Fukumura Mizuki has never owned a cat.
Granted, with the veritable menagerie she inherited from her late, lamented mother, she had very little need for any other pet (she still got Kurara for her 15th birthday though). And where other little girls asked for (and never received) a pony, when Mizuki did, she got a whole stable and then some. She wasn't a big fan of the great outdoors though, so that was really more for her father than her.
In addition to the horses and her dog, Mizuki had two parrots, a whole reptilarium (housing an iguana, several newts, and possibly an alligator -- the last cannot be confirmed, but no servant wanted to check since the last one vanished), several bunnies of various breeds, and a mini aquarium with its very own crab habitat in one corner. Mizuki never understood why her mother liked crabs, but one of the few memories she had of her mother was of them naming Crab No.3 Kani-san the Third, and even though she didn't get the logic, she kept to the tradition in honor of her mother's memory. She was up to Kani-san the Eighteenth at the moment, who was possibly the grandchild of the crab she had named in her youth. They all looked more or less the same, so she couldn't be sure.
With all her animal friends, it sort of helped fill in the void where actual human companionship was lacking. Her father had become somewhat socially reclusive following the passing of her mother when she was 7, and had gotten fanatically protective over her in the process. It wasn't like she was going to get run over by a car trying to rescue a stray kitten like her mother did...but to Fukupapa's mind, he could not tolerate even the possibility, however unlikely, of it remotely occurring, so his solution had been to basically cage his young daughter in as protective a bubble as possible.
Mizuki has never wanted for anything in life. She rarely has to go out for anything -- things get delivered to her, as and when she wants it. In the event that she wants to go out, she is chauffeured and appropriately escorted. Given her pampered lifestyle, it was amazing she didn't turn out to be a worse person. A little spoiled and certainly used to getting her own way, but generally good-tempered and kind.
The first time she did not get her own way was when daddy dearest said no to her...over a kitten. She had found a stray cat lurking in the bushes while on her daily walk around the estate (one of the few times where she isn't trailed by a whole army -- not really, but close -- of bodyguards and chaperons), but Fukupapa had immediately freaked out and demanded that it be removed, regardless of what his precious daughter did to try and get him to change his mind. She threw a fit for days after that, refusing to come out of her room and also refusing to speak to her father. She had been only 10 then. He got her her first dog a few days later, and his princess had finally relented after that. They never spoke about cats since then. Mizuki knew, deep down, that her father probably held a grudge against cats for the loss of his beloved wife...unfair yes, but it was human nature to find something to blame their grief on.
It was probably fate that brought Mizuki to her current predicament. She still liked cats, always did, even though she loved her dogs like a mother to her children. She could never bring them home, out of respect for her father, but she always got her servants to leave food out for the stray cats (and pigeons, and fish, and...you get the idea). She always wanted to pet the strays, but knew that her father would probably freak out if he knew (and he WILL find out...eventually). So she always watched from afar...until one Sayashi Reo, cat-faced boy extraordinare, happened.
The first time she ever saw him was on TV. That was 2 years ago, when she happened to be on the sports channel one afternoon when they were airing the final rounds of the national tennis youth championships. She had quite an appreciation for sports, and kept herself updated periodically. He didn't make that much of an impression on her back then, though she did notice that the profile picture they flashed on screen showed off how much like a feline he looked.
She would not have cared less about a total stranger. As it turned out, he was less of a stranger than she could have expected. A certain Suzuki Toru was a family friend and golfing partner of Fukupapa, and his daughter often came with him. The two girls were frequently left to their own devices, and it was from one Suzuki Airi that Mizuki heard more of the young tennis prodigy that Airi was coaching. Mizuki often teased the older girl for having a thing for younger men due to the way Airi raved on about her charge, but Airi only grinned and said that Mizuki would squeal over him too if she could see for herself how adorable Reo could be.
Mizuki had been skeptical to the last -- this Reo was just a boy -- girls were so much cuter in general. Speaking of which, Mizuki was a huge fan of cute female idols, a fetish that her father happily encouraged (since it would keep her from squealing over boys, which helped his sanity).
Then came that fateful incident involving Kurara, a broken fence, and the accident. Her usual walking route never took her so far towards the edge of the estate, and had Kurara not decided to start chasing some tiny creature (a squirrel? mouse? some kind of tiny animal?) in a completely random direction, she never would have headed there and discovered the break in the fence...and the boy knocked out beyond it.
Kurara had immediately taken to the boy from the get-go, and that was what piqued her interest to begin with. She had found her dog licking the injured boy's face and good conscience prevented her from leaving it alone. Upon close inspection the kittenish aspect, marred only slightly by the screwed up expression of pain even while delirious, of the boy was undeniable. Mizuki never thought she would see anything quite so adorable, even putting aside the gravity of the injury. Especially when Reo keened in pain, his face rearranging into the most forlornly lost expression she could imagine.
It was perhaps a testament to her long-hidden desire for a cat that her first thought, upon laying eyes on such a sight, was basically: OMGSOCUTEMUSTBRINGHOME.
And so she did. If she couldn't have a real cat, this was the closest thing to one she could have. Even when Reo finally woke and started speaking...he still looked and behaved like one. A really adorable kitten. Mizuki was finally beginning to understand what Airi meant.
From then on it was basically an exercise in keeping a pet. Perhaps someone should have pointed out that Reo was human and not an animal, but who would contradict Mizuki? She was fond of her new toy, and Reo was always so obedient to her every whim, and could at least talk, unlike Kurara. It is entirely possible that Mizuki has some seriously warped values, but could you blame the girl? Reo wouldn't, but who would trust a lovestruck, hormone-addled boy?
Reality decided to deliver a check one fine day, when Mizuki was abruptly reminded that she didn't actually own Reo. That other people might also have claims on him. That he might have some ideas about who and where he belongs with.
Competition came in the form of one Ishida Ayumi, of whom she had heard so often from Reo's own lips. The best friend. His study partner and rival. His little brother's crush. Among other things.
On hindsight she should have noticed how intertwined Reo's life was with so many others. It seriously had not occurred to her right away though, given her own circumstances. She didn't have a social life, and hearing about it from someone has as much of an impact as watching it on TV. That is to say, remote.
Just less the control. Much like the twinge of irritation she felt when Reo got up to go after Ayumi, watching him embrace the tiny girl (who really was quite girlishly cute) and generally behave in a manner unfamiliar to what she had come to expect from him. It irked her, to be reminded that he was a person, his own person, and that she barely knew who he was, despite the file she had on him -- this is not as creepy as it sounds. Can you imagine Fukupapa letting his precious daughter associate with someone without doing a full background check? No? Well, there you have it.
Never mind that Fukupapa still thinks that Reo MUST be hiding something with his squeaky clean record (NOT EVEN A TRAFFIC TICKET????!!! ...papa, he can't drive yet.), and that his precious princess could be in danger from what was possibly a SERIAL AXE MURDERER WHO HIDES THE BODIES SO WELL THAT NO ONE EVER FINDS THEM. MAYBE HE EATS THEM. GASP. A CANNIBALISTIC SERIAL KILLER!
Mizuki gave up halfway through the rant and walked off with the files. She got what she wanted, and even though she loved her father, he could get a little too carried away sometimes. Excitable didn't even describe it by half. A bunny on Gatorade and hyped up on E would seem like a stoner next to Fukupapa in full paranoia mode. But he was her father, and she loved him. That didn't mean she had to stay and hear him out every single time.
Words on paper and pictures by the folder are barely the sum of a person's life. They might collect a person's activities, but there is nothing quite like being with that person, experiencing life with them, fighting with them, sharing and caring and yes even when ignoring on purpose; that you truly get to know them on a personal level, where it really matters. Mizuki felt instinctively sidelined the moment she caught up with the pair of best friends, seeing Reo comfort Ayumi so naturally, the bond between the two palpable even though they were nominally at odds with each other. And she didn't like the feeling.
This girl was going to be a problem. Mizuki could not be sure what Ayumi was thinking as they exchanged wary looks and greetings, but it made her...uncomfortable to see Reo standing in a way that was half-protective over the smaller girl, though the boy didn't even seem to be aware of it himself. Kurara squirmed in her arms, and she tightened her grip on instinct, drawing a whimper from her loyal canine. At least someone was devoted to her. Mizuki frowned ever so slightly, just a tiny tightening around her eyes, though her face remained blank of obvious emotion. Being a pampered only child meant she never had to share anything, and then only reluctantly when she absolutely had to. This was not one of those occasions.
No one likes having their favorite toy taken from them. Never mind that she was already 17 and probably too old for toys. What Mizuki wants, Mizuki gets. She never usually had to fight for things, but she did know how to get her way. This was a new situation, and a new kind of obstacle, but she would figure things out. Eventually. She did, after all, have a lot of help. And a lot of money. And a Papa who loves her so much, he would do anything she asked...as long as she phrased it right. Yes, this could work.
Oh? She wants to be friends? Well...Mizuki smiled. She could do that. Why not?
Ayumi might have felt a chill as she shook hands with the rich ojou-sama, but she dismissed it as the wind. And an overactive imagination. She did have that. It was not impossible. Or so she thought at the time. She would know better eventually.
Reo, for his part, missed all this entirely. He was a little busy thinking about how to help Ayumi, so he couldn't rightly be blamed for this. That and he was a boy. Best excuse ever. Who said girls made sense?
Many interesting days lay ahead, and only time would tell how it all fell into place...
*yawn* So much work to do...