss her. "In that case, we can study in my room. It's a little cramped but I'm sure Makoto wouldn't mind. You'd be able to control yourself in front of her, right?" Himeko said, a glint of mischief in her own eyes now.

Chikane chuckled a little. "I'm not sure..." She did want to see where Himeko stayed but she wasn't sure if she could withstand the barrage of questions she was sure to receive from Himeko's room mate.

The blonde pulled herself to a standing position and brushed her clothes off. "Well, I'm sure you'll try your best." She said with a sweet smile. Chikane couldn't refuse that face, so she stood.

"But first..." Chikane murmured and pulled the other girl into her arms. She wrapped her arms around her petite waist, enjoying the shivers that elicited in the blonde. She felt hands sink into her own hair and she lowered her head and captured those delicious lips quickly. They were so soft, so pliable and slightly moist which caused her senses to go wild. Her mind whirled with the sensation and her pulse quickened. She pulled the other girl tighter to her body and she felt a moan rise up in her throat. She moved her lips against Himeko's, the synergy building more and more emotions within her until she felt as though she would burst. She parted her lips slightly and tentatively brushed her tongue against Himeko's. She felt the other girl's knees weaken again and she found herself supporting her weight. She felt the other girl's lips willingly part and allow her access. She eagerly slipped her tongue between those soft lips, the heat and wetness of her mouth causing another moan to escape her throat.

She felt the hands in her hair tighten around dark strands and pull her in further, encouraging her. She swept her tongue gently over the other girl's, the motion causing molten desire to flood her veins and surge between her legs. The kiss deepened further, into something more needy, the movement of mouths becoming more desperate, more urgent. Himeko's tongue pushed back against hers and they danced back and forth, not fighting for dominance but allowing each other the access they both wanted. Chikane moved her fingers against the small of the other girl's back, delighting in the shudders they caused. Feeling a new level of need rise up within her, she pulled back from the heated kiss, breathing hard.

They stood, staring deep in each others eyes for a while, neither wanting to break the moment. Himeko's violet eyes had darkened with desire and her eyelids half covered those beautiful pools. Chikane felt her own tongue wet her lips and she noticed Himeko's eyes dart down to watch, transfixed with the action. She gently tugged on the blonde's arms, pulling them from her hair so she could step back and away from the intoxicating beauty. She felt a twinge in her chest at the disappointed look in those purple eyes.

"We should stop." Chikane almost panted, her voice significantly deepened.

"Studying. Right." Himeko smiled, her face not paling from the deep blush at all.

Chikane reached down for her bag, trying to ignore the sensations she felt between her legs but not being completely successful. Himeko brought about such extreme reactions in her, she wasn't entirely sure how to handle it. Her heart still pounded heavily in her chest and she could hear the blood pumping in her ears. She shook her head, as if the motion would shake the thoughts and feelings away. "After you." She said to Himeko and she watched the other girl head for the passageway in the rose bush, her gaze firmly planted on her backside. This is going to be hard work, she mused.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Eight

This is just great, Klavdiya inwardly groaned. I'm never gonna live this one down. She found herself being half carried through the streets of Mahoroba by Mikkel Hagstedt. He had been concerned when he first saw her but now he was gloating just a little. She was never one to accept help, especially physically, and now here she was asking for it. She scowled at the large grin on his face. Her arm was slung across his shoulders and he easily took the majority of her weight. She was just glad there wasn't many people around at this time of night. They'd already received a few curious stares but now they were alone on one street.

"You okay?" Came Mikkel's voice. He did sound genuinely worried about her but that didn't make her feel any better about the situation.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Yeah." She grunted, not showing the pain she was in.

He just rolled his eyes at her and they continued shuffling down the path. "So what is it you're hoping to find down here?" He asked. She hadn't really explained what they were looking for yet and she had to commend his loyalty at least. He always went along with her little plans, even if she didn't tell him what they were. Maybe that just made him stupid.

"One of the A.O Company's warehouses." She stated simply.

That earned her a surprised look from the older man. He shook his head. "You're like a bulldog. Once you have hold of something you never let go." He sighed.

"Thanks." She frowned.

"How's this meant to help you... in your current condition?" He was looking at her with concern again.

Klavdiya tried to shrug but wasn't completely successful, her arm around his neck prohibiting her from completing the gesture. "I'm not sure." Was all she could say.

He shook his head again for the umpteenth time that evening. He didn't understand her, and she was happy with that. She would have hated to be predictable. She peered down the street, looking over the darkened buildings. The majority of the structures here were warehouses, the rest being accompanying offices. Most of them were clearly marked with the company name and logo too, which worked in her favour. Hopefully, it would make the warehouse in question easier to spot. She took a deep breath, the fresh air helping to clear her mind a little. The pain was beginning to fade slowly, which she was glad for. It made thinking that little bit easier.

"Zhukov." Came Mikkel's deep foreign accent. He was pointing at a building up ahead, most of it cast in darkness but a small street lamp illuminated a name. A.O. Co. Ltd.

There was a also a symbol next to the name. It was almost like two crescent moons touching at the centre of their outer curve. Like a back to back 'C' but on its side. There was something about it that troubled her but she couldn't place her finger on it. She allowed Mikkel to support her as they made their way towards the front of the building, her eyes never searching for danger. The area gave off a bad vibe, causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end. She pulled her arm free from her companion and leaned against the thick brickwork of the A.O Company walls.

"I doubt there's anyone here to question." Mikkel murmured, speaking his thoughts more than making a point to her.

Klavdiya took a deep breath, collecting her strength. "I wasn't planning on questioning anyone." She stated.

The Swede peered at her thoughtfully and she knew he was trying to figure what she was thinking. He seemed to drop whatever he was going to say to her though, and slowly walked the perimeter of the warehouse. She let him do his little routine. She was never one to do things by the book and that often got her into trouble with her superiors. She always managed to get away with it though, and she probably played on her talents a little too much. She knew they couldn't afford to lose her abilities and that was valuable information. But now, rules just got in the way and hindered her investigation. If she'd spent as much time in the mess of protocols that existed for investigators as Haineau and Hagstedt did, she'd never be able to make progress. In fact, she probably wouldn't even be here, having given up on her lead a long time ago.

She watched as Hagstedt appeared from the opposite side of the building. He approached her, waving to catch her attention. "By the looks of it, the place is unguarded with minimal security, if any at all." He stated.

Klavdiya arched an eyebrow at his analysis. "I find that hard to believe." She muttered.

"You doubt my skills." He said, dramatically raising a hand to his chest in feigned hurt.

She shook her head at his attempted joke. "No, I just don't think they'd be dumb enough to leave this place unwatched."

"Maybe there's nothing here afterall. Perhaps it's just a warehouse." He pointed out.

She frowned at the suggestion. "I don't think so." She pushed herself off the wall and shuffled along to the large steel door that would have allowed access for loading and unloading of goods. She was pretty sure she wasn't going to be able to get that open. She ran her hand along it, her fingertips tingling against the cool metal. She paused in front of a second door. This one was smaller and allowed access for workers only.

"What do we have here?" Mikkel asked, coming to stand beside her.

Klavdiya's gaze followed his to the card reader that not so subtly sat beside the door, attached to the wall. Her frown deepened. Her eyes scanned the door and found two manual locks aswell. "What are they hiding that would require so much security?" She wondered aloud.

Mikkel glanced at her. "It's not unusual for companies to protect their businesses well."

She ignored his remark and, instead, put out her hand expectantly. He merely stared at it for a few moments before realising what it is she wanted. He passed her the black rucksack he'd been carrying. She took it and knelt down, looking through its contents. Before long, she'd pulled out a small grey device and smiled at him.

"What's that?" He asked, not recognising it among their usual field equipment.

She continued to smile but didn't reply. She stood and slotted the decive over the card reader, making a few adjustments to it. She was amused at his curious stare. She liked to keep her team mates on their toes. "You'll see." She finally said. She pressed a few buttons and the device beeped back at her. She removed her hands and let it do its work before squinting down at the manual locks. They'd be slightly easier to get around.

"You sly little..." Mikkel's voice trailed off as the device beeped again.

Klavdiya looked at him, mustering as much of an innocent look as she could. "Hmm?"

He pointed at the device as if she didn't know what he meant. "Where did you get that?" He demanded, incredulously.

She grinned. "Jealous, Hagstedt?" She asked sweetly.

Mikkel shook his head, knowing he wouldn't be getting a straight answer out of her. "Let me guess, you made it yourself."

Klavdiya merely gave him a mysterious smile. "Not really." She reached over and swiped something through the overlaying device. After doing so, she showed what it was to Hagstedt, satisfying his curiosity. It looked as though it were a blank card but to Klavdiya it was a key to a great many worlds. The device itself she had modified from a normal card reader so it could be used to access other readers, and she then used the card to fool it into thinking it was a coded card. The device would handle the rest, matching any numerical combinations it required out of a plethora of others. She had only tested this device a handful of times, but it hadn't failed her as of yet. She had to think of good name for it soon. It wouldn't do to have an invention without a suave name to go along with it.

She removed her invention and stuffed it back into the black bag, satisfied that it had served its purpose. "Is that all?" Came Hagstedt's deep voice from behind her.

Klavdiya glanced back at him, an amused glint in her grey eyes. "Expecting a light show to go along with it?"

He gave her a disapproving glare but he grin didn't fade. "You know what I mean, Zhukov."

She crouched down in front of one of the manual locks, inspecting it. "The quicker it works, the better, no?" She head a grunt of affirmation before returning her attention to the task at hand. She fished out some more tools from the bag. As she squinted at the lock, a twinge of pain shot through her skull, settling in behind her eyes. She sighed and stood, holding the tools out to Hagstedt. "I think you need the practice more than me." Was her only explanation.

He looked at her questioningly for a moment but eventually took the lockpicking equipment. They had all been taught how to pick locks but he seemed confused as to why she wanted him to do it. She wasn't about to give an in depth answer though. He moved past her and settled down to the job he'd been given as she leant against the wall next to the door. She could feel the cool brick through her jacket and it was oddly refreshing. She didn't watch what Hagstedt was doing, she respected the way he worked and hovering above him would only annoy him.

As time went on, she decided to sit herself against the hard, stone ground. Saving energy was more important than a warm behind, she mused. It was obvious Hagstedt was having problems with the locks from his constant stream of hushed curses but she didn't say anything. Interrupting him would only delay his task. She leant her head against the bricks behind her and hoped that this wasn't all for nothing. Would they really find nothing here as Hagstedt had suggested? Would she find any answers at all? The more time she spent in Maharoba, the less she liked it. True, she had met a fascinating girl here but that was its only redeeming feature.

Tanaka Rei. What an intriguing young woman. She had a subtle strength, hidden power that she was unaware of. It was probably due to her being a Saiin. She wondered how much of the myths surrounding the royal priestesses were fact and how much was just fairy tales. From her conversation with Oogami Kazuki, she would guess that Rei had some sort of palpable ability that was worth keeping secret but she wasn't sure what that could be. She found it amusing that the priest had thought her a threat to the girl. She had no intention in harming her, far from it. This whole Saiin thing complicated matters. Though, perhaps it was for the best. Getting entangled with a romantic interest never ended well for Klavdiya. She had loved and lost in the past and that was a pain she tried to steer clear of. Still, she couldn't help thinking about the girl and she let her mind linger on her for a little longer.

"Zhukov." Mikkel stirred her from her reverie. "We're in." He said with a triumphant grin.

Klavdiya pulled herself to her feet, hiding the pain that throbbed through her mind. She slung the backpack over one shoulder and stepped up to the dull metallic door. Mikkel gave her an 'after you' gesture with one hand and side stepped, allowing her access. She took a deep breath, placing one hand over the door handle. Glancing from side to side to ensure they were alone, she looked back to Mikkel who gave her a reassuring nod. Something about this warehouse filled her with trepidation. But she needed answers and she was sure this place held them. With renewed determination, she pushed down on the handle and the door slid open without a sound.

She peered into the darkness, squinting to try and make out any shapes. No sounds came from within, all she could hear was the steady breaths coming from her team mate. She stepped forwards, pulling a torch from the bag on her shoulder. She didn't switch it on however. She took a few more small steps into the gloominess before pausing, allowing her eyes to adjust. She could now make out the silhouette of tall structures lining the warehouse. She scanned the entirety of the space but couldn't make out any movement. Satisfied that they were alone, she clicked her torch on and a beam of light shot out across the off-white flooring.

The first thing she noticed were the ceiling high racks containing many many pallets. The racks were metal and painted blue, placed in rows throughout the building as though it were the warehouse's skeleton. She couldn't see the opposite end of the warehouse, the flashlight wasn't strong enough to pierce the inky darkness. She walked over to the nearest pallet, her footsteps echoing painfully loudly in the large space. She peered at it, noting that the pallets contained various machine parts, most of which she couldn't identify.

Mikkel approached from behind her, glancing around with little interest. "Not much here." He grunted.

Klavdiya drew her lips into a thin line. "Keep looking." Was all she said. He shrugged at her and moved off in another direction.

She followed this row of racks, ensuring to check the contents of each pallet so she didn't miss anything important. It appeared to be a normal warehouse afterall, there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary here. She let out a frustrated sigh, hoping she hadn't been chasing a dead lead all this time. Soon, she came upon an iron ladder that clung to one wall of the warehouse. She wouldn't have noticed it if she hadn't come up this particular row. She shone the light up the length of the ladder, it's paint had started to chip and it looked like it had been there for a long time. It led to a platform above the main area of the building. She was annoyed she hadn't noticed that when she'd entered.

Slinging the bag more securely over her shoulder, she gripped one rung of the ladder and tested its stability. It didn't budge. It was stronger than it looked. She glanced back but didn't spot Hagstedt. She looked back up the ladder and began to climb it, ensuring that she placed each hand and foot firmly on each rung. The last thing she needed right now was a nasty fall. It wasn't long before she had climbed to the level of the platform and she peeked her head over the edge of it. From here, she could see a small office-type room built into where two walls of the building converged. The darkness beyond the small window set into one wall hid its contents. She pulled herself up and crouched on the platform for a moment. The rest of the flooring covered roughly a quarter of the warehouse and she thought it would be a good place to oversee work down in the main part of the building.

She peeked over the edge and saw a faint light at the far end of the warehouse, guessing that was Hagstedt poking about. Leaving him to it, she walked towards the office. There was a wooden door next to the small window. She tried the handle, surprised to find it unlocked. She pushed the door open and pointed her torch inside. Her heart froze.

She had expected to see a desk and chair, perhaps a filing cabinet and a bookcase. But no, the small room was bare. Bare apart from the symbol painted on the floor. Klavdiya found herself breathing fast, her heart beating abnormally in her chest. The symbol was the same as the A.O Company's logo, except it was painted in a red substance. It looked like paint. She leaned heavily against the doorframe, one hand clutching her chest. What is this..?

And then the pain in her head began. She fell to her knees as burning sensations filled her senses, her brain feeling as though it was in fire. It was worse than it had been before. She buried her hands into her hair and she could feel a pressure building up in her skull. A shrill noise filled her ears and the world around her blurred into a haze of motion. Darkness crept in around the edge of her conciousness and soon enveloped her. She crumbled to the floor, the last thing she was aware of was the sound of her own voice screaming in agony.

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Kurusugawa Himeko nervously fiddled with a pen, tapping it against the edge of her desk while gazing down at her text book. She wasn't even sure of what page she was on, her brain incapable of taking any information in. She was vaguely aware of Makoto humming behind her to some tune on her walkman. Chikane was sitting painfully close beside her at the desk, an identical text book in front of her slender frame. She glanced at her, admiring the graceful features and the look of concentration. Her beautiful blue eyes were fixed on the history book and her right hand scribbled at a piece of paper. Himeko admired her dedication to her work, and to helping her aswell, though she wasn't sure how she could do it. All Himeko wanted to do was jump on the raven haired beauty, to feel those lips against hers once more.

She felt the heat rise up inside her at the memory of that kiss. The first kiss had been tender and sweet but this one had been filled with passion. She could feel the need in each touch of those lips, desire in each brush of her tongue. She felt a little light headed at the thought that Chikane could possibly feel that way towards her. Chikane was noble, graceful and pure. She found it hard to imagine her having such lustful feelings, let alone towards her. She had to remind herself that Chikane was just another sixteen year old, like herself.

She wished she hadn't suggested coming back to her room now. She just wanted to be alone with the other girl. When they had first arrived here, Makoto and almost leapt at her. That wasn't completely unusual but she felt a bit embarassed with Chikane being there this time. Makoto, of course, had been excited about their guest and launched into her first round of questions almost immediately. Chikane had been patient though and answered her. Himeko had noticed that she'd been pretty evasive and short in more of her answers. She realised she didn't like revealing too much of herself and she felt a swell of happiness that she showed her true self to Himeko only. As soon as they had settled down to their study session, Makoto had launched into her second round but Himeko had managed to calm her down pretty quickly that time. Now she was busy listening to whatever pop band she enjoyed the most this week.

She felt two hands slip onto her shoulders and she looked up, seeing her room mate staring down at her with a grin planted on her face. "How's the studying coming along?" She asked cheerily.

Himeko pouted slightly. "It's kind of frustrating. I have to learn all these things for the test but there's not enough room in my brain!" She complained.

Makoto patted her head lightly. "Of course there is, silly. Besides, you have Miya-sama helping you. You should ace the test!"

Himeko grimaced a little. "Now you're putting even more pressure on me. If I don't pass I'll let Chikane-chan down." She looked over at her study partner but she hadn't taken her eyes off her book, as if she hadn't heard them at all.

"Well, I'm off to grab something to eat. Want me to pick anything up for you?" Makoto asked, drawing her attention once more.

Himeko thought about it for a moment but eventually shook her head. "No thanks, Mako-chan. I think I'll get something later, once I'm done here."

"Okay then. But don't overdo it." She glanced at Chikane before backing off and heading for the door. "I'll be back in a bit." She threw a grin at Himeko and disappeared out into the hall.

Himeko stood and waved to her room mate, closing the door behind her. Before she could turn around, she felt warm hands slide around her waist and she was pushed up against the wooden door causing her to let out a gasp. She felt Chikane's hot body press up against her back and breath against her neck. Strong arms tightened around her for a moment. "At last..." Came the husky voice next to her ear, causing her to shiver.

"Ch-Chikane-chan?" The speed of her actions had taken Himeko by surprise. She had seemed so intent on studying that she didn't even think Chikane had been thinking about her at all. She squirmed slightly in the other girl's arms and she allowed her to turn in her embrace. She was now looking up into those deep blue eyes, the colour having darkened considerably.

"I didn't think she'd ever leave." The taller girl muttered and she quickly leaned forwards, pressing her moist lips against Himeko's in a fiery kiss, not waiting for her to reply. The coolness of the door behind her was in stark contrast to the heat emanating from the girl in front of her. It made her head spin. She returned the kiss, allowing her access to her own mouth, sighing when she felt that gently probing tongue against hers. She slid her hands up Chikane's arms, enjoying the shivers they caused and slipped them around the other girl's neck, lingering over the sensitive skin there.

She pulled back from the kiss, her breath heavy and rapid, just as Chikane's was. "I thought you were doing alright too..." Himeko murmured, her voice having lowered in tone quite a bit.

Chikane chuckled. "Are you kidding? I was staring at that book so hard my entire body almost cramped up." She brought a hand up to brush over the smooth skin of Himeko's cheek. She leaned into the touch, causing Chikane to smile further. "I knew if I looked at you just once, I'd lose control."

Himeko felt the heat rise to her cheeks. "Feeling better now?" She asked sweetly.

Chikane nodded. "Much." And she leaned in for another kiss, Himeko gladly complying. She playfully licked at Himeko's lower lip before plunging into the warm recesses of her mouth. Himeko whimpered, encouraging her further. The blonde felt a timid hand trail down from her cheek to her neck, leaving tingling sensations in its wake. Himeko shuddered at her touch. Her lips quickly followed her hand and Himeko gasped as she felt the light kisses against the sensitive skin of her neck. She buried a hand into those silky black tresses and pushed her further into her neck.

A wet tongue left a heated trail over her throat and she was glad the door was there to support her now, or she'd have sunken to the floor. Then her hand was sliding down over her shoulder and then against her ribs, sending shivers throughout her body. Her fingers fluttered against her stomach and started to move upwards, hesitating below her breasts. Himeko could feel her legs trembling through a mixture of Chikane's ministrations on her neck and the way her hands roamed her body.

"Chikane-chan..." She murmured.

Chikane pulled her head back, breathing heavily, looking deeply into her eyes. She noticed her hands had stopped their journey. She blinked rapidly, trying to regain coherent thought. She could see a mixture of emotions on that beautiful face. Desire, doubt, shyness, and perhaps fear too. She couldn't blame her, she felt the same too but she trusted Chikane. "S-Sorry." Chikane muttered, her cheeks darkening to a deep red. "I got a little... carried away." She continued shyly.

Himeko pulled Chikane back to her, drawing her into a tight hug. "You can carry me away with you anytime." She whispered into her ear, the heat rising in her own cheeks.

The other girl pulled back and looked into her eyes again, as if searching for something. She smiled with relief. "Like right now? I can whisk you away?" Her smile turned into a mischievous grin.

Himeko giggled at her. "I think Mako-chan would get a little worried if I disappeared suddenly."

Chikane pouted at her and she thought it was the most adorable thing she'd ever seen. "How long do you think she'll be gone?" She asked.

The blonde looked up at Chikane thoughtfully. She considered teasing her a little but she still felt too embarassed with those kind of words. "I'm not sure..." She pushed herself off of the door and Chikane released her grip on her, watching as she paced across the room to the bed. "She'll probably only go and get a snack, it's not like her to have a meal this late."

She heard Chikane sigh a little and walk up behind her. She turned around and the other girl was now standing, one hand leaning on the top bunk of the beds. She looked disappointed and it was becoming more common for her to let her emotions show plainly on her features in front of Himeko. That made Himeko smile. It was something she only did in front of her. Yet another way she made her feel special. She slid her arms around Chikane's waist, bringing those blue eyes to her violet ones. She leaned her cheek against the other girl's ample bosom and she felt gentle arms encasing her.

"I'm so glad I met you, Chikane-chan." She suddenly said, feeling the need to voice what she felt. She was pulled in tighter against Chikane's body.

"Me too, Himeko, me too." Chikane cooed into her golden tresses. She placed a finger under Himeko's chin and lifted her face up and Himeko could see water beginning to collect in those blue pools. She leaned down and pressed her lips gently against Himeko's. The kiss wasn't fiery this time but there was still passion. It was filled with tenderness and it made a warm, comforting feeling swell up inside Himeko's chest.

Feeling something rise up within her, Himeko deepened the kiss, parting Chikane's lips with her tongue. She heard a moan rise up from Chikane's throat and she slipped her fingers back to their home in raven strands, pulling Chikane deeper into the kiss. She surprised herself with how easily she went from nothing to feeling so much desire and yearning for the other girl's touch. She still didn't feel close enough and she almost desperately continued to tug on the other girl's hair, pushing her body further against Chikane's.

Chikane murmured into the kiss, caressing Himeko's tongue with her own. Seeming as though they remembered where they had let off, her hands moved up to stroke Himeko's stomach through the fabric of her uniform. One hand came to rest on her hip, whilst the other slid up, lightly flicking across the tip of a pert breast. She shuddered at the touch, her breath catching. Himeko gripped the hair in between her fingers tighter, their kiss becoming more heated. At the encouragement, Chikane pressed the palm of her hand firmly against the breast, cupping it. Himeko whimpered into Chikane's hot mouth.

A clattering noise from her left made Himeko break the kiss and look over. She gasped when she saw Makoto standing there, mouth agape, crisp packet and bottle of water scattered on the floor. Both she and Chikane froze, not jumping apart this time but stuck in the one pose.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Nine

The cloud surrounding her mind cleared abruptly, parting to show a very shocked Saotome Makoto. Chikane froze, her heart feeling as though it was lurching into her throat. She had been so involved with Himeko, so wrapped up in her that she hadn't even noticed the door opening and the brunette barging in, dropping what she had been holding. It had only been when Himeko pulled back and gasped that she had looked to see what had made the colour drain from her beautiful features. Now she stood, one arm around Himeko's waist, her other hand firmly planted on the smaller girl's breast.

She quickly hid her surprise with her usual stoic mask, trying to bury the blush that was rising up inside her. Himeko, however, was having no such luck. A bright flush covered her cheeks and neck. Her hands were still gripping strands of black hair and she showed no intention of removing them. She guessed the smaller girl was frozen in shock aswell. Regaining control of her own body, she quickly removed her hand from Himeko's chest but didn't pull away, she rested it on the other girl's hip and pulled her in protectively.

"M-Mako-chan!" Himeko finally managed, her voice shaky.

Still, the brunette didn't move, her body stuck in that rigid pose. She couldn't even blink. Finally, she spoke. "W-what... Hime... ko..." Her speech was broken and Chikane would have found it amusing if it wasn't upsetting Himeko so much.

She could feel the little blonde shaking in her arms and her hands trembled as she quickly pulled them from her hair. She glanced at Chikane, a look of wide-eyed terror in those violet pools. She wished she could soothe her, to take away the terrible thoughts that were so obviously flashing through her mind. But she couldn't. Only Makoto's next words would make the difference. She hoped the brunette would choose them carefully. She paused in her thoughts, wondering why exactly she felt so calm about all this. If it had been someone close to her who had caught them, would she have panicked? Strangely, she trusted Makoto to keep this to herself, though she wasn't sure why. If it had been Otoha, for example, there was a large chance she would have informed her father and that could only lead to trouble. She shook the thought from her mind, her concern focusing on Himeko once more.

Himeko chewed on her bottom lip nervously, her eyes dropping and Chikane thought she might cry. She squeezed her reassuringly and looked over at Makoto. Her look of shock was dissolving and her eyes narrowed and darkened. They were now directed at Chikane.

"You!" She almost growled and stalked towards here, jabbing a finger in her face. "Get your hands off of her!" She spat, pulling on one of her arms that was wrapped around Himeko's waist. Chikane merely blinked in disbelief at her, allowing herself to be shoved roughly aside. Makoto placed herself in between the two girls. "How dare you take advantage of her."

"Mako-chan-" Came Himeko's timid voice but Makoto cut her off.

"Don't say a thing. I wont let her get away with this!" The brunette's eyes were almost wild with anger and she waved an arm violently as she spoke.

Chikane couldn't believe her words. How could she possibly think she'd taken advantage of Himeko, or ever would? Had she done anything to give that impression? She opened her mouth to speak but found herself without words. The look in Makoto's eyes told her there wasn't much she could say to dissuade her train of thought anyway. She just stood there, her mask not faltering but her heart beating rapidly under the brunette's intense glare.

"Being rich and popular doesn't give you the right to anything you want." Makoto ranted. "You think you can play with this girl? Just because she's shy and vulnerable? Well, I wont let you!"

Chikane shook her head. "I'm not playing."

"Shut up!" Makoto spat the heated words at her. "You're taking advantage of her kind nature. She might not have the heart to tell you to keep your distance but I certainly do!"

Chikane gave her a look of utter confusion. "What would make you think I would do that?"

"You're all the same!" She scoffed.

"Mako-chan..." Came Himeko's voice again and she pulled on Makoto's shoulder, drawing her attention. "Please stop this."

Makoto's gaze softened. "You're still doing it but it's okay. You don't have to be so nice. Just tell her you don't want her touching you."

Himeko's pained eyes found Chikane's and she could see the cry for help in them. She didn't want to hurt her friend, or disappoint her but she didn't want to drive Chikane away either. "I can't." Himeko whispered.

"Sure you can. I'm here, I wont let her hurt you anymore." Makoto urged.

Himeko shook her head, tears stinging her eyes now and Chikane wanted to go to her but she stopped herself. "No, I can't. She's not hurting me."

Makoto's brow furrowed in confusion and she turned around to fully face her room mate. "W-what do you mean?"

The petite blonde rubbed at her eyes, wiping away the tears. She sniffed, looking up at her friend. "She completes my shell." Was all she said but Chikane understood her and so, it seemed, did Makoto who took a step backwards involuntarily. She spun around and looked at Chikane and then back at Himeko.

"You've got to be kidding me." She said, her tone filled with uncertainty. When Himeko shook her head, she pointed at Chikane. "But she's a girl!" She shouted incredulously.

Chikane winced, hoping noone else could hear this conversation. Perhaps she'd been wrong in her assessment of Makoto. "So..?" She found herself asking, though she knew it would be unwise to interject at this point.

Makoto turned on her, her eyes narrowed again. She stepped towards her, drawing her face in close to her. "I know this is your doing." She hissed through clenched teeth. "You've brainwashed her or something." Chikane would have laughed at the rediculousness of that statement had it not been so insulting. The brunette took in a deep breath, apparantly attempting to calm herself. She shook her head and walked towards the door, picking up the items that she had dropped. "I'm going for a walk, Himeko. I'll be back in five minutes. When I get back, I expect your friend to be gone." She said with a cold tone and left the room, slamming the door behind her.

Chikane immeditely went to Himeko's side as she broke down. She wrapped her arms around the other girl, her body shaking as it was wracked by heart aching sobs. "Himeko..." She murmured. "I'm sorry." She stood there for a while, trying to comfort her.

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The cold hard metal beneath her body told Klavdiya that she was still alive, at least. It was damn uncomfortable though. She grimaced as the pain in her head reminded her of what had sent her to meet the floor. She opened her eyes slightly, seeing the doorway ahead of her. She became aware of someone standing over her. She attempted to push herself up. Two black boots came into view and stood in front of her head. She looked up and squinted at a man dressed in a black leather trenchcoat. He appeared to be Japanese, with short dark hair, cold dark eyes and a scowl on his face. She estimated him at being about ten years older than her.

"Well, aren't we a walking stereotype." Klavdiya smirked up at him, willing her voice to hide the pain she felt.

His eyes flared in anger and he reached down, grabbing a fistful of her hair and yanking her to her feet. In one fluid motion, he reached into his trenchcoat and pulled out a weapon. Out of the corner of her eye, she could make out it was a sword, the blade of the weapon flashing as it moved through the air.

"Hold it, Katayama." Came a male voice from behind her attacker. She guessed his name must be Katayama as he turned his head and snarled at the use of it.

"You don't give me orders." He growled, his voice deep and gravelly. He really was a living stereotype of the typical villain.

The owner of the other voice stepped into view, seemingly coming from the room where the painted symbol was. "Yeah. Yeah." He uttered. He was wearing a tailored grey suit with a long dark cream coat. He was younger than Katayama too. His dark hair was pulled back into a short ponytail, a styled goatee covering his chin. Klavdiya guessed he was the charmer of the pair, which only made him more dangerous. He looked at her, pervaying her form from head to toe. "We weren't told she'd be so lovely." He grinned and it made her stomach churn.

"What does that matter?" Katayama spat. "Concentrate on the task, Umari."

They were either very confident or completely stupid to use their names in front of her. If they were using their real names at all. The man named Umari frowned at his partner before donning his charming smile again. He stepped around Klavdiya and stopped behind her. Katayama took a hold of her arms and held her there. How am I going to get out of this one? She pondered.

"So you must be with the cult then?" She asked with false cheer.

She felt a presence at her right ear and breath against it. "A cult? Is that what they're calling us?" Came the amused voice.

She shuddered at the sound of it and the proximity of the man was making her feel sick. "What else would you be?" She enquired, hoping to get some information out of him.

The grip on her arms tightened. "Enough! Let's go." Katayama sneered, obviously getting impatient. He appeared to be exchanging glares with his partner.

"Freeze!" The familiar voice of Mikkel Hagstedt rang out in the warehouse. The next few moments seemed to pass in a blur for her and she wasn't entirely sure what happened and how long it all took. First, she was roughly pushed aside, causing her to tumble against the ground once more. She heard a shot ring out, almost deafening her. Then two more. She saw Katayama duck into the room and Umari roll to a crouch next to her.

She rolled over and looked over to the ladder. There was Mikkel, gun in hand, his aim moving from Umari to the door of the office. Umari held two large pistols. If she didn't act now, Mikkel would get himself killed. She kicked out, her foot meeting the pistol wielder's side, winding and toppling him. He dropped his pistols whilst Mikkel fired another round at the doorway, effectively keeping Katayama pinned down inside the room. Adrenaline coursed through her body, dimming the pain and fuelling her movements. She launched herself at the fallen gunman, landing on top of him, grabbing for his hands. She had stopped him from reaching his weapons but now his attention was on her. He lashed out, the back of his hand meeting her jaw. She squeezed her eyes shut at the impact and she could taste blood in her mouth. She felt another fist pile into her stomach and she coughed out in pain.

Gritting her teeth, she opened her eyes in time to see a fist aimed at her face. She ducked and grabbed the incoming hand, twisting it roughly. Umari yelled out in pain as the tendons and muscles in his wrist were stretched beyond what they were designed for. Klavdiya shifted and pulled on the arm, bringing it behind his back and pushing him head first into the metallic flooring. She felt a satisfying crack and guessed she'd broken his nose. She moved and placed her knee in the small of his back, using her body weight to push the rest of him down. She looked over to the small office, pleased that her other attacker hadn't ventured out yet.

She glanced at Mikkel who had pulled himself fully up onto the platform. "Thanks." She shot over to him and he merely nodded at her, keeping his gun aimed at the doorway.

Movement from that office caught her eye and she looked over in time to see Katayama lunge out of the room, his blade held high above his head. She could see now that it was a katana, the hilt completely black. He rushed towards Mikkel, who fired once. She was surprised when Katayama didn't go down. He dodged the bullet? He just continued on his trajectory, moving his sword down so the tip was in line with Mikkel's throat.

"Mikkel!" Klavdiya shouted and left the man she had subdued to plow into the swordsman. The both rolled over to the ladder and she feared she would fall over the edge. She quickly pushed herself to her feet but Katayama was faster. She heard a sharp whistle and instinctively dodged the incoming blow. She felt a stinging in her arm and realised he had actually cut her. Zasranec, she cursed in her mind. She brought a hand up to cover the wound and staggered backwards. Another shot rang out and Katayama cried out, dropping his sword. He clutched at his shoulder, dropping to his knees.

Mikkel rushed to her side, attempting to get a look at her wounds but she shook her head. "We need to get out of here." She winced. He nodded and glanced behind him, seeing Umari regaining his composure and reaching for his guns. She looked down the ladder that was next to them, not looking forward to getting down them. "You first." She said, her commanding tone stopping any argument he may have had.

He took one last look at the crawling gunman before hastily descending the ladder. Once he was down a few rungs, he placed his feet either side of the hand rails and slid the remainder, waiting at the bottom for her. Not wasting any time, Klavdiya grabbed the first rung of the ladder and swung her legs over the side, releasing a haggard breath as the pain shot up her arm. She flinched as a loud bang rung out and a bullet plunged into the wall nearby. She hurried her pace, her hands shakily moving from one rung to the next. She glanced downwards, seeing Mikkel waiting there, urging her on. She was breathing heavily now, her body contesting the abuse it was receiving. Her head was throbbing badly and her face stung.

Reaching the bottom of the ladder, she felt Mikkel's hand on her back and he led her down past pallet after pallet. They moved as quickly as they could, hoping their attackers wouldn't catch them. Klavdiya could make out the entrance and felt relief, glad that the people who had attacked them hadn't locked them in aswell. She stepped outside into the night air with Mikkel close on her heels. He pushed the door shut and paused for a moment. They were both breathing heavily.

"I wish we'd brought the car." He said with a lopsided grin.

Although her head was starting to spin, she smiled back at him. Trust him to joke in this kind of situation. It seemed they had to develop a strange sense of humour to be able to do this kind of job. She stumbled forward, motioning that they would follow the road to the south. Mikkel took her arm once more, attempting to support her. She sighed, wondering why he had to be so protective.

When they were a good distance away from the warehouse, Mikkel turned to her. "Who were those guys?" He asked.

Klavdiya shook her head. "I don't know." She guessed they were part of the cult but she had no idea why they were after her. It would make sense if they were trying to hamper her investigation but they seemed awfully intent on just getting to her.

"I heard you scream and came running. There's no way they came in behind us so they must have been waiting for us up there." He explained.

Had they really been waiting in the dark for them? That would mean either they were being watched and followed or she was getting really predictable. She chose to go with the former answer. She regretted fleeing the warehouse now. They must have been there for a reason. If they had been guarding the warehouse then she'd need to find out what that was, and if they'd been there to stop them then she might be able to get some information out of them. She sighed. It was frustrating not being able to do this alone.

"Can we rest for a bit?" She asked as a wave of nausea hit her. The adrenaline was starting to wear off and the pain was excruciating.

Mikkel regarded her for a few moments. "I think we should get somewhere safe first." He slid an arm around her waist and pulled her left one over his shoulders. "But I'll help you get there."

"You just want to feel me up." She smirked, though she knew the support was necessary.

"Of course." He retorted.

They walked for a while longer, the warehouses and industrial buildings turning into large homes and sprawling gardens. It seemed they were heading out of the village. With each step, she felt the strength drain from her as though she were leaving it behind on the path. She slumped against Mikkel more and more and it appeared as though he was having problems carrying her weight, his own body tired. The loud roar of an engine approached them and Mikkel reached for his gun. He paused when he saw a teenage boy on a motorcycle pull up to them and slow to a stop.

"Is everything alright? Is she okay?" The boy said, nodding towards Klavdiya.

She didn't respond, merely eyeing him from behind strands of brown hair. He removed his helmet, revealing short black hair and youthful features. Brown eyes peered at them. Mikkel glanced at her, unsure of whether to trust him or not. Klavdiya shrugged, wincing with the pain the action brought. "We could use some help." He muttered.

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Saotome Makoto sat at the desk in her dorm room and fumed. Her hands tightened around the piece of paper she was holding and she ended up screwing it into a ball. She took a few deep breaths and turned in her chair, glaring down at the lower bunk bed. Himeko was under the covers, half her face hidden by them. Large violet eyes stared out at her, fear, sadness and guilt swirling in their midst. Makoto sighed. Seeing her like this just made her question whether she had acted irrationally earlier or not. But she had acted like any normal person would, hadn't she? She had been so sure Himemiya was taking advantage of the blonde but then she'd said herself that she'd wanted that kind of... interaction. But how could she?

She shook her head. No. This wasn't right. "What about this guy you're seeing." Makoto said, breaking the silence that had stretched on for a long time.

Himeko jumped, not expecting her to speak. "Guy?" She asked meekly.

Makoto frowned. "The one with the limo..." She trailed off, realisation dawning on her. "Oh..." So Himeko had been seeing Himemiya all along. But how had this happened? They'd met only recently.

"Mako-chan..?" The squeaking voice made Makoto inwardly grimace. It was so fragile sounding that she couldn't bare to look at her with any kind of anger, for fear that she would break under the strain.

"Yes?" She said, keeping her tone even.

"Do you hate me?" The words crushed her heart under their impact.

She shook her head. "Of course not, Himeko." She looked her in the eye. "You're to cute for that." She said with a faint smile.

Himeko drew her face further out of the covers at the gesture, a flicker of hope lighting her eyes. "Really?"

Makoto sighed and stood, beginning to pace from one end of the room to the other. "Yes... I just... just can't understand it." She admitted.

As she continued her journey mapping out the floor of their room, Himeko sat up in her bed. "Understand what?"

Makoto paused by the window and turned to face her. She rested one hand on her hip and cocked her head to one side, regarding her room mate. Her eyes were filled with honest confusion. She's too innocent for her own good, she mused. She let out another sigh, bringing her other hand up to stroke idly at her chin. "Everything. Why you'd want her touching you. How it happened so fast. Why I had to walk in on you just then." She looked almost desperately at Himeko, hoping she could give her the answers she sought.

Himeko's gaze flickered down to the blankets and she wrung her hands anxiously. "I... I can explain to you how I feel but... but I'm not sure that's what you want to hear."

The brunette merely stood there staring at her. Sometimes Himeko could surprise her with her moments of wisdom, as if she'd lived for many more years than her youthful features implied. And then she'd slip back into her naive and innocent ways. She didn't respond to Himeko's words though, she just waited for her to continue in her own time.

"When I met Chikane-chan that day, it felt like I'd found... something I'd been missing for a long, long time." She paused, taking a deep breath and looking up at Makoto. "I can't explain it but when we talked it was like we'd been friends all our lives. I felt like I knew her, really knew her." She brow furrowed in frustration, as if she wasn't happy with that explanation. "All those empty feelings I had in the past are gone now. She makes everything... complete."

Makoto took a few steps towards her friend when she saw tears begin to glisten at the corners of her purple eyes. She knelt beside the bed and laid a hand over one of Himeko's. "But... she's a girl."

Himeko gave her a mysterious smile, as if she knew something she didn't. "It doesn't matter, Mako-chan. There's so many reasons why we shouldn't even have met but I believe that fate brought us together. She's rich, popular, smart, strong, elegant. I'm... well I'm just me. We're so different and yet she makes me feel so special. I don't care that people think it's wrong. I really don't. I wont give up this feeling." The tears flowed freely down her cheeks now and she was clutching her chest.

The brunette couldn't bring herself to argue with her anymore. The conviction in her voice silenced all her questions. "Alright."

The little blonde looked up at her, confused. "Alright?" She asked quietly.

"I wont say anything more. I can see in your eyes how you feel about it." She let out a breath, relieving the tension that had built up within her. "But I'm keeping my eyes on that Himemiya. I don't trust her and I don't have to be happy about you spending time with her!" Her tone was firm but her gaze softened when Himeko looked up at her with relief.

"Oh, thank you Mako-chan!" She leapt forwards and wrapped her arms around Makoto's neck. She couldn't help but giggle at the over eager blonde.

Eventually, Makoto lowered her friend down onto the bed once again and tucked her in under the covers. "You better get some rest eh? All this crying has tired you out." As if on cue, Himeko let out a yawn. "See?" She smiled fondly at her friend.

Himeko nodded at her sleepily. "You're really okay with this?"

Makoto smoothed out the blankets distractedly. "Not really but, for your sake, I'll keep quiet." She smile slightly, hoping her friend would be satisfied with that for now.

Himeko smiled back at her but she could see a bit of disappointment in that gesture. The blonde rolled over and snuggled into her pillow so Makoto moved over to the door and flicked the light switch to the off position. She then moved to the desk and looked at her books under the light of the desk lamp. She ran a hand through her messy hair. She hoped she was making the right decision. She had to admit, she found it hard denying Himeko anything, she was just too cute and sweet. She was a little worried about the rest of the school finding out about her and Himemiya aswell, that wouldn't end well.

She stretched in her chair, loosening her aching muscles. She'd missed her running session tonight because of everything that had happened so she'd need to make up for it tomorrow. Now she'd have to juggle keeping a closer eye on Himeko with her usual daily activities. It would be tricky but it was for a good cause, afterall.

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Himemiya Chikane strolled along the outskirts of the lake, bathed in moonlight and wrapped in only a thin silky robe. She let the cool night air awaken her senses and sharpen her mind. The water lapped against the edges of the bank, the gentle motion of the water calming her a little. She lifted her face and took in a deep breath. A stronger breeze brushed past her and lifted the robe, causing it to flutter around her lithe frame. She shivered and brought her arms up around her chest, attempting to keep the remaining warmth to herself.

She glanced back towards her home, relieved to find noone had followed her. She had managed to sneak outside at this hour without alerting any of the staff. Although she had been compelled to come out here at this time before now, she had never done so out of fear of being caught. If she'd known it would be so easy to slip past the hired help she would have done this many times already. She walked slowly away from the mansion, her eyes never leaving the water and the moon's reflection within it.

She would have loved to have shared this scenery with Himeko, to see the moonlight upon her skin, the goosebumps rising from the chill air. She smiled at the thought. That would be a perfect excuse to hold her and keep her close. Her thoughts wondered to earlier in the day, and she remembered how upset she had been at her friend's words. If she were honest, they stung at her too. She hadn't done anything to merit those harsh judgements and she wondered if Makoto harboured some hidden feelings towards her friend. She shook her head. She was sure she would have picked up on that if that were the case. She just appeared to be completely disgusted.

She frowned. She was aware of what people thought of their kind of relationship. It was inescapable. All throughout her life she'd had beliefs and opinions thrust upon her and it was always difficult to be sure her feelings were her own most of the time. Her feelings towards Himeko definitely were. She was sure of that. Afterall, she'd always been told that caring for a girl in that way was unnatural, wrong. How can something that feels this good be so bad? She asked herself. She finally decided that people didn't make sense and that she should stop trying to figure them out, aswell as the multitude of different beliefs. There were just too many.

There was only one person that mattered. Only her opinion would be important to her. Himeko would never force her views on anyone though, she was far too considerate towards others. That was another thing she loved about her. Love? She suddenly realised what she'd been thinking. Do I really..? But we've only just met. Is it possible to fall in love with someone so quickly? She found she couldn't answer that question.

Soon she found herself at the outer edge of the woods that lined her family's estate. The tall trees seemed to reach protectively across one another in the darkness, barring anyone from entering. She found her gaze drawn to the inky blackness beyond the thick trunks and green leaves. She took a few steps forwards but paused, a sudden chill creeping down her spine. It must be the night, I've never felt this way around these woods before, she thought.

"Ojou-sama!" Came a shrill cry from behind her.

She spun around and saw Otoha waving at her from the direction of the mansion. Damn, she cursed to herself. She'd be caught. Without thinking, she took off into the woods, the branches scratching at her barely protected skin. She sped past tree after tree, hoping that Otoha wouldn't follow her. She just needed to be alone right now. She needed time to think.

She burst through the thick foliage into what appeared to be a clearing. The sight before her stopped her in her tracks. The muscles in her throat constricted, stopping the scream that was rising up from escaping. She stumbled backwards, her body trembling at what she saw. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing the scene before her to disappear. She opened them again but the gruesome visage remained and she could feel her stomach lurch violently. Oh... god...

The green grass was tainted crimson, stained by the thick liquid that covered it. It seemed to cover the entirety of the clearing and several tree trunks were smeared with blood aswell. Chikane's knees weakened at the sight in the centre of the clearing. Splayed out under the night sky was a corpse of what had previously been a man or woman. It was hard to tell as all the identifying features had been either removed or bludgeoned beyond recognition. Strangely, candles had been placed around the body in a circle and they flickered dangerously, the flames threatening to disappear completely as they battled against the wind. Her mind whirled, the scene too much to take in at once and finally her throat relaxed enough to let out a scream.

She fell to her knees, her hands shooting up to cover her eyes, her mouth hung open as she continued to wail into the night. She could hear rustling coming from behind her and if it was the killer coming back to claim her as their next victim she didn't mind, as long as the image that she had seen would be removed from her mind. Finally, her stomach succumbed and she brought up her dinner over the blades of grass beneath her.

"Oh my god." She could make out Otoha's shocked voice and then arms around her, pulling her backwards. And then everything became a blur.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Ten

The sun shone down mildly upon Tanaka Rei, the golden orb high in the clear blue sky. She looked around herself, taking in the serene forest that seemed to stretch on forever, the warm summer breeze rustling the different shades of green. She stood on an dusty trail of some kind, deep tracks in it from some sort of vehicle. The sounds of nature assaulted her ears. She could hear birds singing their sickly sweet songs, the brush of air against leaf, rustling in bushes from small wildlife. And she could make out a rumbling, getting closer and closer.

She spun around, seeing a large carriage hurtling towards her, being pulled by two wide-eyed brown horses that appeared to be extremely spooked. She instinctively leapt out of the way as it ploughed past her, then cursed her own foolishness as she remembered she wasn't corporeal here. She stood and dusted herself off. It was strange how anything living could pass through her yet she could still stand on the ground and be covered in dirt. She shook her head, not pretending to understand the phenomena.

An almighty crash came from where the carriage had disappeared off to and she ran in that direction. She followed the curve of the trail and immediately spotted the wreckage of the carriage, watching as the two horses continued on their frantic journey, pulling only a support beam that had carried the front of the vehicle. Splintered wood lay scattered over the trail and the carriage itself had overturned so the left hand door was facing skyward.

Footsteps from behind her made her turn and she gasped when she recognised the figure. The woman was dressed in what appeared to be Victorian attire, except it wasn't anything like what she remembered the ladies of the era wearing from her textbooks. She wore form fitting trousers, the white material clinging to her thighs. Her knee high black boots were well polished and matched the black leather gloves she wore. She appeared to be wearing a corset, which had an intricate lace design sewn into it, covered by a dark red tailored coat, with gold stitching, that flowed down to her knees. A rather large belt held a scabbard with a guardless sword and a pistol. Her long brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she carried a rimmed hat with a large red feather in it under one arm. She swaggered towards the carriage with a confident stride, a smirk causing one side of her lips to curl upwards.

"Klava..." Rei uttered, her breath catching as she spoke. She looked so alike yet so very different from the woman she knew. She oozed charm and confidence but also seemed particularly dangerous. If she didn't bare the same face, she would have thought they were completely different people.

Klavdiya walked straight past her and she felt a little disappointment, as though the taller woman might sense her presence there even though noone else had previously. She followed behind her, watching as the other woman rested the palm of her hand on the hilt of her sword, her hips swaying. She found it hard to pull her eyes away from that rear.

She watched as the hat was placed meticulously atop brown hair and the hand then came down to pull out the pistol from the belt. What were they called? Flintlocks? That sounded vaguely correct. She wished she'd paid more attention in her history classes now. Klavdiya now stood in front of the carriage, pistol raised, as if waiting for something to emerge from it. Rei was pretty sure noone could have survived an accident like that though. But had it been an accident? Looking at the scene before her, she doubted it now.

Apparantly she'd been wrong about the survivability chances too and she watched in shock as the door to the carriage was flung open and a dishevelled man threw himself out of it. He tumbled roughly to the ground and rolled. He was wearing what appeared to be a military uniform, with a bright red coat and black trousers. A sword lay next to him and he clutched something to his chest. She walked closer, trying to make out what the item was. Movement beside her drew her attention. She looked at Klavdiya, her gaze settled on the object aswell.

When she was only a few feet away, Klavdiya stopped, pointing her flintlock at the man's head. "I believe you have something of mine." She said in English and Rei was relieved it was a language she could understand at least something of. Her accent was strange though, and somewhat different to how she was used to hearing it.

The man lifted his head slowly, grimacing at her. His long dark hair was pulled back and held in place by a thin piece of cloth. He appeared to be in his mid twenties and his face showed signs of weariness. Dirt and blood speckled his handsome features. Rei noticed his dark eyes held fear though as he looked up at his pursuer. He spat something that she couldn't quite make out. She was moderately good at English, but not that good.

Klavdiya knelt down and pressed the barrel of the flintlock against his forehead. He squeezed his eyes shut but didn't move. "Give it back and you'll be free to go." Her tone was soothing but there was malice hidden deep within its lilt.

The soldier was visibly shaking now but he didn't release his hold on the object. Rei leant in and could make out brown leather. It was a book and by the looks of it, it was an old one. She could just see strange symbols peeking out at her from behind the man's arms. It appeared to contain many yellowing pages aswell.

Klavdiya sighed. "You know I can just take it from you anyway. You're not in any position to refuse me anything."

The logic seemed to bring the man to his senses and he released his grip on the tome. Klavdiya smirked at him and grabbed the item from him, standing quickly. She gazed down at him for a while, as if trying to decide something important. Finally, she decided on slipping her pistol back into its place on her belt and turned to leave. She walked away slowly, the book tucked under her arm just as her hat had been.

Rei looked back at the man and he was now kneeling on the ground, staring after her. His fearful expression slipped into a panicked one and soon into an angered snarl. He pushed himself to his feet and grabbed the sword beside him. He pulled it from its sheath and charged towards Klavdiya. The woman in question appeared to not notice what was transpiring behind her and she continued walking away at her slow pace, a calm expression on her face.

"Klava!" Rei called out, but she knew she wouldn't hear her. She could only watch in horror as the soldier charged nearer and nearer to his intended target, the sword's tip aimed flatly at a graceful back.

At the last moment, Klavdiya sidestepped the incoming attack and the soldier went flying past her, a look of shock on his face as he realised what was happening. In one motion she used her free hand to pull out the nearest available weapon, which was her sword. The blade emerged from its sheath with little noise and she swiped at the retreating back of her foe, leaving a nasty gash in his clothes and flesh. He cried out in pain as he tumbled to the ground.

She continued her idle walk and paused next to his shaking form. She shook her head as her gaze drifted down to the blood that was seeping into that red uniform. The whole purpose of those coats was to hide the blood on the battlefield but it was obvious to Rei, how could a soldier be fooled? "Stay down this time, I implore you." She warned, an edge to her voice. She continued on her journey.

This time the man listened and he lay there, breathing heavily and whimpering slightly. Klavdiya flicked the blade to the side and Rei could here the splattering of blood against the dirt trail. The brunette then slid her sword back into its scabbard. Rei followed her on the path, walking beside her step for step. She let her eyes wander over that smooth, flawless skin and rest upon the calmness of her face. Grey eyes looked straight ahead and she could see a hint of something within them. Relief? She noticed that Klavdiya was holding the book extremely tightly now. What was so important about it? She leaned in to get a closer look but it was covered in symbols she couldn't understand.

Klavdiya stopped abruptly and Rei looked around. She couldn't see anything that would have caused her to do so. She turned her eyes back on the other woman. She brought her free hand up to her mouth and slipped the tip of her fore finger and thumb past her lips. She let out a shrill whistle and waited. They didn't have taxis back then... Rei found herself thinking before a beating of hoofs drew her attention. She saw a large chocolate brown horse trot into view from between the trees. Klavdiya approached it and patted the side of its muscled neck fondly.

It was a beautiful animal and seemed different than the ones she'd seen before. It wasn't bred for looks or sport, Rei concluded, though it was a beautiful animal. From the way it allowed Klavdiya to attach her sword to the side of the saddle, and slip the book into a bag on the opposite side, and the fearless look in those deep black eyes; she knew it was raised for battle. Klavdiya pulled herself gracefully up into the saddle, swinging a leg over and settling onto the horse with practiced ease. She cast her grey gaze down one direction of the trail before looking towards the other. Satisfied with what she saw, she gripped the reins between her fingers and directed her steed into the forest, from where the strong animal had come.

Rei attempted to follow but as soon as they had passed between the first two trunks, Klavdiya dug her heels in and the horse surged forwards, launching into a gallop, slipping between the trees with ease. She cursed her luck. There was no way she'd be able to follow them now. Deciding that the vision had served its purpose, she settled down into a meditative position and took a deep breath. She could feel the world around her become like smoke, the existance of it likely to blow away and disperse if she lost her focus at all. She allowed it to, thinking instead of the shrine in which she knew her body to be resting. She felt the familiarity of the wooden floor beneath her and the scent of candles burning filled her nostrils.

She opened her eyes, blinking the clouds of her mind away. "Impressive." Came a voice from behind her and she jumped, forgetting that her sensei had been with her for the entire process.

She turned her head to the side, seeing him looking down at her with a neutral expression, his hands resting on her shoulders. "You saw it all?"

He nodded and rose to his feet, swaying slightly as he did so. At Rei's concerned look, he smiled. "Do not worry, Tanaka-san, it is a draining procedure but I am fine." He walked around so he stood in front of her. "Your control was truely amazing though, how is it you are able to do so?"

His question surprised her. She hadn't felt like she'd been controlling anything. When they'd set up this ritual she had felt as though Kazuki had done all the work, drawing their spirits together so they could travel the visions together. And the vision itself had just... happened. Though she felt at the end of it as if she knew what to do, without being told. "I'm not sure, sensei." Was all she could say. When he didn't press further she looked up at him. "What do you think of what happened? Could it possibly be Klava... I mean Zhukov-san?" She inwardly winced at her informal use of her name.

Kazuki regarded her a moment but seemed to dismiss the slip, yet again. "It appeared to be her, yes." He answered and she looked at him with shock. He continued before she could question him on it. "I met with her briefly recently." He vaguely explained.

Rei's brow knitted into a furrow. "Why?"

Kazuki smiled at her softly. "I am your guardian, Tanaka-san, it is my duty."

Rei looked away, her gaze falling to the flickering candle to her left. "I'd rather you didn't..." She muttered quietly.

"I had to find out what her intentions were... I'm sorry if you feel I was interfering."

Her gaze shot back to his. "Her intentions..?" She asked hesitantly.

Kazuki seemed to pick up on the hopefulness in her voice. "Tanaka-san..." He started but a noise from outside caught his attention.

Rei also heard it and stood, following Kazuki to the door. When he opened it she saw Souma helping a largely built man carry a slumping form. It was hard to make out in the darkness who the other two people were. She and her sensei hurriedly approached the trio and Rei gasped at the hanging brown hair that partially covered a bruised face.

"Klava..?" She breathed.

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Himeko hurried up the driveway, her legs protesting at the sudden exercise. She heard the taxi pull away behind her, screeching away into the cold night. She shivered slightly, even though she was running. She hadn't thought to wear a coat, she had been in too much of a hurry. Only half an hour previously, Makoto had hurried into their room and woken her. She had a strange expression on her face, a mixture of concern and mistrust. She had then told her that someone from the Himemiya household had phoned and urged Himeko to come at once, as Chikane needed her.

She frowned as she remembered Makoto's words of warnings whilst she rushed around the room, getting dressed and collecting her purse. Why couldn't she just trust Chikane? She would never hurt her, if she could see that why couldn't her room mate? Why is it so urgent I come at this time anyway? She pondered. It was in the early hours of the morning by now, and she was becoming increasingly worried as time went on. What if Chikane had been hurt? Had something happened to her?

The gravel of the driveway crunched underneath her shoes and the wind whipped her hair against her face but she ignored it, her mind focused on one thing only. She rushed up the stone steps that led to those large double doors. She noticed several cars outside the house and they had been hurriedly parked it seemed. She could also see several tyre marks leading across the grass and around the estate. Before she reached the main entrance, the door slid open and out stepped a familiar looking maid.

"Kurusugawa-san." The maid greeted her. What was her name? Otoha? "I'm glad you came." She didn't look glad though.

Himeko was beckoned inside and she noticed police officers standing around. There were also men in suits. She turned to Otoha, a look on panic on her face. "Is Chikane-chan alright?" She asked.

Otoha flinched at the use of her first name and that honorific but Himeko didn't really notice. "Ohou-sama is unharmed but I summoned you here for support. She is in need of a friend right now and I can't offer that kind of warmth to her." There was something sad about the way she said that.

Himeko glanced around, curiosity and worry gnawing at her. "What happened? Where's Chikane-chan?" She continued questioning.

Otoha said nothing further but instead led the blonde up the stairs. The police officers gave her curious looks but the maid didn't pause once to explain who the girl was. After they had passed down several corridors, that all looked the same to Himeko, the maid paused outside one door in particular. Himeko didn't recognise it as the bedroom door she'd been led through before. Otoha turned to her and looked her over, regarding her for a moment.

She leaned in slightly and her tone was hushed. "Ojou-sama has been through a rough time tonight so please try not to ask any questions. I think you being here will be enough." She then moved to knock on the door.

Himeko laid a hand on her forearm, causing her to turn back to her. "Please, tell me what's happened."

From Himeko's pleading look, she finally gave in, glancing somewhat nervously down the corridor. "There... there was a murder in the forest. Ojou-sama discovered it. The scene was quite... grizzly." Himeko saw her shudder at the last hesitant word. Her mind whirled. A murder? And Chikane had come across it? She couldn't even imagine what that must have been like.

Before she could stop her further, Otoha wrapped lightly on the door, paused, and then opened it. She poked her head in and then opened it fully. "You have a guest Ojou-sama."

Himeko stepped into the room. It appeared to be a study of sorts, with large towering bookcases lining one wall and a grand oak desk against another. Chikane sat in a black leather chair, facing the large windows, her eyes closed. She didn't appear to respond to the presence of Otoha or her words. The maid glanced at Himeko before retreating from the room, closing the door behind her. Himeko wasn't sure what to do. She stood there for a while, waiting for Chikane to look up at her but she didn't.

Worry pushing her onwards, she hurried across the room and stopped beside the chair, kneeling down beside it. She placed a tentative hand on Chikane's forearm and looked up at her closed eyes. They flickered open and wide blue orbs stared at her in shock. Her back stiffened and she sat forwards in the chair, grasping Himeko by the shoulders as if she couldn't believe she was there.

"Himeko!" She gasped, her hands shaking on the blonde's shoulders.

Himeko nodded. "I came as quickly as I could." She said, her brow furrowed with concern. "Are you okay?"

Chikane paused, deliberating her words. "How did you know?" She asked eventually.

Himeko looked at her in confusion. "Mako-chan said there was a phone call for me asking me to come to the Himemiya Estate at once."

Chikane's lips thinned to a tight line. She then relaxed and released her grip on Himeko, shaking her head with a small smile. "Otoha..." Was all she said. She closed her eyes again, squeezing them shut. When she opened them, Himeko could see the pain in them. "I can't get it out of my head, Himeko." She sounded almost desperate.

Himeko did the only thing she could think of that would soothe the girl. She threw her arms around her and drew her into a tight embrace. Chikane relaxed into the hug, her arms coming around the blonde's waist, her head resting on one shoulder. Himeko couldn't even begin to imagine the horrible things she'd seen. She concluded it would have had to have been really bad for Chikane to act in such a way though. "It's okay now, Chikane-chan." She murmured into black hair.

Chikane's shoulders began to shake in her arms and she thought she might be crying but she didn't hear any sobs or feel any wetness on her shoulder. "What monster could do such a thing." Came her unusually shaky voice. Seeing this change in Chikane was beginning to make Himeko panic. She wasn't used to seeing her lose her cool.

Himeko pulled her head back and gently pushed on Chikane's shoulders so she could see her face. Water had collected at the corner of crystal blue eyes, and they had clouded over slightly, as if she were day dreaming. Himeko laid the palm of her hand against her cheek and those eyes fluttered closed for a moment. "It doesn't matter now, it's just us two here Chikane-chan." She said, trying to calm the other girl, though she didn't really have any idea how to, she was used to being the one comforted.

The raven haired beauty blinked at her a few times. Then a small smile pulled at her lips. "You're right." She took a deep breath. "I can't let anything spoil my time with you." Her features softened with the words but Himeko knew she was just putting on a brave face.

Deciding there was nothing else she could do, she let her eyelids close shut and leaned in towards Chikane slowly, giving her time to stop her if it wasn't what she wanted. After what seemed like an eternity of darkness, she felt soft warm lips cover hers and she wrapped her arms tightly around Chikane's shoulders, feeling the grip on her waist tighten aswell. She pushed forwards, off of her knees and the other girl leaned back in the chair, carrying the blonde backwards with her. Himeko heard a low groan come from the other girl's throat when she settled into her lap, their bodies so close.

She pulled back, breathless, before the kiss could deepen. She looked into those beautiful eyes once more and smiled when she saw the cloudiness had gone and was replaced by a darkened blue. She brushed black strands from her face with one hand, the other brushed up into the raven mass from the back of her head, trailing her fingernails against Chikane's scalp. Chikane's eyes fluttered closed at the touch and she murmured happily.

Then the eyes opened and she was looking at Himeko with concern. "Hey, are you okay?"

Himeko, realising she was referring to earlier in the day, merely nodded in response. She wanted to leave it at that but Chikane's gaze never left hers. "Mako-chan is just going to take a while to come around." She smiled a little, but it didn't reach her eyes.

Chikane frowned but didn't probe further. Himeko thought their day had been like a rollercoaster. From the ups of kissing Chikane and realising they shared the same feelings to the downs of Makoto's opinions and a murder in Mahoroba. It was so strange. She thought she might be in one of her favourite mangas if it wasn't for the very real issues. She nuzzled into Chikane's neck, kissing the skin there and she had done with her earlier. Being here, feeling the closeness of the other girl made all the bad things disappear. Chikane was all she needed at the end of the day to be able to keep going. To be able to stay positive. She smiled into her neck as Chikane let out an approving whimper.

With a sudden surge of strength, Chikane lifted Himeko and pushed her towards the desk. She landed bottom first on top of some paperwork, some of which scattered across the table and onto the floor. With a slight growl, Chikane pushed her hips in between Himeko's legs and captured her lips once more. Himeko gasped into her hot mouth, the pressure against her groin sending all new sensations coursing throughout her body. The other girl's hands roamed her body, fluttering against the fabric of her clothes. One hand found what it was seeking and ducked under the hem of Himeko's blouse, finally finding heated flesh there. Himeko shivered at the touch and Chikane moaned once more.

The kiss deepened more and more, their tongues clashing against one another, lips sliding together. Her own hands ran up and down Chikane's back, against the smooth silk of her robe. Chikane's other hand joined its partner under Himeko's blouse and brushed against her skin, her lips dropping down to her neck leaving a trail of hot kisses. She nipped and sucked the skin at her throat causing Himeko's body to shudder and her hands came across the cotton of her bra. Roughly pushing up the blouse that was impeding her view, Chikane gazed hungrily down at her bra clad breasts. She then ducked her head down and pressed her lips to the valley between the rise of her breasts and Himeko arched into the fevered kisses. Wrapping one arm around Himeko's waist, Chikane cupped one breast, her thumb tracing around the nipple that strained against the cotton.

Himeko couldn't hold back the gasped cry that escaped her lips as a pleasurable shock shot through her body right down to her groin. She buried her hands in the thick black tresses before her and held Chikane's mouth against her skin. Licking and nipping her way to one pert breast, Chikane pulled down the material that was blocking her access to the other girl's nipple, and then clamped her lips around it, flicking her tongue over the pink bud. Himeko continued to tremble at the sensations, all conscious thought leaving her as she was consumed. Chikane's right hand dropped, falling to Himeko's thigh and drawing torturous circles over the skin there. Himeko thought she was going to pass out from the overload of feelings.

"Mm." Chikane murmured into her skin and slid the palm of her hand up her thigh and under the short blue skirt she'd flung on earlier. She gasped out as she kneaded the flesh just below her hip.

Himeko let out a ragged breath, her vision blurring slightly. She shut her eyes, focusing completely on Chikane's ministrations. The other girl puffed heavily against her breast, her hot breath soon cooling against the moistened flesh. Her teeth grazed the sensitive nipple and she arched further into her. "Chi... kane... chan..." Came her own broken breaths.

Her name seemed to break the desire fuelled haze around her and Chikane lifted her head, heavily hooded blue pools gazing into violet. She merely stared at Himeko for a while, stopping the motion of her hand but not removing it. Himeko could never grow tired of that look, of those eyes burning for her.

"W-what?" She managed to force out, her voice hoarse.

Chikane smiled slightly. "I... I think we should calm down a little... before we go too far." Her voice was deepened by want but the words were rational.

"Y-you don't want to?" Himeko almost squeaked out the question.

Chikane removed her hand from Himeko's thigh and cupped the other girl's cheek gently. "Of course I do... I just don't want it to be like this. I want it to be perfect." She explained.

"But any time would be perfect... if it was with you." She smiled shyly.

The rosy tint to Chikane's cheeks darkened and her smile turned into a grin. "You're so sweet, Himeko." She murmured, placing a chaste kiss on her lips. "But I don't want our night together marred by what happened earlier." Her tone became serious as she went on.

Still, Himeko could only concentrate on the beginning of the sentence. Our night together? Her cheeks flushed at the thought.

Chikane pulled away from Himeko slightly, straightening out her robe and running her hands through her thick black mane. She stilled herself and gazed back at the flustered beauty perched on her desk. Himeko could still see that desire burning there. "Thank you, Himeko. You coming here really helped me. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Himeko slid off the table and wrapped her arms around Chikane, resting her head on the other girl's chest. "You'll always have me." She whispered, just loud enough for Chikane to hear.

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END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Eleven

Crickets chirped obnoxiously from the plants surrounding the Oogami shrine, their cheery song causing Rei to feel even more unsettled. She glared out into the night, wondering why they had it so good and if they didn't, why did they sound so happy about it? She paced along the long wooden walkway that ran the length of the shrine, waiting for any movement from the temporary accommodation of Klavdiya Zhukov. She frowned at the memory of her being brought to the shrine.

After seeing the bruising on her face, Rei had been torn whether to rush to her side or just to run away. She had the feeling her sensei would not have approved of her showing any sign of affection for Klavdiya. She had tried to follow the group into the building but Kazuki had reminded her she was a Saiin, not a nurse and asked her to remain outside. That had irked her but out of respect for her sensei, she had done what she was told. Now, she wished she'd gone in. Everyone had left apart from that strange man, who she overheard as being called Mikkel, and returned to the house, but she couldn't rest... not now.

She had returned to this guest house, wondering how Klavdiya was, how badly she was injured. Kazuki hadn't told her a thing. She let out a sigh. And that Mikkel, he was still in there, alone with Klavdiya. What kind of relationship did they share? Was he the one who had gotten her into this? She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to push the thoughts out of her mind. It would do her no good thinking like this. She should just walk into the building and ask how she was so she could finally get some sleep. But nerves continued to hold her back.

She let her feet take her away from the building and she followed the edge of the reeds that surrounded the shrine. They took her around the outside of it and further away from Klavdiya. The further she got, the more her mind seemed to clear and she let out a calmer breath. The wind carried a scent of dew and flowers to her, and tousled her hair, causing stray strands to fall across her line of vision. She ignored them and continued to walk, the tips of her her fingers brushing against the long grass beside her. Moisture was beginning to collect now and she felt the wetness against her skin. The sound of her sandalled feet meeting the soil mixed with the wind's song and night insects' calls. Goosebumps crept along the skin on her arms as the temperature continued to drop around her but she hardly felt it, her mind drawing her further and further into itself.

She'd never felt so confused before. She wasn't confused about the way she felt, she knew what she wanted but her sense of duty was beginning to get in the way of her personal desires. Her sensei was also pushing her in a certain direction and she didn't like that feeling at all. She wanted control over her own life, desperately wanted it. And that was one thing she'd never had. Everything had been pre-ordained for her. Her parents knew their daughter was a Saiin and they had arranged for her training at the Oogami Shrine when she was very young. Once she was done with her training, she would have to attend a shrine in Kyoto. There she would live out her life, at the whims of old priests and nobility. Why did she have to have this ability? It didn't seem to help her one bit.

Her dark gaze drifted up to the night sky. She could just make out clouds rolling across the milky orb, dulling the light slightly. Was everything planned out? Did the clouds have a choice where they would drift or were they merely at the whim of the breeze? Like her. And what if she wanted something for herself? Would she ever be allowed a part of her life to herself? So many question and yet so few answers. She continued her journey around the edge of the building until she neared the entrance to her room.

Rei paused at the steps leading up to the door. She didn't think she'd be able to sleep tonight, not like this. She turned away from the steps and continued on her way, letting the wall of the home guide her. She found herself approaching the guest room again and stopped outside. Realising she wouldn't be able to relax at all, she sat down on the steps outside the entrance, heaving a sigh. The cool wood beneath her sobered her from her deep thoughts.

"You work here?" Came a thick accented voice from behind her and she jumped, realising she hadn't heard the man emerge from the building.

She didn't turn to face him, she knew it was Klavdiya's companion, Mikkel. She didn't reply either, not liking that he thought she was just the hired help. He hovered behind her for a few moments before coming to sit on the steps next to her. She liked that even less but didn't show her displeasure. He glanced at her with an amused smirk. What was his problem?

"So how do you know Zhukov?" He continued, seemingly unaware of her animosity towards him.

She glanced at him, his expression openly curious. He must have heard her say Klava's name when they first arrived. She hated having to explain herself. "She asked me a few questions before." She muttered.

He regarded her for a few minutes, that amused glint remaining in his eyes. "Is that so?" He asked, his tone light. "She doesn't usually let people call her Klavdiya, let alone Klava."

Rei turned her head to look at him in surprise. Was he telling the truth? But she had asked her to call her by that name. She glanced away from his stare, his intrigue increasing from her shocked expression. "That's not my problem." She said, trying to cover for her previous lapse in emotional control.

He let out a small chuckle which made her inwardly flinch. "So why are you hanging about out here?" He questioned her.

She shrugged. "I wanted to see if she was okay." She admitted.

"Didn't pointy hat tell you anything?"

Rei glared at him in disgust, his blatant disregard for her sensei's position flaming her anger. "Show some respect." She spat at him.

He raised his hands in a defensive posture. "Sorry, sorry." He quickly said. "I didn't mean anything by it."

She shook her head. Foreigners. She stood, brushing her Chihaya off with her hands. "And no, he didn't." She answered his question, turning to leave.

"Why don't you go in and see her?" He asked, his tone soft. Rei looked at him, trying to tell if he was mocking her or being serious. He wouldn't have much reason to try and mess with her anyway. She glanced towards the door and back at him, the nerves fluttering in her stomach once more.

"I... I wouldn't want to disturb her." She said, cursing herself for not speaking more firmly.

Mikkel waved a hand dismissively at her. "Don't be silly, she'll like a fresh face I'm sure. She'll be fed up looking at me. Just go."

Hesitantly, she nodded. She wasn't sure if she should thank him or not but decided against it. She didn't want him thinking she was eager to go. She walked towards the door and gently slid it across. She stepped into the gloom and closed the door once more. Her eyes quickly adjusted and she could see the entrance to the room where Klavdiya would be. The area she was standing in would normally be used for dining. She avoided the table and walked towards the other door.

She could now see Klavdiya's still form upon a hastily prepared futon. Her stomach lurched and the butterflies that fluttered within escaped to her chest, where they repeated their previous actions with gusto. She brought a hand up to her chest to try and steady her rapidly beating heart. She took a deep breath, trying to remain as silent as possible. It appeared as though the Interpol agent was sleeping and she didn't want to wake her.

A few candles barely lit the room, throwing a warm glow over the few items that lay within. It gave Klavdiya's skin a slight warm tint and Rei could make out the dark blue bruising on her face. Her brow furrowed as her gaze wandered down to her arm where a white bandage was wrapped around the bisep. A small red stain marred the fabric. A blanket covered the majority of Klavdiya's body and Rei just stood there watching it rise and fall with her breaths. She seemed to be doing okay, her injuries didn't look too bad. She let out a breath of relief, moving closer to the other woman.

She knelt down with practiced ease beside Klavdiya, making very little sound. She contented herself with merely staring at the face of the other woman, watching as her eyes moved beneath her eyelids as she dreamt, her nostrils flared slightly when she took a deep breath and her lips parted just a little. She'd never been able to just look at Klavdiya like this before, not even in her visions. She was still now, calm and vulnerable. She was unlike the woman in her visions, who seemed more like a predator than any person she'd met before.

She held her breath as Klavdiya inhaled suddenly and her eyes stilled beneath their lids. She briefly considered fleeing from the room but before she could even make a decision, steel grey eyes came into view and she froze. They gradually unclouded and focussed on her, widening slightly but only for a moment. The brunette attempted to lift herself into a sitting position but halted once she raised herself onto one elbow, the pain obvious in her features.

Rei leaned forward, her concern freeing her of her nerves. She laid a hand on Klavdiya's shoulder, gently nudging her onto her back and under the covers once more. "You'll hurt yourself, Klava." She muttered. She only noticed she had used the nickname when grey eyes looked at her in surprise and with a hint of amusement, their pain forgotten. She felt her cheeks flush slightly but faught the reaction down. She refused to embarass herself further.

"You're concerned for my welfare?" Came the other woman's strange accent. Rei's immediately felt compelled to look away and she did just that, unable to see that glint in Klavdiya's eyes. She was teasing her, she knew that and that irked her. She was injured, she was meant to be vulnerable now, not Rei.

Her eyes wandered up to the bandaged arm, the red stain slowly beginning to spread. The movement had obviously reopened the wound. She reached out but hesitated before reaching the white fabric. She met Klavdiya's gaze with uncertainty. "Your arm." She managed to force the words past her lips so she wouldn't be sitting there, staring like a fool.

The Russian quirked an eyebrow at her and a smirk pulled at one side of her mouth. "It's nothing." She insisted but allowed Rei to take her arm in her hands. She began to pull off the bandage slowly. "I'm sorry." She suddenly said, breaking the silence that had begun to draw out as Rei continued her task.

Rei's dark eyes left the bandages and she peered at Klavdiya's face, trying to gain some insight to her thoughts. She was sorry? Sorry for what? She shook her head a little and returned to unbinding the wound. She was finding it difficult to focus around this woman. She'd felt similarly when she'd been in her presence before but it was so much worse now. Her mind was beginning to wander and she was very aware of how close she was to her. She felt cold fingers on her arm and she froze with a start, looking back at Klavdiya.

With a determined expression she closed her fingers around her lower arm. "I'm sorry for upsetting you before." She said softly and from that intent gleam in her eye Rei could tell she was being earnest. Perhaps she wasn't a risk to her afterall. Perhaps Kazuki's words of warning were just him being over zealous? And perhaps she was just fooling herself.

"It's... it's okay." She said, trying to quell the fears welling up inside her. Finally releasing the arm from the length of bandage, she removed the gauze beneath it and surveyed the cut. It looked to be fairly clean but it was seeping with fresh blood. She pressed the gauze against it again causing Klavdiya to flinch. "Hold this here." She ordered before standing and looking around the room. She moved to a small table where a first aid kit had been abandoned. She opened it and searched through until she found the items she was looking for. She then returned to Klavdiya whose gaze had not left her the entire time.

She tried to ignore the blush creeping across her skin. She knelt down and placed the items on the floor next to her. Fresh bandage, medical scissors, cotton pads, new gauze and a cleanser to clean out the wound. She took one of the cotton pads and poured cleanser onto it before beginning to clean the outside of the gash. Klavdiya winced but didn't say a word, content in merely staring at Rei's intent expression. She was very aware of those grey eyes. After she was done with that task, she took a fresh square of gauze and pressed it into the wound before wrapping the bandage around it. She wound it around the well muscled arm until she thought it was protected enough and cut it so she could tie it off.

Once she was done, she placed the remaining items aside and looked back at Klavdiya. "Thank you, Rei." The other woman murmured and she found she couldn't muster up the tenacity to correct her use of her first name. She watched as Klavdiya rolled onto her side and propped herself onto an elbow, resting her head on her hand. She smirked at the raven-haired priestess.

Ignoring the fluttering feeling in the pit of her stomach, Rei shifted slightly, moving to stand. "I should go now and let you rest." She stated.

A firm hand on her wrist stopped her and she slumped back down to her kneeling position with a gentle tug. She looked with surprise at her companion, who merely stared back at her, not easing her grip on her at all. Her surprise soon turned to discomfort under the intense gaze. Eventually Klavdiya spoke. "Do you really want to?"

Her pulse quickened at the question, she knew its implication. No, I don't want to. But I can't tell her that. She wanted to stay and talk to her, she had so many questions. About her visions, about her knowing she was a Saiin, about who she was. But most of all she just wanted to stay and sit beside this charming woman, basking in her aura. Even now, she could feel it's overwhelming presence. It filled her Saiin senses, warming her, making her feel secure. She couldn't possible be a danger to her. Her aura would surely give that away. Wouldn't it? "Do not presume..." She heard her own voice but wished she could muster the courage to speak the words she truely felt.

The grip on her wrist was released and she watched as Klavdiya pushed herself into a sitting position, the blanket dropping to her lap. Under it she wore a white t-shirt which had been stained with blood and was torn in several places. What had happened to her? Yet another question she couldn't bring herself to ask. In her sitting position, the light from the candles fully illuminated her face and Rei could now clearly make out the bruising. Apart from the discolourisation on her jaw, there was a small cut above her left eye. She hadn't broken eye contact with Rei even when she leaned forwards towards her.

Rei found herself involuntarily leaning backwards as the other woman closed in, causing her to stop in her advance. "W-what are you doing?" She cursed herself for stuttering, her voice betraying the weakness in her heart.

The mischievous glint returned to those grey pools. "Just testing a theory." She said matter-of-factly.

Rei's fingers idly played with the sleeve of her chihaya as her heart thudded heavily in its cage, begging to be released. Theory? Her mind echoed. What did she mean? Whether she'd flinch away from her or not? She had, so did that mean she'd gotten the wrong impression? What impression do I want to give? She was thinking herself in circles now. "What's that supposed to mean?" She asked firmly, recovering some control over her voice.

Klavdiya straightened, her gaze wandering from brown eyes downwards over the contours of her face to her lips and back up again. "I wanted to see if you'd leave." She leaned forwards again, shifting her weight onto her knees and planting her palms on the floor. "And you didn't."

Rei scrambled, both inwardly and outwardly as the older woman edged closer to her, her movements almost akin to stalking. She fell back onto her hands and tried to scoot backwards. "W-what does that m-matter?" She stammered nervously, blood rushing to her face.

Torturously slow, Klavdiya moved herself over Rei's legs, eyes fixed on her goal. A pink tongue darted out to wet her lips and disappeared just as quickly, causing Rei's breath to hitch. The Russian's eyelids lowered to half cover those now dark grey pools and she looked at her through long eyelashes. She placed a hand on either side of Rei's waist and hovered above her, effectively forcing the Saiin onto her back, kept up a little only by her elbows. "Can I kiss you?"

Rei's eyes widened at the question, Klavdiya's tone having lowered to a purr, causing her to feel as though her heart was lurching into her throat. "I..." Was all she could manage, her control completely shattered. Now she was just like a gibbering school girl. All those years acting as though she were cold and unapproachable counted for nothing now. She let out a small gasp as Klavdiya pushed her hips down and in between her legs, allowing her to lean in closer.

The brunette now hovered above her face, strands of hair free and cascading down, brushing against Rei. Grey eyes were now searching her own but for what she didn't know. She could feel the heat of Klavdiya, her legs in between hers, thigh against thigh, causing her mind to spin. She could smell the scent of this woman, mixed with a metallic tinge and perspiration, it was a heady combination. Her gaze darted down to where Klavdiya's lips were, parted and slightly pursed in expectation. They were moist and pink and Rei caught herself wondering what they felt like. She quickly looked back up to grey but they'd obviously found what they'd been searching for as they now held a determined glint.

Klavdiya ducked down quickly and Rei's stomach did somersaults as she felt breath against her mouth. Before she could form a solid thought, the other woman captured her lips in a searing kiss, her mouth pressed firmly against hers and moving with fervent desire. The shock of emotion that coursed through her caused her muscles to cease coordination with the rest of her body and her arms gave way, forcing her to drop to her back, Klavdiya moving with her. She then felt the other woman's weight on top of her, her pelvis pressed against hers sending shockwaves of desire throughout her body.

Klavdiya held herself above Rei with two arms placed either side of her head, their lips clashing together with increasing passion. Rei gasped into the other woman's hot mouth when she felt her probing tongue brush against her lips. She eagerly allowed her access, meeting her with her own tongue. Giving in completely, she wrapped her arms around the Russian's torso, pulling her in tight against her own, enchanted by the closeness of it.

All too soon, Klavdiya pulled back, breathing hard, pupils dilated so much that her eyes looked almost completely black. Rei attempted to slow her own breathing, her hands grabbing fistfuls of Klavdiya's cotton top. The brunette smirked down at her, her eyes slowly returning to their normal colour. "That was some kiss." She whispered, her breath brushing against Rei's face, causing a shiver to run down her spine and a blush to rise to her cheeks.

Finally able to garner coherent thought, the raven haired priestess glanced towards the door of the room. Relieved that it was still empty, she turned her head to look back at the woman atop her. Klavdiya shifted and lifted herself off of Rei, obviously noticing that she was worried about someone walking in. She felt an immediate loss once Klavdiya sat cross legged in front of her. She quickly and not so gracefully pulled herself into a sitting position aswell, tucking her legs beneath her. She could think of nothing to say to the other woman, her nerves returning to her now that the heat of the moment was fading.

Klavdiya swept a hand through her hair, flashing a reassuring smile at Rei. She grabbed the discarded blanket and pulled it around herself, the Saiin now noticing how the other woman was shivering. A pang of guilt tugged at her heart. She wasn't as well as she was pretending to be, it seemed and that kind of behaviour might just make her worse. Rei frowned at the thought. Even if it had felt so good, now wasn't the time.

"You're not well." Rei stated, shuffling forwards and placed the back of her hand against Klavdiya's forehead. The skin there was clammy and heated.

The Russian regarded her with an amused expression as she grabbed the hand at her forehead, pulling it to her lips and kissing it gently. "Are you going to nurse me back to health?" Her tone was light and teasing.

Rei's brow furrowed in irritation. She removed her hand, not allowing her words to get to her. "You need to get back into bed, Klava." She regretted the words as soon as they had escaped her mouth.

A suggestive smile curled Klavdiya's lips and Rei lightly tapped her shoulder to stop the imminent retort. The other woman must have been tired though, as she didn't struggle any further, allowing her to lead her onto the futon. She lay the blanket over her and checked the bandage once more. It hadn't been too disturbed it seemed. She perched at the edge of the futon, gazing down at weary grey eyes. Klavdiya gave her an apologetic smirk. "Sorry Rei, I had hoped to be more... energetic when this happened."

Rei's eyebrows rose with surprise. "When?" She couldn't help but ask. So the Russian had been confident?

Klavdiya let out a light laugh, wincing slightly with the action. "Ah, a girl can dream can't she?" Her eyelids were beginning to droop sleepily over the seas of grey. Rei reached out hesitantly and brushed a few strands of brown hair aside from her face. Klavdiya smiled at her, the expression a fond one. "Thank... you..." She murmured as the eyelids dropped for the final time before sleep claimed her.

The Saiin settled into a comfortable position and watched over the other woman. She'd ensure she rested properly throughout the night, even if that would mean her getting caught in here by her sensei. Rules and traditions be damned. She wanted something for herself for once.

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Chikane stirred slightly as she heard movement in her room. She lifted her head, noticing a weight on her chest and stomach. She opened her eyes and was surprised to see Otoha looking back at her from the edge of the bed. Her eyes moved to the weight on top of her and she couldn't help but smile. There lay Himeko, her head resting on her chest, her arm draped across her stomach. She forced the smile away as Otoha gave her a questioning look. The last thing she wanted tonight was an interrogation and a report to her father.

She cautiously inched away from the blonde, trying her best not to wake the sleeping beauty. Eventually, she managed to untangle herself and stand with only a few murmurs from Himeko. She inwardly smirked at her victory. She hoped she'd never have to do that again though, she very much wanted to lay there with the other girl in her arms. She stretched silently, wondering why she hadn't had nightmares. She'd been expecting them, dreading them even, But they hadn't come. Perhaps it was because Himeko was at her side. She nodded to herself. Yes, that had to be it.

She turned to look at her maid who was peering at Himeko with confused eyes. She paused and Otoha realised she was looking at her. She bowed slightly and led the way out of the room, not saying a word. Glancing out the window, Chikane noted the gradually increasing light and guessed it must be sometime between five and six in the morning. She closed the door behind her, turning expectantly to her maid.

"My apologies, Ojou-sama, I didn't mean to disturb you..." Otoha quickly spoke whilst bowing.

Chikane attempted to flatten out the creases in her silk robe. "What is it Otoha?" She said flatly. She didn't mean to sound harsh but she wasn't exactly thrilled at being pulled out of a peaceful sleep with Himeko wrapped around her. She hadn't had much sleep either yet.

The maid blinked rapidly at her a few times, a flash of hurt flickering in her eyes before returning to their usual submissiveness. "The police have left the house now but they are continuing their investigation on the estate. They have set up a temporary base of operations in one of the outlying staff buildings." She explained.

So they'd finally left the house? That was good, perhaps she'd be able to return to a normal routine now and try to forget about what she'd seen. That was probably wishful thinking though. Why'd they need a base of operations though? They had quite a few seperate buildings scattered on the estate and they were mostly used for staff but it still irked her that it was necessary for the police to stay nearby. That meant she'd get no privacy. Though a murderer on the loose did merit extra precautions. She'd need to find out some more information on that later. "Couldn't that have waited til later?" She asked, trying to be nice about the intrusion.

Otoha bowed once more. "I apologise again, Ojou-sama. I didn't realise you'd fallen asleep. I just thought if you were still with Kurusugawa-san then you'd..." She trailed off and Chikane was sure she could hear a hint of jealousy when she'd mentioned Himeko's name. I'm just tired, Chikane reasoned.

"I see. Thank you, Otoha." She turned to re-enter the room when she heard Otoha's voice again, slightly more urgent.

"Should I arrange seperate quarters for Kurusugawa-san?"

Chikane turned her head and looked at her maid. "No, she can sleep with me for tonight. I wouldn't want to wake her." She replied, an undertone of command present. Otoha must have picked up on it as she didn't argue and merely bowed, allowing Chikane to enter the room unhindered. She closed the door behind her again and padded over to the bed.

Himeko had curled up into a ball on one side of the bed now, obviously reacting to the lack of warmth next to her after Chikane had left. She smiled at her. Lifting the covers, she draped them over the sleeping girls body, tucking her in. She then slid in beside her, resting her head on a pillow and slipping an arm around the girl's waist. Himeko murmured at her touch and unfurled a little.

You're just so cute, Himeko. She told her in her mind. And indeed she was. The sad thing was, Himeko didn't even realise it, or how devastatingly beautiful she was. She brought her free hand up and played with strands of blonde hair, enjoying their silky feel. Himeko stirred slightly and pressed back into Chikane's hug, eliciting a satisfied sigh from her. She placed a kiss on the blonde's neck, below her ear.

She could definitely get used to this. Waking up next to Himeko every morning, going to sleep next to her every night... it would be heaven. Just laying with her like she was, it made her immensely happy. She'd never felt that kind of feeling her entire life. She'd never really realised how empty she had felt before Himeko came along that fateful day. And now she was experiencing these emotions... like she'd had them her entire life. It was so strange.

She leant in closer to Himeko, her lips brushing the girl's ear. "I love you, Himeko." She murmured. And it sounded right.

The blonde muttered something incomprehensible next to her and she let out a muted giggle. She talked in her sleep? That could be interesting. She pulled Himeko in closer and let her eyes flutter closed, her nose buried in the other girl's hair. She wondered what dreams she'd have briefly but could feel slumber approaching quickly. She instead focused on the feeling of Himeko in her arms as she drifted off to sleep, a calm rest enveloping her.

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END OF CHAPTER

Title: The Chains That Bind

Author: Caroline Tremble

Rating: NC-17 (duh!)

Disclaimer: Kannazuki no Miko, its characters, locations and story are copyright to Kaishaku, etc. I am merely borrowing them. All other aspects, including original characters, are copyright to me.

Dedication: To my wonderful partner, Yvonne. Forever inspiring.

Note: I have changed a few aspects of the story and also mixed a few concepts from both the manga and anime.

Chapter Note: I had to take a day's break from writing yesterday as I'm finding I'm tiring myself out from all the writing I've been doing. Seriously, my brain's been frazzled and I've been having problems thinking of things to write. Plus, with me working on my new website, I just can't find enough hours in the day to fit everything I want to into it. Ah well. I'm still planning on updating a story every day though. Hopefully, it'll be Sacrifice one day and TCTB the next. Unless I get fed up with one and just decide to write two chapters in one go. Anyways, I'm rambling. Hope you enjoy this instalment. :) Oh, and sorry I haven't been replying to everyone's reviews individually... the lack of time doesn't help with that either. :( I promise I'll do better!

Chapter Twelve

Sunlight filtered in through the gap in the curtains, casting the morning light over Chikane and Himeko. The raven-haired beauty stroked blonde strands whilst gazing fondly upon her companion, completely oblivious to anything other than her target. She smiled almost dreamily, dipping her head down a little to breathe in the scent of her hair. She had hardly slept at all, she realised, yet she couldn't muster up the ability to care. She didn't want to waste a second of time she had with Himeko. She'd perhaps slept for half an hour and awoken when it was still dark in the bedroom. She had propped herself up on one elbow and hugged Himeko with her free arm. As the sun rose, she had changed her position slightly and had begun stroking her blonde locks, grinning at the murmurs that would elicit.

Now, she was considering sneaking out to have breakfast made for them and then she could bring it back personally. She had briefly pondered making it herself but decided that would take far too much precious time away from her Himeko. That wouldn't do at all. Her blue eyes glanced to the crack in the curtains for a moment before resting on Himeko's sleeping face once more. It was nearing time for them to get up and get ready for school. She wished they could lounge around in bed all day and just enjoy each others' company but she couldn't let her family down either. So many people expected so much from her, and she had never been one to disappoint.

Slowly and carefully, she leaned down and placed a glancing kiss on Himeko's cheek before easing herself away from the blonde. She slipped off the bed and pulled her robe around her, having to untangle it a little. She padded across the room, pausing at the door to look back at the slumbering beauty. She still lay there, not having stirred at all. Chikane smiled before quietly opening the door and exiting into the hallway. With as much care as she could muster, she closed the door, relieved it didn't make a sound. She glanced up and down the corridor. She was still alone.

Making her way down the hall, she wondered what to have made for breakfast. She wasn't even sure what Himeko would like. They'd never had breakfast together before. She should just bring her a selection of everything, she decided. She paused at the top of the stairs, peering down them. She remembered the mass of police officers who had been at the bottom of them last night. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end at the memories. She shook her head. No, she wasn't going to start thinking about that and let it spoil her day.

She descended the stairs and made her way to the kitchen. When she stepped inside she found Otoha there, attending to some dirty dishes. She turned around, surprise on her face. "Ojou-sama?"

Chikane glanced around the kitchen, still wondering what Himeko would like. "You're here alone?" She asked, noting she'd not seen any other staff around on her journey to the kitchen.

Otoha nodded, her gaze directed to the floor, her cheeks slightly flushed. Chikane wondered what had caused the reaction. "Yes, I relieved the other maids. I can handle their jobs on my own. I hope Ojou-sama doesn't mind." She explained quickly.

The mistress of the house shook her head, her hair dancing around her face. "I'm glad for the privacy." She said, causing the tension in her maid to ease a little. She strolled around the kitchen, her mind returning to thoughts of food. "Could you prepare a selection of breakfast dishes for me, Otoha?"

"Ojou-sama?" Came the questioning voice of Otoha.

Chikane turned her head but didn't look directly at the other woman. "I want to take breakfast up to Himeko, but I'm not sure what she likes. Do you think you could do that for me?" Her tone was soft but held little emotion, as was proper.

She caught the bow out of the corner of her eye and Otoha turned towards the refrigerator. "Certainly." Came her muttered response and she was sure she saw her eyes narrow.

She turned and watched her maid work for a while, leaning against one of the worktops. The maid seemed a little uncomfortable under her steady gaze but she continued to note what exactly she was doing with the food. She arranged several dishes that Chikane recognised. Soon, Otoha was finished with the preparations and stood expectantly beside the large tray of foods, her gaze resting on the ground. Chikane stepped closer, satisfied with the selection. Himeko had to like at least one of these dishes.

"Shall I carry it upstairs for you, Ojou-sama?" Asked Otoha, her eyes still dropped to the floor.

Chikane regarded the large silver tray and the full dishes upon it. She slid her hands under the rim and gingerly lifted, the plates clattering together slightly as she did so. She pressed her lips together, concentrating on not letting any one of them slip. She lifted it an inch off the counter before placing it down once more, noticing a trickle of sweat slide over Otoha's forehead. "No, I think I will manage. Thank you, Otoha." She replied.

The head maid seemed to not want to accept this answer but she didn't comment. With a small bow, Otoha retreated back to the counter she'd been at before and merely watched Chikane. In turn, the raven-haired lady of the house turned her attention back to the breakfast platter. She took a firm stance and gripped the tray, lifting it once more but with more confidence this time. It was heavy and a little awkward so she'd need to make a slow, careful journey up the stairs. She turned and moved out of the kitchen, Otoha opening the door for her but not following. She was glad the head maid hardly argued with her, it would do her no good anyway. Chikane was well aware of how stubborn she was perceived to be.

She now faced the greatest challenge of the morning. The large staircase. She peered up at it, frowning slightly at the many steps. Taking a breath, she carefully lifted her leg and placed her foot down on the first step. The tray angled slightly but she corrected it quickly before anything upon it could slide. Judging the exact movements she had to make to climb the obstacle before her, she managed to make her way up without incident. She reached the top of the stairs fairly quickly, breathing a sigh of relief. Now she just had to move throughout the maze of corridors until she reached her goal.

Soon, she found herself standing in front of her bedroom door. A worried frown had worked itself onto her features as she peered at the door handle. How was she going to get past this? She looked down at the tray, the width of it just shy of the doorframe. She considered her options. She couldn't bend down to place the tray on the floor without losing at least some of the food on it, she was pretty sure of that. Unfortunately, there were no tables in the corridor that she could use as a rest either. Her gaze returning to the brass door handle, she wondered if she could find a way to apply pressure to it without the use of her hands.

She glanced up and down the hall, ensuring noone would see her next actions. Satisfied that she was alone, shuffled closer to the door and braced herself on her left leg, ensuring she wouldn't lose her balance. Next, she raised her right leg and pressed her knee against the metal of the handle. The robe she wore restricted her movement somewhat but she was able to stay upright whilst doing it. She shifted her body weight until she could feel the handle drop a little, pushing more until she could feel it become almost vertical.

She realised her error though as the door clicked open and slid away from her, removing the resistance to her body weight. Moving instinctively she quickly put her right leg out in front of her, tensing her body. The clattering of china filled her ears and she heard a surprised cry come from within the room shortly afterwards. Adrenaline coursed through her body and she found herself squeezing her eyes shut. Once she opened her eyes she was relieved to find that the majority of the food was intact and only a few tidbits had fallen from the plates. Her gaze rose and she found a shocked blonde perched on the edge of the bed, clutching the covers around her petite form.

"Chikane-chan?" Came her tentative voice, sleep still clouding her vision and mind.

Chikane felt the tension in her muscles ease a little and she straightened up slowly, relieving the cramp in her left leg. She walked into the room, regaining the little composure she had lost. Her arms were beginning to feel the strain they were under now and she looked around for the best place to put the heavy tray. Himeko's eyes followed her as she moved to a long elegant table and eased the silverware onto it. She shook out her arms a little once the pressure in her muscles was gone.

She heard Himeko pad across the carpet to where she stood and she turned to face the other girl. "What's this Chikane-chan?" She asked, a gleam of excitement beginning to fill her violet eyes.

Chikane smiled at her and waved an arm dramatically, stepping aside to reveal the breakfast platter. "May I present... breakfast." She drawled.

Himeko clasped her hands together in front of her chest, her eyes sparkling brightly. Chikane swooned at the exuberant sigh that escaped her lips. She was just too cute sometimes. "Wow!" She gasped out.

The taller girl slipped an arm around Himeko's waist and stood side by side with her. "I wish I could pretend I made all this but, I must admit, I had Otoha prepare it. I, however, can solely claim the feat of carrying it here." She grinned at Himeko, a playful glint in her blue depths.

The little blonde giggled at her. "It's enough that you even thought about me." She gushed.

Chikane leant down and brushed her lips against the sleepy girl's forehead, leaving red cheeks in her wake. "How could I think of anything but you?" She asked honestly, though the light tone in her voice remained.

Himeko merely smiled shyly up at her before letting her eyes hungrily wander over the variety of food. Chikane made sure to watch her every reaction, gauging it to see what she liked and what she disliked. It was plainly obvious to see which was which as her facial features were so emotive. Yet another thing she loved about Himeko. Soon, her blonde haired companion was tucking into several dishes and she happily watched whilst sipping a cup of tea, the delicate china a solid comfort in her fingers. Himeko seemed oblivious to her stare though and hungrily gobbled up the food she had chosen from the platter. Chikane mentally noted these dishes, planning to remake them herself someday.

Once she had polished off a few plates, Himeko looked up at Chikane. She was surprised so much could fit in such a small stomach. "What time is it, Chikane-chan?" She asked sweetly, her hands brushing away strands of hair that had fallen in her face.

"We will need to ready ourselves for school." Chikane admitted solemnly. She didn't want to have to leave the privacy of this room and the company of her Himeko.

Himeko regarded her for a moment and then her eyes widened a little. "My uniform! I need to go back to the dorm and pick up my things."

Chikane stood from the chair she had settled on earlier. "Perhaps I could lend you one of mine for the time being..?" She offered.

Himeko seemed to mull this over but then let out a small giggle. Chikane cocked her head at her, an eyebrow quirked in confusion. "I'm sorry Chikane-chan... but I think..." She raised a hand to cover her mouth to stifle the laughter. After a moment she seemed to calm but the amusement still brightened her eyes. "I think your clothes wont fit me too well." Her eyes pointedly lingered over a certain area of Chikane's body.

Immediately realising what she'd meant, Chikane's cheeks flushed and her gaze shot down to her chest. She hadn't realised it before but her robe hung open slightly, showing the creamy flesh of her chest and a generous amount of the curve of her breasts. She glanced up at Himeko, shock colouring her features. The blonde's cheeks had also flushed now but her gaze remained fixed. Chikane brought her hands up and rested her hands on the two pieces of silken fabric at her chest. She paused though, watching Himeko's reaction with growing amusement. Disappointment flickered in her eyes as it appeared as though Chikane would pull them together.

Finally, Chikane chuckled, breaking the spell. Himeko met her eyes and they both laughed together. "I don't think it'd be that bad, Himeko." She dropped her hands to her side and moved to sit beside the blonde on the bed. "And we really don't have time. I think I let you sleep too long." She said with a smile.

Himeko nodded at her, her eyes darting between Chikane's face and her chest as she sat down. She seemed acutely aware of the act though and eventually managed to tear her gaze away and look at the wall instead. "Okay. I hope it isn't too baggy in places though." She said quietly and Chikane wrapped an arm around her.

Chikane leant in and stopped just before her lips touched the blonde's ear. "Now, do you need any help getting the uniform on..?" She breathed.

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Himeko fidgeted a little uncomfortably in her newly acquired uniform. She had been right about it being loose in one place in particular. She looked glumly down at the slightly baggy material and then back up at the back of the girl walking in front of her. Chikane's uniform always seemed to fit her perfectly. She grazed her eyes over the curves of the red jacket, then the skirt and finally down those long, long legs. A lump formed in her throat as she thought about the softness of the skin under those clothes. She almost tripped over herself for the second time during their short walk. Why did Chikane have to walk in front of her? She was so distracting.

Black locks flicked aside as Chikane turned and looked at her, obviously having heard the scuffle of shoe against stone as Himeko had righted herself. Luckily she hadn't tumbled to the ground this time. A quizzical eyebrow arched but Himeko didn't say anything, the embarassment of her thoughts too much to share at that moment. Chikane slowed her pace and allowed Himeko to catch up, falling into step beside her as soon as she had.

"Something wrong, Himeko?" She asked, a fond smile pulling at her lips.

Himeko shook her head but returned the smile. "Nothing."

She seemed to accept that and continued looking ahead. Chikane had asked her driver to drop them off a few minutes walk away from the school and now they were passing by the dorms. Himeko peered in at them, wondering in Makoto had gone to school already. She must have been worried last night, she thought guiltily. They had seen very few students on their way here and, luckily, none had approached them. Chikane seemed pleased about that too and had remarked that she would have hated to take her attention off of Himeko for even a second. That had made her giggle. Sometimes Chikane could be so dramatic, but it was another thing that warmed her heart whenever she saw it.

She peered at her companion and saw her azure gaze was fixed on a place to her right. She followed it and noticed two people walking towards the dorms. She squinted at them, the distance hiding their identities. She paused when one of the figures stumbled, the other coming to their aid. She glanced at Chikane, concern etched into her features. The raven-haired beauty merely nodded at her and started to walk towards the pair, Himeko following her.

As they closed in on the pair, Himeko could tell a bit more about them. She could now see they were two women, one dressed in a casual outfit of jeans and a leather jacket; the other was dressed in the Mahoroba school uniform. The school girl had straight black hair; not quite as silky and vibrant as Chikane's, she noted. Her companion had brown hair, tied back into a pony tail. The brunette was leaning heavily on the other girl now, her head hanging quite a bit.

Chikane halted when they were nearer and Himeko copied her action upon seeing the face of the school girl. "R-Rei-chan." Himeko gasped.

Rei's head shot up, her attention leaving that of the woman beside her. At first her look was hostile as she recognised Chikane and Himeko but, when the brunette slumped further against her, concern flashed across her dark eyes. Her mouth moved to form words but Himeko could not hear what she said. Chikane stepped forwards and she followed.

"Is everything okay?" Chikane asked, her tone even and calm.

The brunette looked up at those words. She was older than any of the three girls, that much Himeko could tell. She bore a bruise on her jaw and a cut above her eye and, although she smirked at them, pain was buried in those grey eyes. Rei had an arm wrapped around the woman's waist and her other hand was placed against her shoulder, keeping her upright. "This is none of your concern, Himemiya." Rei spat.

Chikane's expression didn't change but she looked at the brunette instead who was still smirking. "Now, now, Rei." Her voice was tinged with a strange accent and Himeko had guessed she wasn't Japanese from her appearance. "There's no need to be rude." Himeko was surprised at the use of Rei's first name and the lack of reaction from the other girl. In fact, she would have sworn the older girl was blushing if she hadn't known her better.

"You don't look well, do you require assistance?" Chikane asked, directing her question at the brunette.

The smirk faded for a moment but soon returned with similar intensity. "I already have assistance, thank you." Her glance flicked towards the girl supporting her before returning to Chikane. "And I don't think she wants to share." She chuckled then, much to the annoyance of her companion.

"Klava..." Rei hissed, her voice quiet.

At the widening smirk and the glance she received from the brunette, Himeko guessed that Klava was her name. She desperately wanted to ask who she was, her curiosity burning at her, but she kept quiet knowing full well how volatile Rei could be. Even though Himeko didn't know her very well, it was unusual to see Rei with anyone outside of class. She was usually walking alone when she saw her, a grim expression on her face. Why she was so angry she didn't know. But here she was, with a friend and her scowling kept to a minimum.

Finally plucking up enough courage, Himeko stepped forwards. "I'm Kurusugawa Himeko, nice to meet you." She addressed the brunette cheerily.

The brunette straightened, seeming to have recovered some strength. Rei still held on to her though. "Klavdiya." She placed a hand on her chest as she introduced herself.

"But you may address her as Zhukov-san." Rei interjected before Himeko could speak, pointedly looking at the blonde.

Himeko noticed Chikane step closer to her and she instantly felt safer under Rei's cold, hard gaze at the nearness of her. Klavdiya shook her head slightly at her companion's words but didn't object to them. "We can help you wherever you're going." Himeko offered.

Klavdiya motioned towards the building behind them. "This is my stop."

Chikane looked thoughtful for a moment when Himeko glanced at her. "So you're the investigator?" She asked, receiving a glare from Rei.

The brunette raised an eyebrow at the question. "Mm, I guess so." She replied, shrugging slightly. The wince from that action didn't go unnoticed by the three girls though. The arm around her waist tightened and she smiled a reassuring smile at Rei. Chikane glanced down at Himeko and she guessed the same questions were going through the other girl's mind as they were through hers.

"Look, you two need to get to class and I need to get... Zhukov-san to her room... so..." Rei spoke, her expression a determined one.

Chikane nodded at her and Himeko realised that the older girl wouldn't accept help so it's was hopeless trying to offer it. Just then, Klavdiya's smile faded and her grey eyes widened. She muttered something, stiffening in Rei's arms which immediately drew her a worried look. She then squeezed her eyes shut, leaning heavily on her companion. Himeko stepped forwards, seeing Rei struggle with the dead weight of Klavdiya, whose legs were now buckling.

"Stay back." Klavdiya breathed weakly. Her eyes were barely open but she could see those grey orbs upon her between slittled eyelids. She ignored the warning, her instinct to help pushing her forwards.

As she grabbed a hold of Klavdiya's right arm, a jolt of something passed through her, stealing her of her breath. She froze in place, a sense of something familiar washing over her before it was gone once again. She felt Klavdiya convulse at her touch and heard her gasp suddenly. Before she could do anything further, Rei was roughly pushing her backwards with a hand whilst attempting to hold Klavdiya up at the same time. Chikane was soon behind her, catching her before she collapsed on the ground, her strong arms wrapping around her torso.

"What the hell..?" Chikane's voice was angry and all Himeko could do was stare in confusion at Rei.

Both of Rei's arms were now wrapped around Klavdiya's waist and the brunette held herself up with one arm across the smaller girl's shoulders. Klavdiya was still gritting her teeth in pain and Himeko gasped as she saw blood trickle from her ear. Rei continued to glare menacingly at Himeko. "She said stay back." She bit, her voice like a sea of ice.

"I... I'm s-sorry." Himeko stuttered, causing Chikane to squeeze her tighter. Himeko composed herself and stood properly so Chikane could release her grip on her.

"You don't need to apologise, Himeko. You were just trying to help." Chikane soothed her, her voice a soft murmer.

"Instead you made it worse." Rei seethed, her eyes narrowing.

Klavdiya brought her free hand up to her ear and held it there. She managed to open her eyes slowly and looked at Rei. "That's... enough." Her voice was even but weak. "Please, take me to my room." Rei nodded at her and helped her to reposition herself so she was supporting her own weight more. Klavdiya then looked at Himeko and Chikane, her eyes almost searching them for something. Finally, she spoke again. "I'm sorry to have to cut this short." She said, before allowing Rei to pull her towards the dorm building.

Himeko watched the pair retreat into the building before looking up at Chikane. Her blue eyes met hers, hints of confusion and concern in their depths. A cool breeze brushed past them, causing her to shiver slightly. Chikane slid an arm over her shoulders. "Come on, lets get you inside." She said warmly, forcing a smile to Himeko's lips.

The raven-haired beauty steered her away from the abandones building and towards the school. Himeko's mind lingered upon Klavdiya and what had caused Rei to act so violently towards her. Yes, she was an unfriendly girl normally but she had never been so openly hostile before. As far as Himeko knew anyway. It upset her that she could cause that kind of reaction in anyone. And what was wrong with Klavdiya? She had already seemed pretty banged up and then she had that... attack. Perhaps she was sick. Then there was that feeling when she'd touched her. She shivered at the thought and felt Chikane squeeze her, confusing the reaction with her being cold. She'd felt something pass through her at that moment. She wasn't sure what it was though. Some form of power? And why was it so... familiar? She'd need to ask Chikane about it later, after school. She nodded. Yes, Chikane would know what to do.

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END OF CHAPTER

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